[BattleBots: S9 E6 is available through the Discovery GO app with a cable subscription package.]
Welcome back to BattleBots Update. According to my WordPress dashboard this is the 93rd article I’ve written and posted to the website and I think I’m just as skilled at opening these posts as I was when I rebooted this project in 2015. That’s a roundabout way of saying “I still suck at it”. At one point in my life I tried giving a shit about “writing content for online audiences” so I know about things like having a strong opening sentence or paragraph and all of this other bullshit that doesn’t really matter. I’m selling you guys on my humor and my ability to do things like refer to the weaponry of robots like Jasper as “Buzz Lightyear sexual torture devices”. That’s a hell of a Google search team. Index that one you assholes. It doesn’t matter how I open these articles, you guys are just here to see me call Chris Rose a bonehead as he refers to Kenny Florian as “The Terminator” and Kenny responds by saying he likes to terminate ice cream these days. Yeah well I’m going to terminate that analogy bud because you don’t have the body of someone who terminates ice cream. I should know this, because I do.
Last week saw some surprising outcomes in the way of Fight Night performances. Minotaur has managed to lose both of its opening qualification rounds (of which the team will only get four) so it’s at 0-2 with bots like Bombshell and End Game. Depending on who you ask those might also be surprising bots to see at that performance. This week Bronco’s team finally found a fucking parking spot or whatever because the legendary flipper is back in this episode’s main event against reigning champion Bite Force. Bronco has been compared to Team Whyachi’s Hydra quite a few times this season and speak of the devil Hydra is back to do battle with War Hawk. There’s also a handful of robots we’ve only seen a little bit of this year like Hypershock and Valkyrie so I’m just excited to see some of these guys again. The only newcomer debuting in this episode is Sidewinder and… well, we’ll get to that mess of a robot in a few. But first, here’s Future Bronco.
HYDRA vs. WAR HAWK
Warrior was a robot from Team Whyachi that was cursed to walk this earth for all eternity as its battered and beaten carcass was Frankensteined back together over and over again. This was seriously some Greek mythology shit. It ultimately took Warhead to break the curse last season and put Warrior to rest at the expense of its own iconic weapon. With Warrior finally gone Team Whyachi were afforded the ability to better diversify their efforts in BattleBots. Son of Whyachi continues to compete — and is 1-1 right now — but Jake Ewert and Richard “The Dick” Stuplich broke off to pursue something truly unique: a hydraulic flipper. That sounds like some ridiculous shit that wouldn’t work at all, but it does. Just ask Free Shipping who was temporarily transformed into an Amazon drone when Hydra continued to throw it through the air until it broke down. Inspiration can be found in the craziest of places and legend has it that the idea for Hydra’s soda can-sized liquid chamber came about from Jake shotgunning an entire Mountain Dew in between rounds of Halo.
Last year War Hawk somehow made it into the Round of 16 with only like two-thirds of a working drive system. The robot’s surprisingly deep run was 50% dumb luck and 50% Rob Farrow being experienced enough in the sport to know how to handle the wonderful mess of a robot he somehow ended up with. 2018’s War Hawk was a ramshackle affair made with secondhand parts and it was obvious but this year Rob and his team have seriously invested themselves in their machine and War Hawk returns to BattleBots sporting a design that uses brushless motors exclusively. I haven’t talked about these a whole lot over the years but I hope the difference between a brushed and a brushless motor is obvious by their names. Brushless motors generally yield a higher output than their older counterparts at the risk of being a lot easier to piss off and accidentally damage. It’s like choosing the motorcycle in Twisted Metal, you’re going to have the potential to do some damage but if someone else so much as farts on you you’re probably dead. So far this has worked out for War Hawk, its first battle was against Petunia and even though the match was pretty boring War Hawk won by KO.
Hydra goes all in at the start of the battle and this is a pretty ballsy move. I know Jake’s pre-fight tough talk consisted mostly of him saying he didn’t want to fuck up his robot’s paint job but you can’t just come at something like War Hawk head-on like that. If War Hawk would’ve landed a hit right there then I’m absolutely positive Chris and Kenny would’ve had a prop to hold onto in the hosting segment after the battle. War Hawk misses, but so does Hydra. War Stop, the minibot, gives Hydra a surprise rimjob and this is enough to disrupt the maneuverability of the robot to allow War Hawk to presumably fuck up Hydra’s paint job. Richard starts to freak out from the sidelines telling Jake to “go for the little one” but Jake has his eyes set on the bigger prize. He knows what’s up, and that would be War Hawk. Literally. War Hawk gets heaved into the air and lands hard on its front corner. War Stop tries to run interference again and it looks like there’s a piece of a chain or something on the floor but I don’t know if it’s from anyone in this fight or if the clean-up crew missed something from the last one. Still, that landing had to fucking hurt.
It’s a safe bet that Hydra is ahead right now but Jake’s gotta focus on not getting a big dick about things in the heat of the moment. He’s already got one Dick on his team as it is. War Hawk manages to tear up the front left corner of Hydra as the robots collide again. Despite being thrown through the air once more War Hawk is still collecting some points of its own in these exchanges. Hydra’s flips might be impressive but the showing is sloppy overall. “Eating pussy like a watermelon”, I think, is the term here. War Hawk is now upside down and narrowly misses the Pulverizer. Chris Rose says he has questions and needs an answer. Somewhere, the ghost of RadioShack weeps. Hydra positions itself behind War Hawk and lets loose another flip and this time hits the goddamned jackpot. You may have noticed Martin Mason on War Hawk’s team. He’s the guy who put together Mad Catter, you know, the robot that was busted in two by RailGun Max a couple weeks ago. He must’ve had a hand in the construction of War Hawk as well because rather than get launched through the air War Hawk’s left side of drive detaches from its chassis and gets thrown instead.
