[BattleBots: S9 E1 is available through the Discovery GO app.]
There’s that meme going around right now — and by mentioning it I am going to tarnish this article’s ability to be “timeless” but whatever — where people take that guy from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and make him walk up to various things while saying his line “aw shit here we go again”. I just did literally that in real life without realizing it as I walked over to my home office computer to start writing this article. Ready or not, rain or shine, the new season of BattleBots is going to march forever onward and it’s a moot point whether I think I can handle a goddamned two-hour long episode coming at me every single week. Occasionally I get anxious about it but then I remember it’s not really two solid hours of content I’m reviewing and picking apart, it’s really somewhere around 90 minutes because peppered throughout the entire broadcast Discovery Channel is going to try and get me to buy crap or watch American Chopper or something. I never thought I’d live to see the day where a commercial that ends on a cliffhanger of whether or not some angry geriatric man with a handlebar mustache can deepthroat a motorcycle gear shift would be a fleeting moment of solace to look forward to, but here we are. 2019 is fucking weird.
2019 is also the 20th anniversary of BattleBots. Somehow I sat through the entire taping of this goddamned production and at no point did it click that robots like Nightmare, who was sitting out front on display, were certifiably “vintage” by the literal definition of that word. This season kicks off with the highest resolution version of the old BattleBots logo that the editors could find and blasts straight through some of the most memorable moments in the sport’s early years. We see Red Scorpion being worked on by its team, a robot that retired with a 0-4 record and somehow managed to lose to Turtle Road Kill. By KO. There’s also a brief flash of Gorange, a mostly unknown lightweight who won a couple of fights back in ’99 but still wound up getting its ass kicked by an opponent armed with a chainsaw just in case you really needed some perspective on how far back you need to go for a fucking chainsaw to be an effective weapon. More importantly though, and not a part of the previous punchline, there’s a clip of Nightmare laying into Frenzy and flipping it over. This fight was the first time Nightmare was allowed to spin its disc in the proper direction because the organizers were finally confident enough that Nightmare wouldn’t rip a piece off of an opponent and kill someone in the audience with it. They were technically incorrect in that assumption in the end, but in any case it’s always nice to see Nightmare back in a time when the design wasn’t so easily defeatable and being drawn against it was still an “oh shit” moment.
The voiceover says BattleBots “fills arenas around the world” and this is news to me because I did not know “the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area” constituted “around the world”. I mean sure it’s big enough to be its own state (and I’m not saying
quarantining seceding LA into its own state would fix the world’s problems) but I can’t help but smile at that little vignette of Californian flavor. It’s like Texas except less endearing.
This season is functionally identical to last season and still goes by the “Fight Night” moniker. Everyone gets up to four qualification rounds in order to prove their might and determine who advances onward into the single elimination tournament for the Giant Nut. You guys should know what to expect by this point; a loss in this episode doesn’t necessarily mean the team in question is out for good, the Fight Night formula usually gives competitors one mulligan… but if you fuck it up twice well, then, you just suck. New to this season is Jenny Taft and it’s nice to finally be able to see her because all throughout shooting Chris Rose and Kenny Florian kept referring to her and I was wondering when the hell she was going to show up because she never did. Then I learned she had the important role of “pit reporter”, and no that’s not sarcasm. BattleBots has been sorely lacking in the post-fight-forward-slash-technical-breakdown content category, so no pressure Jenny. Don’t screw it up.
The fight card for this episode is pretty respectable, too. There are a ton of returning greats with Tombstone and Lock-Jaw in the main event, but peppered all throughout the regular matches are a ton of consistent fighters looking to kick things off on a good start. I’m talking Sawblaze, Hypershock, Blacksmith, Rotator, you name it. Curiously this episode features two teams who took last year off in order to get their bots in top form. Cobalt returns from 2016 looking a lot more like the team’s Robot Wars champion Carbide. Yeah you heard right, Robot Wars champion. Also returning is Death Roll, which is apparently two words now? It’s the crocodile robot also from 2016 who fell to Captain Shrederator but held its own in one of the consolation 3-way rumbles that year. I’ve gotta say seeing these guys was a bit of a left field ordeal, but outside of BattleBots this robot continued to compete as Great White (with a shark theme) and apparently tore up the Chinese circuit. As for newcomers well we’ve got Quantum and Ribbot so, you know, way to include both ends of the spectrum in one episode I guess.
SAWBLAZE vs. ROTATOR
Up first for the inaugural fight of season nine (or four if you’re counting only the reboot, or two if you’re counting only the Discovery seasons — TV sucks) are SawBlaze and Rotator, two returning competitors whose previous seasons were absolutely wild; complete and total surprises in both cases. For SawBlaze, builder Jamison Go had a lot to prove because two seasons ago he got fucked by the “aggression with a primary weapon” clause. Rather than walk away with his tail between his legs Jamison brought SawBlaze back last year and indiscriminately fucked everyone up and very nearly would’ve finished its Fight Night rounds undefeated if Bronco didn’t have a word or two to say about that. This year SawBlaze returns with an even more customizable design. Whereas last year’s SawBlaze had either a forked wedge or a dustpan attachment, this one’s got all that plus two types of discs and a special armored front end attachment that’s being used for this fight. SawBlaze is still technically the “scoop ’em and slice ’em” robot it has always been, but this year its alternate configurations are no joke. The flamethrower still sucks though. Can’t win them all.
Before we got to the arena introductions Jenny informed us that Victor Soto made an oopsie poopsie during Rotator’s weapon test. Not only did he inadvertently bust one of his robot’s weapon discs, he also broke the fucking frame. Not a good sign for a robot of Rotator’s caliber who, much like SawBlaze, also had a lot to prove last year (and did so). The first time we ever got to see this robot Witch Doctor ripped its wheels off in like five seconds and that was it. But last year? Do you remember the shit that Rotator did to fucking Icewave? Let me ask you another question on top of that: Do you even see Icewave anywhere this season? Rotator absolutely destroyed Icewave and wrecked several of its other opponents before Bite Force had to put this bullshit to an end. Rotator’s unconventional design put a lot of people off initially, and rightfully so, but you can’t tell me with a straight face that you still think Victor’s machine is a piece of shit after last year. I mean… actually you kind of still can, considering the whole “whoops we broke our frame lol” stuff. It gave Victor an excuse to show off Rotator’s new non-palindromic form though! One upper bar and some kind of goofy ass spike plow thing?
