For this 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 new feature Battlebots Chat. These will be a little more informal than our regular reviews – after all we think it’s a little complicated to review something that we both consider to be a competitive sport as opposed to a game show or a reality television program.
If you want the history on Battlebots and robot combat in general, SB Nation ran an oral history on the show 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. You can also read a bit about the robots that battled in this week’s episode on the show’s website. Also worth reading is Battlebots Update, which, like us, provides analysis of each Battlebots episode.
This week’s matches:
Tombstone (winner) vs. Brutus
Nightmare vs. Beta (winner)
Yeti (winner) vs. Mega Tento
Bite Force vs. Chomp (winner)
Ryan Gibbs: Alright, first Battlebots after the Olympics. As always, any opening thoughts?
Joey Daniewicz: That was a rather long three weeks. I wonder if casual watchers jumped ship.
Ryan: Yeah, same. I’m a little concerned that the political conventions and the Olympics are going to hurt the show’s ratings
Joey: Hopefully any studio execs will be able to go “oh obviously this is why it didn’t do well.”
Ryan: And hopefully this week did well in the ratings, even though it was a bit of a mixed bag
Joey: Indeedy do. Wanna get right to it?
Tombstone vs. Brutus
Joey: Brutus stopped using the guns. Why have they stopped using the guns.
Ryan: It was their one thing
Joey: I mean, they also have a solid bot. But yeah, I loved them for that.
Ryan: Well, solid against anyone but Tombstone
Joey: Yup! They were right that they didn’t have to worry about a third minute! A wheel got damaged and that was it, they were doomed.
Ryan: Oy, the battery pack thing. They really thought that they wouldn’t have to worry about having two minutes of battery against Tombstone? Granted, they didn’t!
Joey: They figured either they KO’ed Tombstone quickly or they were doomed. Probably not a bad calculation. Whoever won that, it was gonna be quick.
Ryan: I’ve been noticing that Ray Billings have been avoiding gratuitous kill shots this season, seeing how that backfired on him last year. Just having Tombstone knocking around broken robot pieces seems to do the crowd-pop trick just as good.
Joey: And he’s wise to not push it, hitting Brutus sent Tombstone flying a bit.
Ryan: Before this match we got some really great footage of Ray’s team watching the last Brutus fight in the pits. All this footage from the past few episodes of teams preparing in the pits has been way more interesting than whatever they had in that space last year. It’s actually something I wish the Comedy Central show did more often.
Joey: Yeah! I don’t think we saw the same thing during the rest of the episode, but it was a great model for the between-games bullshit we should get.
Ryan: And yet, they’re still doing these worthless extended intros. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but I could care less about seeing the robots being taken up in dollies to the Battlebox.
Nightmare vs. Beta
Ryan: You did not like this fight
Joey: This was the worst fight I’ve seen this season and maybe ever. And that’s not just because I kind of dislike both bots. The sequence at the beginning where they were just driving around each other was IMPOSSIBLE.
Ryan: This was the first time that Jim Smentowski and John Reid have fought each other on Battlebots since 1999, before even the Comedy Central show. At least one of them brought a different robot this time.
Joey: So I assume some readers here are not regularly reading my beef, but here’s the thing: Nightmare is a generally unsuccessful robot that’s adored just for being an old stalwart. It hasn’t been successful since WAY back in the day. Like way back. When I was like eight years old.
Ryan: Well, even then Nightmare was famous for being a glass cannon. It either got a sick hit or was knocked out in embarrassing fashion. Yet, at one point back in the day, Nightmare was so dangerous that at one pre-Comedy Central event, they demanded Smentowski run the blade backwards or else they’d have to remove the robot from the tournament like they did to Jamie Hyneman’s Blendo.
Joey: I give Nightmare credit for its innovation! Beta has no range, its powerful hammer generally isn’t very powerful, and literally all the announcers have a boner over it.
Ryan: In the nearly 20 years that Nightmare has fought, Team Nightmare has never fixed how top heavy it is. As seen tonight, when Beta won without its weapon by basically just tipping Nightmare over.
Joey: Beta is the better bot, but Nightmare’s frame is like one pixel wide, making it impossible to really hit. This bout was destined to be terrible, and it was worse. Did you see how it kept tipping into the air as it circled around?
Ryan: I mean, they have a sick robot. It’s probably the most iconic robot in the whole sport, but not for winning. It’s just so easy to tip over.
