[BattleBots: S9 E16 is available through the Discovery GO app with a cable subscription package. Season is also available on iTunes and Amazon.]
This is it, and by “it” I’m referring to needing to come up with a new way to introduce the final episodes of each season because you only get a couple of freebies where you can say “this is it” to build suspense (and the second time you whip it out you can only do so by making a Michael Jackson joke at the same time). For the past 15 weeks we’ve seen over 60 teams from around the world battle it out in one of the premiere robot combat events on the planet and right now only eight of them remain: Bite Force, Witch Doctor, Tombstone, Whiplash, Death Roll, Sawblaze, Lock-Jaw, and Minotaur. By the end of the next two hours one of these competitors will be taking home the coveted Giant Nut. Will Paul Venitmiglia make it a hat trick and get three Nuts? Will Ray Billings reclaim the throne and bring home Nut #2? Or will one of the other six competitors rise to the top and win their first ever championship?
This is a hell of a field of bots… and the bots themselves are also hell for that matter; 7 of the 8 robots who’ve made it to the quarterfinals are all some iteration on the vertical spinner with the only exception being Tombstone who is still a spinner but just a sideways one. When push came to shove (or rather, when spinners came to fucking destroy everything in sight) Blacksmith and Hydra just couldn’t cut it for the hammer and flipper bot representation this season. I know I keep hazing the vertical spinners year after year, but god damn you guys. I miss the era when people weren’t armored with space age metals and something like a simple sledgehammer or a spike still posed a threat if you hit someone hard enough with it, but I guess those days are now delegated to the same part of YouTube where you watch old commercials for toys you used to have and spend the next 45 minutes crying into a pillow wondering what had to go wrong in your life for you to end up where you are today and wishing you could rewind time and just spend your afternoons eating Sharks fruit snacks and playing with your Tyco Fast Traxx again.
BUT ANYWAYS WE’VE GOT A CHAMPION TO CROWN HAHA
kill me now
DEATH ROLL vs. MINOTAUR
Here’s a fight between two robots I wasn’t expecting to see in the quarterfinals. That said, I’m still glad both of them are here because they’re both just as good as their previous opponents whom I thought were going to win instead, so I guess that makes them better than those robots and not “just as good”. You guys know I’ve gotta root for Death Roll even when I thought it was going to lose to Yeti and I’ll do it again even when my adjusted predictions see it losing to Minotaur. It’s not because it’s a bad robot — if it was then it wouldn’t be in the goddamned quarterfinals — it has more to do with the idea that Death Roll’s geometry doesn’t lend itself very well to getting hit from the side by something like a big ass drum. Death Roll came out ahead over Yeti by expertly destabilizing the spinner and hacking a wheel off in the process, but Minotaur is basically the same damn thing except far more compact and with arguably a better driver. All the ways I assumed Death Roll could lose to Yeti are still in effect in this battle.
Minotaur is the lowest-seeded robot still in the running and that’s a hell of a sentence to write out because this is fucking Minotaur. Not only are we talking about last year’s runner-up, this is the robot that also managed to rip all six of Bronco’s wheels off back in 2016 when it made its BattleBots debut (and I guess when Inertia Labs was still doing dumb shit to Bronco like giving it six fucking tires). I realize it’s kind of shitty for me to predict that last year’s runner-up would’ve lost in the Round of 16 to Hydra but you gotta realize up to that point Hydra was undefeated with all of those wins by KO and none of us had any idea that Hydra’s drive system was apparently made from a fucking K’Nex set. Minotaur stood to lose that battle simply from being thrown around into oblivion, but this time? If Minotaur can do what Yeti could not this badass will see its way into the semifinals one more time.
I don’t know what Death Roll’s got that Hydra doesn’t but within seconds it throws a punch that sends Minotaur onto its ass and upside-down. This is exactly the type of position I was expecting Hydra to put Minotaur in and then from here just throw this thing into the sky because you can see now that it’s inverted Minotaur stops trying to attack and instead focuses on flipping itself back over. The robot is temporarily vulnerable to attack when flipped over and Death Roll goes in for the kill but misses its mark completely and instead drives into the control box of the screws. There’s some kind of irony regarding bullfighting here. Amazingly this direct hit doesn’t just rip the goddamned box clear off of its mount, I guess these days the Battlebox crew attaches them a lot better than they used to. Minotaur continues to try and flip itself back over and gets a little help from Death Roll when the croc lands another hit that causes Minotaur to pull off two and a half flips to land right ways up. Minotaur is now deadly again but Death Roll lands a second shot that immediately causes Minotaur to devour some of its own weapon belts. (Kenny mistakenly identifies them as Death Roll’s belts, but you can see for yourself Death Roll still has both of them.)
Minotaur’s not afraid to keep throwing punches of its own, and a couple of them throw Death Roll back a significant distance, but with at least one belt missing all of the damage Minotaur has sustained to its front end quickly catches up to the robot and its drum gradually spins slower and slower until predictably it stops doing anything at all. We’re at the point where we can start drawing correlations to Minotaur’s battle against Cobalt from the bootleg “Round of 32” because not only is its drum out of commission but the robot appears to have lost one of its front forks again, no doubt from the slams Death Roll is happy to dish out. Unlike the Cobalt fight however Minotaur can’t seem to take control of this battle with brute force alone because Death Roll’s weapon isn’t mounted five feet off the fucking ground and three feet up the robot’s front wedge like Cobalt’s was; Death Roll still has a functional weapon and the reach needed to continue landing shots and catches a great one when it digs into Minotaur’s backside and flips it over again.
