[BattleBots: S9 E3 is available through the Discovery GO app with a cable subscription package.]
Welcome back to The Update, which is what all the hip Millennials call this website (probably). I gotta get in the ring and cash in on a demographic that’s perpetually broke. I mean… woke. Well, guess I lost ’em. They can’t all be winners. So far this season has been unfolding with some interesting revelations, namely that Mammoth has joined Huge on the list of “designs so dumb they actually work” and Death Roll and Cobalt proved that sometimes taking a year (or two) off to rethink your approach is better than just slamming through season after season. Fuzzy Mauldin of Team Toad discovered a color other than orange for his robot Texas Twister, and Quantum has given us all a lesson in quantum physics big enough to prompt Blacksmith’s builder Al Kindler to say “I guess crushers actually work now”. But the more things change, the more things stay the same; Captain Shrederator broke down while Gigabyte reminded us why it’s the most feared spinner, Son of Whyachi murdered another opponent, and HyperShock continues to make “smoke” its biggest export.
This week on BattleBots the other two Whyachi robots, Hydra and Falcon, make their debut. Will they be better or worse than the team’s namesake creation? I’d bet money on Hydra only because these guys have been posting videos of this thing throwing shit non-stop for months and haven’t posted anything about Falcon as far as I know. Poison Arrow’s team makes their comeback with Copperhead, a robot pretty similar to their first creation except somehow even more compact. The other Chinese team is here with Rail Gun Max which is similar to Wan Hoo so normally I’d say we’d have a barometer of what to expect except we don’t because Wan Hoo sorta didn’t work last week. Finally, reigning champion Bite Force makes its season debut in tonight’s main event battle where it squares off with Yeti. Yeti’s strategy is probably still “just smash” so Bite Force might be on thin ice with this one. Yeah that was a bad Alaska pun. I’ve gotta get mine out of the way before they unleash Faruq.
So far Chris Rose has opened the episode with “the show where we find out why drum spinners are so scary”. No, please Chris, do go on. Because I’m like 90% certain I could’ve defeated Minotaur myself with a baseball bat if last week’s performance is anything to go by. Hopefully one of the fifty drum spinners in tonight’s episode does a better job of representing their meta.
SKORPIOS vs. COPPERHEAD
Usually when I clown on a robot that sucks it doesn’t ever redeem itself and after one season it just disappears. I tried that with Skorpios because back in 2016 this robot was driven so exceptionally poorly that it knocked itself out in seconds and damaged the screw hazards to the point where the officials had to be like “hey knock it off dickweed”. We had a good laugh at Skorpios and when the robot showed up again last year I was eager to see it bump into something else and knock itself out again… except that isn’t what happened. Skorpios took off and managed to finish its Fight Night rounds 3-1 including a win over Icewave that wound up being one for the history books. I guess when the robot isn’t jammed in a hazard it doesn’t suck after all, looks like I’m the clown now. Skorpios participated in the Amazon re:MARS event and won both of its fights, however because it wasn’t popular with viewers it didn’t make it to the title bout where the Giant Bolt was on the line. But still, Skorpios put on a respectable performance. During that event I kept lamenting why Skorpios wasn’t using its “ripping disc” for the bots it was fighting but you can finally see that disc in this fight. It’s a thick hunk of steel with a single tooth and if you look at the team’s photo on the official BattleBots website you know they’ve got spares out the ass. Someone must’ve accidentally put an extra “0” on the order form.
This season there are five robots armed with spinning drums, four of them are in this episode (plus Minotaur from last week). Copperhead, by my estimate, is probably the third strongest one. Kenny Florian says “if the robot looks familiar that’s because it’s the new Poison Arrow” but that’s kind of a bad introduction because Copperhead looks nothing like Poison Arrow aside from some very superficial features that are shared by most drum spinners. Copperhead is the robot equivalent of that bullshit phrase “music from and inspired by the motion picture” you used to see on CD’s of movie soundtracks. I don’t actually know if Copperhead has multiple drum shapes that the team can choose from but I’m having a hard time telling what the fuck is wrong with the one they’re using here. It’s tipped with a bad weld? Is this thing’s weapon the personification of bad luck? Copperhead is one of those robots that I’m going to start likening to a suitcase nuke because compared to other robots this thing is tiny, yet it still weighs as much as its fellow competitors. Copperhead seems like a relic from that bizarre era when cell phone manufacturers were racing toward making the tiniest products possible. Just wait until you see Falcon later in this episode, it gets even crazier.
From the first few seconds of this match it’s looking like Minotaur told Copperhead that it could copy his homework because not only is Copperhead’s drum not working it’s also spinning slowly in the wrong fucking direction. Maybe if Copperhead was attempting to be the world’s deadliest robotic floor sweeper we’d have a candidate for the Giant Broom but unfortunately this is a combat zone and Skorpios is armed with a slicing wheel nearly an inch thick and it’s ready to make some fucked up sushi. It takes about 15 seconds but Zach Goff locates the “ON” switch on his transmitter and Copperhead’s drum finally fires up. It’s not even up to full speed yet and it’s already starting to catch Skorpios’ front wedge and plink the robot backwards so I’d imagine at full speed this thing might actually take a page from Rotator and start ripping entire chunks off of Skorpios. Skorpios may have started with the advantage here but it becomes apparent that the grappler switches to being on the defensive when Copperhead’s tiny stature allows it to maneuver around much more quickly and keep its drum pointed at its opponent. Skorpios takes a couple more glancing blows prompting Chris to note that Zach Lytle needs “get his bearings straight”, something he’s said for two episodes in a row now. I’m guessing in between fights Chris has been watching LA Beast videos on his phone. He must be drinking expired Crystal Pepsi out of that Duck mug he keeps around.
