[BattleBots: S9 E15 is available through the Discovery GO app with a cable subscription package. Season is also available on iTunes and Amazon.]
Last week’s episode wrapped up the end of the “double secret probation” part of the qualifiers when the top 8 robots were granted automatic access to the main tournament while those “ranked” 9th through 24th paired up with each other and battled it out in eight different fights to determine the bottom half of the top 16. There were a lot of numbers in the previous sentence so if you’re confused don’t feel bad, I was too. The robots granted immunity from the challenge were all of the 4-0 qualifiers, Black Dragon (who won the Desperado event), Tombstone, Sawblaze, and Whiplash. The special qualifiers took an interesting turn when some of the robots we’d assumed were eliminated such as Blacksmith, Quantum, and Minotaur managed to win their play-in fights and advance on. Unfortunately for them none of them are qualifying with particularly impressive seeds meaning they’re all probably going to be fed to the undefeated robots.
I’d say Minotaur is the only one of these low-seeded stragglers who might be able to make it out alive but it’s been paired up with Hydra; I’ve edited my predictions into last week’s article to reflect the ones I made at the event and I have Hydra pinned to win the Giant Nut. Obviously that means I don’t have very high confidence in Minotaur’s ability to defeat it. In this episode we’ll see if I was correct in my belief that the only remaining flipper in the tournament can be the first non-spinner to claim the title in these reboot seasons. Speaking of claiming the title it is both hilarious and sad that Donald Hutson is only ever seen holding the Giant Nut in archive footage but I guess that’s what needs to be done when the same fucking dude has won two of the three completed tournaments so far.
Chris rattles off something about Kenny and The Octagon. Kenny says its the “third nicest” thing Chris has said about him, the other two things being his “ride or die” and that quip about steak and potatoes.
ROUND OF 16
SON OF WHYACHI vs. SAWBLAZE
Now that we’re at the Round of 16 I feel like it would be redundant to keep rehashing the Fight Night journeys of these robots; moving forward I’m going to instead start from this moment in the tournament and move upward from there. Think of this like starting from a somewhat blank slate. Despite its history as a former champion and still one of the heaviest hitters today, Son of Whyachi has never made it into the top 8 seeded robots since its return in 2016. That’s likely due in part to the fact that Son of Whyachi is a relic of another era and like a lot of robots in that situation (Nightmare, etc) it has floundered a bit trying to upgrade while remaining true to the design that made it successful. A giant mass of spinning fucking meat tenderizers might’ve been all it took to win the Nut 18 years ago, but today you almost need something more. Still, it’s made it to the Round of 16 both this year and last year, and last week Son of Whyachi reached this point by throwing Copperhead at the wall hard enough for it to stay there.
Sawblaze is an alright robot and it’s done well for itself to turn its luck around from getting fucked by the active weapon judging criteria a couple of seasons ago. The whole “everyone gets four battles” format of the Fight Night qualifiers has helped Sawblaze the most out of perhaps any other competitor because it’s allowed Jamison Go to actually demonstrate what his robot is capable of. Technically he got to do that in 2016 but nobody really gave a shit until last season when Sawblaze nearly sliced Overhaul’s whole goddamned weapon off. Sawblaze is a fantastic control bot but I really can’t see the dragon coming out ahead in this battle purely because the robot doesn’t handle horizontal spinners that well. It defeated Rotator at the start of the year but Jamison strangely says his robot survived the hits from Tombstone. Uh dude, no it didn’t. Maybe like one or two. Case in point I noticed Sawblaze isn’t using its flexible rubber padding for this battle. You know, the stuff specifically designed for horizontal spinners.
Son of Whyachi is some weird kind of hybrid between being a standard horizontal spinner and a shell spinner. Really, the best way to describe it is to compare it to Mauler because only Mauler’s top spun around, not the outer shell. No matter the case, the blueprint for fighting someone like Son of Whyachi is still the same as Captain Shrederator or Gigabyte: slow it the fuck down. Sawblaze isn’t using its extra rubber armor for this battle but it is still using its sturdier steel plow made of AR500. That’s a term that seems to get thrown around a lot these days and it’s mostly because against the current power of today’s spinners this is really your only hope of survival. Gone are the days when a shitty robot like Crabmeat outfitted with virtually no goddamned armor could put Son of Whyachi on the ropes by getting Whyachi’s hammers tangled up in its open frame. Sawblaze’s plow is almost identical in construction to the one Blacksmith used against Rotator and we saw that take some serious hits without showing any real damage to speak of, this is why right off the bat Sawblaze is able to slam into Son of Whyachi and execute the plan: slow it the fuck down.
Even though I have Son of Whyachi pegged as the one to win this battle, Sawblaze is uniquely equipped to handle such an opponent; Son of Whyachi’s main weakness aside from being slowed down are the stabilizer bars on its weapon and Sawblaze’s disc is the perfect thing to strike them but for some reason the robot has Son of Whyachi pinned against the wall and seems content to try and let the Pulverizer do the dirty work. By the time Sawblaze brings its disc down Son of Whyachi has gotten away and started spinning its weapon again, though when it hits Sawblaze it seems little to no damage is actually done. I don’t know if that’s the AR500 plow or Son of Whyachi not having enough muscle behind its weapon but if I had to guess I’d say the reason is somewhere in the middle and it’s not good for the former champ. Sawblaze tries to go for another pin and fires up its green flamethrower because yeah that’s totally going to do something to Son of fucking Whyachi. Once again Sawblaze fails to capitalize with its disc and winds up hitting Son of Whyachi with its back and allows its opponent to get away.
