[BattleBots: S9 E13 is available through the Discovery GO app with a cable subscription package. Season is also available on iTunes and Amazon.]
Last week I hypothesized that this week’s episode would be the final run of Fight Night battles. This was based purely upon how last season unfolded because the last three episodes of the year focused on the main tournament. Someone pointed out to me last season’s episodes were also only an hour long instead of the two hours we’re getting this year and that threw me for a loop.
Chris and Kenny try spinning this episode with a sense of urgency but more than half of the fights in this episode feature robots with 3-0 records who will advance on no matter what. Bite Force is the obvious robot at 3-0 and even if it loses to Monsoon by catching fire and exploding it’s still going to advance on and it will still take a top seed because it’s fucking Bite Force. RailGun Max came out of left field and has made it to 3-0 alongside Skorpios who’s seeing a repeat of its run last season. If anything all of these fights featuring 3-0 robots are more about their opponents, all of whom are at 2-1. If they lose their fights they’re out of the running, but a victory could see a mutual qualification in any of the cases. Well, except for Bronco who’s been paired up with Hydra. Yeah, they’ve been telegraphing that fight since episode 1.
Chris calls Kenny his “ride or die”. Nobody in front of the camera knows what that means and neither do I because I’m too old to keep up with the cringey lingo of the younger generations. I guess that makes me officially “old”. Like Bronco.
BREAKER BOX vs. HYPERSHOCK
Earlier this season I made some off-handed remark about Breaker Box taking too long to have all of its fights aired and I said something along the lines of “at this rate we’re going to see all of Breaker Box’s battles stacked back to back at the end of the season”. Guess I was right. Breaker Box isn’t technically a new robot but it is new to BattleBots. While it’s seen moderate success elsewhere over the years its performance at this particular event has left a lot to be desired which is something I hope you’ve been able to piece together on your own based upon Breaker Box’s current 1-2 record. The robot’s only win came from a decision over Falcon where Breaker Box was essentially dead by the end of the fight but not dead enough to be counted out; also it’s opponent was Falcon and the refs were too busy making fun of it to notice Breaker Box was immobilized. After that the robot went through back to back losses at the hands of Uppercut and Bloodsport, both by KO, in fights that forced Jim Smentowski to swap out to another weapon attachment because the previous ones were destroyed. Breaker Box is fighting to try and disrupt Hypershock’s chances of qualifying, that’s it.
Hypershock is certainly having a better season this year than it did last time around, that much is certain. Last year Hypershock lost three qualifiers and an exhibition battle and its only win came about from ripping that stupid cheeseburger robot Battle Royale apart and even then I’m 90% certain Hypershock’s weapon died in that fight at some point. This season the robot came out swinging with a win over Valkyrie that featured several impressive hits before Hypershock started breaking down and taking unnecessary damage to its wheels because that’s exactly the kind of shit Hypershock gets up to in a fight. It rebounded and absolutely fucking destroyed Monsoon by way of kicking Monsoon’s weapon bracket completely out of its face and it was on deck to put Bite Force on the ropes until it got flipped over and started coughing up belts and losing parts all over the goddamned place. There’s a loss on Hypershock’s record this year but unless Breaker Box does something spectacular — or just gets lucky I guess — I don’t see this fight unfolding without Hypershock winning it.
Sometimes I like being proved wrong, especially in match-ups like these where I feel like I’ve correctly guessed the outcome. Breaker Box takes the lead immediately when its jacked up titanium plow (which I believe is actually the robot’s original one from way back in the day) manages to beat the ground clearance of Hypershock’s front end. Hypershock gets dropped off at the screws for some early points but by swinging its plow around Breaker Box has made its entire chassis an open target for its opponent and Hypershock wastes absolutely no time throwing a punch to Breaker Box’s face that rips its armor open and peels it back. The second hit rips the entire back (or front, no idea at this point) panel off of Breaker Box and all the shit you see flying out of the robot looks to be some kind of shock-mounting foam from around Breaker Box’s motors. Hypershock still isn’t done though because there’s one thing left to dismantle on Breaker Box and that’s the robot’s stupid goddamned LED display panel. I personally would’ve loved to see Hypershock slice into it and blow it apart but I guess hitting Breaker Box hard enough to cut power to the screen is also acceptable.
These hits are fucking intense but somehow Breaker Box hasn’t died. It’s clearly five kinds of mangled right now but it’s still mobile despite its rear wheels being propped up off of the ground from where Hypershock kicked it in the nuts hard enough to bow its chassis out. All this damage has left Breaker Box a wreck and after shaking its plow around the robot retracts it downward because I’m assuming it’s just totally fucking busted, otherwise we’d probably have seen Breaker Box flip itself over so all of its wheels were touching the ground again. Hypershock gets ready to line up another charge and in a split second Hacker, the crappy little minibot that chums around with Breaker Box, steps in the way of the charge causing Hypershock to ramp off of it, onto Breaker Box’s plow, and flip upside-down. This stupid minibot has been so ineffective that it just straight up vanished before the fight with Bloodsport and yet now it’s actually flipped Hypershock over. I knew some fucky shit was up when Kenny specifically acknowledged Hacker’s existence before the fight.