Skorpios eventually tries to find its groove and makes an attempt to hack at Copperhead but each time its disc connects with its opponent it gets ratcheted back violently. At first I thought this was because the two robots were hitting each other weapon to weapon but actually it turns out that Copperhead’s armor is so dummy thicc that Skorpios simply cannot get any purchase on it whatsoever and its disc keeps getting kicked backward. The advantage is now arguably Copperhead’s with the realization that its armor is too much for Skorpios to do anything to, so with one cool sweep Copperhead pops Skorpios onto its back and with a follow-up dive the robot performs a perfect flying dragon kick straight to Skorpios’ nuts. The fight is all Copperhead’s right now; Skorpios’ wedge has been negated to the point where it’s bent up and ineffective and its disc has already proven to be mostly useless in this scenario. Unfortunately this is going to be the last big push I think we’re going to get from the snake because it didn’t warm up before throwing that kick and now it’s apparently sprained its left ankle. Copperhead loses its left side of drive and not long thereafter Skorpios deflects Copperhead at a weird angle and the twisting of the robot’s chassis causes Copperhead’s right side to go out too.
Copperhead is defeated but before it gets counted out Skorpios tries to weasel in some points with the judges just in case. Skorpios goes for Copperhead’s wheels but it looks like they’re literally just solid hunks of super compressed rubber so Skorpios’ disc gets rejected from these as well, but not before it expertly rips the chain off of Copperhead’s tire. As luck would have it this was the chain from Copperhead’s left wheel so it was kind of already dead, but you’ve gotta respect the accuracy of Skorpios here. It goes for a couple more shots on Copperhead’s chassis and I just have to appreciate the strength stored in Skorpios’ disc here; Skorpios pops Copperhead on its lid and of course the disc doesn’t get through the armor, but the robot strikes Copperhead with enough force that Copperhead flips over like a fucking Pog. Chris says Copperhead can’t drive upside-down, I think a better assessment is “Copperhead can’t drive with a drive system equivalent to the spine of a person who went skydiving without a parachute”. The ref says he’s seen enough and Copperhead is counted out.
WINNER: Skorpios, KO
BLOODSPORT vs. LUCKY
This fight opens up with one of those “Tale of the Tape” comparison things the hosts do from time to time. Back in the days of ABC it was where they’d assign all these arbitrary numbers to robots and compare them as if this were a fighting video game or something. They still sorta do that by proxy with these comparison cards but this one is just… god damn. I can get a comparison between two spinners, but the stats here make no sense to me. Weapon weight? One of them’s kinetic and the other is just a hunk of crap attached to a pneumatic piston, that’s two different kinds of force. Also the “reach”? That doesn’t seem right, Bloodsport’s blade might be as long as a horse dick but not all 48 inches are going to factor into where the robot can actually strike from. It’s a fucking circle. You gotta measure the diameter of the robot’s chassis and then subtract that from the blade’s length to find out how much of it hangs over the robot, and then half that number because there’s overhang in both directions. So really Bloodsport probably has like 8 inches of reach on all sides. Suddenly, through the wonders of math, Lucky now has the edge in this bullshit category. Anyways in case you haven’t noticed already Bloodsport is an overhead spinner that hearkens back to the glory days of bots like Hazard, though in more contemporary terms Bloodsport is more like former BattleBots champion Brutality. It’s a helicopter of death and it’s responsible for more blown out ankles than a rickety pommel horse.
Lucky is a robot who is anything but. Throughout the years this poor machine has fallen victim to more bad draws and unfortunate circumstances than I can be bothered to count but through it all Mark Demers and his team have dutifully built and rebuilt this machine no matter how many times Beta smashes it to pieces or Son of Whyachi rips it to shreds. Lucky is a robot that I feel is just a little too unreliable to clear that rank of “top 16” that everyone is vying for. It’s not a bad robot, but it’s not that great either. In its earlier years Lucky (as Ziggy) stood tall as one of the heavyweights to watch out for but these days even though it’s still armored like a tank it seems very susceptible to breaking down or having one tiny thing go wrong that sends the whole thing to hell. Last season Lucky participated in the Desperado mini-tournament in an attempt to automatically qualify for the top 16 and out of the eight robots that participated I had pegged Lucky as the one to win and I was almost correct. Hopefully this year Lucky will finally live up to its name, or not because it’s funnier that way. Although the robot is pictured with its trademark flipping arm with a Puffle face on it Lucky rides into this fight with its solid wedge and no attachments on its lifting arm to render it as more of a “puncher”.
For some reason Bloodsport falters a bit and waits a couple seconds before spinning up its blade. If this were that stupid quick draw minigame that got crammed into every Kirby game released before 2000 Bloodsport’s Justin Marples would be as good as dead on the first fucking level. It eventually gets going and the worst Bloodsport has to deal with in terms of repercussions is a gentle deflection off of Lucky’s wedge. Even though this wasn’t that hard of a hit pay very close attention to Lucky’s front end and you’ll see there’s a little chunk missing out of the wedge where Bloodsport grazed it. Again, grazed it. I’m not really sure what kind of energy is stored in a blade like that but Lucky is just sitting there daring Bloodsport to make a move. Presumably this is so that Lucky can deliver a quick uppercut to its opponent but this isn’t what winds up transpiring. Bloodsport lands a shot to Lucky’s face that tears the entire corner off of that wedge and surely does some other shit too because god damn those were some serious sparks. Somehow Lucky loses the left side panel covering its front wheel but the right one is acting like it’s broken even though it still has a cover. Also Lucky’s flipping arm is just repeatedly firing over and over again so I don’t know if there’s a leak in the pneumatics or if Mark just keeps firing the arm because he’s paranoid that it’s going to get jammed.
Lucky seems to regain drive control relatively quickly, though its weapon is still acting like someone’s cheating and using a turbo mode setting. On the subject of weapons that might be fucking broken, Bloodsport’s drivers confirm in a cutaway shot that theirs is indeed “fucking broken”. Their robot landed on top of Lucky at a really awkward angle and I’m fairly certain the chunk that was ripped off of Lucky’s plow came from part of the blade further inward hitting it from above so yeah with an impact like that something more than likely shit the bed and now Bloodsport is about as deadly as a drink coaster. I may have spoke too soon however because the team miraculously catches a second wind and is promptly shoved into the wall by Lucky. This little victory is shortlived because while I may have thought Bloodsport’s weapon had been delegated to “it spins but there’s no bite anymore” this thing proves otherwise and clips off the other upper corner off of Lucky’s wedge. It seems now any hits Bloodsport lands might be directly on Lucky’s chassis which could really go either way, if Lucky can take the hits then the angled sides of its body might destabilize Bloodsport but if they’re softer than that we might see Bloodsport dig right in and fuck Lucky’s weapon sideways.