Some more blows are traded and at this point Chris Rose starts wondering what the fuck is going on with Son of Whyachi because we’re a little more than a minute into this fight and by this point I was expecting Son of Whyachi to have busted one of Sawblaze’s wheels or torn off part of its plow or something. Instead Sawblaze has successfully nudged and bumped the spinner into what feels like every individual side of the fucking arena and now has it stuck on the red square’s screws. Finally Sawblaze goes in with its disc. It lands a hit but misses the stabilizers and takes a chunk out of the heavier black part of the weapon. This is probably not significant enough damage for Team Whyachi to worry about, but when Sawblaze throws its second punch and clips one of the stabilizers and visibly bends it we’re officially in “uh oh” territory. I really don’t need to explain in detail why those bars are important, but when one of them is compromised Son of Whyachi runs the risk of crumpling its own weapon if it hits an opponent — or more likely the wall — too hard. Despite this damage Son of Whyachi continues to try and fight, even when Sawblaze manages to fuck up another one of the bars.
About 20 seconds ago I realized I probably fucked up on my fight predictions and as the 90 second clock graphic appears Sawblaze karate chops one of the weapon bars on Son of Whyachi that it’d previously struck and snaps it down the middle. Yeah, I fucked up. Sawblaze’s team starts rejoicing and they better be prepared to celebrate for the long haul because that attack seemed to reach deep enough to hit something important inside of Son of Whyachi because it just starts smoking for no reason. I’m talking big ass smoke, the kind that also comes with straight up fire flicking out from the gaps in the robot’s chassis. It’s hard to see at first, but after a few seconds of burning the fire becomes very apparent. Don’t worry if you’re concerned that you won’t be able to tell Son of Whyachi’s fire apart from Sawblaze’s though, just look for the blaze that doesn’t look like Shrek lit a fart. Somewhere in the chaos the other weapon bar that Sawblaze damaged on Son of Whyachi snaps apart at its middle turning the spinner into the world’s most dangerous Crazy Daisy sprinkler.
Son of Whyachi very nearly gets jammed into the screws at an awkward angle but somehow the robot frees itself and amazingly this thing is still driving around. Not only this but Son of Whyachi’s spinner also isn’t dead. I have no clue what the hell is burning so violently but the robot is still functional and has enough power in its spinner to temporarily extinguish its flames by spinning it up. It’s not going to do anything though and there’s no fucking way Son of Whyachi can turn this fight around but I guess we’re looking at yet another season where the former champ fails to make it even into the quarterfinals, something it’s consistently failed to do since season four of the show. Sawblaze makes one final push and the buzzer interrupts this run but Jamison doesn’t fucking care, he finishes the charge and smacks Son of Whyachi one last time to give the team something to think about while they consolidate their pit area to focus on Hydra. This match was already a landslide victory, but that buzzer beater hit immediately won all of the points Derek Young is allowed to give out.
WINNER: Sawblaze, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
(Note: Sawblaze did not actually continue its attack after the buzzer. This is a situation that came about in post-production and the buzzer sounded a couple of seconds after Son of Whyachi was shoved into the wall. Chris Rose’s voiceover is a big clue because when he says “ten seconds left” the on screen graphic actually shows only five. Chris was right, there were ten seconds left.)
ROUND OF 16
BITE FORCE vs. UPPERCUT
I know what you’re thinking, this is going to be a cakewalk for Paul Ventimiglia. Every time robot seedings are done and the #1 is paired up with the guy at the bottom of the pack it’s usually a bloodbath. For three seasons in a row Tombstone was given the #1 spot and we got to see that robot obliterate Radioactive and Escape Velocity… but last season Tombstone met Bombshell and we all know how that nightmare ended. Bombshell clung on to dear life and managed to squeeze out one single solitary win in the entirety of its pathetic season and it just so happened to be against Tombstone. I’m not trying to suggest that Uppercut is going to come out ahead here but I do want to set the expectation that you never really know what kinds of crazy shit can happen in the arena when the green light comes on. Bite Force has been undefeated starting with its 2018 season but I guess Chris Rose says “2016” because that sounds more impressive. 12 wins a row. This robot is very rapidly encroaching on the record Hazard set in 2003 (17 wins) and I doubt some boxing robot is going to have any say in that.
Ranked dead last (for the Round of 16, at least) is Uppercut, a newcomer who only made it in because its driver Alex Hitori had the smart sense to not fuck with Bloodsport in the 3-way rumble for the sixteenth seed. Some might call that move “sloppy seconds”, others will argue that sandbagging can be construed as a legitimate strategy. Any way you slice it Uppercut won that battle and that’s more than what can be said for Bloodsport or RailGun Max who at this point are en route to being shipped back home. The hosts have been trying to spin Uppercut’s season as a bit of a laugh and a learning experience but if you go back and watch Uppercut’s fights you’ll notice the team has found themselves taking the tournament more and more seriously as their robot betrays their intentions and keeps winning fights. Uppercut started the year out with some ridiculous fist-shaped blade and by the time it’s reached the Round of 16 the blade’s been replaced with something closer to an actual weapon because Bite Force isn’t the type of opponent you fuck around with.
