Hey all you cool bots and comrades, it’s ya boy from The Robot Soccer League, coming at you with a hot take on what was probably – nay, definitely, the best episode of the 2020 season so far. We were promised an amazing main event, a lights show that would make the city of Las Vegas green with envy, and some of the best fights in the entire history of the show. We got all three, and oh boy, it didn’t disappoint.
Whilst the previous episode will go down in the annuls of history for probably the worst fight in BattleBots history, a near unprecedented level of controversy, and the debut of whatever the f*ck Grabot is meant to be, this episode was a sheer romp from beginning to end. There’s no real point in hanging around reminiscing about how episode 5 didn’t quite cut the mustard in terms of exciting content, so let’s focus on what thrills we got served up this week.
Rotator vs Valkyrie
I wasn’t expecting the episode to kick us off with the fight the social media crew described as “one of the best ever”, but that’s exactly what happened. Two veterans, two lethal spinners, two kind of underwhelming opening fights. A statement needed to be made from someone, and Valkyrie delivered, raining down the pain (and sparks) on top of a hapless Rotator for three minutes.
That might be a bit of an unfair description of Rotator, since it actually started off pretty decently. Setting up with a wedge to deflect the blows from Valkyrie away (how ironic), it was working a treat for the opening thirty seconds or so, tipping Valkyrie onto its disc and looking as though it may self-destruct in a matter of seconds. It was basically what I’d predicted would happen. But Leanne Cushing’s bot (for once) didn’t break, the weapon kept working, and it came back all guns blazing on its golden counterpart, which didn’t seem ready for the beating it was getting. Valkyrie targeted Rotator’s tyres with the undercutter, and it worked a treat. Then, after a series of sparks, a huge hit to Rotator’s wedge saw it torn away in one felled swoop. Valkyrie took some noticeable damage to its front in the exchange, so much so we saw Lisa Winter go into the box afterwards to fully assess which bot won on damage. Not since the days of Hypno-Disc fighting 101 have we seen such a thing.
It was a tight, edgy, tactical, spectacular affair, but it was ultimately less even than the damage inspection made it seem. Valkyrie was the clear winner, and finds itself at 2-0 despite an unconvincing opening fight against Tantrum. Meanwhile, Rotator is the latest high-profile bot to fall to 0-2 this season, and finds itself at a very real risk of not making the top 32. Oh Victor, surely not you as well?!
Extinguisher vs Gigabyte
A spectacular opening fight, a pretty predictable second. Both these bots may have looked equally unconvincing in their opening fights, but if this was set up as Gigabyte’s redemption, it grabbed its chance by the horns and took out its frustration on the fire department.
After being spectacularly decapitated in a drunken display against Copperhead, John Mladenik and co.’s consistently underperforming terror found itself up against Extinguisher, a bot you’d expect to be underperforming, and one getting a surprising amount of screen time at that. After a one-hit KO against Perfect Phoenix, things weren’t going to get easier for the plucky red fire truck, and after this they’ll probably be wishing they had stayed at home. Either the producers think a little too highly of this bot, or they’re just this season’s cannon fodder.
It wasn’t quite another one-hit KO this time, but Gigabyte took Extinguisher to the cleaners, launching it across the box, shredding tyres, and bending its hammer all out of whack. It never really stood a chance. Gigabyte comes back strongly to 1-1. whilst Extinguisher is probably already in the nearest bin bag.
Slap Box vs Sharko
From the underperformers to a clash of the underwhelmers, it’s generic four-wheel brick Slap Box, up against recycled aqua predator Sharko. Two outsiders for the bracket, two bots searching for their first win of the season.
It may be a bit harsh to call them underwhelming machines, seeing as Sharko is a gorgeous art bot with the brilliant Ed Robinson at its helm, it’s just that its opening fight with SMEEEEEEEEEEEEE made me feel the need to inject caffeine into my veins to make it through the rest of the episode. And while I’m not wholly won over by Slap Box’s design, it was up against f*cking Tombstone in its first ever fight, so I’m willing to cut it some slack.