That hit may not have seemed like much but it actually curled up part of Minotaur’s lid and because the robot is now upside-down that hangnail is catching on the floor and disrupting Minotaur’s movement. Smelling blood in the water, Death Roll goes in to seal the deal but somehow accidentally has a Nintendo 64 moment and tries to leap over the Pulverizer. Minotaur starts struggling to get out of the corner it’s trapped in and in the process of butting heads with Death Roll a few more times the robot bumps into the wall and presumably gets part of its chassis hung up on the spike strip. This combined with the aforementioned chunk of armor digging into the floor is enough to completely high center Minotaur against the wall where Death Roll is completely content to let nature take its course. These are the quarterfinals, there’s no more fucking around, and now you’re officially looking at Death Roll the Semifinalist as the ref counts down the bull.
WINNER: Death Roll, KO
TOMBSTONE vs. WHIPLASH
Out of all of the predictions I made this is the only quarterfinal fight that wound up happening and I don’t have a good outlook in mind for Tombstone here. This battle, as Kenny explains, is a rematch from last season where these two bots met and Tombstone managed to win by KO. That wasn’t an easy knock out though because Whiplash has the speed and muscle to keep Tombstone on the ropes and we saw that in full effect when at one point the former champ was sent whipping and crashing violently out of control. These are the kinds of moments that’ll cause Tombstone to rip the seat out of its pants and spread shit everywhere in the process and my guess is that by the law of probabilities Tombstone won’t be as lucky this time around, especially because we’ve already seen this robot get destabilized by Rotator and when that happened Tombstone literally exploded. Tombstone’s not going to go down without a fight, but this season the robot almost seems to be slipping from its former greatness.
I’m trying to think of a way to introduce Whiplash for this article but the best I can do is say that at this point in the season I think I’m finally okay with its weird “not quite neon yellow but also not quite chartreuse” paint job. Took long enough. Whiplash is built to take damage and wear its opponents down throughout the course of a fight and then seize the advantage when said opponents are too beaten down to continue. We’ve seen this time and time again both this year and last year and the plan works because Whiplash reached the semifinals last season and here it is again in the quarterfinals. But being built like a brick isn’t enough to make it this far, it takes some serious skills behind the wheel to make use of what you’ve got and Matt Vasquez is the master of wearing someone out and then scooping them up to control the fight; Whiplash’s disc is almost an afterthought, it’s something that can cause a little bit of shave damage and maybe steal a point from the judges, the real show is its lifting arm and if Matt can either get Tombstone to flip out or just jam his robot’s lifting arm into Tombstone’s chain we could easily see an upset.
Okay, so whatever Whiplash’s front little plow things are being held on by I hope the team kept their fucking receipt because barely a second passes and Tombstone has already torn one of them off. Son of Whyachi managed to do the exact same shit earlier in the season but Whiplash was still able to come out ahead with a little bit of good luck and skill, but Tombstone isn’t Son of Whyachi and crossing your fingers doesn’t work against this robot. Both Tombstone and Son of Whyachi are relics from the era where simply outgunning your opponents were enough to beat them no matter what but Tombstone is, in a way, much more stable than Son of Whyachi. It’s weapon also spins up a hell of a lot faster and with an open wound on Whiplash’s face just begging to be struck a second time Matt better pray that the dollar store super glue holding Whiplash’s left plow works a lot better than the shit on the right.
Whiplash continues to ram into Tombstone’s blade with the obvious intent to make the robot spaz out but Tombstone winds up with the better end of the deal when its blade knocks the now unprotected right panel off of Whiplash’s front end. This hit also seems to do something to Whiplash’s front right wheel because it either seizes up or gets bent into the chassis or whatever and the end result is the robot loses a little bit of its mobility instantly. With slightly hindered mobility Matt is still managing to do a great job coming at Tombstone in such a way as to keep its remaining front left plow facing it; this tiny little plow is hanging on for dear life but it is also successfully absorbing the blows Tombstone is dishing out. Unfortunately however, Whiplash seems too damaged to really take advantage of the situation. Amazingly the disc on Whiplash is still spinning but I have no idea what that’s going to do to Tombstone, I’m just surprised it hasn’t yet been punched so far into Whiplash’s throat that it’s come out of its ass.
The fight gravitates toward one of the corners of the arena and for a moment this might be Whiplash’s moment to turn this fight around, assuming that’s even still possible at this point, but Tombstone pulls ahead further by ripping off one of Whiplash’s wheels. Curiously this is the wheel that was hindering Whiplash’s movement and as soon as it’s ripped off you can see the difference in the robot’s ability to drive around. This seems to take Tombstone by surprise because Whiplash is able to flip around to Tombstone’s backside and start pushing it into the wall. This plan fails however because Whiplash’s disc is dead and not scoring any points and Tombstone is able to whip out a 90 degree turn and escape from the attack. Chris Rose reminds us of Whiplash’s philosophy regarding having three wheels and shortly after Chris finishes this remark Tombstone slices into Whiplash’s back right tire and visibly distorts the hub. This also causes the tire to seize. What now, Chris?
