Esports.gg interviewed top fighting games player Rewind, covering his come-up, winning EVO 2018, and much more!

Curtis "Rewind" McCall is one of the best fighting game players on the planet. Focusing primarily on NetherRealm Studios titles such as Injustice and Mortal Kombat, Rewind has accomplished much since embarking on his competing fighting game journey in 2016. What began as someone casually playing Mortal Kombat X escalated into an EVO World Champion and tens of thousands in prize earnings.

Esports.gg had the opportunity to speak with Rewind about his storied career, feelings about Injustice and Mortal Kombat, the current state of Mortal Kombat 1, and much more.

It took ten years for Rewind to compete in fighting games

Rewind recalled that his fighting game journey began in 2006 following the release of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon when he was just five years old. Although he enjoyed fighting games, it wasn't until 2016 that Rewind took them more seriously. However, unlike most players, he debuted at EVO 2016, which happened to be in his neck of the woods.

At the time, Rewind was part of the online clan named "KHAOTIC," and the leader advised him to attend the event.

"My clan leader, he was saying, like, Yo, you should go to EVO, like, I'll even send you I'm like, EVO. And then he was like, it is right in your backyard. And it was because I live in Vegas, or at that time, I lived in Vegas. He was just like, it's right back here. I'll send you all you gotta do is get there. I'll pay for the registration," he said.

Not many players attend EVO as their first tournament, but Rewind's online training partners believe he could turn some heads at the event. He squared up against Whiteboi in his first match, a top Jason player in MKX, defeated his opponent, and ultimately made it out of his pool on the winner's side.

Rewind accomplished this despite not being able to use his primary character, D'Vorah, since he was not accustomed to the monitors at EVO. Add that aspect to what Rewind called a poorly run event, and he scraped by with a reasonable result.

"My TV was like 30 plus MS, which is crazy. I couldn't adjust, so I just picked a side character here and there, but I made a pretty deep run, and then somebody was like bro, you should make it Twitter. Bro, like, that's where the whole scene is."

Rewind finished top-32 at his first-ever tournament, and although he believes Mortal Kombat X was a "broken" game, this performance set his fighting game calling in motion. He felt he could make gaming a career if he could consistently perform in tournaments.

Transitioning from Mortal Kombat X to Injustice 2

After just two years of Mortal Kombat X, NetherRealm Studios launched Injustice 2 to the masses in 2017. Unlike the MK series, Injustice features DC Comics characters, no blood, and a back-to-block mechanic instead of the typical block button in Mortal Kombat games.

Rewind detailed how he handled the switch from Mortal Kombat to Injustice, believing that one is just a reskin of the other with slightly different mechanics.

"That's a crazy transition for me at that time. It's a transition that I actually made pretty effortlessly. I don't know how I never played a back-to-block game before that. So, making that transition, for some reason, it was just effortless because the only thing that changed in my head from MKX to Injustice 2 asid from everything was if I can get used to blocking in this way, then I could play the game because I understand how to implement, you know, Mortal Kombat fighting engine."

Despite his unfamiliarity with DC characters, Rewind explained that he picks characters based on looks and "good buttons." If a fighter has both qualities, he does his best to win with them.

"Good buttons are something that if a character has that, I can work with that. That's why I could use Johnny Cage in MK11. He was super honest. And he wasn't mixing you. But his buttons were amazing. So you can really, you know, do a good amount of work with just good buttons and good footsies and get neutral."

Footsies and neutral are fighting game terms that allude to spacing control. Ultimately, Rewind used this methodology to narrow his character selection to Catwoman, Batman, Atrocitus, Blue Beetle, Black Adam, and many others.

Rewind discusses the early Injustice 2 fighting games tournaments and EVO 2017

Although Rewind would accomplish greatness in Injustice 2, navigating the early days took a lot of work. He performed well in various online tournaments, which at that time featured top contenders such as Tweedy, SonicFox, Hayate, and Semiij. However, he had trouble delivering offline results.