War Hawk’s detached drive pod is still somehow mobile but the chaos isn’t over just yet. Hydra’s already won this battle but Jake decides it’s time to go “Full Mason” and with another flip dislodges the other drive pod from its opponent. War Hawk has now been broken apart into three distinct pieces, all of them total shit. War Hawk’s current status is what would happen if you kicked the Power Rangers Megazord in the dick hard enough to blow it apart. What’s the benefit of building something like War Hawk? I’m assuming it makes repairing the robot easier or something because you can just detach a drive pod and swap it out with a new one… but then you run the risk of shit like this happening. Also everything here seems to have its own self-contained circuitry and even a fucking radio receiver because both of War Hawk’s drive pods are still twitching and even its fucking weapon module is also still alive. None of these pieces on their own pose any sort of threat whatsoever (and I guess they kind of didn’t when they were fully assembled either). This shit’s too complicated. No wonder you fucking lost, War Hawk.
WINNER: Hydra, KO
SIDEWINDER vs. SKORPIOS
Sidewinder. This fucking thing. Chris Rose describes Sidewinder as the possible lovechild of Tombstone and Free Shipping. Yeah, if they were related. Sidewinder’s design looks like whoever made the CAD drawing wasn’t aware there was an “undo” button. This robot is the physical embodiment of mis-clicking one of the menu options in that terrible BattleBots game that was released for Game Boy Advance 15 years ago and accidentally sticking your weapon on sideways and just having to run with it because you fucked up and can’t fix it. Sidewinder’s weapon is a horizontal blade but the gimmick here is it’s mounted on the left side of the robot instead of being front and center. There’s a wedge in the front rather than the weapon. Even though I’m talking shit I “get” Sidewinder’s design; it’s all about flanking the opponent and being able to land hits as you drive past someone instead of into them. Sidewinder is firmly in the same category of robots like Huge where their designs seem too stupid to work but actually do work. Case in point, Sidewinder has beaten someone. By KO. Care to guess who? Parallax! Remember that? It’s well on its way to having none of its fights aired again this year if the damn thing is losing to shit like Sidewinder.
Both of these robots are 1-0 right now. I can’t believe I’m saying that. But Skorpios is an easier pill to swallow because this robot managed to redeem itself from its rocky debut a few years ago and has been nothing short of impressive. It’s not the best robot here but it’s consistent and no matter if it’s Orion Beach or Zach Lytle at the helm Skorpios is a difficult opponent to handle. If I were Billy Mays I’d say something like “the secret is in the unique dustpan scoop technology” because really that’s the key thing here: Skorpios wins because it takes control of its opponents and prevents them from getting away. Once Skorpios has you hooked on its barbed wedge it brings down its arm which has a moderately powerful spinning disc on its end. Think of it like Whiplash except backwards. Skorpios managed to batter Copperhead into submission earlier this season and at the recent Amazon exhibition event Skorpios beat both of its opponents. It might not seem it, but you’re looking at one of the true underdogs here.
Before the fight Zach says his strategy is going to be to come at Sidewinder from the side its weapon is on in order to lure Sidewinder into pointing its weapon at the wall. Zach attempts this but the plan doesn’t work as expected because Sidewinder instead just turns all the way around. Depending on how experienced you are with driving a combat robot Sidewinder’s maneuverability is either “like a semi truck” or “like a robot with about 10% charge left in its batteries”. Sidewinder is only effective when it’s about two feet to the right of its opponent and Skorpios isn’t going to let Sidewinder achieve that awkward distance. Zach also said his plan was to bust up Sidewinder’s weaponry and I doubted that was going to happen until sure enough Skorpios takes a bite out of Sidewinder and Sidewinder’s weapon just fucking explodes. There’s a lot of multi-level marketing scams in the state Sidewinder is from so I guess this is what happens when you fund a robot entirely by selling Melaleuca and Lularoe to people on Facebook. Yeah, both of those are actual company names. That’s what happens when you run so many scams that you run out of fucking words to name things.
Most robots with spinning weapons use one or two belts to run their weapons, usually one if we’re talking about a chain. I don’t know what the fuck is going on with Sidewinder but there is a mess of belt spaghetti flailing out of this robot’s gaping wound and by my count there has got to be at least a half-dozen of these goddamned belts dangling around now. Is there an MLM for low quality V-belts too? Where its spinner once was Sidewinder is now armed with a jump rope and Skorpios just keeps going in for more. I’d be concerned that one of those belts would get sucked into the disc but I guess Zach knows better than I do because he carves off a piece of Sidewinder’s ass and starts pulling apart the front right corner with two consecutive hits that are scarily accurate. Sidewinder gets corralled into the side of the arena and the cameras cut to Josh Coates who does his best impression of Al Kindle and asks if Skorpios is going to let go. Hang on, Sidewinder might get another win to its name because I’m about to die from fucking laughter.