Kenny seems awfully quiet on the “huge hit there” front this season because there’s a certifiably huge hit that sends both robots reeling in opposite directions and pulls off one of Lucky’s free-spinning stabilizer wheels (which it then runs over and gets caught under its wedge). So far Lucky is sort of holding up but it’s no longer making any effort to be the aggressor and just kind of exists to take shots from Bloodsport’s spinner. A particularly gnarly blow busts Lucky’s plow from its right mount and the follow-up shot finishes the attachment off and flings it toward one of the cameras. One of these days someone’s going to inadvertently smash one of them and it’ll make for the greatest and most expensive shot in BattleBots history. Lucky isn’t dead after this exchange but its likelihood of winning this fight sure as hell is. Without its wedge Lucky’s naked “punching” arm isn’t going to reach Bloodsport, period. Not a menstruation joke but I thought I’d point it out anyways. Bloodsport flees from its opponent and its drivers start going through the five stages of grief with their weapon again but they’re going to make it to “Acceptance” pretty quickly this time because the match ends and after landing a staggering 0 shots Lucky is unsurprisingly not the victor.
WINNER: Bloodsport, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
Before we get into our next fight we’ve got another pit segment with Jenny Taft that preemptively introduces one of the participants to us and makes my job a lot easier. This segment opens up with Jenny talking about how the flipper is one of her favorite designs (or at least that’s what the writers are asking her to say) and we get a short clipshow of some of Bronco’s most spectacular flips from the 2018 season. We even get a few of those up close “glamour shots” peppered in here and there so naturally you’d probably assume we’re about to see an interview with the Inertia Labs team where no one asks Zander why he spells his name with a “Z”. Nope, you’d be wrong. Jake Ewert steps into frame and Jenny’s voiceover lets us know that his robot Hydra is the first of a new breed of flipper: hydraulic. Also wow I just realized why this robot is named “Hydra”. Just now. Fuck I’m stupid.
Now I know that sounds like bullshit because every time we hear the phrase “hydraulic” used to describe a robot’s weapon it’s something like Quantum, a crushing robot whose jaw operates extremely slowly but also very powerfully. Powerfully enough to stop a fight twice, apparently. I wouldn’t fault you if you assumed a “hydraulic flipper” was just a “slow lifter” with a fancier name because honestly that’s what I thought it was until I understood the mechanics behind Hydra. There’s only about 12 ounces of liquid stored within the robot but due to the differences in the properties of matter between air and liquid Hydra is able to store this liquid at a much higher pressure and run it in a manner similar to a traditional pneumatic flipper. It translates to something about as powerful as Bronco if not potentially more. All from liquid instead of air and without the need for large air tanks. Hydra has been one of the robots played up significantly in the lead-in to the season and Team Whyachi hasn’t been shy about posting videos on social media of Hydra throwing 300+ pound things around including an ATV that I assume just didn’t work because once it landed its wheels broke off so if it wasn’t broken before it is now.
To illustrate the point being made Jenny takes Jake and his robot into a part of the parking lot that is exceptionally run down to test Hydra’s flipper against a washing machine. I don’t even know if the production crew had to provide their own junky washing machine because whatever this place is it looks so shady that for all we know this fucking thing was already sitting there when they showed up. Hydra launches the washing machine 15 feet into the air but I’m going to say that was a bad flip because the bottom of the washer crumples immediately and likely ate some of the initial force from the flipper. I’d venture a guess that something with a solid bottom on it would’ve gone even higher but I guess Kim Kardashian wasn’t willing to sit on Hydra’s fun stick. Bronco makes a surprise appearance in this segment to defend its good name and throws another washing machine 20 feet into the air, though for some reason the washing machine needed to be propped up beforehand because the king needs special treatment. The numbers don’t lie, Bronco did heave its washer higher in the air but I think this was a bad test; I would assume Hydra and Bronco are probably about dead even when it comes to flipping power, and we’re about to find out.
FREE SHIPPING vs. HYDRA
Last season I got the impression Gary Gin simply missed being at BattleBots and just needed to find a way to get his much decorated heavyweight Original Sin into the world’s premiere robot combat event. The solution? More decorations, except those by a different definition. Being a Robogames heavyweight meant that Original Sin weighed approximately 220 pounds, the original regulation weight of a heavyweight robot as determined by BattleBots nearly 20 years ago. These days you get 250 pounds to play with so Gary had 30 pounds of wiggle room to make his robot fit the specs required in order to participate in BattleBots. Obviously the plan was to keep this new robot as close to the classic control-style bot he’d been known for… so the wedge was removed and replaced with a forklift. Yeah, a goddamned forklift. And flamethrowers too because I guess there was weight left over for that. This new robot, “Free Shipping”, wasn’t as successful probably because Gary meme’d too hard and wound up building something stupid. This year’s Free Shipping is a noticeably more conservative take on the “lol it’s a forklift” idea. Now instead of a literal forklift the robot has a more traditional lifting arm with a forklift-esque tip and the robot is overall a lot sleeker and lower to the ground. Its trademark wedges have come back too, and Stephen Felk (builder of the sorta-legendary Voltronic) has joined the team. You’ll know if Free Shipping is losing because he’ll start speaking in tongues.
