[BattleBots: S9 E7 is available through the Discovery GO app with a cable subscription package. Season is also available on iTunes and Amazon.]
Welcome back to the UPDATE ZONE. This is the final episode of the season before the Desperado event and I don’t know about you but I think I’m ready to not hear Kenny Florian say the word “Desperado” again until next season. I also have to point out how relevant it is to hear Chris Rose open the episode with an extended Christmas analogy. In July. I know the planet is warming up to the point where December might as well be the new August but for fuck’s sake at least wait until the calendar is ready to keep up with your joke. Even if we wind up never having another season of snow again and our Christmas pines get replaced with that stupid palm tree from the Corona beer commercial they’ve been showing for 30 goddamned years at least the calendar will still say “December”. Kenny says Chris will always be “the elf on his shelf”. Relationship goals, am I right you guys?
Anyways if you’ve somehow made it to the seventh episode of the season and you still don’t know what this “Desperado” thing is I’ll break down alongside Chris. So far this “Fight Night” hubbub is actually a collection of qualification rounds and everyone gets four of them in order to stake their claims and vie for a place in the main tournament that’ll happen in the last few episodes of the season. Right now we’re seeing a lot of robots reach the halfway point and some of them are turning in early showings of 0-2 and 1-1 which obviously don’t bode well for their chances at qualifying. The Desperado event is a miniature tournament of eight robots where the winner automatically qualifies for the main tournament. We don’t yet know who’s participating in this event because there’s still a few bots in this episode who’ve yet to reach the point where their teams need to make some hard choices but I’m sure we’ll find out who’s in the event at the end of the episode because the Desperado is literally the next one.
We’re one episode shy of the mid-season Desperado event and we’re still seeing bots making their season debuts (televised, at least). Arriving this episode is the new Tantrum looking to take on Gemini. You might remember Tantrum as the robot whose decorative fist was ripped off of its chassis by Tombstone and embedded into the arena framework last season. Shellshock, a shell spinner, is also here and is paired up with RailGun Max. Both of these robots are unknowns right now so they probably ought to consider, you know, not losing. But doubling back onto bots we’ve seen already Bombshell is paired up with Cobalt and I’ve already burned up my “guess Bombshell is going 0-3” joke last week so I can’t use it again. Lock-Jaw returns to battle Duck, Sawblaze faces off against Blacksmith, but in the main event that I know everyone is looking forward to we’ve got Tombstone and Rotator. This will either be a bloodbath or a potato fight. But first here’s everyone’s favorite crocodile, Death Roll, about to do battle with whatever the fuck Quantum is supposed to be.
QUANTUM vs. DEATH ROLL
Quantum’s debut battle was a bit of a mixed bag. It won, of course, but it did so on some really shaky grounds. Obviously we got to see firsthand just how much power someone with expert knowledge of hydraulics can put into a crusher because Quantum’s ability to bite into the AR-500 steel armor of Blacksmith was nothing short of incredible. However this also came at the cost of the robots being unable to separate — twice — and the officials called the fight off and sent it to the judges. The second time we saw Quantum it wasn’t as impressive mostly because it went into battle against Lock-Jaw and took enough hits that it lost a chain, a wheel, part of its front wedge, and most of its right side because the robot was just overwhelmed by Lock-Jaw’s spinners and never got any purchase on it. The team also lubed up their crusher’s teeth in anticipation of getting stuck in another opponent, but I like to imagine it was more of a gesture of good faith because if you’re gonna fuck someone you really ought to use lube. Quantum is 1-1 and it also seems vulnerable to vertical spinners, so this battle just might be its final test.
Meanwhile Death Roll is sitting pretty as one of a handful of surprise robots sitting at 2-0 right now. Sure, Bite Force is also now in this category along with Tombstone, but when you have shit like Death Roll, Gigabyte, and Duck in that category too you know you’re looking at one hell of a potential season. As I’ve mentioned before Death Roll originally showed up in 2016 and overall performed poorly at BattleBots. Rather than come back right away Steven Martin joined up with Robot Wars’ Ellis Ware to turn Death Roll into a variant known as “Great White” and promptly shredded up enough opponents to reach the quarterfinals in China’s King of Bots event. Surely the lessons learned from these excursions helped Steven better understand his robot because god damn has this thing been tearing people apart this year. Death Roll defeated Foxtrot, which probably isn’t that impressive, but it’s also one half of the reason why End Game is 0-2 right now.
I don’t know what it is about vertical spinners these days but they trot around like they’ve got a big dick. Maybe it’s because that might actually be the case? Death Roll lunges into Quantum’s face seemingly with no regard for Quantum’s bitey bits which I’m sure we’re all aware will dig into Death Roll and make the crocodile think twice about who’s got the strongest bite in the animal kingdom. I’m thinking the goal here was for Death Roll to uppercut Quantum on its “snout” or whatever and either bust its teeth off or bend it up but if that was the plan then it failed because Quantum manages to snag one of Death Roll’s weapon belts and snips it off. Thankfully Death Roll belongs to that category of robots who have more than one weapon belt just for the hell of it so the croc can recover without issue but if I were Death Roll I wouldn’t try that shit again. Death Roll, however, tries that shit again.
This time Death Roll manages to gain the upper hand and hits Quantum on its front corner which flings the crusher backwards. Quantum lands on its wheels but Death Roll’s combo has officially started because Quantum is right back in the air no more than a second later. After three consecutive blows Quantum’s hinged leading wedge is starting to look more like the patty spatula from any given Wendy’s (which explains why every time they serve you a hamburger it looks like a truck ran over it). In other words, this ain’t getting purchase on fucking anything now. Short of Death Roll spontaneously dying I fail to see any situation where Quantum can regain the upper hand. With no wedge that 22-ton crusher now has about as much utility as one of those giant overpriced resin superhero figures every stupid comic book store has but can never seem to sell because the government doesn’t issue welfare checks in amounts high enough for anyone on the dole to blow their money on one. Quantum is effectively weaponless, but it’s not dead. Not yet at least. Death Roll continues to chew on its opponent and rips away Quantum’s right armor panel and yanks the drive chain out. I guess Steven was watching Lock-Jaw’s previous fight.