Chris reminds us that a “sidewinder” is a kind of snake and says the robot looks like one with all of its guts trailing around behind it. I don’t think this man has ever seen a snake before. Sidewinder’s driver believes he’s still got a chance in this fight and you can kind of tell he’s trying to find an advantageous position but unfortunately when you build a robot as clumsy as Sidewinder you tend not to get a lot of options when shit starts to break. Skorpios chases its opponent down and karate chops its lid hard enough to cause smoke to start emanating from everywhere there’s a hole on the robot. Sidewinder is still moving so I guess it’s fair game. Skorpios shoves it under the Pulverizer for nearly a dozen straight blows from the hazard and follows that up by literally pulling the robot’s face off. Doesn’t matter what you considered Sidewinder’s weapon to be, now it has none. There are now batteries and all kinds of shit hanging out of the shotgun murder scene that is Sidewinder’s face but somehow this goddamned robot refuses to die. It takes a combination of these batteries getting shredded and Sidewinder becoming stuck on its own parts to finally kill this machine.
Hope you’ve got an essential oil for that because god damn.
WINNER: Skorpios, KO
VALKYRIE vs. RAGNAROK
More often than not we’ve been in the middle of the period where robots who are 1-0 start picking each other apart to find out who gets to keep their budding perfect record. Now we’re seeing the other side of that coin with a couple of robots at 0-1 who just want to put some points on the board. No matter the outcome of this fight one of these two robots will get to hang out with Bombshell in the Loser Zone and help it clean up the mess left by Minotaur when it flipped over the snack table in an angry rage. Valkyrie isn’t that bad of a robot. I would say it’s probably in that same weird middle ground as Skorpios where its performance is wholly dependent upon who it gets drawn to fight. In this case since we have an obvious “battle of the gods” or whatever on our hands I think Valkyrie might have the edge because there’s a ton of surface area on Ragnarok to strike. Also Ragnarok doesn’t have a nightmarishly fast blade that’ll slice entire armor panels off like Hypershock did.
Ragnarok is captained by Tim Rackers (or Rackley depending on who you ask I guess) and its team is comprised of one half of Monsoon’s old crew plus the guy who brought Vanquish last year. Outside of BattleBots Tim competed in Robot Wars with a drum spinner that reached one of the Grand Finals so you know the guy is good for a solid run or two. So far, Ragnarok has been less than impressive. It’s only fight this season was against Monsoon ironically and the battle was over in one hit when Monsoon flipped Ragnarok over and the robot simply seized up. Everyone gets one mulligan to iron out the kinks though, but if Ragnarok screws up again I genuinely don’t think the robot stands a chance at coming back. I can tell you nothing about this robot because it died so quickly. It didn’t get to land any hits with its axe and we’ve barely seen any B-roll of it. For all I know the damn thing can’t even slice a hot dog. Or whatever they call hot dogs in Britain. “American wieners”?
Let me break down the first hit of this fight because there’s a lot that happens in the span of maybe two seconds. Valkyrie doesn’t leave its starting square and instead takes this time to build up as much speed in its weapon as possible while Ragnarok approaches. Ragnarok’s front end is nothing but wedge so as Valkyrie’s disc connects with this chunk of armor the disc is naturally deflected upward. In the process of this happening Valkyrie somehow hooks the tooth on its weapon disc straight into the little notch in Ragnarok’s armor where its axe rests. Not only does this hit immediately destroy Ragnarok’s weaponry it also has the power to cut off Chris Rose’s voiceover and replace it with his “OH MY GOD” sound bite. The hit appears to have also completely killed Ragnarok — again — so it can’t even continue to fight as a heavily armored wedge. Valkyrie is now upside down and as we’ve seen already once this happens the robot becomes nearly impossible to drive. It takes almost ten goddamned seconds for the robot’s operator to regain control of the robot to hit Ragnarok a second time.
That’s it. There’s nothing left to say about this battle other than that we still haven’t seen Ragnarok come anywhere close to hitting something with its axe or put up anything close to a fight in either of its battles. I know just as much about this robot right now as I did before the season started and the only knowledge I’ve actually gained is that maybe Tim should’ve just brought Concussion over from Robot Wars instead. Tim is at least in good spirits though, as good of spirits as one can be after back to back one hit KO losses.
WINNER: Valkyrie, KO
ARE WE THERE YETI?
Yeti is coming up in the next battle and it’s one of the many robots who weren’t able to start their season off on the right foot but unlike the others Yeti’s excuse is that it was beaten by Bite Force. Even the reigning champion has to start out in the qualification rounds just like everyone else and four competitors are probably going to get their asses beat in the process. Yeti was simply the first. (And Bronco could possibly be the next?) Let’s be real for a second here, Yeti probably brought Bite Force the closest it’s been to losing since maybe last year’s championship finals against Minotaur. Yeti was stabbing its forks wherever it could find purchase and very nearly clipped Bite Force’s weapon chain in this manner. Yeti also landed a blow to Bite Force’s front left corner that severely hindered the champ’s movement and toward the end of the battle you could tell Bite Force was on the ropes. Had Yeti not been flipped over onto its broken lifters by that hit we absolutely would have seen a different outcome. Greg Gibson’s got nothing to be ashamed of because even though Bite Force still has the bigger dick Yeti’s is only like a centimeter shorter.
Although Yeti’s forks helped make its first battle a lot closer than it could’ve been otherwise they also served to disorient the bot when it became inverted. The forks were ruined in that fight and as Greg took Yeti back to the pits he made up his mind that they weren’t worth repairing or replacing. Yeti has always had that lifter but it’s something that has laughed in the face of Greg’s philosophy to just smash everything. They are perhaps a vestige of a more strategic design feature that Greg never fully realized and it’s time to let go. He’s only got the drum now and without the added weight of the lifting arms he can afford to use Yeti’s “big ass fuck off drum” (actual technical name according to its patent forms) and probably even some extra armor. But right now? Greg’s gotta make up for lost time. He isn’t adding extra armor for his battle with Free Shipping; Greg tells Jenny that he’s added a third fucking weapon motor to Yeti’s drum because I guess he just really wants to erase Free Shipping from history. Is it overkill? Yes. Am I excited? Abso-fucking-lutely.
