We just saw the Rocket League Spring Series last weekend, but for fans of North American Rocket League, there won’t be much of a lull until the next big competition. In fact, it’s this weekend. Former Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) caster Adam “Lawler” Thornton is putting on The Brawl Invitational in partnership with ESPN Esports.
Eight invited teams will join a pair of squads that pull through the open qualifier gauntlet. Qualifiers start on Friday with up to 128 teams in the mix, and then we’ll see some major rosters in the mix during Saturday’s 10-team bracket with $2,000 up for grabs.
Lawler, who has done some interviews with ESPN about Rocket League in recent months, said the whole thing came from a meetup at last summer’s Apex Legends EXP Invitational at X Games Minneapolis. Conversations persisted with an ESPN producer to figure out how the network could help point some of its audience towards the esport (ESPN2 also aired Sunday’s NA Spring Series finals).
According to Lawler, the dialogue “basically pushed Rocket League ahead in their timeline” and ultimately led to ESPN Esports’ support of The Brawl Invitational, the latest edition of his own offseason tournament brand.
— ESPN Esports (@ESPN_Esports) April 24, 2020
“I get the support and the backing of ESPN Esports, and they’re willing to help provide other things that may help not only grow my own brand with The Brawl, but also ease their way into the scene other than just a championship event on ESPN2,” Lawler tells Rocketeers, while praising his ESPN collaborators for their attention and forthrightness. “It leaves me speechless thinking about how forward and how direct about plans and how communicative they are on everything. It’s just a breath of fresh air, it really is,” he adds.
Lawler will stream the semifinals and grand finals of Friday’s open qualifier on his own Twitch channel, while Saturday’s matches will be split between the Twitch streams of both Lawler and ESPN Esports. A Squad Stream will be available to let viewers watch both streams at the same time, ensuring they don’t have to miss anything.
According to Lawler, the streams will have player and post-match interviews. Community favorites SubParButInHD—Emile “Cole” Cole and Alex “Stumpy” Knight—will cast on the ESPN Esports stream and later provide a post-weekend aftermovie to tie it all together.
G2 Esports was the only team to decline its invitation to The Brawl, due to existing family plans for one of the players. Cloud9 originally confirmed that it would compete but had to pull out just today due to personal matters, says Lawler.
— Rogue (@Rogue) April 23, 2020
That leaves NRG, Spacestation Gaming, Rogue, Pittsburgh Knights, eUnited, the Susquehanna Soniqs, and the newly-signed Team Envy (ex-Ghost) as confirmed invited teams, with the newly-RLCS-promoted Affinity (ex-Omni Nation) taking Cloud9’s vacated spot.
After winning both the North American regional championship in RLCS Season 9 and taking last weekend’s Spring Series with a decisive 4-0 win over NRG, G2 Esports would’ve been the favorites for The Brawl Invitational—but they’re sitting this one out. NRG might’ve been the runner-up on Sunday, but North America is super competitive right now, especially following recent roster shake-ups and new player trials.
“I don’t think you can sleep on any team,” says Lawler. “I think it’s open for the taking, especially with new rosters and new trials of players. That lack of pressure I think opens doors. I think Pittsburgh Knights should get a shout; I think they look pretty good. Rogue has a lot of things that I like; I just need to see if they can put it together, and a lot of that rides on Firstkiller. Honestly, it’s anybody’s game with G2 out.”
Check back soon for more of our conversation with Lawler, including his exit from the RLCS and what’s next for him.