Theoretically Hypershock can flip itself back over but every time we’ve seen it get rolled onto its back it’s also been thrashed so badly that most of the robot has stopped working. I don’t believe Hypershock’s taken any significant damage in this battle, though it appears its srimech just isn’t working altogether. It can still cruise around on two wheels, kinda like Breaker Box, but the lack of control is apparent. Will Bales goes for the screws and drives Hypershock into them to try and flip the robot back over but all he succeeds in doing is opening Hypershock up to a hit from Hacker who breathes some fire onto it. The plan fails and Hypershock gets away spinning its blades up in the process but we also appear to be at the point where the weapon is running but there’s no muscle behind it. Also, Hypershock drives over the Killsaws and one of the prongs of its self-righter falls into the cracks.
This is exactly the kind of stupid miracle Breaker Box needed to win this fight, but because Jim Smentowski comes from another era of robot combat — one where you don’t win fights in this manner — he bumps into Hypershock with what’s left of Breaker Box and helps free it from the hazard. That’s incredible sportsmanship because he probably knows he’s going to lose this fight but still kept it going, however when Hypershock is dumb enough to do the same exact shit a second time I feel like Jim would be well within his rights to kinda go “yeah dude the first one’s free but you fucked up”. Generosity only goes so far, but no Hypershock actually gets another unstick this time from Hacker who becomes an impromptu booster step. I’m not sure this was actually intentional though because Hacker’s driver has been trying to hit Hypershock with flames for the whole damn fight so chances are he just got too close.
Anyways it’s been about two minutes now and if your watch is set like mine is that means Breaker Box ought to start smoking any time now– oh, there it goes. For the fourth fight in a row Breaker Box starts burning something up internally and this is enough to kill it. Breaker Box is counted out with only a few seconds left on the clock but even if the fight went the distance I still don’t think it did enough to win a hypothetical decision; Breaker Box’s only chance was when Hypershock tried to reach into the Killsaws to fish out the quarter it saw down there but Jim knocked the robot loose. This brings Breaker Box to 1-3, and out of the tournament, and Hypershock to 3-1. Jim teases a new Nightmare after the battle and I think by this point everyone involved is just saying “anything but another Breaker Box”.
WINNER: Hypershock, KO
YETI vs. TANTRUM
At the start of the season Yeti was added to the list of “robots who’ve gotten their asses kicked by two-time reigning champion Bite Force”, but it was also added to the list of “robots who’ve made Paul Ventimiglia poop a little bit in his pants because Bite Force was hurt pretty badly”. Despite losing that battle it could not have come at a better time for Greg Gibson because it opened his eyes to the fact that Yeti’s weird lifting forks were a waste of fucking time and Yeti does its best work when it’s unchained and free to just pummel the shit out of all of its opponents. Without its ineffective lifters Yeti came back around and tore Free Shipping to pieces and scored a proper one hit KO over Rainbow with a hit so savage Rainbow’s batteries were already blowing up by the time the robot hit the ground. Yeti’s lifters are still rightfully MIA for this battle so you know we’re going to see the robot fire up its drum and just start windmilling people to death.
Tantrum is also 2-1 for the year but it’s one of those robots whose records spur those dumb conversations about “bad wins” and “good losses”. Tantrum’s first win of the season went unaired and was highlighted in last week’s show; essentially the robot won a “double KO” over Jasper and Uppercut but that’s because Uppercut had those first fight jitters and Jasper is Jasper. It wasn’t a good fight, and even though Tantrum went on to defeat Gemini fair and square its weird “vertical spinner on a sliding track” weaponry wasn’t as effective as we were initially sold on. Before the fight Chris Rose says he asked Aren Hill what he thinks his weapon is up to on a scale of 1-10 and Aren allegedly said 2. That’s about four more points than I’d have given it. Tantrum wound up losing to Skorpios after taking way too many hits to its lid and you can see some of the scars of those hits as Tantrum is introduced because the robot is still wearing that extra upper armor for this fight. It’s also had all of its wings and pointy bits removed because Aren knows Yeti is going to try and sit on his robot’s face, and that’s exactly where Tantrum’s weapon is.
I’m not sure what kind of inner damage Tantrum took in its fight against Skorpios but there’s something wrong with this robot and that should be obvious from the twitch test. Tantrum seems to have trouble staying in a straight line and can’t even back into its square properly, when the initial countdown starts Tantrum is all the way over to the side of it. Also one of its decorative fists has already fallen off. Aside from just not putting any goddamned bolts in it I don’t even know how you fuck something like that up. As soon as the fight starts the other fist falls off with little to no input needed on the part of Yeti. This turns Tantrum into the world’s shittiest iteration of the Nickelodeon logo. Tantrum’s only real saving grace in this battle is that it’s built to be a brick and as Yeti chews on Tantrum’s face the robot’s durability becomes very apparent because we just saw Yeti dig into a crappy My Little Pony robot and blow it the fuck apart but all it’s doing to Tantrum is messing up the little front wedge things. Kenny is amazed that Yeti is “holding back” but I think that’s purely because Greg knows damn well Yeti has virtually no armor to speak of and taking a hit to its underside — even from Tantrum’s 2/10 spinner — is bad news.
