[BattleBots: S9 E11 is available through the Discovery GO app with a cable subscription package. Season is also available on iTunes and Amazon.]
I know you guys are tired of hearing me say shit like “oh man the season is almost over what’s gonna happen oh no”, but we’re at the end game here. Every single robot competing in this episode will be having their fourth and final Fight Night qualification round. Speaking of being at the “end game”… End Game is even in this episode! This is it, for the 14 robots competing this week there’s only one staring down the potential for a perfect 4-0 finish: Death Roll. Meanwhile we’ve got a couple of robots who definitely aren’t going to make it into the top 16 but probably at least want to win ONE fight so they don’t lose all their sponsors; those robots are of course Captain Shrederator and Bombshell, both currently at 0-3. Unless there’s some kind of special play-in match — like the type of dumb shit that got Bombshell into the top 16 last year — this will probably be the last time we see either of these two competitors this year, win or lose.
The bigger story however are all of the robots in the middle of the pack at either 2-1 or 1-2 records. End Game (1-2) stands a good chance at being able to kamikaze Cobalt’s (2-1) chances at qualifying if it can muster a win and tie it up 2-2 all, that way there’s a good chance neither robot will make it in. The same applies to the fight between Duck (2-1) and Quantum (1-2). A similar story is brewing between Ribbot and Sawblaze, both at 2-1 right now. Whoever wins that fight will move to 3-1 and has a decent chance of qualifying while the loser falls to 2-2 and probably ought to think about getting an early start packing their shit up to avoid traffic.
I think Chris Rose opens this episode with a joke about how Kenny Florian doesn’t manscape very well, but that might just be because I’m starting this article’s writing process off in a bad mood and I’m just looking for petty shit to sink my teeth into. Anyways Chris has beckoned Faruq into the arena ten times so far this season and by this point it’s pretty obvious he’s running out of shit to say. I’m assuming Faruq is just laughing it off now. It wouldn’t surprise me if he opened this episode with a “white people be all like” joke a la Chris Rock.
DUCK vs. QUANTUM
Right out of the gate we’re leading in with one of the “kamikaze” fights on this week’s card. Coming into this battle Duck has the upper hand but only marginally so. At 2-1 the robot’s only loss came from Lock-Jaw because Duck bizarrely just never took any opportunities to seize the advantage even as Lock-Jaw started coughing up smoke and slowly began breaking down at around the fight’s midway point. Duck focused more on trying to whack Lock-Jaw with the “hammer” spike on its plow presumably because Hal Rucker thought he could use the battle to test out the weapon’s efficacy. Some great intel was collected during that fight: the weapon sucks. Hope it was worth losing, dude. Duck also has a couple of wins including a KO victory over Bombshell that kicked off the taping of this season and was over fast enough that you could count the seconds on your goddamned fingers. Duck also “beat” Cobalt by way of surviving until Cobalt stubbed its baby toe on the floor and died; Duck was well on its way to lose that fight ten times over but them’s the breaks. Assuming the robot doesn’t get chewed to death by Quantum we could see Duck finish 3-1 and give the “selection committee” a real hard time as they try to figure out if Hal’s blatant taunting of them is worth rewarding. (Hint: It is.)
It doesn’t “feel” correct to say this, but Quantum is the robot coming into this battle looking to disrupt the leader’s chances at moving on. At only 1-2 for the season Quantum is the robot that “could’ve been”; even if it wins this battle it’ll only be 2-2 and if there’s only 16 slots available to qualify for then by my math the robots with the split records just aren’t going to make it in. That said, Quantum still has an incentive to win this battle because by doing so it’ll bring Duck down to 2-2 which basically ensures neither robot will advance onward in the tournament. We call this “The Andross Strategy”. If you understand that reference then you have good taste in video games. When Quantum showed up this year it bit down on Blacksmith so hard that its tooth reached the official BattleBots rule book and held up production long enough for the “randomness” of its next two fights to be against vertical spinners, Lock-Jaw and Death Roll. I’m not trying to insinuate that there’s a BattleBots Mafia out there, but if you piss off Trey Roski enough he’ll probably see to it that your robot gets the “concrete shoes” treatment.
Neither robot seems to take the initiative at the starting buzzer, both of them try to feel each other out and the strategies cancel out. Quantum pushes forward and Duck is able to easily get underneath the crusher because Quantum’s wedge looks to be mounted a little higher than normal. Cobalt’s team probably warned their European buddies that the floor sucks. Duck tries to lift Quantum but the robot’s bulky shape falls right off of Duck’s bill and opens the lifter up for attack. Immediately Quantum goes for the jugular and in response Duck starts flailing its lifting wedge around to push itself off of every fucking obstacle around it. Amazingly this strategy works and Duck is able to prevent Quantum from sinking its teeth into it, however as Duck tries to get away its plow becomes snagged inside of the I-beam of the spike strip and lifts its back (or front I don’t fucking know by this point) wheels off of the ground. This is the opening Quantum needed and when it cruises back in it catches Duck by its ass and bites down directly into its chassis near one of the tires.