Although Uppercut is kind of a goofy robot there are a lot of parallels between this match and the one where Bite Force fought against Monsoon; both Uppercut and Monsoon have very similar designs and Paul expressed some level of concern that Monsoon would be able to win the battle of reach and hit the thing that covers Bite Force’s weapon chain or some other important part of the robot. As bizarre as it sounds, Uppercut could very well pose the exact same threat to the champ. The only difference is Uppercut’s driver is willing to do a dab on national television. Uppercut doesn’t leave its square and instead buys as much time as it can to spin its weapon up to speed presumably in the hopes that once it’s going it can then jab at Bite Force and deliver a hit. This seems to be the strategy, but it doesn’t work because as Uppercut reels onto one wheel Bite Force whacks it laterally and sends the robot hurtling toward the inner glass. Uppercut’s spinner catches the panel and similar to what happened to Cobalt last week the hit sends the spinner soaring several feet into the air.
The strategy seems to still be the same when Uppercut finally lands back on the ground, Uppercut retreats across the box and starts revving its blade up. Bite Force is in close pursuit however and as Uppercut tries to spin around and avoid taking a shot to its ass the gyroscopic force of its weapon once again pulls the robot up onto one wheel. There’s a lot of dead space at Uppercut’s front corners and Bite Force uses these gaps to its advantage, Uppercut takes one more shot and does about three flips until it lands with a perfect headstand. Maybe “perfect” isn’t the right word to use though, because Uppercut cannot actually get down from this position so it’s pretty much stuck like this. Bite Force starts landing a few minor hits before Paul realizes Uppercut has buried its head in the goddamned sand and backs away to let it get counted out. Kenny lets loose a “huge hit right there” that’s barely audible over the cheering of the crowd and it looks like Alex Hitori now has a lot more free time to brush up on his yo-yo game.
WINNER: Bite Force, KO
ROUND OF 16
YETI vs. DEATH ROLL
Greg Gibson says he’s nervous about this fight because vertical spinners worry him, but despite my dumb ass in the crowd holding up a Death Roll sign (which Greg and his team had a laugh at when they saw it and called me a turncoat) I still think Yeti has the advantage here based purely upon the geometry of its opponent. Yes, Yeti has little in the way of armor and literally its entire left and right sides are just big ass wheels ripe for being ripped off, but that supercharged drum is an excellent instrument of death. We saw what that thing did to Rainbow and when I shared my tournament predictions I pointed out the similarities in the angular chassis of Rainbow and Death Roll; all Yeti needs to do is get one good hit on Death Roll’s side and this fight could be over sooner than Greg thinks.Yeti is not infallible but so long as the robot doesn’t fuck everything up it can take the win here. This is the best Yeti we’ve ever seen and that’s saying a lot considering this thing was once a semifinalist.
I’m going to cheer for Death Roll for obvious reasons but when I saw the tournament bracket my heart sank a bit because these are two robots I really like but I knew more than likely this would probably be the last time we’d see Death Roll this year unless the team wheeled it back out for a consolation or exhibition match. The robot is undefeated, one of only four to be able to make that claim this year, but Yeti is just a bad draw. Also what the fuck is Death Roll doing at #6? This thing hasn’t lost a single fight this season and Tombstone’s been put above it? I swear to god they always put that robot higher on the list than it needs to be. Yeah I get it, it’s Tombstone. But your precious 70-pound blade toting sweetheart also spent half an hour blowing the fuck up and burning to death in the Battlebox. Meanwhile Death Roll isn’t losing fights. Getting back to the matter at hand if there was a way for Death Roll to win this fight it would be to rip off one of Yeti’s front tires. Yeti has two small stabilizers under its drum but getting its big wheels ripped off wreaks havoc on its maneuverability. Or just flip it over, that works too because Yeti can’t seem to self right worth a shit.
Yeti jukes to the side while its drum gets going. I’ve said Death Roll’s sides should be the target here and within seconds we almost see this hit achieved but Yeti barely misses its mark and instead clips Death Roll on its front corner. This is fine though, it’s still a solid blow, but the follow-up is a weapon-to-weapon slug that sends the drum spinner onto its back. If it weren’t for Axe Backwards being here I’d say Yeti has the biggest goddamned wheels we’ve ever seen but regardless the robot can still drive around upside-down. This is not ideal however because it means Yeti’s drum is spinning downward and the force of the hits it deals in this orientation are transmitted into Yeti and not Yeti’s opponents. Getting back right ways up is paramount for the beast so it starts whipping around trying to use the force of its weapon to settle back down the right way. This is similar to what we’ve seen Minotaur try to do (and Copperhead too) but the problem is this works for Minotaur because Minotaur isn’t the size of a fucking Mack truck like Yeti is. Yeti immediately starts floundering trying to flip itself over and this just opens its ass up for a reaming from Death Roll.