The only drawback I can see from this point onward is all of the B-roll the editors have of Greg acting cool feature him holding one of Yeti’s lifters. Whoops.
FREE SHIPPING vs. YETI
So many of the robots featured in this week’s episode also feature the robots they’ve lost to elsewhere in it. Take Free Shipping for example. This robot lost to Hydra in its first match and it just so happens Hydra kicked this episode off by sinking a three pointer with War Hawk… by way of breaking the robot into three pieces and making a free throw with each one. How do you compete with something like that? Free Shipping is yet another 0-1 robot that was dealt a bad hand and Gary Gin is looking to course correct and deliver the pain to Yeti. Like a lot of robots Free Shipping is another one of those unknown-ish competitors with varying performances and in these first couple battles of the season each of them are making a name for themselves for the year. Not everyone can advance onward, but I wouldn’t think less of you for putting stock in the robot that’s basically a former Robogames champion with a Groucho Marx disguise on. This is a forklift only in spirit, Gary’s done fucking around. There is no longer any effort to hide Free Shipping’s true identity, Kenny straight up refers to it as “Original Sin”.
A few minutes ago Jenny Taft had a chat with Greg Gibson about Yeti where Greg said he was making some important executive decisions regarding his robot. He went toe to toe with Paul Ventimiglia and Bite Force and very nearly came out ahead and he would have had it not been for his robot’s shitty lifting arms getting blown back and broken which wound up hindering Yeti’s movement in the end. He almost beat Bite Force in the opening round of the season. I can’t imagine how pissed off Greg was when that happened but I guess he was pissed off enough to strip Yeti apart, throw its lifting arms into the fucking dumpster, and stick a third goddamned weapon motor into the robot. I don’t even know if Gary Gin is aware of what has happened to Yeti in between this fight and its previous one but if he’s not careful Free Shipping is about to get punched so hard that it’ll transform into a neatly organized stack of unmilled aluminum billet and electronics still in their original packaging.
Within seconds Yeti manages to chew up one of Free Shipping’s front tires. Before the fight started Gary mentioned Yeti’s ability to lift its drum up and down but I think he’s realized that isn’t the strategy anymore. There are no more lifters and there is no strategy, according to Greg. Yeti starts getting purchase on whatever part of Free Shipping is closest regardless of whether or not it can shoot flames. What’s Free Shipping going to do, melt Yeti? Chris says Yeti is struggling to do damage. Chris, it’s been fifteen seconds since the start of the fight. It’s too bad Kenny Florian said “bar brawler” enough times in Yeti’s last fight to get it out of his system because that’s really the case right now. Yeti locks heads with Free Shipping and gets shoved into the wall, however this move by Free Shipping comes at the cost of Yeti chewing up its face. It’s hard to tell what’s actually being damaged because of all the showy fire but when Gary lets off on the trigger it appears as though one of Free Shipping’s flamethrowers is bent up meaning the robot is dangerously close to going from “on fire for fun” to “on fire for real”.
But maybe a third motor for Yeti was a bad idea? Free Shipping up to this point has been absorbing damage and while it might be behind on points in that department it’s probably ahead overall when you factor in points for things such as being in control of the fight. Yeti’s drum is just grinding on its opponent without getting those big hits you’d expect to see from that kind of weapon. Hell, the last time Yeti fought we had this segment featuring Greg where he said you’ve gotta plow into your opponent to deliver the inertia. He’s trying to do exactly that and Yeti is still giving him nothing and I don’t know if it’s because the drum is too powerful to actually get the bite it needs. Faster isn’t always better, Jenny did the math last time! Okay she probably didn’t but someone else did and she spelled it out that Yeti doesn’t have the fastest drum but it hits the hardest. Greg, you’re fucking it up and the pop-up tent on top of Yeti that’s there to make room for the extra motor is ruining the robot’s maneuverability.
Yeti finally clips off one of Free Shipping’s upper orange armor things but this damage was the result of an attack initiated by Free Shipping so I have no idea who gets the points here. Initially I thought Free Shipping hid its flamethrower parts under these covers but it looks like this one was covering the lifting mechanism and Jesus fucking Christ do you have enough gears in there? The last time I saw that many gears on a robot Deviled Egg was in the arena and that’s purely because that piece of shit was a steampunk design nightmare. How has this thing not fucking broken yet? Actually… maybe it has broken. Free Shipping crashes into the wall carrying Yeti with it and its lifting arm bracket is clearly busted to some degree… and if it wasn’t then it sure as fuck is now because Yeti’s drum comes crashing down on top of the mechanism and the end result is like tossing a Lego model into an open box fan. For a while now people have been saying “Free Shipping is just Original Sin with some extra shit bolted down on top of it” and in case you thought those people were just being shitheads we now have video proof that they were correct.
