BattleBots 2020: Episode 7 in Review

Hey all you cool bots and comrades, it’s ya boi from The Robot Soccer League here to deliver your weekly dose of BattleBots review goodness. And this week sure was a good one. For once, my life is made easy, in a week with no controversy and straight-forward outcomes, this is what we would call in the writing industry as a “pleasant middle ground”. That’s not to say we didn’t have any entertainment, far from it in fact. We saw backflips galore, a show-stopping main event, and the triumphant return of Rusty. Finally, in a world that makes less and less sense every day, things are starting to feel normal again. For now, at least.

After last week’s prediction extravaganza that resulted in a solid 5-2 record, I was quietly confident going into this week that I could turn out another good showing. How successful was I? Was this week as “predictable” as first thought? Were we going to see any earth-shattering, logic-defying upsets that would rock me to my core and put me off doing any predictions ever again?

All great questions, all about to be answered in swift and efficient fashion.

Captain Shrederator vs Axe Backwards 

Kicking off with one of the many fights that had been billed as “in this episode”, we had the battle of the unreliable spinners, namely the “seems-good-but-isn’t-really” walking patriotism trigger Captain Shrederator, against however you so wish to describe Axe Backwards.

Now, before the episode aired, I’d made a point of Axe Backwards finding new and creative ways to get itself destroyed against almost every new opponent it faces. I wasn’t expecting much from it, so imagine my surprise when Kurt Durjan and co. entered the box and actually put up a half decent fight! The little wedge thing they entered with did a reasonably good job at keeping Shrederator at bay, although it didn’t really do much by way of damage itself.

Shrederator stayed working for once and eased into the fight taking pot shots aplenty and nibbling away at its opponents’ sides. And then, against all odds, Axe Backwards found yet another way to self-capitulate, as it saw a wheel completely ripped asunder. And that was all she wrote. Not that Shrederator seemed to care, as it kept spinning for about another hour after Axe Backwards as KO’d. A decent showing from the Captain, it’s refreshing to see it actually work after all these years. As for Axe Backwards, nothing new, back to the pits to drown its sorrows in milk.

“This fight’s pretty ev- wait no, it’s over”

P1 vs Copperhead 

Exciting developments before fight two electric boogaloo went ahead, as we learned of the untelevised fights from this season! Obviously this is nothing new for the show, but given that we’ve had six full episodes without a mention of them, as that we’re getting at least seven fights an episode this season, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’d be seeing every bit of action that had unfurled this season. However, that would mean having to sit through P1 vs Chronos, so I think a highlights reel was the correct decision here. 

We won’t be seeing the full highlights of P1’s first-ever main show win just yet, but it gives it a sudden boost of status going into the fight. Its opponent, Copperhead, however, also sits at 1-0 after destroying Gigabyte in its opening fight. Even with a win to its name, P1 was always going to have its work cut out. And it did.

Two hits was all it took for Copperhead to claim its second win of the season, tossing its racing car opponent up into the air, with the force of its return to earth rendering it immobile after about 15 seconds of fighting. The P1 team can look as annoyed as they want, but this was never really going to be their fight, was it? Copperhead goes to 2-0 and looks mighty impressive. P1 falls to an apparent 1-1, its hopes at a top 32 spot looking vague at best.

Finally we’ve got flying cars

Beta vs Rusty

We waited long enough for the return of Rusty. We waited long enough for a good hit from Beta. This wasn’t the way we wanted them to come back, but in this fight we got both of them. 

It’s impressive enough that Rusty could go into this fight matching Beta’s 1-0 record, even if that victory was by way of Sporkinok being a little bit useless. But this was almost as much of a mismatch as when Tottenham travelled to Marine in the FA Cup a couple of weeks back. Beta boasts the most powerful hammer in the whole tournament, and regardless of the mess its victory over Rotator has caused, it remains one of the most feared competitors on the show this season.

Rusty was never going to win this fight, but credit to it, it lasted longer than I think most of us thought it was going to. Admittedly that was mostly due to Beta ramming it into the wall instead of bringing the hammer down, but just as it looked as though we were going to witness a nonsensical case of deja vu, Rusty had its back caved in by a mighty blow from Beta’s weapon. A couple hits and it was completely gone, although it did, surprisingly, look as though something was still working inside of Rusty, but not enough to prevent the countdown. Beta eases its way to a 2-0, and as for the legendary David Eaton and Rusty, it’s looking more like a case of “enjoy it while it lasts”.

Maybe the good hits weren’t late – maybe we were all just early?

Hypershock vs Mammoth 

In a long line of fights in this episode that could be described as “predictable” and caused many of us to think “why are they doing this to us?”, this was the fight I looked to in hopes of a spectacular upset. Given that Mammoth has already pulled off one astonishing victory over HUGE already this season, and that Hypershock is one of the most notoriously unreliable bots in the field, the stars seemed aligned for another major scalp from Ricky Willems and his team of robosapiens. 

