[BattleBots: S9 E2 is available through the Discovery GO app with a cable subscription package.]
I lied, you guys. A week totally wasn’t enough time, I’m not ready! I’m starting this article way later into the week than I normally do because I spent the better part of last weekend running a fundraising event and then sleeping in for the rest of the time I had off. But none of you reading this would’ve known this unless I said something about it because to you guys this is just another idle Thursday. Normally I’d say “that’s just the magic of television”, but this isn’t TV. It’s HBO. I mean, it’s a website on the internet running WordPress because the owner is too stupid to know anything else and doesn’t have the time to learn a new system so here come the jokes I hope you’re all fucking ready for them.
This episode kicks off with Chris Rose making a couple of jokes about Transformers and introduces Kenny Florian as “more than meets the eye” to complete the reference. It’s a good thing he used that line on Kenny instead of Jenny Taft because then Chris would be indirectly implying she has a penis. This week’s fight card ought to keep happy the people who like to solicit for likes and upvotes by going absolutely apeshit over the usual things. In the Science Channel version of this episode we’ve got not one, not two, but three shell spinners; two of them are even battling each other! Captain Shrederator returns for another tour of duty while Gigabyte and newcomer Chronos throw down in the world’s deadliest Beyblade event. There’s also Duck vs. Bombshell to determine once and for all who really won the Last Chance Rumble in 2018 and we’ve also got the much anticipated battle between Huge and Son of Whyachi. Finally if gimmicky bullshit is more your thing this episode also has Mammoth. And Axe Backwards. They can’t all be winners.
SON OF WHYACHI vs. HUGE
We’re off on a good start here with Son of Whyachi right out of the gate. That is this robot’s name, by the way. For some unknown reason the on-screen graphics have referred to this thing as “SOW” for the past two seasons. Now I know that’s what “Son of Whyachi” abbreviates to but why was this robot specifically abbreviated? They never did that to Captain Shrederator. Hell, if you rewind the episode a couple of minutes to go back to Chris and Kenny taking turns kissing each other while the fight card is shown you’ll see that “Captain Shrederator” isn’t abbreviated and instead the text is all squished together. It doesn’t really matter, it’s just bothered me for two years and now I finally stop getting irrationally angry at something as trivial as a title graphic. Now I can move onto other things to be mad about, like how there’s a soundbite ADR’ed into this episode’s opening that says “another championship for Son of Whyachi” when archive footage of the team’s season 3 championship plays. Uhh, what “another championship”? This thing is a one-time champion because you guys didn’t know how the fuck to categorize a shuffling robot so you allowed a 300+ pound behemoth with spinning hammers to beat the piss out of the paltry 220 pound Biohazard for three minutes.
Huge returns this year to much fanfare. This robot and its unconventional design made a lot of fans skeptical at first but once Huge started piling on the wins and wrapped up its Fight Night rounds at 3-1 it had earned a name for itself as one of the trickiest robots to handle. (Until Icewave blew it to fucking pieces, but you get what I mean.) Huge looks like a stupid robot that was built “for the lulz” and as such it shouldn’t be effective, but when you actually take a look at this thing you start to realize Huge actually has some major advantages going for it. The most obvious boon to Huge is the fact that most robots cannot reach its chassis, only its wheels. Huge’s wheels are made of UHMW plastic so they just bend and flop around when struck meaning in theory you can beat on it non-stop and never really do any meaningful damage to it all while Huge comes raining down on you with the massive spinning blade mounted at its middle. Again, I say “in theory” because it turns out Huge’s wheels were very much “vincible” due to how much material was sliced out of them to save on weight. This weakened the wheels structurally, though you can see now Huge’s wheels are solid plastic. Jonathan Schultz even says they’re intended specifically for spinners. Guess he finally got around to watching the season of Robot Wars with Gabriel in it.
I’m not sure what kinds of changes were made to Huge under the hood for this match but from the start its weapon doesn’t look to be in any hurry to achieve a dangerous speed. That could be due to the fact that this is Huge’s stouter and heavier blade and it’s also being spun in reverse so that it cleaves downward into Son of Whyachi. Whatever the case it looks like it takes a lot longer to get going meaning that Son of Whyachi’s eight-motor nightmare of a weapon has ample time to rev up and land a glancing blow on Huge that keeps both robots separated. So far it looks like the new solid tire design of Huge is working out, Son of Whyachi rips off a piece of bike tread but other than that Huge is finally performing just like the similarly-designed Gabriel from the UK. Jonathan may have gotten this nailed down, now he just needs to land a fucking hit because Son of Whyachi isn’t exactly the type of opponent you can let a fight go to the judges against and have confidence that you’ve defeated it. Son of Whyachi continues to nibble pieces off of Huge’s wheels and I’d just like to point out how amusing it is that whenever Huge is in frame by the drivers’ booth the editors can’t digitally insert that Rockwell Automation banner on top of the BattleBots sign because Huge is too fucking big.
Huge finally gets its first, uh, huge hit of the fight and clocks Son of Whyachi cleanly atop its spinning cage of hammers, though the hit seems to do more damage to Huge than its opponent because unless Huge’s weapon is doing something fucky like matching the framerate of the camera it doesn’t look like it’s running very fast now. That might not matter though because Son of Whyachi retaliates and rather than tear a little piece off of Huge’s wheel it takes a whole fucking bite and rips about a third of its left wheel clean off. Looking at what’s left of the wheel still on Huge my best guess is that Son of Whyachi might have made a smaller crack or tear in the wheel with an earlier hit and then with this follow-up he just tore it the fuck apart and cut itself the slice of pizza of its dreams. This doesn’t speak poorly of the durability of Huge’s wheels — because the team basically did everything right — this speaks more to the power contained within Son of Whyachi’s spinner. We’ve all seen the Gabriel and Carbide fight where Gabriel’s wheels got chewed up by Carbide’s glorified lawnmower blade but the robot still (mostly) stayed in one piece. Son of Whyachi’s weapon isn’t like your basic horizontal blade, this thing’s got three hammers similar in shape and form to meat tenderizers; they don’t slice, they rip and maul. And now Huge is fucking toast.
