BattleBots: Champions Review

Well, here we are, folks. Five episodes of glorious metal-on-metal, rough-and-tumble action has brought us to this moment. The field has been whittled down to eight remaining bots; the three champions that qualified automatically, and the five bots that had to beat the best to join them. In BattleBots’ own take on the classic Robot Wars: All Stars formula, tonight we find out who is the all-est star of them all.

Tombstone, End Game, and Tantrum, the three active Giant Nut holders, qualified automatically (imagine the mess this episode would be if Bite Force was involved). Joining them are the mighty Hypershock, Ribbot, Glitch, Skorpios, and Witch Doctor. Some of the best drivers, some of the most destructive bots in the field, and a bot currently on a 7-0 career record, this episode promises to be a monumentally epic experience, well and truly one for the ages.

What are we waiting for? I don’t know. Let’s do it.

End Game vs. Ribbot

To kick things off is a fight that really shows how quickly things can change in the BattleBots arena; it’s 2020 champions End Game against most recent number two seeds Ribbot.

These two met for the first time back in 2019, when End Game was still plagued by reliability issues and Ribbot was a rookie made out of foam. Despite featuring an epic moment with End Game punting Ribbot into the wall, it was the frog that just about came out on top there. Now these two square off three years later, two very different beasts.

With End Game now one of the strongest bots in the world, the Ribbot team decided to make a tactical change, ditching their vertical spinner to avoid going weapon-to-weapon and using their undercutter to try and attack End Game’s wheels. To say it backfired would be an understatement. End Game, armed with a big f*ck off plough, had this fight won in two hits, launching Ribbot to the top of the arena before busting its drive and trapping it under the pulverizer. The frog lay belly-up, lifeless, and defeated within about a minute.

A stunning display from End Game, out to prove their exit in the main season to Minotaur was little more than a fluke.

Witch Doctor vs. Glitch

Moving on to probably the most unlikely of match-ups in this all-star brawl, as the two-time runners-up Witch Doctor take on the unbeaten newcomers of Glitch.

Now, I love Glitch. Not only does it look cool as f*ck and it’s weapon hits like Thor’s hammer just ingested 300 shots of caffeine in one go, but for all intents and purposes it just should not be here. It’s spent half its fights getting stuck on the floor and struggling to move and even had to retire from the main competition, but that dastardly weapon it has whacked on its front means it currently sits at 7-0. Every time it comes up against a new opponent, like Uppercut or Rotator, I always think “OK, surely this time,” but that time still hasn’t come.

Then I saw it drawn against Witch Doctor and thought “OK, surely this time.” This time it seemed nothing short of a minor miracle would see Glitch go through. As cool as it is, luck runs out eventually, and in their case it just so happened to be against one of the best drivers in the field.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Witch Doctor in the fight, as they were constantly faced with Glitch’s weapon, and on two or three occasions narrowly avoided hits to their wheels. Then, as expected, Witch Doctor did what no other team up to this point could, and take advantage of Glitch’s drive issues. All it took was a couple of hits to the side and the back, but it was enough to see Glitch laying dormant by the screws as Witch Doctor saw itself safely through to the next stage.

And so Glitch’s fairlytale run finally ends, but it ends without disgrace. I can’t wait to see how it does in the new season.

Hypershock vs. Skorpios

I can’t actually remember if this is the order the fights were fought in, but for some reason it makes sense to structure them this way. Even if it’s not, next up we have a roided-up Hypershock against Skorpios, who’s just happy to be here.

OK, that’s a bit harsh on Skorpios, it’s still one of the most well-armoured, well-driven bots in the entire field. Compared to Hypershock in it’s current form though, well, there isn’t much of a comparison to be honest. Will Bales and co. have been tearing through almost everything they’ve come across at will, and were fresh from severing Gigabyte into several different pieces. Skorpios is fresh from scraping past Bloodsport in a fight where its weapon barely even worked.

With those factors in mind, and Hypershock’s advantage on the ground, this realistically seemed like a no-brainer on the prediction front, and within about 30 seconds I was proven totally right. Three, maybe four hits after the buzzer sounded and Skorpios was out of the arena. Cue Will Bales’ continued surprise that his bot actually kicks ass, even though this is about the fifth time it’s done such a thing this season.

Just like that, Hypershock moves on to fight Witch Doctor.

Tombstone vs. Tantrum

I’ve spoken already about how quickly things can change on BattleBots, and how some bots are just happy to be here tonight. Both statements are adequate descriptions of the two involved in the final first-round match-up, as 2016 champion Tombstone takes on the current holder Tantrum.

When these two first met back in 2018, it was little more than an exhibition fight used to fill the gap between the semi-finals and the grand final. Tantrum was a rookie bot with a spring-loaded spatula, Tombstone was the recently-dethroned champion. Tantrum was a lamb to the slaughter, and the fight gave us the ever-lasting image of one of Tantrum’s fists becoming embedded in the wall.