The teeth go in like there’s literally nothing stopping them. Duck does what any living creature does when bitten, it absolutely loses its fucking shit. Duck starts swinging its plow around whacking Quantum on its head but because Quantum bit down slightly off center the spike on Duck’s plow isn’t hitting anything, Quantum is just getting bopped with about 100 pounds of blunt AR400 steel. Naturally this is doing absolutely nothing. After what happened last time, Quantum immediately shifts gears into getting Duck off of its teeth as soon as possible so it shoves its opponent into the screws hoping that the uneven grinding and chewing of the hazards will help get the bird off of its weapon. This almost works but Duck eventually manages to get free when Quantum pops a stoppie and Duck is able to swing its plow underneath Quantum to yank itself down from the weapon. It’s hard to tell if Duck has been damaged by this attack because when it gets free it just keeps spinning its fucking plow around and Quantum comes back in for another bite. This time Quantum catches Duck by its plow, which it can’t bite through, and after a very loud metal popping sound Quantum’s teeth slip off of Duck’s weapon and the two robots separate again.
Before the fight Hal said each of Duck’s five inner components (four drive motors and the motor running the plow) are on their own self-contained circuits. This is to avoid a “Christmas lights” scenario where if one goes out the whole thing is toast, so Duck is still working but it’s pretty obvious that first good bite fucked up the back tire because Duck’s mobility is severely limited. It almost looks like the damaged wheel has seized up as opposed to simply dying and remaining freely spinning. Because of this the added friction of the jammed wheel has ruined the robot’s maneuverability. Duck’s only strategy now is to go 100% on defense and it does so by constantly flapping its plow around to either ward off Quantum’s attacks or push itself away from the jaw. This works again for a few seconds until Quantum shoves Duck into the wall and starts to bite down. Duck swings its plow around and in the process hooks it underneath Quantum while it’s attacking. Kenny shuts up because the ensuing grapple has given him a boner so massive that the tent in his pants caught the cable of his headset and unplugged it.
It’s hard to tell what’s being damaged now because with this second bite a choof of smoke jets out of holes that were bitten into Duck’s chassis earlier. Rest assured though, Duck isn’t looking so hot. Also Quantum you’re supposed to cook the duck first before you devour it. I know the roast duck plate from that Chinese place near the venue is the best shit on the planet but there’s a process you have to follow. At least put some seasoning on the damn thing. Quantum gets another bite on Duck though this one is about in the same place as one of the others so I’m guessing not much is shredded on this go. Duck’s strategy is still to just flail around like a goddamned idiot but by this point this could very well be all that Duck is capable of doing now. Quantum keeps trying to get purchase on other parts of its opponent and at one point fire starts coming out of the various bite marks left on Duck’s chassis. The plow still works, because of fucking course it does, but like any prey bitten and held by a snake this flailing is all for naught. Duck gets shoved into the most predictable set of screws in the arena and once more the hazard just fucking dies.
Duck would be wise to just stay jammed in the screws and throw in the towel, but I guess Hal thinks he can still turn this around. After all, Cobalt ran a train on Duck earlier this season and blew its asshole open so wide that the government had to issue it a zip code and Duck still won because Cobalt hit a seam in the floor and broke down. Maybe the same thing will happen to Quantum? That, my friends, is the gambler’s fallacy; Duck rolls the dice one last time and gets snake eyes. I mean, a snake bite… because Quantum just bites onto the fucking robot again. I’ll give Duck credit though even after sustaining so much damage when the buzzer sounds and the robot finally stops swinging its plow around it’s able to drive back into its starting square to be deactivated. It’s smoking like nobody’s business but that’s a damn tough machine. Unfortunately this is probably the end of the line for the foul fowl because Quantum takes the win and ties the records of these two robots at 2-2.
WINNER: Quantum, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
BLACKSMITH vs. CAPTAIN SHREDERATOR
Having Quantum in the previous fight is a good segue into this next one because it stars Blacksmith in the red square, Quantum’s first (and only other) victory this season. Blacksmith has had a rough time this year but I’d say overall this is probably its best one so far? I say that because Blacksmith has been good for exactly one win every time it shows up and this season is the first one where it defeated an opponent that wasn’t a shitty multibot; it’s the proof we’ve needed all along that Blacksmith has the muscle to pummel someone its own size into oblivion instead of just kicking children in the face. But it’s also had kind of a shitty year too because this is actually the first time we’ve seen the robot without its extra chassis armor. This is probably for the best because after three fights — Quantum, Kraken, and Sawblaze — that metal was looking pretty beat the fuck up. Thankfully Captain Shrederator doesn’t have some bullshit weapon that can attack from above so Al Kindle can finally stop worrying about whether or not his extra steel can take a fourth pounding and focus on more important things like slapping a big ass ramp onto the front of Blacksmith.
Blacksmith is 1-2 right now so a win probably won’t mean much in the long run, but for Captain Shrederator who’s currently 0-3 coming into this fight a win is almost a requirement just so that the robot doesn’t humiliate itself on its way out. There is no possible way Captain Shrederator will qualify for the event, this battle is just for glory. Brian and Nick Nave still deserve credit for treating this battle like a real match instead of just one more thing for them to do before they fly back to Florida until next year. They wheeled their robot into the arena with a cover on it just so they could unveil their “freedom wings”, named as such because the team is making fun of a kid with a speech impediment trying to sing the last line of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”. Also I guess the wings have the potential to catch Blacksmith’s hammer and rip it off assuming Al is dumb enough to swing his hammer at Captain Shrederator while it’s spinning. “Freedom wings” must’ve been a last minute name change though because Brian calls them “dehammerators” before the fight.
