Welcome back to BattleBots Update. This time around we’ll be getting back into our namesake and taking a look at BattleBots, the event that started it all for this comedy-column-turned-website disaster. Special thanks go out to the Fighting Robot Archive who’ve done an excellent job curating the episodes from this show; they are certainly a much higher quality than the videos my old website and I were able to share in 2008… plus there’s no massive attention whoring watermark like mine used to have. (Ignore the video title saying “Episode 2”, there is a missing “pilot” episode from this season that the Fighting Robot Archive is considering as “Episode 1”.)
This week we begin our coverage of the original season of BattleBots that debuted on Comedy Central on August 23, 2000. Jesus fucking Christ, can you even wrap your head around the realization that this event now happened sixteen years ago? I mean when we were getting into Robot Wars: The First Wars just acknowledging that the event was 18 years ago was staggering, but to me BattleBots has always had this sense of “new-ness” that made it feel more recent than that. Technically it is more recent by about two years, but you get what I mean. Sixteen whole years ago. My youngest brother wasn’t even alive, 9/11 hadn’t happened yet, and I was still in middle school; I have fond memories of using the school’s computer lab to lurk the official BattleBots websites and filling up my school-issued personal slice of the network hard drive with pictures of my favorite contenders (shoutouts to Afterthought and Pressure Drop).
It was such a different world back then and I can barely remember it now. Expect me to end this category about five episodes in so I can turn this into a personal blog and let you all watch my mid-life crisis pan out in real time. Exciting!
THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION
It’s important to note that I was already familiar with BattleBots before this event debuted. I had seen the 1999 Pay-Per-View event many times. This was because my uncle had hooked my father up with a “hot box”, which was a cable box with a descrambler in it that basically turned Pay-Per-View into Free-Per-View. I realize today he acquired the thing for the purposes of watching the Playboy Channel for free, but back then I watched all the fucking BattleBots I wanted. And Godzilla… the awful Matthew Broderick one. I do kind of feel bad now about inadvertently robbing BattleBots of money back in the day… but not the studio who made Godzilla. They had it coming.
Pay TV aside, this was BattleBots reaching the big time: national cable television. I had been waiting for this day with bated breath after seeing a commercial for it during Upright Citizens Brigade and my mind was blown in the first 15 seconds. I will never forget Sean Salisbury’s voice blaring out “the eve of destruction”, negating the fact that I’d eventually come to realize Sean has a pretty hit or miss camera personality and that his partner in crime, Bil Dwyer, is a walking dad joke with bleached hair. Anyways, this episode introduces six robots… but I think I’ll save the proper intros until their respective fights; I’m wary of the fact that in future episodes not everyone gets a breakdown at the start of the show and that’ll just fuck things up if I have to keep stopping to write intros all the time. Just go with it, I know what I’m doing here. Maybe.
I will say this, though. One thing that drove me up the fucking wall about BattleBots — and something I am encouraging you NOT to watch if this is all somehow new to you — is how the show pretty much spoiled fights during its opening titles. For example, if you look closely you’ll see Mauler fighting Killerhurtz, i.e. someone who isn’t Nightmare. This in turn lets you know ahead of time that Nightmare isn’t going to win its battle against Mauler in this episode, because how the fuck else would Mauler be fighting Killerhurtz if it didn’t win the fight you’re about to see in 10 minutes? Basically, just stare at the middle of the screen until the titles are over and you’re all set.
After the opening credits we get to meet Sean and Bil whose hierarchy of introductions demonstrates that they’re sitting in the wrong seats. Right away you get the impression that Bil is either reading from a cue card written by a complete dumbass, or he’s just terrible at ad-libbing. Or both. It almost feels like Sean cuts him off to continue talking about where these robots have come from, and Bil’s exclamation of “BRITAIN?!” kind of cements that notion. The greatest part is how Sean just casually tosses out the mention of the $5,000 grand prize that everyone is gunning for like it’s some kind of goddamned footnote. Sean, buddy, that’s five thousand dollars. Can you imagine what it’d be like if other game-type shows treated their prizes like that? Picture Bob Barker shooting the shit with one of the contestants and throwing in a “oh by the way if you can spay and neuter all the animals you win a new car”.