Eventually Tantrum gets spun around from all the blows being landed and as soon as the robot opens its ass up to Yeti the fight is just about over. Everything orange on Tantrum is super dense but the silver parts are just aluminum. It’s thick aluminum, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a much softer metal and Yeti’s drum is able to start literally shaving the material away. Tantrum takes a blow to its back right corner and gets spiked into the wall. One of Yeti’s team members tries to time a neat trickshot where the Pulverizer would’ve slapped Tantrum out of the air, but this misses. Tantrum takes a normal shot from the hammer a few seconds later and its disc punches a dent into the hazard… and that’s all we see from the Pulverizer for the rest of the fight. It’s probably broken now, but not as broken as Tantrum’s ass. Yeti slams its opponent into the wall and the red blur you see fly off of Tantrum is actually one of its upper armor pads. Those are orange but Yeti clipped it off so fast that it turned red, how the fuck does that happen? Is this a video game now?
Tantrum is critically wounded, that much should be obvious, but I just have to point out and appreciate the level of damage Yeti has done to its backside. I don’t know what Tantrum’s wheels are made from but because Yeti’s gone full-on belt sander on Tantrum’s ass they’ve been shaved away to the point where there’s these red fibers coming out of them. Also because so much damage has been focused to Tantrum’s back right corner you can get a better idea for how much of the robot Yeti has been able to shave away, I wasn’t joking when I said that. I’m not sure what exactly caused Tantrum to stop moving in the end but I know having its back tires transmogrified into fucking yarn probably didn’t help.
WINNER: Yeti, KO
COPPERHEAD vs. WAR HAWK
Would you believe me if I told you the guy who built Copperhead also built another robot (Poison Arrow) that managed to knock out Son of Whyachi a few years back? Given the fact that Copperhead is 1-2 right now the answer is likely “probably not”. But it’s true, and Zach Goff has put together another powerful drum spinner… though unfortunately something’s wrong with the recipe because Copperhead hasn’t quite lived up to the spectacle that was Poison Arrow. Right out of the gate Copperhead lost to Skorpios after being karate chopped enough times that the robot’s drive chains snapped and fell apart and this is supposed to be one of those “tiny little indestructible brick” kinds of bots. Not good. Surprisingly this didn’t faze Zach and he was pretty cocky going into his next match against Gruff. Copperhead won, sure, but it was nowhere close to the cakewalk Zach was expecting. Against Chronos the robot landed one of the biggest hits of the season but in the process Chronos managed to fuck Copperhead’s solid metal frame up so badly that the robot’s drum fell out of its mount and killed one side of drive resulting in a KO loss. We know this robot has the firepower, it just needs to not kill itself, but by this point it’s probably too late to change course.
War Hawk has been gone for a few weeks because Rob Farrow needed to find a new radio transmitter for his robot and I guess in TV time that took a whole goddamned month. War Hawk was a surprise qualifier last season where it snuck in at #15 but promptly lost to Bronco. This year the robot started off with a quick victory over Petunia in a battle that wasn’t very impressive and followed that up with a loss to Hydra that saw the robot disassembled live on national fucking television. A loss that bad and a win that shitty put Rob on high alert so he opted to send War Hawk to the Desperado where he scored a great KO over Ragnarok but in the robot’s next match its radio just straight up died with no input from its opponent whatsoever. I decried that loss as total bullshit and it’s this season’s first (and only) TKO. War Hawk vanished after that and we’re just now seeing its last qualifier. At the unique state of 2-2 a win here could put War Hawk ahead to the main event.
Zach says he’s not afraid of War Hawk’s weapon or little front forks because he’s confident that Copperhead’s own forks will win the ground clearance battle. I’ve gotta say I commend this guy for how much he believes in his robot because two out of the past three times he’s said “we got this” they absolutely didn’t and the one time his team did win a fight it was a nightmare split decision. It looks like Zach might be in the clear however because the two bots meet weapon to weapon in the arena and War Hawk leaves the exchange with not one but both of its little front prongs bent to shit. Neither of them are going to serve their intended purposes and the show editors have only just now taken the starting clock graphic off of the screen. Rob Cowan on Copperhead’s team lets Zach know they’ve got ’em. Copperhead’s drum starts revving up to higher speeds as evidenced by the gradually intensifying death hum and when Copperhead goes in for another shot it’s almost kind of a glancing blow but it still manages to tear off half of War Hawk’s left side of ablative armor. Congratulations War Hawk, that armor failed to meet the criteria of “ablative” aside from the fact that it fell off and accomplished nothing else at all.
War Hawk gets in Copperhead’s face again and what’s left of one of its front prongs is chewed away in less than a second. The robot also gets bounced up on top of Copperhead and as it’s taken into the wall War Hawk topples over. War Hawk can cruise around upside-down but it operates a lot like Bite Force in this configuration; only the back wheels of War Hawk are touching the ground and hypothetically if the robot spins its weapon up and runs into the wall the force of its spinner digging into it should pop the robot back onto all four of its wheels. You can see War Hawk attempting to do exactly this in the background while Copperhead loses interest in its opponent and starts trying to chase down War Stop instead. After a couple of misses Copperhead also gets tired of this and since War Hawk has spun itself back around, presumably to try and attack while inverted, the bot slams into War Hawk face first and punts it straight into the screws.