Al says the plan for Captain Shrederator is to ease into the robot instead of just smashing into it face first. As shitty of a record as it has, going at Captain Shrederator like a toddler presented with a birthday cake is the fastest way to unintentionally bust motor mounts and all sorts of other random shit inside of your robot. “Let the wall do the work,” Al says. You can see this plan in action, but I guess Captain Shrederator still catches Blacksmith from the corner of its plow or something because Blacksmith winds up getting flung across the floor pretty violently anyways. A couple more similar shots send the hammer bot into one of the screw boxes and the wall prompting Chris to wonder aloud when Blacksmith is going to swing its hammer. Probably when Captain Shrederator stops spinning, Chris. You have a ringside seat to the action I know you can see the fucking freedom wings. This might be coming a lot sooner than you think too because after getting nudged into the wall again Captain Shrederator starts to smoke and you can clearly see something hanging off of the side of the robot’s shell as it spins. When the smoke finally clears and the shell stops working it appears to be an entire chunk of the shell itself no doubt ripped loose by one of the many times Captain Shrederator has hit the wall.
With Captain Shrederator’s ability to spin compromised now it’s time for Blacksmith to remind us all why it was nicknamed THE BIG TIME HAMMER. Captain Shrederator gets shoved into the corner of the arena, while being torched by Blacksmith, and takes five consecutive hits from the Pulverizer while Blacksmith starts landing shots of its own. The spinner is naturally dazed after getting double fisted like that and there’s really nothing it can do in this fight to stay offensive, it just has to survive the battle and hope that the few hits it landed that reminded Kenny to say “huge hit there” were enough to take and keep an early lead. Blacksmith has other plans of course so it chases Captain Shrederator down and beats the shit out of it and at one point rams the spinner into the wall hard enough to bust one of its teeth off. I’ll give credit to Captain Shrederator for simply staying alive for so long, and even for having the balls to charge at Blacksmith without any action from its weapon whatsoever, but all things must come to an end eventually and after leveraging itself underneath its opponent Blacksmith rams Captain Shrederator into the wall and the force of the impact flips the spinner over.
Captain Shrederator can’t right itself even on a good day so this is going to be the first KO of the episode. Captain Shrederator finishes its 2019 season with no wins and four losses. It’s easy to decry Captain Shrederator as a piece of shit, and maybe that’s arguable to some degree, but Brian and Nick showed up at literally the last minute; they were the last team to be announced by BattleBots because Chomp had to drop out close to taping. Team LOGICOM originally had no plans to compete at BattleBots this year because they were getting ready for King of Bots in China where their “Tiger Claw” variant of Captain Shrederator has performed a little better. All things considered, Captain Shrederator performed about as well as you’d expect from a team unprepared to show up to two events nearly back to back. I just hope the robot’s poor showing this season doesn’t discourage the team from coming back or make them less likely to be chosen by the people who review applications for 2020. Captain Shrederator has spent four years in BattleBots and even if its first term was total shit I’ll vote it in one more time, someone’s gotta make America great again!
WINNER: Blacksmith, KO
BOMBSHELL vs. LOCK-JAW
I guess it’s fitting that we go from one fight where a robot wound up going 0-4 to another fight where the same scenario has the potential to play out. Bombshell is… well, it’s a robot I guess. I don’t need to tell you the story any more times because we all know about Bombshell’s miracle run in 2016 and the shit show that happened afterward. Let’s go to the record books and take a look at Bombshell’s track record since the start of the 2018 season: loss by KO, loss by KO, loss by 0-3, loss by KO, win by KO, loss by KO, loss by KO, loss by KO, aaaaand another loss by KO. There’s a win in there. A win, as in “just one”. Bombshell’s track record reads like the calorie count on a pack of fucking Nutrasweet, just one and then a whole lotta fuckin’ nothing. All three of its losses this year are by increasingly brutal knock outs and at this point Bombshell is just like Captain Shrederator in that it’s basically trying to save face so it can end the season with some dignity (which Chris Rose will not let the team have because he laughs at Kenny’s optimism).
Lock-Jaw on the other hand is a robot who’s just kinda been “around” this year? I don’t know how else to put it; Lock-Jaw showed up and was dispatched by Tombstone pretty quickly and in such a way that it didn’t cripple the robot for the entire season. It came back, ripped into Quantum’s side to kill it, and then socked Duck a bunch of times and skated away with the decision in a battle that certainly could’ve been a lot closer if Duck didn’t spend half the fight trying out its shitty hammer thing. I’d say Lock-Jaw has been staying the course this year and I don’t want to suggest that Donald Hutson should phone this battle in — because that’s probably exactly what Bombshell’s team is banking on happening — but I don’t really see a scenario where a driver as skilled as he is would have to be on the defensive in this match-up. As long as his robot doesn’t start spontaneously smoking again he’ll probably come out of this one ahead. Lock-Jaw’s spinner probably won’t do much damage in this battle but given Bombshell’s “boat mode” configuration this is more of a control fight anyways.
Dan Hammer says he’s gone with the same setup for Bombshell again because he wants the weapon out in front in order for it to “eat whatever it hits”. Amazingly the universe doesn’t shit on his robot for the first time all season, Bombshell charges at Lock-Jaw and very nearly misses but is able to nick its back right tire. The hit immediately impairs Lock-Jaw’s ability to drive around and for a battle that was likely meant to be all about control this can’t be a good thing; Bombshell has nothing to lose but Lock-Jaw has already cashed in its mulligan token when it lost to Tombstone, if it loses a second fight it’s probably out for the year. As Lock-Jaw gets away the robot wobbles around and its damaged tire clearly isn’t even turning, but for some reason Bombshell is also a bit off somehow. I guess the thought of possibly winning another fucking fight for the first time in over a year caused the spinner to blow its load prematurely because Bombshell starts reeling around for no apparent reason and lets Lock-Jaw start circling the wagons. Lock-Jaw dives into Bombshell’s side and like I assumed there isn’t a whole lot of damage being done here… until Lock-Jaw just starts smoking again.