For all I say (and have yet to say) about Bil Dwyer, he does a solid job summarizing the judgments of each battle in two sentences. This is his hand off back to Sean who brings up the various hazards in the arena, each complete with their own shots. Back in 2000 all we had were Killsaws, Ramrods, Pulverizers, and the Hellraisers. At this stage in the game the Killsaws were literally the only seriously threatening hazard but that doesn’t stop Sean from saying the Ramrods are the most dangerous. You know, the hazard that they apparently didn’t have any footage of showing them obliterating a competitor. The best shot we get is seeing the Ramrods pop up during Gray Matter & Minion’s illegal street racing and peel out contest.
Somehow Sean’s fixation on the Ramrods is his send off back to Bil who uses it as a segue to introduce Donna D’Errico. It’s because she was on Baywatch and that means she has tits forever, get it? Ramrod? Like an erect penis? Prepare for another dozen goddamned episodes of this man vomiting up “jokes” of exactly this caliber. Randy and Jason Sklar are also on the show, who are either identical twins or just one guy but presented with some serious camera trickery. The biggest draw to BattleBots however, is the appearance of Bill Nye “The Science Guy”. He joins BattleBots from what appears to be a JCPenny’s portrait studio in Detroit.
ZIGGO vs. THE MISSING LINK
Weapon: Spinning outer shell
THE MISSING LINK
Weapon: Spike w/ blunt object
Here it is, the first fight showcased on BattleBots, and it’s already apparent that this fight is more one-sided than a shape with impossible geometry. Ziggo is a full body spinner, sort of like Captain Shrederator from BattleBots’ ABC season since up to this point this is the only comparable robot that’s been profiled on The Update. Yes, I keep track of this. The robot’s entire outer dome spins around and theoretically anything that touches it disintegrates immediately. Ziggo’s arena introduction also comes before a time where Mark Beiro had a team of “comedians” writing introductions for him, so Mark’s arena intro of Ziggo ends up being about 20 seconds long and contains more prepositions than a middle school English workbook. Also, Jonathan Ridder’s body language suggests that the TV camera is too close.
Ziggo’s opponent is The Missing Link, a disaster of a robot that somehow weighs four more pounds than Ziggo but still manages to not have a fucking weapon. The Missing Link comes to us from The Infernolab led by Jason Bardis whose robots essentially perform only at the ends of the spectrum; they either roll a 20 and win, or roll a 1 and rewrite history so they cease to exist entirely. The Missing Link is usually armed with a rotary weapon of some sort, a chainsaw in the context of this season, but because it’s been drawn against Ziggo the robot changed out its weapon for what literally amounts to a fucking phone book on a stick. The idea here is that the object is meant to slow Ziggo down and afford The Missing Link the ability to do… fucking… something with the remainder of the stick? I don’t know what exactly because this seems like a situation where only enough energy was invested into an idea to see it through a single step.
Sean anemically says “let’s rage in the cage”. Bil responds with “god help us all”, which I believe is directed less at the fight and more toward the fact that he’ll be sharing commentating duties with Sean for the rest of this season. Ziggo, as you might imagine, takes some time to get spinning at its full speed. This allows The Missing Link to cruise around the haphazardly placed Hellraisers and start showing its opponent the yellow pages. Somehow, this ridiculous goddamned plan starts to work and Ziggo gets bumped and nudged over to the fucked up part of the arena where the teams bring their bots in. Sean tries to draw attention to The Missing Link’s “weapon”, or its lack thereof, assuming that we haven’t yet noticed the three foot long metal rod with a giant block of wood on it. Just as Sean is about to praise the perceived effectiveness of The Missing Link’s Ziggo-stopper, it falls apart. Sean corrects himself immediately while Bil Dwyer says it looks like a metal detector. These are the people they hired to do the commentary.