Right away it becomes apparent that Rotator’s configuration wasn’t the right one for the job. Granted, I’m not sure Rotator’s double disc setup would have been any more effective against the ten fucking feet of ablative armor on SawBlaze’s face but I’m pretty sure having two weapons would’ve been a much better form to battle with. Before the fight Victor mentioned how Rotator was able to take down Skorpios’ weapon last year but that was largely because Rotator had both of its weapons and was able to do that thing where one of the weapons was getting up to speed while it hit you with the other one. Can’t do that with one bar which is why as I write this SawBlaze has shoved Rotator into the screws hard enough to flip it over and is now presently slicing into what appears to be a cover for a PC fan. Victor rolls his eyes at the attack because he thinks he can still win this fight with a robot who’s only half-equipped to deal with an opponent like SawBlaze.
With its bar now gliding along the floor Rotator might be able to take advantage of a lucky shot at SawBlaze’s tires or something, but its perceived effectiveness is in the shitter. The whole reason why Rotator’s blade was mounted on its top for this fight was in the hopes that Jamison would be stupid enough to drop SawBlaze’s weapon directly down onto it, which he isn’t. The backup in that case would be to manage to clip the weapon during a bout of chaotic driving, but with Rotator flipped over and its blade touching the floor it’s now too low. Rotator wasn’t going to do a damn thing to the front end of SawBlaze to start with, but now it’s double fucked because all that bar is going to do is deflect upward and allow SawBlaze to shove its opponent anywhere it wants to, like under the Pulverizer where Rotator gets whacked seven times in a row. Chris is getting really into his commentary to the point where he turns into a screeching idiot while Victor just sorta stands there leaning against the glass of the drivers’ booth waiting for his robot to stop getting fucked by a dragon.
Rotator has basically been a bullet sponge for this entire fight but I’ve got to commend Victor for how durable of a machine he’s built. Again, aside from that snafu with the frame. The robot has landed no hits but has been slammed and toppled around for three solid minutes and still seems fully functional. It’s not winning, but it works at least. I think it’s pretty obvious who wins this fight and I guess I could point out that this wasn’t the first battle of the season. I’m sure you saw all that red shit in the arena and if it looked familiar to you that’s because it’s chunks of Double Jeopardy’s sabot from an earlier match. Also the fight cards for this session were posted online and we all know Duck vs. Bombshell was the lead-in… which doesn’t appear to be in this episode for some reason. Maybe next week? And for Rotator, maybe next time?
WINNER: SawBlaze, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
COBALT vs. SUBZERO
I think it’s cute that both of the robots in this next fight are from teams named after their previous creations. Kind of strange in a way, like they were banking on that one robot being “it” and when they moved onto other things they realized they’d inadvertently locked in their team names with something stupid. Anyways all the way from the UK we have Cobalt… from Team Carbide. Chris points out what I was already planning on getting into, and kind of touched on at the beginning of this article, about how Cobalt vanished from BattleBots for three years because it sucked too bad. You might remember Cobalt from back then being described as “the British Tombstone” and if you can remember that then I’m sure you also remember how Bombshell chopped its tires off with that ridiculous horizontal bar that no one thought would actually work. That won’t happen again this year, mostly because Bombshell turned into a fucking embarrassment, but also because Cobalt’s wheels are no longer exposed. This thing evolved into “another goddamned vertical spinner” and I’ve gotta say out of all of them at least the weapon on this one looks cool and isn’t just some boring fucking disc. The namesake of Dave Moulds’ team, Carbide, was the winner of one of the reboot seasons of Robot Wars so even though Cobalt was a piece of shit in 2016 it would not be smart to underestimate it this year.
Kenny says Jerry Clarkin is planning on retiring from robot combat if SubZero has a bad showing. Well, I guess we already know how this one’s going to end because earlier this year Jerry announced his retirement from the sport and put SubZero up for sale. That’s a damn shame too because just look at this thing. This is a complete and total rebuild. Yeah I’m going to miss the old SubZero that resembled one of the asteroids from Star Fox 64 but this new one is awesome. I genuinely didn’t think Jerry knew how to build anything other than something that looked like a coffin crossed with the diamond YouTube play button award. Absent from the team this year is Spitfire, presumably because after getting booty-bumped into the screws the drone decided to do some bouncing of its own and fucking left (to join the Texas Twister team). I’m not exactly sure how much weight Spitfire occupied last year but I’m guessing it was just enough to prevent SubZero from turning into a decent machine. New SubZero retained its trademark flipping arm but also now has an electric self-righter that can still be used in the event the pneumatics get damaged. Plus I guess it doubles as a Yeti-style lifting arm?
One thing you need to learn about bot builders is that they are fucking liars. All of them. Dave Moulds said his plan was to hang back and see what SubZero is up to, but really he just goes right in. And Jerry Clarkin said the new SubZero was much more maneuverable than the previous one but all I’m seeing right now is a robot that appears to be driving around by way of someone holding a giant magnet under the arena floor. Cobalt comes in and clips the right side of SubZero’s face which tweaks the robot’s front forks but overall doesn’t seem to do much damage. The damage of course comes with the second hit where SubZero rides up atop Cobalt’s leading wedge and gets part of its left side panel sheared off in the process. The hit also damages the flipper’s front left wheel and cocks it a perfect 90 degrees sideways. Cobalt then comes in and makes the damage even on the other side by ripping SubZero’s front right wheel clean off. This happens all in the course of about five or six seconds, or in layman’s terms “about how long it takes for SubZero to turn all the way around”.