The fight becomes a race to the bottom as neither robot really seems to want to win it. I guess Faruq’s intro where he made a golf joke made both teams think scoring as few fucking points as possible is how you win. Usually when we see Lock-Jaw start to smoke it’s because its weapon is in the process of melting or whatever but right now the twin discs look fine; I’m thinking maybe this smoke was the motor attached to the seized up wheel dying because it couldn’t handle the stalled load or whatever. Smoke is still bad in 100% of cases, but in this particular situation I don’t think anything is dying that wasn’t dead already. Meanwhile Bombshell is only driving backwards so when it collides with Lock-Jaw’s spinner the only thing that touches it is Bombshell’s ass. Or maybe the robot is driving forward because everything is still mounted on upside-fucking-down hell I don’t know anymore. This hit kills Bombshell and as a parting gift to us all it fucks up the floor on its way down just to give the arena repair crew something to remember it by.
Lock-Jaw attempts to do a victory spin to celebrate and sticks one of its lifting forks balls deep into the Killsaw slots far enough to hit the hazards while they’re retracted. This causes the entire robot to just fucking die and the Bombshell team, as they are being counted out, watches on as all of Lock-Jaw’s batteries vaporize and realize that if their stupid robot had survived another five goddamned seconds they wouldn’t be ending this season at 0-4. Hopefully there’s a bulk fare discount at the Greyhound station so Dan and his crew can book a bunch of bus tickets with Captain Shrederator’s team.
WINNER: Lock-Jaw, KO
TOMBSTONE vs. GRUFF
As much as I like the look and style of Gruff, Tombstone is the robot in the hot seat here. At 2-1 the “King of Kinetic Energy” is staring down a legitimate threat to its chances at qualification. Tombstone is a real simple robot, Ray Billings just spins his robot’s bar up to speed, hits you, and then you lose. Simple. Ray even prides himself on how basic his robot really is. Tombstone shows up every year and starts the process of smashing in the faces of other robots, lather rinse repeat… except this year Tombstone isn’t wrapping up with an easy 4-0 qualification for the main tournament. Tombstone is a simple robot, but when things go wrong holy shit do things go wrong. Beating Tombstone isn’t an impossibility but when Rotator pulled it off — by KO — Tombstone was literally a flaming mess by the end of the fight. For at least 90 seconds Tombstone was on fire and when all was said and done and the un-extinguishable blaze was finally put out Ray said the bot was a total loss. The Tombstone that is in this fight is 100% spare parts. Spare frame, spare motors, new armor, new batteries. You name it. Jenny Taft said “so it’s a brand new robot” and I think this is the closest we’ve come to seeing Ray choke someone on camera.
Ray has every right to be nervous coming into this battle because Rotator was almost a fluke but Gruff has the potential to make Tombstone’s life a living hell and knock it down to 2-2. Gruff is a newcomer to BattleBots but Sam McAmis has taken his robot to all sorts of other events and he’s proven that he can hang with the best and sometimes… he wins. Gruff is an older robot that has been consistently refined over the years. In that regard it’s a little bit like Free Shipping (a.k.a. Original Sin) just minus all the hokey shit that Free Shipping has attached to itself. Gruff has always been a steel brick with a hardy lifter and even though it’s sitting at 1-2 and probably won’t qualify for the main tournament this is yet another “kamikaze” battle where a win on Gruff’s part would probably guarantee a stalemate and neither robot would advance onward. Specifically for this match Gruff has been equipped with additional front armor on its wedge for maximum deflection. Consequently, Tombstone is also sporting its heaviest bar. When these two hit sparks are almost guaranteed.
I ended the previous paragraph with the phrase “sparks are almost guaranteed”. We don’t even get far enough into this fight for the fucking starting clock graphic to go away and Gruff smashes into Tombstone hard enough for the spinner to destabilize and punch a hole straight into the goddamned Killsaws. The hits in this episode are so insanely hardcore that Kenny gives us his second “huge hit there” of the night. Gruff stays in Tombstone’s face with its forks raised in order to prevent unnecessary damage, the objective here is probably to slow Tombstone down and then redeploy the lifting arm to take advantage of the situation. So far Gruff hasn’t been able to slow the king down but Tombstone’s blade also isn’t doing very much to Gruff at all. The hits Tombstone has landed have mostly been on flat surfaces and I’m sure if it catches a corner Gruff will probably explode on contact but so far Gruff is holding its own pretty damn well especially considering it fearlessly slams Tombstone into the wall. Gruff is putting its whole ass into this fight and it shows.
Tombstone finally catches Gruff at its front corner and the cameras cut to Ray who’s quite happy with this change of pace. Unfortunately for Ray not a second later Gruff is back on his robot’s ass and Tombstone is taken to the entirely opposite corner of the Battlebox where its blade meets the wall once again and stops it from spinning. Kenny says Ray might be anxious about the flamethrower on Gruff but I don’t think that’s worth worrying about both because Tombstone seems resilient enough to not be damaged by unsustained fire and also because Tombstone delivers a flying ninja kick to Gruff’s flamethrower housing that probably breaks the fucking thing. Gruff came into this battle with extra armor but it can only do so much; a hole has started forming on Gruff’s right corner which might give Tombstone the purchase it needs to dig in further. Another major blow flings the robots apart and Tombstone becomes the first robot this season to hit the screw hazards over near the battle clocks.