This is a major hit for Yeti but you may have noticed one of its rear tires had split earlier and was just barely hanging onto its rim. The robot might have People’s Elbowed its opponent’s weapon to bits but that damaged wheel fell off in the process. Normally I’d say something like this would be boo-koo points for Free Shipping but in a matter of seconds Yeti makes it even and grinds one of Free Shipping’s wheels to the point where it also pops off of its hub. Kenny describes this as “vintage Yeti” and given how Yeti is driving around like a plane about to smash into a fucking mountain I’d have to agree. Yeti drives into the Killsaws perpendicularly to their mounting and probably breaks the fucking things for all I know, then does it again a second time for good measure. Both robots are still mostly functional as the buzzer sounds but you can tell neither of them would’ve made it another minute. The verdict turns out unanimous for Yeti and it’s gotta be for damage and aggression alone because Free Shipping looks like someone tried to cover up a murder by running the body through a paper shredder a few times and gave up.
WINNER: Yeti, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
GRUFF vs. COPPERHEAD
Making its second appearance this season we have Gruff who holds the distinction of being the winner of the only rumble that’s been aired so far this season. They’ve run other rumbles but looking back at the notes I took at the event most of them were total goddamned disasters. The rumbles seemed to be used as makeshift “proving grounds” for either brand new robots or returning competitors who don’t have the best track records. Gruff fell into the category of “brand new robots” (as far as BattleBots is concerned) and ran a train on both Marvin and Gemini. Gruff’s lifter might not be the most spectacular weapon in the world but it’s got the muscle to lift and clamp and netted Sam McAmis a win in his robot’s debut fight at BattleBots. But still, that was a fight against Marvin, a hunk of metal with a weapon that blew apart, and Gemini who’s a robot that’s been here for three seasons now and nobody seems to know what the fuck to do with it. Going up against Copperhead will be Gruff’s first real test.
Sam and his teammates seem to think their lifting forks will work just fine against Copperhead, but Copperhead’s builder Zach Goff has other opinions. He’s convinced Copperhead will be able to bust Gruff’s lifter apart without any issues at all and he even goes as far as to say he’ll dial things back a little bit at first so that there will be an actual fight for the crowd to enjoy before he goes in for the kill and decimates Gruff. That’s some tall talk coming from the guy who doesn’t have a win this year yet. Copperhead looks menacing and it belongs to that “species” of robot armed with a vertical spinner and kept as compact as possible so it’s like a solid brick of metal that can’t be damaged. Minotaur and Falcon also belong to that category of robots and if you add Copperhead to the list these three machines have a combined record this year of 0-4. “They suck ass”, to put it into technical terms.
First things first, in the argument of who was correct regarding the durability of Gruff’s lifting forks it appears it was Zach; Gruff goes in for a lift and when that doesn’t work it tries to clamp and as its lifters grip down on Copperhead’s drum the right fork gets bent sideways at an angle. Case closed, I guess. This doesn’t render Gruff’s weaponry completely useless but it does severely limit it’s effectiveness overall. Luckily for Gruff there’s a lot of surface area on Copperhead to take advantage of and because the robot seems to not give a shit about driving straight at Copperhead’s weapon there’s still miles of ground clearance where even its bent up forks can still find an advantage. This is only ten seconds into the fight, by the way. Gruff lights its flamethrower for no real reason and Copperhead catches its chassis from the side, tipping the dragon(?) over before hitting it a second time and nearly flipping it all the way onto its back.
It’s safe to say Copperhead is already ahead on points in every category early on but this initial lead starts to waver when Gruff manages to put Copperhead into the wall. Those forks might be fucked but whatever is powering them is a-ok and the curved backside of Copperhead is just asking for an easy grope. This one lift turns out to be a huge pain in the ass for Copperhead because it fights to get down from the wall for several seconds all while Gruff is content to keep ramming into it and picking it up. Chris is obsessed with thinking robots are always going to be thrown out of the arena and that happens far too infrequently for him to be this fucking excited about it. Yeah, Mammoth threw Axe Backwards out of the arena but that was because the battle was a geometry match made in heaven; Gruff isn’t throwing anyone out of the arena, it’s just going to slam Copperhead into the wall until it gets stuck or to just rack up as much clout with the judges as it can. Copperhead may have landed those few big blows in the starting seconds of this fight but right now Gruff is taking the lead because it appears whatever weird maneuverability problems Copperhead had in its previous battle might be back again.
Gruff remembers it has a flamethrower and lets loose a jet engine’s worth of heat on Copperhead’s left wheel. When Sam said he was going to “melt” his opponent I just assumed he was exaggerating because everyone and their grandmother have a goddamned flamethrower these days and most of them are bullshit attachments that are only there so there’s a better chance one of the event photographers will take a picture of their miserable fucking robot. But no, Gruff is literally packing heat here and I don’t know how the team managed to do that because you can only have butane and propane as fuel. Do they make high octane propane or something? Or is that just a joke from King of the Hill? Whatever the case Rob Cowan, the guy driving Copperhead, seems afraid of the fire because he drops a no-no word and the network doesn’t blur his mouth out because his beard is already obscuring it well enough. When this transaction of fire ends Copperhead’s left wheel is literally smoking.
Copperhead just can’t stay in its proper orientation, either Gruff keeps rolling it over or the robot turns too sharply and starts to pull itself upward which just affords Gruff the opportunity to come in again and start picking it up. Now that Gruff’s flamethrower is in operation being stuck on its ass is not the place Copperhead wants to be. I know a flamethrower works best when the fire is focused onto a certain point but Gruff is just hitting Copperhead anywhere it can and you can see Copperhead’s team collectively freaking the fuck out about it. The fight clock appears on screen to note the midway point of the battle and as this happens Copperhead catches Gruff’s front wedge and violently pops the robot up into the air. The hit breaks one of Gruff’s decorative lights and it may have also damaged the drive system on that corner of the robot as well. If not, the hit Copperhead lands a few seconds later that nearly flips Gruff over sure as shit does.
