Welcome back to the Beat! We’re back for realsies this time, not just a preview but actual honest to goodness fighting. And for this premiere we’ve got way too much work for me to do—it’s so big we’re going to split it into two parts. So let’s just get to it.
Before the premiere, well, premiered, BattleBots had themselves a live event, the BattleBots Challenge, in Las Vegas. Considering the first couple BattleBots events were live events, this is a bit of throwback—the last live event that the non-attending public could watch was Las Vegas ’99. So twenty years later we get to come full circle, except instead of being on pay-per-view (or nowadays definitely not on Youtube if it isn’t available for purchase on the BattleBots site, cough cough), we got it on the internets that have come a long way since not really being much of a thing in 1999. So they streamed it live on Twitch. Because Amazon owns Twitch. And oh yeah the whole thing was sponsored by Amazon for their re:MARS event, which is… I don’t know, I’m just here for the fighting robots man. And Chris Rose is here for the fighting robots and the open bar apparently.
Ten robots were invited to compete in five preliminary fights. The winners of those fights would then be pooled together and in what can only be considered a sketchy idea at best, the Twitch chat would vote on the two robots they’d want to see duke it out for the Bolt. Which long story short is how we got the Helix Fossil and the Dome Fossil fighting for the Giant Bolt. Too dated? The stream is still active, currently playing Pokemon Battle Revolution. I have no idea what Pokemon Battle Revolution is but it was apparently a Wii game.
Onto the live fights!
Free Shipping vs. Bronco
We start with two crowd favorites. Well, they have to be crowd favorites to get here, but they’re arguably favorites for different reason. The Season 3 iteration of Free Shipping, or Original Sin wearing a Team Fortress 2 hat, was basically a thought experiment of the silliest weapon you could get into BattleBots. So it had a forklift.
The forklift got its shit kicked in a whole bunch because forklifts are generally not the greatest things you can use for robot fights, so Free Shipping went 1-3 on the year, but never got KOed. For this season Free Shipping has a little more Original Sin in it as it has the wedgelets that let it run the 220 lb. heavyweight division of RoboGames, and it has a more conventional lifter that should be both faster than a friggin’ forklift and hardier than a friggin’ forklift.
Meanwhile, through the first 3 seasons, Bronco has been the premier robot in terms of tossing 250 lb. robots into the air. From 5 feet, to 8 feet, to now as high as 12 feet, we’re waiting for the day Bronco actually bounces a robot off the ceiling. It hasn’t happened yet which is why I’m personally hoping for a Bronco vs. The Four Horsemen fight. Because one of those would absolutely hit the ceiling. It has shown its vulnerabilities against top drivers, where it can get outmaneuvered just because it’s a long robot when most are getting more and more compact, which has led to more and more interesting armor configurations, like the pwangers, or the top armor, or god-knows-what-else. A flipper with bees so it fires the flipper and bees shoot out? Probably.
The fight start and Free Shipping hit a seam or something in the floor. And Bronco got a flip in on it, so whatever person said/trolled “I don’t know if Bronco can flip Free Shipping” loses that after about 4 seconds. Oh yeah, whoever the Twitch correspondent was remarked about stuff on chat. I was not watching chat as I was watching on fullscreen mode on Senorita Weaselo’s laptop. That is also why I wasn’t being a smartass on the chat. (Fun fact, this is the first robot combat show she watched.)
Back to the fight, the good news is this new lifter on Free Shipping actually self-rights rather than the run against every wall tactic. So it could do that while Bronco tried to go for one of those 10-footers it does, missed, and had to self-right. But once it got back on its feet the raging flipper got working, chaining three flips in a row, including one off the Lexan. From here it seemed like whether Bronco would just get the angle or whether Free Shipping would be able to stay in the center and away from the sides. Like real fights and cutting the ring! Our questions got answered as Bronco got another big flip in and got Free Shipping on top of the screws. I think we were all waiting for the screws to reverse once they got stuck, as happens when a large robot is on top of it slightly askew, but it was unable to do so and get Free Shipping unstuck. Bronco wins by KO in 2:31 and becomes the first of the five candidates.
Bite Force vs. Icewave
A battle of two bots that have been among the tops in combat over the show. Bite Force is, of course, the reigning champion. Icewave has probably been the most destructive robot in the first three seasons total outside of Tombstone (please note I said three seasons, regarding Minotaur, Bite Force’s vert spinner, and Son of Whyachi), considering it’s broken two robots in half and did a whole bunch of damage to Razorback and the crusher version of Chomp. Hey, remember that back in 2015?
