For this new season of Battlebots, The Young Folks’ music editor Ryan Gibbs and staff writer Joey Daniewicz will be giving their impressions of each episode in our recurring feature Battlebots Chat. These will be a little more informal than our regular television, film and music reviews – after all we think it’s a little complicated to give a rating to something that we both consider to be a competitive sport as opposed to a game show or a reality television program.
Battlebots is a robot combat program that aired on Comedy Central for four seasons between 2000 and 2002 and then on ABC for two more in 2015 and 2016. In 2018, the show was revived by Discovery Channel,.
If you want the history on Battlebots and robot combat in general, SB Nation ran an oral history on the show’s first run in the late 1990s and early 2000s that is well worth your time to read. You can also read more about this season’s competitors over on the show’s official site. Also worth reading is Battlebots Update, which, like us, provides analysis of each Battlebots episode.
You can watch this week’s episode of Battlebots over on Discovery Channel’s website.
Ryan Gibbs: before we start this, I would like to talk about Duck. Because throughout this week, we haven’t talked about the Tombstone/Minotaur fight. No, we talked about Duck.
Joey Daniewicz: DUCK! is beautiful.
Ryan: We found out that Duck has some pedigree to it. It KO’ed Tombstone’s counterpart Last Rites just by ramming into it a bunch!
Joey: When’s the last time we’ve seen that strategy win at the highest level?
Ryan: You mean on television?
Joey: Yeah. No wedge, no spears, just ramming. Just heavily packing up a box of a bot and throwing it really hard at people.
Ryan: The Big B, which was literally just a parallelogram of metal that made it all the way to the lightweight finals one year?
Joey: Oh wow. Was that a Ziggo year or a non-Ziggo year?
Ryan: The finals were The Big B vs. Ziggo actually
Joey: Bless Ziggo. I’m sure we’ll mention him in a short bit.
Ryan: Haha, yup
Fight One: Icewave (W) vs. Vanquish
Icewave: Entered by Team Icewave of Burlingame, California and built by Mark DeVidtz. Icewave has competed in robot combat in one form or another since 2004, and appeared in both ABC seasons of Battlebots. Despite an impressive early showing in the first of those seasons, Icewave was eliminated suprisingly early on in both tournaments. Icewave’s weapon is horizontal spinning bar.
Vanquish: Entered by Team Nebula of Kent, England and built by Jack Tweedy. Vanquish is a new entry to Battlebots this year, while Tweedy has experience competing on the popular Robot Wars series in the U.K.. Vanquish’s weapon is a lifting wedge.
Joey: So we joke a lot about Icewave, but Icewave is probably actually pretty good.
Ryan: Yeah, Vanquish was, shall we say, vanquished. It got torn right in half
Joey: So I’m not sure if this was Icewave being really effective or if Vanquish was just kind of built poorly, because it didn’t look like he blew in half. It looked like half of him just kinda…..slipped off.
Ryan: I want to say that’s the most damage that any robot not called Tombstone has done to another robot since the reboot.
Joey: Hard to tell when how fixable a problem is is mostly speculative. If Icewave had double tapped ’em like it looked like it was gonna…….
Ryan: How do you fix that though? That thing was split in twain, cables everywhere.
Joey: Hard to know!
Ryan: Like, when I was a kid and Battlebots was on the first time, they had these Battlebots toys where you’d pulled them back and smashed them into each other until one “exploded”. That’s what this fight reminded me of.
Joey: I had a few of those.
Ryan: They were good toys! Also, I swore that the Vanquish team was gonna forfeit when they told Icewave “no more”. I wouldn’t blame them if they did.
Joey: You mean forfeiting the whole thing? Out of the competition?
Ryan: I meant the match. I can’t imagine them coming all the way from England and then giving up on the tournament on match one.
Joey: …I thought that them saying “no more” was an indication they forfeited?
Ryan: They still did the count out.
Joey: I guess? I think they only did that because, like, why not.
Ryan: How is there not a TKO rule in Battlebots?
Joey: I think in effect they kinda forfeited. So will this be the year Icewave finally shows up?
Ryan: Icewave needs to ditch the combustion engine. I know it’s their whole schtick but it’s holding them back.
Joey: We’ll see. Maybe they’ll show us!
Ryan: At least Jack Tweedy, the Vanquish guy, seemed like a good sport during this.