The slanted design of Quantum means that there isn’t much for Death Roll to sink its teeth into on the robot’s sides, which is probably for the best considering how expensive all that now-exposed shit probably is, but that doesn’t stop Death Roll from tearing off Quantum’s back right tire. I’m not sure if this hit actually kills Quantum or if the drivers finally throw in the towel but after a couple of twitches Quantum stops moving completely. Had Quantum gained purchase on Death Roll anywhere other than the near miss it had at the start of the battle this fight would’ve probably turned out very differently. Instead, not only has Death Roll — FUCKING DEATH ROLL — climbed its way to the first 3-0 robot of the season, but Quantum has been knocked down to 1-2 where the best it can hope for is a 2-2 finish. That’s probably not enough to qualify, assuming Quantum makes it to 2-2, but if it does maybe we’re looking at the absolute bottom of the pack on a good day. James Cooper seems to know this too, because as he explains the fight to Kenny you can’t help but feel genuinely bad for this dude.
WINNER: Death Roll, KO
BOMBSHELL vs. COBALT
We’ve been reminded at every turn that Bombshell was once a great robot who reached the finals in 2016. Not quarterfinals, not semifinals… the actual championship goddamned finals. I wouldn’t blame you for not believing that because if you take Bombshell’s current season record and add it to its showing last year you’ll wind up with 1-7. That’s one win and seven fucking losses. Who knows what happened to this machine? I mean that in a genuine sense, is there someone who really does know? Because I guess you could say I write about robot combat “professionally” and I haven’t got a goddamned clue. Bombshell’s only successful season happened when the robot was a “Swiss Army bot” with extra configurations and attachments and these past couple years we haven’t seen any of that. Was that really its strong point? Maybe we’ll find out because Bombshell is throwing out a surprise in this fight by showing up with an upside-down chassis dubbed “boat mode” by the team. I know, I know, this looks fucking stupid but Dan Hammer knows he’s not going to win the ground clearance battle against Cobalt so Bombshell’s normal configuration is just asking for trouble. By flipping it upside-down the team can mount Bombshell’s weapon waaaaay the hell out there to guarantee the first thing that hits Cobalt is their weapon and absolutely nothing else.
It’s real easy to forget that this battle is actually a rematch until Sam Smith mentions it offhandedly in the pre-fight strategy interview. In 2016, when both of these robots were very different machines, Bombshell defeated Cobalt by KO. Sam says the defeat was “ingenious” and if you’re late to the party and wondering how Bombshell was able to pull something like that off it happened because Bombshell showed up with a horizontal spinning blade adjusted to the perfect height to chop up the tops of Cobalt’s wheels and strip them off. Credit where due, that was absolutely mental. Bombshell actually does still have a horizontal blade configuration, allegedly, but the team opted not to use it again. Sam says he’s concerned about what Bombshell might have in store because their “last minute tricks” got them in the end. Buddy, their “trick” this year was to set their robot up like it was opposite day. I think you’re probably fine. Cobalt has only a slightly better record than Bombshell at 1-1 but that’s because it got caught on the floor and died. In an ideal world this robot is 2-0 and Duck didn’t cheese out a free win. This rematch has the potential to keep Cobalt in the game.
Bombshell’s target is Cobalt’s weapon bracket. That is an absurdly dangerous target to pick considering the level of damage that we know Cobalt’s weapon can do but hey just like Kenny said before the fight “nothing is more dangerous than a fighter with nothing to lose”. By putting its pants on backwards Bombshell has already proven that it has no fucks left to give and the team is willing to use what might be their last two battles this year to try out all kinds of crazy shit. Bombshell deflects off of Cobalt’s wedge on its first run and as this thing turns and maneuvers around it just looks like a disaster waiting to happen. I know there’s a strategic advantage to putting your weapon way out front and center but this thing is driving like someone’s pulling it around with a magnet under the floor. Bombshell goes in for round 2 and I can’t believe I’m saying this but the robot manages to achieve a very significant attack by tearing Cobalt’s leading wedge off. Without that wedge piece Cobalt is nothing more than a spinner mounted too far back on a slope that’s too steep to actually get underneath anyone. Kenny doesn’t say it, but this is a huge hit.
But the hit also sends Bombshell flying through the air and onto its ass so it’s not going to have the privilege of possibly using that attack to its advantage. Even if it did Bombshell’s inverse slopes would probably still work against it in this specific scenario so who cares? The robot was doomed to fail no matter what and ironically when Bombshell lands upside-down its weapon finally decides to keep working and it successfully knocks the robot into the position where it should be able to still drive around. However in a cruel twist of fate by putting Bombshell’s chassis together while looking at the instructions from the wrong direction Bombshell’s team made it so that the robot’s rear wheels do not touch the floor in this orientation. In other words? Bombshell is fucking dead. Unless there’s another “last chance rumble” for Bombshell to sandbag this is probably the end of the robot’s run for the season. Death Roll was the first 3-0, Bombshell is now the first 0-3.
WINNER: Cobalt, KO
GEMINI vs. TANTRUM
Gemini made its debut this season in one of the earlier rumbles. In fact, it was the only rumble that we’ve seen so far. Funny how that rumble keeps coming back time and time again, it wasn’t even very good. Gemini and Marvin both lost to Gruff in the rumble but of those three robots Gemini was potentially the better of the two losers. It goes without saying by being something designed by Hal Rucker that Marvin is one hell of a durable machine yet Gemini was still able to make some significant dings in Marvin’s chassis. Nothing serious of course, but that unrealized potential might be a factor for Gemini this year. Remember, these are two 125 pound robots — middleweights — fighting against heavyweights. For Gemini to be able to do observable damage to Marvin means maybe this year the spinners are packing a little more heat. Unfortunately the multibot’s next opponent is Tantrum who is notorious for its liberal use of armor so this will probably be all for naught. Ace Schelander even specifically says his robot struggles against opponents with thick armor so he knows he’s playing with the disadvantage here. Also unfortunately for Gemini its biggest weakness is its tendency to kill itself so stronger weapons could mean this just happens faster.
I’m at a weird impasse right now because Tantrum is introduced without a fight record this round and this match is being presented as Tantrum’s first one. But it’s not, and most of the diehard fans following this season also know this. We’re at the point where the editors are starting to tell us about unaired battles — like last week when we found out Sidewinder beat P1 — but for some reason Tantrum’s season prior to this point isn’t being talked about. I’m not sure if I should tell you if Tantrum won or lost its first fight, so instead I’ll just remark that after all that running around Faruq wound up flubbing his introduction of Tantum by pointing to the wrong fucking team. I’m assuming Faruq did not want to do… that… again, so through creative editing the producers just made it work. Last year Tantrum’s weapon was a spring-loaded flipping arm that didn’t do a goddamned thing. This new version of the robot features a spinning disc mounted on a sliding track so it can “punch” forward after it corrals an opponent onto its front wedge. That’s almost a good idea but my concern with it are all of the moving parts needed in order to get something like that working. That’s a lot of potential points of failure, more than the first version of this bot which I should remind you didn’t work.