Gruff starts fighting to drive in a straight line while Copperhead continues its ongoing fight with physics to try and say on its wheels. One of Copperhead’s teammates warns the driver about the Killsaws a split second before the robot drives over them and freaks the fuck out. Meanwhile, Gruff starts to smoke and going by the volume and thickness of the smoke it looks to be a battery fire. Either there’s a good redundancy system inside of Gruff or these batteries went to the lifting arm because the robot is still mobile… well, as mobile as it can be with a busted drive system that is. Copperhead is on its ass again and keeps trying to “Minotaur dance” its way onto its wheels which seems like all it’s done for at least half the fucking match. The clock runs down on this one and the verdict returned is a split decision which really isn’t much of a surprise. Copperhead gets the nod and it’s gotta be due to the quality of hits as opposed to the sheer volume. Gruff was all over Copperhead like a blanket made out of fists but on the few occasions where Copperhead landed a blow of its own Gruff was thrown through the air and something either broke or got damaged every single time.
But anyways Zach, what was that about toning things down so there’d be “a fight” for the audience to have time to enjoy?
WINNER: Copperhead, Judges’ Decision (2-1)
HYPERSHOCK vs. MONSOON
Chris Rose says it best when it remarks that Hypershock has had a roller coaster of a career in BattleBots. It’s easy to forget that this robot very nearly beat Bite Force in 2015 and absolutely obliterated Ultraviolent the following year when the only replays we get of this machine is that shit with the rake and all the times it broke down last season. Will Bales and his team have moved beyond the rake meme; they want their robot to make the comeback they know is just under the surface. After a rocky KO win over Valkyrie earlier this season a sentimental Will shared his excitement with Jenny in the pits regarding his chances at the title this year. The fun is definitely still there — Hypershock still looks like it should be accompanied with the tagline “TYCO! THAT’S HOW YOU SPELL R.C.!” — but the upgrades made to this robot have given it a noticeably more streamlined look. Those changes seem to be working though because Hypershock socked Valkyrie in the face in less than two seconds and blew off an entire armor panel from its opponent in the process.
Monsoon has also gotten its season off to a good start with a quick KO of its own, though unlike Hypershock this robot didn’t start casually breaking down after the killing blow was dealt. Monsoon sank Ragnarok in a single blow and in an ironic turn of events Valkyrie and Ragnarok wound up meeting each other and Ragnarok got busted open a second time. Monsoon’s cleaver is very similar to Hypershock’s so this battle is going to come down to driving and whoever manages to hit their opponent’s soft parts first. Hypershock has the stability afforded by its four-wheel drive but Monsoon has its unique pivoting chassis that just might diffuse some of the impact from Hypershock’s blade should it take a hit. Like I said this is all up in the air right now and both of these machines have demonstrated they’ve got what it takes to cripple someone in just one shot. Also, making me choose between Tom Brewster and Will Bales isn’t fair.
I don’t know how long Hypershock’s weapon takes to get going but Tom said he needed eight seconds for Monsoon’s blade to reach top speed. Unfortunately for Tom this rodeo doesn’t have a bull, it’s got a neon yellow RC car of death and almost instantly Hypershock is in Monsoon’s face. Monsoon discharges the kinetic energy it’s managed to build up but the hit doesn’t seem to do much. As Hypershock plows into the front corner of Monsoon the chassis articulation I mentioned comes into play and it almost seems like Monsoon’s pivoting manages to negate the worst of Hypershock’s onslaught, but then I heard a very distinct (and loud) metallic clink. Something just came off of someone and I have no clue what it was but as Hypershock floors it across the Battlebox with Monsoon in tail there’s a piece of something that looks like it’s fallen off of Monsoon. Maybe a small panel or something like that.
Monsoon seems to still be running but as Hypershock slices into its backside Monsoon does a front flip and when its blade catches the floor you can see its weapon belt snap and fall off. In the arms race of this battle, Monsoon is completely fucked. But I may have spoken too soon, though. Not in the way of Monsoon being down for the count but rather my usage of the term “completely fucked”. You see, as Hypershock continues to cut up the rear end of Monsoon it catches something very important: the pivoting point where Monsoon’s weapon bracket connects to its chassis. Maybe the clink we heard earlier was a pin or something falling out because when Hypershock strikes the bracket of Monsoon the entire fucking thing falls out of the robot. The whole goddamned thing. Something inside of Monsoon’s ass also briefly blows up but by this point the cameras have cut to Tom who seems more surprised than upset about the ordeal.
Despite losing its entire weapon assembly Monsoon is still kind of mobile but clearly it’s been damaged pretty bad and all the robot is able to do is twitch back and forth. The ref decides to count Monsoon out and Hypershock claims yet another <1 minute KO victory. It’s now 2-0 and is sharing some strange company with the likes of Death Roll, Duck, and Gigabyte. If this trend continues we might be seeing the weirdest (and most colorful) goddamned tournament bracket ever.