Joey: After it was clear Beta’s hammer didn’t work, I said out loud “just tip it over,” and Beta did that, meaning that I didn’t have to lose my mind.
Ryan: I also wanted Beta to win because it’s basically just Killerhurtz with a different weapon
Joey: When Beta’s hammer wasn’t working, did you notice how nuts they were going about Nightmare doing approximately…nothing? Nightmare’s hits did no damage and had no knockback, at all.
Ryan: I tend to ignore the commentators. I don’t like either football man or Charlie Day-lookalike UFC guy, to the point where I haven’t even learned their names.
Joey: They clearly had to make much ado about nothing. By the way, how much does it suck that there was KO but we had to endure an entire three minutes ANYWAY?
Ryan: It was so boring! How long does it take to tip over Nightmare?
Joey: I think the problem was this: They didn’t know that was what they wanted to do. It took a LONG time before they even tried to swing their hammer.
Ryan: I think it was because they were having trouble with it
Joey: They didn’t realize that until quite a ways into the fight. They had a shot of them going “uh oh aw fuck.” It was because Nightmare is thin and they couldn’t line anything up.
Ryan: Which is weird, because John Reid is usually a terrific driver. In fact, both him and Jim Smentowski are above this “drive around in circles” stuff.
Joey: I think the small target of Nightmare compared to the small hitbox of Beta was culpable for all of it. By the way, we haven’t even touched the Beta Blocker yet.
Ryan: OH THAT’S RIGHT
Joey: Fucking wow, Nightmare. Fucking….wow.
Ryan: what did that even do? What was the point You just made a bigger target, homies
Joey: How was it attached so poorly. W H Y
Ryan: It was one of the most baffling things this season. Like, what was it even blocking? It was the antithesis of the Rake Fight.
Joey: It was a surprise, too. They wanted to keep it a surprise. They had that little reveal moment.
Ryan: And the reveal was like, hey, some scrap metal with a bad pun written on it. What a waste of time.
Yeti vs. Mega Tento
Ryan: Am I the only person who actually likes Mega Tento? Like, unironically thinks it’s pretty good? And likes how much it makes people angry?
Joey: I like Mega Tento but its flaws are……pretty bad. Like, we just saw its situation in the wheels department. And I don’t know how they thought they could get away with that there.
Ryan: I’ve pointed it out. It’s whole gimmick is smothering, but what does it do when it actually has the other robot in the shell?. And when it actually does have a saw or a drum in there, the judges can’t see the damage because of the big shell. And the wheels were, it seems, made of Play-Doh
Joey: I just wish it was constructed in a way that was even a little smart, because it just lost to a bot that was just kinda okay.
Ryan: Yeti is the lesser Minotaur I can’t say I really care much for it. Pretty neat that a bot that was an alternate that made it to the big dance at the last minute has gotten this far, though.
Joey: It was cool maybe in the early rounds. Now it has an easy path to final four. I am no longer amused. Isn’t it nice that at least two bots in the final four won’t belong?
Ryan: I know right. Props for Mega Tento getting this far. I don’t remember the original Tentomushi ever getting this far
Joey: But yeah, nothing to say about that matchup. Ugh. But great win last time from Tento.
Ryan: I know the Battlebots Reddit was a little salty about Tento’s fight with Stinger, but it won fair and square.
Joey: Speaking of matches Reddit might not be happy about…
Bite Force vs. Chomp
Ryan: oh boy.
Joey: Okay, here’s the thing. I like Zoe. I like the team. But Chomp is a huge piece of garbage.
Ryan: Um…call me crazy, but I’m not sure if I hated them in this fight. I kind of love how weird Chomp is.
Joey: I wondered if it would win because, you know, it might be a little too large for Bite Force to control, But that seemed to be a non-factor mostly?
Ryan: A little
Joey: And instead Chomp just sort of FLEW AROUND THE BOX LIKE A HYPERACTIVE TIN CAN. I liked its dramatic self-righting moments a lot, actually….but they were self-righting from knocking themselves over. That self-righting was dramatic and cool.
Ryan: I also love that this is the first time that Bite Force, the defending champion, has been on television for an entire year. And it lost. Like wow, someone at ABC must like Bite Force way less than even I do
Joey: This seemed like a fight that neither bot won. Chomp didn’t win. It didn’t even lose less than Bite Force. This all just kind of happened. It was really weird.