The hazard seizes up after a few cranks but still manages to reverse and spin the other way. This frees War Hawk as intended but because War Hawk got stuck on the screws in such an awkward orientation when the robot rolls off of them it lands on its front end where its spinner is. In the sport of robot combat this move is called “doing the thing” and it’s when your robot is placed onto an orientation where none of its wheels are on the ground and it cannot self-right by any means. I assume War Hawk’s spinner might be able to get the robot down from this position but it could be damaged and that’s why the robot is stuck. It’s also possible that because the spinner runs on brushless motors there might not be enough starting torque in the weaponry to knock the robot down either. No matter the case, Zach isn’t going to dick around and take any chances; Copperhead’s got a knock out on its hands and this time the robot didn’t blow itself up in the process.
Copperhead chases down War Stop for some celebratory headbutts and finally manages to thrash the minibot and knock its drive belts off before the buzzer. Meanwhile as War Hawk gets counted out the robot falls to 2-3 which doesn’t look to great for its record at the end of the qualifiers. War Hawk just barely made it into the main tournament last season so it wouldn’t surprise me if the robot actually falls short for real this time around. Rob seems to be aware of this too since his interview with Kenny after the fight reveals that he’s assuming his team is out. Copperhead finishes at 2-2 and like I said last week that’s probably not good enough to qualify either but at least Zach got one win this season where his robot achieved what he expected of it and that’s gotta be worth something. It’s not worth qualification, but maybe it’s worth an overpriced taco from the food trucks outside.
WINNER: Copperhead, KO
BITE FORCE vs. MONSOON
Bite Force is the first of the remaining robots at 3-0 looking to make a clean sweep and score a perfect in the qualifiers. We already know Bite Force is making it into the main tournament because it’s got three wins so no matter what it’s done good enough to cross the finish line and place high enough to advance. It’s also the reigning champion and I feel like Bite Force could finish its preliminary rounds at 2-2 and be the only fucking robot who would still advance onward purely because we’re looking at a bot with two championships under its belt. Those are the perks of being the king. This status also comes with some downsides however and those come largely in the form of your opponents designing aspects of their robots specifically around your machine with the intentions of knocking it out. Bite Force might have three wins right now but two of those fights — Yeti and Hypershock — went the distance and in both cases we saw some gnarly damage to the champ that visibly damaged its drive system. As resilient as it is, Bite Force is not invincible; it’s had to work the hardest it ever has to keep its incredible 11 battle winning streak.
Each season we get a few “breakout” stars and last year Monsoon was one of them. These are great bots who arrive on the scene and really mix things up but these robots age like child actors I swear to god. In their debut season they’re like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone and just a year later they’re, well, Macaulay Culkin after Home Alone. Monsoon has only managed one win this year and that was one of the many one hit KO’s that Ragnarok was the recipient of. Don’t get me wrong a one hit KO is no small feat but when everybody who beats a robot does so in that manner it suddenly becomes a lot less impressive. Knocking out Ragnarok is the BattleBots equivalent of cutting down your first tree in Minecraft. Monsoon’s two losses were absolutely brutal though. Hypershock damaged Monsoon so badly that its whole weapon bracket came out and it was just never the same afterward because it broke a second time when the robot fought Valkyrie. Tom Brewster thinks that a win against Bite Force just might be what it takes to still qualify, even at 2-2, so he’s gambled it all and has put on Monsoon’s light armor in exchange for being able to run his weapon’s big ass 15 HP Motenergy (“E-Tek”) motor. Godspeed, dude.
Before the fight Jenny Taft met up with Tom and his crew which is when he explained the situation with Monsoon’s armor and weapon motor. Switching the other motor in reduces Monsoon’s spin up time from nine seconds to just four and when the starting clock graphic fades out at 2:56 that’s Monsoon’s cue to careen into Bite Force and hope that the stars align in his favor. Monsoon gets within inches of hitting Bite Force’s back corner but misses. It comes in diagonally toward Bite Force’s front but I’m guessing the slightly extended front wedges that Bite Force is still inexplicably wearing from its previous fight are also successfully keeping Monsoon at bay because the spinner doesn’t connect. Bite Force lands a small shot on Monsoon that causes the robot to tumble around one full rotation and while this hit doesn’t seem all that significant, especially knowing what Bite Force is capable of, apparently this knocks something askew inside of Monsoon because when the robot lands it’s still “functional” but it can only move by twitching around.
Monsoon, completely open to attack now, takes one last shot from Bite Force that sends the robot flying forward and as it rolls Monsoon’s weapon connects with the floor and expends all of its weapon energy into it. I’m not sure if Monsoon’s safety switch is a removable link but I’m guessing it is since those are more popular in the UK and two robots (Ragnarok and Foxtrot) have already lost battles by having their links either come out or get damaged in some way. I say this because when Monsoon lands it’s just totally dead. No twitching, no weapon movement, nothing. All Monsoon has to show for it is a slightly bent up front end and a dent at its front right corner. Sadly we will never know what kind of carnage that blade could’ve unleashed upon Bite Force, instead Bite Force catches its easiest win of the season and joins Witch Doctor and Death Roll as the third 4-0 robot after the qualifiers. Monsoon presumably, like a washed up child actor, goes to rehab.
