Good afternoon, comrades. It’s that time again – BattleBots is back, and it’s bigger, better, and badder than ever before. Supposedly. We’re only three episodes in and we’ve already had thrills, spills, snakes, no rakes, and fire. So much fire.
I should start by addressing that, for those of you who follow by blog religiously (and let’s face it, that’s probably no-one), you’ll have noticed there haven’t been any previews, predictions, or episode reviews so far this season. That’s not because my interest in BattleBots has waned, far from it. The reasoning for it is two-fold; firstly, I’ve given in to the demands of capitalism and have actually started a proper job, meaning my time is both fleeting and precious. Secondly, I’m attempting to branch out into other content on this blog, following the exploits of by beloved Norwich City, and working on in-depth historical articles in the meantime. That means coverage of this season won’t be as detailed, but I’ve decided to keep the power rankings going on a weekly basis, since that was easily the most fun and controversial part of me following the 2020 season. Once the knockout tournament starts, then we’ll see if we can get some predictions and reviews going.
Anyway, as I’ve mentioned, it’s been a rip-roaring start to the season. Bots have been launched into the air, the upper deck has made its triumphant debut, and, to the relief of everyone, there’s been no controversy. Not even a hint. The closest thing to it I can think of is the P1 vs Valkyrie fight, but even then Valkyrie left the arena barely working and also on fire. That’s as tight a call as I can think of, and long may it continue. The big-hitters have also come back, with Tombstone, Icewave, Witch Doctor, Lockjaw, the champions End Game, and so many others all on display in the first three episodes. Some have had a better start than others to say the least.
Naturally, that means we should be getting some power rankings going. I’m not entirely sure how the tournament is working this season, but according to the tournament rules, each time will fight up to four times for a spot in the top 16. If that’s accurate, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be, then we’ve got a very competitive field this year. I’d guess that something similar to the 2019 play-offs would be introduced to determine the 9-16 rankings, but either we wait and see how this plays out, or someone more well-educated than me can let me know in the comments, in case we actually do know what’s going on with the format.
The power rankings start now, since 48 of the 62 entrants have already taken to the box, and we’ll surely be seeing some bots making their second appearances of the season in the next episode. There are still bots yet to fight who will most likely trouble the top 16, such as Skorpios, Perfect Phoenix, Lucky, and Blade, but others will most likely be left on the periphery. So we may as well look at (in my opinion) how those 48 currently rank. The main things to consider here are the bots’ records, the nature of their victory/defeat, and the quality of opposition. You’ll notice they’re currently divided up between 1-0 and 0-1 records. Some of you might complain about this, but the way I see it those with a literal 0% winning record naturally have a lower chance of currently making the bracket than those with a 100% winning record. Things will obviously change the more fights we see throughout the season, but for now that’s how things be.
But that’s enough rambling out of me. Let’s go go power rankings.
1. SawBlaze (1-0)
To my mind, the most impressive bot from the opening round of fights. Up against the returning Minotaur, another bot hoping to go far this season, SawBlaze showed how truly terrifying it can be on its day. While it took a couple of hits from Minotaur’s drum, Go & co. came back in sensational style, raining down the pain onto the boys from Brazil, to the point where Minotaur was without a drum and on fire. To win so convincingly is one thing, to do it against fellow Giant Nut contenders is different gravy. I misremembered them getting a KO. That’s how good they were. I know they didn’t in fact get a KO, but this victory was as good as one. The early pace-setters for this season.
2. Whiplash (1-0)
A close second to SawBlaze, it’s the other bot I always pin my hopes on to win the Giant Nut only to be disappointed somewhere down the line. Whiplash came mighty close to victory last year, and if their opening fight is anything to go by, they’re determined to go one better this season. Another masterclass in driving saw Bloodsport neutralised, and ultimately overturned and left on the upper deck. Humiliation for last year’s second seeds, but the fact the victory was so dominant against such a high-quality opponent gives Whiplash a deserved second place seed for now.
3. End Game (1-0)
The champs are back, and they want everyone to know about it! Those shades really speak for themselves, don’t they? After winning last season’s Giant Nut after two years of inconsistency, End Game has a lot to prove this year, and KO’ing Hydra is definitely a good starting point. It wasn’t exactly a vintage performance, being thrown about 10 feet in the air at one point and fortunately not receiving any major damage, but it came back strongly enough to leave Hydra in the corner a broken mess, like me after a Friday night out. Last year they started with Tombstone, this year it’s Hydra. Who’s next?