By now Tombstone has realized it’s probably won this fight much in the same manner as the first time these two juggernauts clashed. Tombstone cruises in and finally rips away Whiplash’s left plow piece which after being brutalized for a minute straight now resembles a stack of post it notes someone tried to absorb a shotgun blast with. In the process of ripping this piece off of Whiplash its damaged rear tire falls off of its hub. Whiplash is reduced to “crab walking” again and gets counted out, though I’m okay with it this time because the robot isn’t drifting around all over the goddamned place like it was last year when it was also counted out for moving like this. One of these days Whiplash will show us all that it has what it takes to topple the former champ, but today is not that day. I can’t wait to see what color the team paints the robot next year!
WINNER: Tombstone, KO
WITCH DOCTOR vs. SAWBLAZE
So far Death Roll has demonstrated that the undefeated robots from the Fight Night rounds will continue to march onward (assuming you’re like me and have already forgotten Hydra exists because it was eliminated last week and that’s like two years ago to me), it is now Witch Doctor’s turn to see if it can do the same. Witch Doctor has been absolutely nasty this year and we’re seeing it have its best season ever by far. We’re talking two KO’s over some of the deadliest shell spinners out there, Captain Shrederator and Gigabyte, and two unanimous decisions over Shatter and Whiplash. I know calling Captain Shrederator one of the “deadliest” shell spinners might seem like a gag but back in the days when this thing was called just “Shrederator” you didn’t want to fuck with it. And of course we can’t forget last week’s brutalizing of Blacksmith. The last time Blacksmith was damaged that badly and coughing up that much smoke Minotaur had to beat its ass for three straight minutes to the tune of dozens of millions of views on YouTube. Witch Doctor did it in half the time.
Before the fight the hosts pointed out a very interesting piece of trivia about Sawblaze: it has no KO’s this year. That’s incredible to think about because just reflecting back on my memories of the season I remember Sawblaze absolutely devastating Ribbot, giving Blacksmith an ass kicking of its own, and last week we just saw this thing hack apart Son of Whyachi’s iconic weaponry and leave the whole robot a smoldering heap of expensive shit purchased with the proceeds of Udder Gun sales. But none of those fights were knock outs! Even with its new 30-pound “hammer saw” weapon the best Sawblaze can do is win by decision and that doesn’t really help build confidence in the robot when it’s fighting an undefeated team. Furthermore, Jamison Go has opted to use Sawblaze’s pitchfork-style leading wedge for this battle. I’m no tactician but when Sawblaze whipped this thing out against End Game last year it was promptly bent up and mangled in such a way as to render it totally useless. I’m pretty sure Witch Doctor is packing more heat than End Game, one stray blow on the wrong place will probably do the same thing.
A few minor blows are landed by Witch Doctor but all of them are absorbed by Sawblaze’s front end and so far the robot’s forks are successfully keeping Witch Doctor at bay, but naturally as luck would have it Sawblaze’s luck is bound to run out. Andrea Gellatly told Jenny Taft in an interview earlier in the episode that she knew Sawblaze’s front forks would be a major target. This sounds kind of ridiculous until you think back to the point regarding bending up the middle fork, doing this would render much of Sawblaze’s front wedge unusable. Witch Doctor lands the hit it needs and kinks a very subtle bend into Sawblaze’s center fork, enough that it’s no longer touching the ground when the robot holds itself still. The left and right forks are still intact however and surprisingly Sawblaze manages to use them to feed Witch Doctor onto its wedge anyways and take its opponent into the wall. No action from the hammer saw, but at least flipping Witch Doctor over will score some early points and keep the match even.
Seconds later Witch Doctor returns the favor and flips Sawblaze over by way of its spinning discs and holy shit if you thought the damage done to Sawblaze’s fork was an impressive display of accuracy wait until you see the pretzel that Sawblaze’s weapon arm gets turned into by the time it lands back on its wheels. I have no idea how the disc is even able to keep spinning when it’s gotta be bent at 45 degrees at least. You’d think being so uneven and twisted would result in the robot ripping the drive belt for its weapon but against all odds the spinner is still going strong. Now Jamison can finally unleash the karate chops he sometimes does in the B-roll footage the editors keep showing of him. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Sawblaze is pretty far behind now but I commend the robot for still making the effort to come back from rock bottom, Sawblaze goes for another slam at the wall but Witch Doctor manages to free itself thanks to Sawblaze bouncing around all over the place with its slightly damaged tires. Not sure when that happened but it must’ve been when Witch Doctor picked it up and spun it around like fucking pizza dough.
