Well hello there and welcome back to BattleBots Update. This post has been a long time coming. I just got back from the taping of BattleBots‘ latest season** and it’s been three long years since the last time I was in the realm of robot fighting time. (If you want you can read the articles for 2016, 2018, and 2019 here.) A lot has changed and happened in that period of time and I’ll talk about it where relevant but really the big picture is BattleBots has moved from the Boeing hangar in Long Beach, CA to the Caesar’s Entertainment venue in Las Vegas, NV. It’s a whole new ballgame. Gone are things like going to Disneyland or Universal Studios on the production dark days and in are everything there is to do in Las Vegas, which as I came to learn was not a whole lot for someone of my background.
As per usual this post is spoiler-free. I’ll be talking about newcomers and returning greats but I won’t be going into their fights or how they did. Additionally, when I get to the part where I talk about “bots to watch” keep in mind that my endorsement of a robot has historically never been an indicator that the robot performs well, or even performs at all. I plugged fucking Hellachopper in my first ever event report. Also I’m behind an NDA so if I were to tell you that Bite Force came back as its original tank tracked version and mopped the floor with Sawblaze, End Game, Tantrum, Witch Doctor, and all the other greats I’d be in deep shit.
** Just kidding I actually wrote this entire article during production dark days. TV MAGIC, BABY!
A PERSONAL VICTORY
There’s a reason for the gap in event reports, articles which for a period of time had grown to become a routine staple of BattleBots Update. Part of that reason was the era where COVID both delayed the show and also forced one season with a closed audience but the main reason is something that was mostly covered in last year’s “The Return of BattleBots Update” post. I made some truly stupid choices in life regarding the company I willingly kept and in a roundabout way this just led to abuse and people taking advantage of me. I know those past event reports sound like a lot of fun, and they were, but there was always this more nefarious atmosphere that lingered wherever I went. I couldn’t shake that things weren’t all okay and that I was digging myself an ever deepening hole with people that I should not be associating with. Before that hole could get any deeper I climbed out of it and did my best to take my life back and course correct where things were going.
I realize I’m speaking about matters in a vague sense but that’s because I’m unwilling to name names and point fingers because I just don’t want to start shit with anyone. I don’t need the drama and I don’t want to deal with it. If you know, you know. Otherwise just take my story as a cautionary tale to keep an eye on who’s close to you and remember that there is always more than one way out of a bad situation. There are people who want to help you, there are places you can go, and there are hotlines you can call confidentially. As Steve Harvey once said, presumably in between funny Family Feud answers, “there ain’t no such thing as ‘over’, you can mess your life all the way up and still turn around and get it right.”
I know there was a BattleBots season filmed last year with an open audience, the first one since the COVID pandemic. I wasn’t there. Instead of writing an event report I wrote a speculative article talking about predictions I had for all of the competitors. The reason I didn’t go to BattleBots last year is because I knew “those people” would be there. I watched the season on television and sure enough in the crowd shots I saw them holding up signs and things, some of them featuring jokes aped from this very website. I was hesitant to return to BattleBots this year for the exact same reasons. And you know what? They were here again this year too. Yeah, it very nearly gave me an anxiety attack, but you know what? They weren’t there for the entire taping. In fact they were absent for most of it. I guess without my microcelebrity to mooch off of and get them into the pits and other off limits areas they saw little reason to be at BattleBots since it meant they couldn’t schmooze with builders and act inappropriately around them for yuks.
Things got better. I got better. I wasn’t about to let my fears get in the way of enjoying my time at BattleBots any longer. In last year’s post I said I was taking my shit back and showing up to BattleBots this year was my way of demonstrating that yes the shit was indeed “taken back”.
I’ve been to Las Vegas before. I’ve never been to BattleBots in Las Vegas before, however. All I have to compare it to are my experiences in Long Beach and this was markedly different. Different venue, different crowd, different on-site security and staff. Same hosts, though. Same showrunners too. Chris, Kenny, and Faruq are obviously back and the same producers and directors are back again too. Aaron Caitling, the head honcho, found me before I found him a couple days into taping and he helped get me into the pits to meet up with folks I haven’t seen in literally three years. Also on the first day of taping Aaron showed up on set wearing a blue BattleBots Update shirt to rep the hustle. I wish I could’ve caught him while wearing my shirt because that would’ve been amazing but I’ll settle for just being able to see the guy again and catch up while wearing regular clothes. He was also very gracious when it came time to wrap up and leave even going as far as to tell security “he’s with me” to buy some extra time.
