The Moon: “I don’t let a number define my skill. I know how good I am.”

New York’s Super Smash Bros community is home to some of the most well-known players and commentators in Melee with names like Hendrick “DJ Nintendo” Pilar and D’Ron “D1” Maingrette. One of the best Smashers New York has ever seen flies a bit more under the radar.

Ryan “The Moon” Coker-Welch arrived on the scene in 2012 after transitioning from Brawl to Melee. A quick rise to the top has left many unaware of his presence within not only the New York smash scene, but the global rankings as well. The Moon has since had consistent results and has even cracked the top eight of a national at CEO last July.

“I started playing in New York. One of my great friends in college, we call him Luck, introduced me to Melee because I played Brawl,” The Moon said. “Everybody played Smash. I saw how fast the game was compared to Brawl, and I wanted to get into the game. Eventually I ended up meeting the New York scene: DJ Nintendo, Alukard, Revelations, Gmoney, D1, and they all welcomed me in.”

New York is near the top in terms of overall strength as a state and becomes an even stronger region when you include the entire Tri-state area (Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, for example, is from New Jersey). New York currently sits third behind California and Florida based on high-ranking players in the Melee It On Me rankings.

As a result, The Moon has no problems finding practice partners.

“Sometimes I would play with Gmoney, Revelations, sometimes DJ and Alukard. We play a lot of teams. You need to react. Decision making is on the spot there is no time to second guess,” he said after his pool play at Dreamhack. “New York is pretty strong. It is not the strongest state, but it’s one of the strongest states. We’ve had SoCal players come up to Nebulous, and one of them didn’t make it into top eight. Florida people came into New York and they also didn’t make top eight. We definitely do have a strong scene.”

New York hasn’t hosted a premier level event for a decade. MLG New York in 2006 was the last time top-level talent congregated in the concrete jungle. The Super Nebulous series has pulled in more top-level talent in recent years, and even attracted the attention of Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma last month. He showed up and proved why he is a top two player in the world right now, taking the tournament win.

The Moon had faith in himself headed into DreamHack Austin. “I think DreamHack, I’m actually gonna do well.”

So did Hungrybox. “Me, Mango, Mew2King, SFAT, Nintendude, Wizzrobe, Wobbles, and seventh is gonna be a sleeper hit, The Moon,” Hungrybox told ESPN last week, referring to his picks for top eight. The Moon finished 13-16th.

Although The Moon has had many notable performances in his career, including a win at Super Nebulous 2, he is perhaps best known for his third place finish at Revival of Melee 6 after beating DJ Nintendo and Kashan “Chillindude” Khan. It was the tournament that put The Moon on the map in 2013. He has taken sets off a myriad of notable players including Aziz “Hax” Al-Yami, Jeremy “Fly Amanita” Westfah and Otto “Silent Wolf” Bisno.

“It does have to do with bracket luck,” The Moon said. “Sometimes nerves do kick into play. At Pound (this year), I was a bit nervous, so I let the best get to me.”

If he can keep the nerves in check and land a couple of solid brackets The Moon may see a jump in rankings, though that isn’t his goal.

“I know when the MIOM rankings hit again, if I do well at CEO and EVO I might get bumped back into the 20s,” he said. “I might get pushed back into the 30s. I don’t let a number define my skill. I know how good I am, and when I’m on fire, I’m on fire.”

The Moon is currently ranked 28th — a slight dip from his ranking in the first half of 2015 — in the MIOM 2015 rankings and second in the NYC Metropolitan rankings behind the injured Hax. The Moon finished 2013 and 2014 ranked 63rd and 30th, respectively. With the 15-30th ranked spots being so volatile, several impressive placings could launch The Moon as high as the mid teens.

Friends are a big part of The Moon’s career, and they’re actually responsible for his nickname, stemming from a way they made fun of him.

“Around 2012, I started to rise and I used to talk about Naruto a lot so I was like, ‘The Moon Clan!’ The Moon said. “Everyone was like, ‘shut up, Ryan. You look like a moon!’ We have this joke whenever I say I’m tired they say, ‘you look tired!’ I’m hungry. ‘You look like you hungry!’ They named me The Moon and I didn’t like that name but it grew on me and I started to like it.”

With strong ties to friends in the game and his home region, The Moon is slowly working on being the next household name to come out of the famed New York Smash scene.

Cover photo by Chris Bahn |PTBPhoto.org | @bahnism