Fight Two: Petunia (W) vs. Rotator
Petunia: Entered by Team PCP of Anna Paulowna, Netherlands and built by Mischa de Graaf. Although this is their first time on Battlebots, Team PCP are veterans on the European robot combat scene and competed on the British, Dutch and German versions of Robot Wars, and their robot PulverizeR won the second season of Dutch Robot Wars in 2003. Petunia’s primary weapon is a pincer-style crushing beak.
Rotator: Entered by Team Revolution and built by Victor Soto. Rotator competed in Battlebots in 2016, but lost to Witch Doctor in its only match. Its primary weapons are two horizontal spinning discs.
Ryan: I had no idea what to expect going into this one. Neither of the designs wowed me, and Rotator didn’t seemed to be particularly balanced?
Joey: Honestly, my money was on Petunia, and that’s what happened. Rotator looks kinda cool and has a BEAUTIFUL LOGO but that was like it.
Ryan: Petunia just seemed to be Razer but wider. Every year it seems like we have a team that uses something like Razer’s crushing weapon. Razer was one of the best robots ever made, no doubt about it, but I have never been impressed with any of the Battlebots copies.
Joey: Petunia looks like it’s so easy to handle! I question its ability to do damage in certain matchups, but at least for now it kind of put those fears to rest. Although, I forget, was Petunia very responsible for Rotator’s weapons just kind of dying? If memory serves, Rotator might have just kinda….not worked.
Ryan: The first hit Rotator made to Petunia dented its blade. The first hit was very nice, but one of those blades was never the same again
Joey: Sounds like it’s a failure at its very concept.
Ryan: It ripped off some of Petunia’s armor and it was the best hit Rotator got all fight, and then Petunia pretty much ate its lunch from there on out
Joey: It seemed like the saws on Rotator just couldn’t take the hits it was making
Ryan: So yeah, Rotator might be lucky to win a match this season.
Joey: Petunia looks promising!
Ryan: Petunia’s big problem is the same one as a lot of Razer-alikes. That pincer is such a precise, exact weapon. You have to hope the other robot has bad armor or exposed wheels
Joey: And if it has a really good weapon, you might be screwed anyway.
Ryan: Razer was able to do devastating stuff because that team drove so fast and so aggressively and was so exact. Petunia didn’t do any of that. I feel like it won because its opponent wasn’t very good. Which seemed to be a theme tonight.
Joey: Lord, was that ever the theme tonight. Speaking of…
Fight three: Brutus vs. Red Devil (W)
Brutus: Entered by Team Brutus of Somerville, Massachusetts and built by Adam Bercu. Brutus impressed early in the 2016 tournament with its gimmick in which it “shot” special effects “bullets” that did no damage other than disorient its opponent. Brutus fought against Tombstone in the round of 16, and despite an impressive early showing in the match, it got knocked out in 59 seconds. Team Brutus is one of several teams that spawned from Team JACD, an MIT team that entered Overhaul in the 2015 tournament. Brutus’ main weapon is a vertical spinning disc
Red Devil: Entered by All Black Robotics of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, built by Jerome Miles of Spanish Fork, Utah and driven by Ravi Baboolal. Miles has been involved in Battlebots since the 1999 pay-per-views and is best known for his lightweight Sublime, which competed in three of the Comedy Central seasons. He entered Red Devil in the 2016 tournament, where it made it the Sweet 16. This year, Miles could not compete in Battlebots due to filming comitments for Kings of Bots in China, and has entrusted Red Devil to an all-star Canadian team featuring the builders of 2016 robots Lycan and Bucktooth Burl. Red Devil’s weapons are grappling arms and a vertical saw blade on a moveable arm.
Ryan: Remember when Brutus was one of your favorite robots? It did that “we shot guns, but not really, it’s just a prop” thing?
Joey: Brutus did the coolest thing ever. It is still legendary. Brutus could have won tonight! But uh….it seemed broken right out of the gate.
Kind of unfortunate from a viewing perspective.
Ryan: Yeah, it was having a lot of trouble. I’m wondering if something went wrong electronically. Brutus started smoking immediately.
Joey: Made me sad. Red Devil looked fine, but it’s really hard to say. This wasn’t much of a fight.
Ryan: Which is interesting because we both hated Red Devil last season!
Joey: I still kinda doubt it as a concept.
Ryan: Your quote last year, about Red Devil, was “I could probably find one in the Target toy aisle for about sixty bucks”
Joey: It still totally looks like that.
Ryan: I think their saw is pretty cool and I like the dropping mechanism on it. It’s definitely a different way to do a saw in Battlebots.
Joey: At the same time, it looks super brittle and I do wonder just how effectively it can cut through certain bots. I think that’s always been my main skepticism there.