The fight is over by this point but SubZero’s driver decides to make the mistake of trying to stay alive which basically gives your opponent a blank check to keep kicking your ass until you stop moving for real. Cobalt cashes this check at the National Bank of Winning Your First Fight Big Time by ripping apart the left side panel of SubZero which also frees up that jammed wheel and lets it fall off. This doesn’t help SubZero at all, but at least the stuck wheel is gone now. Miraculously SubZero is still somewhat controllable so to correct this Cobalt cruises in on SubZero’s left side again and now that there’s no armor there just absolutely shreds the bottom of the robot to fucking pieces. The baseplate of a robot is usually one of its strongest parts and if you look at SubZero’s underside as Cobalt performs its Street Fighter uppercut you can just see how trashed it is. Clean slices and entire chunks are ripped out of SubZero’s underside but again this somehow does not kill SubZero and the robot manages to right itself. Predictably, Cobalt cruises in one more time and chews up the same damaged side of its opponent and that’s finally it for SubZero.
Cobalt does its victory gyro dance but watch closely and you’ll see the robot accidentally sit down on part of SubZero and stop moving. It doesn’t take much to high center this robot apparently, and Dave would be wise to pay attention to this considering his robot’s entire battle strategy is to basically go out there and drop kick opponents like they were Lego models. Kenny describes Cobalt’s battle as a “coming out party” which I feel is an apt description because A) “happy pride month” and B) SubZero sure sucked a lot of dick out there.
WINNER: Cobalt, KO
KRAKEN vs. RIBBOT
We are now treading into the territory of every episode where we encounter the robots based off of animals. Happens every week, get used to it. Matt Spurk’s Kraken debuted last season with a unique approach regarding its biting jaw. Most builders go the route of using hydraulics (Petunia, Quantum, etc), however Kraken’s weaponry is powered entirely with pneumatics and boasts about 40,000 pounds of biting force. That’s enough force to make Chris Rose a really shitty masquerade mask from a piece of scrap metal! The advantage of pneumatic over hydraulic is mostly that of speed, Kraken can snap shut a lot faster than its related designs. Last year the robot struggled to find its footing and lost four fights in a multitude of bizarre ways but it did win one fight when it bit Red Devil’s tank treads hard enough to break them. We got a glimpse into what Kraken was really capable of doing and this new version is absolutely killer in the looks department. Not so sure about the Kraken costume though, that looks like the type of thing you’d get from a seller on AliExpress promising you the world and instead delivering one of those flailing arm blow-up guys with its face sewn onto its ass.
A lot of people wrote Ribbot off at first glance because it looks dumb as hell. Joke’s on them because Ribbot is the rarest of all the Pepes. I can understand looking at a robot and declaring it a waste of time purely on appearances alone (cough cough Tentomushi) but that’s only if you can see the whole picture. Most of Ribbot’s chassis is covered up with frog-shaped foam pieces which mostly serve the role of concealing its true form. Underneath all those chopped up car seats is a modular robot whose design is very reminiscent of the original Witch Doctor from 2015: four big wheels and a spinner. As I mentioned, Ribbot is also modular. There are several configurations the team can go with and for this one in particular they’ve decided that being “another goddamned vertical spinner” is the best way to thwart something as batshit crazy as Kraken. The downside to Ribbot is that its foam is apparently flammable? This isn’t Robot Wars and you’re not Diotior, I genuinely have no fucking clue why you’d intentionally build something flammable when fire weapons are currently one of the cheapest and easiest ways to score ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd.
Matt Spurk is either really confident in his robot’s design or just really stupid, because I can’t really name too many builders who would be okay with driving straight at something like Ribbot’s vertical disc and just going all in. Then again it might be part of Ribbot’s design to bank on most people not doing exactly that because it doesn’t come out ahead in this exchange. Within seconds Kraken bites down straight through Ribbot’s fucking eye and starts trying to carry it to the hazards. One of Kraken’s weaker points (and a common weak spot for most biters) is the fact that when it comes time to take control of an opponent they are perpetually fighting against whatever part of their opponent’s drivetrain is still in contact with the floor. Because of this Kraken gets a bite and not much else because the Pulverizer misses and the refs tell Kraken it needs to let go. Kraken obliges and goes right back into its original strategy of coming straight at its opponent weapons be damned. The result is a blow that turns Kraken into a hillbilly and prompts our first “HUGE HIT THERE” of the season from Kenny Florian. This hit is also so hard that flakes of fucking paint start coming off of Kraken’s head.
Ribbot has a powerful weapon if these hits are any indication but I guess maybe it’s because this is an inexperienced team or something because when it comes to driving and actually landing hits of their own this whole thing is a bust. Kraken’s ass is probably its weakest point and if fucking Sharkoprion can manage to hit that then I’m sure a stupid frog can, too. Instead Kraken just keeps gnawing on Ribbot’s face and bites all the way into its spinner. The first pop you see is Ribbot’s spinner colliding with Kraken’s teeth. The second? That’s Ribbot’s goddamned chassis giving way as Kraken officially declares Ribbot to no longer be a virgin. Kraken’s going to need some help breaking loose from Ribbot because Matt knows the refs are going to start paying attention in a second here so he takes Ribbot over to the screws and lets them start chewing Ribbot’s appendages off. The frog arms and legs are purely cosmetic and are likely intended to help the robot buy a couple of hits from the deadlier spinners out there but I guess they also serve the important role of fucking up the hazards and making the arena cleanup crew really earn their paychecks.
When Ribbot inevitably gets free it’s looking a lot worse for wear for sure. To add insult to injury Kraken manages to trick Ribbot into eating its own fucking face resulting in the frog spraying foam all over the arena and making it look like someone blew up a mattress. Part of Ribbot’s face gets peeled back revealing one of its weapon motors and for a moment I started trying to think of a Terminator joke but I was snapped out of that trance by the awful grinding noise from the screws as Kraken shoves the frog into yet another one and one of its legs get stuck in that hazard as well. Ribbot’s driver insists that the robot’s drive is fine, but I’m pretty sure the past two and a half minutes have demonstrated that everything is anything BUT fine. Ribbot gets its skull caved in by the Pulverizer and in the process does another spit take with more of its own face and when the robot is finally released it becomes apparent that contrary to what its driver just said there is most certainly something wrong with Ribbot because it’s not doing much of anything in the “moving around” department.