Admittedly, the slack-cutting didn’t pay off for the first portion of the fight, with Sharko getting some decent clamps in and batting Slap Box, which looked as though it was having trouble getting purchase on the arena floor, away with its tail. It was all going swimmingly for the shark, until a surprise flaming suplex from outta nowhere saw the fight turn completely. Slap Box carried its menacing marine fiend around the box, flipping it over on its back a few times for good measure. Sharko then seemed to pack it in, and that was all she wrote. At least Ed had a fun time with it.
Sharko looks like it’ll be bowing out of robot combat without a championship appearance, but that win puts Slap Box into decent contention for a spot in said bracket. They should probably get some sick new wheels for next time though.
Mad Catter vs Malice
Providing our entertainment for the midway stage are two bots who have surprised everyone this season, myself being no exception. Once this fight were to end, we’d have our first 3-0 competitor of the season. Who’d have thought we’d be saying that about Mad Catter, prone to falling apart last season, and Malice, a newcomer that looks a bit like Infernal Contraption’s distant emo cousin.
But how wrong I have turned out to be. Both have been pretty awesome this season, and both could smell that coveted 3-0 record within their grasp. This would basically guarantee a top 8 seeding at least for the bracket, and it promised to be a spectacular event. Well, it should have been, but it was over in less than a minute. A few solid wedge-weapon impacts saw a few sparks exchanged, before a one-in-a-million hit saw Malice tilt upwards from Mad Catter’s wedge and upend itself on its back. I predicted a Mad Catter win, but I sure didn’t expect it to happen like this. Literally, who managed to see this coming? If Malice had like, one small screw or something sticking out the back the fight would have carried on as normal. But the cat left Malice for dead, taunting it as the minibot Gassy Cat got to work being, well, pretty gassy.
I also liked how Martin shouted “A win for a hammer bot!” at the end of the fight, like it was some sort of incredible anomaly that barely happens on BattleBots. They also didn’t use their hammer once. Gotta love the guy.
Atom #94 vs Tantrum
Ray Billings shouldn’t teach robotics. There, I said it.
The Tombstone builder’s “students”, the Atom #94 team, can boast a pretty impressive bot for a gang of newcomers, especially since the robot combat scene in India is still in its infancy. You’d think that being under the guidance of the builder of one of the greatest bots of the modern era would be a blessing, but a dreary beating at the hands of Big Dill left much to the imagination. Tantrum meanwhile, still persevering for a chance at the Nut after two years of doing approximately f*ck all, actually looked impressive against Valkyrie, dominating the fight before succumbing to the damage it sustained. It was an unfortunate loss that regardless showed plenty of potential.
Initially, it didn’t look like that potential would be recognised here, with Atom #94 flinging the plucky orange box halfway across the arena. A quick self-right let us see the anger in Tantrum’s eyes, and Aren Hill and his crew quickly went to work on Atom #94, shunting it about the box and turning it over with a little jab of its spinner. One final ram into the arena wall did the team from India in, and it ended up being a fairly straight-forward outcome. Tantrum gets a well-deserved win on the board, while things aren’t looking good for Atom #94, which falls to 0-2 in a disappointing debut campaign. Do I sense a Ray Billings-themed sabotage in the pits?
Pain Train vs SMEEEEEEEEEEEEE
As I mentioned in the introduction, this episode promised us some of the greatest fights in BattleBots history. This wasn’t one of them.
A fight between two bots that can barely control themselves doesn’t exactly sound like entertaining television on paper, and I wouldn’t pay good money to see what is essentially the equivalent of two handicapped mudskippers crawl in the general direction of each other for three minutes in the vague hope of seeing one of them make a mild amount of contact with the other. But hey, if the beetleweight equivalent can be entertaining, why not the heavyweight.
