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: Alright, so this was the last episode before the tournament. What were your thoughts on the “regular season” this year?
Joey: A little long! Fun, but this went onnnnnnnn and on.
Ryan: Honestly, I think that length was beneficial, and let us see robots multiple times that would have been 1 and done before Wouldn’t it have sucked if SOW’s first fight this season was all it got?
Joey: Yeah. But I dunno, maybe shorten the season and put the less remarkable fights on YouTube or something. Shorten the TV season, that is. Keep the number of fights.
Ryan: That’s kinda what they did.
Joey: Sort of! Not really.They kept like over 80% of stuff.
Ryan: There were a couple robots that we never saw once on the Discovery Channel. Like, do you know who Bale Spear is?
Joey: I do not.
Ryan: Exactly. I think the length is fine.
Joey: I don’t! And I think it took a little bit more excitement away from the tournament than it should have.
Ryan: I feel they should have used Youtube a lot more than they did. Not a single fight from this season is up in full there.
Joey: Yeah, didn’t they used to actually do that? In the ABC days?
Ryan: ABC did, all the time.
Joey: Pretty funny for an event that bragged about how many YouTube views Minotaur has.
Ryan: Those videos used to give a lot of context to what we talk about in this column, too.
Joey: Well, let’s get on with it.
Ryan: Well we start with a doozy.
Fight One: HUGE vs. Icewave (W)
Joey: I saw this coming!
Ryan: Right? This was really vicious, but I had a feeling this is exactly what would happen. You got to give it to HUGE for doing so well with its extremely strange design and literal actual plastic wheels. But it was never going to do well against a vertical spinner.
Joey: Who does Huge get in bracket?
Ryan: Bite Force. That’s not going to end well.
Ryan: Icewave, on the other hand, gets Rotator. I keep forgetting Rotator exists even though it’s been pretty good this season.
Joey: They haven’t shown it much. Or really ever talked about it.
Ryan: The second one. They’ve shown most or all of its matches I think. It’s just not talked about as a contender.
Joey: But yeah! Big hit, this was fun. Almost a cruel matchup to put Huge in though, haha.
Ryan: Yeah. I was expecting the wheels to get ripped up. I was not expecting HUGE to be shorn in half.
Joey: I was! It looks so fragile at its center. It looks like they never expected its body to be actually hit.
Ryan: It makes me wonder if Blacksmith could have done something to it.
Joey: But yeah! Excited to see both Icewave and Huge again.
Fight Two: The Four Horsemen vs. Gemini (W)
Ryan: This was a gimmick fight, but all clusterbot fights are gimmick fights in some way.
Joey: This was, uh, yeah. Very high stakes stuff.
Ryan: Neither of these were ever contenders for anything. They were just weird. But aren’t weird robots that kind of don’t matter core to what makes Battlebots what it is? Like Mechadon was never gonna be a super-heavyweight champion contender, but everyone remembers that robot.
Joey: Mehhhhh. Mechadon looked good, at least.
Ryan: That is true. But this fight did nothing for me. The Four Horsemen were cute the first couple times we saw them, but I dunno. They don’t really square the circle with me when it comes to what makes a good robot.
Joey: I don’t really remember anything about this, to be honest.
Ryan: Neither do I. Apparently Gemini won? Good for them????
Fight three: Skorpios (W) vs. Hypershock
Ryan: Now here’s a fight with a little more substance. Especially because this fight made Skorpios finished with a 3-1 and it did not make the tournament. More on that later.
Joey: Oh really? Jeeze.
Ryan: And it was even pretty good in this fight.
Joey: I honestly need a reminder of what exactly went on here.
Ryan: For most of the match they were kind of even, although Skorpios was probably edging out a victory. It was one of those fights where the two robots ram into each other a whole bunch without doing a whole ton of damage. More of a pushing match except both of their weapons still worked. Then Skorpios flipped Hypershock over right before the fight ended and it went to a judge’s decision.
Joey: Oh right the flip.
Ryan: Yeah, and that almost certainly sealed the fight for Skorpios. Lot of good it did them, it seems.
Joey: Yeah, very curious choice.
Ryan: I have no idea if Skorpios and Warhead, the two 3-1 teams that did not make the tournament, had to turn down being in. Warhead lost its only dome spinner, Skorpios’ weapon was knocked off at the very end of this. Warhead I understand. Was Skorpios really more in a bad way than HUGE, which left its last fight in pieces and still made it in with the same record?
Joey: No clue!
Fight four: End Game vs. WAR Hawk (W) vs. Brutus
Joey: I like all three of these.