Ryan: What would it do against Duck, which is just a chunk of very fast aluminum and nothing else? Could that thing even get close to Tombstone? I don’t think it could
Joey: Yep. That’s always honestly a huge basis of my shit-talk. I think about some of the big names and I’m like……..how far did they really think this concept can bring them? Which, I guess not everyone there is feeling like their goal is to win. But still, I can’t help myself from making that my standard as a viewer.
Ryan: I’ve always felt that way about Battlebots. Sometimes I’m surprised and something as obtuse as Dr. Inferno Jr., which looked like the Nintendo ROB, winds up winning two championships. But most times, I’m wondering what are these more whimsical or gimmicky robots’ strategy for taking on the big dogs? The Inferno guy had a strategy. Does Red Devil?
Joey: I honestly cannot believe DIJ did that. I don’t understand at all.
Ryan: I loved Dr. Inferno Jr. because it shouldn’t have done as well as it did, but it was driven so well that it didn’t matter what it looked like
Joey: Random side-note, what was DIJ’s record against Ziggo.
Ryan: They never fought outside of a rumble.
Joey: That’s insane! This is probably unfair……..and maybe I could say the same thing about the inverse……….but maybe this explains why DIJ managed two championships.
Ryan: In that rumble, they were the last two bots standing more or less, and they were pretty evenly matched! Remember, DIJ was super low to the ground apart from that robot top.
Joey: Back to business, though…
Ryan: It says a lot about this Red Devil/Brutus fight that we just spent a couple of minutes talking about Dr. Inferno Jr. a robot that has not fought since 2002, instead of it.
Fight four: End Game (W) vs. Captain Shrederator
End Game: Entered by OYES Robotics of Auckland, New Zealand and built by Jack Barker. End Game and its team are rookies to robot combat. Its primary weapon is a vertical spinning blade.
Captain Shrederator: Entered by Team Logicom of Ormond Beach, Florida, built by Brian Nave and driven by Nicholas Nave. Team Logicom has been competing with full body spinners since the early 2000s, when they entered Phrizbee into the last three seasons of the Comedy Central BattleBots. The team is probably best known for The Revolutionist, which was the runner-up on the first season of TNN’s short-lived American version of Robot Wars. They have entered Captain Shredderator, a successor to the Revolutionist, in all three reboot seasons. In the 2016 tournament, it lost early to Chomp. Captain Shrederator is a full body spinner, a cylindrical robot that is designed to rapidly spin its entire body, making the whole thing a weapon.
Joey: Did you know that full body spinners are HARD to pull off?????
Ryan: So i take notes for every single one of these fights. Usually they are very detailed. Sometimes they are very concise. Here is all that I wrote for this one: “End Game knocked Shrederator on his ass the end.”
Joey: So you have some backstory about Shred Take it away.
Ryan: Last season, the Shredderator guy talked a bunch of shit about Zoe Stephenson and Chomp. Then Chomp took it out by hitting what seemed to be something that turned Shredderator off and then on again. So now Shredderator’s back, but the builder just left it with his son.
Joey: Chomp’s a weird-ass robot that it makes sense to kinda shit-talk but yeah he went this awful angle about it.
Ryan: Yeah maybe don’t shittalk the robot with the LIDAR guided hammer when your design means you can be easily taken out from above?
Joey: I think it’s pretty cute that they gave us this weird New Zealand v USA match. And I like it even more that Team USA got its ass absolutely handed to it.
Ryan: They really went the distance hyping out End Game huh?
Joey: I mean, it paid off. And I admired that they totally leaned into the winning interview.
Ryan: I thought End Game seemed a little nondescript in pictures, but it totally proved me wrong. Sometimes, you don’t need to do something unique to stand out. Sometimes you just have to be real good at what you do.
Joey: I think it’ll be super spicy to see it try to live up to the hype that it just gave itself.
Ryan: This fight was all down to that first hit. End Game whacked Shrederator into a corner and it was never the same again. But yeah, solid fight. End Game’s weapons is real impressive. Interesting to see what it will do later. Especially since the driver is interested in fighting Tombstone.
Main event: Witch Doctor vs. Yeti (W)
Witch Doctor: Entered by Team Witch Doctor of Miami Beach Florida and built by Andrea Suarez. Witch Doctor has been entered in all three reboot seasons. In the past, it was accompanied by a minibot called Shaman, which will not appear this year in favor of 30 additional pounds of armor being added to the main Witch Doctor robot. Witch Doctor was the #3 seed in last season’s tournament, but was knocked out in the round of 32 by the #30 ranked Red Devil. The robot’s main weapon is a vertical spinning disc
Yeti: Entered by Team Yeti of Wasila, Alaska and built by Greg Gibson. Yeti was the Cinderella story of last season. It was entered at the last-minute as an alternate, and made it all the way to the semi-finals, where it faced Tombstone. It actually lasted the whole three minutes against the infamous robot, but ultimately lost in a judges’ decision. Yeti’s weapons are a spinning drum and two lifting forks.