At the end of the fight Kraken reminds us all that it has a flamethrower by accidentally igniting Ribbot’s foam armor. This happens after the buzzer and is kind of a dick move, but Matt’s excuse for it is that Kraken’s flamethrower is apparently wired backwards or something. The operator doesn’t hold down a trigger to blow fire, instead they hold down a trigger to stop it. When the refs tell everyone to let go of their transmitters and set them down this poses a very obvious problem with Kraken’s weaponry. If this happened against anyone else maybe I’d cry foul about it but honestly fuck Ribbot. Kraken gets its season off to a great start while I’m sure Ribbot wound up getting stiffed with the cleanup bill for this fight because god damn did that stupid frog make a mess.
WINNER: Kraken, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
DEEP SIX IN THE PITS
It’s time for our first pit segment of the season! Jenny has apparently been scoping out the bots with the gnarliest weapons and even though they lead in with Nelly the Ellybot the montage ends on a high note when we reach the focus of this segment: Deep Six. You know “that card” from that stupid Cards Against Humanity game? The game played exclusively by faux-intellectuals who like to think they’re smarter than everyone else and I guarantee were followers of /r/Atheism on Reddit ten years ago? By “that card” I am of course referring to “a big black dick” which with each successive generation of the game evolved into “a bigger blacker dick” and “the biggest blackest dick” and at one point even came printed with embossed foil text. I don’t know how a card made at the expense of a racial stereotype became the colloquial “instant winner” card so oft-celebrated by CAG players, but the point I’m trying to make here is that when it comes to big black dicks in BattleBots, Deep Six is the biggerest blackerest dick. It doesn’t get any bigger or blacker here unless you’re Chris Rock. That was a referential joke about the title of his 1999 stand-up comedy special, not the size of his dick. I have not seen Chris Rock’s dick.
During taping some photos went viral in the robot combat community that focused on a massive gash in the floor of the safety test box. That gash was caused by Deep Six and this segment is all about how the test box got that sweet scar. Deep Six is among the robots whose weapons are too powerful and too dangerous to test in your garage. I mean you can, but it wouldn’t be a smart move if the footage that follows is any indication. Deep Six’s weapon is a four-foot long bar that spins in excess of 200 MPH. Not only is it as big as a catered sandwich from Subway it’s also as heavy as the shit you’d take if you ate one of those things. Dustin Esswein says he’s never cranked the robot’s weapon beyond about 10% and if you’d like to know why just watch what happens when he dials it up to full blast in the test box. He barely flicks the stick to turn the robot and Deep Six yanks itself up off the ground and its weapon collides with the floor. Watch closely and you’ll see the robot shit out all of its electronics — again all from one hit that it initiated on itself. Don’t worry if you didn’t catch the carnage the first time around, the editors rewind and remix that shit with arrow graphics that I am pretty sure came from the Wingdings font package.
It’s great that all this was captured on tape because not only is it fucking awesome it also means that someone on the production crew took one look at this thing and just knew it was going to fucking murder itself and that they’d be wise to point some cameras at it.
END GAME vs. DEATH ROLL
As we get through these Fight Night episodes you’ll probably see some match-ups and say to yourself “gee wilikers this doesn’t seem like a random pairing” and you’d probably be correct. Like I said earlier this taping session kicked off with Duck and Bombshell; you think that just happened on its own? Fuck no. Likewise here’s a couple of robots from down under. Death Roll is from Australia and End Game hails from New Zealand which is apparently not technically part of Australia but I feel like we’re just splitting hairs by this point. In the process of googling for that I discovered New Zealand was voted as Australia’s “best friend”, knocking the United States out of that position. Now all I can think about is that dumb Facebook meme of that Indian man who found a new best friend and made a post that featured him shaking hands with said new friend while pictures of the old friend were in the corners with X’s over them. Anyways End Game was a pretty serious newcomer last year who dealt some major blows, though unfortunately it was not always on the winning side of those hits. Take for example the amazing uppercut it dealt to Son of Whyachi that popped the spinner into the air; End Game killed itself with that hit even though by all accounts it probably would’ve won had it survived. It also ripped Brutus’ face off and threw it into the lights winning it the Official “Huge Hit There” Giant Washer Award last season. This year the robot looks about the same overall but it now features a self-righting mechanism shaped like a pair of shutter shades. It’s like they’re intentionally trying to be the robot everyone hopes loses.
Cobalt was the first robot of this episode who took an extended break to regroup and rebuilt. Death Roll is the second one. Also appearing and disappearing in the 2016 season this robot’s run for the Nut consisted of getting its ass torn off by Captain Shrederator. That’s it. Death Roll participated in one of the consolation rumbles and managed to win so we got to see a little bit of what this bot could do, but sadly Death Roll did not return for the 2018 season and we were left wondering what could’ve been. Turns out Steven Martin and his team partnered up with Ellis Ware (builder of Pulsar from Robot Wars) and competed elsewhere with a version of Death Roll painted like a shark and named Great White. Apparently this robot did fairly well at some of the Chinese events but ultimately was eliminated. I don’t really know if going to China to grind for EXP is a smart move considering they’re just getting started with robot combat and fighting those teams would be like defeating level 1 enemies but I guess any experience gained is still valuable nonetheless. Death Roll returns with a much sleeker and compact design ready to snap at any and all comers. (PS: I love their adorable little gator plush they use to push the ready button with.)