But Son of Whyachi isn’t through just yet. Either because Huge might still be alive or just for the hell of it and to make a statement for the season ahead, Son of Whyachi cruises in and lands another couple blows on the crippled machine. Pay close attention to Son of Whyachi after these hits though and you’ll see the robot is kind of shaking around. Pay even closer attention toward the end of the slow-mo replays and you might notice one of the spinner’s stabilizer bars has a significant bend in it. Either Huge came close to getting the mega hit it was after or Son of Whyachi damaged itself during one of the many times it ping-ponged into the goddamned wall, but in either case those crossbars are one of the most important pieces of the spinner and without them the robot cannot sustain heavy impacts without turning its own weapon into a pretzel. It sounds wacky but one of Whyachi’s weakest points is literally just right there on the damn weapon. This was a hell of a KO for the former champ, but we may have been much closer to disaster than you think. Huge might be off to a bad start this year but let’s be honest most robots would probably get their asses kicked by Son of Whyachi. Aside from the obvious tire damage Huge looks to be in good shape structurally, so hopefully Jonathan and his crew can fix their robot fast enough to see the other two fucking Whyachi robots run their first battles later on.
WINNER: Son of Whyachi, KO
TEXAS TWISTER vs. BLACK DRAGON
I almost didn’t recognize Texas Twister as a Team Toad robot at first because it’s not painted bright fucking orange. Aside from the lightweight robots that were painted blue (to denote technically being from a different team) I’m fairly certain every single one of Michael “Fuzzy” Mauldin’s robots have been painted in his iconic shade of “Team Toad Orange” dating all the way back to the original Frostbite robot from 2000. I shit you not I’d swear there’s a Pantone swatch literally named “Team Toad Orange”. I would bet money on it. Speaking of money Fuzzy funds all of his robotics ventures from cash he earned from Lycos, a search engine that I guarantee you haven’t thought about in 20 years. Dude was smart enough to build a search engine and doubly smart enough to know when to sell that crap for a zillion dollars before the dot-com bubble. Texas Twister, as you’ve probably guessed by now, is painted to match the colors and style of the Texas state flag. Cut into the robot’s disc is the Lone Star, and to go with it the disc has a lone tooth that I am sure is capable of breaking fucking everything. Last year Fuzzy showed up and was fucking around with Hypothermia and wound up going nowhere except back home with a robot with half of its chassis bent inward and shoved up its own ass. This year he’s returned to rock and roll. I also have no idea if Texas Twister’s namesake is the fabled playground torture staple “the Texas Titty Twister”.
Uai!rrior, pronounced “warrior”, is the team behind Black Dragon. It might be new to BattleBots but the team has been around for quite some time earning a reputation for building some of the hardest-hitting spinners to come out of South America. For the past two seasons Minotaur has been soaking up the spotlight as “the bull from Brazil” but if the track records of Black Dragon’s predecessors Uai!rrior and Federal MT are any indicators we might be seeing a new star emerge from the country that has that giant T-posing Jesus statue. Black Dragon is actually quite similar to the team’s aforementioned lightweight robot Federal MT, a two-wheeled wedge with a giant block of steel as a spinner. To give you an idea of how well this robot performed it was the lightweight champion at Robogames in 2013, 2016, & 2018 and was also the runner-up in 2015 & 2017. Yeah, that’s a three-time champion with two “almost made it there but we fucked it up in the end” finishes. Black Dragon is a different robot, yes, but the pedigree behind it is not something to be taken lightly. Also the first time I saw this thing I legitimately thought it was sponsored by Bad Dragon because Black Dragon’s mascot logo it just a little too close. You guys might wanna see if you can hook up and work something out for 2020 because I know Brazil exports a lot of freaky pornography or whatever.
I forgot to mention that Black Dragon apparently has a flamethrower too. It just didn’t occur to me to bring it up because I really did forget about it; you’d think a robot armed with a spinning weapon of this variety really wouldn’t have much use for a flamethrower but fuck me I guess. Anything to impress the judges and audience. Texas Twister lands the first hit of the fight and it’s not on Black Dragon. I also forgot to mention that Spitfire, the drone who formerly rode into battle with SubZero last year, jumped ship to team up with Texas Twister (because both Team Toad and Team XD are from Texas so this was probably an easier partnership to hammer out). Within seconds Spitfire flies too close to Texas Twister’s giant star of death and gets its back corner clipped, flipping the drone over and knocking it out. Why people to this day still think that a drone can do fucking anything astounds me. The closest we’ve ever come to seeing a drone do something interesting was with Chrome Fly and might I remind you everything else about that robot was a fucking embarrassment because the kid who built it saw nothing wrong with mounting spinning blades directly onto the fucking motor output shafts.
Anyways Black Dragon winds up getting the first actual hit of the fight and uppercuts Texas Twister straight on its disc which causes the cowboy spinner to reel backwards and dig its disc into the floor. The bots separate and Texas Twister evens the score by colliding with Black Dragon and seemingly effortlessly slices through the top armor on the right side of the robot. Pieces scatter and almost instantly Black Dragon starts billowing thick white smoke signalling Texas Twister dug deep enough to strike a battery. Black Dragon is still driving around perfectly fine so I’m inclined to believe that these were its weapon batteries because the spinner on Black Dragon looks to be shot. Thankfully I guess now’s a good time for Black Dragon to whip out its backup flamethrower. Unfortunately, it fucking explodes and the entire robot catches fire. You’d think this would be prime time for Texas Twister to cruise on in and inform Black Dragon about The Alamo or some shit but even though Texas Twister is in the lead right now it can’t seem to land any hits because its disc is too high off the fucking ground. “But Draco, I thought Texas Twister’s blade was angled?” It is, but the robot sucks and every time it drives forward its entire front end pops off the ground so rather than see a return to the glory days of bots like Surgeon General instead we’re seeing a robot lose to an opponent who’s been reduced to a wedge that’s also on fucking fire.