Gemini’s strategy in every battle is to immediately split up; the red bot goes wide, the black bot stays in close. The idea is to always have one of the two multibots always flanking their opponent. I know Tantrum’s design is akin to putting all of your stat points into defense but this still seems like a viable strategy because even if Tantrum can clench its butthole tight enough to stop a bullet its face can probably stop three bullets so it would be worth it to at least aim for its ass. Tantrum’s disc gets going but when it connects with the black Gemini robot and throws a punch there’s absolutely no bite behind the weapon and in fact it is barely even spinning at all. Aren Hill said he was looking forward to throwing some 125 pound robots into the ceiling before the fight. With what, Aren? Your fucking mind? So far Tantrum’s wedge is doing a fantastic job of warding off both of Gemini’s spinners but going by the rules I don’t think you get any points for this even if the deflections are impressive. I hate the term “PRIMARY WEAPON” but Tantrum knows what’s up and it looks like its spinner has actually started working for real. It throws a punch at the red Gemini bot and connects. The robot doesn’t get thrown into the roof as promised, but it does get noticeably punched backward. Good enough.
It appears the black robot might actually be dead already, though if you look closely one of its back corners is caught on something and the debris is propping the robot up at an awkward angle where none of its wheels are on the ground. I’m assuming this is something that came loose and fell off of itself because its right armor panel is already loosened up and I refuse to believe Tantrum is doing this kind of damage so I’m inclined to say Gemini is still a piece of shit. Kenny thinks this is a feint on Gemini’s part, but no that thing is stuck on something for real because the red robot has to come in and free its brother. As the black Gemini regains control you can see pieces of something littering the box. More of them appeared to come off of Tantrum’s face a second ago when the red Gemini hit it but I had no fucking clue what any of it was until I paused the video. It looks like chunks of a rolly chair and it took me a minute but I realized these are actually Tantrum’s decorative fists. I guess to save weight they’re plastic now which also comes with the added benefit of not having the potential to fire off into the main power conduit of the fucking arena like they did last year.
Tantrum looks to have found its groove and while most competitors might pick a target out of the two Geminis presented to them Tantrum just seems to go for whoever is right in front of it. Aren knows the wedge will hold up and the flurry of deflected blows that it unleashes proves that, there is literally no damage on that thing anywhere. Unfortunately though the wedge is still kind of all we’re seeing and rather than get to write sentences about parts being ripped off of Gemini I’m instead sitting here wondering if Tantrum ramming a Gemini into the middle control box of the screws counts as a screw hit or a spike strip hit for those stupid counters on the BattleBots Update homepage. The red Gemini robot gets flipped over after it lands a particularly bad shot and a few seconds later winds up in the screws while its black counterpart gets its right side panel of armor finished off by Tantrum’s ass with nothing more than a rear-end collision. Whatever Tantrum’s thicc booty is made from I’d like to have a bumper for my truck made out of it, please. Chris starts making jokes about twins and how he can’t tell the Geminis apart from each other and it falls flatter than the tires of Mjollnir because they are different fucking colors.
The black robot showed up to this fight seemingly already falling apart so it comes as no surprise that it appears to have partially broken down and found its way into a corner. Meanwhile Tantrum finally lands what feels like its first proper hit of the fight as it uppercuts the red robot and tosses it at the wall. If only the ceiling of the arena were two feet off of the ground maybe Aren would’ve lived up to his word. As the red Gemini comes back down it lands on top of Tantrum and the little wings protruding off of Tantrum’s punching arm get hooked inside of its wheel well. It becomes apparent Tantrum really has no way to get someone off of its weapon assembly on its own but thankfully it’s able to back itself into the screws so they help pull the stuck robot off. Chris ponders what the black robot is up to not realizing it’s been dead for like thirty goddamned seconds now. Except… it’s actually not dead? Somewhere along the line the black Gemini managed to become mobile again so I’m again going to assume it was stuck on debris because that seems to be its trademark in this match so far. Tantrum is unhappy with this change of events so it corrals the black robot onto its wedge and fires its puncher. Tantrum’s weapon might be the textbook definition of “let down” but I’ll be damned if this shot wasn’t on the fucking mark. See that little silver thing that flies off of Gemini? That was the bottom shaft collar for its spinner. Now you’ll know why the disc falls off of its axle a couple of seconds from now.
The hosts have lost their enthusiasm for Gemini and have reached the point where they’re now comparing the mobile scrapheaps to the kinds of trash you see outside of the house of someone who insists their lawnmower just doesn’t work and that they’ll “fix it someday” to mow their three foot high lawn. It also appears that the black Gemini might have actually died for real now because it has completely stopped moving around. Like I’ve said in the past due to the manner in which the rules treat multibots you need to disable 60% of it or more by weight for it to be considered knocked out. Because both Gemini robots weigh the same that means Tantrum has only achieved 50% and in order to win by KO it would need to also disable the red one. There isn’t enough time left in the fight for that but it does look like the red bot is basically knocking on death’s door by this point. Tantrum shoves it under the Pulverizer for a quick blow in the last few seconds of the battle and it should come as no surprise who the winner is.
WINNER: Tantrum, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
LOCK-JAW vs. DUCK
Both of these robots are 1-1. I know Duck is 2-0, but if you’ve been watching the season so far you know that win was kind of bullshit and I’ll talk about that in a second. Not only have these two robots never battled before, their builders have also never battled each other either. That might sound completely plausible to you considering Donald Hutson’s heyday was in the early years of the sport and Hal Rucker has seemingly only shown up recently, but Hal did compete in the older seasons of the show with a super heavyweight named Crazy Susan that was basically a goddamned Sarlacc pit on wheels. That’s beside the point though. Lock-Jaw is like an old friend by this point; it’s participated in every season of BattleBots since 2015 and aside from winning the Desperado event last year I really don’t think this robot has lived up to its full potential. It’s got a lot of things going for it such as cambered tires, a strong weapon, and a great driver… but that kind of doesn’t matter when Tombstone shows up and rips off half of your wheels in one go. Lock-Jaw turned it around in its second fight where it punched Quantum in the kidneys and caused the crusher to shit itself to death so now it’s here with an even 1-1 and staring down the potential for 1-2 if it messes up this fight.