WINNER: Bite Force, KO
FREE SHIPPING vs. RAILGUN MAX
Free Shipping is a robot that I’m just not sure has a place in this world. It’s not as gimmicky this year as it was in its debut season last year and it’s even more a blatant image of Original Sin wearing a Groucho Marx disguise… and yet here we are again lamenting the fact that this stupid forklift has only managed to make it to 1-2 as it enters its final qualifying round. Last year Free Shipping was hindered by its goofy roll cage and all the things that made it look like a literal fucking forklift but this year I really don’t know what the issue is aside from just being beaten to a pulp by robots who’ve far surpassed Free Shipping’s own power. Hydra was an obvious loss and Free Shipping was the fall guy appointed to let us know just how powerful Hydra’s flipper really was (spoiler: very powerful). Hilariously Free Shipping was also sent out to give us a reading on Bronco’s flipper too except Bronco shit the bed and gave Free Shipping an easy win. Make no mistake though, Free Shipping was going to lose that fight if Bronco didn’t dislocate its shoulder. There’s nothing on the line here except pride because the bigger story is of course RailGun Max.
I feel like RailGun Max is a robot everyone has very easily overlooked and disregarded despite the fact that it’s one of the few robots to make it to 3-0. I don’t know if this is because it’s blended into the crowd or what but Elaine Wu and her team have put together a pretty fair machine for their BattleBots debut. I’m not familiar with RailGun Max’s performance outside of BattleBots (if such a record exists), but we’re looking at a robot who’s essentially delivered a couple of “one and a half hit KO’s” over bots like Mad Catter and Shellshock and it did so in a manner I’d describe as “pretty fucking awesome”. Mad Catter and War Hawk seem to share a lot of the same team members so it’s no surprise the two bots also shared some design conventions, namely the one where the entire goddamned robot can snap in half because its drive pods are attached with silly string or something. Shellshock just straight up got blasted so hard that its access panels broke loose and the robot threw up its batteries. Naturally this resulted in a fire. RailGun Max also defeated Wan Hoo but that fight had to go to a decision because RailGun Max’s spinner died (which was fine, because Wan Hoo’s never worked longer than 30 seconds in any fucking fight either).
Gary Gin has a lot to be worried about here because Free Shipping has many dangly things just begging to be ripped off and RailGun Max has the weapon to do exactly that, though for now Gary can relax because it seems RailGun Max is more interested in getting its front forks stuck in the Killsaws and using its drum to dig into the hazard’s cover and rip it apart. Remember when those things used to pop up and throw bots around? I’m getting to the point where I can’t even remember if that ever happened to begin with because it feels like some fucking Mandela Effect memory from another universe. Anyways RailGun Max is freed from the floor by way of Free Shipping running into it and as RailGun Max lines up a counterattack it winds up catching its minibot Platypus and very nearly throws the little fucker onto the top of the drivers’ booth. RailGun Max also gets jammed in a completely different set of Killsaws again. I swear it’s like BattleBots now has its own shittier version of the pit from Robot Wars.
RailGun Max again gets loose from the floor and hits Free Shipping laterally, the impact of which rolls the forklift over and gives the camera a great view of the nearly foot-long slice that’s been taken out of the bottom edge of the robot. Seriously, it’s like RailGun Max attacked its opponent with a block cheese slicer; better add one of those to the team’s repository of cooking props because we’re breaking new goddamned ground here. Free Shipping has been stuck like this in the past when its lifting arm gets broken but it looks to still be in working order so the robot rolls back over prompting Chris Rose to start talking to Kenny about doing gymnastics like when they were back in kindergarten. Chris is five years older than Kenny. I’m not suggesting Chris failed kindergarten for five straight years, but the math does. As Free Shipping gets back onto its wheels it makes a strong push against RailGun Max breathing fire as it cruises across the floor with its opponent in tow. The advantage flips again as RailGun Max lands a couple of hits and puts the forklift into the wall. So far I’d say we’re pretty even in this battle but as RailGun Max rolls Free Shipping over a second time with the help of Platypus I think we’re seeing the emergence of a leader.
For some reason RailGun Max just waits for Free Shipping to flip itself over before attacking again. I don’t know if this is because its drum needs a few seconds to get going again or if this is a gesture of sportsmanship, but come on you guys know this son of a bitch is going to flip itself back over. Free Shipping’s lifting mechanisms are sitting directly in front of you, just drive forward and hit the damn thing. All RailGun Max is managing to accomplish by holding back like this is ensuring the possibility of something like Free Shipping getting back onto its feet and pinning RailGun Max against the wall. Oh look, speak of the fucking devil that’s exactly what happens! Chris thinks Free Shipping is going for a win by way of ejecting RailGun Max from the arena but I guess he doesn’t notice Free Shipping’s arm is fully extended to avoid hitting its opponent’s drum. A simple mistake, it’s not like the thing is three feet long and spits fire or anything. RailGun Max is on the ropes as it’s rammed and slammed around and I almost wanted to say its spinner might be dead but it manages to get going again and clips off the protective panel covering Free Shipping’s flamethrower parts. That thing’s dead anyways because all it’s doing is spitting out unlit gas and green electrical shorts so no big deal.