Kenny says Black Dragon needs to be careful because its opponent still has “a fully active primary weapon”. As he says this Black Dragon puts Texas Twister into the wall and very nearly destroys the BattleBots sign in the arena. The impact sends Texas Twister flipping around where it lands upside down which almost looks like it would’ve been a much better configuration, not just for this fight but in general. At least its disc would be at a level where it could hit something and not pop a wheelie and miss every single time. However at the same time I understand that a low blade wouldn’t exactly translate to a better performance because against something like Black Dragon it would just deflect upward and possibly be even weaker to vertical hits. None of this makes a goddamned bit of difference though because after just two hits in this orientation Texas Twister gets spun off into the wall where it too starts to smoke and then briefly catches fire. I guess what we’re learning from this battle is that Texas Twister works about as well as you’d expect from a robot funded by a dead search engine and Black Dragon just sucks outright. Both of them are on fire now but if I had to pick who I thought was in the lead dare I say it would be Black Dragon? After all, Black Dragon still has its wedge-shaped chassis as a backup whereas Texas Twister just looks like some shit that fell off of a poorly maintained Ferris wheel.
We’re only half way through this fight and neither robot has a working weapon anymore. Fucking hell. At least Black Dragon has remained nimble and aggressive and because of this Texas Twister takes a couple trips to the spike strip while it ineffectually flails and flops around on top of its opponent. Even though neither robot has a weapon they’re both doing a fantastic job of making the Battlebox look like some dystopian nightmare filled with smoke and littered with chunks of metal and smoldering halves of battery packs. So, downtown Los Angeles in other words. Black Dragon has been so active with its drive system that its wheels have heated up to the point where they’re now leaving streaks on the floor as the robot wrestles with Texas Twister. Texas Twister catches the Killsaws for a brief moment and Kenny refers to them as the Hellraisers because I guess it’s very easy to confuse a saw blade with a pop-up ramp that never shows up. In the twilight moments of this battle Texas Twister appears to completely lose its right side of drive which, in my opinion, sets the stage for Black Dragon to actually win this fight despite detonating less than 30 seconds into this ordeal. Imagine my surprise when Texas fucking Twister wins instead.
I’m assuming this is because it all loops back around to “damage caused with a PRIMARY WEAPON” and Black Dragon exploded specifically because Texas Twister cleaved into it, whereas Texas Twister caught fire only because it sucks.
WINNER: Texas Twister, Judges’ Decision (2-1)
DUCK vs. BOMBSHELL
Before this fight there’s a little bit of a build-up and you might be curious as to why. After all, Duck is just a box with a lifting arm and Bombshell had an astounding 1-5 record last season. It comes down to last year’s “Last Chance Rumble”, a.k.a. the playoff for 16th place. It was a six robot melee where the winner would stay alive and just barely make it into the top 16 to advance onto the main tournament. Duck and Bombshell were there. So were Red Devil, Gigabyte, Valkyrie, and Lucky — but all of those robots were KO’d. Bombshell started strong but fizzled out and laid dormant for nearly half the battle until it sprung back to life in the final few seconds. Duck, who had been steamrolling fucking everything the entire time, lost. “Damage with a primary weapon” struck again. “#JusticeForDuck” became a thing, and if you pay close attention to the faux social media shitstorm at the beginning of the episode you might notice a familiar mastermind… @meatballhoagie. This guy gets around. Now, Hal Rucker gets his chance to settle the score and prove once and for all that you can’t cuck the duck. The new Duck looks quite similar to the previous with the exception being that its lifting plow has been completely redesigned to make the best possible use of its material shape-wise without sacrificing strength. The beak is wider, there’s a razor-sharp spike that it can use as a makeshift hammer, and its side arms look to be in technical terms what we’d call “swole as fuck”. The arm’s pivot point has also been moved from the front of the robot to center meaning Duck now has a complete 360 degree range of motion with its weapon.
In 2016 Bombshell shocked the BattleBots world when it bounced back from a false start and flung itself all the way to the championship finals where it very nearly could have defeated Tombstone for the title, but sadly that was where the robot’s luck ran out. You can probably imagine what happened next so it should come as no surprise when you hear that Bombshell was “completely redesigned” for the next season because really that was the only option. BattleBots will not let you enter a trash can full of things that might have once been robot parts. Bombshell 2018 was… unfortunate. That’s a good word to describe it. What was once a modular “Swiss Army bot” caught the “another goddamned vertical spinner” flu and Bombshell just dogged it all fucking season, humiliating loss after humiliating loss. It finished the season qualifiers at 0-4 and I guess was only allowed into the Last Chance Rumble because it was the 2016 runner-up. This robot is the equivalent of a child actor; it had a sharp rise to fame and the minute it turned 18 it snorted all of the cocaine on the planet and died. Even worse is former team captain Mike Jeffries was unable to participate this year due to health concerns so Dan Hammer has stepped up to the plate to take over, the robot doesn’t even have its old team captain anymore. But is this the surprise twist that Bombshell needs to regain its edge? Considering the robot is painted like the fucking Kekistan flag my guess is “no” but we’ll see.
The good news is Bombshell’s weapon works this year, I guess. It’s certainly spinning which is more than I can say it did last year so it’s a start. Unfortunately even though the sides of the robot are angled they are still ground clearance city and in a matter of seconds Duck has its beak underneath a vulnerable front corner and Bombshell gets taken straight into the wall. Duck raises its plow and heaves Bombshell upward and as Bombshell’s disc connects with the arena spike strip the robot pulls itself forward and winds up rolling upside down. Not only this, Bombshell gets high centered in a forward-tilting position. Again. You chucklefucks rebuilt this entire goddamned machine and somehow despite changing literally fucking everything it can still get stuck in the exact same manner that killed it last year. I’d be impressed if I wasn’t so let down. Jesus fucking Christ.
Like last year I’m assuming if Bombshell’s disc started spinning it would connect with the floor and the robot would knock itself onto its rear wheels but for whatever reason its disc has stopped working. Again, just like last year. Before the battle Dan said Bombshell technically has two configurations, one of them being a horizontal spinner, but he went with the vertical spinner because it supposedly “drives better upside down”. If this is what the vertical spinner does upside down then what does the horizontal one do? Exactly this but it also tells racist jokes or something? In any case this battle is over pitifully fast and as Bombshell is counted out Duck taunts it the whole way down. Whether you think Duck was robbed last year or not is moot because in the here and now Duck has just taken its first step toward this year’s top 16 and its first victim is the robot who started the whole controversy in the first place. After the fight Hal says he’s got a “more active” active weapon. He knows what’s up, he knows who fucked him. He’s not here to
duck dick around.
