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.
Joey: This episode more than any other was FAST. So many of these matchups were just so straight up.
Ryan: Four of the five ended in knockouts
Joey: All of them except the rumble, I think?
Joey: And they weren’t like eventual knockouts. They were either quick or predictable.
Ryan: A lot of them were pretty much over within a minute
Fight One: Overhaul vs. SawBlaze (W)
Overhaul: Entered by Equals Zero Robotics of Cambridge, Massachusetts and built by Charles Guan. Overhaul has competed in all three Battlebots reboot seasons and is entered by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Its main weapon is a grappling claw
SawBlaze: Entered by Team SawBlaze of Cambridges, Massachusetts and built by Jamison Go. SawBlaze is one of several robots entered by teams that split off from the original JACD team from MIT that brought Overhaul to the 2015 competition. Go first entered SawBlaze in the 2016 Battlebots. SawBlaze’s weapons are a circular saw mounted on an arm with 180-degrees of movement, and a three-pronged lifting scoop. There is also apparently a flamethrower in there.
Joey: It would have been hard for Overhaul to win this.
Ryan: Overhaul has only won one fight in three seasons.
Joey: Oof. Their attachment this time out was pretty suspect too, honestly. Like…..that’s the plan?
Ryan: Oh, the unicorn horn that wound up doing nothing? That was supposed to disrupt Sawblaze’s low to the ground wedge and did not do that?
Joey: Ah, that’s what it was for? Oof. By the way, that wedge… I haven’t seen some great wedge action in a minute.
Ryan: Oh I love everything about Sawblaze We didn’t get see much of it last tournament. It lost its first match, did a rumble and that was it. And here, it looked absolutely fantastic.
Joey: I don’t know if I’ll be as confident with it when it faces someone who…….isn’t Overhaul. But it executed so stupid well. Made you wonder if it was a contender?
Ryan: I hope it is. It was impressive this time. Especially all those sparks it shot off That’s the most sparks I’ve seen from a sawblade in Battlebots in a long time
Joey: What’s the last bot that really messed things up with its saw?
Joey: Oof.I suppose so.
Ryan: End Game last episode had a spinning blade, not a saw. There is a difference.
Joey: Not much to say about this one. Impressive stuff from Sawblaze. Overhaul…might need an overhaul?
Ryan: Ha ha, maybe
Fight Two: Whiplash (W) vs. Hypothermia
Whiplash: Entered by Fast Electric Robotics of Newbury Park, California, built by Jeff Vasquez and driven by Matthew Vasquez. Whiplash is the latest creation from the Vasquez family, who have competed on Battlebots since season 3 of the Comedy Central series. Their best known robot was Matts Bammer, which made it the round of 32 in season 3. They also entered Splatter in season 2 of the ABC show. Whiplash’s primary weapon is a rotating saw blade mounted onto a lifting arm.
Hypothermia: Entered by Team Toad of Liberty Hill, Texas and built by Fuzzy Maudlin. Maudlin and his team have competed in BattleBots since season 2 of the Comedy Central series, with their bots typically having an ice or snow theme. Their best known robot, FrostBite, competed in four seasons and made it to the heavyweight quarterfinals in season 2. The next year, their superheavyweight IceBerg also made it to that weight class’ quarterfinals. Hypothermia’s weapons are a wedge and a grappling-style lifter
Joey: Remind me what happened in this one. If I recall correctly, Whiplash ended it stupid quick after getting grabbed once.
Ryan: That’s about right. It got grabbed once and then knocked Hypothermia’s wheel right off
Joey: The wheel! Right. For a second I thought it might not go like I thought and that the grappler could win.
Ryan: One of two fights pretty much ended by a wheel-off this episode, and probably the least impressive bot post-wheel-off of the two. It was still moving, but it didn’t really do anything of note after that
Joey: Yup. Do you think Whiplash has much of a shot at going far?
Ryan: Whiplash looked pretty good in this fight. I liked how Swiss Army its weapon looked. It can do a lot of stuff with it that makes it stand out from all the other vertical spinners
Joey: Good lord there are so many vertical spinners
Ryan: We do not have a lack of them, no
Joey:The market is over-saturated.