Anyway, Icewave didn’t compete in the 2019 because apparently Marc DeVidts and his wife had a baby. So we get one night of Icewave, one night only!
Bite Force escaped 2018 unblemished if not unscathed—the fight with HUGE was a bit dicey until the Icewave damage reared its head, but HUGE was up on that fight until then. Icewave on the other hand got mauled by RotatoR’s upper disk being at a perfect height to completely destroy the engine. So that’s clearly been replaced, as Icewave is fighting and still has an internal combustion engine. I also think Icewave deserved the 4 seed over Minotaur which would have led to a fight with Witch Doctor, butterfly effect, fallacy of the predetermined outcome, that’s BattleBots Suzyn.
Bite Force, facing off against a horizontal spinner, doesn’t have its usual hinged wedges but has a bulkier wedge to tank the powerful horizontal spinner’s blows. And we’re gonna get raw audio instead of the edited sound, because if damage is gonna get done, we’re going to hear it without pops and mixing. I’m excited.
Well neither box rushed for the beginning, and the loudness of Icewave’s loud as fuck engine wasn’t deafening, so it was not very effective on hitting Bite Force with the reach advantage. Which it immediately lost because Bite Force cut one side of the bar into pieces. To which we can already say goddamn, because that was one hit and Icewave’s weapon is already gone. Well, that made this fight a lot more anticlimactic.
Bite Force evened out the sides of the bars, kinda. Close enough. And then it could just come in and work the inside, because however Paul Ventimiglia’s engineered it, especially now with the four motor monstrosity that is the current weapon system (see the quarterfinal against RotatoR, the semifinal against Whiplash, or the final against Minotaur even if the sidewalls were not the alloy they thought it was, because metallurgists fucked with them), it just carves up everything. Like Icewave’s front wedge. And Icewave tried to spin up, because why not? It didn’t do anything and Bite Force could nibble away at some of the box before Icewave might’ve thrown a chain somewhere and just pushed Icewave towards the pulverizer. A rare victory spin for Bite Force as Paul Ventimiglia gets the win over his buddy, which happens a fair bit. Bite Force by KO, in something around 2:59.
Skorpios vs. Chomp
Skorpios was one of the best driven robots last season, with its win over Icewave, even if Kenny Florian didn’t agree with it. However, Orion Beach has handed the reins to his robot to Zachary Lytle, taking more of a background role behind the sawbot, so new driver, even if he’s had a season of driving behind it? We’ll see. It’s going up against Chomp, which like Icewave did not compete in Season 4 because Zoe Stephenson had a baby. So much love and things that happened this offseason! (There will be more of it later.) So it’s probably mostly a Season 3 version of Chomp, or a Season 3.5, rather than a Season 4 version, in all likelihood. We all know by now that Chomp’s biggest problem is that it falls to the floor more than James Harden, so I’m not sure how much that’s gotten fixed. Apparently they tried some vacuum feet to hold Chomp down as the hammer fired, but they apparently malfunctioned in the test Box. So they’re working on it! It’ll work for Season 5! Hopefully!
According to chat people want Chomp vs. Bronco. I’m pretty sure the Bronco Boys are trolling on that one. Personally I’d be gunning for the Season 1 rematch, except now Bite Force has the spinner.
Chomp went for a hammer blow and… because it didn’t work it fell over. Damn it. This meant Skorpios could just start coming in to get the saw going. The good news is Chomp’s srimech issues have been fixed so she got up quickly. The bad news is she still tips more than Keanu Reeves, which is a wholesome joke, but in the scheme of things does not work. Like when Skorpios’s saw is now sawing continuously on the robot underside. Or trying to go through one of the hammer arms. And in general it just got to use the scoop or the wedge, whatever you wanna call it, and just corral and control Chomp around the Box. Chomp got a couple of flush shots in in the dying seconds but unless Skorpios went haywire it wasn’t going to do anything. It went to the judges, who went for Skorpios in what I’m assuming was a unanimous decision.
Lock-Jaw vs. Whiplash
The consolation match from a year ago, if there were bronze medal matches in BattleBots. (There are not.) Lock-Jaw looks like it has new forks, while Whiplash definitely has a new paintjob. Two of the best drivers in the biz, the legend Donald Hutson and the Beatie winner for Best Driver as decided by me, Matt Vasquez. There will probably be sticking and moving.
There was not immediate sticking and moving as they went weapon to weapon. The forks got leverage on the plow, flipping Whiplash (which used its lifter portion of the weapon to self-right). Lock-Jaw also got under and clipped one of Whiplash’s tires off, limiting its mobility.