While trying to reorient itself Yeti is technically still dangerous because it’s swinging a giant drum around but the whole robot just becomes an easy target, all Death Roll has to do is show up and chances are it’ll land a hit without any risk. Even worse for Yeti is how right now when it reels up onto its side the robot is exposing its third weapon motor as a very obvious weak point for Death Roll to target. Nice job Greg, you designed a robot that fights like a fucking boss from The Legend of Zelda. All we need now is a tiny fairy flying around the obvious weak point telling Death Roll to strike it right there. Death Roll lines up whatever hits it can land and although none of them reach the exposed motor we do get to see the croc land a hit to Yeti’s back corner as well as straight to Yeti’s front end which throws the robot through the air and hilariously it still lands upside-down. At this point Greg should really consider a version of Yeti whose drum can spin in either direction because clearly this self-righting bullshit isn’t working anymore. Even if Yeti still had its lifting arms this would be a painfully slow process where the robot is wide open to attack.
Death Roll connects again with Yeti’s front corner and the hit is so severe that it doesn’t just flatten a tire or dent a hub, the hit actually shears one of Yeti’s goddamned drive axles and causes its front right wheel (remember, it’s still upside-down) to break off completely. A hit is landed on Yeti’s lid dangerously close to the exposed motor and while it’s tough to say if the motor itself was struck if you look closely you’ll notice a whole bunch of loose parts surrounding it meaning something was definitely kicked out of place. That’s literally like a $600 motor or something just sitting out in the open. With Yeti up against the screws and missing parts there’s very little the robot can do to stay in this fight. At least the robot is back right ways up but by this point it’s too late to make a difference. Besides, Death Roll just kicks the piece of shit back onto its lid a few seconds later anyways while Chris Rose provides a technical description of “weebly-wobbly” to summarize Yeti’s busted drive system. The flurry is too much for Yeti to take and it actually just straight-up dies. Normally Yeti hangs on until the bitter end and refuses to give up the ghost, but I guess getting bitten by a crocodile on the face, ass, and everywhere else was too much to handle.
WINNER: Death Roll, KO
ROUND OF 16
TOMBSTONE vs. QUANTUM
This sounds kind of wacky but this is the first time Tombstone hasn’t been seeded #1 in the top 16 (or 32). For a robot who’s only won one championship the judges sure are keen on letting Tombstone retain its title even though most of the time it reaches the Round of 16 and starts to falter; I’d say losing to Bombshell last season was likely the final nail in Tombstone’s coffin. Pun intended. I’m sure blowing the fuck up while fighting Rotator and needing to be stripped down completely in the arena before it was safe to wheel the robot out didn’t help matters either. Tombstone only really came into the spotlight in 2015 when BattleBots was picked up by ABC, but this robot is actually quite similar to Son of Whyachi in that it’s a very old design (originally built in 2005) that has remained effective for so long because even with how intricate today’s designs have become you can still usually muscle out a victory if you bring a big enough gun. Tombstone’s brought a goddamned bazooka.
At the beginning of the article I named three robots whose runs for the title were saved by the weird play-in bouts in last week’s episode. Quantum is the first of those robots and due to its low seeding that obviously meant it was going to wind up being paired with someone who would probably destroy it. Should the planets align in Quantum’s favor this perhaps isn’t that bad of a match-up… but that’s a dumb thing to say because that reasoning would work for literally any other opponent too. Quantum is equipped with a massive steel plow for this battle because as we’ve seen in these past couple of seasons this seems to be the best way to trump a massive horizontal spinner; the idea here is that once Tombstone’s weapon is suitably slowed down (or just outright disabled) Quantum will be able to get a hold of its opponent from the sides or back and bite down hard. It is no secret that Tombstone has very little armor so if Quantum gets that bite the fight could be over in one shot. To do that Quantum just needs to get through a 70 pound spinning blade. No pressure.
Ever wondered what it looks like when you roll a 1 to check how well your box rush goes? Have a look at this. Quantum floors it into Tombstone and somehow the force of being hit results in the crusher flipping over backwards. Quantum has that big ass plow at its front but right now that thing’s about a foot or so off of the ground and everything that is now exposed to Tombstone is the most fragile shit imaginable. Quantum quickly tries to self-right and manages to do so, however Tombstone is waiting in such a position so that when Quantum rolls back over the robot lands on the spinning blade and the resulting chaos blows off Quantum’s rear left wheel and for all I know probably fucks up the baseplate too. Quantum’s crusher and srimech flail about but it appears its drive system is totally dead. KO counts in BattleBots tend to get slightly inflated but if you time this battle from the exact moment Quantum lost control you’d get a KO time of nine fucking seconds for Tombstone. Even when Nightmare erased Slam Job from history that still took at least ten.
Honestly though? This is about how I saw this battle going. Quantum’s two losses earlier this year demonstrated just how squishy and vulnerable its sides are and there was absolutely no way the robot was going to survive Tombstone’s whoopie cushion of death move.
WINNER: Tombstone, KO
ROUND OF 16
WHIPLASH vs. HUGE
Matt Vasquez is no idiot. When I drew up my tournament predictions the first thing I thought of was how much of an advantage Whiplash has in this fight because this just might be the one time where putting a spinning disc on a stick isn’t seen as conceptually stupid. Huge’s whole design is based around the idea that only its wheels can be hit except in special circumstances. “A spinning disc on a stick” is one of them. All Whiplash needs to do is raise its arm, spin its disc up, and suddenly when it drives underneath the parking garage known as Huge that disc will connect with Huge’s vulnerable center chassis. I’m not sure what kind of damage we can expect from an attack like this but as I said Whiplash is one of the very few robots whose weapon can actually strike Huge where it counts and this is why I’ve got Whiplash pegged to win this one. The extended lifting forms and added armor only help its case here. Hits are hits, and if Whiplash can land them that’s good enough for the judges.