Somehow, this fight isn’t as action-packed as it could be, so Sean starts talking about the arena Killsaws to fill some dead air. Immediately, Ziggo pops The Missing Link right on its wheel and interrupts Sean’s nonsense for the second time this fight. Bil loses his shit now that The Missing Link has lost a wheel and it takes a solid four seconds for Sean to notice this, even when the camera cuts to The Missing Link who most certainly is without one of its stupid ball-shaped tires. Rather than discuss The Missing Link’s current predicament, Sean brings up the robot’s fucking phone book again and ponders if it would break easier because it’s made of wood instead of metal. This is seriously a question that this man has asked on national television. Bil Dwyer chimes in that he’s “a metal man” because this is the new millennium, because as all us old roboteers know the concept of sheet aluminum didn’t exist in 1999. It just didn’t; we built our robots out of branches and rocks and shit like that.
Sean tries again to start saying something but Ziggo salts his game and pops The Missing Link right on its surviving tire. What ensues next is absolute beauty. The Missing Link’s crippled tire twitches backward about a half-turn, then forward, then back again. As it rolls back for the last time, the wheel just casually comes off and rolls away. Then, if that wasn’t great enough, we find out that Ziggo’s last hit popped The Missing Link right on top of the Killsaws, which deploy and slice off The Missing Link’s dick. Ziggo just sits there and watches this pan out while the commentators say it’s doing a “victory spin”. God damn it.
The refs don’t even count The Missing Link out, they just mercy kill the fight after letting everyone take a good look at its utter failure in the ring.
WINNER: Ziggo, KO
After the break, Sean welcomes everyone back to the show and says they’ve got the best seats in the house. Bil understands this as Sean complimenting his ass. I mean, the bar here is set so fucking low it might as well just be The Missing Link’s weapon stick.
Sean introduces the next match between Mauler and Nightmare, but before we begin we get a send off to Bill “Motherfucking” Nye who gives us the skinny on Nightmare. Bill lets us know that Nightmare’s weapon:
- Comprises 50% of the robot’s weight.
- Has a motor powerful enough to tow a car.
- Spins at 500km/h.
- Kicks all kinds of ass and is about to open this fucking pit up.
Bill then glances off to the side to see if that was a good take.
MEET THE TILFORDS
Wow, they’re really playing up this next match. First Bill Nye schools us on Nightmare, and now we get a driver bio on the Mauler team?
As Bil encourages us to “meet the Tilfords” we’re shown footage of said Tilfords. They look like a fucking ska band. We first meet “Supreme Commander” Charles Tilford whose title is simultaneously equidistant from either sounding barely racist or like something out of North Korea. Uncle Sam here introduces us to his two sons, Morgan and Henry, and says that’s the whole lot of them despite the fact that there’s clearly five people on the South Bay Robowarriors team in the shot where they’re all standing around singing Kumbaya or whatever.
“They may seem unscrupulous,” begins Bil Dwyer. No, Bil, they seem like a bunch of standard garage junkies with a nice gimmick for their team. Oh! Oh, this is a call forward joke. I get it. See, Morgan puts an egg down on a robot model that has “BRAIN” written on it and then smashes it with a hammer. Then he says “you have to make the other robot your bitch”. Well then, I must agree fine sir these peoples’ scruples are most certainly questionable. Why, this fine young gentleman is getting away with saying “bitch” on national television — in 2000!
Give me a fucking break.
MAULER vs. NIGHTMARE
South Bay Robowarriors
Weapon: Horizontal spinning disc
Weapon: Vertical spinning disc
We’ve already been introduced to Mauler courtesy of the previous segment, but the best way to describe the robot is that it’s sort of like a heavyweight Ziggo. Whereas Ziggo was built and piloted by a closet furry, Mauler is built by a team of people whom we are led to believe are clinically insane. Mauler’s primary weapon is a chain-driven “lid” on it chassis armed with chisels and mace flails. Mark Beiro flubs his line and introduces Mauler as being “the pride of Porto Valley, California”, suggesting that somewhere there is a place in California where the only buildings are abandoned port-o-potties. Technically there is, that place is called San Jose. Roasted.