By the way in case you were wondering why the floor looked unnaturally clean before and during this fight that’s because this was actually the first fight taped for this season. Not sure why the editors waited for episode 2 to whip this one out but in any case there’s your “Did You Know BattleBots?” fact of the day.
WINNER: Duck, KO
SEVEN YEARS OF BAD LUCK
Last week Jenny Taft caught up with the Deep Six team to find out why their weapon nearly ruined the test box for everyone. That was fine because Deep Six wasn’t in last week’s episode and we got a sneak peek at what’s to come later in the season, this week however she’s hanging out with Adam Wrigley of Bots FC. His robot Shatter is not only in this week’s episode, it’s in the next damn fight. Since we’re getting the skinny on this robot right now I’m going to apologize in advance for not going into more detail in the following section that takes a look at its fight with Witch Doctor.
Shatter is a hammer bot, however unlike your Chomp’s and your Thor’s of the sport Shatter’s axe is electrically powered as opposed to pneumatic. Think of it like a shinier and probably less powerful Beta (speaking of which where the fuck is that robot these days). Shatter’s unconventional approach to the hammer meta doesn’t end there; the robot also features Mecanum wheels which allow Shatter to drive like a normal robot while also being able to drift and drive sideways so its weapon can always be focused on its opponents. Additionally, if all this wasn’t crazy enough, Shatter gets is name not from what its axe does to opponents but from its own armor, the entire outer “shell” of Shatter is made from the same kind of high-density plastic as Huge’s wheels and it’s upwards of three inches thick in some places. Under that? Solid titanium half an inch thick. Shatter’s exterior plastic armor is meant to be torn away and shredded up so what would normally be devastating hits from spinners instead result in opponents chewing off disposable chunks of plastic. This Adam Wrigley dude really has thought of fucking everything when it comes to his robot and that should come as no surprise because Shatter is based off of his previous robot Blue (a.k.a. Mega Melvin) which has competed in Robogames and China’s King of Bots event with moderate success.
Adam spends a few minutes flexing in front of Jenny and lets her hold his hammer, then he lets her pull his trigger. There seems to be a recurring theme of builders allowing Jenny to click a couple buttons on their transmitters which is kind of amusing in a way. It almost helps you get an appreciation for how powerful these robots are when someone who doesn’t know what to expect from them presses a button and then recoils away from a steel axe swinging god knows how fast even though there’s a wall of bulletproof glass separating them. Some of you might be laughing at Shatter’s weapon because it’s struggling to pierce the target in the test box, but that’s not really the intended use of that piece of plate steel. No one has armor that thick on their robots because I guarantee you that single piece of metal probably weighs almost a third of what the competitors do. The purpose of the test target is to allow hammer bots to swing their weapon without damaging the floor, basically to prevent Shatter from letting us have two episodes in a row where someone ruins the test box. Forward thinking and all that.
SHATTER vs. WITCH DOCTOR
We just sat through about five or six minutes’ worth of Adam Wrigley talking about Shatter with Jenny so there’s not much I can say about this robot that we are not already intimately familiar with. Instead I will regale you all with an amusing tale (but first props to Faruq for having the balls to make a Notorious BIG reference in fucking California). Adam is perhaps the only BattleBots competitor whom I’ve known for upwards of 16+ years and the reason for this is because a very long time ago he and I were both users on a message board centered around robot combat and the video games that featured it. He was actually an administrator on that board and I showed up as some dickhead who knew a lot about the inner workings of the game Robot Arena 2. I was a piece of shit who took things too seriously because I hadn’t yet adopted the mindset of “lol video games” and I wound up getting permabanned from the community. Naturally though I couldn’t leave well enough alone so yeah I continued to antagonize everyone from afar on a website that in 2008 wound up briefly running a column with a very peculiar name: BattleBots Update. Now I’m not saying Adam Wrigley is the reason why this website exists today, but I will say that I did get to pull one last fast one on him by leaving him an autograph under the name and persona he formerly knew me as and when I finally met him in person he told me that the autograph I left him really fucked with his head. Also I guess the fact that Adam didn’t murder me with his spare axe means we are on good terms now?
Witch Doctor is a robot that I suppose we’ve already seen now. Sorta. Witch Doctor participated in the Amazon re:MARS exhibition event and you might recall that this robot won the whole show. I mean it only had to defeat two opponents to get there but those two opponents were Tombstone and Bronco so while robots like Skorpios got to redeem some free points against Chomp and a broken-down version of Lock-Jaw, Witch Doctor was out there working for its wins and it really showed in the end. Technically Witch Doctor has also already been introduced this season thanks to the exhibition but since this is its proper season debut I can go a little deeper. Andrea Suarez (now Gellatly) debuted Witch Doctor as a heavyweight in 2015 during season six of BattleBots, the first season after the show’s 13 year hiatus. She’s competed every year since then and her robot has improved each year to fix the issues that caused it to lose in the season prior. Today, Witch Doctor can flip itself back over, tank hits from bots like Tombstone with ease, and is difficult to attack from the top. These sound like random improvements but when you add them onto a robot that was already a powerhouse to start with you wind up with something fierce. Why else do you think Adam Wrigley was trying to covertly measure Witch Doctor with a fucking pool noodle before the fight?
Shatter starts the fight by driving to the right. I mean, it literally just drives to the right while facing Witch Doctor, explaining the movements of robots that can drive like someone cheating at chess is difficult. We’re again reminded how Shatter has about 50 swings on reserve with its axe and it misses its first one. That’s okay, there’s 49 more by my count so hopefully Shatter can eventually land a hit expertly measured to 1 Wrigley. That’s the length needed to hit Witch Doctor as measured by a pool noodle, it joins “Grunt” as one of the units of measurement created on this website. (A Grunt is approximately 150 centimeters and is named after the lightweight who showed up to Robot Wars being literally four and a half fucking feet long.) All the fancy driving in the world doesn’t seem to be able to give Shatter an edge in this battle mostly because the robot keeps swinging wide as it drifts and Witch Doctor is a very dense and compact machine that can turn quickly so its discs are always pointed toward its opponent. Obviously Witch Doctor is hesitant to land a blow directly to Shatter’s front end because that would close the distance to less than 1 Wrigley and put the robot at risk of getting whacked. However it almost seems like there’s something wrong with the mechanism behind Shatter’s axe after these first few blows, Shatter gets a couple golden opportunities to do some damage but rather than firing the axe instead kind of twitches and moves around at its pivot point.