Huge has competed in two BattleBots events and each time the robot has made it to the Round of 16. I’d say this is because Huge is just such a weird fucking robot that damaging it is very hard and taking control of it is even harder. Prior to the Round of 16 we saw Bronco try to use a giant scoop to shove Huge around while Hypershock deployed its trademark rakes and in both cases those plans were failures and Huge hacked them to pieces. Huge was stopped dead in its tracks at this point last season because it had suffered too much damage to continue on and a nudge or two from Bite Force caused the robot to separate at its middle and fall apart, but had that fight gone on Huge could’ve held its own and possibly even won. Unfortunately I don’t think Huge is going to make it beyond this battle simply because Whiplash poses a significant threat with its own goofy weapon. I do, however, have to praise Huge for making it this far again while remaining in much better condition. It hasn’t broken in half yet.
We’re seeing a bit of a hybrid strategy here from Whiplash. At the robot’s front end you’ll see some extended forks similar to the ones deployed by Free Shipping last season; obviously the goal is to jam these spikes into the spokes of Huge’s wheels and presumably do that thing from the Indiana Jones movie where Indy jammed a flagpole into the wheel of a motorcycle and kickstarted the Nazi space program. Whiplash doesn’t get the purchase it needs and in this time Huge is able to whip its blade up to speed and when it connects with Whiplash it manages to avoid the high corner of the front right plow, reach around the armor, and rip Whiplash’s front right wheel off. How Huge is able to have this level of accuracy when it’s as big as a fucking recliner amazes me to this day. This is also the polar opposite of how I expected this fight to start out so I guess that’s what I get for underestimating Huge. Again.
Whiplash is stout enough that losing one wheel is actually not a problem from a maneuverability standpoint because as you can see for yourself Matt is still steering this thing around like it has all four wheels. The robot takes a few more blows from Huge and I’m guessing one of them hits something important on Whiplash’s disc because it comes to a near immediate stop which is never a good sign, however its lifting arm still seems to work just fine so the robot pins its opponent against the wall so Chris and Kenny can read its sponsor stickers and starts stabbing at Huge with its lifting arm. I can’t say for sure but it looks like there might even be an effort to raise Huge up high enough off of the ground so one of its wheels gets caught behind the spike strip but Huge is such an awkwardly large machine that Whiplash cannot get the purchase it needs to achieve this. What we do get are some heaves and pins which aren’t doing a whole lot in the way of damage but are surely giving Whiplash the edge in “control” points with the judges.
It’s a real shame that Whiplash’s disc has died out because every once in a while when Huge gets tangled up on top of Whiplash we’re seeing so many golden opportunities for Whiplash to literally throw a punch that connects with Huge’s chassis, but it still says a lot for Matt’s driving skill to be able to make the best of the situation and maintain the upper hand even with half a working weapon. Huge keeps spinning its blade up — or rather it keeps trying to spin its blade up — and we’ve yet to see another miracle shot like the one at the start of the fight that ripped a wheel off. At one point when Huge speeds away from Whiplash it almost appears as though its left wheel is slightly bent and that could be damage from all the times that Whiplash has lifted Huge up and onto one of its giant tires. Remember, this is 250 pounds of robot resting against the wheel and its axle at a very awkward angle and with all the flexing and bouncing going on that’s only adding to the strain the parts are experiencing. Just because Huge is rumored to be “indestructible” that doesn’t mean it can’t take damage. People said the same shit about the Titanic and now over a hundred years later we’re still digging parts of that stupid boat up.
The fight goes the distance and the result is a split decision which honestly came as no surprise, I may have discredited Huge in my predictions but the early shots it landed busted part of Whiplash’s weapon and prevented it from landing any significant hits with its disc. The judgment still ruled in favor of Whiplash but this was one of those rare times where Whiplash just wasn’t the totally dominating robot we always see. Also this is just a side piece of trivia but they filmed the arena introductions for this battle twice because you may have noticed there’s a person on Huge’s team who looks an awful lot like Matt Vasquez from Whiplash’s team. Before the fight they traded shirts and appeared on each other’s teams during the intros. Someone in production noticed this and probably got pissed off because everyone was wrangled back into the Battlebox in order to film the correct intros. That was probably the funniest moment that happened during taping because I noticed Matt on Huge’s team right away and it took me a second to process what the hell was going on.
WINNER: Whiplash, Judges’ Decision (2-1)
ROUND OF 16
WITCH DOCTOR vs. BLACKSMITH
This fight features the second of the “last chance” robots seeded at the bottom of the pack and as luck would have it this battle is actually a rematch of one that occurred last season. Witch Doctor and Blacksmith met in last year’s qualifiers and Blacksmith very nearly won the fight when Witch Doctor was thrown into the screws and became stuck in them. According to Chris Rose as he explains “ScrewGate” however, it was not known to the competitors at the time that the screws had been upgraded to spin the other way when seized. This meant that Witch Doctor wasn’t actually stuck and when the screws flipped around the robot tumbled off of the hazard and proceeded to surgically enhance Blacksmith’s ass with a few more buttcracks. Andrea Gellatly says she learned the most about her robot from that fight and so many of the robot’s new features and changes came about specifically from her fight against Blacksmith last year. It’s time to see if those upgrades pay off.