The last time we saw Nightmare on this website was its modern updated form during ABC’s reboot of BattleBots in 2015. Now, we’re stepping back in time a decade and a half to see where it all began. This robot is the reason why there’s a ceiling on the arena because in Nightmare’s first tournament appearance its builder Jim Smentowski (pronounced “smen-COW-ski” if you’re Bil Dwyer) was told he’d need to either forfeit his matches or run Nightmare’s weapon in reverse due to safety concerns. Jim decided to run it in reverse and still wrecked shop because he brought his robot to the event and god damn it he was going to break something. Sean Salisbury says he likes “the vertical as opposed to the horizontal”. Bil responds that his preferences depend on what he’s doing, hinting that somewhere out there is a person with low enough self-esteem to have sex with him.
Mauler wasn’t a new robot by any stretch, even in the year 2000, but this was just about the time the robot was hitting its stride in becoming some kind of goddamned monster. While previous versions of the robot featured some pretty shitty weaponry, “Mauler 2000” is quite clearly something special. Nightmare is the early aggressor and charges forward at its opponent and manages to somehow land a glancing blow with its bludgeoning weapon. Mauler comes out ahead in this altercation when Nightmare decides to do its best impression of The Missing Link and promptly loses a wheel. See those little circular badges on the side of Nightmare? Those are the iconic BattleBots “WINNER” medals. I don’t think Nightmare’s going to get one this time.
Mauler’s drivers start acting rowdy because we’re supposed to believe they’re wacky and uncivilized. Sean apparently goes to his “idle time” cue cards and starts talking about the fucking paint job on Mauler, if you can even call it that. Bil mentions the “wheel fairy” as some kind of analog to the tooth fairy. Somehow, Sean Salisbury has not murdered this man. Somewhere in this fucking mess Jim Smentowski taps out and the fight is called in favor of Mauler, but then we discover a key design flaw of The Tilfords’ robot: they apparently didn’t install a fucking “off” button. Mauler starts using Nightmare to slow its weapon down and Jim says he’s not having any of that bullshit. This forces the Mauler team to resort to using the arena spike strip to slow their spinner down, which damages the Battlebox in the process.
After shitting all over the arena and generally making a nuisance of themselves, Morgan Tilford accepts his victory on behalf of the Robowarriors by inventing the trollface meme. Jim is a good sport about the fight and says he shouldn’t have aimed his drive wheel at Mauler. Hindsight is 20/20, man.
WINNER: Mauler, KO
After the break, Christian Carlberg shows hesitation to the camera crew who want to see Overkill’s weapon. This is because out of these two groups of people, Christian seems to be the only one who gives a shit about the event’s safety regulations. Bil Dwyer somehow makes this another sexual euphemism, and you know what I’m just going to break this down right fucking now. I’m going to go all Bill Nye on this Malaysian flight of a fucking joke.
Bil comments that he “paid good money for this bachelor’s party” while Christian is hesitant to show off Overkill’s blade. Overkill by its very nature is an incredibly phallic robot. Now, I’m not trying to come off as some idiot Tumblr “feminist” fighting “the patriarchy” or something, but it wouldn’t be disagreeable to compare the robot’s weapon to a cock. A giant, massive, meaty cock. Bil Dwyer wants to see that “pop out of a cake”, again because this is all a part of his retarded “bachelor party” gag. The issue here is women with penises are generally not a part of bachelor parties; usually women with very large breasts and/or giant asses are standard fare. This in turn begs the question of what kind of bachelor parties Bil Dwyer has been going to. Now that I’ve laid all of this out on the table, my punchlines are A) Bil Dwyer has a shemale fetish and B) kill yourself.