"I was doing so good online," he said. "And every time I go offline, I would fall short, like, right out of top eight. I was like a 'top 16er,' you know like I couldn't break top eight offline, but I was right there."

The difference between offline and online was considerable, according to Rewind, who said that frame delays were challenging to account for when competing online versus offline. This inconsistency forced Rewind to adapt to offline play, especially considering his online achievements were not fulfilling and he only competed in them for money.

"All I was playing in those brackets for was money because I had no money. So getting like a second or first in Kombat Cup or War of the Gods was like my actual money. That was like money; the only money coming in when I was a kid."

Rewind reflected on his EVO 2017 performance, saying he fell significantly short of expectations. Many community members believed he was a lock for the top eight at EVO. Unfortunately, he encountered two unfamiliar characters and bowed out of the competition in 33rd.

The redemption tour and winning EVO 2018

Image Credit: @tempusrob
Image Credit: @tempusrob

Now a known entity in the "NRS" scene, Rewind used his experience at EVO 2017 to rebound in 2018. From September to July 2018, he competed in four offline tournaments, giving him some much-needed repetitions ahead of EVO 2018.

When asked if he had nerves heading into the second EVO Championship for Injustice 2, Rewind said his previous offline experience calmed him.

"I got top eight at Combo Breaker, and that's when I finally got over the offline hump. I was like, mean, I can't make no dang top eight, and then once you get over that first hump of you can't make top eight, like for me personally, everything else kind of started just flooding in after that, all the accomplishments just started flooding in after the first top eight."

After all the offline tournaments leading up to EVO 2018, Rewind felt that served as preparation for the big moment. At the event, he recalled defeating opponents Dizzy, Scar, and Grr to qualify for the top eight on the winner's side.

On Championship Saturday, Rewind went through a gauntlet of Injustice 2 titans, taking down Semiij and SonicFox to secure a spot in the Grand Finals. He felt nervous, recalling the feeling before the Grand Finals, but he knew this was his best opportunity to win an EVO Championship.

"I got such a great position to win this thing right out. Like I can actually win this thing, and it's versus somebody I know I can actually win versus. I can't hold this cause I might never be in such a great position to win EVO again, like winner side versus a guy you know you could beat, or at least you believe you could beat."

Like his previous three opponents in the top eight, Rewind sent Tweedy out of the tournament, using Catwoman the entire set. This result handed him the EVO 2018 Championship for Injustice 2. Rewind remembered the ensuing 48 hours as "crazy" and feeling accomplished that everyone in the room on Sunday at EVO knew he was the best Injustice 2 player in the world.

Rewind's journey through Mortal Kombat 11 and navigating the pandemic

With Injustice 2 in the rearview, Rewind and the competitive NRS scene turned to Mortal Kombat 11. When asked about his initial impressions of the new game, he said it felt "horrible." He played for the entire duration of MK11's life but never enjoyed it. As for accomplishments, Rewind's crowning moment occurred at Celtic Throwdown 2019, when he defeated SonicFox in the Grand Finals of his first international tournament.

"Yeah. Like taking down a name like Sonic Fox, who was pretty much like honestly probably still like my second biggest accomplishment," he said. "Celtic was hard. That was a clutch tournament victory for me. Cause if you take Celtic Throwdown out of that equation, I probably don't even qualify for Final Kombat."

Once 2020 arrives, so too does a global pandemic that shut down the world. We asked Rewind how he stayed busy during the lockdown, and he said content creation and education.

"The pandemic was kind of like a buzzkill for sure. Cause those are years you just don't get back of your career. You don't know what you could have did. And during that time span, you know, I could have got two more EVO medals," he said.

The EVO Champion utilizes his time efficiently, enrolling in school to become a certified HVAC technician–a career he still maintains. While he felt he could have won another EVO title, Rewind did not let the pandemic go to waste.

"I did full-time content [during the pandemic]. I was like, 'Oh, this is why you need to build a brand,'" he said. "Then, in October of 2020, I enrolled in school. So, I went to school, graduated in July, and became an HVAC technician. That's what I've been doing for the last three years. I went to school during the pandemic and got a career."