Blacksmith is having its best year yet and Al Kindle says this is the best version of Blacksmith he’s ever built. I would hope so Al, because if you’re working on a robot that gets consistently worse as the years pile on you might want to step back and see what you’re working on because you might’ve accidentally built Lock-Jaw. As one of the robots definitely seeded in the limbo between 17th and 24th place Blacksmith got its chance at redemption when it was drawn to fight Rotator. This was both a good and bad draw because Blacksmith is built like a fucking brick and we’ve been given a whole season’s worth of evidence to support that claim but at the same time Rotator’s high blade was at the perfect height to snag Blacksmith’s weapon sprocket and that’s exactly what happened. Rotator was a one trick pony in that battle though and Blacksmith never once let up and still won the decision without ever swinging its hammer. It’s come a long way since being Quantum’s bitch in the first episode.
Last time these robots met Blacksmith had some magic runes drawn on its front to protect itself from Witch Doctor’s voodoo. That didn’t work so this year Blacksmith has instead opted for some massive fucking spikes that ride along the floor. The intent of these spikes is to beat Witch Doctor’s reach and slide underneath the robot without allowing it to do any significant damage to Blacksmith. Blacksmith could then presumably shove Witch Doctor into the wall or swing its hammer if the coast is clear. The spikes actually work quite well for about three or four hits but within 20 seconds the right one becomes visibly bent inward and any use they may have had is probably toast. There have been a couple of decent hits so far and the reason we’ve yet to see more of them is because this battle is more or less functioning as a makeshift exhibition of each drivers’ skill. Al has been competing since the late 90’s and Andrea and Mike’s involvement with the sport stretches back into the previous decade; neither driver is opening themselves up to attack so we’re left with a fight with a lot of circling and swinging around. It’s fun to watch, but I still want to see someone get murdered.
Thankfully I don’t have to wait too long because as Blacksmith cruises around near the Mowbot sponsor banner Witch Doctor socks it in the face hard enough to spin it around. As Al pulls off a 180-degree drift to whip back and face its opponent Blacksmith takes another blow and this time the robot flips over. This is the opening Witch Doctor has been waiting for because it immediately flies in for hit #2 and strikes Blacksmith on its upper corner to damage its chassis. This hit obviously reached something important because right away smoke starts coming out of Blacksmith and the robot begins flopping around in a vain effort to right itself. Witch Doctor’s flurry of blows has knocked Blacksmith pretty close to the screws behind the red square and with one final perfect shot the robot heaves its opponent onto them in a firey smoking mess. Before the fight Chris Rose mentioned “ScrewGate” was when Witch Doctor magically reversed the hazard and got back down, but let me tell you something if the screws Blacksmith just got kicked into didn’t spin around the other way that would’ve been the “ScrewGate” you’re thinking about. Thankfully the screws do spin the other way and we all got to avoid another shitty argument on the internet.
Hilariously the ref asks Al if he can get his robot down from the screws and I’d like to imagine Al turned around and told the guy “that’s your fucking job bud”. Blacksmith gets down from the hazard but Witch Doctor is waiting right there with its guns blazing and fires a shot straight into Blacksmith’s ass that splits the back left corner open. Blacksmith is quite clearly crippled beyond the point of functioning well enough to avoid being counted out but I’m impressed at just how durable the rest of the robot is. The hammer is swinging, some of the drivetrain still works, and even though Blacksmith begins to fade away into a plume of toxic smoke the robot continues to fidget around and regain control. Al even has the balls to ask Witch Doctor’s team if that’s all they’ve got. It’s not very often that Blacksmith actually gets counted out like this but when it does you know someone had to use excessive force to make it happen. If Witch Doctor were a police officer there’d be an investigation launched to determine if unloading five fucking clips into the suspect was necessary.
WINNER: Witch Doctor, KO
ROUND OF 16
BLACK DRAGON vs. LOCK-JAW
I’m glad I was right about Black Dragon being included in the top 8 by way of winning the Desperado event. Last season Lock-Jaw won the special tournament and the judges seeded it 9th, the top of the bottom half of qualifying competitors. Had Black Dragon been given spot #9 this year it would’ve had to go through another bullshit play-in fight to make it into the Round of 16 and I almost want to say that would be false advertising. The Giant Bolt would be a fraud and instead of a trophy it would just be something to shove up your ass because it turns out BattleBots is like a goddamned timeshare and you’re never truly out of the woods. So yeah, it’s cool that Black Dragon was allowed to skip last week’s play-ins and I guess it’s ironic that it is now meeting last year’s Desperado winner in the Round of 16. I kind of forgot this robot existed because it’s literally been over a month and a half since we last saw it. In case you forgot, this thing beat Minotaur to make it here. Also that duck’s name is Pato and it’s for good luck.