Anyways, immediately after coming out of the closet Bil drops BattleBots’ flagship slogan “when sparks fly robots die”. Considering the abysmal joke he just said ten seconds ago, that’s depressing.
I’m pretty sure the editors got the footage of Mauler and Overkill’s driver bios mixed up because I don’t think they’re trying to paint Christian Carlberg as a fucking psychopath but holy shit this footage is doing exactly that.
Personally, I don’t like Overkill. It’s a robot that certainly photographs nicely, which is probably why it has a bio segment like this, but I mean look at the trinkets the robot is smashing: ceramic figures, a lamp, and a wooden table. The robot’s not even able to slice through the fucking table, and the foley guy is having a field day with the sound effects panel to try and make it sound like this robot isn’t a fucking joke. Overkill tries to line up a shot on a fish tank complete with water and a giant dead fish, and misses. Instead, Overkill chops up a giant sandwich and a watermelon, two things that the robot can actually slice through for once, while Christian and his buddies eat some of the fruit. Dude, your robot is dragging that blade all over the ground and it looks like you’ve butchered a goddamned Goodwill store. Are you sure eating that watermelon is a good idea?
The closing shot is Overkill finally slicing into the fish tank, which is then played backwards because this was produced in the year 2000 and wacky video effects like that weren’t quite dead. Bil says the segment was like “a Gallagher concert but more sophisticated”. Considering Gallagher is a racist piece of shit whose only claim to fame is smashing watermelons this makes for the only joke Bil Dwyer has farted out so far that has any merit to it whatsoever. I mean that, too; Gallagher literally has a joke about not trusting “Orientals” where the punchline is that they bow instead of shake hands and this means “they don’t look you in the eyes”. This comedian used to sell out entire auditoriums with shit like that.
OVERKILL vs. FRENZY
Weapon: Inertia-driven swinging blade
Team Minus Zero
Weapon: Chain-driven swinging axe
Prior to the Overkill bio segment, Bil introduces the robot’s weapon as a “giant knife blade” which is probably the most redundant thing I’ve heard in a while. That’s like me calling Bil Dwyer’s jokes “unfunny not laughing”. Overkill and Frenzy’s drivers are friends according to Sean Salisbury, and I’ll buy that; they both pretty much built the same fucking robot. Overkill’s claim to fame is its huge knife, the one we just got to see chop up a bunch of random shit. For reasons unknown the robot has wheels the size of Jupiter and if the fight we just saw with Mauler is any indication, that’s kind of a bad idea. The fact of the matter is Overkill is technically a sort of evolution of Christian’s older heavyweight robot Slugger, a thwackbot… in the heavyweight division. Yeah, good one.
Frenzy actually got a quick breakdown courtesy of Bill Nye who briefly touched on the type of metal the robot uses for armor — which sounded like an entire goddamned sentence and I’m not able to replicate it here for you — and also the fact that Frenzy’s hammer is both hydraulic and driven by a treadmill motor at the same time. Look, he’s the expert, not me. For all the shit I talked about Overkill’s weapon, Frenzy is kind of an ideal target considering there’s just a giant gap in the robot’s armor and you can literally see the fucking internals when the camera pans around. I’m not saying that’s going to come into play or anything, because it probably isn’t, it’s just an amusing loose end. Speaking of loose ends, you might be wondering why TMZ.com is sponsoring Frenzy. That’s because they aren’t, Patrick Campbell used to own TMZ.com because it belonged to his robot combat team, Team Minus Zero. Guy owned a 3-letter domain name and he let it go; had he held onto it for just a few years longer he could’ve scalped it to the TMZ.com we know and
love hate today for a pretty penny. Someone please go check on Patrick by the way, he might’ve hung himself or something.
