For this new season of Battlebots, The Young Folks’ music editor Ryan Gibbs and contributing 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: So they opened this episode with a sketch calling Bronco the “New York Yankees of bots”.
Joey: Yeah, which, man, I dunno.
Ryan: I’d argue that’s not fair. Intertia Labs have more nuts than the Yankees have World Series wins this millennium
Joey: Boooo. Bronco isn’t Intertia Labs. It’s one bot, and it hasn’t won anything yet. Bronco doesn’t get any points for flipping Hazard.
Ryan: True, but that’s more to do with the switch to one weight class than Bronco not being a good robot.
Joey: Bronco’s amazing, but it’s known for being great, not necessarily winning. It’s just a weird thing to say. Like, if there’s one robot here that’s like the Yankees, you know what it is. That’s right: Bite Force.
Ryan: Oh, I was gonna say Double Jeopardy.
Joey: But yeah that said Bronco might be the second best robot present. A case can be made.
Fight One: Hypershock vs. Free Shipping (W)
Hypershock: Entered by Shenanigans & Co. of Miami, Florida and built by Will Bales. So far this season, Hypershock has a loss against Bite Force and a win against Battle Royale With Cheese. Its primary weapon is a dual blade set up in a drum spinner-style configuration.
Free Shipping: Entered by Team Special Delivery of Oakland, California and built by Gary Gin. Free Shipping has two losses, against DUCK! and HUGE going into this match. Its weapon is a forklift, which has been fitted with a wedge for this match.
Ryan: This is a great match for those who love really fast robots.
Joey: Did Hypershock ever get its spinner entirely going?
Ryan: The commentators pointed out that it seemed to stop, restart and get up to half speed before stopping again. It was weird. The spinner worked a lot better early on, though. Got some really nice hits on Free Shipping.
Joey: I gotta say, I didn’t much care for this fight.
Ryan: I liked it! Although it’s probably because I really like both teams. I’m still not sold on Free Shipping.. It’s too top heavy and I’ve never seen the forklift act like a forklift. In this fight, it even had a wedge instead of the lifter.
Joey: When the biggest, most damaging weapon in a bout is the flamethrower, yeah I tune out a little bit. But yeah the wedge did help things. I’m definitely a wedge guy.
Ryan: Do you still hate flamethrowers? This season we’ve seen a lot of instances of them actually working and doing significant damage. Including in this fight.
Joey: Even when they work, I really just don’t care for them at all from a spectating perspective.
Ryan: Do you think either of these robots are round of 16 contenders after this fight? I can see both of them ending up with a record of 2-2, and might be two of many robots they’ll have to pick from to flesh the tournament out.
Joey: They could definitely make it based on who they go up against. But I think if it was based on which bots are the best sixteen here, I kinda doubt that either of them would show up.
Ryan: I think Hypershock has a chance more than Free Shipping does.
Fight Two: Red Devil (W) vs. SubZero
Red Devil: Entered by All Black Robotics of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, built by Jerome Miles of Spanish Fork, Utah and driven by Ravi Baboolal. Red Devil currently has a win against Brutus and a loss against Monsoon on its record. Its weapons are grappling arms and a vertical saw blade on a movable arm.
SubZero: Entered by Team Hammertime of Malvern, Pennsylvania and built by Jerry Clarkin. SubZero also has a 1-1 record, with a loss against HUGE and a win against Captain Shredderator under its belt. Its primary weapon is launching arm.
Ryan: Now this was a fight I really wasn’t enthused about apart from one or two things. I just don’t really like SubZero all that much.
Joey: Yeah, this was….yeah. I enjoyed this far less, SubZero is just kind of ick. Red Devil looks pretty nice!
Ryan: SubZero apparently did really well in some special tournaments Battlebots ran between the Comedy Central show and the ABC reboot. The wiki tells me it knocked out Icewave in 12 seconds! And it was a ring-out too! But that was in 2007. It hasn’t really wowed me since it’s been on TV.
Joey: Wow! What the. I wonder if Icewave self-KOed.
Ryan: The fact that I’m posting a 50 second clip that I timecoded to start midway should tell you everything you need to know. As for this match, Red Devil looked from a control standpoint, aside from the early flips from SubZero.
Joey: It did! What does this put Red Devil’s record at?
Ryan: 2-1. It seemed like Red Devil had a hard time sawing into SubZero because of the strength of SubZero’s armor, but we still got some really nice sparks.
Joey: Who did Red Devil lose to again?
Joey: Ah yes. More on that situation later.
Ryan: Now this fight is notable for one thing and it wasn’t either Red Devil or SubZero, but SubZero’s completely worthless drone
Joey: OH RIGHT.