And of course Free Shipping’s opponent is Hydra. Jake Ewert, like his brothers, were all-in on Son of Whyachi for a while but Jake says he thinks that robot has already peaked. He doesn’t believe in that design anymore. Son of Whyachi is effective, but I’m guessing he thinks what’s holding that robot back is not unlike what he claims was holding Bronco back: how much further can you really go? I’ve gotta give the guy credit, he put his money (or the Udder Gun’s money, whichever) where his mouth was and ventured out to build his own answer to what he thought the future of robot combat could be. The answer is Hydra, a hydraulically-powered flipper with the most badass paint job of any robot. Seriously, just watch this thing in its passive shots. This is one “color” of paint that can appear as up to at least three colors (by my count) depending on how much light hits it and from what angle. Richard “The Dick” Stuplich, one of the designers behind many of Team Whyachi’s robots, said this paint cost nearly $500 per pint. That’s like a fucking milk carton’s worth of paint. They’ve gotta sell at least three Udder Guns to pay for that shit. That’s four times the price of a pint of human blood. It would be cheaper to murder someone and paint Hydra with the resulting mess.
There’s a certain smug “knowing-ness” that comes with any Team Whyachi robot. It’s like they never came down from the high of winning in 2001, a win that depending on who you ask was either fairly or unfairly achieved. To Team Whyachi it’s perpetually the day before season four, the day before the time when Son of Whyachi was bumped up to a super heavyweight and promptly blew itself to pieces with no input from its opponent. This fight starts very slowly and with not a lot of action. Both Hydra and Free Shipping take turns getting their lifting apparatuses stuck in as many different parts of the floor as possible and at one point Free Shipping barfs butane all over Hydra because its flamethrower didn’t properly light. Nearly a minute passes and in this time Free Shipping starts to chip away at its opponent and sneaks in a couple of lifts and gets some nice flames going. Nothing major, but it’s certainly declaring itself the early leader here. Hydra pops its flipper on a couple of occasions and misses on every take but is still able to shear some sparks off of Free Shipping’s wedges from the forces of its flipper’s acceleration alone. Enough time has passed in this fight that Chris starts to openly doubt the hype behind Hydra and to tell you the truth by this point I was with him. I wanted to believe, but it looks like our buttholes were Whyachi’d again.
But then Free Shipping makes the mistake of driving on top of Hydra… and Free Shipping just goes flying. Count the twists; one, two, almost three? Whatever momentum Free Shipping was building is lost in this very moment. Hydra misses its next go, but after reloading it catches Free Shipping sideways and hurls it into the air once more. At some point during all these aerial stunts something breaks within Free Shipping’s lifting mechanism because it gets rolled over and just stays there. Last season Free Shipping couldn’t directly self right (it had a roll cage that allowed it to crash around and bounce back onto its wheels, which didn’t really work) but this time it should be able to flip itself back over, that arm has a full 180 degree range of motion. The forklift is dead, Hydra shoves it over near the Pulverizer but gives up about 90% of the way there. Amazon’s stock plummets.
I guess the smugness was justified in the end.
WINNER: Hydra, KO
MONSOON vs. RAGNAROK
Last season I described Monsoon as a robot whom I had zero expectations for and as it turns out I was more than surprised by the show we got from this robot. Tom Brewster competed in a couple of the final seasons of Robot Wars with Tauron, a robot similar to Monsoon. So similar, in fact, that Monsoon was almost named “Tauron 3”. The less said about Tauron the better, probably. It wasn’t a very good robot in terms of performance. There weren’t a whole lot of vertical spinners in Robot Wars so I was hoping Tauron’s clunky ass would be one of the breakout stars that could take down some of the series’ deadliest flippers but no, Tauron wound up getting counted out because Tom wasn’t paying attention or something. So Monsoon was a robot I was expecting to see detonate on the launch pad but instead this thing turned out to be one mean son of a bitch. Monsoon hacked and cleaved its way into the quarterfinals in its rookie year at BattleBots. This thing splayed Red Devil open like a lobster, exsanguinated Petunia and lit it on fire, and absolutely destroyed Axe Backwards and Sawblaze. Minotaur had to stop it and only did so because Monsoon’s weapon broke down which prevented the robot from freeing itself off the wall. This year Monsoon looks to be about the same and after its 2018 showing I have it pegged for another deep tournament run.
The producers are playing up a rivalry between Monsoon and Ragnarok’s teams but really these UK guys are all friends. If you open up their team photos on the BattleBots website you can basically play Where’s Waldo with the team members. Sorry– I mean “Where’s Wally” because for some reason that’s what it’s called over there. Monsoon’s team features Rory Mangles whom you might recognize as the designer and driver of Nuts, and Jack Tweedy — the guy who built at least one of the halves of Vanquish last year — has joined Ragnarok’s team this year. Everyone knows everyone, basically. Also is Tim’s last name “Rackers” or “Rackley”? Because I think I’ve been calling him Rackers but apparently the hosts are calling him Rackley? Ragnarok’s team page on BattleBots.com also lists him as “Rackley” but Monsoon’s page lists him as “Rackers”. Is there a joke I’m missing here or is this that Berenstain/Berenstein Bears bullshit? Anyways Ragnarok is armed with an electrically-driven axe that for this particular fight features an attachment called “The Heartbreaker”. No sign of Tom Petty anywhere, though. It’s a sort of barbed tip for Ragnarok’s axe intended to pierce through Monsoon’s top armor and deliver a kill shot in one go. Given the way it’s shaped it looks like one shot is all it’s going to get, so don’t fuck it up.
Tom says Monsoon’s weapon takes about eight seconds to get up to speed however as the match starts the robot unavoidably collides with Ragnarok and delivers a glancing blow. Meanwhile Ragnarok fires its axe about two seconds too late and winds up stabbing the floor with its “heartbreaker” tip. Thankfully this doesn’t murder the entire arena, but it does bend the attachment and render it useless. Monsoon spins around and catches Ragnarok head on and as Ragnarok swings its axe its front plow hits Monsoon’s blade and the entire robot flips over. This hit jogs Kenny’s memory about the specific way you can arrange the words “huge”, “hit”, and “there”. This hit also seems to have damaged Ragnarok’s axe because it’s not firing anymore. The robot should be able to right itself using its weapon, and its wheels are still clearly turning, but without a way to reorient itself the robot is effectively dead. I don’t know if you’d consider this a proper one hit KO but even if you don’t a “1.5” hit KO is still pretty damn impressive. Add that to Monsoon’s achievements. Tom’s a game tester, he’ll know what I mean.