Before the fight starts we often get these little cutaways from the drivers where they talk about their strategies for the fight. The only word I understand from Black Dragon’s Joao Cavalheiro is “wheels” and those aren’t a bad set of targets to pick because each time we’ve seen Lock-Jaw either lose or come very close to losing it’s because the robot’s wheels were expertly attacked. Tombstone ripped one whole side of them off and Bombshell almost managed to snag a victory after damaging Lock-Jaw’s wheels too. Going back to last year End Game defeated Lock-Jaw by targeting its wheels as well. But all this talk about wheels seems nonsensical because this season it appears all you have to do to defeat Lock-Jaw is simply survive long enough to reach the point in the fight where Lock-Jaw spontaneously catches fire internally and starts smoking. I shit you not this has happened in every single goddamned fight since the middle of Lock-Jaw’s Fight Night rounds this year. If Black Dragon plays it safe and conserves its energy it might be worth it to draw this one out just to see what happens.
Both robots meet head on to see who wins the ground clearance battle and it should come as no surprise that it’s Lock-Jaw who gains ground in this exchange; Lock-Jaw has all of its impact focused to two small points that essentially drag on the floor while Black Dragon has a giant plow that in situations such as these are hindered by the uneven arena floor. Black Dragon isn’t going to win this fight coming at Lock-Jaw straight on, Joao was correct when he said his targets should be the wheels. To prove this point Lock-Jaw hits Black Dragon again and this time the drum spinner gets flipped onto its head. Both robots spin around each other for a bit, Black Dragon getting a small bite on one of Lock-Jaw’s tires in the process, before Lock-Jaw strikes again and rolls Black Dragon back over. Black Dragon tries its luck at charging straight at Lock-Jaw again and predictably loses the ground clearance war a second time, though this time the impact is enough to also roll Lock-Jaw over too.
Lock-Jaw is a very intricate machine but it has probably the best feature out of any vertical spinner at the event this year: the ability to spin its weapon in reverse. Lock-Jaw doesn’t have to open itself up to free hits while it tries to gyro dance itself right ways up, the weapon operator simply has to flip a switch and Lock-Jaw is good to go with almost the exact same configuration. Even the lifting arms function identically upside down. Black Dragon on the other hand can’t do this so we see it start to shake around and try to roll over, though Lock-Jaw ends this process early by hitting it and flipping the robot back onto its wheels as a courtesy. Lock-Jaw also sticks one of its forks into the Killsaws again. Another volley of shots from the former Desperado winner sees Black Dragon laid out upside-down a second time… and also ends with Lock-Jaw reaching into a completely different set of floor hazards. This happens a third time too, by the way, flips and Killsaws and all.
Black Dragon’s driver isn’t a newbie but against Donald Hutson he might as well be. Not once has Black Dragon managed to pull off a proper attack that ends in its favor and for some reason the robot keeps going head to head with Lock-Jaw even though surely by this point the driver has to realize he’s not going to win these exchanges. If Black Dragon wasn’t getting underneath Lock-Jaw at the start of the fight then it sure as hell isn’t going to do so a full minute into the battle when its plow has had its edge chewed to shit. Black Dragon survives to the 90 second mark and right on schedule Lock-Jaw’s weapon slows down and the next time it tries to spin up the robot begins to smoke. This marks the fourth consecutive fight where this has happened. I’m not going to profess myself as an expert in the field or anything, but Donald sure as shit is one. He’s had three opportunities to fix this gremlin and it appears that he’s screwed it up on all attempts. I feel like that’s three strikes, Lock-Jaw should be out by this point especially because this is now Black Dragon’s chance to remind us all how it won the Desperado this year.
But it’s important to note that this smoke seems to only affect Lock-Jaw’s weapon system and not its drivetrain… at least not at first. As long as Black Dragon keeps coming at Lock-Jaw from the front Lock-Jaw’s forks are still going to win out in the end and Black Dragon will find itself shoved into the screws, which continues to happen despite the smoke. Finally after two minutes of misses and mistakes Black Dragon catches Lock-Jaw from the side, hits its tires, and throws it into the air. It’s a great shot and it’s definitely enough to negate one of the exact same punches thrown by Lock-Jaw earlier in the fight, all Black Dragon needs to do now is keep this momentum going. Donald knows he’s on the ropes so he tells Lock-Jaw’s weapon operator to spin the discs up to which the operator says they’re out. This doesn’t register to Donald and he tells him again to spin the weapons up and the editors have to ADR in an “it’s dead”. Either that or we all just heard someone speaking out loud telepathically.
Lock-Jaw catches Black Dragon on its forks and rams the robot into the screws. The impact flips Black Dragon over but it also seems to be the catalyst that causes the rest of Lock-Jaw’s internals to join the weapon in the Great Beyond. For some reason Black Dragon stupidly spends the remaining 30 seconds of this fight trying to right itself and fails to do so. I know being in the correct orientation means Black Dragon’s weapon will be spinning in the right direction but when you’re this close to the end of the fight there’s no time to dick around like this, just land some blows. Anything you can do. Lock-Jaw even does Black Dragon a favor and gets stuck in another goddamed set of Killsaws which opens it up for some free hits. At this point Lock-Jaw needs to start coming into battle with some novelty-sized safety covers that go on plug sockets to prevent toddlers from sticking keys into them because this is ridiculous. With five seconds to go Black Dragon finally ditches its self-righting strategy and attempts to land a hit. It makes it to 1 before the buzzer. Even though Lock-Jaw was once again in the process of dying for the entire second half of the fight the judges still score in its favor because of all the big hits it landed at the beginning.