I said both of these bots are 1-1 and let’s be real here Duck was going to lose its fight against Cobalt. I’ve noticed that in the lead-in before this fight and the one a few minutes ago where Cobalt ju-jitsu’d Bombshell straight to hell that the hosts have been severely downplaying the fact that Cobalt snared itself on the floor and died. They’re quite content to show us all 13 hits that it landed on Duck — complete with fucking duck sounds at that — but when it came time to describe exactly how Duck won that fight Kenny’s enthusiasm turned into the mumbling you hear when a teacher forces some dickhead bully to apologize to the kid he’s been making fun of for eating boogers. Duck is tough, but it sure as shit met its match in that battle and even Hal was impressed at the sheer amount of damage that was done to his robot. But the good news is it looks like Duck was able to be put back together into a relatively new-looking condition and the even better news is I don’t think Lock-Jaw can hit Duck hard enough to split a fucking atom like Cobalt did. This is a more “fair” fight for Duck and if it plays its cards right it could eek out another win to join Death Roll at 3-0.
Before the fight Donald said he knew hitting Duck head on was “duck bait” but he seems content to go ahead and try that move out anyways because the first few hits of the fight courtesy of Lock-Jaw are landed mostly to Duck’s front end. Part of the reason this might be so potentially effective is due to the slot cut underneath Duck’s plow; Lock-Jaw’s front forks have a longer reach than Duck’s bill so if Lock-Jaw can get one or both of them under the plow by way of that slot it doesn’t really matter what Duck can do because it’s going to take the hit. (And I could get into the hypotheticals about how that’s supposed to happen so that someone will lock heads with Duck and then lose the battle of torque but fuck it, Duck’s getting kicked around right now.) As Faruq introduced the robots the hosts talked about the little pointy thing at the top of Duck’s plow. It’s a makeshift “hammer” tip but I really don’t understand the kind of scenario Duck would need to be in for using it to seem like a plausible strategy. Apparently “getting pushed into the wall once by Lock-Jaw” is the trigger for it because for some unknown reason Duck goes from its usual juking and dodging to aimlessly swinging its fucking plow around like a maniac.
Maybe the goal is to swing its plow around so Lock-Jaw backs away? Lock-Jaw does eventually back away but I think that action had more to do with the robot needing to rev its weapon back up and not because it was afraid of being pecked to death by a goddamned duck. Lock-Jaw retreats, spins up, and lands a couple of weaker shots on its opponent. Then it tries to spin up again and immediately starts vomiting out smoke. I’m hoping for Lock-Jaw’s sake that this was simply due to a screw or something getting sucked into the weapon belts and causing a brief spat of friction but it seems the mishap has scared the shit out of Donald because he spins the weapon down and when it starts going again you can tell he’s barely easing on the accelerator because there isn’t any muscle behind Lock-Jaw’s spinner. This would be Duck’s chance to attack but the robot is really kind of nowhere to be seen. Lock-Jaw buys itself enough time so Donald can make sure when he fires up the weapon again it won’t literally “fire up” and goes right back to throwing punches at Duck without pause.
Things seem good for Lock-Jaw, perhaps the smoke was a fluke. Or perhaps not, because after socking Duck a couple more times diarrhea starts to spew out of the robot’s ass in the form of thick white smoke which may have been from Lock-Jaw’s weapon system because that thing ain’t doing a damn thing now and the robot itself is also moving around noticeably slower too. A second opportunity has presented itself for Duck to cruise in and narrow the gap and this time Duck heeds the call and starts attacking Lock-Jaw. Unfortunately rather than attempt to lift or control Lock-Jaw, Duck instead decides to try beating on it with its plow. Dude, Lock-Jaw just ripped a pants-checker. This thing is cruising around at half power and its spinners are toast. This is the moment where Duck can smash into Lock-Jaw head-on and backflow its opponent’s motors like a bulimic’s digestive tract. Instead we get none of that and when one of the sets of Killsaws pops up and never goes back down Duck gets spooked and begins flailing around once again and ends the fight being poked in the butt by Lock-Jaw.
The fight goes the distance and when the judges are left in charge to make sense of this fight they unanimously side with Lock-Jaw. Apparently there was some “controversy” and disagreement about this decision among bot fans? Look, Duck is a tough machine but this absolutely was not its best showing. I don’t know what the fuck was going on with Duck’s plow seemingly only being used for its secondary purpose for the whole fucking fight but Duck was presented with some golden opportunities to turn the tables and it just never took full advantage of them. Maybe there was some latent fear toward Lock-Jaw or the thought that maybe Donald was intentionally playing crippled but we all saw the god damn thing start smoking. Twice. Toward the end of the fight Duck had the chance to potentially either burn out what was left of Lock-Jaw or at least seize the upper hand with some great lifts and control. Instead none of that happened and when the scores were tallied up all of those little jabs and swings on the part of Lock-Jaw really did add up. There’s no argument there. Plus thanks to Lock-Jaw winning you all got a great reaction face from me in the crowd looking at the spooky eyes. You’re welcome.
WINNER: Lock-Jaw, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
SAWBLAZE vs. BLACKSMITH
As we gear up for this next fight it’s becoming apparent that a lot of these outcomes are having some very real effects on the main tournament that has been developing since episode 1. Take for example this fight between two robots currently at 1-1 (unlike the previous battle which was just me bitching about the floor). Obviously you want to be the guy who goes 2-1, not 1-2, because that way at least you stand a better chance of either qualifying at 3-1 or possibly getting roped into some bullshit special bout like the playoff for 15th place between all of the vertical spinners no one could be bothered to make up their minds about last year. The minute you reach “two losses” there’s a good chance you’re fucked. To avoid this Jamison Go is finally bringing out the heavy guns for Sawblaze. We’ve seen this robot’s heavier dragon-shaped (sorta) killer saw in the pits but never on the robot. This thing weighs 30 pounds and while it’s not the heaviest spinner out there that isn’t really the goal; Skorpios’ disc is also lightweight yet we’ve seen that thing literally cleave the entire fucking face off of someone. Can Sawblaze do that to Blacksmith? I don’t know, but we’re about to see it try.