After only a minute of punishment Sawblaze loses its entire right side of drive. Witch Doctor, not knowing how the rules on partial mobility are going to be applied here, continues to whale on Sawblaze and manages to flip it over three more times in the process. I can’t even tell what’s left of Sawblaze’s front end by this point but it’s absolutely useless now and when the robot flexes its arm to try and flip itself back over for the third time in a row it can only manage to heave itself up onto its front end before falling back down and unleashing the tell tale death fart from the gash cleaved into its underside. The smoke appears to be from something pertaining to the weapon system, likely the arm, because the one remaining good wheel on Sawblaze continues to spin but I think it’s a safe bet that even if the robot weren’t upside down it would probably get counted out by this point anyways. It sucks to be Sawblaze right now, but I’ve got the strangest feeling this machine will eventually cause an upset someday.
WINNER: Witch Doctor, KO
BITE FORCE vs. LOCK-JAW
“These two have fought before in a championship match ten years ago,” we are told. Sadly I guess the official footage of these oft-referenced matches from yesteryear are unavailable for inclusion in the modern series of the show, but the battle in question was Paul Ventimiglia’s Brutality vs. Donald Hutson’s Root Canal and the video is available here. Just a heads up, the match is nowhere close to being the kind of gladiatorial dream fight that it’s been hyped up to be… which is probably why we don’t see any footage of it come to think of it. Anyways we learn two things from this video. One, Paul had not yet grown the demon horns he hides with his hat. Two, I guess Lock-Jaw getting stuck in the fucking Killsaws isn’t anything new. Bite Force is on a 13 fight winning streak coming into this match and honestly what is there to say about this machine that hasn’t already been said? It beat Uppercut, big shocker. Uppercut’s driver swings yo-yo’s around for his special talent like hell that guy was going to beat Bite Force.
Donald Hutson wants to win this fight purely because in the battle linked above he made it to the championship finals and lost to one of Paul’s older robots. The match wasn’t glamorous and honestly it wouldn’t surprise me if that battle was decided by playing that “bubblegum in a dish” playground game with the builders. Technically Donald has six Giant Nuts to his name but only two of them are from winning a division championship; back in the day you’d also get a Giant Nut for winning a grand rumble and for things like having the “best design” (the things they give out Giant Bolts for these days). That’s not to belittle the man’s accomplishments but let’s be real here Donald and his team have won two titles. Technically he’s about even with Paul. Lock-Jaw has been Donald’s flagship robot for four seasons now but we only ever saw it sprout wings and take off last year when it finished as a semifinalist. I want to say if there’s anyone who can take down Bite Force this late in the game you’re looking at it… except for the past four fights in a row Lock-Jaw has caught fire internally. If the robot does that again in this fight it’s completely fucked. Bite Force takes no prisoners.
Both of these robots almost have the exact same weapon and their designs differ purely in that Lock-Jaw’s wheels were stolen from a hobby store that sells RC monster truck parts. Two killer spinners, front wedges that scrape the floor, and two drivers with enough experience in the box to get a goddamned pilot’s license. Bite Force has had some troubled fights this year by way of taking some stray blows unintentionally, but Lock-Jaw just might possess the strongest overall threat to the champ’s attempt for a third title. Case in point when the robots meet in the center of the arena it’s Lock-Jaw who pulls off one of Bite Force’s front wedge things. You could argue that this is an insignificant amount of damage but how many other robots can claim they’ve done this so early in the fight? Unfortunately for Lock-Jaw this high will be short-lived because the robot takes a hit from Bite Force head-on that blows the robot into a corner and stops its weapon from spinning almost immediately. I’d assumed the weapon was toast but I think it was shut off in order to avoid unnecessary damage because Lock-Jaw gets it going again… only for Bite Force to nail it square in the face so fucking hard that the robot flips through the air, lands on its now probably broken weapon, and flips onto its lid.
Amazingly, Lock-Jaw’s weapon still isn’t dead. This thing has stood up to more firepower in the past 20 seconds than it has all season long and it’s not fucking dead. When Donald said he replaced literally everything under the hood that was weapon-related I guess he wasn’t exaggerating. There’s a few sparks coming out of Lock-Jaw every couple seconds or so but overall the robot almost seems like it’s perfectly fine, that is until Bite Force smacks it again hard enough to roll it over and apparently chew off one of Lock-Jaw’s front forks at the halfway point. I’d imagine this is like getting your fucking finger bitten off by an angry troll. Also, now Lock-Jaw is finally starting to smoke. Normally I’d decry this piece of shit for breaking down five times in a row (don’t know why the hosts have lost count) but Lock-Jaw has had its ass ripped open pretty horribly by Bite Force so I’ll give it a pass. I’m just impressed the goddamned thing is still moving around after taking hits like that.
I’m not sure what kind of damage Bite Force has sustained up to this point but it’s kind of fucked up to look at these two robots seeing the hits that have been dealt so far and noticing how the only damage Bite Force has sustained appears to have been stubbing its toe hard enough to break the nail off. Meanwhile Lock-Jaw is literally like two clicks away from being on fucking fire. Lock-Jaw’s spinner is down for the count once again and I’m just going to assume its only remaining lifting arm is a free-hanging mass of dead weight because it gets kicked back so effortlessly that it’s gotta be limp by now. The robot revs its spinner up for the third time just to spite Chris Rose’s commentary and as this happens Bite Force grabs hold of Lock-Jaw’s ass and kicks a dent into it. Immediately smoke starts to come out of Lock-Jaw because with how tightly-packed the internals of this robot are it’s obvious that a direct blow to its backside is beyond bad news. Enough sparks are now pouring out of Lock-Jaw’s face that the robot ought to find a second job working in a fucking C+C Music Factory video because this championship shit isn’t going to pan out.