Ryan: It dropped out of the sky, vertically.
Joey: That was………..cathartic.
Ryan: And then got ripped apart by the screws. I kind of loved the commentators talking trash about how worthless drones have been in Battlebots.
Joey: Drones are so embarrassing and distracting that I almost want them to just outright ban them to get people to stop, even though I know they’re clearly not viable at all. I can’t believe people won’t cut it out. Maybe the other members of the team are bored and want something to do during fights.
Ryan: I thought Hypershock killing Warrior Clan’s drone with a rake was the middle finger to drones that would end it all, but we’re still getting them.
Joey: I think that hypothesis may actually be correct. I mean, wouldn’t you have fun operating a useless drone during a Battlebots fight? I would.
Ryan: If it had a camera, maybe.
Fight three: Warhead (W) vs. Sharkoprion
Warhead: Entered by Team Razer of Poole, England and built by Simon Scott. Warhead first competed in Battlebots in the fifth season of the Comedy Central run, where it made it to the heavyweight quarterfinals. It subsequently appeared in both ABC seasons, reaching the round of 16 both times. Despite Warhead’s pedigree, it is not the robot this team is best known for. That would be Razer, one of the most celebrated of all Robot Wars competitors and one of the best known combat robots in Great Britain. Razer won the fifth and sixth series of Robot Wars, both in 2002, and boasts a 40-6 win-loss record that few other bots in the world can match. Like Razer, Warhead boasts an impressive, trademark weapon in its gyroscopic, dome shaped spinner. For this fight, it has exchanged that weapon for its other configuration, a dinosaur “head” with a spiked biting “mouth” and a flamethrower.
Sharkoprion: Entered by Team Blaze of Poway, California and built by Ed Robinson. Sharkoprion. Robinson entered PT Bruiser and Robot X into the Comedy Central seasons, but neither made it onto the televised rounds. Sharkoprion already has one win, against Deviled Egg and Kraken in a match that was aired only on the Science Channel. The robot, which is designed to resemble a shark, has a saw on its head as its primary weapon.
Ryan: This is the first time we’re seeing Warhead this season, and they brought the T-Rex head thing instead of the dome spinner. I don’t know if that was the optimal weapon decision, but they couldn’t not fight the shark robot with their dinosaur attachment could they?
Joey: My impression is they can bring both and change it up, right?
Ryan: Yes. They have interchangable weapons
Joey: I think for this fight, it was probably optimal.
Ryan: I think Sharkoprion is a beautiful robot and the driver seems like an extremely cool, colorful hippie dude. But it doesn’t really seem to make sense from a combat standpoint. It is more Mark Setrakian than Ray Billings, if you get my drift.
Joey: My big thing kept being how big and useless and grabbable its tail is.
Ryan: But man, the way the tail moves is lovely, isn’t it?
Joey: It’s like Mewtwo in Super Smash Bros Melee!
Ryan: It’s like Mechadon. What could Mechadon even do? It was too slow and it moved using its weapons. But it was incredible. One of the best robots ever made by anyone. Sharkoprion has a couple saws, but they really didn’t do much here right?
Joey: Nah, the saws didn’t look very potent. You saw the bit after the fight, right? The guy talking about how he’d never had more fun? That was neat.
Ryan: Oh yeah, totally. He seems very neat and Team Razer were very good sports. By the way, how do you think Warhead did here?
Joey: Fine. I think it was totally fine. I kind of like it as a grappler more than I ever liked it as a spinner.
Ryan: I mean, yeah. We don’t need more spinners in Battlebots, even if Warhead’s had one for 15 years and it’s a very different kind of spinner.
Joey: I’d probably respect Warhead’s spinner more if it tended to see more serious results but I’ve just always felt that the team was clearly more talented than the robot. Which is sort of why I’ve been frustrated about it.
Ryan: And you’d be right about the team. Have you given their Robot Wars clips of Razer a watch yet?
Joey: A few of em.
Ryan: It should tell you a lot that there’s a video of Top 5 Razer Battles in Robot Wars or something like that and it has 3.7 million hits on Youtube.
Fight four: Monsoon vs. Son of Whyachi (W)
Son of Whyachi: Entered by Team Whyachi of Dorchester, Wisconsin, built by Terry Ewert and driven by Luke Ewert. A former Battlebots champion, Son of Whyachi has a loss against Brutus and a win against Lucky so far this season. Its weapons are three horizontally spinning hammers laid out in a triangular shape.
Joey: That felt good.
Ryan: These are two of my favorite robots in this season, and I was really excited for a fight between them.