This is probably Blacksmith’s best season so far because it marks the first time the robot has scored a win against an opponent that wasn’t a clusterbot of little pieces of shit. With that needlessly backhanded compliment out of the way we can really get into the meat of Blacksmith. Blacksmith is a crowd pleaser, it puts asses in seats. People show up to BattleBots in the hopes of seeing Blacksmith fight because there is only one BIG TIME HAMMER and Al Kindle has it. There is a certain novelty factor this robot has but it’s also a damn good brawler who’s ridiculously durable. Many robots have tried to pound Blacksmith into submission and most of them failed to do so. You know when Blacksmith shows up in one of the arena squares you’re about to see someone get beaten up for three minutes, even if the robot being beaten up is actually Blacksmith. So far the robot caught a bad start and was beaten by Quantum so badly that the officials had to crack open the rule book to tell Al he lost but at least Blacksmith had a better showing against Kraken and won by decision. For the third time this season Al has equipped Blacksmith with its AR-500 steel armor plating in the hopes that this will also be able to ward off Sawblaze’s spinner. It’s looking haggard by this point, but we’ll see.
Kenny or one of Kenny’s writers hypothesized that the difference in weight between Sawblaze’s new weapon and its original slicing disc might cause some stability issues while driving. That’s a difference of 25 pounds which might not sound like a whole lot but if you think that’s the case then be my guest when you try to take something that heavy onto a plane as a carry-on and the lady at the gate tells you to go die in a fire. All these wheelies that Sawblaze starts popping means its front pitchfork wedge isn’t getting underneath Blacksmith, in actuality it’s pointing straight up into the fucking air and doing the total opposite. Blacksmith wastes no time scoring what points it can early on until by the law of probability Sawblaze finally does get underneath Blacksmith and cleaves right into the side of the bot. It’s hard to tell with everyone’s stupid flamethrowers going full blast but this hit left a gash in the side of Blacksmith several inches long. The special top armor looks to have held up mostly okay, but that side armor is Blacksmith’s standard fare. It might be wise for Sawblaze to just extend its arm and try fighting like a normal spinner, however in the meantime the robot is busy catching Blacksmith at weird angles and flipping itself over.
It’s funny that I mentioned Skorpios at the start of this section because as Sawblaze slams Blacksmith into the wall it manages to dig itself into the screws just like a certain similarly-designed robot with a baby blue paint job did a few years ago. I guess everyone matures differently. Sawblaze is able to free itself by smashing the screws until it’s free but like a true scavenger Blacksmith is right back in the fray stealing points back from the dragon. I don’t know what Sawblaze’s problem is but this combination of its wheelies and possibly Blacksmith’s leading forks helping it bump its opponent around has led to Sawblaze being rolled over twice so far. If it weren’t for the giant gash in Blacksmith’s armor I wouldn’t fault you for thinking Sawblaze has had a train run on it since the green light.
Finally at the halfway point of this battle Sawblaze starts to make a proper comeback with two great combo shots on Blacksmith that result in a whack from Sawblaze’s disc and Blacksmith being dropped off at one of the hazards in the arena. Blacksmith takes another shot to its lid but so far it’s almost like the damage being done here is negligible and even as Sawblaze corrals Blacksmith around Blacksmith is still able to land shots with its hammer. Case in point as Sawblaze lets Chris and Kenny take a good look at Blacksmith’s sponsor stickers watch closely and you’ll see Blacksmith’s hammer just absolutely crumple the little nozzle thing of Sawblaze’s flamethrower. Sure the dragon’s green flamethrower is a bit of an afterthought especially now that the damn thing is separate from the saw arm, but that’s disabling damage that has caused part of Sawblaze to stop working and when one of your robot’s selling points is “Shrek fire” it’ll probably be pretty obvious when it stops functioning. More importantly though, it seems Blacksmith’s tireless swinging has also nicked something important in Sawblaze’s main weapon too because I’m noticing a whole lot of what we call “fuck all” coming from that spinner now.
It takes Kenny until the final 10 second fight counter appears on screen to notice Sawblaze’s disc seems suspiciously quiet. In that time Blacksmith has continued to take its opponent to pound town and all Sawblaze has really been able to do in response is take the beating and make a vain attempt to swing at Blacksmith with its non-functional disc. Sawblaze grapples with Blacksmith one last time before the buzzer and rams it into the wall. When the judges turn in their score cards it becomes apparent Former BattleBots Bad Boy Derek Young was the only one watching the fight. I really don’t see why more fans haven’t been talking about this outcome compared to the previous battle because this ruling seems a little shittier. Al says “no comment” to Kenny after the battle, but I’ll bite. “Damage” always seems to be about some bullshit with the PRIMARY WEAPON and at the end of this fight I didn’t see a whole lot of action coming from Sawblaze’s. Blacksmith was able to use its hammer to beat up both Sawblaze’s flamethrower and saw arm to the point where neither were effective by the end of the match. I’ll concede that Sawblaze certainly had the seemingly “bigger” hits and did do some armor damage to Blacksmith, however that damage did little to hinder the robot. I guess in the end that’s why this one wound up being a split, but I’ll still say Blacksmith had it.
WINNER: Sawblaze, Judges’ Decision (2-1)
RAILGUN MAX vs. SHELLSHOCK
We’ve seen RailGun Max before and if builder Elaine Wu’s obsession with eggs wasn’t enough to jog your memory then I’m sure those sweet replays of this robot busting apart Mad Catter was enough to remind you that this Chinese Minotaur-esque robot isn’t to be underestimated. The running gag with the eggs is a direct reference to RailGun Max’s weapon which is a vertical spinning drum of the “eggbeater” variety, named as such because of its shape. I guess that’s based upon an industrial eggbeater or something because where I come from you either just use a whisk or a fork and this fucking thing looks like neither of them. RailGun Max is one of two robots from China competing this year, the other being Wan Hoo, and I’d place my money on RailGun Max being the better of the two mostly because it actually works. It’s not a hard comparison to make when your only other contemporary spits out its weapon belt every time someone gets too close. This robot has the ability to end a fight in just a couple of hits, but it’s never fought a spinner like Shellshock before so the difference in kinetic energy delivery could be an unknown weak point here.