Peter Abrahamson a.k.a. “The Bot Whisperer” is back but I don’t think he’s portraying the same role as he has for the past couple of seasons? He’s been in the audience stands a couple of times so he’s not sitting at that desk he’s usually at doing analysis of robot attachments and configurations. I suppose that means the Bot Whisperer segments won’t be returning unless these are something that will be filmed in post after the fact and then spliced in where applicable. Mike Jeffries whom you may remember as the team captain behind the star-crossed robot Bombshell has returned to BattleBots as the “match steward”. He’s the guy who acts as the liaison between teams and the judges in the event that a losing team appeals a judges’ decision. More on that in a bit. Mike has lost a lot of weight, he looks fantastic! I almost didn’t recognize him at first because it’s been even longer since I last saw him, literally the last time Bombshell competed. Hal Rucker, who built Duck, isn’t competing this year and it was rumored that he was hired on by BattleBots to do something for them but I never saw Hal once during production. Whatever he was doing, if anything, was behind the scenes. It remains a mystery…
Getting to the event was almost an ordeal for me. Originally I was planning on attending BattleBots with a new group of friends but for one reason or another things just didn’t work out. Namely ticket prices. More on that in a bit, too. The hotel I stayed at was about a half mile away from the venue so it was somewhere in the awkward middle between being too much of a pain in the ass to walk and being too expensive to Uber back and forth every day. I wound up just walking and man was that a trip. Las Vegas smells like weed and garbage when the wind blows. The Strip is mostly kept up with but when you’re even so much as just one street away from the Strip it goes to hell real fast. Caesar’s Entertainment Studios is several streets removed from the main drag so I was witness to all kinds of craziness. While waiting to be let in to one of the tapings security was called because there was a transient nearby shouting obscenities at a light pole as if it were a person he was in a heated dispute with. Schizophrenia is a hell of a drug. I was also catcalled by what I can only describe as a biker gang — that is, people riding fucking bicycles — until they realized I wasn’t a woman. I guess your boy Draco do have that cake though.
The entrance process was mostly streamlined. There were people there to check your COVID vaccination card and then some security guards who waved a metal detector around and checked your bags. After a few days the COVID people recognized me by my gaudy clothing and just waved me on through. Security still checked me and since I was going to be at taping all day I packed some snacks in my backpack to tide me over for the ~10 hours I’d be sitting in the stands. Security saw the snacks on the first day and I tried explaining how I need to take my medication, which I also brought with me, with food but that seemed to not register to the guy so I just said I was diabetic and he let me go. Level 100 Speech skill on full display. After that incident though I started putting the snacks in the “secret” laptop compartment of my backpack and they didn’t even notice it was there. Good thing I was packing fruit snacks instead of a goddamned bazooka!
BattleBots sold two kinds of tickets to their shows: general admission and VIP. VIP got you “better” seats and priority treatment. Basically this meant you got the seats directly in the center of the stands and you got to sit down first. I bought all GA tickets because VIP was almost twice the price and I figured it wasn’t worth it. Turns out I was correct, it wasn’t worth it; the VIP line filled up fast, way faster than GA, before each taping. The VIP area of the stands were packed like sardines, too. Meanwhile since I was close to first in line I got to sit directly next to the VIP section in the very back of the bleachers meaning I had about the same vantage point for half the price. I get shit done. Also while we’re on the subject of tickets I just want to point out how pissed off I am that on day one of filming they gave us all a Ticketmaster coupon code for 40% off tickets to come back on any day. I literally bought all of my tickets barely half an hour after they went live in fears they would sell out and none of them fucking sold out. I spent over $1,500 on tickets. Facebook Supporters had early access and also paid full price for all their tickets. If I would’ve known this fucking coupon code was a thing I could’ve saved approximately $570. Not cool. I bought all my shit early but if I would’ve waited I could’ve paid substantially less. That isn’t how this should work. There’s nothing I can do though so I’ll just have to eat that cost.