Sadly, my expectations were quickly dashed here. SMEEEEEEEEEEEEE managed to slog its way to victory over Sharko in its opening fight, whilst Pain Train could barely move itself in a straight line against SlamMow. It was pretty much the same here. SMEEEEEEEEEEEEE managed to wrap itself around Evan Arias’ bot multiple times without really being able to do anything, save for a few nicks to its opponents side. Pain Train meanwhile did manage to get its weapon up to speed, making some marks in SMEEEEEEEEEEEEE’s wedge and then suddenly taking out one of its opponents’ under-cutters. Like, it literally tore the thing from its bearings without warning. It suddenly looked like Pain Train’s fight to lose, except for its next course of action to be its drum spinner just falling off. I swear, you couldn’t make this sh*t up.
The fight fizzled out to a bland ending, and Pain Train took the win on a split decision. For a battle that was dull and strange to a near-surreal level, I really shouldn’t be so salty about the decision especially for one I rate a little as SMEEEEEEEEEEEEE. I respect the design, and the builder is clearly a talented guy, but I’ve had no enjoyment watching it fight this season. However, to my mind at least, it was infinitely more controlled than Pain Train was, I’d say it was the more aggressive, and while you could say that Pain Train could take the damage points, it’s surely not sizeable enough for it to take the whole fight.
I’ll leave it there before we get embroiled in another rant about the judges, so let’s just acknowledge how both teams are now at 1-1, and are in with an outside chance of making it to the bracket.
Uppercut vs SawBlaze
Well, here it is. We’ve had a lot to get through, some great fights, some quality carnage, but this is it. We were told this was going to be incredible, and it’s not often main events are hyped up as much as this one. Did it live up to the hype? You bet it did.
The two bots from MIT came in to the fight at 1-0 after two of the most impressive wins we’ve seen all season. SawBlaze pummeled fellow favourites Whiplash into a submission so severe we haven’t seen them since the opening episode, whilst outsiders Uppercut tossed one half of Gemini clean out of the arena before ripping a wheel out of the other half in two hits. These bots aren’t to be messed with.
They found themselves in a fight that was never going to last the full three minutes, and after about seven seconds it became apparent why this was hyped up so much. SawBlaze accidentally exposed itself to the front of Uppercut, which subsequently sent it careening over the arena wall. Jamison Go managed to wriggle his bot free, but then we bore witness to probably the most spectacular thing BattleBots has ever seen. Uppercut charges back in and hits SawBlaze’s fuel tank for their flamethrower, resulting in a massive explosion that engulfs the arena in flames. An explosion so intense the judges, who were right in front of it, said they could feel the heat through the arena. My personal favourite thing about it is the close up the editors showed us of Jason Bardis’ reaction, and how they had to cut away before he could finish the “f*ck” that he’d started.
A couple more hits later and SawBlaze was a mangled heap on the floor. For a bot that I’d dismissed as either never or barely making it into the top 32 this year, Uppercut has just come out of nowhere to become one of, if not the most, powerful and feared contestants in the whole field. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that, watching last season’s play-off rumble between Uppercut, Railgun MAX and Bloodsport, that two of these three are going to be the favourites for the Giant Nut next year. And yet, here we are.
Uppercut secures a stunning win to move to 2-0, whilst SawBlaze drops to 1-1, but will most likely still make the bracket in light of its performance against Whiplash.
And there we have it guys, the iron curtain falls on another review of BattleBots 2020. And what an episode we had. In a nice change of pace from all the controversy that’s been flying about (unless anyone wants to join me in getting justice for SMEEEEEEEEEEEEE), we had sparks galore, a beautiful balancing act, and a f*cking explosion that looked straight off of Brainiac. A good time was truly had by all. Including myself, with a score of 5/7 predictions correct this week, I can hold my head high with another successful week of robotic fortune telling.
Next week, according to an apparently psychic TV guide from an undisclosed location within the United States, we’ve got three battles already confirmed; Whiplash vs Gruff, Hypershock vs Mammoth, and Beta vs Rusty. A lot of food for thought already, and at least two fights to ponder over a potential winner for. Depends if Beta fires its hammer this time, I guess.
Thanks as always for watching, folks. Remember to give us a like and a follow on your preferred platform, be it through this website or through Twitter @robosocks14, or maybe you’d like to give us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or not, that’s cool too I guess (sobs into 3am coffee).
Take care everyone, and see you for some power rankings very soon.