Fresh out of a high school robotics club, literally, is Shellshock. It’s the third and final shell spinner we’ll be seeing this year coming in on the tails of Captain Shrederator and Gigabyte. So far both of those robots have complete opposite records at this stage so Shellshock looks primed to take the middle ground assuming this rookie team doesn’t make a bunch of rookie mistakes. Apparently Shellshock’s shell weighs just as much as Gigabyte’s yet is somehow much smaller and I have no fucking clue what’s under the hood of this machine or how it’s constructed that would make that the case because I’ve gotta be honest with you I don’t believe that. This thing looks like someone bought Ziggo and tried to upgrade it into a heavyweight or something. There’s really nothing else to say about this robot because this is its first fight; it’s a complete unknown at this point even though we’re one episode away from the Desperado event. It does have a nice paint job, though. The people at… Hot Dog Customs… did a fine job. I feel like that’s what a Chinese Wienerschnitzel is called.
We were told Shellshock needs about four seconds to get up to top speed. RailGun Max gives it three before it comes in to shut this show down with its own weapon already at full blast. RailGun Max connects with Shellshock and immediately busts off an entire tooth — bracket and all — from the spinner’s shell. Shellshock’s team was so confident that these hardened steel teeth would be able to rip chunks out of RailGun Max’s chassis and yet in the end it’s RailGun Max that’s broken one off and stuffed it up Shellshock’s ass. This is it for Shellshock because it can no longer spin its shell up to speed. I mean it can in a literal sense, which it tries to do, but with a whole ass tooth missing the moment this thing achieves any sort of meaningful speed it will have long since Mauler Danced itself into fucking oblivion. RailGun Max isn’t even going to let that happen anyways because it chases Shellshock into the corner it reels into and smashes into it again this time hard enough to pop the shell off of its mount and knock off what I assume was Shellshock’s dinky little self-righting mast. The hit also shears the bolts holding on the bottom access panels for Shellshock’s electronics and damages them as well because almost immediately the spinner goes up in smoke.
Shellshock’s driver lets out a wholesome “aw geez” as he watches his robot burn up internally and get counted out by the ref. It’s what looks to be an easy win for RailGun Max, though it comes at a cost. After just a couple of major blows RailGun Max’s batteries also decide to give out and smoke starts pouring out of the robot’s rear left corner. Pay close attention and you’ll also notice RailGun Max’s right wheel seems to be spinning forward full blast and out of control. Something must’ve happened to a speed controller for an issue like that to flare up and that could’ve led to to battery damage from all the current draw. All from hitting a stupid turtle. Shellshock is already in the process of being counted down so this doesn’t change anything, but it could be signs of a crack in RailGun Max’s armor. Metaphorically speaking, that is. There’s probably not a literal crack in the armor that the smoke is coming out of. Anyways after the fight Kenny asks Elaine what’s up and before she can say a word Shellshock explodes.
WINNER: RailGun Max, KO
SCIENCE CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE
FALCON vs. RIBBOT
I guess there’s some kind of contractual obligation Team Whyachi has with the devil that mandates one of their robots has to be the runt of the litter. Previously this title was held by Warrior who fought the same way Bela Luogsi acted in his final role in Plan 9. “Badly”, in case you don’t intentionally watch terrible movies. With Son of Whyachi still busting heads and newcomer Hydra flipping opponents hard enough to crack them apart this distinction falls upon Falcon. Falcon began its life as a middleweight and from what I’ve read about it the robot was fairly successful… but I have no idea what the hell this shoe box thing is that’s also named “Falcon”. The robot is 0-1 right now with a loss to Breaker Box, a robot that I’m going to come out and say is equally as bad and we probably haven’t seen it since then because of it. Breaker Box started to smoke and was basically dead by the end of the battle but for some stupid reason Falcon was built without the ability to make a fucking turn so even as Breaker Box ran down the clock doing literally nothing Falcon couldn’t even score some free hits. I don’t know how you fix something like that so for Clint Ewert’s sake I hope he’s figured out that you can also push the transmitter sticks left and right too.
Ribbot is also a newcomer but we’ve seen a moderately stronger showing from this robot. Ribbot debuted against Kraken and lost after Kraken bit all the way into Ribbot’s chassis but the frog
bounced hopped back in its follow-up match with End Game by knocking it out. Yeah, you read that one correctly, Ribbot knocked out End Game and shoved the robot to 0-2 which basically ruined End Game’s chances of qualifying for the main tournament. Part of the reason you might be surprised to hear about this achievement is the way Ribbot looks; it doesn’t seem like a serious competitor what with its goofy ass frog attire, but underneath that foam exterior is a four-wheel drive robot armed with a spinning weapon powered by multiple motors. The kids who built this robot are attending the same school that Paul Ventimiglia graduated from so whatever classes WPI has about robotics are probably worth taking. Given how goofy the frog foam looks though I’d avoid WPI’s art classes if I were you. Just my two cents.
There’s a very noticeable difference in size between these two robots but I think that’s artificially inflated by Ribbot’s decorative parts. If you were to take those off Falcon would still be small in comparison but it wouldn’t look as stupidly ridiculous as it does right now because when Ribbot kicks Falcon into the air it really does look like some kind of sick joke where the officials allowed a lightweight to battle a super heavyweight. Chris reminds us of the drive issues Falcon had in its first battle right as Ribbot steps away and lets us see that Falcon seems content to just not do anything and allow Ribbot to keep eating chunks off of its side. Part of Ribbot’s foam gets sucked into its spinner again and the bot starts cruising around spitting everywhere while Falcon decides to resume the fight. Ribbot goes in for a karate kick but has its leg torn off by Falcon’s black drum. This prompts Chris to start making jokes at PeTA’s expense because frogs are cute but apparently Chris is alright with seeing some dumb bird get punched in the ribs a dozen times in a row.
Falcon “lines up” a shot on Ribbot and mostly misses, it rips off more foam but none of that damage is significant it just gives the arena clean up screw something to do. The black drum on Falcon dies off after this hit leaving only the white one spinning. There’s a chance this might improve the robot’s mobility since the gyroscopic force of the black drum is no longer there to compound that of the white one. It almost looks like this might be the case but I honestly can’t tell if I’m only “seeing” it because I primed myself with bias from the previous sentence. Falcon might be “more mobile” but it’s still nowhere close to being competitive in this fight. Ribbot hangs back a bit because even though Falcon isn’t moving around all that much the team knows that a direct blow from Falcon’s only working drum will still spell bad news for their exposed tires. Falcon gets slammed into the screws a couple of times because it’s just hanging out near them and making no effort to get away. One of these rams results in Falcon losing one of its front wedges but that doesn’t really make much of a difference since the drum those wedges lead into is about as functional as Falcon as a whole.