Ticket fiasco aside I still got my money’s worth. I’m more upset at the principle of the matter than I am at BattleBots. Ticketmaster is garbage, not BattleBots. Joby the hype man didn’t return to BattleBots, I guess he was a Long Beach thing, but you won’t believe who they got to replace him. Bil fucking Dwyer. Yes, the original host of BattleBots for all five of its first seasons. Bil showed up to one of the Long Beach tapings as a fan a few years ago and I guess that just sat in the back of everyone’s minds for a while. Bil is one of the real ones, he legitimately cared about BattleBots and was a huge fan back in the day. The Comedy Central version of BattleBots had all of its host segments and whatnot filmed after the fact, Bil and Sean weren’t really there. Except Bil actually was? Because he went to the actual BattleBots events out of his own volition to see the fights, be in the crowd, and to talk to builders and teams in the pits. I got to meet Bil and talk about the good old days and he was really genuine with his love of the sport. He asked if I grew up to be a bot builder myself and I said yes and then we got to chat a bit about my own robots built on a smaller scale. Bil was a great crowd manager, he’d bring prizes into the stands for people who had a bigger head than him, give stickers and robot poker chips to kids, and tell jokes. I’ll admit, I laughed.
This Vegas show was almost like a return to form for BattleBots. I think we both needed to hit the reset button in life and mix things up.
BETTING ON FIGHTS
The Battlebox is back and is mostly unchanged. The Upper Deck is still there and has a new paint job (and I think a steel floor now). The Killsaws are still ineffective as always and so are the Ramrods. The Pulverizers are still controlled by the teams. The only major change to the arena is that there are now Lexan gates above the entrance doors to better prevent a win by throwing someone out of the arena. Trey Roski talked about the arena modifications in a Q&A where he said he was trying to discourage robots throwing opponents out of the arena because retrieving them was difficult and also a safety concern. Having a robot thrown into where the arena doors open essentially blocks one set of doors from being opened. As cool as I think OOTA wins are I’ll admit I do see Trey’s viewpoint. Bil Dwyer had a recurring joke that “no one’s been killed at BattleBots… yet” and I’m all for taking measures to ensure it stays that way. Also the Lexan doors still aren’t all that tall. Blip and Hydra could easily throw someone over them still as could a powerful vertical spinner. I’m not saying that’s what happened but I’m also not saying it didn’t happen either. You’ll just have to wait and see!
There’s a field of about 50 robots this year. That’s less than last season but it’s because BattleBots has gone back to giving everyone four Fight Night matches. I kept track of all the fights in my little journal again and I’m pretty sure literally everyone got four matches to qualify. A massive undertaking like that with more than 50 robots just isn’t feasible; last season we were plagued with robots getting three matches and some of them getting only two if they were doing exceptionally good or bad where a third match wouldn’t really be necessary. All that said there were still some newcomers and other bots that impressed me this year. Here are some bots to watch for when the season airs:
Emusifier: Originally a 30 pound robot this is the second creation from team Bots FC (Shatter). It’s the only robot with tank tracks and features a massive vertical spinner. I enjoyed it because I like tracks. Not enough bots use them these days.
- Horizon: The best way to describe this robot is “a nightmare carnival ride”. It’s an overhead horizontal spinner where each end of the blade has a spinning horizontal disc. The idea is to strike with a disc, rebound the upper arm away so it rotates, and strike with the other blade.
- Ripperoni: Not just “another goddamned vertical spinner”, Ripperoni features a large spinning disc plus an additional counter-rotating flywheel tucked inside the robot to counteract the robot’s gyroscopic forces. This means the robot can turn tightly without reeling up onto one side. This could be a game changer.
- Triton: We don’t have Tombstone this year so here’s our “Tombstone at home” meme. Triton looks a lot like the legend and sports an 80 pound spinner. It comes from the team behind Deep Six, who could not compete due to arena safety concerns, so we’ll see how this “Shallow Six” does.
- Terrortops: This robot is like opposite Whiplash. Whereas Whiplash has its spinner embedded in its lifter Terrortops has the spinner mounted behind the lifter. The idea is Terrortops raises up an opponent and then drops them onto its vertical spinner to slice at their underside.