A piece of metal gets torn away from Shatter which prompts one of the drivers to say a no-no word and I’m not great at reading lips so I can’t tell you where that piece came from, but since it made a metallic sound as it landed I’m assuming that wasn’t one of the chunks of shit held on with velcro that Adam was talking about in the pit segment. Also while we’re on the subject here, fucking velcro? What is this, a pair of shoes for a five year old? I’ve used velcro to hold things down in a three-pound robot and I’ve been fucked by that decision before so I have no fucking clue why you’d want to hold down ablative armor with velcro on something that’s 250 pounds. I get that it’s supposed to come off but unless you’re using some crazy shit intended for use in outer goddamned space I can’t see velcro being something that would be remotely effective at slowing down the weapon on something like Witch Doctor. I’m guessing Shatter’s axe head was also held on with velcro too because it throws a weak punch and Witch Doctor returns fire with a blow straight to Shatter’s weaponry that clips the head of the axe off almost as if the entire robot were designed in… Robot Arena 2.
Apparently now’s the time when Shatter’s weapon mechanism decides to work and it starts hacking away at Witch Doctor with what amounts to a metal stick presumably doing no damage whatsoever. Shatter gets pushed underneath a real hammer and takes a few shots which causes the robot to start smoking. Not one to be outdone, and I guess because both of these teams watched the previous fight with Texas Twister while they were waiting to get into the ring themselves, Witch Doctor decides to spontaneously catch fire. I’m assuming this is just because Andrea plugged something in backwards and not because the robot has sustained any damage from Shatter, but whatever the case this blaze looks kind of serious. Witch Doctor sprays some of its green flames I guess as a way to counteract the other fire? Like, to quickly burn off any gases or fumes coming off of the bot that might be flammable? The fire has the obvious effect of weakening Witch Doctor which allows Shatter to start pushing it around and as the robots get close to the corner of the arena Adam starts shouting “hammer” a bunch of times, presumably to draw attention to the Pulverizer and not as a signal for Shatter’s weapon operator to fire their own weapon because that thing is a piece of shit whose head is on the floor about 15 feet away.
Right now Witch Doctor’s weapon looks to be shot as does its front right wheel. I’m thinking the fire and resulting smoke were the weapon batteries blowing up and because the fire was concentrated directly above that wheel it probably either killed the motor or melted something inside to stop it from turning. Both of these robots are hurt pretty badly and as they aimlessly spin around I think Witch Doctor drives on top of a piece of Shatter’s plastic armor that had previously been shredded off because the bot stops moving even though its remaining working wheels are very clearly still turning. The robot rocks back and forth for a few seconds and right before the ref gets to start counting it out Witch Doctor wriggles itself free from whatever it was caught on and lasts until the buzzer. Obviously it’s enough to eek out a win but if Andrea and Mike are serious about possibly winning a Nut to go with their Bolt from Amazon they’re going to have to do something about the whole “our robot got the chili shits in the middle of a fight we were winning”.
WINNER: Witch Doctor, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
AXE BACKWARDS vs. MAMMOTH
Coming up we’ve got two robots whose designs seem to have moved to opposite ends of the size spectrum. Axe Backwards, erroneously referred to as “Axe Backward” in its introduction graphic because S’s are expensive, competed last year in what could genuinely be described with that old 4chan meme “this isn’t even my final form”. Axe Backwards “1.0” looked nothing like its intended design because I guess when Kurt Durjan started building the robot he realized how needlessly complicated he’d made it and instead just started sticking shit together until the end result looked “close enough”. 2019’s Axe Backwards looks to be what Kurt wanted all along; all of the parts are contained inside of the drum as opposed to having a carriage hanging off of the robot’s ass, its axes look to be mounted in a way where it can now thwack back and forth to strike opponents from above, and the robot is all around far more compact and efficient with its utilization of space. But all is not well for Axe Backwards coming into this fight because you might have noticed the robot’s tires look… off. These aren’t the ones from the bot’s glamour shots seen a few seconds ago. The reason for that — and I’m not fucking with you here — is those tires were too small, the teeth on Axe Backwards’ drum were touching the floor with those wheels in use. Kurt’s idea here was to wrap the tires in what has to be dozens of layers of tape — fucking tape — to raise the robot high enough off of the ground for its weapon teeth not to collide with the floor. I don’t know how you make a mistake this bad. Just buy bigger wheels? Problem solved???
Ricky Willems was a fan of BattleBots before he got the wild hair to build his very own machine and the end result, Mammoth, looks exactly like what some dickhead on the internet who talks shit about BattleBots would build if you forced him at gunpoint to pony up and prove “anyone can build a winning robot it’s so easy these people are just idiots”. Mammoth looks like Nightmare if you or I tried to build Nightmare just by looking at it. It is the robot combat equivalent of painting along with an episode of Bob Ross when your artistic talent is on par with Kurt Durjan’s ability to buy wheels that fit his robot. Ricky stuck some tires on half of a swing set and nobody at BattleBots seemed to notice this. Mammoth is the largest heavyweight robot. Ever. It’s bigger than the goddamned starting square and because this robot exists I can no longer make fun of Ultimo Destructo or Bronco for being “40 feet long” because Mammoth is probably 40 fucking feet long for real. While the robot looks like it ought to be a vertical spinner Mammoth’s weapon is actually a lifting device geared to a stupid ratio that’ll let it pick up a car. Gotta love that “0” in the armor category on the graphic before the fight though.
“We got this,” Kurt says as he gets a good luck kiss from his wife and youngest son. I feel bad clowning on this guy because he’s really just a laid back dude but god damn it Kurt did you even plug your weapon in? Because Axey B starts driving around but there’s no action from the drum whatsoever. He spent god knows how long wrapping what has to be at least a half-dozen rolls of tape around the wheels of this robot — when I know for a fact Axe Backwards has larger wheels made from automotive tires as an option — and after all this the drum doesn’t even spin. Mammoth is like one click away from being in the “automatic points” category of robots and by fucking up this one critical thing Kurt’s gone ahead and made his robot the one who’s automatic points. Mammoth wrestles with Axey B in the middle of the Battlebox and shows that it isn’t shy to fire its weapon whenever it pleases though unfortunately the curved shape of its opponent seems to be making it so Mammoth is only able to push Axe Backwards away as opposed to raising it up. Still, Mammoth dutifully pursues the opposition even as it loses half of its right set of tires without any input needed from Axe Backwards.