Finally the moment we’ve all assumed would happen happens: Lock-Jaw catches fire for real. As the robot is hurled into the wall for Chris and Kenny to oogle at flames erupt from Lock-Jaw’s chassis and the robot comes to rest under the Pulverizer in the corner. The robot is dead. It might still be moving around but those are just the body’s nerves firing off while everything dies. Somehow Lock-Jaw spends a full fucking minute in the corner before the robot is determined to be incapacitated and the countdown begins. Lock-Jaw finally comes to rest next to one of those pinball bumpers near the screws and its weapon barely makes a couple of rotations just to let Bite Force know that it couldn’t finish the job, surely Lock-Jaw’s way of shooting the finger. Lock-Jaw is eliminated and a few weeks later went on to participate in that Amazon re:MARS event where it promptly spent its two exhibition matches smoking and catching fire. At this rate as of the publication of this article I’m sure this sad fuck is up to a whole carton of smokes a day.
WINNER: Bite Force, KO
WITCH DOCTOR vs. DEATH ROLL
Last week I mentioned we were at the stage in the season where I was going to stop focusing too much on everyone’s Fight Night records because those didn’t matter anymore, but now we’re at the part where we’re seeing the same robots multiple times in one episode because so few of them are left in the running. What I’m trying to say is these intro blurbs are going to become ever smaller now. By reaching the semifinals Witch Doctor has officially now reached the farthest it ever has in a given season of BattleBots… and by not dying fucking immediately so has Death Roll. These two machines could not be more evenly matched; both of them are toting weapons of the same style and approximately the same weight, both of them have four wheel drive, and both of them are equipped with self-righting mechanisms. Andrea Gellatly is correct in her belief that whoever lands the best hits first is going to come out ahead. For Witch Doctor that might mean getting to Death Roll’s sides, and for Death Roll that might mean reaching between Witch Doctor’s blades and ripping the belts out. There’s four of them there so, you know, good fucking luck.
I’d imagine trying to hit the center portion of Witch Doctor’s front end — where the weapon belts are — is probably about as tedious and seemingly impossible as trying to land the goddamned plane in that awful Top Gun game. Yes that is a video game analogy that has to be at least 20 years old by this point but it works in this scenario, the precision needed seems like a god shot and unless you get a good bite there’s a chance you won’t even get all four belts in one go. Maybe I should’ve made that a Pac-Man reference since there’s four belts and four ghosts. Whatever. Anyways when you miss your mark, like Death Roll does, you just hit Witch Doctor’s massive front plow which seems indestructible. Everyone up to this point in the season hasn’t done much damage to it and I don’t think Death Roll’s haggard-looking disc is in any condition to achieve what other spinners in top form couldn’t.
Both robots trade some serious face-to-face blows at varying angles which result in them taking turns rebounding and bouncing off of each other in increasingly violent ways. Witch Doctor is the first robot who needs to right itself, but a particularly gnarly blow suffered by Death Roll sees the crocodile doing impressions of its fight with End Game at the beginning of the season. After etching the word “fuck” into the red square in the rune language of the elders Death Roll comes to a stop upside-down. Normally the robot’s disc is spinning around and connecting with the floor violently enough for it to contort its way back onto its wheels, but this is the first time we’ve seen it need to use its self-righting Bowie knife. This process takes an excruciatingly long time, long enough for Andrea to nudge Mike at the controls and tell him to park Witch Doctor directly underneath Death Roll so that when it topples back down it sits on the ass equivalent of an industrial excavator. If given enough time Death Roll would’ve rolled back over but Mike says this shit’s taking too long and those hot dog food trucks aren’t going to be parked outside all day. He makes the executive decision to attack Death Roll while it’s trying to self-right and Witch Doctor’s discs cleave straight into the croc’s underside.
By running this strike Witch Doctor has ensured that it’s not going to get a quality pair of boots from Death Roll’s hide, but it has disabled Death Roll’s disc making Witch Doctor the first robot all season to shut that thing up. Everything else on Death Roll seems to still be operational and when the robot is heaved like a shot put back into the middle of the arena it demonstrates that it can also still self right. Sadly I don’t see Death Roll winning a shoving match here because Steven Martin has said himself that the robot’s drivetrain is very light and his robot needs to do all its talking with its weapon instead. With Witch Doctor being the only robot with a working weapon and drive system this match is probably in the bag, however at 90 seconds to go it starts to smoke and the robot loses some of its maneuverability. For a brief period Witch Doctor is dead in the water long enough for the ref to begin a KO count, but the robot springs back to life with a partially functional drivetrain. The KO count is stopped, though Witch Doctor seems to not be able to maneuver around as strongly as it was during the first half of the fight.