- Starchild: Taking a page from Huge’s design book Starchild features giant massive wheels to raise its chassis off the ground. Its weapon is a spinning disc on the end of a thwacking arm. Starchild spins up its disc and then uses its drivetrain to swing its blade overhead to strike from above.
- Ominous: Another robot from Tim Bowens who competed with Reality in 2018. This robot is also a vertical spinner on a hub motor except Ominous has omnidirectional wheels mounted in a “Y” configuration to allow for maximum maneuverability.
- Double Tap: A masterfully engineered robot sporting a unique spinning horizontal bar that is able to strike, unfurl two additional hammers, and strike again hence the name “Double Tap”. The team has been having some problems getting their weapon to work so we’ll have to see if they can bring it out in the box.
- Dragon King: Spotted among the robots Team Skorpios was bringing to the event. This is the actual Dragon King robot built by Jerome Miles that competed in King of Bots in China. I’m not sure if this is a full competitor or just exhibition only but I’m glad the robot is in good hands.
Doomba: The spirit of SMEE lives on in Doomba, a pseudo-joke entry that features one of SMEE’s undercutter blades as its primary weapon. Doomba is a stout circular robot meant to be a pun on “Roomba” the robotic house vacuum cleaner.
- Banshee: David Small has mastered the art of building pneumatic flippers in the 1 and 3 pound classes of robots. Now he’s scaling up what he knows to compete at the 250 pound level. In an event without SubZero and Bronco we need a pneumatic flipper so hopefully Banshee can deliver.
- Doom: This robot looks like John Reid’s Terrorhurtz in a way. It’s weapon is a hammersaw featuring the biggest blade we’ve seen on one yet. Doom had some issues getting through safety and inspection and the BattleBots Wiki lists the robot has having withdrawn. I saw them in the pits so maybe they got it working?
- Samurai: Here’s a bot not even on the WIki! Coming all the way from Brazil this bot looks like a red version of Valkyrie. The team wasn’t formally accepted into BattleBots but made the trip out anyways in the hopes that they could at least get an exhibition fight. I can’t reveal whether they did or not but I’m all for more international teams!
Plus there are plenty of returning greats to watch for too! Witch Doctor has had three second place finishes in major BattleBots events so in my opinion this is “their year” to win. It’s only a matter of time. Minotaur is back and in top form as usual so I’d be cool with Team RioBotz winning the Giant Nut too. Jake Ewert has brought Hydra back with the intent to make it further than the semifinals this year so we’ll see if he’s able to win the Nut on the 20th anniversary of Son of Whyachi’s amazing rookie run. Tantrum is the reigning champion and features a brand new build with a more reliable spinning disc (and it works this year trust me) so of course you have to root for them. End Game, the champion two seasons ago, has returned from New Zealand to reclaim the title. These bots are going to intersect with the newbies and the only thing to be certain of is absolute destruction!
VIVA LAS SOMETHING
So BattleBots took place in Las Vegas this season. It was here last season too but I didn’t show up for personal reasons I’ve already gotten into in this post, so the Vegas thing was relatively new to me. I’ve been to Las Vegas before, a couple of times, but I was hard-pressed to find something to do in this city. It seems like 90% of every live show here is a fucking magician or something and I really don’t want to see stupid card tricks. I took an Uber down to the Strip to wander around and see what was there and I wasn’t impressed. I went to the M&M’s store not because I like M&M’s but because I was bored out of my fucking mind. I also went to the Hershey store wherein I bought a Jolly Rancher coin because that seemed like a sound investment at five dollars. I was considering buying a Twizzlers shirt but when I saw it was $45 I was like “fuck that” so I left.
There’s a whole lot of nothing on the Las Vegas Strip. They have a fucking Ross store there. Ross. That place is an indoor garage sale on a good day. Don’t get me wrong Ross is a great place to get a deal on a pair of shoes so long if you can fucking find both of them. There was also a McDonald’s but I figured that’s nothing special because there’s a McDonalds everywhere so they can go McFuck themselves for all I care. The Strip trip was a bust. It was a waste of an Uber ride. Maybe there’s more to do at night but I wouldn’t want to be there that time of day because there were already people loitering about trying to hustle me out of my money so I’d imagine it only gets worse as time rolls on.