The vet kept on charging and Lock-Jaw damaged the lifting forks on Whiplash’s weapon, but then something happened, as Lock-Jaw just seized up and Whiplash could get free hits on the upper portion of Lock-Jaw. Winning, winning, winning, uh why isn’t it moving? To borrow, that’s BattleBots, Suzyn. Whiplash survives to win by KO.
Witch Doctor vs. Tombstone
It’s the rematch we’ve been waiting four years for! This has gotta be the main event of the prelims, since that was in my opinion the 2015 Fight of the Year. And you can bet Andrea and Mike Gellatly (hey, they finally got married, woo!) have revenge on their mind. The plow up front for this fight even says “Don’t fear the Reaper.”
As for Tombstone, it’s got hardware on its mind after getting upset by a similarly revenge-minded Bombshell in the first round of last year’s tourney. Somehow it looks even meaner with the black paint. But it looks like Ray’s son Justin’s driving for this fight. Hey, it’s a more fun competition than the formal one, where Ray obviously drives Tombstone.
Tombstone spun up, Witch Doctor came forward. And just like in 2015, that plow held up, and I’m pretty sure Tombstone in 2019 is more powerful, because Tombstone went, I don’t know, 5 feet in the air, but at a 90 degree angle? The big thing though is that after hitting the ground Tombstone landed wheel first. Which is generally a problem considering it was bent as a result. Witch Doctor couldn’t go in for the kill, because that was a weapon to weapon shot and the disk was in two pieces. Tombstone tried to get around, but up against the wall with the wheel bent and the drive smoking a little bit, we had a complete 180. Witch Doctor is the one that loses the weapon but gets the win by KO.
So that did it for the prelims, and while the polls opened, the Twitch correspondent, whose name escapes me, walked around the pits and interviewed the teams. Zander Rose talked about the pneumatics in Bronco. Jascha Little of Chomp joked abut how he sucked working the hammer (he also built The Judge, a super heavyweight that was the foremost hammer for years, you can check it out). Icewave was apparently inspired by Green Wave, Paul Ventimiglia’s middleweight that won the Rochester R3 in 2005. I’m not sure whether that counts as a major BattleBots championship, like Brutality’s 2009 win or Bite Force’s pair of titles, or just a minor one, like winning this tournament would be. Judging by the number of wins I’d consider it a major championship. Gary Gin talked about the fight, and how “they got us from every side.” Andrea talked about wearing the costume and the whole ambience of Witch Doctor to get the kids—she and Mike also run a MakeMIA Makerspace, in Miami. Skorpios showed the damage from their fight, where that saw got some chips and a bend, so they couldn’t use it for their potential future fight. Team Fast Electric Robots (holy shit she got the name right, Chris and Kenny still can’t do that and this is Season 4) were busy at work since they did still get the worse of the damage from that fight, even if they won it. Matt noted that there’s some pressure now, because of being the wunderkind, and I think because now they made a semifinal, so they’re no longer under the radar. We learned exactly what happened with Lock-Jaw in the fight; a battery solder got loose, and that killed power. Seriously, as simple as that. Justin Billings talked about how Tombstone and Hardcore Robotics got their reputation from the beginning of the series, because one of the first viral robot videos is just Last Rites wrecking shit. Like a bowling ball!
Yeah, that one! Meanwhile everyone at Aptyx was working, but Paul talked about how Bite Force is meant to be a blend of offense and defense, and the fixed wedge to combat Icewave actually meant they couldn’t be at their optimum setup.
Meanwhile, Peter Abrahamson, the “Bot Whisperer” (and designer of the BattleBox) talked about the matches, and talked tactics with the founder of iRobot Colin Angle. That would be the company that makes Roombas. I like Pete as an analyst here, because he’s done it all, including building a robot in the early days with Ronin. And someone in chat asked about Ronin, to which Pete noted Red Devil was a better Ronin than Ronin was. I personally would’ve asked him about the Comedy Central days and actually being the one firing the hazards—due to game show laws they’re now computer-controlled except for the team-controlled pulverizers. Meanwhile, Colin was asking about drones and having them in BattleBots to attack from above (part of the issue is right now drones are limited to 15 lbs. and nobody’s gone that heavy with them), trying to drill in or something. To which Pete talked about launchers using gravity and the opponents weight as an attack. So Colin Angle’s definitely going to build a robot with like a whole bunch of flippers, and a drone with a drill, and the robot can leap to get on top of its opponents. We’re calling it now.