This crash ultimately lands Tombstone on its back and this is probably the worst possible position it could be in for Gruff’s defense. Remember a couple of seasons ago when Beta was absolutely kicking Tombstone’s ass in a similar fashion? The minute Tombstone was inverted its blade became just a few inches higher off of the ground. This minor change in height meant Tombstone’s weaponry would be hitting higher up on Beta and the end result of that change in orientation was Beta’s weapon bracket being torn away and its hammer basically falling off entirely. Gruff might think it’s scored some major points by flipping Tombstone over — and it has — but it’s also probably signed its own death certificate because Tombstone’s blade is now too high to hit Gruff’s armored chassis and instead is the perfect height to blow everything on top of Gruff to kingdom fucking come. The first casualty is what’s left of Gruff’s flamethrower housing (which to my surprise was still functional), the second casualty is the rightmost piece of the “BATTLEBOTS” sign that was loosened up by Hypershock last week; Gruff’s lifter catches as it wrestles with Tombstone and pulls it off the wall.
Against all odds Gruff manages to hold its own for the entire fight but in the last dozen or so seconds a stray blow from Tombstone causes something to jack up Gruff’s drivetrain. I’m not sure if the robot grazed the Killsaws and threw a chain or if something just fell out of the bottom and Gruff became high centered but whatever it is is going to fuck up any chance Gruff has at a strong finish. Even with half of its wheels off of the ground Gruff hooks its lifting forks into Tombstone and flips the entire thing over with only a few seconds to spare. If only those lifting forks caught Tombstone’s chain and broke it this could’ve been the literal last second combat Gruff needed to re-turn the tables one last time.
The fight goes the distance and the judges unanimously rule in favor of Tombstone and while at first I thought the decision was bullshit it started to make a little more sense after the fact. Kenny Florian explains it best when he says Gruff no doubt swept the control category but in terms of aggression it was probably an even split; that puts Gruff at 3 points and Tombstone at only 1, but when you get to how much damage was done all of the points likely went to Tombstone meaning the totals for each judge were 4-3 in favor of the former champ. If Gruff didn’t visibly break down as much as it did near the end I think this could’ve been a split decision in its favor. Tombstone finishes 3-1, Gruff the inverse, and for now Ray is free to unwind by shouting obscenities out behind the food trucks. (Also I wrote this entire piece of conjecture before the post-fight scene where Chris Rose shows off Derek Young’s bot doodles and lets us know that a 4-3 split across the board is exactly what happened. BattleBots, hire me.)
WINNER: Tombstone, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
END GAME vs. COBALT
This episode kicked off with a 2-1 / 1-2 battle where the underdog came out ahead and evened the score. Quantum pulled it off, Gruff failed. End Game is next in line to see if it can grind the tournament hopes of Cobalt to a halt. End Game is introduced with a record of 1-3 because it’s one of the many robots in this episode who participated in the Desperado event a few weeks ago. Captain Shrederator and Gruff both went out in the first round but End Game managed to score one win before it was felled by Minotaur who tore off every single wedge piece from the front of End Game and kicked it onto its ass. End Game’s performance is hard to gauge because technically it’s “0-2 with participation in the Desperado tournament” since the Desperado is viewed as its own side thing (or at least it was last year) but no matter what End Game probably isn’t going to advance further even with a win here, but Cobalt has already cashed in its coupon for loss forgiveness so a victory would result in another stalemate.
Cobalt is 2-1 and Kenny has joined the Cobalt stan community to decry its early loss at the hands of the arena floor. Cobalt’s weapon is fiercely powerful and thus far it’s absolutely shredded literally fucking everyone it’s come into contact with. SubZero was thrashed so badly that its builder said as much as 60% of the robot was unsalvageable. Cobalt is also one of the four reasons why Bombshell is 0-4 this year, and even though Cobalt lost to Duck by way of a freak accident Duck was well on its way to probably being knocked out because this thing absolutely trashed it. Hal Rucker wound up having the last laugh though because he sold Duck’s damaged plow on eBay and made off with $730. That’s enough to buy a whole one MagMotor! Wahey!!! Cobalt is not to be underestimated though, if it hits you with its spinner you’re probably toast. End Game has already received the short end of the stick while fighting another deadly vertical spinner earlier in the season and I’m pretty sure Cobalt can wreck you a hell of a lot harder than Death Roll.
How fast does Cobalt’s spinner get up to speed? About one second, judging by the battle clock graphic. One second is all it takes and Cobalt is dangerous enough to erase your entire fucking existence. I don’t know how long End Game’s disc takes to get up to speed and it’s not worth measuring right now because it appears to be broken. That’s good. About 10 seconds pass before End Game is able to get its disc spinning properly and in that time it’s become apparent that the drive issues the robot has been having this season have decided to come back for what feels like the fiftieth time. Did Jack Barker just buy last year’s War Hawk or something? These guys have taken this fucking robot apart more times than I can be bothered to count and not a single time has it been reassembled in a condition where one side of drive isn’t all polio’d out. What’s shitty is you know the team has tried to fix this. Back in the Desperado episode Jack filmed his pre-fight interview in the goddamned parking lot because they were doing electrical work on the robot, and every single piece of B-roll that’s been aired of End Game’s team has shown them doing something with the wheels or drive system. What the fuck, guys?