One thing I was reminded about in Vegas was Omega Mart, the art installation at Area 15. As I got off the plane in Vegas I passed up an advertisement for the place and it jogged my memory that this attraction was actually in Vegas. The Strip was boring as hell so I called a second Uber to come and pick me up to take me to Omega Mart. That place is a fucking trip. I think most people are aware that the front of the exhibit is a surrealist nightmare of a grocery store selling things like “Impact Corn” and “Strawberry Pretzels” but the real treat is what lies behind the many secret entrances that take you to the “Dramcorp” offices and factory that extend beyond the confines of the supermarket. There are rooms of mirrors, offices with conspiracy theories plotted out all over the place, and computers where you can learn more about the lore behind Omega Mart and the company that established it. The place borders on total sensory overload but I think that’s because it’s supposed to. The entire installation is a mind fuck and is worth the price of admission if you’re ever in Vegas. Believe me, Omega Mart isn’t lying when they say “you have no idea what’s in-store for you”.
There were a handful of production dark days where BattleBots wasn’t taping so I did my best to take advantage of them. One day I eventually went out for sushi because I was trying to sate a craving for raw fish and rice and I settled on a buffet place a couple miles out. There was a neighboring Asian supermarket so I figured I could swing by and pick up some “essentials” (ramen and Calpico) while I was there. The food was top notch and I was enjoying it. Any time I go to a sushi buffet I essentially eat these establishments into destitution. About 30 minutes into my food coma session Kenny Florian literally comes in and sits at the table next to mine. He came in with a friend I didn’t recognize but I was guessing it was one of his MMA buddies or something. What are the chances that Kenny and I have the same taste in sushi? Before he ordered and thus would’ve been focused on his food I said hello and asked if he’d be cool with a picture. He was super chill and seemed surprised to meet a big fan of BattleBots out in person. He doesn’t know I’m the clown who writes this trash.
Finally on the last dark day I took a trip to the Excalibur casino. I had no plans on gambling, I was on a different mission. You see, a good friend of mine has never been to Vegas but her father has a long time ago and he brought her back a little dragon figurine and a hoodie from the Excalibur because she’s a fan of all things dragon. I wanted to do the same thing so I can, you know, score some brownie points. I knew somewhere in the Excalibur they had to sell tchotchkes so I wandered around for like an hour looking for the place. I asked attendants but they just gave vague directions such as checking the shopping area and whatnot. I finally found the fucking place nestled right beside a goddamned Pizza Hut of all places. Named “The Dragon’s Lair” it was exactly what I was looking for. I found a figurine and a shirt for her and I may have expanded my own wardrobe while I was there… Also in the Excalibur is an arcade called the Fun Dungeon which is kind of a foreboding name. I bought a $10 play card but it didn’t last long since every damn game cost at least a dollar or more to play. There were also no classic arcade games so I was out of my element. All there was to do was play Mario Kart and Marvel Vs Capcom 2. I got taken for a ride.
It’s weird saying this but there’s literally like nothing to do in Vegas. Or maybe I’m just bad at looking things up. I collect tat and stupid things and a lot of the novelty stores on the Strip were all closed up for some reason. Entire portions and strip centers were shut down and fenced off. The Ross was open, though. But yeah, I think the problem is me. “Nightlife” isn’t really my cup of tea so I just sorta wandered around bored out of my mind and silently cursing the blister that formed on my left foot from walking around so much during taping.
Back at the hotel I mostly just farted around and did things like work on this website and shitpost on Reddit. I got back to home base at around 10:30pm most nights and I had to be up at around 9:30am the following day to make sure I could get a good seat so that left little time to do much of anything. One night I splurged and ordered a pizza delivery. They said their biggest size was 24″. Me being an idiot and not realizing that was a literal two foot diameter pizza meant that I ordered that and was surprised by the massive pie that arrived. I ate pizza leftovers for breakfast and dinner for at least 3 days afterward. I figured why the hell not, just do it. This is my one time of the year where I can cut loose and do stupid shit and if that entails ordering a big ass pizza because I’m bad at mental math then so be it. That huge pizza turned into a whole paragraph on this blog and you read it so I think it was a sound investment.