WINNER: Monsoon, KO
MAD CATTER vs. RAILGUN MAX
Martin Mason is a very energetic builder, to say the least. He is what happens when you try to summon spirits with a Ouija board and you light Slim Jims instead of candles. He might not look familiar to you and that’s probably because he was more of a background player in years gone by. Martin can be seen on War Hawk’s team last year and back in 2016 he showed up to BattleBots with veteran builder Ted Shimoda and Team Think Tank with a robot named Bad Kitty. “Mad Catter” probably makes a little more sense now, especially seeing as how Martin’s team is named after this previous robot. Bad Kitty had more in common with the long lineage of “VDD” robots from Team Think Tank but as far as I can tell Mad Catter is its own beast. Thankfully there isn’t some weird slutty furry mascot ushering in this new robot, though it does have an asshole painted onto it and it arrived with foam paws as safety covers for its weaponry. I can’t quite tell if the team is still trying to covertly pander but I’m going to hedge my guess as “no” because if Martin were a furry he probably wouldn’t be shouting like Macho Man Randy Savage after taking a hit of coke. Mad Catter’s main weapon is a chain-driven hammer and some lifting arms though the robot also comes with a minibot outfitted with a ridiculously powerful flamethrower just in case “being reasonable with the weaponry on the robot” doesn’t pan out.
RailGun Max is the second of two robots from China making their debut in BattleBots this year. If I had to place it somewhere on the list of the five drum spinners we have this year I’d say it’s probably third in terms of strength. Elaine Wu claims her robot is better than Wan Hoo, the other Chinese robot we saw last week, and that’s really not much of a claim; all RailGun Max would have to do is show up and not break down and it would automatically be objectively better than Wan Hoo. The two robots are indeed pretty similar, though whereas Wan Hoo has a couple of small discs RailGun Max has a more substantial “egg-beater” style drum as a weapon. This explains why Elaine and her team whisk a couple of eggs with a goddamned power drill during their introduction. It doesn’t explain why Mad Catter’s team brought an electric whisk with them, however. I believe Martin was trying to make his own cotton candy or something and probably fucked it all up and somehow the appliance just made its way into the arena. My point is if you say Wan Hoo and RailGun Max look the same then that means you’re a racist.
This looks like it’s going to be a bad night for hammer bots. Probably a bad season too, now that I remember what happened to Blacksmith in the first episode. Mad Catter takes a shot to the face from RailGun Max and immediately the UHMW buffer plate affixed to the front of the robot is torn away. I’m not really sure what that was meant to protect against and it was mounted on upside down anyways so to be honest I’m glad it’s gone because now my faux-OCD can rest easy. Except not, because underneath the panel is one half of a Cheshire Cat-esque face with nary another half to be seen so now I don’t like that the picture underneath is incomplete. This hit doesn’t kill Mad Catter but it certainly looks to have stunned it somehow because RailGun Max quickly takes a second free hit and pops the rear end of the blue half of Mat Catter. As the robot bounces off of the screws it becomes apparent that Mad Catter came from the Red Devil school of design because its chassis is clearly broken but the blue side of drive is completely operational. Both robot’s minibots remind us that they exist and Mad Catter’s gets tossed away while RailGun Max’s sticks itself under the cat.
Thankfully going by the doodle on the back of Mad Catter its tail is already lifted which affords RailGun Max the ability to get a running start at its butthole. RailGun Max goes balls deep and as you might imagine this causes an anal fissure so severe that Mad Catter gets blown into two separate pieces. Mad Catter is starting to look less like a combat robot and more like a Nintendo Switch that some spoiled little shit spiked at the ground after he kept getting his ass kicked in Splatoon because he sucks at it and his helicopter mom won’t buy him Call of Duty because it’s too violent. Joke’s on her though because she wound up fostering violent tendencies in her little brat anyways and now she’s going to have to sell another 40 packs of essential oils on Facebook to pay for another Switch. Mad Catter is dead, by the way. There’s no coming back from a hit like that, I don’t think Mad Catter has the bizarre mobility of something like Red Devil to continue to drift and move around with only one set of drive. The worst part of this fight though is how both halves of Mad Catter landed on their sides so we don’t even get to see a runaway drive pod like we did last year. What a let down. Furries ruin everything.
WINNER: RailGun Max, KO
BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY
Coming up later in the episode we’ve got Yeti taking on Bite Force and right now Jenny is in the pit area chatting with Greg Gibson to try and understand the philosophy, if any, behind “yeti smash”. For a guy who normally says his strategy in the arena is to just run into stuff he’s surprisingly well spoken about the finer details of driving a drum spinner as opposed to something like a horizontal spinner. Greg restates what Brian Nave mentioned last week when we had a pit segment with Captain Shrederator: a horizontal spinner requires special driving skills to line up attacks and deliver them in the most effective way. Brian specifically said you can’t just drive into shit with a robot like Captain Shrederator otherwise the robot will spontaneously break down or something. I don’t know, that seems to be what Captain Shrederator is good at these days. Greg explains how a vertical spinner such as a drum can land a hit and then keep hitting and that combined with Yeti’s bulky monster truck-like design allows it to start a combo chain of attacks.
Yeti is all about the upper cut and Greg mentions you can’t just ease into a hit with a weapon like his, you’ve have to commit to it. Once you find your target you’ve gotta do like what RailGun Max did in the fight we just saw and bust your opponent’s ass wide open. Jenny starts getting into the finer details of comparing Yeti’s drum speed to those of other competitors and the numbers come up short but it’s not just about who can spin something the fastest. Sure Yeti’s drum might be a little slower, but it’s heavier. Also because it’s made out of aluminum it has a much wider diameter meaning these geometrical differences have a real measurable effect on things like the tip speed of Yeti’s teeth. Unlike a drum milled out of one solid piece of steel the weight of Yeti’s weapon is focused toward its outer edge meaning that there’s even more weight behind its drum’s teeth than what one might expect. What this all boils down to is when you make like the Atari Jaguar and do the fucking math you wind up with a robot whose spinning mass can do things like kick Witch Doctor across the whole goddamned arena in a single shot even if it might be slower and made of a potentially “inferior” material than its contemporaries.
