TheShy and Weibo Dreaming of an Upset in LoL Worlds Final
While most neutrals, and almost certainly the entire Korean crowd in Seoul’s Gocheok Sky Dome, will be willing T1 to win their fourth World Championship title in Sunday’s grand final, opponents Weibo Gaming will be doing their all to quash those dreams and make their mark on League of Legends history.
Rebranded from Suning in 2022, Weibo has caused a shock to even reach this far and are underdogs going into their finals clash, though those unfamiliar with their LPL form may find that surprising given the household names on the roster.
Mid laner Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao is one of the all-time greats and can even go some way to getting his name in the greatest of all-time debates if he’s able to finally claim a LoL Worlds Championship. The Summoner’s Cup is the only piece of silverware that’s remained out of his reach; he’s won an unrivaled three Mid-Season Invitational trophies and is the only player to manage international success across multiples roles – winning in mid in 2018 and 2022 while clinching the 2021 MSI title as a top laner.
There’s no need for Xiaohu to fill in at top anymore though, not with Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok on Weibo’s roster. On his day, he’s one of the best top laners that the game has seen, but on other days he can be a huge liability. His hot and cold form, and unwillingness to change his aggressive style when things aren’t going his way, have caused frustration with the Korean over the years.
After winning Worlds at his previous peak with Invictus Gaming in 2018, TheShy has struggled to consistently show the same level and has failed to win any major honours since. Five years later and he has a shot at redemption, reaching the Worlds final once again whilst finally showing the skill level that propelled him to stardom in the first place.
TheShy isn’t the only former Worlds winner on Weibo’s roster with support Liu “Crisp” Qing-Song having been part of the FunPlus Phoenix lineup that dashed G2’s Golden Road hopes to win Worlds in 2019. Jungler Wei “Weiwei” Bo-Han and bot laner Wang “Light” Guang-Yu complete the lineup and while they haven’t yet reached the heights of their teammates, lifting the Summoner’s Cup on Sunday will swiftly cement their names in the history books.
Weibo’s journey to the Worlds 2023 final has been a rocky one. An opening win over NRG was followed up by losses to G2 and KT Rolster which put them on the brink of elimination early on. Subsequent back-to-back wins over Fnatic and MAD Lions were required to keep them in the competition before a favourable draw against NRG in the quarter-finals, who they easily beat 3-0, then provided them with an easy route to the semis.
There they faced Bilibili Gaming, MSI runners-up and thought to be amongst the strongest in the World. A tight series eventually resulted in a 3-2 win for Weibo, seeing them take down BLG against the odds and mirroring T1’s upset against JDG on the other side of the bracket to set up a grand final clash with the three-time Worlds winners.
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Weibo was one of three LPL sides that reached the China-dominated semi-finals, though their triumph over BLG and JDG’s loss to T1 means that they’re the only one left. With Weibo now playing the final in Seoul — as underdogs — against the darlings of Korean esports means that suddenly China’s hopes of claiming a new World Championship are much slimmer.
If Chinese fans are to wind up on the winning side then Weibo must “smoke the doubters” and finally perform to the sum of its parts. Those parts have had decorated careers with glittering trophy cabinets already, though the organisation itself has so far never won a single major title – the World Championship could be about to become their first.