Like any hotel mine had cable TV but there’s never really anything on. I just flipped on the History Channel so I’d have some noise to fall asleep to and while doing so I became very well acquainted with the show The Curse of Oak Island. Have you guys seen this shit? It’s been on the air for 10 seasons and it’s just a bunch of assholes digging up random shit on an island searching for pirate treasure or something. All I can remember is them freaking out over finding one piece of wood from a ship and a stone cannonball the side of a gallbladder. Amazing. People will literally watch anything. They’re never going to find the treasure. It probably doesn’t even exist. It’s the same shit as the Bigfoot hunter shows that have ran for years on Animal Planet. They can’t find Bigfoot — or the pirate treasure — because then there wouldn’t be a show to film. And yet here we are ten seasons in where these treasure hunters think Portuguese members of the Knights Templar buried tons of silver in some rinky dink island off the coast of Nova Scotia. I’m being dead ass serious here.
I also watched a lot of Shark Tank reruns but that’s only because I find immense pleasure in watching people with the dumbest ideas for products and businesses get insulted by millionaires. Did you know Jeff Foxworthy was a guest host on that show? Real shit, for like two or three episodes he was a “guest shark”. Imagine getting trashed by Jeff fucking Foxworthy. Honestly I’d just hang myself. You can’t get any lower than that.
I stayed an extra day to see if there was anything else I missed but honestly I just wound up spending that day writing this article and going back out for more sushi. All in all though it was an enjoyable trip and I’m already looking forward to next year. Even if there’s nothing to do in Vegas that interests me I’ll at least have two weeks of robot fighting to tune in to and watch and really that’s the reason why I’m here. Everything else is just set dressing.
BattleBots is planning on starting up a Las Vegas residency at their Caesar’s Palace location in February 2023. I have no idea how this is going to work out but they want to do nightly shows Monday through Friday with several fights per night. That’s a lot of bots but more importantly that’s a lot of fucking pit time. It’s going to take an act of god for something of this caliber to work out but I wish BattleBots the best in this endeavor. Also I feel terrible for the people who run the BattleBots Wiki because nightly shows with five or so fights per night is going to really blow out the fight records for all these competitors. I think the path of least resistance is to not count the residency shows but that’s just my opinion. Speaking of the residency though I asked Trey Roski whatever happened to Ginsu and he confirmed that not only is Ginsu returning for the residency shows but there are FIVE Ginsu’s being built right now just for the occasion. So that’s how they’re doing it. Multiple bots. More importantly however: fucking Ginsu!!!
I’m glad I got to see so many old friends at BattleBots, it felt like home to me. Flying solo was a bit of a strange experience because as you wait around in lines and find your seat in the stands you wind up with “single serve friends”. Not trying to quote Fight Club here but that’s the best way for me to explain it. Back in the pits I got to catch up with a lot of teams but there’s just never enough time. Plus some teams just weren’t at their stations so I missed them. It also doesn’t help that I showed up in the pits toward the end of taping when many of the competitors who were out by that point had started packing up. But hey being able to meet some folks is better than none! Especially that massive twat Craig Danby.
Last year I posted that “Return of BattleBots Update” article but this is what cemented it as official; going to the taping of a new season made this a sure thing. Special thanks to Greg and Trey of course for the work they do in putting on these events. And also thanks to Peter and Mike because it was great to catch up with them. I was worried I might not get the chance to run into them because they were constantly all over the place themselves. (Thank you for the Bot Whisperer pin, Pete!) This wouldn’t be a proper send off without special thanks to Aaron as well, the filmmaker who makes this whole show happen. He’s the big producer man that calls all the shots and produces the actual episodes for Discovery Channel. It will never cease to validate me that everyone behind the scenes is a fan of this silly project. This is what I do, this is what I love.
BattleBots World Championship season 7 will air on Discovery Channel starting in January 2023. A follow-up to the BattleBots: Champions special was also taped but that won’t air for a couple of months after the main season ends, just like last year. Here’s hoping TV listings don’t confuse it for a whole new season again.
Until January I’ve got some other projects to tend to like the upcoming Extra Life charity marathon (and processing all the videos that will be cut from the footage) so I don’t know what the immediate future of BattleBots Update will be but rest assured we’ll kick it into full gear come January!