Extra fight: Skorpios vs. Lock-Jaw
Faruq had this as a grudge match, but basically it’s a whiteboard fight. What it does mean though is that Skorpios is not one of the top two candidates, because to be honest, Skorpios isn’t that popular comparatively. And Lock-Jaw took the least damage of the five losing robots. Zachary Lytle mentioned that he watched Diesector and Tazbot fight though, so for him it’s a chance to fight his idol. Also since I also watched Diesector and Tazbot, yup, I’m old.
Skorpios came for the ol’ box rush, but went right into Lock-Jaw’s disks which flipped it. I don’t understand why Skorpios went for the saws in these two fights rather than their new fancy schmancy disks, because the combination of getting flipped and landing saw first, and Lock-Jaw hitting the saw with the disks, ended up bending it. So it was bent again, which meant that they could just try to use it like a clamp or a hammer.
Lock-Jaw controlled the fight but couldn’t get those big hits on Skorpios, though it certainly was getting hits on it. But then Lock-Jaw started smoking with about a minute and a half, which started to put the domination in doubt. It was still mobile though, and still able to push back as Skorpios attempted to get it to a hazard. The smoke got heavier and in the last few seconds became a full blown fire as the bell rang and it went to the judges. This season is now a 7-point system (3 for damage, 2 for aggression, 2 for control), and it was a split decision for Skorpios. Do I agree? I think due to it being 3-2-2 I do, because fire does beat damaged weapon, so 2-1 Skorpios, and then I guess split the other two? I’m not sure what constitutes 1-1 and 2-0 in those categories. I might consider 5-3-3 for next season? I guess catching on fire swung it.
Extra fight: Bite Force vs. Whiplash
Call me disappointed, I think I wanted Bite Force and Bronco. Instead we get a rematch of last year’s semis, and that plays the role of undercard. It also sounded like Jason, not Matt, got to do the driving for this one for Whiplash, and he’s getting his chops up too. As for Bite Force, it’s rare that there’s hardware that they won’t be fighting for, due to the whims of the people.
Well, in short… it was just like the semis. Bite Force got the hinged wedges under the plow and used the bar to seize control, even flipping Whiplash twice. A hit bent one bit of wedge, tore off a tire, then going back to that same spot that was already weakened to tear that piece of plow entirely off. And then hell with it, went to the back of Whiplash, hit it there, hit the weapon, re-damaged the forks, I saw some sort of set of bolts come flying out of the hole in the back. And then another tire too. Wait, it gets better, that tire ended up landing on some of the scaffolding and got stuck there. Yet Whiplash tried to keep fighting, even when put on the screws, and the screws reversed and they escaped them. But unlike the crab walk where it could have still been considered mobile and it was a judgment call by the refs, this time it was definitely dead. Second verse, just as (more?) gruesome than the first. Bite Force wins by KO in 2:39.
Championship: Witch Doctor vs. Bronco
In fairness, these are two really popular bots. And they’re two really popular bots that have yet to receive hardware. And it’s another chance for Witch Doctor to right some Season 1 wrongs! Cue it.
So this could be a fun fight. Bronco’s facing a vertical spinner, so those ski-shaped pwangers are back! And Witch Doctor has a new disk of course, as the old one was broken and given to Ray, as is tradition. Witch Doctor, due to name and costumes, has also immediately become of Senorita Weaselo’s favorite bots. As is Tombstone.
My girlfriend is a lot more of a badass than I am.
Anyway, the fight began and Bronco thought that Witch Doctor was going to go wide and try to flank. They did not so it was just Bronco skidding, and as a result Witch Doctor came in and tore off one of those pwangers (so between that and Whiplash I don’t know if that’s the way to go) And now that spot was open anyway, so Witch Doctor took a tire while she was at it. And… Bronco wasn’t moving. That’s it? That’s strange, considering Bronco has worked on as few as one wheel. But that’s that. The revenge tour was complete, at least for this tournament. Witch Doctor wins by a quick KO, and with it wins the BattleBots Challenge Giant Bolt. And I believe that that’s the first combat award won by a female-captained team in the history of BattleBots—at the very least it’s the first one in the eight televised seasons (no idea about this one of course), Long Beach ’99, or Las Vegas ’99. (Chomp won the Founders’ Award, which is why I specified combat award).
So that does it for the live events, and in the interest of not making a massive wall of article, I think we’ll have the actual TV season premiere’s column tomorrow. They’re two-hour episodes this season after all, so there are eight fights to recap. So I guess, see you tomorrow?