Ryan: I’ve gained a ton of respect for Chomp and a few other robots I’ve been iffy about from watching Tale of the Tape, the aftershow the Hypershock and Witch Doctor teams do. I know Chomp has some cool stuff going on inside of it, and it’s apparently a marvel internally. But engineering marvels normally don’t win Battlebots fights the way that Chomp has. Like, I don’t think Mechadon won any fights.
Joey: Externally, its size:weight ratio is……a problem.
Ryan: For it or for other robots?
Joey: For it.
Ryan: Because other robots seems to have a real tough time figuring out what the hell to do with Chomp.
Joey: It hasn’t faced any kind of spinner, has it? Because I mean, that right there.
Ryan: Isn’t Bite Force kind of a spinner?
Joey: Oh right, it had one. Uh. Man, we didn’t get to appreciate that new feature at ALL, did we?
Ryan: We haven’t even talked about Bite Force. What a poor showing for a defending champion.
Joey: Was it still shut down from when it stopped working in the previous fight? I actually do not remember if its spinner was going or not.
Ryan: Like sure, Bite Force got in some hits, but a lot of this match was it trying to keep Chomp from self-righting It lost its weapon chain early in the fight. That’s why it was having trouble with its weapon.
Joey: Yeah. I don’t know what Chomp can hope to accomplish against Yeti unless its flames somehow screw it. In which case, Tombstone/Chomp would be the ugliest match ever?
Ryan: Well, the Yeti team needs to put in some reinforcements for its top. I don’t think a lot of these low-to-the-ground robots have any protection for hammers and stuff
Joey: I’ve yet to be convinced on the efficacy of hammers against an even moderately good shell. But I guess that’s one way.
Ryan: Remember when hammers used to be a thing in Battlebots?
Joey: A good thing! Now it’s ALL SPINNAZ….and also Inertia Labs.
Ryan: I’m interested to see the Chomp/Yeti fight. I’m still mixed-to-positive about Chomp, but the hate around this robot is just fucking crazy. I don’t ever remember this many people hating a Battlebot this much
Joey: I just think the efficacy of its design is terrible, man. But I mean, I don’t hate it enough to root against it. I kinda wanted to see Bite Force go, heehee
Ryan: Like chill, dudes. It’s a sport where metal boxes smash into other metal boxes. I am also happy Bite Force is gone. It winning the championship last year was some flukey nonsense.
Joey: Is there any way to make a championship look lesser than losing to Chomp?
Ryan: Yes. By Bite Force winning on a technicality last year against a hobbled Tombstone
Final Thoughts: A Look at the Finale
Ryan: Next week is the final episode. Here are our fights
Tombstone vs Beta
Chomp vs Yeti
Bronco vs Minotaur
Poison Arrow vs Bombshell
Semifinals 1 and 2 (TBD)
Joey: RIP Beta. Bronco/Minotaur oh my
Ryan: That’s the fight to watch
Joey: Chomp/Yeti, my eyebrow goes up. Poison Arrow versus Bombshell, just come on. A drone could make the final four, Ryan.
Ryan: I am aware and not happy.
Joey: A Poison Arrow/Minotaur matchup would actually be hilarious. One of the loudest matchups ever.
Ryan: Poison Arrow vs Bombshell. I forgot those two robots existed. By all rights that should have been SOW vs. Witch Doctor right?
Ryan: Also WE GOT RUMBLES
Ryan: This is thanks to the Battlebots Reddit, so the truthiness depends on how much you believe them. Since Battlebot team members hang out there and they haven’t contradicted it, I’m going to say this is real:
Wrecks vs Bite Force vs Witch Doctor
Splatter vs Rotator vs The Disk’o Inferno
Deathroll vs Bucktooth Burl vs Skorpios
Sawblaze vs Overhaul vs Roadrash
Stinger vs Ghost Raptor vs TBD
Ryan: Excited to see our ol’ buddy ol’ pal Wrecks again, Joey?
Joey: GO WRECKS. YOU CAN DO IT
Ryan: That’s gonna be so funny
Joey: It’s up against the third and fourth seeds
Ryan: They put Wrecks in there on purpose. I also don’t know who half of these robots are. Are you looking forward to the last episode of Battlebots this season? What else is on TV after it? All the new shows that ABC has shown previews of during the summer look terrible.
Joey: I’m looking forward to that program about DJ Khaled and the almond milk. I think it just might make it.