Ryan: At least this one can use its weapon as a Biohazard style lifting arm too, a weapon style I greatly miss in Battlebots
Joey: Yeah! Forgot it had that.
Ryan: I like seeing a robot that kind of feels like an early 00s robot in all the right ways, and Whiplash was it. But i’d like to see how it does with bigger fish.
Fight three: Double Jeopardy vs. The Four Horsemen (W) vs. Gamma 9
Double Jeopardy: Entered by Team Double Trouble of Irvine, California and built by Evan Woolley. The Woolley family are newcomers to Battlebots and bring one of the most radical changes to the show in its nearly 20 year history. Double Jeopardy’s primary weapon is a cannon that shoots a single six-pound slug at its opponents. For pretty much the entire history of robot combat, before and after BattleBots, such projectile weapons have been either forbidden or discouraged from competition. Until now, that is.
The Four Horsemen: Entered by The Four Horsemen of Lewes, England, built by Ian Watts and driven by Ian Watts, Sam Watts and Ryan Pratt. Ian Watts is a longtime competitor of both Battlebots and the British Robot Wars. He’s best known for two robots: Bigger Brother, which made it to the finals of the fifth season of Robot Wars, and Little Sister, which twice made the round of 32 in Battlebots. As of late, Watts has competed with mini-bots, smaller robots that are entered together and work as a team. He brought Creepy Crawlies to the second season of the ABC show and fought with the Grubz in RoboGames. The Four Horsemen are three small robots with Tombstone-style vertical blades and one wedge-bot, dubbed Buttercup and driven by Watts’ son Sam. The team can only enter three of the four robots in each match in order to meet the weight limit.
Gamma 9: Entered by Gammatronic Robot Brigade and built by Curtis Nemeth. Gammatronic has been competing combat robots since beginnings of the sport, having first competed with Nemreko 2000/3000 in 1995. Gamma 9 marks the first time they’ve been on Battlebots since it was revived. The robot’s primary weapons are a crushing claw and prongs.
Joey: God damn it.
Ryan: Lol. So I take it I’m not alone in hating Double Jeopardy?
Joey: The slow motion of the thing just bouncing off Gamma 9 was so pathetic.
Ryan: OK, so for the folks reading this who want a refresher, Double Jeopardy is the first robot with a projectile weapon ever entered into Battlebots. It fired a six pound slug from a canon but only has the one shot. Since the very early days of robot combat, projectiles have been forbidden, but now they’re not??
Joey: I was scared it was gonna work, is the thing.
Ryan: Anyway, I hate that they’re allowed now and I am very glad it sucked. It just did zero damage.
Joey: They gotta keep allowing fun new stuff! Drones! Flamethrowers! Drone flamethrowers!
Ryan: And now whatever this is. Props to Gamma 9 for taking the blow like a tank. Double Jeopardy failing to do the one thing it was designed to do was deeply satisfying. That slo-mo replay of the slug just bouncing of Gamma 9 was really funny.
Joey: He took the blow POINT BLANK. I honestly didn’t know it had shot anything.
Ryan: I just saw the confetti that came out after it
Joey: I thought this was the Brutus thing for like a long time.
Ryan: But the real story of this match, was of all things, a minibot team doing very well!
Joey: I know, right.
Ryan: This team has some calibur, they’re long-time Battlebots vets, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen mini-bots do as well or as impressively as the Four Horsemen did here
Joey: Most effective thing was getting Gamma 9 stuck.
Ryan: That wedge bot, Buttercup, kind of proved how good no-frills wedgebots still are in Battlebots. The little mini-Tombstones were fine, but they seemed a little too light.
Joey: Yeah I doubt the mini-tombstones’ ability to do anything.
Ryan: In order to knock out a minibot, you have to take out 60% of them. And the two Lil’ Tombstones weren’t moving at the end. But I don’t think anyone would have been happy with a triple KO rumble
Joey: I think it was just that by the time they weren’t moving there was less than ten seconds left. Meanwhile, tough choice for the judges to make!