Ryan: One of the two rumbles where the winner got an automatic bye. I guess this is what they meant early on that not all 2-2 teams were done. I liked End Game the most this season, but this fight was all about WAR Hawk. They won no question. Considering how prevalent these tiny, fast robots with horizontal saws and a wedge are, they proved to be the best of them fighting against the same design. With the exception of Bite Force, obviously.
Joey: This was a really quick one. Convincing stuff. Sad about End Game, but yeah. I don’t have much more to say other than my overall feelings about these rumbles.
Ryan: WAR Hawk I’ve been watching all season. They’ve done well, and they have a good robot. I think they were a little underestimated. That team made Death by Monkeys back in the day, and I remember that robot being pretty good too.
Joey: Who did they all beat and lose to?
Ryan: They beat Axe Backwards, Free Shipping and Overhaul. Loss to Brutus.
Ryan: They did have the best record going into this fight, after all. End Game and Brutus were both 2-2.
Joey: Well-deserved! This felt very straightforward.
Main event: Red Devil vs. Gigabyte vs. DUCK! vs. Valkyrie vs. Bombshell (W) vs. Lucky
Ryan: Oooooh boy.
Joey: It’s cool to see seventeen weeks of regular season evaporate in a ridiculous rumble.
Ryan: A rumble where a robot with a 0-4 record was 1) even allowed in this thing 2) WON over the only robot that was actually doing stuff the whole time. Poor DUCK! The fact that Hal Rucker is taking this as positively as he is says a lot about him.
Joey: Duck was scheduled to fight against Tombstone and Bronco. This was a competitive travesty.
Ryan: I’m not even gonna bother talking about the other 4 robots because this is all about DUCK! and Bombshell in this thing, but shout out to Valkyrie captain Leanne Cushing for giving Hal a big hug and a sympathetic “I’m so sorry” face right after that decision.
Joey: Ha, yeah. But yeah, way to have a huge regular season and then undercut it like this.
Ryan: What happened here was that there are no count outs in rumbles? So Bombshell broke for a bit, DUCK was the only robot moving in any substantial way for a significant amount of time, Bombshell pops back to life and wins. Bombshell got some good hits early, I do not deny that, but this fight was all DUCK!
Joey: Yup! It’s almost like those specific “objective” criteria for judge’s decisions are poison!
Ryan: What would have happened if DUCK! won, though? It would be a rematch against Tombstone.
Joey: Yup. Pretty cool.
Ryan: And I think after the Duck/Tombstone fight earlier in the year, Hal would have done something about his wheels. Like, if there was a second fight, Duck could have knocked Tombstone out in the first round.
Joey: Yeah! Would have been wild. But Tombstone is just gonna snuff Bombshell.
Ryan: Even Bombshell driver Michael Jeffries looked surprised he won.
Ryan: I don’t blame him for this.
Ryan: Honestly, I’m not going to let this ruin the season and I don’t have a grudge with the judges over it. It’s just unfortunate/
So, let’s talk about that bracket, y’all
— BattleBots (@BattleBots) September 20, 2018
Ryan: You and I went over this thing like a March Madness bracket, and I think our consensus final four was Son of Whaychi, Minotaur, Bronco and Bite Force.
Joey: Yup! All somewhat straightforward, although Son of Whyachi versus Tombstone is the promise.
Ryan: No way Tombstone makes it to the final four. It went 4-0, but it did so in 3 extremely violent matches that tested its upper limits. And also the Gigabyte fight.
Joey: “No way” is probably an overstatement.
Ryan: I suppose it is hyperbole.
Joey: My one other big thing to say about the tournament is that Lock-Jaw is overseeded to all hell.
Ryan: Yeah, but do you see that thing winning against SOW at all?
Ryan: I will be stunned if it wins. Team Whyachi would have to really mess up.
Joey: But that speaks to SOW also being underseeded.
Ryan: Yeah, it does. SOW has fought something like 20 times since 2001. You know how many of those fights have been judges decisions? Just 4
Joey: Jeeze. Oh, have they put out the fight card?
Ryan: We’re getting the left side this week.
Joey: Let’s go over this super quick. I think Tombstone’s got that. SOW’s got that unless it destroys itself, which, you never know. Sawblaze/Monsoon is INTERESTING.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s the one where IDK what happens
Joey: Minotaur/Witch Doctor could be more interesting than we think.
Ryan: Could be, yeah. But I think Minotaur might have that one. It’s just so fast.
Next week (or well, later today, sorry about the delay on this one): The tournament begins! Who will make it in? Find out next time!