Joey: I am beginning to think that Yeti is pretty good.
Ryan: Yeti made it to the semi-finals last year as a last-minute alternate. Only Tombstone stood in its way to the finals.
Joey: In an absolutely insane fight that turned into a desperation ramfest.
Ryan: I loved that Tombstone/Yeti fight. It was a nail biter. Yeti lost, but that’s a mighty admirable way to lose.
Joey: Is Yeti more likely to beat Tombstone than Minotaur?
Ryan: Probably not, but who knows what it has planned for Tombstone or Minotaur.
Joey: We know his strategy for literally every fight. So probably the same thing.
Ryan: As for its opponent, I kind of feel like Witch Doctor is a little overrated at this point. It has never impressed me. It’s only won 2 fights ever.
Joey: Witch Doctor is clearly overhyped, yeah. How about the armor differential in this fight?
Ryan: Yeah, that’s right. Witch Doctor got rid of its minibot Shaman, to put 30 pounds of armor onto it.
Joey: That’s a lot of reinforcement.
Ryan: Lot of good it did it.
Joey: I mean, they did at least make the correct decision.
Ryan: Were those ribs supposed to be that armor? Because Yeti tore that stuff up.
Joey: Yeah, I…I don’t know what that was. Meanwhile, Yeti had like six pounds of armor compared to forty.
Ryan: Yeti’s drum impressed me in this. It was no Minotaur, but what is? It’s hard to compare any drum spinner to Minotaur. I think this fight came down to Yeti’s control and driving. It never let up. I don’t think there was ever a point where Witch Doctor was winning.
Joey: To give Witch Doctor a little credit, it seemed like Yeti’s lifter thingy came undone. But that might have been from Yeti’s own aggression.
Ryan: Yeah, the Yeti guy seemed bummed about that, but it didn’t stop him.
Joey: That’s a weird feature of Yeti that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen used in a way that shows me how it’s supposed to work.
Ryan: This was the second straight fight to be decided in a corner huh.
Ryan: I have no idea how new this “the other team controls the pulverizers” thing is, but this might be one of the first fights where the pulverizers helped end a match.
Joey: I don’t know how I feel about it? Maybe it’s like to remove the amount of decision-making by non-players?
Ryan: Are the other hazards controlled by the other team? The killsaws? That screw that never really does much?
Joey: Who knows. Imagine if you’re the only person on your whole team, so you have no one to control the pulverizer for you.
Ryan: I looked it up, the hazards are all apparently computer controlled except for the pulverizers, which have been controlled by the other team since the show came back.
Joey: Well huh.
Joey: So we found out how much of this we’re getting. We still have eighteen more hours of Battlebots.
Ryan: Thereabouts. There may be less or more episodes. Battlebots Update just guessed based on the tapings he went to.
Joey: Haha, if there were more….my goodness.
Ryan: I’m still waiting to see Son of Wyachi. And I’m interested to see what the Chomp team has up its sleeve this year.
Joey: If Son of Whyachi does well Imma get so hype.
Ryan: Warhead is also back. Uh, go Warhead I guess. Wish you guys brought Razer instead. Again.
Joey: Our favorite bot of all time, Warhead.
Ryan: Warhead has that gyroscopic spinning blade again. The one that’s nearly perpendicular to the robot.
Joey: But yeah, fun episode, again. I like what we’ve got going. I kind of wish we had an idea of what the stakes were, though? Like, what is this doing to the standings, how many losses before someone no longer has a shot at making bracket?
Ryan: It’s four fights per Battlebot, then they’re doing finals based on who has the best record. So if a robot goes 2-2, they’re probably not getting in the tournament.
Joey: So Minotaur can’t lose again.
Ryan: Who knows? Minotaur might wild card because it’s Minotaur, but i don’t think Riobotz is losing again no.
Joey: I imagine that if one of its fights was Minotaur they’ll probably pool it with pushovers, yeah.
Ryan: Gigabyte, built by probably the best team to ever build a full body spinner (aside from Ziggo) went out in a untelevised rumble last time. Now we get to see them 4 times if they televise everything.