WINNER: Hypershock, KO
SCIENCE CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE
PETUNIA vs. MARVIN
Neither of these robots have won any fights yet and that’s largely because both of them broke down pretty quickly into their first matches. Petunia lost against War Hawk when it just spontaneously kind of stopped working. War Hawk landed a couple of blows to it but it didn’t seem like there was any significant armor damage done to Petunia so if there was anything that got jostled around it would’ve had to have been internal. Maybe War Hawk gave Petunia the Vulcan nerve pinch, fuck I don’t know. Petunia’s biggest strength is how durable it is so if War Hawk wasn’t able to get through its armor then I will literally bet real money that Marvin won’t come anywhere close, so Petunia doesn’t have that to worry about. We didn’t get to see any action whatsoever from its crushing jaw in its first fight but hopefully this battle will be a different story… though truth be told even if Petunia’s beak comes down on Marvin I really don’t think it’ll get anywhere seeing as how Marvin, like the team’s other robot Duck, is just a solid chunk of metal.
In the section of this article for Gruff and Copperhead I touched on how the 3-way rumbles this year really seemed to be used as makeshift “proving grounds” for newcomers and other fringe robots of dubious merit. As a newcomer this year Marvin was placed into the same rumble as Gruff and you know how this story ends because that was the only rumble that has aired so far and I’ve already told you Gruff won it. Marvin’s weapon is a UHMW plastic disc with two hinged teeth on it. Theoretically the idea here is Marvin can beat on an opponent with those hinged weapon teeth without any regard for damage being done to its own weapon because it’s made out of the same stuff as Huge’s wheels and Shatter’s ablative armor. In practice this didn’t work out so well because Marvin busted off its teeth almost immediately and it’s actually starting this battle upside down specifically because Hannah Rucker is concerned Petunia can bite through the robot’s weapon disc and reach the good stuff.
This is a better fight for Marvin. As the battle gets underway it’s able to land a few decent shots with its disc and the teeth have stayed on. At this point in Marvin’s previous fight one of them had already flown off and turned the robot into an unstable gyrating mess that looked like a prison toilet someone tried to flush a sack of cocaine down in a last ditch effort to hide it. This momentum doesn’t last though because Petunia stays in close and gradually wears Marvin down by letting the spinner expend all of its kinetic energy before it makes a move of its own. Petunia bites down onto the outer metal shell of Marvin right next to its right wheel (the robot is upside down, remember) and digs in as hard as it can. I assumed Petunia wouldn’t be able to break through the armor at all but it’s got Marvin snagged pretty good to the point where we get the inevitable cut to Hannah also doing her best impression of Al Kindle asking how long Petunia can grapple them. The ref says “30 seconds” and Hannah replies that’s too long. It’s like a fucking episode of Cake Boss or something.
Eventually Petunia has to let go and when it does it looks as though Marvin has actually lost the use of the side of drive that Petunia was biting down on. This leads me to believe that even though Petunia didn’t get through the armor more than just a little bit it may have actually deformed the metal or frame and warped it in such a way that damaged or disconnected Marvin’s side of drive. Or maybe it did hit something important. That’s a powerful fucking crusher, okay? Petunia’s got the firepower and every once in a while we get to see little fleeting sparks of it here and there. Last season it bit through Captain Shrederator and gave its replacement driver a heart attack, this year it crumpled a piece of solid metal so roughly that it still damaged something through sheer exertion of force alone. Anyways Petunia bites Marvin again and Hannah rolls her eyes on national television. I don’t really blame her though, two grapples means her robot is going to spend a full third of this battle getting French kissed by its opponent and I don’t know about you but most people are probably not okay with kissing a carnivorous plant. I myself will abstain from answering the hypothetical question.
The second bite doesn’t seem to cause the same level of damage to Marvin but this is the point where Hannah realizes she’s lost one side of drive. Marvin’s disc also looks to be revving up a lot slower than it was a couple of minutes ago but that could just be me. It might also be due to the fact that Petunia has gotten stuck on top of Marvin and that extra weight on top of the spinner is causing it to have to work twice as hard to get going. In any case Marvin’s disc gets back up to speed but because the robot has lost the use of one of its wheels it can’t actually deliver its weapon into its opponent. All in all I guess this was a little bit better of a showing for Marvin? I was about to congratulate Hannah for keeping the weapon teeth on this time but ten seconds before the fight ends Petunia shoves Marvin into the screws and as the robot takes a bite out of the hazards its weapon disc blows up again and sheds its teeth in one go. So, you know, just whatever. Congratulations Petunia you just defeated the world’s most durable airplane toilet.
WINNER: Petunia, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
BRONCO vs. BITE FORCE
Well look who it is. Hi, Bronco. We’re only like two episodes away from the Desperado event and the mid-season break that follows. There’s “fashionably late” and then there’s whatever the hell this is. Chomp did the same thing last season but no one noticed because it was fucking Chomp. Chris and Kenny have been talking about this stupid flipper for five full episodes now and thus far the editors have had to rely on old footage of Bronco from last season to illustrate the points they’re making. We can only see Duck break its neck and get thrown out of the box so many times before it gets tiresome. Luckily for us there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot new to Bronco this year aside from the team showing off some new armor configurations. The most obvious thing to comment on is that Zander and Reason didn’t pay any attention to what happened to Bronco last year because they’re still using the “pwanger” things on Bronco’s sides. Those don’t work, guys. We figured that out last year. Myth busted. Anyways the most notable change to Bronco is probably that the team has gotten rid of the robot’s giant front and rear plows and replaced them with Blacksmith-style hanging spikes. This gives opponents like Bite Force less to chew on while also still functioning as a wedge.