Axey B gets a little too close to the edge of the box and now Mammoth finally has an opportunity to lift it up. Axe Backwards is raised atop the screws but is able to roll down off of it, however in the process the ends of one of its thwacking axes hooks perfectly onto the end of Mammoth’s lifting bar and the robot gets lifted literally six feet off of the floor. Ricky knows he’s got this so he punches in a cheat code on the Power Glove he’s wearing and with one more uppercut Mammoth picks Axe Backwards up and joins the elite club of robots who’ve managed to win a BattleBots fight by throwing an opponent out of the arena. Mammoth. In the same club as Bronco. 2019 sure is weird.
WINNER: Mammoth, KO
SPIN TO WIN
Before we get into the next fight Jenny Taft is back in the pits to give us the inside scoop behind the design philosophy of Captain Shrederator. But before that we’re treated to a highlight reel of various builders reacting to Mammoth defeating Axe Backwards in one of the most unconventional ways possible. I think the surprise was more of a “holy shit this jerky rack with wheels actually won a fucking fight” and not so much a “wow look at that Axe Backwards lost again” expression. The brief spot about Mammoth is used as a segue to throw to coverage of a more proven “spinner” design, the full body spinner… which these days really ought to be described as a “shell spinner” because technically something like Nuts from Robot Wars is a literal “full body spinner”, but whatever. You still get what they mean.
Brian Nave has been competing with Team LOGICOM dating back to the original Comedy Central era of BattleBots and when the show originally ended he continued to run events in Florida under the name “Battle Beach” alongside Sean Irvin, builder of Ultimo Destructo. He’s been around the block more times than I can count and his weapon of choice has been the shell spinner since day one. Well… day two, Brian’s first robot “Dispose-All” was kind of a piece of shit and I think it’s because the robot was intended to be a shell spinner but maybe all the parts didn’t fit together the right way, but Brian still had a working drive platform so he just slapped a wedge on the front, called it a day, and lost his first (and only) fight before returning with Shrederator’s first iteration.
We get a good look at Captain Shrederator without its shell which is still kind of a bad view because there’s nothing to look at underneath it but you can see the single output gear that drives the robot’s massive weapon. A single output gear might seem kind of lame especially considering how Son of Whyachi has eight of the fuckers but what you can’t see here — and what’s most important — is this single output gear is actually connected to a much larger multi-motor gearbox tucked underneath Captain Shrederator’s inner armor. The robot is full of all sorts of little design quirks such as this which Brian explains further as he gets into things like kinetic energy and how he determines what direction to spin Captain Shrederator’s shell. He acknowledges that the design is not as effective today as it was nearly 20 years ago but he has faith in the design and believes it’s still a formidable option. Let’s just ignore the fact that Captain Shrederator has won only two fights in the past three seasons.
WAN HOO vs. CAPTAIN SHREDERATOR
This season more foreign teams than ever are competing in BattleBots. There’s actually two teams from China this year, though Weidong Qi and Team Gladiator get to claim credit as the first one on TV with their robot Wan Hoo. “Wan Hoo” is actually the Anglicized version of this robot’s name because in China you’re supposed to say the surname first. Really this robot is named “Hoo Wan” as in “hoo wan this fight?” I thought about not making this joke because it might seem inappropriate or something but Faruq literally dropped a reference to Chairman Mao in his introduction of this robot so I figured after that great leap forward I could do whatever the fuck I wanted and not draw any attention to myself. Wan Hoo packs a lot of power in a relatively minuscule chassis and the robot does all its talking with a pair of vertical discs mounted on its front end. Normally this robot comes outfitted with small wedges on either side of its weapon however for this fight they’ve been swapped out in favor of thick armor plates naturally to protect the robot from the full force of Captain Shrederator’s weapon. A “great wall”, if you will.
Before this episode even aired Captain Shrederator found itself in hot water with the BattleBots community. Remember last week when Cobalt gave SubZero a wedgie so bad that it nearly sliced the whole damn robot in half? SubZero was not originally intended to participate in that fight. Captain Shrederator was. Brian Nave had explained to the production team that there was a “certain team” that he did not wish to fight because he was concerned about the amount of spare parts he had on hand. Cobalt was that “certain team”. What isn’t really known about Captain Shrederator this year is that Team LOGICOM wasn’t exactly planning on coming to BattleBots. They were considered a “double alternate” which loosely translates to “don’t plan on showing up” and were instead focusing heavily on getting their other robot Tiger Claw ready for, ironically, season two of China’s King of Bots event. Chomp dropped out of BattleBots at the last minute which opened up a spot for Captain Shrederator, though Brian knew all of his resources were being put elsewhere. He explained to the crew that he had no issues with fighting Cobalt but if his robot was destroyed then that was going to be it and Captain Shrederator would likely forfeit all three of its next Fight Night battles. The BattleBots crew shopped around in the pits for someone to take Captain Shrederator’s place but understandably no one was dumb enough to say yes until they got to SubZero’s pit table and Jerry Clarkin said “sure I have enough spare parts let’s rock”. About 15 minutes later he realized the mistake he’d made once he was tasked with picking up air tanks in the arena that had been ripped out of his creation. Make what you wish of that situation, but for better or worse here’s this season’s debut of Captain Shrederator.
Before the fight Kenny mentioned Weidong had already won an event in China with one of his robots, though I’m guessing it wasn’t with Wan Hoo because this thing’s weapon doesn’t appear to be working and usually that’s kind of important to the whole “winning the fight” thing. Captain Shrederator is working just fine though and starts landing some glancing blows on Wan Hoo that do little more than push the robot away. One particularly gnarly blow sends Wan Hoo under the Pulverizer for a quick whack but Wan Hoo scurries away. I’m not yet ready to claim that Wan Hoo’s left side of drive is messed up because it looks like it does still work but for some reason the robot overall seems to not really be controllable at this point. Perhaps the front of the robot is scraping along the floor and hindering its movement? The hosts seem to agree. There’s a lot of activity from Wan Hoo’s wheels but it looks like the robot is unable to do much more than pivot around at its front while its wheels spin wildly. I thought I saw a brief puff of smoke come out of Wan Hoo a second ago but I know I’m not seeing things because Chris Rose points out the second one as it comes out of the left side of Wan Hoo’s chassis.