Witch Doctor might be trying to do that thing Bite Force does where it uses the forces generated by its weapon to help “hide” its busted drive but the trick isn’t working too well for Witch Doctor either because this is a completely different scenario or Mike just doesn’t have that particular sleight mastered. Witch Doctor’s movement looks to be enough to satisfy the referees so the fight is allowed to continue, though with Death Roll’s dead weapon and Witch Doctor’s hindered mobility no further significant blows are landed. The judges score the fight 2-1 in favor of Witch Doctor and this apparently pissed a lot of people off because more than a couple of viewers thought Witch Doctor should’ve been counted out. That’s a tough nut to crack because last season Whiplash was basically doing the same kind of movement after Bite Force damaged it and Whiplash was skidding around all over the place and covering a shitload more ground than Witch Doctor did just now… but Whiplash was counted out last season, and Witch Doctor was not? The argument comes down to whether or not you think Witch Doctor was KO’d, not Witch Doctor’s performance in the fight because if you go by that metric then yeah Witch Doctor won the damn fight big time. But this whole “crab walking” and “translational movement” thing needs to be settled because it’s kind of getting out of hand.
WINNER: Witch Doctor, Judges’ Decision (2-1)
TOMBSTONE vs. BITE FORCE
I’m not going to say Witch Doctor has had an easy trip to the championship finals but right now Bite Force is having to go through the trials of Hell where it’s having rematches with all of the ghosts of its past. To make another stupid video game analogy Bite Force is at that part of every Mega Man game where you re-fight the same fucking bosses all over again because Capcom decided that was the best way to pad out their game’s completion time. Believe it or not the last time these two robots met was three seasons ago in 2015; since then they’ve managed to avoid one another by each losing to hilariously ill-equipped opponents in 2016 and 2018 while also taking turns being the champion in the process. Tombstone is here with 5 pounds of armor and 80 pounds of robotic hate crime and that’s apparently what it takes to get Paul to take the goofy forks off of Bite Force and replace them with a sloped plow that looks suspiciously like the one it used in 2015 to squash Tombstone the first time. (It’s not the same plow though, Tombstone destroyed it.) Paul’s so nervous before this fight he almost kisses the ref for good luck.
This battle lasts one hit. Tombstone swings wide and tries to catch Bite Force from either its side or back but unfortunately for Ray his opponent hasn’t used tank tracks for three years and is a hell of a lot more maneuverable these days. Bite Force jabs into Tombstone’s blade with its own weapon and the impact turns the 80 pound spinner into something closer to 50. Naturally as you might imagine that’s a pretty significant difference in weight and if I told you it throws off Tombstone’s balance I wouldn’t be doing you justice because I’m surprised this fucking robot doesn’t immediately clip into the floor with how violently it starts shaking and bouncing around. Almost instantly one of Tombstone’s wheels flies off but I couldn’t tell you which one it was because the robot has turned into the pure essence of motion blur. For some reason Bite Force feels compelled to keep attacking Tombstone and for a few seconds the robot gets thrown behind the blue square’s screws before rattling itself loose in order to continue taking its frustrations out on the goddamned floor. Fun fact, if you plot out all the holes and gashes Tombstone rips into the arena during this fight and make a star chart out of it it’ll take you to the hellscape planet this robot came from.
It goes without saying that all this jumping and shaking around isn’t good for Tombstone; this is an exact copy of its fight with Rotator except even worse because more of the robot’s weapon mass was sheared off resulting in a much more incredible breakdown. This kills Tombstone even faster than the previous time this happened and hilariously the ref waits until Tombstone is done acting like a cat who’s just seen a cucumber to ask Ray if he can demonstrate any “controlled movement”. I think I’m starting to see why people were so pissed off at the Witch Doctor fight now. Bite Force retreats back into its square at the end of the fight and steals a souvenir from Tombstone in the process. I’m fine with that, motherfucker has earned it.
I didn’t have this fight in my tournament tree predictions but I’ve gotta say it would’ve been interesting for Tombstone to be able to even the score with Bite Force if only to better build a rivalry between the only two champions of the reboot seasons. Don’t get me wrong, I still had Bite Force pinned to advance to the championship — which it is — but I also had assumed it would be meeting Whiplash in the semifinals and not Tombstone. I don’t have it out for Paul or anything but at some point Bite Force’s gravy train reign of terror will come to an end and it’s fun to predict how certain robots could accomplish that. Bite Force now has one more victory standing between it and Giant Nut #3: Witch Doctor.
WINNER: Bite Force, KO
BITE FORCE vs. WITCH DOCTOR
When I was in the pits talking to some of the builders Ray Billings brought up an interesting piece of design philosophy: choose a design and stick with it, even if you lose. The two robots we’re seeing in this title bout have followed that mantra to the T. Bite Force showed up in 2016 with its current design and was humiliated by Chomp almost right out of the gate but Paul believed he had a good design and I’m sure everyone reading this knows how well that has worked out for him up to this point. And as I’ve said in the past Witch Doctor is a robot who has only gotten better year after year because every little thing that ruins the robot’s run for the title gets fixed for the next season. Very few competitors deserve to be here complete with the entrance pyrotechnics borrowed from the WWE (one of which doesn’t work of course), Bite Force and Witch Doctor are certainly among them. We know that Witch Doctor went on to become a giant killer at the Amazon: reMARS event when it took out Tombstone and Bronco but now we’re about to see if that accomplishment got a jump start right here.