Bite Force has already continued the winning streak it started last season when it butted heads with Yeti until both robots suffered massive brain damage and Yeti was reduced to a state of permanent LSD tripping as it flailed around atop its busted lifting arms. Bite Force won the battle on decision, a rarity for the bot, but had Yeti not landed in a position where it couldn’t function properly anymore Bite Force would’ve been finished off. The robot’s front left wheel had been damaged and although the robot was able to “drive” in a straight line after the fight this was purely an act to show the judges the robot was “fully functional”, Paul Ventimiglia expertly used the kinetic energy stored in Bite Force’s weapon to help pull the robot in a straight line. The bluff worked and now Bite Force is 1-0 and ready to do battle with Bronco, a robot it’s somehow never battled until just now… though that probably has more to do with these two robots always being seeded so high so they wind up in opposite corners of the main tournament brackets. Go figure.
Both robots angle themselves to drive toward the drivers’ booth. Bronco attempts to open with its trademark strategy of picking a corner and backing into it which minimizes the number of ways its opponent can come at it. Go back and watch Bronco’s history of fights and you’ll see it pull off this same exact move tons of times. It doesn’t always work, this case being one of them. Bite Force gets in Bronco’s face and coaxes a misfire out of the flipper. As soon as Bronco’s arm goes up Bite Force makes its move and chews the tip of Bronco’s flipping arm off, the exact same shit Lock-Jaw tried to do last year. Bronco still came out ahead in that battle because it still had the entire rest of its lifting arm to launch Lock-Jaw with and as the robot swings around 180 degrees to aim its ass at Bite Force you can obviously see this “plan B” starting to take shape. But Bite Force isn’t going to let any of this bullshit happen either. The “pwanger” or whatever nearest to Bronco’s rear right wheel gets clipped in the shuffle and it appears to get bent into Bronco’s tire and presses against it enough to stop the wheel from moving. Pwangers. Great idea, guys. Have fun never winning a fucking Nut.
With Bronco’s movement severely limited, and because Bite Force has no qualms entwining itself in Bronco’s mess of extra side armor, Bite Force continues to shave sparks off of whatever it can get its blade on and chews up whatever’s closest. This turns out to be most of Bronco’s side armor but one particularly gnarly hit pops the flipper against the wall of the drivers’ booth and causes the Instacam mounted on top of Bronco to fall off. That $300 is coming out of someone’s paycheck. Bite Force tags the backside of Bronco again and for a brief moment smoke starts to come out of the back of the robot but there’s no telling what’s been damaged in there. A lot of Bronco’s pwangers have been ripped away by this point including the one that was previously embedded in one of the tires but it looks like that wheel is still dead anyways because Bite Force smashes into it with its bar and if there was any life left in the motor that turned that wheel it’s likely gone the way of GeoCities. By this I mean it continues to exist exclusively in Japan. That’s the point I was trying to make… yes.
The 90 second timer appears on screen to let us know that half the fight is over and Bronco has landed a staggering zero shots on the reigning champ. In fact, Bronco is doing the total opposite of this because as the timer appears the flipper gets its front forks jammed into one of the Killsaw slots for like the third time. Bronco’s forks get embedded in the floor pretty good and Bite Force seems content to let its opponent die from literal embarrassment except Bronco fires what’s left of its flipper and unsticks itself. This essentially means Bronco is giving Bite Force permission to keep chewing more shit off of it so Bite Force, not wanting to disappoint the people in the crowd holding up a giant Paul Ventimiglia head with light-up demon eyes, cruises in and rips off a tire as well as the front upper panel of Bronco’s flipping arm. This volley seems to be the one that finally kills Bronco but you can tell Reason is still trying to control the thing because Bronco fires its flipper and one of its wheels are still spinning around. Unfortunately for him it’s not enough for the ref and Bronco gets counted out.
Chris says Bite Force is the “apex” predator. I think the word you’re looking for is “aptyx” predator. Whatever the hell that word means.
WINNER: Bite Force, KO
With that main event wrapped up Bite Force steps up to 2-0 while instantly ensuring Bronco has absolutely no chance at having an undefeated Fight Night round this year. Bite Force may have had some issues with Yeti but in the end are you really surprised it’s at 2-0 right now? Up to this point everyone who’s made it to the halfway club have been oddballs. Death Roll, Hydra, Hypershock, Witch Doctor. I’m sure everyone has shut up now that Paul Ventimiglia has showed up in the lounge and dipped a chip into the catered queso and loudly eaten it. We’re also starting to see more 0-2’s develop as well, like Ragnarok. And Marvin. The hosts have been talking about the Desperado event an awful lot but do you think Ragnarok is Desperado material? This fucking thing has lost by one hit KO twice. At this point being drawn to fight Ragnarok should just be like enemies in Earthbound that don’t post a threat to you where the fight doesn’t even happen and the game declares that you’ve automatically won. I don’t know why I’m dropping so many Earthbound references this season. I guess I’m just running out of dumb shit to relate to.
Next week’s episode is #7 and after that we know the Desperado is in episode 8. Due to the July 4th airing delay the official “fight card” teaser is already up for episode 7. In the show before the Desperado we’ve got a few interesting match-ups to look forward to. By the time you read this article this episode will have already aired a week prior, but in any case Death Roll is being paired up with Quantum and I think maybe the crocodile’s 2-0 run is about to be cut short. On the opposite end of optimism, 0-2 Bombshell is being paired up with Cobalt and I guess that means we’re looking at 0-3 Bombshell. But what’s got me hyped is Tombstone and Rotator in the main event. Rotator is a weird bot with an unpredictable design. I don’t think it has any weaponry that can outreach Tombstone and hit its weapon chain or anything but this fight will either be over in one devastating shot or we’ll get to see Tombstone just whale on Rotator for three solid minutes.
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