4. Uppercut (1-0)
I never thought I’d be singing Uppercut’s praises so much after such a mediocre 2019 season, but boy do these guys know how to pack a punch. Gigabyte ended last season looking pretty ferocious and came into this season, in my opinion at least, as one of the favourites to go far. So for Uppercut to leave them so battered and bruised in the space of about a minute speaks volumes as to how far they’ve come. They were so unfortunate to be knocked out at the last 16 stage last season, and now they’re back with a bang.
5. Mad Catter (1-0)
Similar to Uppercut, but to an even greater extent, Mad Catter came into this season determined to prove their 2020 campaign was no fluke. It doesn’t look like it. Yes, Yeti has been entirely rebuilt and hasn’t been tested that much, but it’s still a bot with a high pedigree. You wouldn’t think it given the state it left the arena in. I’m not sure how far Mad Catter will go this season, but it looks like we’re in for another spectacular showing from Martin Mason and the rest of his cult. Oh yeahhhhhhhhhh!
6. Black Dragon (1-0)
As much as I love Black Dragon, I wasn’t that impressed by their 2020 showing. Yes, they gave us some great moments, but their performances were hampered by a lack of consistency and effectiveness in their weapon. Things appear to be different this year, as in its opening fight it totally bullied the legendary Icewave to claim a surprisingly straight-forward KO. A knockout over a high-class opponent means it takes a high ranking straight out of the gate.
7. Riptide (1-0)
Whoa! Who is Riptide and where did this come from?! The newbies, fighting with their first-ever heavyweight (I think) just took out my beloved HUGE in about 30 seconds. Like, it was barely even a fight, they just charged straight into them and tangled them up in the screws. For a first-ever fight, to beat a bot that’s never failed to make it into the championship bracket, and to do it so convincingly, that’s mighty impressive. Let’s see what they’ve got going forwards!
8. Fusion (1-0)
The forgotten Ewert brother, Reese (who’s really missing a trick by not naming his bot Reese’s Pieces or something equally witty) returns to show Fusion is for more than just show. I was never that convinced by the bot last year, mainly because it looked too easy to use its energy against itself, and it also caught fire more than once. Furthermore, its only wins weren’t exactly against testing opposition. But hey, they came back to prove me wrong, and by gum they’ve gone a long way to doing it. The mighty spinner of Cobalt looked irrelevant during their opening fight, and left with a series of Fusion-shaped holes carved into to the front wedge. A great start, maybe we’ll see some Ewert-on-Ewert action (ew) later in the series?
9. Hypershock (1-0)
Hypershock really has been around the block. A contestant in every series since the 2015 reboot, Will Bales has consistently brought a bot that entertains, but leaves a lot to be desired in the arena. If this was the year they wanted to change that, their victory over Slammo! is a pretty good starting point. This was total annihilation, and Slammo’s suplex never looked a threat to Hypershock. There’s a lot of potential for the team to go far this season, and I think we can all agree Will dying his hair is motivation enough for us to want to see this happen.
10. Captain Shrederator (1-0)
This is such a tough one to rank. On the one hand Shrederator, another bot that’s been around since 2015 but has barely done so much as win a fight, just took down the former champion Tombstone. On the other, it also broke its weapon (again) and won more due to circumstance more than actual skill. Still, to beat the King of Kinetic Energy straight out of the gate is a high benchmark to set, and leaves Brian Nave with a lot of expectation for the rest of the season. A place in the top 10 is the least it deserves.
11. Deep Six (1-0)
This. Was. Awesome. It’s been a cold and lonely BattleBox without the presence of Deep Six, a bot that’s capable in equal measure of destroying itself as much as its opponents. Fortunately for its opening fight it decided to take the latter option, taking Pain Train apart before setting it on fire in approximately four hits. It was an awesome display, but I have my doubts how it will fare against opposition of a higher calibre. Let’s just savour the win for now.
12. Mammoth (1-0)
Another big’un of a bot, another one with a big win to its name. Another one looking to prove its Cinderella run to the top 16 in 2020 was far from a fluke, Mammoth came roaring back into action this season by flinging HiJinx all over the arena before eventually knocking one of its wheels off. Exemplary stuff from the Willems posse, and high standards have been set for its upcoming fights.
13. Tantrum (1-0)
Even without Aren Hill at the controls this year, Tantrum continues to defy all odds to demonstrate what an absolute beast its become. Last year’s semi-finalists completely took this fight to Malice, disabling its weapon early on before shunting it all over the box, nearly leaving it stuck on the arena wall. The only thing keeping it from being higher is the fact the fight went to the judges, so if Tantrum can find that knockout punch in its upcoming fights, expect it to rise higher up the leaderboard. Who remembers when it was a sacrificial bot for Tombstone? How things have changed.