Anyways Cobalt is definitely not the robot you want this to be happening against because every time End Game reels up on one side to unstick its balls from its thighs Cobalt has the perfect opportunity to unleash an atomic wedgie on its opponent violent enough that the outcome will probably lead to some kind of new fucking rule being written for next season. Strangely Cobalt isn’t able to take advantage of these moments and End Game dances with certain death for nearly 30 seconds until Cobalt charges forward and manages to come out on the receiving end of a shot from End Game. In one hit End Game rips Cobalt’s front wedge from its mount and — this isn’t revealed until after the fight — that chunk of Cobalt’s armor was shot upward so violently that it dug itself into the fucking ceiling. Nightmare sends its regards. (I’m surprised this was even mentioned on TV at all because the piece wasn’t removed until the taping session had ended and when I stood next to the arena to look up at the guys prying it loose one of the safety coordinators was like “hey dude y’all shouldn’t be here”. I wasn’t about the throw down the “DO YOU KNOW WHO THE FUCK I AM” card, because that’s a great way to make people wish you would die in a fire, so I left and went out back to get a hot dog and shout curse words with Ray Billings who by that point already had a five dog lead on me.)
Without its leading wedge Cobalt is reduced to an insanely powerful vertical spinner with the world’s crappiest design. It literally turns into some dumb shit from Robot Arena 2 that you wind up building on accident because when you try and make a wedge with a saw blade the game makes you stick the motor parts way too far back to even be remotely effective. When I was 15 years old that was the bane of my goddamned existence and now Cobalt is living it. That’s it for Cobalt’s spinner, unless some crazy shit happens there is physically no way that thing’s disc is going to touch End Game at all. Cobalt has ground clearance for days everywhere else around its perimeter and all End Game has to do is drive in a straight line for once this fucking season and end this. 45 excruciatingly long seconds later, End Game lands the mother of all hits. This single hit is the embodiment of the robot’s entire 2018 season. All of the crazy moments that made people fall in love with this dumb spinner were channeled into this one single hit that absolutely destroys Cobalt.
Cobalt is flung at the wall hard enough to shake every single camera attached to the Battlebox and as the robot bounces from the glass End Game is there to kick it when it’s down. This second hit is key because it shreds the belt that runs Cobalt’s weaponry. Sam Smith nudges Dave Moulds to ask if he can self-right (presumably) and Dave shakes his head while pointing to the broken belt sitting on the floor directly in front of him. I’m not sure if Cobalt can actually self right (it’s one of those “in theory” things) but supposedly if the robot could spin up its disc right now it would connect with the floor and bounce the robot back onto its wheels. With no belt, there’s no weapon action. With no weapon action, there’s no self-righting. End Game has achieved what probably no one thought was possible.
End Game’s run for the title is probably over and done with and despite having two wins and a “good loss” the same can probably be said for Cobalt. So far there haven’t been any funny play-in events announced this season like last year’s “Last Chance Rumble” or that 15th place playoff match between all of the vertical spinners. Unless something like that is done again, perhaps with only 2-2 robots, this might be the end of Cobalt. The stalemate was a success.
WINNER: End Game, KO
RIBBOT vs. SAWBLAZE
Both of the robots in this fight have 2-1 records up to this point; we’ve seen battles where there’s a competitor with a losing record who’s only hope is to win the fight and hinder their opponent’s chances at qualifying, but in this case someone’s going to finish 3-1 and the other 2-2. Unlike the rest of the fights from this episode there’s something at stake for both of these teams because losing means you’ve basically cocked everything up. Ribbot is a newcomer this year and burned up its one “free” qualification loss right out of the gate when it lost to fucking Kraken. I’m assuming there was some amount of rookie nervousness that David Jin needed to work through because Kraken is decent at best. The frog redeemed itself with a victory over the very dangerous End Game (and also beat Falcon but whatever, big deal) but Sawblaze will probably be its hardest test. Ribbot is supposedly a modular robot, it’s official picture shows it with a horizontal spinner and its B-roll footage shows a plow of some sort, but every time we’ve seen this stupid thing it’s just been “another goddamned vertical spinner”. I guess maybe that really is the “best” configuration.
Today is Jamison Go’s birthday (or at least it was when this was taped). Kenny Florian wishes Jamo a happy birthday by introducing his robot as something that’s “made a career out of being good but not great”. God damn, dude. Let me know next time your birthday rolls around so I can show up and say you’ve made a career out of being five feet tall and making up for it by punching people in the face hard enough to break their ankles. Ribbot’s driver correctly notes that Sawblaze was ranked #5 last season behind “the big four” and with good reason, Sawblaze is an expert control bot and its weaponry is really good at collecting lots and lots of free points because once you get stuck on Sawblaze’s wedge you can’t do much to avoid its saw. Sawblaze’s “free loss” has also expired, it lost to Tombstone earlier this season. Probably a better way to spend that token than Ribbot. But still, someone’s going to win this battle and if Jamison slips up because he’s distracted by the cupcake the crew brought for him we could be seeing the flaming dragon take an early exit in 2019.
Sawblaze seems… offended… that Ribbot has shown up trying to steal its look. There’s only one robot who can sport the “black with green accents” look this year and that’s Sawblaze. Or maybe Chronos. Or Cobalt. Or Axe Backwards. Anyways Sawblaze feels like its turf is being intruded on by a stupid frog so it does the only reasonable thing and slams Ribbot into the wall hard enough to knock every single piece of fucking foam off of it in a single go. Again the foam is purely for show and maybe if the robot is lucky it can buy exactly one hit from a horizontal spinner or something. Without it Ribbot looks kind of like a ripoff version of Robot Wars’ King Buxton that you’d see at King of Bots. Honestly it kinda looks better this way but I can see why the team wanted to dress it up like a frog; a four-wheeled box with a big ass blade at its front isn’t interesting enough to the people who review team applications because you can scroll through this season’s list of competitors and find ten other robots with the same goddamned approach. There’s just a kind of utilitarian look to Naked Ribbot though, it’s cool. It’s also been slammed into the wall about five more times by Sawblaze in the time it took me to complete that thought.