This fight starts out pretty reasonable with each robot slowly leaving their starting squares and getting a feel for the arena. Then, about ten seconds into the match, it turns into a six year old pretend fighting with his action figures. Since both of these robots are effectively the same thing, both of them just start swinging and missing. It gets so bad that the guy operating the arena hazards starts needlessly firing off the Hellraisers and Killsaws to get some implied action in this match. Technically, Overkill has the capacity to have the upper hand here since it has a wedge, but Christian Carlberg is too busy trying to swing his stupid knife around to realize that. He couldn’t even hit a fucking stationary fish tank, does he really think Overkill is going to be able to hit a moving target?
Things drag on for even longer with more of the same until Overkill actually manages to get itself stuck on the arena spike strip. Bil and Sean don’t notice this of course, even though the shot from atop the nearby Pulverizer makes it painfully obvious. Instead, they hit the panic button and bring in the little picture-in-picture of Frenzy’s builder to talk about the robot’s weapon. Pay attention to when they do this by the way, because it only happens during periods where the commentators are completely out of shit to say. Anyways, Frenzy’s builder isn’t Bill Nye so I wasn’t paying any attention and somewhere in this shuffle Overkill has managed to free itself from the wall. Bil says he “wants to see some hits”. Instead of getting any hits, Overkill puts itself right back into the wall.
This is a truly awful fight and I have no fucking clue how it made it to television, especially after following back-to-back knockout fights. Even Sean Salisbury is at his breaking point when he starts saving face with how “exciting” this match is and how it’s different from the KO fights because this one’s going to be scored on points and all this other fluffy bullshit to fill a dreadful amount of dead air. Bil helps out by screaming about this fight not having enough contacts. This is what happens when you hire a stand-up comedian to do what amounts to boxing commentary. In fact no, actually, because that’s an insult to the Sklar Brothers who are actually competent humorists. Bil Dwyer is what happens when someone’s “hey I know a guy that would be good for this role” is taken at face value with no questions asked.
WINNER: Overkill, 7-2
(PS: After the result, watch for the clip of the guy holding up Overkill’s blade on its allegedly “sharp” side.)
Back from the break, Sean gives us the breakdown of the Overkill vs. Frenzy match which comes hilariously complete with a “swings & misses” category. It’s almost like they’re just rubbing it in by this point. Sean gives a send off to Donna D’Errico. Bil complains. Donna talks shit about the fight and compares it to a Little League game. Jump cut to one Sklar talking shit to Christian about hitting the floor more times than his opponent. At this point there’s a literal hatedom that’s been built around this goddamned fight and now for the first time in the history of this website I’m not the person exaggerating a bunch of trite bullshit and blowing it all out of proportion.
Holy shit, is this what you people think I act like?
Just like that the episode’s over. For shits and giggles I read the credits and noticed that Sean Salisbury is the “Play by Play Anchor” and Bil Dwyer is the “Color Commentator”. Gee, no wonder there’s such a delineation between what the two of them say. It’s almost like Sean’s background in football helps him out in this role. As you probably guessed, the “Hit of the Week” for this episode is Ziggo completely demolishing The Missing Link because I think I speak for everyone when I say I don’t get tired of seeing that.
That just about does it for the very first episode of BattleBots season one, the show that started this whole mess. I’ll admit it was kind of weird to go back write this article again, since I had written it once before eight years ago. I went back and reviewed some of the original content from the first iteration of BattleBots Update to see if there was anything that could be salvaged… there wasn’t. It’s all awful and terrible. What’s also tricky is figuring out how the “storyline” in this website’s “universe” is going to work, because fans of the sport already know who’s going to win and BattleBots is still going on today; this makes for a lot of weird call forwards and call backs that are going to be hard to properly orchestrate. I’ll figure something out though.
Also, there’s a sneak peek of the new season of ABC’s BattleBots coming up on May 10th. When that happens, I’m going to use that week to write an episode summary of that instead of another from this Comedy Central season. We’re going to have some overlap here, and I apologize in advance if it causes some confusion. We’ll figure it out though. 🙂