14. Ribbot (1-0)
Hippity hoppity, your bot is now our property! Yeah that’s the best pun I could think of. The point is that David Gin and co. returned from their quarter-final run to an easy win over the Vasquez’s second bot, Defender. It was a good victory, but it didn’t have a whole lot to do against a new bot. I’m sure we’ll see fireworks fly in its next few fights.
15. Copperhead (1-0)
Now under the dictatorship of the legendary YouTuber Robert Cowan and his snake-wielding wife Kimberley, Copperhead hissed back into action with a hard-fought victory over Lockjaw. Last year’s third seeds went out in the last 32 and will be looking for a deeper run this year, and this win will set them in good stead to achieve that. Lockjaw was almost unrecognisable at the end of the fight, but Copperhead only won via a split decision after suffering from drive and weapon issues. The weapon still looks deadly though – when it works.
16. Rotator (1-0)
The robotic embodiment of the song “Golden Brown” is back yet again, spinning its way to a hard-fought victory over Kraken. It did some serious damage to the deep sea beast, but only after spending most of the fight stuck in its mouth, and had to be separated after a while. It didn’t look at its brilliant best, hence its spot in 16th, but expect more sparks to fly in the future.
17. Claw Viper (1-0)
A consistently inconsistent 2020 season saw Claw Viper miss out on a spot in the top 32, and they’ve looked to iron out some of the drive issues that plagued it last year. This is a pretty decent start, with a dominant victory over Pardon My French. Like, totally dominant. However, Pardon My French is also an untested rookie which spent the fight barely working. And the fight was limited to a YouTube audience. I say “limited,” I mean more that it was cut from the main show, which usually doesn’t bode well. We’ll see though.
18. Blip (1-0)
Aren Hill’s latest cuddly-yet-monstrous creation, Blip is a flywheel-powered flipper, bringing yet more new tech to a show already doused in pure tech. TECHNOLOGY. It managed to beat another advanced piece of technology in the guise of Christ the Rust-deemer (i.e. Rusty), which means it’s lowered to 18th for blasphemy. Purer behaviour will see it move up the ladder.
19. Shatter (1-0)
It was a bit surprising to see Shatter limited to a YouTube fight given its run to the quarter-finals last year. But at least it meant people from outside the USA had legitimate access to the power of the hammer. It was another pretty straightforward win, given that Subzero’s flipper decided to give up and go home, but I’m hoping Adam Wrigley and co. get more screen time to show off their big metal arm.
20. P1 (1-0)
OK, so this may be a controversial placement, given that P1 literally just took out Valkyrie by setting it on fire. And it was a deserved victory too. Tight, yet deserved. However, given that it was a pretty even fight that went to the judges, where the victor was spinning around in circles after losing a wheel, I can’t really put it any higher than this for now. Call me judas, a traitor, a curse on humanity (which I am anyway), but P1 will have to do more to convince me it’s worth a spot in the bracket.
21. Gruff (1-0)
Gruff frustrates me. It’s durable, it’s aggressive, it’s hard to control, it breaks down, it’s either on fire, or just has fire coming out of it. Its first fight of 2021 against the rookie Switchback demonstrated its tendency to skid about, have pauses in driving, and the whole range of inconsistencies which don’t seem to have been ironed out over the past two to three years. It also only got its KO due to Switchback flipping itself over. I’m hoping for more conviction in the future.
22. Witch Doctor (1-0)
The 2019 runners-up struggled for form in 2020, and would have been hoping to make amends for a disappointing season with a return to their true voodoo form this year. On the basis of its showing against the new, but not exactly improved, DUCK!, they have some work to do. They did some damage and arguably had more control of the fight, but their weapon broke after a well-placed slam that relegated them to push-bot duty for about half the fight. If we see the weapon in play more, and remind us of the damage they can dish out, they should be on course for another spot in the top 16.
23. Blacksmith (1-0)
Al Kindle returns with not just a flaming hammer, but a flaming hammer SPINNER. Don’t adjust your screens, that’s literally what he’s done. His attempts to win over the judges seem to be paying dividends right now, claiming a hard-fought victory over Free Shipping. It wasn’t the most convincing display of the power of the flaming hammer spinner, however, so let’s hope it gets more chances to wreak havoc on its opponents.