Free Shipping catches a blow from RailGun Max at an awkward angle and gets popped into the air. The hit seems ineffective until it becomes apparent that a wheel has fallen off of the robot. It’s not visible to the camera until we see the replays, but Free Shipping lands badly on its front right corner and the impact splits the wheel leading to it coming off of its hub as Gary slams on the gas. RailGun Max accidentally sucks the wheel into the gap where its drum is and I don’t think this is actually the cause of it but RailGun Max’s weapon stops working. Before the fight Gary said that’s what RailGun Max’s weapon does and he was right, unfortunately though there’s about 20 seconds left on the clock and while Chris is optimistic that we might see a KO for some reason I guess he hasn’t read the rulebook otherwise he’d know that we need a little more time than he thinks to determine if a robot is dead or not. The clock winds down and the fight goes to the judges who turn in a split decision in favor of… Free Shipping?
Even Gary is surprised by the decision, but apparently this one was seen as a controversial loss for RailGun Max. “Jason is the only judge who was watching the fight,” etc. If you were to show me this fight and then immediately ask me who I thought was the winner without giving me any time to process the battle and take it all in I’d probably have told you RailGun Max won it by a fair margin, but now that I’m able to sit here and watch this fight a few times over for writing this post I’ve gotta say I definitely agree with the split and I do think Free Shipping took the slight edge near the end. Free Shipping tanked a lot of hits and lost a wheel plus part of its upper armor but at the end of the fight its lifter was still functional and RailGun Max’s spinner was dead. I know that’s kind of a bullshit point to make but as far as the judging criteria goes that’s a significant difference. RailGun Max also ended the fight against the wall and under the Pulverizer which was a strong finish for Free Shipping. The spinner was also taken into the wall quite a few times which probably helped Free Shipping win the battle for the “Control” points. Aggression points were likely an even split which means we’re at 3-1 right now in favor of Free Shipping so all the robot needs to reach that 4th point with a given judge and automatically win their vote by point majority is ONE “Damage” point and by RailGun Max’s drum breaking down even a 1-2 awarding of points favoring RailGun Max would still be enough for Free Shipping to win. Is that what happened here? I have no idea, Chris Rose doesn’t have any of Derek Young’s scorecards with doodles on them to show us how it panned out.
WINNER: Free Shipping, Judges’ Decision (2-1)
UPPERCUT vs. SKORPIOS
The previous fight featured a robot at 3-0 looking to finish Fight Night with a perfect record falling short of its goal. This fight is the same scenario and it’s Uppercut in the shoes of Free Shipping this time, except unlike Free Shipping this robot actually has a 2-1 record so a win here would tie it up 3-1 all meaning both robots will probably advance onward but a loss for Uppercut means it’s likely out for sure. When it first arrived on scene Uppercut was a bit of a mixed bag. Back when this robot was announced its weapon literally looked like a fisting dildo on a stick; I know I’ve made that joke before on this website but first impressions are everything and while I immediately understood the connection between a fist and the name “Uppercut” it was still very difficult for me to take this robot seriously. It broke down in its first battle but since then Uppercut has slowly built itself back up with a great KO over Mammoth where it can claim to be the only robot who’s flipped that jungle gym over, and another KO over Breaker Box. Alex Hitori also seems to have slowly abandoned his goofy fist motif with the robot’s weaponry because now Uppercut just straight up has a spinning bar for a weapon.
“We’ve battled before,” says Zach Lytle (in summary) shortly before the fight. Here I am expecting to hear a story about how these two teams have battled at a smaller off the radar event until Zach pulls out a fucking yo-yo and we find out that there’s apparently another person at BattleBots whose hobby outside of the sport involves swinging a stupid plastic disc around on a string. He was so good at hiding this, too. Skorpios is 3-0 right now and it’s followed the exact same path it was on last season except unlike last season Skorpios’ team came with a lot more spare parts because at this point last year this robot literally showed up to its fourth match armed with an angle grinder pulled off of the shelves of Harbor fucking Freight. Skorpios is ready to take this one all the way and much like Uppercut it too has two KO wins under its belt this year; we got to see a great judo chop on Copperhead that caused every single one of the robot’s chains to vanish and reappear six inches from where they’re supposed to be plus an ass-kicking given to Sidewinder that was so bad the team legitimately packed up and fucking left.
Driving. That’s the one thing the hosts keep talking about when Skorpios shows up. I’m not going to disagree with their assessment of Zach’s skills but I am going to have to say taking the Jim Smentowski approach to this battle and aiming your right drive wheel at your opponent instead of your weapon probably isn’t one of Zach’s smartest moves. Unlike Jim he can’t even blame that fuck up on the arena Hellraisers disorienting him, he legit just screwed up. Uppercut chews into Skorpios’ wheel and shreds it to the point where the robot’s not going to sit even on the floor for the entire rest of the fight, period. Even worse, as Skorpios is spun around Uppercut manages to cleave into Skorpios’ other tire and while it doesn’t do as much damage to it as the first hit enough is done to basically reduce Skorpios to a hopping idiot trying to do a heel click. Uppercut tries to get away but becomes the sixtieth robot this episode to stick one of its forks into the Killsaws and Skorpios lands a shot of its own, however whereas Skorpios’ wheels are filled with foam and coming apart it appears Uppercut’s are filled with… sawdust???