I’ve already forgotten at what point in the season Bite Force showed up with its “extended forks”. I want to say it was just before the Hypershock fight because the intent was to defeat Hypershock’s plow and allow Bite Force to keep its reach advantage in the process. Those dinky little doorstops have become a mainstay of the robot’s design because here they are again; we only ever saw them disappear for one fight and that was when Bite Force had to roll up its sleeves and arm wrestle Tombstone to the death a few minutes ago. The wedgelets are simple, but they work. They negate Witch Doctor’s weapon reach and also serve the purpose of propping the robot a little bit off the ground so Bite Force can get easier leverage, kinda like what Bronco had to do in order to flip that washing machine higher than Hydra did earlier this season, except unlike Bronco we’re talking about a robot who’s defeated more opponents than just a fucking washing machine. Get that Banjo-Kazooie shit out of here. (I guess this is going to be the article where all of the video game references are expended all at once.)
Witch Doctor is staying in Bite Force’s face however and this is both commendable and pretty ballsy because I don’t think Witch Doctor has the ability to strike Bite Force’s weapon chain but I’m almost positive the inverse applies. These hits are anxiety-inducing but after a couple of them are dealt their purpose becomes apparent: Witch Doctor isn’t aiming for the weapon, it’s aiming for the wedgelets. Bite Force loses the one on its far right which opens that corner up to damage and you can tell the exposed corner is Witch Doctor’s new target. The fork on Bite Force’s far left eventually gets clipped off too meaning both corners are now vulnerable, though more importantly Bite Force’s longer ones in the middle are still attached and those are the ones doing all the hard work so this isn’t a slam dunk for Witch Doctor just yet. Removing these parts is a great first start for the underdog here but the more things Witch Doctor rips off of Bite Force the more shit there is littering the Battlebox that could potentially cause an issue at some point.
While watching this fight I was cautiously optimistic that maybe with Bite Force’s corners exposed Witch Doctor could upset the champ, but when Witch Doctor cruises in close enough to snatch the longer fork sitting at the inner right of Bite Force’s chassis that was when the fight went from a “maybe” to an “almost certainly”. I know Bite Force also lost most of those forks when it faced off against Minotaur last year but this is different because Minotaur’s drum crapped out and Witch Doctor’s double discs are still screaming. Sadly, seconds after this incredible hit is landed by Witch Doctor the robot catches a bad counter from Bite Force and gets flipped over. Witch Doctor lands on its discs and the weapons take the full force of the impact. It’s able to get back onto its wheels but when it does so its weapon isn’t working. I guess now we’re back to the Minotaur comparison I just got done saying didn’t apply in this scenario. God damn it.
Witch Doctor still has complete control of its drive system and it did manage to land a couple of light hits to Bite Force’s exposed corners while its discs were working. Perhaps with a little bit of perseverance (and some chicken feet, a Ouija board, and some incense that smells like a Bath & Body Works that burned down) Witch Doctor can hope for its opponent to throw a chain or for something else to happen. Witch Doctor stays close to Bite Force and we really get a feel for Mike Gellatly’s driving skill versus Paul Ventimiglia’s for a few seconds, but Bite Force still has a working weapon and manages to throw Witch Doctor onto its back one more time. This is fine because as we’ve seen a couple of times already now Witch Doctor can right itself, however this time while trying to roll over Bite Force lands a hit directly onto Witch Doctor’s srimech and this hit renders it non-functional because the decorative rib cage part gets splayed open, its chain flies off, and instead of a Chestburster coming out of Witch Doctor’s carcass it instead just gets knocked out and surrenders the Giant Nut to the reigning champion.
Hilariously, Witch Doctor dies underneath the sponsor banner which for this episode is directing your attention to the application page for the next season of BattleBots almost as if the show is daring you to see if you can do any better. (Spoiler: You probably can’t.)
CHAMPION: Bite Force, KO
OH BABY, A TRIPLE!
Whether you’re happy with the outcome or not, Bite Force is our 2019 BattleBots champion! This puts Paul Ventimiglia and his team in the same echelon of competitors like Biohazard and Hazard and if I were one of the people who writes bullshit trivia for the BattleBots wiki I’d edit Bite Force’s page to say something like “Bite Force is the only robot to win at least three championships who doesn’t have ‘hazard’ in its name”. But now that I’ve said that I guess I’ve technically written it by proxy because I’m sure it’s going to appear on Bite Force’s page once some dickhead reads this and thinks it’s funny enough to put there. I apologize in advance to the admins of the BattleBots wiki for the petty edit war that is probably going to happen… unless you guys think that’s a valuable piece of trivia, I guess. Three championships is no small feat though, especially in the current era of robot combat, and Paul has a lot to be proud of given the sheer scope of opponents he’s had to defeat in order to win those titles. Well, except for Chomp that is.