These fights between vertical spinners often come down to who gets the first patented Kenny Florian HUGE HIT THERE. Death Roll stubs its toe on part of the floor which means it’s End Game that claims the immediate upper hand and in the ensuing chaos we discover why the robot is named “Death Roll” because jesus fucking christ this robot bounces and flails all over the goddamned place without any semblance of control whatsoever. Death Roll winds up getting back onto its wheels… all the way across the arena from where it was hit. The only input from End Game that resulted in the robot ending up way over there was one single blow, Death Roll did the rest by doing its impression of a cat being maced. Somehow when this croc eventually lands on its wheels it’s not dead. Not only is it not dead it appears to be fully functional too because its weapon immediately gets revved up to speed and the robot tries to maneuver around to hit its opponent. Naturally, End Game isn’t going to let this happen so it gets in Death Roll’s face and manages to flip it over again and proceeds to lands hits absolutely anywhere it can get purchase.
At this point Death Roll has basically turned into a ball of lightning that destroys anything it touches. In its contorting and twisting fit the crocodile rolls into the arena sign and knocks it off of its mount and as it charges at End Game’s face something gets sheared off and is ejected into the fucking lights because not only does a shower of glass rain down from the roof so does one of the mounting panels for that “BATTLEBOTS” sign because it gets clipped a second time in the process. Chris gets legit angry because that’s going to come out of the show’s budget and for once I don’t think he’s cracking a joke because right now I’m almost certain Death Roll by proxy of End Game has caused way more damage to the arena than anything else by this point. But again, Death Roll still works. I don’t know what the fuck they did to this robot in the three years it’s been since we last saw it but god damn if this was 2016 Death Roll would’ve been KO’d before the fight even started. Even though it’s getting it ass turned inside out Death Roll is in this for the long haul because all it’s waiting for is for something like End Game to drive over the broken glass and lose its weapon belt when the glass gets sucked into it.
That’s exactly what happens, by the way. With its weapon crippled End Game takes a hit from Death Roll and gets tossed onto its back. Supposedly End Game can flip itself back over with those stupid glasses but I don’t see a whole lot of that happening right now, and neither does Death Roll’s team because they’re talking shit to Jack Barker and his team about their self-righter. The ref gets to work counting down End Game and as the cameras cut to the shot of Death Roll sitting there with its weapon going you can see the whole disc array sliding back and forth on its axle because of course some shit has got to be broken inside of that thing. Death Roll spent the first minute of this fight acting like an overvolted bumble ball but when the dust (and glass, and parts of that arena sign) settled the robot that laid dead in the corner wasn’t the one you were probably expecting.
WINNER: Death Roll, KO
HYPERSHOCK vs. VALKYRIE
Each of these next two robots are known to pack a mean punch when they’re fully functional, but both have also had their showings where they broke down and sucked out loud. HyperShock is one of the few robots present this year who can say it’s competed in all of the reboot seasons starting from 2015. Back then this robot claimed a one hit KO over Mohawk and very nearly stopped Bite Force on its way to become the eventual champion that year. We all know about “the rake incident” when HyperShock pulled a drone out of the air and fucked it to death and we also know about what happened the second time HyperShock and Bite Force crossed paths. I don’t know if Will Bales’ doomsday RC car has what it takes to actually win the whole show but I do know that no matter what happens this guy is never going to let off on the throttle even if his robot is shitting out sparks and smoking to death. 2019’s HyperShock looks to be evolving toward that “another goddamned vertical spinner” design and honestly the only reason I can tell this robot apart from the others is because of the color. Were the ninja stars from 2018 really that bad of a weapon?
Valkyrie is still a relatively new robot but it already has seven fights under its belt just from 2018 alone. HyperShock has twelve fights across its entire four-season career. That’s pretty goddamned impressive and that is largely in part to what I praised Leanne Cushing for at the end of the previous season; she and her team did not pass up a single opportunity to get their robot in the ring. No matter the odds, Valkyrie showed up to every possible fight it could get into in the hopes of qualifying for the final 16. It didn’t qualify of course, but you’ve gotta respect their tenacity. Hell if I came out on the losing end of some of the fights they did I’d have probably been content to give up and go broke spending all of my money on food truck meals and Uber trips to anywhere other than BattleBots so I wouldn’t have to face the reality of getting my ass kicked by Ultimo Destructo. Valkyrie really looks about the same this year as it did last year which leads me to believe most of the robot’s improvements are all under the hood. Overall Valkyrie’s design was pretty solid and from what I can tell most of its losses were due to unreliability; if that’s under control then we’re looking at a serious contender here.
Will Bales knows about Valkyrie’s long spin-up time. 9 seconds, apparently. He gets nine seconds to launch an attack that prevents Valkyrie’s weapon from reaching a critical speed, but he only needs one goddamned second because as soon as the flag drops HyperShock straight up teleports across the floor and sticks Valkyrie into the screws. This is very nearly almost the end of the fight right away but Valkyrie is able to get down from the hazard. It doesn’t make it far though because HyperShock is right there to knock it askew again and in the process rips an entire armor panel off of Valkyrie. Valkyrie has taken major damage before it can even leave the goddamned starting square but eventually it gets free and starts shaving sparks off of HyperShock’s wedge. I know Valkyrie is trying to get its blade up to speed and I’m not sure how these mini impacts are affecting that 9 second window but it looks like it’s slowly getting up there and as the robot starts to pivot around its central axle HyperShock knows to get the fuck away because the last thing it needs is for Valkyrie’s spinner to come down on top of it like some kind of bastard lawnmower.
HyperShock gets part of its front right wheel shaved away which kind of highlights the reason why it really wanted to avoid Valkyrie’s weapon in its upright configuration. Valkyrie gets shoved over near the Pulverizer but it comes down on HyperShock instead. I’m not sure which team controls that hammer because the spots are all painted yellow this year so I’m just going to assume it’s Valkyrie’s because a few seconds later Valkyrie is just sitting right there under it and the hammer doesn’t come down. Either that or teams were instructed not to activate the Pulverizers if it meant that the hammer would be dropped on something like, I don’t know, a 66 pound blade spinning at who the fuck knows how fast? You can tell the added load from pushing Valkyrie around is really putting the screws to HyperShock’s drivetrain because in the closeup of Valkyrie under the hammer HyperShock’s wheels are visibly twitching and not long thereafter the whole robot starts to smolder. HyperShock’s maneuverability has definitely taken a hit and Valkyrie spends a few seconds carving up whatever tires it can get its hands on but for some reason it just quits moving.