Joey: I’ve been liking Monsoon too!
Ryan: I thought one of them was going to get their head kicked in, and that’s exactly what happened
Joey: But you know I’m rooting for a SOW classic and there it is.
Ryan: Far and away SOW’s best match since it came back.
Joey: I really think there’s absolutely nothing like a huge Son of Whyachi hit.
Ryan: Oh yeah, I agree.
Joey: Monsoon didn’t really have a way to win this.
Ryan: I mean, we remember what happened the last time SOW went up against the biggest vertical spinner in the field, right?
Joey: The moment that hooked me on this dumb show.
Ryan: Well, you couldn’t have picked a better match for that to happen.
Joey: Anything left to say about this one?
Ryan: Not really, just a great, classic SOW KO. Hope the Monsoon team makes it to the tournament though! Rooting for ’em.
Main event: Bronco (W) vs. DUCK!
Bronco: Entered by Inertia Labs of Sausalito, California and built by Reason Bradley and Alexander Rose. Bronco won its first two fights of the season against Bombshell and Lock-Jaw. Its weapon, as always, is its extremely powerful pneumatic flipper.
DUCK!: Entered by Team Black & Blue of Hillsborough, California and built by Hal Rucker. DUCK! won a rumble against Free Shipping and Mecha Rampage in its first fight of the season, and defeated Reality in its second. Its primary weapon is a lifting plow with a spike designed like a duck’s beak on the front. DUCK! is also one of the toughest competitors in the field this year, milled from a single piece of titanium.
Ryan: What a match up.
Joey: Yeahhhh unfortunately my suspicions were right and DUCK! wasn’t really equipped for this. It did a fine job, though. It’s just hard to imagine winning a ramming contest against what might be the sturdiest bot in the competition.
Ryan: Oh definitely. It lost in the worst way possible, but it impressed me with everything it did before that.
Joey: Remember how beforehand they said they’d last the full three minutes as long as they didn’t get flipped out of the arena? Well, huh. I love a good flip but it still hurt my soul a little bit.
Ryan: Oh yeah. Basically, the only thing that can kill DUCK! are just about the most insane things that can happen in robot combat. Bronco tossing it out of the arena, Touro Maximus/Minotaur throwing it at the wall and breaking the wall (and it was even moving after that!).
Ryan: It should also be noted that Duck was totally still working after it was thrown out of the arena.
Joey: You can’t kill DUCK!.
Ryan: A good showing from both robots, definitely. Do you think DUCK! did enough to result in it winning a judges decision if it wasn’t tossed out of bounds?
Joey: No. Definitely not. Right?
Ryan: I don’t know it put on a show
Joey: The few hopes were the brief chances it had at using its little flippy thing. And while it kept on ticking, it did get flipped way the absolute fuck in the air. Multiple times.
Ryan: Oh yeah, totally. It was a good defensive fight though.
Joey: For sure.
Ryan: So the next episode is going to be something different. I don’t know if you caught this at the end of this episode, but they’re doing something called a Desperado Tournament. Eight teams with less than stellar records will fight in a mini tournament, with the winner getting a guaranteed entry into the final round of 16. This will be the wild card spot, basically. Here’s an extraordinarily helpful explainer from the Brutus team.
Joey: So there’s only one of these spots. Top 15 otherwise are in the knockout round. Right?
Joey: It looks like bots who do well in the Desperado Tournament can make it in anyway. So this is NOT a last chance qualifier.
Ryan: No, it’s more of a wild card thing than that. Apparently, Gigabyte might be in this. Also, the winner of the Desperado Tournament also does not have to fight anymore until the round of 16.
Joey: Yup. Well huh. I don’t love this. It sounds great from a spectators perspective but bots don’t know whether they should participate or not.
Ryan: It was apparently voluntary.
Joey: I could imagine like the fourteenth best performing robot up to that point getting bopped after three bots in the desperado bracket perform well.
Which is like not a wonderful decision to have to make. Cuz how does it look if you try that bracket and get bopped?
Ryan: I mean, what might wind up happening is that there’ll be a bunch of robots with a 2-2 record vying for a bunch of spots in the tournament anyway.
Do you really think we’re going to have a bunch of 4-0 or 3-1 robots?
Joey: Nah. Do we have the known standings, btw? That would be super nifty to see
Ryan: They’re here, courtesy of Reddit user Tommyspud.
Joey: Nice, figured some reddit people would be up to that.
Ryan: We still have a couple undefeated robots in the mix. HUGE, Bronco, Bite Force and SawBlaze are all at 3-0 and are almost certainly in the tournament. Tombstone and a few others are at 2-0.