|Match Date||Saturday, August 9th, 2003|
|Sonic - 59.14%|
46 for - 4 against
|Sonic - 60.55%|
After the first round, the Sonic > Cloud hopefuls were looking great. Cloud had done God knows what against CATS, while Sonic performed better in his victory against Ken than Samus did in 2002. Sonic was flyin' high, livin' large, ready to take on the world.
And then his second round match with Zero came along, and Sonic was only able to nab 60% of the vote as the poll started. Fine, whatever. Zero was a new character that people were unfamiliar with, and maybe he was a bit stronger than anticipated.
But then the absolutely unthinkable happened, and Sonic really hasn't been the same since. Actually he hasn't been a dominant force since his choking away a 1500 vote lead in three hours against Samus, but this match with Zero proved that recovering from that would take far longer than one year. Zero, this upstart newbie who had no business whatsoever being mentioned in the same breath as someone of Sonic's caliber, shoved that Z Saber right up Sonic's ass and began taking off percentage like no other. Sonic wasn't put in any jeopardy of losing (and for the most part, he was still increasing his lead fairly easily), but he went from blowing Zero the hell out to being in a Pyrrhic Victory, and his status grew worse as the match progressed.
There was no massive Sega morning vote, no massive rally, and no huge voter shift that allowed Sonic to get back into blowout mode. Zero avoided all of this, and he even managed to win updates here and there throughout the match. Sonic went from blowing Zero out to having to struggle to build a lead, and he only wound up winning by a few thousand in the end. He was never in any danger of losing, but winning by less than 5000 votes against a new character that most people had never heard of? Something was either very wrong with Sonic, or Zero was the strongest new character in the field. And since very few people outside the MMX fanbase even knew who in the heck Zero was, the former was the consensus conclusion.
It's not that Sonic magically became a weak character or anything, and in fact he still has his Noble Nine status well in hand -- but the aura of invincibility that he had before Summer 2002 was dead and buried after this match, as were any hopes of Sonic taking down Cloud in this contest. Clearly, the "2002 Revenge Vote" factor wasn't doing much. People went from wondering whether or not said factor could take down Cloud to wondering if the poor guy could even beat Aeris.
Zero went out of this contest with a bang, and he later proved that he was no fluke. He put on a clinic in 2004 before having an equally good showing in 2005. In my personal opinion however 2003 was Zero's best performance, and his loss to Sonic is still his best match.