Ryan: I think they made the right call
Joey: I think the one they made was probably right? But I would’ve been fine either way.
Fight four: Axe Backwards vs. WAR Hawk (W)
Axe Backwards: Entered by KurTrox Robotics of Palm City, Florida and built by Kurt Durjan. KurTrox are newcomers to Battlebots, but have competed in the indie circuit previously. Axe Backwards’ primary weapon is a large drum spinner that takes up nearly the entire mass of the robot, as well as two small axes on its back.
WAR Hawk: Entered by Western Allied Robotics of Seattle, Washington and built by Rob Farrow. Farrow previously competed on the Comedy Central series with Death by Monkeys, which made it to the semifinals in season 4 and the quarterfinals in season 5. WAR Hawk’s primary weapon is a dual-toothed spinning disk.
Ryan: I really wanted to like Axe Backwards, honest. I love robots that have preposterously huge weapons. But it had such a terrible showing here
Joey: He had actual axes swinging around.
Ryan: This was another fight where a horizontal spinner knocked off a wheel and that was more or less all it needed to do. After that hit, Axe Backwards’ drum was disabled too. It was all over.
Joey: The commentators were like……they’re gonna want to aim for those wheels of Axe Backwards. I was like…you think?
Ryan: They were so big, so of course.
Joey: But yeah, another super straightforward one.
Ryan: Pretty much all over from the first big hit, but props I guess to Axe Backwards for still moving for a bit after a nasty hit from WAR Hawk. However futile it ultimately was. And WAR Hawk looks nice. It’s another robot with an old school pedigree because it was built by the same guy who built Death By Monkeys from the Comedy Central days. But it’s another vertical spinner is the thing and I saw nothing that made it stick out from any others in that field
Joey: Oh, that guy!
Ryan: Yup that guy. Death by Monkeys was a good bot too.
Main event: Bite Force (W) vs. Hypershock
Bite Force: Entered by APTYX Designs of Mountain View, California and built by Paul Ventimiglia. This is the second time we’re seeing the 2015 champion Bite Force this season. Bite Force’s weapon is a vertical spinning bar.
Hypershock: Entered by Shenanigans & Co. of Miami, Florida and built by Will Bales. Hypershock has appeared in all three seasons of the reboot, having made it to the round of 16 in both of its previous tournaments. It is best known for its fight with Warrior Clan in season 2, in which Bales equipped Hypershock with a hardware store leaf rake in order to knock its opponent’s drone out of the sky, which it succeeded in doing in spectacular fashion. Hypershock’s primary weapon is a dual blade set up in a drum spinner-style configuration.
Joey: Oh my word.
Ryan: Gee, I don’t think the Bite Force guy ever wants to be embarrassed in a loss ever again
Joey: Remember the last time we saw a bot’s batteries?
Ryan: You mean last week when Icewave ripped a bot in half?
Joey: Man, I got some memory loss today. I was thinking of Tombstone’s self-inflicted hit.
Ryan: Haha, yeah well that too. This fight here was two hits. Might be one of the fastest and nastiest KOs in Battlebots history
Joey: The second hit wasn’t even needed.
Ryan: The second hit was a Tombstone style killshot, and I appreciated the slo-mo footage showing how many times Bite Force’s spinning bar connected with Hypershock as it flung it into the air
Joey: This time, luckily, the second hit resulted in the OTHER robot’s batteries falling out.
Ryan: Ha. And this wasn’t just any bot that Bite Force ruined, it was Hypershock. As in, Garden Rake Fight Hypershock. A bot I like. This was a great fight. We’re actually spending longer talking about it than the actual length of the thing. It was over in maybe 10 seconds.
Joey: This was definitely one of those Son of Whyachi type moments.
Joey: Will be fun to start seeing these bots’ SECOND games, considering that’s a thing now.
Ryan: I’m hearing Tombstone will be back next week. Can’t exactly confirm that rumor just yet
Joey: heck yeah
Ryan: And we still haven’t seen Son of Whyachi or Bronco yet, so they’re still in the cards
Joey: Both are confirmed, yeah? Should be fun.
Ryan: They sure are