Don’t be a dick.
BREAKER BOX vs. FALCON
Here’s a fight between two robots where I don’t even know what the fuck to expect. Breaker Box is a robot you might be passively familiar with if you’ve been following this website since its relaunch in 2015; this robot received the Giant Washer Award for “Best Retirement” back then because Jim Smentowski arrived with Nightmare instead of this thing. Post-Comedy Central era Jim continued to compete in various independent circuits though he eventually stopped doing so with Nightmare and instead preferred to compete with a new robot, Breaker Box. I said I was glad to have seen this robot retired because Nightmare is objectively cooler in every possible way. Nightmare is the reason why there’s a roof on the Battlebox. Sure that was bound to happen eventually but it was Nightmare that made the safety crew call their lawyers and then make a second phone call to some metal fabricators to get a roof on this bitch for next year. They were afraid Nightmare would rip a piece off of someone and throw it out of the arena. And in the end? Nightmare wound up doing that shit anyways in the show’s fifth season and ALL of the rumbles were cancelled because of it. Breaker Box has some goofy eyes on its plow and a decorative LED panel that doesn’t quite work properly. There is no comparison. I’ll concede however, Nightmare can’t really compete with today’s machines. But if that’s the case why does Nightmare have a fucking team photo on the official site for this season?
Depending on how you pronounce the word “falcon” we may or may not be able to be friends. Falcon is the third (and mercifully final) robot from Team Whyachi competing this year and while it’s new to television it’s not technically that new? Much like SubZero this robot began life as a middleweight long ago. Falcon competed in BattleBots IQ events which were tournaments on a smaller scale to get high school and college students into engineering and wound up winning three of them. I don’t know how many IQ events actually took place so for all I know Falcon probably won all of the fucking things. Falcon was eventually redesigned as a heavyweight and Team Whyachi applied with it to the 2015 reboot season but the producers passed on it and instead accepted Warrior. Four years later I’m still finding ways to sneak pictures of that smoldering piece of shit into these articles and fooling you into thinking they’re new content. Falcon is probably the tiniest robot competing this year; it’s so small that Team Whyachi was able to hide it in a cardboard box in the pits so peeping eyes couldn’t look at it. It also has two drums, one in the front and one in the back, presumably because Clint Ewert saw Counter Revolution and thought that wasn’t a stupid ass idea. Since it’s got two weapons I’d probably say Falcon is the third strongest drum spinner this season.
Falcon leads the charge at the start of the match but doesn’t seem to really be able to connect with Breaker Box that well. It looks like Falcon ought to have gotten a great bite on Breaker Box’s side but I guess it falls short. Falcon stalls out and quits moving for some reason and rather than maneuver around to its sides Breaker Box just drives straight at its opponent and winds up losing the ground clearance battle against a stationary object. Falcon ensures Breaker Box won’t just lose this instance but probably every other one for the rest of the fight because it bangs a dent into the front end of Breaker Box’s wedge that leaves the attachment slightly warped and kicks it a couple full rotations around its chassis. Breaker Box rebounds and comes right back at Falcon who is still just sort of sitting there. The wedge gets a couple of good shoves in, one of which ends with Falcon getting rammed into the screws. It is also at this time that we discover Breaker Box’s minibot has also decided to just sit this one out. I think it got high centered on part of the floor during the introductions and Breaker Box couldn’t free it so Jim just said “fuck it”. Falcon is still sort of mobile but it’s only idling around. I guess the gyroscopic forces its drums are making are enough to not only cancel each other out but also cancel out a working fucking robot. Falcon gets bumped into the spike strip and it sheds one of the long leading wedges from its front end. I can already tell this is going to be a long fight.
The drummer almost seems content to just sit in the corner it coasted into but Falcon springs back to life and manages to drive in a straight line. That’s it. Breaker Box pursues and catches Falcon and despite the ding in its wedge it manages to slide underneath and take Falcon straight into the wall while wearing it like a hat. This doesn’t really work all that well because Breaker Box takes the inertia of ramming into the wall and Falcon just sort of falls off to the side. Falcon drives away in a straight line. Breaker Box lines up another shot at the wall and this time slams into it hard enough to pop its chassis up where its lifting wedge hinges turning it into a makeshift launch pad that throws Falcon onto its back. Falcon can’t drive in this orientation either. There’s another 20 seconds or so of more of the same and in this time the driver of Breaker Box’s minibot gets bored and starts firing its flamethrower because I guess if you’re going to go through the trouble of arming a remote-controlled flamethrower you might as well just shoot the goddamned thing even if you’re not hitting any targets. It’s still objectively cool, if completely useless, and gives the editors some B-roll for the post-fight replays because neither of these robots seem to give a shit about doing that themselves.
Breaker Box starts aimlessly swinging its wedge around for no apparent reason but after a few seconds of this random flailing it becomes obvious that the robot has lost all or most of its drive power. I guess driving straight into the wall multiple times during a battle will do that to you. Falcon seems unharmed, though that’s hard to tell because it showed up to this battle less maneuverable than a fatass in a Walmart scooter. I realize the force generated by Falcon’s drums cancel each other out in exchange for putting an absolutely stupid amount of strain on the drive system, but maybe if the robot wasn’t the size of a goddamned shoe box it might be able to throw some weight around. There’s a minute left in this fight now and Jim Smentowski just starts flailing Breaker Box around in the hopes that the referee responsible for keeping an eye on his robot is too busy getting distracted by laughing at Falcon. Somehow this strategy works and after a couple of near misses where Falcon could’ve landed some okay shots Breaker Box retaliates with some slaps from its bent up wedge. By the end of the fight Breaker Box is dead and smoking but I think the officials let this one go to a decision because if they gave Falcon a KO at 2:59 it’s very likely the entire production would’ve been halted and cancelled.