One of Valkyrie’s wheels is still spinning so I’m guessing it just has shitty traction which is kind of a dumb way to go considering HyperShock is currently doing what it always seems to fucking do these days and merely moving around would be enough to win by this point. HyperShock claims its first victory of the season, but on shaky grounds. Will has a lot of work to do if he wants a proper run at the title because if you start breaking down around bots like Tombstone you might as well hit up an attorney to get your will filed ahead of time.
WINNER: HyperShock, KO
BLACKSMITH vs. QUANTUM
Before this season even started Quantum was one of the robots everyone was talking about. Chris Rose even says so before this fight is introduced. Nobody wants to be the first person who gets sent in to feel this one out. That’s like being the poor motherfucker who opened the door to the Chernobyl reactor room to inspect the damage and looked directly into the open core causing his face to explode like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Literally. But someone’s gotta do it, and Blacksmith drew the short straw. Al Kindle has been around the block more than a couple of times as he has over 20 years of experience in the sport, but much like one of the talking points brought up last season he’s never actually won a title. Al says he’s a little miffed that he’s only won two fights with Blacksmith throughout this particular robot’s career. Dude, your weapon is a fucking hammer with a flamethrower inside of it. As radical as that is don’t tell me you’re somehow surprised that this goddamned robot isn’t winning. Blacksmith is not the kind of robot that is built to win fights, it’s the kind of robot built to impress a crowd and get some sweet ass merchandising deals. In that regard Blacksmith has been extremely successful. Now shut up and go inspect the reactor to let us know what happened.
The guys who built the Robot Wars house robots (the “referee” robots who patrol the corners of the arena and act as hazards of their own) are the ones behind Quantum. They’re also the team behind Spectre, a robot very similar to Quantum that won the first King of Bots event in China a couple of years back. The reason everyone’s been talking about this robot is because it’s really kind of the first of its type. Quantum’s weapon is one solid piece of machined metal and the reason why it looks like a VHS tape someone left on their dashboard is because this is technically the “perfect” shape. A computer process was carried out to design the most efficient shape possible for this particular part of the robot and what you see is the result. But that of course is just “quantum theory” heh heh. At its core Quantum is a biter bot whose hydraulic jaw and overall design evoke memories of the legendary Razer, though none of Quantum’s builders have any affiliation with Team Razer. People often wondered if this robot was an homage or a rip-off and honestly I feel like Quantum’s similarities to Razer are unintentional and are purely a result of this chassis “shape” being the most efficient type of crusher design.
Al says his strategy is not to get bitten. That works for about five seconds because Quantum inevitably gets its tooth buried in Blacksmith’s backside and it’s even on the side of the robot that Quantum was actually aiming for. That’s some frightening precision. Blacksmith is officially a passenger in this ride and it’s going to be a rocky one because right after slamming Blacksmith into the screw box Quantum loses the drive chain on its back right tire. Quantum is also smoking though and honestly I’m with Kenny on this one because I have no fucking clue what’s burning up. Batteries isn’t my guess, it could be the wheels but it might also be one of Quantum’s drive motors because one of them is taking full load and the other has no load and that shit can’t be good. In any case Quantum probably ought to think about letting Blacksmith go because now Al seems privy to the fact that his robot has had Quantum’s dick in its ass for a lot longer than “just the tip”.
Al is getting progressively more pissed off and with the magic of one jump cut both robots are free. I’ll glaze over this for now but make sure you dog ear this page because we’ll come back to it. So both bots are now “free” and as you can probably guess Quantum gets another bite on Blacksmith and the two bots wind up getting stuck together again. This time Blacksmith starts to smoke because I’m guessing Quantum bit into something juicy. Quantum starts doing donuts and the distribution of weight on its drive system is so fucked up and unbalanced that the blue rubber of its tires is coming off onto the arena floor because of the heat generated from the friction. The refs stop the fight and we actually go to a commercial; when we come back Chris lets us know the official ruling here is a special judges’ decision.
Now’s a good time to double back to that jump cut. This fight was stopped twice. The jump cut was the first one and that pause was so significant that the safety crew spent upwards of fifteen fucking minutes trying to get Quantum and Blacksmith separated and they ultimately failed to do so. It was announced the fight would be postponed and the two robots, still stuck together, were wheeled into the pits. That jump cut actually leaped into the second session of taping that day where Blacksmith vs. Quantum: Reloaded was the first fight right out of the gate. The clock was restored to its stopped amount and the robots were placed approximately where they were when the match was postponed. Within seconds Quantum fucked everything up and bit down on Blacksmith to get stuck again. This time they could not be separated and because Blacksmith was on fire the entire tangled mess of bots had to be covered and wheeled outside. When all was said and done it was discovered that the materials of Quantum’s tooth and Blacksmith’s armor had literally fused to-fucking-gether and would not have been separable anyways. The tooth was unhooked from Quantum’s jaw and Blacksmith’s armor had to be cut away. It was never actually removed.
After the fight James Cooper deflects blame and says it’s Blacksmith’s fault for having armor that’s too thick. Oh, really? Because you’re the motherfucker who showed up with a hydraulic weapon capable of putting out 44,000 pounds of bite force which has got to be total fucking overkill. And yet you’re going to blame the poor sap you unleashed that power on? I didn’t realize victim blaming was a thing that could happen in this sport but fuck me 2019 sure is weird! Anyways since this whole thing was apparently Al’s fault I hope he got to keep the souvenir of Quantum’s tooth stuck in the chunk of his robot’s armor since, you know, this “quantum entanglement” bullshit was all his fault and everything.