24. Jackpot (1-0)
The lowest-ranked of the winning robots so far, the cheapest thing to come out of Vegas since (insert witty pun here), Jackpot, returns with a victory over Deadlift. It wasn’t decisive, it spent half the fight not really working, and the fight itself was worthy only of a spot on YouTube. It did dish out some serious damage to Deadlift though, and we saw an actually effective minibot! By no means am I writing Jackpot off, I just hope they get their drive issues sorted for the next fight.
That’s all the winners – and no controversial decisions! Now onto the 0-1 bots…
25. Lockjaw (0-1)
The bot with the most convincing loss so far, Donald Hutson has been around long enough for us to know his bot is far from finished this season. It took a beating from Copperhead, but still managed to come back and force a split judges’ decision, despite a wheel hanging off, being down a weapon, and being on fire. A testament to its never-say-die attitude, I think we’ll be seeing Lockjaw challenge for a bracket spot in the near future.
26. Hydra (0-1)
The return of the most hated man on television (in the words of his own brother no less), Jake Ewert and Hydra looked like they may have the champs End Game on the ropes when they sent them careening through the air in the opening seconds of their fight. It wasn’t to be though, and Hydra ended up in a pile in the corner. It still had the champions on the ropes though, and we all know what the flipper can do, so it keeps a respectably high loser’s placing for now.
27. Minotaur (0-1)
The boys from Brazil are back, but this wasn’t the start they were after. A promising opening to their fight against SawBlaze quickly faded away as a fatal blow rendered their weapon useless, with the bot on literal fire. They still kept going and tried to stay aggressive, and look like one of the losing bots that could still go far this year.
28. Bloodsport (0-1)
The no.2 seeds from last year were outclassed by Whiplash in their opening fight, but that’s by no means a disgrace. The weapon still looks deadly, and they’ll have enough opportunities to stake a claim for a spot in the bracket later on in the show.
29. Free Shipping (0-1)
Gary Gin’s block of Red Leicester returns with more forks and more fire than is necessary for a block of cheese to have. It gave a good fight against Blacksmith, although things were left wanting in the damage department. If it keeps up its control and aggression, and maybe finds a knockout factor, who knows?
30. Kraken (0-1)
Kraken just can’t catch a break, can it? Four ridiculously tough fights last year, and their reward for it is a tussle with Rotator. They did all they could, and gave a good showing of it, but once their teeth were ripped away, so too were their hopes of a victory. I’m really hoping they get given an easier run of fights this time around.
31. Valkyrie (0-1)
They may have lost, but boy can they do some damage, eh? Leanne Cushing’s bot may have left the arena in a smouldering heap, but we got to see some flashes of why it was crowned last year’s “Most Destructive” bot. Long may it continue, with some wins as an added bonus.
32. DUCK! (0-1)
As much as I love DUCK! and its ultimate edgelord creator Hal Rucker, I’m not a fan of its new design. I get what they were going for, but in its fight against Witch Doctor the drive seemed all over the place and the weapon looked as though it could barely lift anything. That said, they still managed to disable the former runner-up’s weapon, and took the fight to the judges with some good control. I’m just doubtful how far this redesign will carry them.
33. Tombstone (0-1)
Is the King dead? No, not yet anyway. Another bot looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2020, the 2016 champ underwent a full rebuild with the aim of recapturing the glory days of firing robot body parts into the plexiglass. Unfortunately, one of the blades on its weapon snapped off early on, leaving it unbalanced and, eventually, at the mercy of the fire elementals. Don’t write Ray off just yet, though. He’s a former champ, the bot is completely new, sometimes things just be like that. We’ll see some carnage soon enough. Hopefully.
34. Yeti (0-1)
The Gibson-Carlberg dream team didn’t exactly get off to a flying start this season, unless you count their bot being tossed 10 feet into the air by Mad Catter before eventually being immobilised. Much like Tombstone, however, the bot is a completely new build, and things may need some working out before we jump to any rash conclusions. They’ll need to turn things around quick, though.
35. Cobalt (0-1)
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: the spinner on Cobalt is too high up to do any real damage. I don’t care how powerful it is, if a bot has to scale Everest before making contact with it it’s not going to do much good, is it? Hopefully the good folks at the Robotic Death Company will find a way to fix this issue, since that little lance thing seemed to hinder them against Fusion more than anything. I hope so, because that spinner is lethal.
36. Gigabyte (0-1)
Speaking of the Robotic Death Company, their main bot, Gigabyte, finds itself just below their latest investment in the rankings. It really looked as though it was getting up to speed last season before Hydra toppled it, so I had high hopes for them this season. I still do, this was only one fight after all, but to end it in a corner at Uppercut’s mercy isn’t the ideal way to start the year.