I guess that’s the secret to Uppercut’s success, it’s got wheels stuffed like a pillow from a Super 8. Now that the rubber’s been split all this peeling out that Uppercut is doing makes it look like someone confused cake mix with cocaine and is now extremely pissed off. You can tell Skorpios is doing its best to keep its front end pointed at Uppercut at all times but the issue is just that the robot can’t move and do this at the same time because it’ll bounce around and let Uppercut do things like landing a blow that sends the robot onto its ass. Both robots are cruising around with little to no stability but Uppercut is dealing with it best likely because its front forks are hinged which gives the bot some literal wiggle room to work with. Props to Skorpios for taking those hits like a champ though, structurally at least. The robot is in one piece save for its wheels but when you have impacts like the ones Uppercut is dishing out something’s bound to die eventually and Skorpios just arbitrarily starts smoking and briefly catches fire not long thereafter.
Skorpios was the fifth of six robots to make it to 3-0, but unlike Bite Force earlier in the episode it fell just short of the finish like like RailGun Max. Still, the loss puts Skorpios at 3-1 and the win puts Uppercut at 3-1 so because we know the “top 16” has now possibly become a mixed bag of play-ins both of these robots are likely still moving on. Skorpios, ironically, finishes its 2019 qualifiers with the exact same record as 2018.
WINNER: Uppercut, KO
SHOOTOUT AT THE Y.O. CORRAL
I’m going to be honest with you, normally I just glaze over the podbuster segments of the show and if there’s anything that would be of use in these articles I just weave it into the post somewhere else. This one however… this is a little more substantial than Gary Gin wheeling what’s left of Free Shipping into the pits after it’s been on fire for 10 straight minutes and seeing him try and make sense of the mangled car wreck that used to be his robot. In the previous fight it was pointed out that Alex Hitori and Zach Lytle are apparently both professional yo-yoers, or whatever the hell the term is for someone who can do tricks with a yo-yo. I’m not sure if “professional” is the right term to use but this is 2019 and we live in an era where someone can make a comfortable living by having no skills beyond “being really good at Super Mario World“. A
tubmleweed wheel rolls by. Zach steps into frame, followed by Alex. The essence of Faruq’s voice echoes throughout the hangar.
And then they start doing yo-yo tricks because what the fuck did you think was going to happen? According to the legend Alex is a six-time national yo-yo champion meaning that he’s been doing this for longer than he’s been able to legally drive a goddamned car. The tricks are impressive, I guess, but I’ve gotta say these two jokers could be making these “tricks” up on the fucking spot and I would be absolutely none the wiser. The only yo-yo tricks I’m aware of are “walking the dog” and “around the world” and I think there’s also the “Eiffel Tower” trick but that shit’s too hard. Is a Jacob’s Ladder also a yo-yo trick, or is that just that thing you do when you accidentally tie your hands together and try to pretend that you totally meant to do that? This faceoff is just a gentlemen’s bet and there’s no winner declared but given the fact that Alex has won the title six times to Zach’s assumed zero it’s gotta sting to have some dickhead show up to both of the premiere events associated with your favorite hobbies and kick your ass both times.
BRONCO vs. HYDRA
This whole season has been leading up to this battle. This is the last main event of Fight Night and it’s a showdown of old versus new. The producers never directly came out and said this fight was happening but it’s been teased since the first episode. As soon as we saw Bronco and Hydra take turns throwing washing machines around we all knew this was coming eventually and after three consecutive and humiliating losses Bronco needs this win. I don’t give a shit what Chris Rose says Bronco doesn’t need to win this fight so the team can hope a 1-3 record and puppy dog eyes will be enough to qualify, Bronco needs this win because losing to Hydra is this robot’s Paul Bunyan moment. I don’t even know if a “Paul Bunyan moment” is an actual fucking saying but a loss here means the torch has finally been passed. Bronco isn’t moving onto the main tournament if it wins this fight, but if it loses this fight the robot may very well be moving on to the same giant pasture in the sky where Toro and the rest of the Inertia Labs robots roam.
Hydra is the last 3-0 robot looking to wrap up its Fight Night with a perfect record. So far none of the 3-0 competitors in this episode have managed to achieve this other than the current reigning champion. Jake Ewert has every right to be as cocky as he is because up to this point Hydra has been building up by consistently outdoing itself with each successive battle. Free Shipping was Hydra’s first victim and after a bit of tossing the forklift around Hydra managed to win by way of Free Shipping’s lifter breaking leaving the robot unable to right itself. A decent win, but Hydra immediately eclipsed this victory by heaving War Hawk into the air hard enough that the robot’s whole goddamned chassis split apart and by the time the ref stopped the fight War Hawk had been busted into its three distinct pods. Petunia was next in line and I don’t think the crusher even stood a chance because in virtually no time at all Hydra turned the arena into its own personal game of horseshoes and flung Petunia around the Pulverizer after first spiking it at the wall hard enough to break the fucking clock. Hydra is on a rampage and if there’s anyone who can stop it it’s the old guard.