WINNER: Quantum, Special Judges’ Decision (3-0)
SCIENCE CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE
MARVIN vs. GRUFF vs. GEMINI
This week’s Science Channel exclusive is a 3-way rumble featuring a couple of new robots. Now I know in the past there were a lot of complaints about how not all of the bonuses were fights and while I can’t speak on behalf of the show’s editors I can certainly say that there were a fuckload more battles this year than there were last year and out of all the fights that were taped as part of session one (“episode one”) two of them don’t appear to have made it into this episode. What we do get is the debut of Marvin from Hannah Rucker, Hal Rucker’s daughter. She operated the plow on Duck but now has her own machine which is armed with a spinning disc with attached flails. This came as a surprise to me because I wasn’t sure Hal knew how to build something with a kinetic weapon since everything I can recall seeing from him is just some iteration of a brick with wheels. Marvin still kind of looks like a brick though, except it’s shaped more like a guitar pick. It looks pretty indestructible and its spinning disc is made of UMHW plastic so I’m guessing the idea here is to have a weapon that doubles as a defensive mechanism too. That’s new to me.
Gruff is a newcomer to BattleBots but it’s not a new robot. This robot has gotten a lot of mileage in the independent circuits where it has had a favorable showing and usually makes it at least to the quarterfinals of any event it shows up to. Gruff’s main mode of attack is to use its wedge shape to get underneath its opponents and then use its lifting bracket to either pick someone up or clamp down on them to take them to a hazard or blow some fire on them. Chris Rose tells us Gruff’s flamethrower is the strongest one in the competition but he also qualifies that statement with the phrase “if it works” which is never a good sign. I’m not stupid, that probably means it’s not going to work in this fight. I think Gruff also has a much longer nickname too? But I don’t know what it is, I can’t seem to google it, and thankfully the team didn’t enter the robot under that name anyways so I don’t have to pretend to care about meticulously typing it out like I did for Battle Royale with Cheese, who thankfully isn’t here this year.
Finally over in the green square, which is still just a little pop-out thing that the art department brings out on cue, is Gemini. Gemini is a bit of a mixed bag if you ask me. When it initially debuted in 2016 it failed to qualify for the main tournament and for a while was the only robot that had lost to Blacksmith until The Four Horsemen arrived on the scene and forgot how to count. Speaking of The Four Horsemen, they’re one of Gemini’s only two victories. The other was that rumble where Kraken drove itself into the screws and Mohawk was… Mohawk. Gemini managed to lose to Sharkoprion who only had one side of drive for most of that particular fight and that’s mostly because Gemini’s biggest weakness from day one has been its tendency to kill itself. I think Gemini is a decently mediocre robot that can definitely win a fight so long as the odds are at least a little in their favor. That said, this is a rumble; each Gemini robot can officially claim one target as their own. They better not fuck this up but I know they probably will anyways.
Gruff seems to want to pick Marvin as its target, though at first it looks like it’s just out to tackle whoever gets close. Marvin however is definitely going after Gruff and I think that might be because Marvin’s spinner could be too high off of the ground to hit either Gemini robot? It’s hard to tell because the heights are just so close but thankfully this is a question that won’t need answering because Marvin gets one single hit on Gruff that dings the top of its flamethrower and then Marvin’s disc loses a tooth which renders the robot useless and it becomes an easy Parkinson’s joke. Chris is optimistic that Marvin still has the other half of its weapon but all that tells me is he doesn’t know how a spinner works. It’s a good thing this robot is shaped like a prison toilet because it fights like shit.
The cameras cut away for a moment and when we get back to the action Gruff rolls the black Gemini robot over. If you look closely at Marvin however you’ll notice that it’s now lost its other tooth which has reduced its weapon to a spinning hunk of UMHW; Huge’s wheels in other words. Neither host seems to realize that Marvin literally has no bite now and they seem more focused on the height of Marvin’s disc. I already told you guys that’s not an issue that matters anymore. The two Gemini robots appear to be teaming up on Gruff because despite being emblazoned with a giant “42” I guess Marvin isn’t actually worth any points. The spinner on the red Gemini robot looks like it might be damaged but I don’t know what could have caused that so I’m just going to assume the editing process has unintentionally only shown that robot while it’s weapon hasn’t been on. Gruff takes the black Gemini robot into the wall and then carries Marvin into the screws and the 1:30 clock is only now just appearing. Fuck me.
Kenny seems surprised that Gruff is the breakout star of this rumble and I have to wonder what the fuck this man was thinking going into this fight because out of these three robots one of them is a returning competitor who’s only known for destroying itself and the other has a spinning weapon literally made of fucking plastic. Gruff hooks its lifter into the wheel well of Gemini or something because it goes for a heave and winds up nearly flipping itself over in the process before retreating and getting its fork stuck in the Killsaws. Thankfully Gruff gets out of this situation because I don’t think I’d be able to deal with seeing someone else winning this shitty rumble. Gemini has managed to get a couple of decent hits if the front end of Marvin is any indicator but honestly I think the clusterbot is a lot more subdued this year, or at least in this fight. Gruff runs a train on all three robots for the remainder of the fight and even though there are no more major blows dealt it’s obvious who the winner is going to be.
WINNER: Gruff, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
WHAT DO YOU WANT ON YOUR TOMBSTONE?
Jenny’s back in the pits to give us the inside scoop on one of the participants in tonight’s main event: Tombstone. Ray talks a strong game, despite having one fewer Giant Nuts than Bite Force his robot is still consistently ranked #1. I don’t really know how those rankings are made but I feel like with less championship wins maybe Tombstone ought to be like #2 or something but I’ll play along. Ray’s argument that any prospective champion would have to go through him on their way to the title still rings true. Chances are if you’re planning on winning this whole thing you will encounter Tombstone and unless you are ready for that Tombstone will fuck you to death.