It goes without saying Wan Hoo’s weapon has done fuck all in this fight. Captain Shrederator, while functional, really hasn’t done much damage overall either though. Sure it’s landed some hits but I’m pretty sure Wan Hoo showed up to this fight already a mess. Maybe Wan Hoo’s team should’ve told the producers there was a “certain team” they didn’t want to fight. Captain Shrederator clips the left side of Wan Hoo and rips one of the armor plates off. Surprisingly this restores Wan Hoo’s mobility which lends credence to the idea that these armor panels were either scraping on the floor or fucked with the weight distribution of the robot. It still has no weapon, and I think I saw another wisp of smoke come out of it, but Wan Hoo is catching its second wind in this bout. After slamming into Captain Shrederator head on the two robots violently separate and when the dust settles the robot still moving around isn’t the one made of parts from AliExpress. I am of course referring to Captain Shrederator. Democracy is over. Much like in Fallout 3, America has fallen to the Chinese and I guess that now means if you’re lucky enough you might find a sweet ass Imperial sword laying around as rare loot in a dungeon.
I am extremely confused, and I don’t know what happened.
WINNER: Wan Hoo, KO
SCIENCE CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE
CHRONOS vs. GIGABYTE
This week’s Science Channel bonus is a battle that poses the question “what would happen if two shell spinners fought?” Chronos might not technically be a shell spinner, it’s a ring spinner (yes there’s a difference), but it’s answered the call to battle no less. Faruq might have been dropping names of artists in Gigabyte’s introduction but this thing is a work of art. With the exception of the ones that are stickers all of those little gears and things you see under the polycarbonate of Chronos’ lid are functional parts. Turning the ring by hand in the pits and watching all the gears move was pretty neat, this bot is like the world’s deadliest Spirograph. Unfortunately that raises the question of whether or not all of these gears are exactly necessary because each and every one of them are one more potential point of failure and a robot like Gigabyte seems like it might be powerful enough to, you know, break something. Just a gut feeling. Also while Chronos is unmistakably cool I have to express my disdain for the team’s edgy black and green attire because I’ve long since lost track of which of these people are involved with this robot or Moebius or whatever other teams there are who dress like they just got a gift card to Hot Topic.
Gigabyte’s team hasn’t let a battle go to a judges’ decision since 2009 if Chris’ factoid is to be believed. Don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a team who gets in and gets out, their old robot Invader held up the show for almost an hour when the piece of shit broke down and couldn’t be remotely disabled. John Mladenik and his team the Robotic Death Company have been busting things since the Comedy Central days of the sport and their flagship spinner Gigabyte (formerly and also known as Megabyte in other iterations) just might be best remembered for its battle against Tombstone last year where Gigabyte’s central mast turned to dust and the robot’s shell flew off of its mount. 2018 was a bad year for Gigabyte and so was 2016 if you want to lump Invader into this mess too but thankfully when your track record consists of stopping production for an hour and losing your entire fucking weapon the only place to go is up. Captain Shrederator already fucked it up for shell spinners this episode, hopefully China won’t strike again by proxy.
In a fight with two spinners it’s not uncommon to see both of them take a few seconds to get up to top speed since neither one is normally capable of both rushing its opponent and spinning its weapon up at the same time. Gigabyte looks good to go aside from a little shaking, Chronos on the other hand… I think I see what Chronos is trying to do — it’s spinning its ring one way while intentionally turning its chassis the other to get it up to speed faster — but it’s completely unstable. It’s hard to gauge whether or not Chronos is able to get its ring up to a meaningful speed before Gigabyte cruises in and starts whaling on it indiscriminately. After every hit Chronos tries to start spinning up and tries its trick to absolutely no avail and the end result appropriately looks an awful lot like Peter Griffin trying to travel through time. Yeah that was a Family Guy reference. I’ve been writing this fucking website for four years now and I’m running out of things to connect to. I promise I actually watch shows for smarter people, and no that’s not an implication that I watch Rick & Morty either. I said “smarter people”, not “Redditors”.
After a third smash Chronos finds itself thrown into the corner of the arena nearest to its driver who is still clicking things on his remote to see if he can make Chronos fight in a way that doesn’t suggest his robot isn’t a waste of time. Chronos starts to spin, reasonably now, but that might be due to the fact that it appears to have lost mobility so it couldn’t do its ineffective spin trick even if it wanted to. Gigabyte gets into a position to set this clock back a whole fucking day but the driver lets off on the gas and backs away when it becomes apparent that they’ve won the fight. Marilyn Manson feverishly dicks with his transmitter but this one’s over, Chronos is out.
WINNER: Gigabyte, KO
MINOTAUR vs. WHIPLASH
Once again Bite Force seems to be hiding from the cameras on account of being the reigning champion and instead we’re seeing the season debuts of all of the robots it trashed last year. None came closer to the Giant Nut than Minotaur however, last season’s runner-up. After a throwdown to last the ages the raging bull was dispatched by Bite Force and sent back to the drawing board. It’s hard to get a feel for what’s new on Minotaur this year because similar to competitors like Tombstone this robot has been around so long that its design has become a proven thing and it’s beyond the point where you’d see significant changes to its overall form. Minotaur, as a derivative of Team RioBotz’s Touro Maximus, has been around a very long time so the improvements and changes made to the robot are just small refinements now. Different wheels, stronger side panels that hopefully weren’t made in China this time, and the rollers on the robot’s ass are aluminum instead of plastic. It looks the same, but under the hood Minotaur’s tweaks and adjustments could be the difference between winning and losing and right now as it stands Team RioBotz is 0-1 going against Whiplash after a loss in 2017 at Robogames.