WINNER: Breaker Box, Judges’ Decision (2-1)
SCIENCE CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE
WAR HAWK vs. PETUNIA
Last season War Hawk made it into the Round of 16 purely thanks to the law of probability. It was one of a handful of vertical spinners and when it came time to figure out 15th place the judges looked at War Hawk, Brutus, and End Game and just sorta said “we quit”. War Hawk didn’t deal the first blow of that 3-way battle, but it certainly dealt the last one. This robot, who at no point seemed to be able to drive in a straight line during the entire goddamned season, qualified for the main tournament. Rob Farrow must be one of god’s chosen children in order to dodge that many bullets and Mr. Magoo his way that far. Bronco had a thing or two to say about that but let’s be real here even if War Hawk was fully functional it probably would’ve lost to Bronco anyways. This year the killer mecha bird is back and it’s no longer sporting Brutus’ old weapon disc, War Hawk has its own blade now and it kind of resembles a hastily traced version of Bite Force’s. Guess Rob didn’t want anyone to know what he was up to. War Stop, the minibot, is also back though I think this year it’s supposed to be a phoenix on account of Bronco ejecting the original War Stop from the arena and throwing it to the fucking moon. The guy that drives Mad Catter is also in the background when the team and robot are introduced. Either that or the fucker put a hex on me and now I’m just seeing him in various places.
Petunia debuted last year and overall I’d say it was a mixed bag. When it won, it won; Rotator got one of its tires expertly shredded by the Killsaws as Petunia held it there and against Captain Shrederator the robot was able to bite all the way through the spinner’s outer shell and inner metal plates to destroy its batteries. Good shit. But when Petunia lost? It lost big time. Monsoon just straight up destroyed this thing and literally left it in the middle of the arena as a burning pile of metal. Petunia didn’t fare too well against Yeti either who popped the biter so hard it ricocheted off of the wall and flipped over. Speaking of getting flipped over Kenny talks about Petunia like the robot can’t self right, though I’m pretty sure it could. One of Petunia’s features last year was to intentionally pop a wheelie so wicked that the robot would roll onto its back and flash its nuts at its opponents which were emblazoned with the word “HOLLAND”. Kenny says Mischa de Graaf isn’t sure if Petunia can right itself this year and “doesn’t want to have to try and find out”. Uhh, just try it in the test box? Just roll the robot over and press the right button on the transmitter, it can’t be that hard dude. This should not be the time when you’re discovering this.
Chris says War Hawk is equipped with its shorter front end to minimize the amount of perimeter that Petunia can take advantage of but now that the fight has started I don’t think that matters because holy shit what happened to Petunia’s beak? It’s like a fucking cane now, it can just reach across the Battlebox without having to move! Neither robot is really able to take the immediate advantage in the opening seconds of the fight until War Stop cruises in and actually manages to disrupt Petunia’s driving long enough for War Hawk to crash into it. The hit doesn’t seem to do much visible damage but for some reason Petunia’s left side of drive immediately goes out. War Stop continues to entangle itself in Petunia’s business and props the robot up for a running bash from War Hawk resulting in the crusher getting flipped over. I guess now would be the time when we find out along with Mischa if his robot can self right except this is taking forever and War Hawk doesn’t have time for this bullshit. War Hawk kicks Petunia in the back of the head and very nearly destroys the BattleBots sign when it hurls the robot toward the drivers’ booth. This is absolutely not the War Hawk we saw last year. Dare I say it, this one’s actually good.
Petunia eventually gets back onto its wheels but it’s because War Hawk keeps hitting it and not because it was able to roll itself back over on its own. Petunia’s right wheel appears to still be moving but there’s no longer any purchase with the ground. It’s hard to say if the whole bot is twisted or if there’s just an awkward spot on the floor right there but whatever the reason the robot is out. War Hawk has landed some pretty solid hits but as far as I can tell there isn’t any major damage to Petunia’s armor even when it’s getting hit on its backside. Still, War Hawk is scoring all of the points here regardless and after rolling the crusher over one last time War Hawk drops it off under the Pulverizer for a couple of quick swings before the ref counts it out. All things considered? This year’s War Hawk is definitely 15th Place material.
WINNER: War Hawk, KO
BITE FORCE vs. YETI
As usual Bite Force is fashionably late to the party and is finally showing up three episodes in. Strangely Bronco is still missing in action but I think it’s because it has pee shyness around Hydra. Paul Ventimiglia says Bite Force is an all new robot this year but I don’t really get what he’s talking about. He and his team keep building and rebuilding many iterations of the robot (it’s one of the things they do in the pits so they can bring out a fresh machine in the middle of a season) but this Bite Force is pretty much the same one we saw last year. I know it’s at least the same weapon bar because Paul painted that thing once like three years ago and he’s too much of a cheap ass to paint it again, meanwhile the Whyachi team is forking out thousands of dollars to paint their own robot a shade of “sometimes purple”. To give you an idea of how over the top Bite Force is there’s something like eight motors running the whole machine and only four of those motors are for its drive system; the other four are crammed into the gearbox driving its spinner. Bite Force isn’t the first to do this — I’m 99% certain Tornado Mer did this at one point — but it’s not something you tend to see every day in the sport. Sometimes a builder might go with two motors for a spinner, but Paul has other plans. He wants a four-fecta.
For some reason I can’t shake this belief I have that Yeti is a “bar brawler”. Maybe it’s because Kenny Florian said that term no less than three times over the span of a few minutes while talking about this robot. We saw Yeti earlier in the episode when Greg Gibson met up with Jenny Taft and told her what his favorite Boston songs were or something. The takeaway from that segment was how Yeti’s drum might not be the fastest or most durable but when you factor everything out it has the potential to hit the hardest out of the other drum bots at BattleBots this year. I think they said Yeti’s strength was somewhere around the third strongest one. Despite referring to Trey Roski as “fat dude in a BattleBots polo shirt” in 2015 I’m really not one to comment on someone’s weight but since Chris and Kenny are talking about Greg dropping 30 pounds I guess I can give him a thumbs up. He looked great at the show and if he only lost 30 pounds then hell maybe if I can pull that off myself I won’t look like a basement dweller. Unfortunately I can’t grow a sweet-ass beard like his though, you don’t get genes like that in Texas.