But it’s not just the opponents of Tombstone that need to have a strategy, Ray has several different plans of his own mostly in the form of Tombstone’s various weapon bars. Not all bars are created equal and as Ray describes his two most commonly used ones we discover that the sharpened red one (that Jenny confirms is sharp for some reason) is meant to rend and tear thicker armor and sloped armor. The red bar’s sole purpose is to disregard the physics of being deflected upward and is intended to be proof that scissors can in fact beat rock if you get a good enough pair of scissors. The silver bar appears to be the more “general use” one when Ray just wants to bang someone up but unfortunately this segment kind of carries on without explaining the rest of the bars so instead all I know about the silver bar is that it unleashes energy equivalent to 50 rounds from an AK-47. Ray said that would be a figure I would understand better, but I don’t. I feel like if something is hypothetically able to take 49 shots then what’s one more? But I’m not sure I’m looking at this analogy the right way.
Tombstone gets wheeled into the test box and Ray lets Jenny press his button. Then he says a no-no word that has to be bleeped for TV.
TOMBSTONE vs. LOCK-JAW
Naturally who else can kick off the first main event of a season but Tombstone? Bite Force? Please. How many times has Bite Force chewed up the floor resulting in an hours-long repair session between tapings? Exactly. It’s best to get Tombstone’s bullshit out of the way early because otherwise you’ll be playing catch up with welding the floor back together. Last season Ray Billings showed up as the reigning champion and he was so certain of himself and his robot that he lost to fucking Bombshell in that sorry machine’s only win of the year. Mortal men would probably drink themselves to death after a loss that humiliating, but not Ray. He knew what needed to be done. He fucked up; he even autographed my team photo last year to say exactly that. Tombstone in 2018 was the same frame and same everything else. Ray knew it needed to be rebuilt but he was too busy cashing all those royalty checks from the merch store and looking at the Tantrum fist he got last year and laughing at it. This year Tombstone has been completely rebuilt and Ray has two spare frames alongside his usual fare of spare parts. It’s hard to see improvements in designs as simple as Tombstone but pay close attention to where the wheels are mounted and you’ll see several shock-absorbing pads to help lessen the forces of impact on its drive motors.
They keep saying Donald Hutson has “six” Giant Nuts but that’s kind of shady. That’s like the weasel words that Publisher’s Clearing House tries to use in order to trick you into buying a half-sized tub of OxyClean for three times the cost of a normal-sized tub. Donald has won two super heavyweight championships with Diesector back when that weight class was a thing. Other than that the other awards were for rumble wins and things like “Coolest Robot”. Dude’s got six Giant Nuts but only two of them are applicable to the comparison you guys are trying to make here. Also earlier in the episode when you showed pictures of Tombstone and Root Canal you guys showed the shitty middleweight version of Root Canal with the omni-directional wheels that broke apart and spilled beads all over the fucking place. The 2009 version of Root Canal actually looked not unlike modern day Lock-Jaw. Same overall design with the cambered tires and spiky lifting forks except it didn’t have a spinner like Lock-Jaw does today. I commend Donald for really sticking to his guns in the world of building electric clampers and lifters but I understand why Lock-Jaw became… say it with me… “another goddamned vertical spinner”. It’s just the most competitive and effective design right now, but at least Lock-Jaw still has that Mutant Robots flare that we’ve come to know over the past 20 years.
Lock-Jaw is riding into this battle sporting that triangular rear plow we’ve seen so many times in the past and since this is the first time we’re seeing an angled plow like that this year I guess I can explain what it’s for… since this will probably wind up being a short fight. The angled plow was mostly popularized by Duck last season and the sloped sides serve the important purpose of deflecting a horizontal spinner upward to destabilize it, sort of like what happens after the second hit of this fight. Tombstone’s blade rides up along the angle and physics does the rest of the fucking. In this case Tombstone starts to reel around and for Tombstone’s sake I hope that’s just the robot’s armor panels I hear rattling around because god damn is that loud. The name of the game here is making sure Lock-Jaw keeps that plow pointed at Tombstone and Donald does a good job of that. Unfortunately he does too good of a job and lets Lock-Jaw get in close enough where Tombstone can whip around and because Tombstone is as long as a semi-truck this means its blade is at the perfect length away to swing inward and hit Lock-Jaw’s tires.
The entire left side of drive gets ripped away in a single blow and Lock-Jaw is toast. Kenny says it’s the right side, but that’s because he isn’t paying attention.
WINNER: Tombstone, KO
BattleBots 2019 is officially underway! I believe this season has either 16 or 18 episodes as opposed to the 20 we had last year. Now I know that might sound like a bummer but the big difference here is all of the episodes are now two hours long so even though there’s less episodes this year there’s overall more content across the whole season! So hang tight, even though the season will be “over” faster than last year through some time fuckery it’ll still take longer to get to that conclusion. TV is weird. That’s one episode down and over a dozen to go — in case you’re worried about things like TV ratings BattleBots is still the highest-rated show on Discovery so even though it’s losing overall to things like Live PD you can rest easy at night knowing that you’re watching the “galaxy brain” show while all the peanut brains are watching the one about poor people trying to convince police that they don’t have crystal meth hidden in their ass. Basically what I’m trying to say is that “you have to have a pretty high IQ to watch BattleBots“.
I am ready for this season and I hope you all are too. We got things off to a curious start with that exhibition at Amazon re:MARS but I think overall that was a good way to set the stage before this season kicked off its broadcast schedule. Like I said in the trip report article I posted a couple months ago the 2019 season has no shortage of surprises, newcomers, upsets, and much more. In the coming weeks I hope you enjoy the show and I hope you get your friends and family to enjoy it with you as well. Preferably on separate television sets.
Be sure to follow BattleBots Update on Facebook for any new developments! Likewise if you want to help support this project throughout the coming season ahead you can make a recurring monthly pledge on Patreon or make a one-time tip/donation through PayPal. Special thank yous are in order to both Boomer and Dan M. who’ve made recent pledges on Patreon! In Dan’s case he sprung for the Patreon perk that gets an image link to his website added to every single article on the entire website (of which we’ll pass 100 by the time this season ends). He’s got a musical project he would like to promote so if you’re looking for something new to listen to I’d recommend giving his website a visit. In the meantime I’ll catch you next week!