Much like Witch Doctor, Whiplash has also “already debuted” this season due to the Amazon re:MARS event. You might recall Whiplash winning a fight so maybe your memory has already hazed over but I should remind you that Whiplash only defeated Lock-Jaw because Lock-Jaw decided it was tired and stopped moving. Whiplash was getting shredded big time and in its following match against Bite Force it was decimated. Now I know chronologically the Amazon event happened after the season we’re watching right now, but god damn if Whiplash’s performance at that thing is any indication of what’s to come this year we just might see Minotaur blow this thing to fucking bits in a single hit. Overall Whiplash is about the same robot except Jeff Vasquez just felt crazy one day and slid the color hue slider to the left while looking at Whiplash’s CAD drawings. Whiplash being painted yellow instead of red also comes with the added benefit of not letting Minotaur see it. It’s still the four-wheeled behemoth whose spinning disc is mounted on a lifting arm and while that weapon arrangement might sound stupid this is a robot that made it all the way to the semifinals last season. It’s about driving and with Matt Vasquez behind the wheel Whiplash might be capable of tripping up the bull.
Both bots lock heads in the red square as Minotaur hangs back to try and spin its drum up to speed, though curiously it seems that there might be something wrong with it already. Minotaur’s drum is turning but it takes no effort from Whiplash to stop it, it’s pretty much the classic case of “it’s spinning but there’s no bite behind it”. Unless there’s something Daniel Freitas can do from his end on the robot’s transmitter Minotaur is probably fucked because Whiplash doubles as a control bot and Matt Vasquez is literally driving circles around his opponent right now. Whiplash seems to be having some problems landing a hit with its disc but that seems to be more of an issue of geometry and not because the weapon itself is dead. Minotaur has two little wedgelets on its front that are doing a better job of getting underneath Whiplash and defeating Whiplash’s own plows and lifting forks. Unfortunately in order for Whiplash’s disc to connect with an opponent it kind of needs to get those forks under someone. You can sort of see Whiplash attempting to either grapple with Minotaur or try and hit it with the bottom of its lifting arm but due to Minotaur’s shape it’s able to avoid the disc. In layman’s terms we’re getting a whole lot of fucking nothing right now but each robot is managing to somewhat hold its own and keep control of the battle even.
Whiplash arguably has the upper hand because it’s still fully functional, though after what looks like a really shitty head-on collision with Minotaur the drivers start to exclaim that they’ve lost the use of their lifting arm. Thankfully the disc looks to still be operational but the other side of that coin is Whiplash has fucking sucked in the “getting underneath Minotaur” department for this battle. Despite having a ripping disc and four-wheel drive Whiplash is carefully shoved into the Pulverizer as Minotaur genuinely starts turning the tables on this battle. For a robot with only two wheels Minotaur is staying in Whiplash’s face and locking the robots together without showing any sign of letting up. Minotaur is faintly smoking but I think that might actually be the robot literally burning rubber as it spins its wheels to push against Whiplash. After a fair bit of chasing it’s Whiplash that starts to break down once the roles in the fight flip yet again. Minotaur is in Whiplash’s grip and as the drum spinner gets pushed closer and closer to the Pulverizer Matt starts shouting “hammer” which lets us know that nobody on that entire goddamned team is manning the hazards. Jason splits from the action and starts mashing the buttons resulting in a couple of decisive blows and this power play may just be the determining factor in this fight because this match between two powerhouses turned into a real potato fight almost immediately.
The smoke coming from Whiplash looks to be related to its weapon because the smoke appears to only come out as the robot tries to spin its weapon so as the match dies down Whiplash selectively revs its disc up presumably to show to the judges that it “still works” even though running it at full capacity would probably cause the robot to join Texas Twister and Witch Doctor on the list of robots in this episode who’ve completely shit the bed when they were probably winning. The judges turn in a decision for Whiplash, a unanimous one at that, and my best guess as to how it was scored this way comes down to how the rules define “damage”. Because this is all about the primary weapon, and because Whiplash landed a few hits with its lifting arm, my guess is all 3 points from each judge went to Whiplash. That leaves 4 points for aggression and control and I’d assume those were split 50/50 here. The end result any way you slice it leaves Whiplash as the winner. The fight may have been total shit, but Team RioBotz is now 0-2 against Matt Vasquez and his team.
WINNER: Whiplash, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
With two episodes down I think it’s safe to say that we’re already looking at… a season. Half of the robots who won fights in this week’s episode did so while on fire and that’s just fucking crazy. If Texas Twister can stop imitating the actual state of Texas (being on fire all the time) it might actually be a contender? Like I said I’m getting flashbacks to the glory days of Surgeon General and the way Texas Twister just busted open the top of Black Dragon isn’t something to be ignored. That said, we didn’t get to really see anything from Black Dragon so assuming there’s a robot left to repair hopefully Round 2 is nicer to it. I’m not so sure I’m sold on Mammoth yet but maybe if it comes back with a tire swing in its next fight it’ll convince me. Despite losing Shatter seems impressive at least in the way of maneuverability. We really haven’t seen something like that in BattleBots in a while so if Adam Wrigley can get it “dialed in” maybe it’ll pop some holes in whoever it’s drawn against next. I don’t know how you “dial in” a robot that can drive sideways, Chris and Kenny just keep saying that phrase so I’m imitating them to sound cool. The less said about Minotaur and Whiplash the better, though. I don’t know what the fuck was going on there but I’m hoping both seems can rebound from that and come back at 100%.
For some reason I’ve noticed that a couple of fights have been borrowed from taping session #3 and were dropped into episodes 1 and 2. I’m not sure what that means for the content of episode 3, because now its corresponding taping session is missing two fights, but I guess we’ll see how it goes. A couple of battles have already been skipped over but they were relatively lame, though this week the editors did double back and include Duck vs. Bombshell so who knows we may still see some of these skipped matches in a future episode. In any case BattleBots has consistently posted unaired fights to their YouTube channel after each season so even if these don’t make it to air we’ll probably still see them.
As always thanks for hanging out this week. I really only ever post links to new articles now but if you want notifications be sure to follow BattleBots Update on Facebook. If you’d like to help pay the bills around here you can do so with a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time tip through PayPal. Special thanks to Alex L. and John M. for their contributions via those avenues respectively. John specifically commented that he appreciated my Chernobyl jokes in the previous article, though he missed the opportunity to just send me $3.68 with the comment “not great but not terrible either”.