At one point Falcon just stops moving. For real, not “stops moving” as an elaborate and tired joke to describe the robot’s bizarre inability to do literally fucking anything. It starts to twitch near the wall but the robot isn’t actually going anywhere. Realizing the ref can buy about a minute extra for the cleaning crew if he ends the fight right now, Falcon starts to get counted out. Ribbot contemplates throwing a couple more punches but in the end retreats to its square because otherwise it would be beating a dead
WINNER: Ribbot, KO
TOMBSTONE vs. ROTATOR
Last week when Paul Ventimiglia was interviewed about his chances at the Giant Nut as well as any concerns he may have had about future opponents he kind of reaffirmed a point I’d made earlier this season. Beating Bite Force seems “doable”. Even though it’s won two championships and Paul has won other events with different robots when you look at Bite Force it’s not unreasonable to say “I can probably beat that if I can blah blah blah”. But Tombstone? Most of this robot’s outer perimeter is occupied by its weapon and when that goddamned thing is spinning you probably don’t even have to touch it in order for it to kill you. Bite Force might beat you with strategic driving and a little bit of precision damage, but Tombstone will rip your asshole open inside out and start using it as its personal hula hoop. Tombstone has already annihilated Lock-Jaw and Sawblaze, both by KO. Rotator is next in line because Ray Billings said himself that he wanted this particular fight to happen. Last year Rotator received the award for “Most Destructive Robot” and that didn’t sit too well with Ray so now he has his sights set on Rotator in order to remind Victor Soto who that title really belongs to.
And Rotator? This thing won “Most Destructive Robot” in 2018? Well, yeah. Rotator had its fair share of trouble but it tore up the HARDOX armor of Predator (Foxtrot), clipped the weapon arm off of Skorpios, and with Icewave it reenacted the scene from Inglorious Bastards where Hitler gets shot in the face for 20 straight minutes. But I can definitely see the counterargument in the current season. Rotator is 1-1 right now and we really haven’t seen this robot come anywhere close to the potential it showed us last year. It beat Bombshell by KO and managed to tear off one of its armor panels in the process but so far that’s really it, Rotator’s other fight consisted of being shoveled around by Sawblaze and its spinner was rendered ineffective by Sawblaze’s extra rubber armor panels. To highlight the difference in power between Rotator and its opponent, Tombstone also fought Sawblaze and Tombstone’s blade ripped that thing the fuck apart. Tombstone has the greater firepower and Victor knows this so he’s equipped Rotator with the same heavy plow it deployed against Icewave in the hopes that some sturdy armor of its own will give it the edge it needs to win… and not the literal edge Tombstone needs to rip the whole fucking thing off.
The reason why Rotator is using a plow for this fight comes down to simple physics, which I know I’ve explained before. In short, when a horizontal spinner hits an inclined plane the spinner will deflect upward. Case in point, the first hit of this fight pops Tombstone into the air. But Rotator’s wedge isn’t mounted like any old ramp, it’s V-shaped. That point makes a world of difference because while it keeps the angles the same it changes the geometry of slopes themselves and the direction that they meet Tombstone’s blade with. When Rotator drives its stake into Tombstone’s face a second time these changes become apparent because I guaran-fucking-tee you there isn’t a high speed camera on this goddamned planet that could have filmed this hit and not show you Tombstone in some state of motion blur. For a brief moment reality itself stopped attempting to render this fucking robot and Tombstone became a cloud of atoms until it hit the floor and reassembled itself. Amazingly it seems Tombstone has survived this impact and as it tries to spin up to speed again Rotator is happy to deliver another shot that sends its opponent twisting and contorting so violently that when Tombstone’s blade catches the floor it digs in and the entire rest of the robot swings 180 degrees in the opposite direction and smashes into the floor. Holy fucking shit.
Tombstone still has not died nor has it shown any indication that it’s sustained damage from these blows. The robot is upside-down now, however, and that’s an issue for Rotator because now Tombstone’s blade is about the same height off of the floor as Rotator’s rear blade. The robots touch dicks and it’s too much for Rotator to handle because its bar blows apart and causes damage to the arena so goddamned significant that an entire section of the fucking wall needed to be replaced immediately after the fight which naturally meant that the battle scheduled after this was delayed to hell and back.* Let that sink in, because that’s absolutely what Rotator’s bar did to the wall, we’re 20 seconds into this battle and Tombstone has already jacked up the floor at least once and sent a chunk of its opponent at the wall hard enough that the head of the safety team spontaneously shit his pants. Tombstone doesn’t exactly come out of this one in great shape either because there’s a chunk or a whole tooth now missing from its own weapon. Ray doesn’t give a fuck though and he keeps Tombstone’s weapon roaring at full blast even though the robot has now become the worst possible place to try and play a round of Jenga. That’s the analogy I’m going with.
This is the point where Rotator would actually be able to get at Tombstone’s wheels with its blade except unfortunately for Rotator its bar has been turned into the equivalent of a prison shiv mounted on a desk fan. Although Tombstone’s weapon is still going it is badly damaged and the shaking it’s causing is interfering with Ray’s ability to drive the robot around. Tombstone nicks the side of the wall near the screws and the force from this hit is enough to suck the rest of the life out of the spinner. Ray shrugs it off by saying both robots have dead weapons and misses the part where Rotator still has a wedge that it can use to shove Tombstone around. I know you traditionally don’t get points with the judges for doing this but when neither robot has a working weapon I feel like Rotator stands to claim all of the points for “Control” if this fight goes the distance… and it might not because a brief spurt of sparks shoot out of Tombstone’s backside and almost immediately the robot starts smoking.
Tombstone’s batteries are famously kept at the back of the robot; we’ve seen them before, like the time Tombstone snuck in an extra blow on Bronco a couple seasons ago and inadvertently blew its own armor apart. In no more than two seconds this smoke becomes a full on fire. For now Tombstone is still moving around though considering the size of these flames I think the spicy chili shits plaguing the “King of Kinetic Energy” are probably going to catch up with it really soon. This fire gets fucking going too, likely because Tombstone’s batteries are wrapped in foam which eagerly burns and also because Tombstone still uses nickel-cadmium batteries instead of the lithium polymer (LiPo) ones you see so many other teams using. Both of these things will BURN when you light them up and in just a few seconds we can barely even see into the fucking Battlebox because it becomes filled with a smoke that causes so many cancers I’m sure there’s a lawyer out there watching this and jerking off as we speak.