However, the complete opposite happened. Mammoth’s huge spinning bar had the adverse effect on Hypershock as it did on HUGE, and seemed to fling the giant gangly bot away from Will Bales’ RC car instead of doing anything actually damaging. It looked kinda hopeless all throughout, from the first instance of Hypershock tearing a front support bar off, to slicing into the lipo batteries and leaving Mammoth in a puddle of mist. 

Smoked mammoth, anyone?

Proving that you should never put faith in the underdogs, Mammoth slips to 1-1, throwing all sorts of questions about whether or not its victory over HUGE was nothing more than a fluke, or whether it justifies a spot in the top 32. As for Hypershock, it also now sits at 1-1, but I think will now be sitting prettier than its gargantuan opponent in the quest for a spot in the bracket.

Sporkinok vs SubZero 

It’s pretty incredible that I could look at a fight containing the legendarily underwhelming SubZero and think “yeah, it’s got this”, such has been the weird and wonderful nature of this past year.

Admittedly, this is mainly due to Sporkinok doing approximately f*ck all in its aforementioned opening fight with Rusty, whilst SubZero sent Grabot careening through the air with the might of 1,000 Spartans. It was a bit disappointing to see that it had been drawn up against another bot which, on evidence, also falls into the “useless” category, especially since its first fight was also against an unproven, albeit powerful, newcomer in Jackpot.

This was always going to go the way of SubZero, and that’s exactly what happened. It did look a bit erratic and uncontrolled at times, but it still did a great job of getting under Sporkinok and letting it feel the wrath of the flipper. Not that Lilith Specht and co.’s bot really put up much of a fight. Considering we’ve already seen the power of Beta’s hammer this episode, the tapping power of Sporkinok’s “weapon” looks laughable by comparison. SubZero moves to an impressive, though slightly questionable 2-1 record, as Sporkinok sinks to 0-2, and already looks out of top 32 contention.

*aggressive yawning*

Tracer vs Bale Spear

I hope you guys had a double-bill of untelevised fight recaps down on your respective bingo cards for this one, because that’s exactly what we got here! They’re really letting us have it with the highlight reels today.

In the recaps, we learn that Tracer wasn’t just unceremoniously flipped over against Ribbot, but the exact same thing happened against HiJinx, meaning this is actually its third and final fight, and it currently sits at 0-2. Meanwhile, before the mighty Bale Spear can make its late surge towards the Giant Nut, we learn that it lost an opening fight against Deadlift. So nothing new there, then.

I saw quite a lot of people legitimately claim that they thought Bale Spear would win this fight, because for some reason Tracer has a massive hate train attached to it, and people seem to have written it off completely after a couple of disappointing showings. Yes, it’s not been brilliant, but I’d still have thought any rational person would look at a “powerful spinner vs literal box” match-up and come to a respectable conclusion.

After Bale Spear showed some sense of potential (read: it made it out of the starting square), Tracer went to work with a measured display of slicing and dicing to make sure it didn’t make it a hat-trick of defeats by being flipped over. Not that it takes a whole lot to defeat Bale Spear usually, but it did what it had to do. That leaves Tracer at an overall 1-2 record, meaning it could theoretically make the top 32, but given the level of quality on display this year that might not be enough. Meanwhile Bale Spear begins its belated title challenge by entering at 0-2. FARMAGEDDON!

Nothing that witty happened in this fight tbh

Whiplash vs Gruff

And so, after an innocent night without any controversy or need for the judges, we arrive at the apex of the evening – the mighty Matt Vasquez and his wonderful Whiplash, against the super Sam McAmis and his giddy goat Gruff. 

Both sides faced tough opposition in their first fight, yet both had very different outcomes. Whiplash was outdriven, outclassed, out of sorts against SawBlaze, whilst Gruff torched Hypershock to a smoldering crisp. It looked as though we’d be in for an intriguing, enthralling contest, and that’s exactly what we got. 

It might not have been as even as many of us may have thought, though. I predicted Whiplash to win, but they made this fight, for the most part, look easy. It was a virtuoso driving display from the Vasquez clan, taking out both of Gruff’s flamethrowers after an early threat, and then taking Gruff all over the arena, lifting it up, throwing it into the walls, and causing damage to its underside. Even when Whiplash’s spinner went down and Gruff made a brief comeback, this one never looked in doubt. A wonderful response to a dreary opening performance which sees Whiplash level up their record at 1-1, and defeat leaves Gruff on the same standing. Both are still looking good for the top 32, though.

How the tables can turn

And that about does it for another round of reviewing. Maybe not as exciting as last week, maybe it didn’t have the shocks we were expecting/hopeful for, but that was just fun for all involved. Awesome driving, sky-high flipper action, and finally, some good hits. And if it weren’t for Mammoth I’d be on a perfect 7/7 for the week. Curse my luck, but 6/7 is still something I’d gladly take.

Thanks as ever for reading, everyone. Remember that The Robot Soccer League has more ridiculous opinions for you to read on Twitter @robosocks14, and feel free to drop us an e-mail at therobotsoccerleague@gmail.com. It’d be great to hear from you.

Stay safe comrades, and I’ll see you next time.

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