WINNER: Lock-Jaw, Judges’ Decision (2-1)
ROUND OF 16
HYDRA vs. MINOTAUR
Hydra is the last remaining Team Whyachi robot still in the game at this point. Son of Whyachi was brutalized by Sawblaze and sustained weapon damage that we haven’t seen in literally 18 years, and Falcon was just a piece of shit that was doomed to never qualify because a robot that requires a football field’s worth of distance just to turn around isn’t Giant Nut caliber. Most teams only show up with one robot but Team Whyachi has the resources and deep pockets needed to bring three machines to the show. One might argue that this is a situation of quantity over quality and I’ll meet you half way because of Falcon, but Hydra is the only undefeated robot this season who qualified with four wins by way of four knock outs; it succeeded where Bite Force, Witch Doctor, and Death Roll could not. I’m not sure if Hydra has the ability to KO Minotaur unless the spinner gets thrown into a corner and becomes stuck there, but dare I say Hydra probably stands to win this one too. We are officially in the age of the hydraulic flipper.
Minotaur rounds out the last of the trio of robots whose tournament hopes were saved at the last minute by the special bouts last week. I was pretty certain Quantum and Blacksmith would meet their makers by way of being seeded low and thus having to battle against top tier robots and I was right in that assumption, but Minotaur stood out to me as possibly being the only one of the three that could turn the tables and keep things going. That was until I saw it was slated to fight Hydra and my hopes for a championship run for Minotaur were smashed and flipped behind the battle clock like Petunia. Minotaur has had a terrible season so far but by reaching the Desperado finals and winning its last qualifier that was enough for it to rank inside the window of “not quites” that were given another chance and after throwing Cobalt into space Minotaur successfully bounced back and made it into the Round of 16 for the third straight event. Unfortunately, my guess is that Minotaur is going to be destabilized by a flip and once that happens the combo isn’t going to stop until Minotaur gets jammed somewhere it can’t get out of.
A second and a half into this fight Minotaur is already sent flipping through the air by Hydra. It’s my guess that Minotaur will land upside-down and once that happens Hydra will relentlessly attack until the battle is over, but Minotaur actually lands the right way up and because its drum is spinning in the correct direction to deal damage when Hydra misses flip #2 Minotaur catches its opponent’s flipper and chews one of the leading forks up bending it in such a way as to render it useless. The hit causes Hydra to stagger and Minotaur catches it from the rear. If you were ever curious to know what lies behind those little silver plates on the back corners of Hydra you’re in luck because Minotaur is eager to show us. Turns out those plates cover the very teeny tiny part of Hydra’s drive system that doesn’t fit behind the robot’s angled sides. In the process of tearing off this piece of armor Minotaur also manages to rip out the chain that powers Hydra’s left side of drive. Minotaur’s attack isn’t over though because as Hydra is ultimately rammed into the wall Minotaur’s drum eats away the entire front left corner of Hydra’s leading wedge.
When Minotaur backs away Hydra is dead. The once feared flipper is motionless against the wall with a split chain hanging out of its backside and absolutely no action from its weapon. The ref begins his countdown, and the last Whyachi robot is eliminated from the event. Marco Meggiolaro goes in to congratulate Daniel Freitas for yet another demonstration of excellent driving but Daniel hasn’t yet popped off after winning the fight and he spooks Marco when he starts his usual yelling and shouting. I’m glad that made it to TV. Sadly though, if you read the predictions I made I had Hydra pegged to be the champion. I’ve been mostly incorrect on those predictions so far but I’m happy with Minotaur winning; this robot was last year’s runner-up and if it meets Bite Force again in the championship finals that’s a rematch I’d love to see.
WINNER: Minotaur, KO
Did you make tournament predictions of your own? How well have they held up? Hopefully yours are faring better than mine because I was wrong on exactly half of the fights this week and that sucks because I’m supposed to be one of the “experts” I guess. It just goes to show you though that you can be completely confident in how you think a battle is going to go but you can never truly guess a fight with 100% certainty. Unless it’s Tombstone vs. Radioactive.
The neat thing about having a bracket to go by is that we know some of the fights to expect next week. Strangely Chris and Kenny don’t go over the brackets at the end of the episode but it’s pretty easy to play along at home. I’m not going to make a big deal about “new” predictions because I really didn’t make any at the show beyond second guessing who I thought might win now that half of my predictions turned out to be shit. The only fight that’s still happening as I predicted is Tombstone vs. Whiplash so there’s no change there, but I think Bite Force can easily take advantage of a Lock-Jaw riddled with electrical problems, Witch Doctor can probably defeat Sawblaze without too much trouble assuming its weapon works the whole fight, and now that Minotaur has its second wind it might be the drum spinner that can win where Yeti failed. As for who I think will win the Giant Nut now that Hydra is out? Minotaur just might have what it takes. I’d like to imagine a rematch with Bite Force might go the other way this year if that’s what it comes down to. A rematch with Tombstone would be equally as incredible, however. I feel bad for the arena floor.
Next week’s episode is the final one of the 2019 season. I genuinely can’t believe it. Keeping up with this season has beaten me to hell just like I was afraid it would but at least I can say at no point did I throw in the towel and force a break. Maybe I should have, but we’re just one show away from crowning a champion so let’s ride this season out together in style. Be sure to follow BattleBots Update on Facebook for, uh, updates. If you’ve been enjoying the coverage this season and want to help the project out you can do so with a pledge on Patreon month-to-month or a one time donation through PayPal.
See you next week!