37. Malice (0-1)
Bunny’s bouncing back with a new and improved Malice, complete with new weaponry and a small nugget on its rear to keep it from doing its balancing act again. Neither of these features came in handy against Tantrum though, with its weapon stopped in the opening seconds, and the nugget doing little to prevent it being shunted about the box for three straight minutes. Here’s to bigger and better fights in the future.
38. Icewave (0-1)
It’s been a while since we aw Icewave in action, and I thought we wouldn’t be seeing it again since its peak was way back in 2015. It’s had its moments since then, but the more it’s fought, the more it’s begun to look outdated, if not still incredibly powerful. Its fight against Black Dragon looked testament to this, the young upstarts making light work of their weapon before wearing out their drive. I don’t know how much we’ll be seeing of this legendary bot the further on we go.
39. Deadlift (0-1)
Things started well for the “whaddup” dudes from the Deadlift team, with Jackpot struggling for traction and seemingly being outdone by their opponents’ low ground clearance. The tables turned once Jackpot found its footing, however, and Deadlift left the box in a mangled mess. Such a defeat confined to the annuls of YouTube may not bode well, but they were in control for at least half the fight, so there are signs of promise from a team that struggled last year.
40. HUGE (0-1)
Has HUGE been sussed out? A bot that was so different and unpredictable when it burst on to the scene in 2018 now looks a shadow of its former self. You might call he nature of its latest defeat unfortunate, but the fact remains it was beaten by a rookie bot within about 30 seconds without putting up much of a fight. But I’m hopeful the HUGE boys will be able to turn it around from here.
41. Subzero (0-1)
Probably the most consistently inconsistent bot in the history of consistently inconsistent bots, Subzero looks like a bot that should offer a lot, but delivers very little in the arena. Case in point – its opening fight against Shatter, in which its flipper decided to take the day off and left it at the mercy of Adam Wrigley’s hammer. It’s something we’ve seen all too often from this team, and even if they can move their fights onto the main show, I’m not convinced they’ll be going too far this season.
42. Defender (0-1)
Jason Vasquez’s debut as a strong, independent robot driver didn’t exactly get off to a flying start. Yes, his bot is quite ambitious for a first-time build, and to face off against Ribbot in your opening fight is a pretty tall order. But aside from a few good pins, I’m not sure how much Defender really has to offer. For this season at least.
43. Hijinx (0-1)
The bot that makes me want to travel back to the 80’s and rent Tron on VHS, everyone’s favourite retro owl returns with, sadly, a bit of a whimper. Its low design seemed to work only to Mammoth’s advantage as it tossed Hijinx about effortlessly, before one of its wheels gave way to leave it spinning in a very satisfying circle. It’s hard to tell how the rest of their season will go from here.
44. Switchback (0-1)
Another rookie with a less than stellar debut, Switchback is certainly a cool design, but its weapon did little damage to Gruff before essentially KO’ing itself. Sadly, not one I think we’ll be seeing deeper into the tournament.
45. Slammo! (0-1)
Returning without the “w” since it’s no longer associated with lawnmowers (thanks, copyright), it was clearly the power of the garden that carried Slammo into the top 32 last year, as it looked horribly out of its depth in its opening fight against Hypershock. Maybe it’s suffering an identity crisis? Maybe it’s the new colour scheme? Whatever it is, don’t have much hope for it reaching the tournament stage.
46. Pain Train (0-1)
This is the last time I put my faith in Pain Train. Given his success with Shreddit Bro in the beetleweight category, Evan Arias has duped me into thinking his big boi Shreddit will be “tearing sh*t up” (as the kids would say) in the BattleBots arena. Sadly, last season Pain Train kept falling apart, and in its opening fight against Deep Six it was taken apart and set on fire within four hits. Not to write it off just yet, but there’s always next year.
47. Pardon My French (0-1)
Pardon My French, but that was sh*t.
48. Rusty (0-1)
I didn’t want to have to do this, but our beloved overlord has to hold up the rest of the pack for now. As he so often does anyway, emotionally. David Eaton had to bring the old Rusty out of retirement for this season, and Blip had little choice but to hurl our saviour back into the heavens from whence he came. God speed, Rusty, and don’t get too trashed along the way this season.
And that about does it for the first round of power rankings. Hopefully you didn’t find these placements too controversial, they’re just a matter of opinion, and it’s not like this is the official list of how the bots rank. It should be, but sadly there isn’t much I can do to change that. Anyhow, hope you all enjoyed, and tune in after the next episode for some more juicy rankings to see how much has changed.
Thanks for reading, comrades, and have a wonderful day.