The winners of the Giant Bolt were also officially announced recently and in case you missed those they are as follows. Quantum was awarded “Best Design” presumably because even though it had a rocky season it sure was refreshing to see a mostly effective robot that wasn’t “another goddamned vertical spinner”. Also maybe the whole “components generated entirely by computers to be as efficient as possible” thing played a role in that somewhere too. The “Most Destructive” award was given to Cobalt because let’s be serious here even when this thing was losing it was doing more damage to itself and the arena than its opponent could manage. Not only did Cobalt absolutely obliterate SubZero and Duck but in the fights where it lost we got to see its wedge shatter two sets of lights, embed a chunk of it into the goddamned ceiling, and hurl itself high enough into the air to rival the height records set by the flippers this year. Cobalt treated the arena and its contents like a rock star given a hotel room paid for by their record label, and yes that includes the hard drugs. And finally the “Founder’s Award” had to go to Hydra. The Founder’s Award is more about the robots who are the real game changers and by engineering a hydraulic flipper — perhaps the most powerful flipper BattleBots has ever seen — Team Whyachi won this one hands down. The fact that Hydra sealed Bronco’s ticket to 0-4 Town was just icing on the cake.
And that’s it. Paul has successfully pulled off a hat trick and his robot Bite Force now has three titles to its name. Its winning streak has also been paused at 16 for now meaning all Bite Force has to do next season is show up and win its first fight and it’ll have tied Hazard’s record of 17 consecutive wins that was set back in 2003. Chances are we’re going to see that record obliterated and it’ll be a bittersweet affair but that just means BattleBots is evolving into a proper sport. The greats will eventually be surpassed and we’re going to see old records fall just like how new athletes in other sports have encroached, tied, and beaten records set by the likes of Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan. Yeah, we’re going to have to change some plaques around in the Hall of Fame pretty soon but the bright side of this is that with every passing season we are seeing the best show ever.
I know there are fans out there who take this sport very seriously (I suppose I consider myself one of them) and if you’ll give me five minutes I’d like to soapbox for a bit as this might be one of the last opportunities I have. More on that in a second. But to quote a wise Alaskan, “don’t be a dick”. I write some stupid jokes and hyperbole on this website but off and on I’ve seen some legitimately poor opinions expressed by people who call themselves fans of the sport. Chomp beat Bite Force fair and square. Witch Doctor deserved its wins. Extinguisher was literally built by a 15 year old. Get over it; everyone deserves to have a hero they can look up to. The world fucking sucks and at the end of the day all of us just want to see some robots beat the piss out of each other so we have something to talk about over the weekend. We want to see Tombstone attempt to break its personal record of how many of its opponent’s tires it can fit on its cock. We want to see Chomp land another miracle shot even if we have to turn our televisions on their sides for the majority of the fight to watch it. We want to see if Bite Force will win it all again while simultaneously hoping on the down low that someone rips it apart instead. So just chill, please. I hope that for the 2020 season we can all just enjoy the fun of the sport, bad judges’ decisions and all.
The season is over and I need a break, big time. Every season of BattleBots has gotten bigger and better since the 2015 reboot and I could not be more excited, but at the same time it has become harder and harder to write these articles and keep up with the show on a regular basis. The 2015 season had six hour-long episodes totaling six hours of content. 2016 had ten episodes. 2018 had twenty. This year had less episodes overall (sixteen, duh) but the show became a two-hour production meaning the escalation from 2015 was still continuing. We started with a reboot season that was six hours long and we’ve ended with the most recent one being a staggering thirty-two hours of content. That’s more than five times the total length of the 2015 season and at the beginning of this year I expressed my concerns about this but I still managed to ride things through to completion. It was not easy. I am not trying to imply that this very moment is the end of BattleBots Update, but I don’t think I can do another season of this density… but I still want a bigger and better season next year because that means BattleBots really is riding high and I truly want that momentum to keep going for as long as it can even if I can’t keep up with it.
There are still Science Channel bonus fights that have yet to air, about 8 or 9 weeks’ worth of them by my count. There are also all of the unaired fights that will be revealed to Facebook supporters first before being made available to the public at the beginning of next year. I would love to write about those fights, and I still plan on doing so. There’s also the potential for this season’s Giant Washer Awards though with so many battles unaccounted for I feel like we should wait until everything is available before rolling those out. I still want to make content but it’s going to have to be at a pace that doesn’t kick my ass. Operating at this level of intensity for the past four months hasn’t been good for me and it’s laughing in the face of the ongoing emotional and mental health problems I’ve been dealing with. I’ve been running at an 11 for sure when I know my own limitations honestly keep me at around a 4.
You guys have been nothing but the best to me and I love all of you. Even the ones who don’t like my schtick but still respect the role that I play in this sport’s ecosystem. Hell I might even appreciate that even more because it shows a maturity that I believe doesn’t exist anymore. Over these past four years I’ve made friends with countless amazing people and have had the privilege of meeting many of my own personal heroes. Things have come a long way since the time I first caught BattleBots on a bootleg descrambler box in 1999. At no point in my life did I ever think someday Trey Roski and Greg Munson would tell me they thought my jokes were funny or that I’d eventually wind up with a copy of the BattleBots GBA game signed by both of them because of it. BattleBots Update had to fail twice before it unexpectedly took off which to this day is something that came as a complete surprise to me. This project has been through hell and high water (literally) and it’s still around.
Here’s to the 2020 season, and to what the future holds in store for this quaint little website.