There’s a little under a minute left and Tombstone just continues to burn. Chris says he wonders if Tombstone will survive until the end and take it to a decision. Why, Chris? So Ray can say he toughed it out and still lost in the end? When you compare the amount of damage each of these robots have done to each other Rotator doesn’t have a rear weapon anymore and Tombstone is on fucking fire. I feel like even if we had that judge from last year who supposedly fucked up every decision they turned in we’d still see a unanimous call for Rotator here. Surprise surprise, Tombstone doesn’t make it to the buzzer. The fire inside the robot has literally consumed absolutely everything and as the ref looks at Tombstone burning like a stack of dirty tires he tells Ray he needs to see some movement. God bless this man and his unwavering adherence to the language of the official rules. Tombstone is counted out at 2:58 and for the next 30 fucking minutes the safety crew tries to extinguish Tombstone’s fire because it kept relighting itself over and over again. Ray and his team had to completely disassemble Tombstone inside the arena before they could wheel it out.
“Most Destructive Robot” my ass.
WINNER: Rotator, KO
* It is important for me to stress that the piece of Rotator’s bar that hit the glass DID NOT breach the arena. It hit with enough impact that the safety crew who inspected the panel after the battle expressed concerns that it may have been weakened and because there was even a tiny iota of concern about it they decided to replace the whole panel. So again, nothing breached the arena. Nothing cracked or made a hole, etc. The safety crew replaced it because their job is to make sure everything is 100% watertight and in this case “99%” wasn’t good enough.
THE DESPERADO EVENT
There isn’t a segment for this in the episode but next week is the Desperado mini-tournament and there’s really no place for me to talk about it in this article so I’m adding this extra section down here at the bottom. It works out in everyone’s favor though because this episode didn’t seem to have any pit segments that I could really expand upon in any meaningful or funny way. BattleBots recently released the eight competitors and the bracket for the Desperado so I would like to share with you all the predictions that I made at the taping of the event. These are not fight spoilers, this is purely conjecture that I wrote down at the show.
- Minotaur vs. Lucky (QF): We’ve barely seen Lucky this season but at this point the robot had failed to make a standout performance. Against Minotaur though, I don’t see Lucky coming out of this in one piece. Minotaur by Decision.
- End Game vs. Gruff (QF): It’s weird seeing Gruff in the Desperado because I felt like it was doing okay? But I guess the team disagreed. End Game has been having a terrible year but all it needs is just one good hit square on Gruff’s side and it’ll kill it. Gruff will start strong, but End Game will eventually get that hit. End Game by KO.
- Black Dragon vs. Captain Shrederator (QF): No surprise the Captain is here but I guess it’s kind of weird considering Brian Nave said he didn’t have very many spare parts. I fully expect this to pan out like RailGun Max & Shellshock. Black Dragon by KO.
- War Hawk vs. Ragnarok (QF): Even though War Hawk was busted up I don’t think it sustained much actual damage. Ragnarok has had nothing but trouble and I don’t expect it to make any sort of meaningful rebound. War Hawk by Decision.
- Minotaur vs. End Game (SF): End Game will have gotten its first win of the season by this point but the robot pulls itself up too much when it turns. Minotaur stays low and it’s going to use this advantage to cause critical damage to End Game. Minotaur by KO.
- Black Dragon vs. War Hawk (SF): I fully expect to see War Hawk’s chassis break apart again because Black Dragon hits like a freight train and those shock-mount things on War Hawk just will not be able to take the punishment. Black Dragon by KO.
- Minotaur vs. Black Dragon (F): It feels like this might be the final that the producers are hoping happens because it’s two Brazilian teams. Both of these robots are extremely durable, both of them hit hard, and both of them are from teams with years of experience. Marco Meggiolaro’s expertise will win out in the end but this will be a very close call, probably a split. Minotaur by Decision.
Again, these are not spoilers. When I looked at the bracket at the event this is about how I saw it playing out. Was I correct? You’ll have to check out the next episode of BattleBots to find out! Maybe these predictions line up with yours, maybe they don’t. I guess I’m an “expert” by way of investing way too much of my damn life into this but you start to get a real feel for how things might pan out. Newcomers always throw things off, however. For all I know Tim Rackers might have figured out whatever was wrong with Ragnarok and it shows up and hacks everyone to pieces. I wouldn’t bet money on that, but it’s always a possibility.
Anyways I just wanted a place to put these predictions like I did last season so here they are. Apparently we’re also being treated to two bonus fights in the form of Deep Six vs. Axe Backwards and Extinguisher vs. The Four Horsemen. That’s three more robots making their debut in an episode that doesn’t even fucking focus on Fight Night. I don’t know if predictions for those fights are worth getting into but since they’re on the graphic BattleBots put out to announce the Desperado I suppose I can toss these out. I feel like the organizers are mad that Axe Backwards has been in two fights without a working weapon so they’re just going to feed it to Deep Six as a sick joke. The Extinguisher fight won’t be as cut and dry, though. Extinguisher’s weight is all up front and in its weapon so there isn’t a whole lot of defense at its back. This is the perfect opponent for The Four Horsemen because there is a clear weak point that can be taken advantage of. It’s just going to come down to whether or not the clusterbot can pull it off. Chances are Extinguisher isn’t going to land any significant blows with its axe because its opponents are too small and too fast, The Four Horsemen will likely nickle and dime Extinguisher to death and win on decision. There.
And that’s a wrap on this week’s Update! The next time you’re here we’ll be seeing who’s advancing onward into the main tournament! Last year Lock-Jaw won the Desperado event and even though it did not go on to win the title it was nice seeing the robot reclaim a little bit of its glory and win Donald Hutson his first BattleBots trophy in quite some time.
After the Desperado event the show will be taking a brief hiatus and I believe when things kick back off the broadcast schedules of both Science and Discovery Channel will have synced back up so there won’t be any more of this “week late” bullshit unless something else happens. (Nevermind I just found out Science Channel will wind up even further behind than it is right now, so next week I’ll explain how the content release schedule will be changing.) But stay tuned though, this next episode will have some serious implications on the main tournament. And also Axe Backwards is back again.