Rewind's rivalry with the Chilean twins at EVO 2022

Having a full-time HVAC technician did not hinder Rewind's ability as a fighting game player. He remained atop the food chain with minimal practice, only playing while streaming on Twitch. Regarding EVO 2022, Rewind recalled having the chance to end the unprecedented run of Chilean twins Scorpionprocs and Nicolas.

"What stands out for sure is my little rivalry with the twins. It was crazy to see what they were doing up to that point. And I was like, man, it would be even crazier. Whoever stops it. I was thinking like their run and story is so crazy right now. It would be great to be the guy who just comes and just stops it."

Rewind went on an impressive run at the event, eliminating A F0xy Grampa and Nicolas before matching up against Scorpionprocs, the other Chilean twin, in the Grand Finals. Unfortunately, his riveting story ended with a 3-2 loss, landing him in second place. Looking back on the result, Rewind was not happy with it but was also not mad.

"I wasn't happy with second. I wasn't like upset. You know, I put on a hell of a show. I just felt like it was anticlimactic. I felt like I was killing so many people just to fall short. The storyline was building, too. That could have been the huge payoff."

This felt like a missed opportunity to Rewind because a second EVO Championship puts him deeper into the record books. Only SonicFox has won multiple EVO titles in different NRS games, so the miss in 2022 would have been the difference-maker.

Mortal Kombat 1 and the current state of the Pro Kompetition

In September 2023, Mortal Kombat 1 arrived, and Rewind felt the game had improved significantly from the early access period, regardless of the continuous bugs. He ultimately settled on Reiko as his primary character due to his command grab. Rewind has remained loyal to Reiko from day one and took the character to East Coast Throwdown 2023, resulting in a fifth-place finish.

He encountered SonicFox and Xombat along the way, and though he fell short, he took pride in being the only non-Cyrax player in the top eight.

"I was the only Reiko, and I was the only Darius. So I was the only person playing that Kameo and character in the entire bracket. And the people that you saw win, like the people that you saw in the top eight, everybody had the same cameo."

Rewind takes pride in not playing the meta and instead using characters people want to watch, although he credits SonicFox for using Rain and Cyrax to win East Coast Throwdown 2023. With a few offline and online events between him and Final Kombat, Rewind plans to play online tournaments and attend Combo Breaker 2024.

He cites a lack of interest in competing for low prize pools as the reason he is not traveling more, but it's even deeper than that.

"I'm losing too much money to go to these events for less money than I could get going to work," he said. "There was players who got more money than me that restreamed ECT that were just sitting there. 'Oh man, look at this match, guys,' you know, and then I make top eight, and the restreamer just got a million gifted subs. So it's like, I should have just stayed home."

Between poor planning and low prize pools, the competitive MK1 scene does not drive Rewind's interest. He could instead work his HVAC job, not have to take PTO and stream to earn money.

How does Rewind balance a full-time career as a top fighting games player?

Image Credit: @dpatlutphoto
Image Credit: @dpatlutphoto

Competing in video games at a high level is not easy, so we asked how Rewind balances his responsibilities.

"I would say just talent and time management. You know, I only play when I want to, when I feel like it. So when I'm only playing when I want to, I feel like I can produce pretty well when I want to. But when I'm trying to force myself to do it, like it's not, I'm not going to produce the best gameplay. I'm not going to produce the best stream. I'm not going to be entertaining."

As a result, he does not have a set stream schedule, nor does he play much Mortal Kombat 1 off-stream. He still sits inside the top 20 on the Pro Kompetition circuit, playing when he wants to.

With the future of MK1 a bit murky, Rewind praised Tekken 8 developers Bandai Namco Studios for addressing issues quickly. Mortal Kombat 1 has not provided the same support, but Rewind plans to continue his road to Final Kombat with his community and the Pittsburgh Knights behind him.

You can refer to the links below for Rewind's social media links.

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