Kenny says he’s surprised Sawblaze hasn’t brought down its weapon yet. I’m sure the reasoning is because Ribbot’s vertical spinner is absolutely nothing to fuck around with and the one time Sawblaze finally does swing its arm it connects with said spinner and gets a chunk chewed out of it. The hit kills the saw which is probably exactly what Jamison was afraid of when he said he was going to be taking Ribbot “very seriously”. If anything that saw probably would’ve just been for show though because underneath all that foam Ribbot is actually just a fucking brick so at best we would’ve seen some sparks and that’s it. Sawblaze is still dominating this fight and as it pulls away from yet another slam into the wall it’s revealed that the hit has bent Ribbot’s front wedges so far down that its front wheels aren’t even touching the floor anymore. Ribbot gets punted into the screws and very nearly dies there because none of its wheels are touching anything, but the hazard slowly rolls in the opposite direction and feeds what’s left of the frog right back to the dragon because the Birthday Boy is just getting all kinds of gifts today.
Even though Sawblaze lost its disc a few seconds into this fight Ribbot has still sustained an insane amount of damage just from being repeatedly slammed into the wall. We saw the bent forks earlier and if you look closely at one of its front wheels you’ll see the rubber has split but the most impressive bit of damage comes when Ribbot starts spontaneously smoking. Up to this point Ribbot has remained somewhat of a threat to its opponent because its spinning blade has been running this whole time. In the hands of Jamison’s driving skill it’s a passive threat, but it’s still a legitimate concern that’s already done meaningful damage to Sawblaze simply by existing. When the frog starts belching out smoke though the weapon finally dies and again this is purely because Sawblaze beat this thing into submission with brute force alone. To highlight this point, Sawblaze takes Ribbot to the other two sets of screws and by the time it reaches the blue square the damaged wheel that I pointed out earlier just kinda falls off of its hub. As it’s smashed into the wall once again Ribbot is given a great view of the battle clock in the corner which lets the battered amphibian know there’s still a whole minute more of this to sit through.
With the exception of the Killsaws, since they have essentially become a non-factor in the sport now, Sawblaze has taken Ribbot to every single hazard in the arena. With a minute left to go Ribbot gets dragged over to the Pulverizers and I guess Ribbot’s team has bad enough aim that they hit their own machine because only one of the hammers by the drivers’ booth are controlled by each team. Or maybe they just don’t give a shit anymore because their robot has been fucked by a dragon for three minutes straight and accordingly there’s very little left of it. By the time the buzzer signals the end of the fight Ribbot is totally destroyed. It’s upside-down, its weapon has died, it lost a wheel, one of its back tires has seized up. There’s nothing left on the robot that actually fucking works, but props to Ribbot for surviving until the end. Unfortunately that doesn’t score any points with the judges and they unanimously rule in favor of Sawblaze.
Kenny shows up with the cake, which Chris has already taken a bite of (to make sure it was Jamison’s favorite flavor), and now that “Happy Birthday” has lapsed into the public domain he’s legally allowed to belt out his own rendition of the song. Suck it, Warner Music Group.
WINNER: Sawblaze, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
ROTATOR vs. DEATH ROLL
As we reach the main event of this week’s episode only one of these robots really has anything to “worry” about and that would be Rotator. Yeah we’re talking about the robot who managed to utterly ruin Tombstone in its previous fight, but it’s easy to forget that this robot is actually 2-1 right now after it lost its first fight to Sawblaze. Don’t get me wrong Death Roll probably doesn’t want to end its winning streak here, but if it does it has less to worry about regarding its loss than Rotator would. A loss for Rotator would mean it finishes at just 2-2 and even with a brutal knock out over Tombstone that’s still just a 50% win rate. It’s not good, in other words. We know this robot has the firepower to kill a champ. Maybe not Bite Force, but one out of two ain’t bad. Rotator’s blade might be low enough to hit its opponent’s wheels, plus that win over Tombstone probably does more to intimidate your opponent than painting your robot like a fucking crocodile does.
Few robots made it to 2-0 and even fewer made it to 3-0. Some of those who did — like Bite Force and Witch Doctor — were almost predictable, but Death Roll? This is the robot that showed up in 2016 and lost to Captain Shrederator. That’s Captain “Literally Just Went 0-4 This Year Jesus Fucking Christ Are You For Real” Shrederator. When Death Roll came back I think people collectively treated it as a non-issue but after it survived an onslaught from End Game and turned the fight around to sink one of last year’s breakout stars in just a couple of hits (and bust some lights in the process) other competitors started paying attention. Death Roll also beat Foxtrot but that win goes into the same pile as beating Falcon. Still, a win is a win, and when Death Roll sank Quantum to move up to 3-0 I think it became apparent that there was more to this robot than a neat paint job and some LED lights. Death Roll is ready to see if the same can be said for Rotator.