Even though the hosts say Yeti’s drum weighs 50 pounds the robot is actually using its lighter and more focused drum so that it can also wear some additional armor up front to absorb blows from Bite Force because Greg knows Paul doesn’t fuck around and he’s probably not keen on being added to the list of robots that Bite Force has killed in one hit. Yeti looks to be in great shape in the opening few seconds because one of its forks is able to get underneath Bite Force, however I think the other one might not have made it under and is keeping the robot at bay. Bite Force gets shoved into the wall but rather than get smashed by Yeti, Yeti instead pivots forward as its lifters bend down and this essentially opens the robot’s entire face up for a beating. Bite Force wastes absolutely no time turning Yeti’s face into a goddamned pretzel and in the process kicks one of its lifting forks back and rips both of the chains driving the lifters apart. As you might imagine Yeti gets rolled over after Bite Force takes a chunk out of one of its wheels and because its lifter is knocked backward and broken the robot is completely undriveable leaving Greg to do nothing more than flail it around in hopes that he can swing the robot’s limp lifters to a usable orientation and get his robot down from its side.
Bite Force isn’t going in for any additional hits while this is happening because Paul knows the last thing you want to do when Yeti is flipping around like a goddamned maniac is touch it, if that drum hits you from a weird angle there’s no telling what kind of shit it can break. But the minute Yeti gets back onto its wheels? Bite Force slides right in for another whammy and this time hurls Yeti high enough that I think maybe we should give Bite Force a broken washing machine of its own to see how it matches up against Hydra and Bronco. Yeti is the bar brawler here, don’t forget that. When you fight in a bar you fight dirty, you bust a bottle on a table and stab someone in the neck or grab a pool cue and break it across some dickhead’s face. Yeti takes one of its bent up lifting forks and stabs it straight into the pattern of holes milled into the sides of Bite Force’s weapon bracket and just goes to town from there. Yeti starts ripping sparks off of Bite Force’s front left corner and this is actually a really bad spot for the former champ to be in because the place where Yeti’s lifter is stabbed into is right where Bite Force’s weapon chain is. Bite Force has protection on top of its chain thanks to Chomp but there’s nothing on the side if you can make it through the holes in its weapon bracket.
Yeti’s fork eventually gets plucked from its opponent’s neck — because they stopped the fight — and in return for almost killing its weapon Bite Force smacks Yeti and throws it through the air once again. At this point I think it’s safe to say Yeti’s right fork is totally blown the fuck up but it can still stab and prod with the left one so the robot resumes its plan to disrupt Bite Force’s spinner and winds up getting it caught parallel to Bite Force’s chassis behind one of the front wedge attachments. This time the cut used to hide the second separation of the robots isn’t as good. Immediately Yeti jams its remaining lifter right back in Bite Force’s face however this time the Killsaws are able to tickle Yeti’s ding dong to get it to let go. While this has been going on I should point out something looks to be wrong with Bite Force’s left side of drive because for the past few moments the robot has only been capable of crab walking and drifting around with the forces generated by its weapon. That rush from the first time Yeti got its spike jammed into Bite Force may have bent the armor in on that corner or damaged the wheel or chain or something because this is one of the few times we’ve seen the champ on the ropes like this.
This is Yeti’s time to strike. The fight is so ambiguous at this point that some super slams from Yeti’s Drum of +2 Just Do The Fucking Math could easily sway the judges especially with Bite Force in a virtually immobile state. Yeti swings and connects with Bite Force but gets thrown upside-down in the process. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue however one of Yeti’s lifters is fucking broken so the robot becomes virtually immobilized by way of only having one of its giant goddamned wheels on the ground. Had this not happened and Yeti remained on its feet there could’ve been some decisive blows but instead Bite Force ensures that this one gets sent to the judges as-is with its fingers crossed. Watch Bite Force as the buzzer sounds, though. Paul knows exactly what to do here. Using some of the gyroscopic forces in his robot’s weapon he hamfists a way for his robot to “drive” away in a straight line presumably to let the judges know that the robot is still “fully mobile”. It’s a sham but this is some level 100 Illusion shit, and it works.
WINNER: Bite Force, Judges’ Decision (3-0)
No repeats so far! We’ve seen 24 total fights across these first three episodes which means we’ve seen 48 of the 60-ish competitors this season. As I write this BattleBots hasn’t shared the promotional fight card graphic for episode four so I don’t know what to expect next week but it would be really cool if we got to see almost everybody take their first steps before we start to double back and get into everyone’s Round 2. I feel like at this point last season we’d seen Tombstone fight like nine times or something. I also want to point out that we’ve gone three episodes and all of them have had a bonus fight as their exclusive content on Science Channel. I don’t know if this will be the case every episode but it’s a strong start; last year some of you were upset with the non-fight content but really what we ended up getting was objectively more interesting than most of the fights that failed to make it to air. I’d say the only fight we really “missed out” on was Duck vs Gigabyte but that was eventually posted online anyways. We’ve got a lot more competitors this year and slightly fewer episodes so with all these extra fights we may very well get spoiled this year. Lord knows there’s going to be bonus fights out the ass. I’m not looking forward to the number of “What Got Cut” articles I’m going to have to do.
I’ve been having a great time so far and so many of these battles are new to me now that I’m seeing them again for the second time. I’m seeing all sorts of little things I missed when I was at the event like the chains that Copperhead and Yeti lost in their fights this week. I guess I just took shitty notes or I’m bad at paying attention but I won’t admit to that because then that means my high school biology teacher was right — fuck that. People have been poring over the TV ratings week after week and BattleBots is fine. It’s the highest rated show on Discovery Channel. Don’t feel let down that Ancient Aliens is ranking higher because honestly finding out what’s really underneath the pyramids is objectively more important than watching Tom Brewster make the “bro you just posted cringe” face at Ragnarok.
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