Earlier this season Bronco and Hydra “fought” each other by way of seeing who could throw a washing machine further through the air. Bronco came out ahead in that scuffle based purely on its high score but it doesn’t matter how high you can throw some crappy old appliance, what matters is how well your robot does in the ring and when the first punches are thrown it’s not Bronco who gets the early lead, it’s Hydra. Bronco is able to right itself without any issue, we’ve seen this time and time again, but against another flipper we’re seeing Hydra using a carbon copy of Bronco’s own strategy of waiting for its opponent to land back on the ground and immediately going in for a second hit before they can get their bearings right. The plan works for Hydra because it’s not actually a bad plan, again this is the same shit Bronco’s been using to make its deep runs in seasons past and I guess flippers are like psychic-type cards from the old Pokemon card game: weak against itself.
But at least Bronco can still say it’s probably set a new height record in this fight. No, it doesn’t land a flip on Hydra that finally breaks one of the lights or anything like that, Bronco’s actually on the receiving end of the shot and gets sent twisting in the air so fucking high that Bronco itself has probably broken the previous height record it set last season when it tried kicking a field goal with Lock-Jaw. Hey, as long as you’re making it into the record books, right? Bronco is still working despite all the G’s you know are rocking every single inch of the robot and every component inside of it. The arm hasn’t blown off, it hasn’t lost a wheel, the armor is staying on. But Bronco is still dogging it hard and while trying to flip itself back over after setting the new height record Hydra is right there eager to see if it can break the same record twice in one fight. It doesn’t, but a lower-powered flip from Hydra sends Bronco rolling onto its side in such a way that Bronco’s extended flipper stretches across the inner wall of plexiglass and because its chassis is 100 feet long it’s resting in such an awkward place that none of its wheels are in contact with anything that would give the robot purchase to push itself down. Bronco is stuck. The planets have aligned and singled this robot out because there are so many minute factors at play here keeping Bronco from moving that I refuse to believe this is anything other than some kind of cosmic intervention.
The fight is over. Bronco is counted out and the robot finishes at the bottom of the pack with robots like Bombshell and Axe Backwards. Some of the crappiest robots you can think of this year now have a better record than Bronco. Marvin has more wins than Bronco — MARVIN. Kingpin, the robot painted like a bowling alley and driven by some dude wearing a Burger King crown with little pins glued onto it, has more wins than Bronco. Even Team Whyachi’s Falcon has a win and I didn’t think it was possible to hate a robot more than Warrior Dragon until I saw that thing. I’m not sure what it’s going to take for Bronco to make its comeback, assuming that’s even possible. I’m not talking about this season either, I’m talking about in general. I don’t know what needs to be done to Bronco to make it as terrifying as the Toro and T-Minus of yesterday, but this 0-4 finish is going to be the biggest turning point Zander and Reason have faced in the 20+ years they’ve been in the sport. The next time we see them, whether it be with Bronco or something entirely new, I hope it’s on better terms.
I can’t believe Bronco’s only win this year was against a fucking washing machine.
WINNER: Hydra, KO
As Chris and Kenny chatter amongst themselves Chris brings up a very interesting point regarding Hydra’s performance for the year: Hydra is the only 4-0 robot to have all four wins by KO. Death Roll won a decision over Rotator while Witch Doctor and Bite Force both had two fights go the distance. Hydra is the only qualifier who has won every single fight by knocking out its opponent. If that doesn’t put Hydra at #1 for the rankings then that’s proof this whole damn show is rigged. (Okay, maybe #2 is fine but only if Bite Force is #1 because it’s a two-time champion.) That’s it for Fight Night, qualifiers are over and for the most part I don’t think there are going to be any major surprises. I know there are several robots whose fourth fights are an unknown due to the fact that Science Channel has paused its airings of the show but it’s a safe bet that if those battles actually had some kind of ramifications on the outcome of the season itself then we’d have seen them as proper fights in an episode and not as a bonus. Hell, I’m almost certain we got Bite Force and Monsoon’s fight for that reason because that was something we totally didn’t need to see but still did because it was Bite Force’s shot to go 4-0.
Lots of people are making their own ranking lists and offering their suggestions for how things are going to pan out and I’m not going to do that because I didn’t actually make one of these lists when the event was being taped. Anything I draw up now would be a lie and something that I’d be afraid might be some kind of spoiler so I’m staying out of it. Thanks for checking out The Update this week! As always you can keep abreast of things by following BattleBots Update on Facebook. if you’d like to support this endeavor as we near the end of the season you can do so with a pledge on Patreon or a donation with PayPal!
(A few weeks ago I mentioned that BattleBots Update was approaching its 100th article. Well, you’re looking at it! S9 E13 marks this website’s 100th published post, not counting article drafts. At an approximate word count of 9,000 – 11,000 words per article that means there are about ONE MILLION words of written content on this website.)