Victor Soto turns to his weapons operator seconds before the fight. “Full speed all the way,” he says. Rotator charges toward Death Roll with its bar spinning and for all the bravado, for all the hype, and for the high the team has after causing Tombstone to literally catch fire and burn for 20 fucking minutes straight… Rotator catches a bad angle on Death Roll and immediately gets thrown onto its head. The robot can drive upside down of course, otherwise the whole “palindrome” theme would be a stupid idea, but with its chassis inverted like this Rotator’s only blade is now far too high to hit any of the targets it may have had on Death Roll. Even worse, the blade is now the perfect height to hit something else: Death Roll’s blade. The second hit that’s landed results in half of Rotator’s blade being snapped off at the hub reducing the spinner to little more than an unstable gyrating mess. Half a candy bar isn’t enough for the croc so Death Roll cruises in and eats the other half. What can I say? Kit-Kats are good.
Rotator is now a weaponless upside-down box whose only hope at victory is being able to use the hinged spikes on its ass to get underneath Death Roll at its sides and shove it around. This is of course assuming Rotator can even get around to Death Roll’s sides to position itself for an attack because Death Roll is highly maneuverable and has already gone ahead and plinked the former spinner at the wall just for shits and giggles. You can see Rotator changing up its strategy and coming at Death Roll in reverse but it doesn’t really matter all that much because that just means Death Roll has something else to try and tear off. The first solid hit Death Roll lands on Rotator’s back plow causes one of the spikes to get jammed in a position jutting forward meaning it’s going to just get in the way rather than help the crippled robot. The hit also busts off one of the spikes entirely and as the crocodile proceeds with its onslaught more and more shit just comes off of Rotator. Decals are being scraped off left and right, two more spikes are torn away, and some kind of circular cap piece are all knocked off of Rotator but against all odds the robot still survives.
Death Roll kicks Rotator so violently into the air that it knocks the robot stupid and all of the smarts that fell out of it apparently got sucked into Chris Rose because he starts talking about the “transitive properties of equality”. Meanwhile, Kenny just says “huge hit there”. Another hit from Death Roll starts to dislodge one of the side plates on Rotator and it’s at this point Steven Martin tells his teammate to watch out for the impromptu yard sale Rotator has decided to set up. Death Roll getting stuck on a piece of Rotator in the arena is about the only way I can see this fight turning in Rotator’s favor. I guess Death Roll getting flipped over might also be a concern, because that happens, but when Death Roll’s blade connects with the floor the bot easily hops back onto its wheels. By the time the lights flash to signal the activation of the floor hazards in the last minute of the fight there’s little left on Rotator for Death Roll to rip off. A few more hits are landed, but Rotator actually survives until the end of the match. It’s not very often you see a heavyweight enter the Battlebox and leave as a goddamned middleweight, but in the land where Death Roll comes from everything’s always backwards.
The winner here is obvious and Death Roll becomes the first robot of the season to make it to 4-0. This is so fucking hype that you can see the progression of my excitement in the stands because earlier in the episode my dumb ass is just clapping and cheering. Then before the fight started I guess I got a “Death Roll” sign from somewhere. Then after Death Roll secured the first 4-0 I went and found an entire fucking “D E A T H R O L L” letter set to rival the Bite Force Hollywood letters from last week. How’s that for excitement? Steven says he thinks he’s got “at least” a top 8 robot. Buddy you just completed your Fight Night rounds undefeated. That’s like top 4 material easily and I swear to god when the rankings come out if there’s a 3-1 robot placed higher than Death Roll I’ll cause a fucking riot.
WINNER: Death Roll, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
Just over 60 robots entered to compete for the Giant Nut this year. 14 of them have wrapped up their qualification rounds. For a select few advancement into the Round of 16 is basically a guarantee at this point but for others this is probably the end of the line. There might be some special play-in matches at the very end of Fight Night like there was last year, and the producers have teased that “something” is coming up, but so far nothing has been confirmed. There might be another Last Chance Rumble, there might not. Who knows. They did the Desperado event again so there’s a good chance we’ll have another special rumble but we’ll just have to find out. Also you probably don’t want to have to rely on some goofy ass special bout to qualify for the main tournament because that shit just sounds stressful. As these next couple episodes come and go we’re going to see everyone else wrap up their fights and in the process we’ll get a better idea on who we can expect to see as serious contenders for the title this year.
Right now Death Roll is the first (and only) robot at 4-0, but there are some other robots primed to also join it there. Bite Force is the obvious candidate, but Witch Doctor is also having a good season. Hydra from Team Whyachi is having an amazing rookie season and if no one’s careful we might see another rookie championship run like Son of Whyachi managed to pull off years ago. Skorpios is also on track to repeat its performance from 2018. I’ll tell ya who’s not going to be in the 4-0 zone this year though: Tombstone and Bronco. Will they still qualify? Probably. Tombstone wrapped up its qualifiers tonight and finished 3-1. Given the robot’s pedigree that’s more than enough. Bronco is 0-2 but if its team can clean the doo doo out of their pants maybe the robot can win its next two battles to make it to 2-2 and then hope that it’s given 16th place or something. But getting back to the other robots who’ve made it to four fights I can definitely see Sawblaze also making it in and Lock-Jaw has also made a strong enough showing… minus all the fucking smoke.
But Duck? Quantum? All these other bots that have wrapped at 2-2? I really don’t think there’s going to be enough seats at the table for most — or possibly any — of them to make it in naturally. This is probably the last we’ll see of them, and for the robots who’ve yet to even make a season debut this year like Extinguisher, Battlesaw, and Daisycutter I’m just going to assume they’re dead because otherwise we probably would’ve seen at least a clip of them doing something. Next week another round of bots will wrap up their seasons. Be sure to follow BattleBots Update on Facebook to get notified when the article goes up! You can also support this project with a monthly pledge on Patreon, or a one-time donation through PayPal! Big ups to Jim H. who’s hopped on to support BBU through Patreon!
See you next week!