Now the tables have well and truly turned, with Tantrum having only lost one fight in the past two seasons, to End Game, and Tombstone having spent the last two seasons constantly looking like an outdated relic in a field of constantly advancing bots. That might, again, be a tad harsh on Tombstone, since it’s still rightfully feared among pretty much everyone, but let’s face it, it’s become a lot easier to beat.

Tantrum clearly knew this going into the fight, as they seemed to have a clear game plan of ‘let Tombstone destroy itself before it destroys us’ – and it worked to perfection. Tombstone did manage to get a couple of shots in at Tantrum’s sides which had me worried for the little orange dude, but Tantrum managed to get Tombstone off-balance by the upper deck, leaving it sparking wildly and veering out of control, before Stephen King’s The Mist descended upon the arena, with Tombstone engulfed in a ball of smoke.

The circle of life had been completed, Tantrum had tamed the master. After a disappointing couple of seasons, Tombstone won’t be back for season 7, the first season it hasn’t appeared in since the show was rebooted, but we still have a bunch of memories to look back on. Tantrum marches on.

Witch Doctor vs. Hypershock

So the four semi-finalists are set, and we’re only three fights away from finding out who will win the Golden Bolt. Fight number five sees two of the most destructive bots in the field against each other, with Witch Doctor taking on Hypershock.

In the fight for who gets custody of Technical T-Rex, this really was a tough one to call on paper. Two very similar bots, both in great form, both well-driven, Witch Doctor the more controlled, Hypershock arguably the more destructive. It would surely come down to who could out-maneuver the other, and who would win the ground game.

If Hypershock had a chance to prove itself by taking down one of the really big guns, this was it. And after a few seconds of solid donut action, it drew first blood. The joy was short-lived though, as Witch Doctor came back and chewed up one of Hypershock’s tyres, leaving it with only three wheels. The tyre had, however, somehow become enmeshed within Witch Doctor’s weapon, which gave us the extraordinary sight of Hypershock trying to flop its way over to Witch Doctor for an attack, and Witch Doctor’s weapon out of action because of a big f*ck off wheel sticking out of it.

Sadly for Hypershock their already-narrow corridor of victory closed shut as their next hit dislodged said tyre, and although they were still able to send Witch Doctor hurtling up into the air, it was clear that the fight was only heading in one direction. Witch Doctor charged back and managed to completely immobilise Hypershock, leaving it stranded in the corner, no life coming from anywhere.

Witch Doctor advances to the final, and even if they don’t win, at least they’ve got Technical T-Rex.

End Game vs. Tantrum

Fighting for the right to join Witch Doctor in the final are the two most recent winners of the Giant Nut; 2020 winners End Game and reigning champions Tantrum.

This is actually a rematch of the 2020 semi-finals, when Tantrum ran out of steam and ended up in a ball of smoke, and End Game strode forwards to beat Whiplash in the final. That fight is the last one Tantrum has lost, so if ever there were a better chance for them to exercise old demons, it was here.

The fight started out evenly enough, with both trying to get underneath the other. But before the match started it seemed as though End Game would have the ground advantage, and that’s exactly how it turned out. The first time End Game got underneath Tantrum and set it flying into the wall, there was no letting up. Tantrum tried to come back into it but it was pretty clear that it was all to no avail, especially once its front forks were completely ripped off. Credit to the holders though, they know how to take a punch, and for the first time in the night it went to the judges. The outcome, inevitably, was an End Game victory.

So Tantrum are thwarted again by the Kiwis as End Game moves on to the final. Is this the start of a rivalry for the ages?

Witch Doctor vs. End Game

So folks, this is what it all comes down to. The final to end all finals, the best of the best, the all of the stars. The unstoppable force of End Game meets the immovable object of Witch Doctor (it does actually move very well).

Even if this isn’t for a main championship, both bots have ample reason to be fired up for this fight, other than a trophy just being a trophy. For Witch Doctor, despite reaching the final in both 2019 and 2021, they fell short on both occasions and haven’t won an honour outside of the 2019 RE:Mars event. For End Game, it’s a chance to prove their round of 16 defeat this season was little more than a blip in their quest for total supremacy.

As is commonplace in BattleBots these days, when two four-wheel-drive verts go toe-to-toe with each other, it turns into a battle of who can get underneath who first. End Game came out with two big forks, Witch Doctor decided to just go with their plough and go hell for leather. It worked at first, as a wedgelet was torn off of End Game, but after that it was all End Game. Witch Doctor was scooped up, carried over to the other side of the arena, and launched into the air, before having its self-righter damaged and a whole top panel being ripped away. Just like that, in a little over a minute, Witch Doctor was out for the count, and End Game had won the Golden Bolt.

So End Game reclaims some pride and lifts the Golden Bolt, and also gets the number one seeding for the 2023 season because… this competition is now more important than the main championship? Who knows, at least it’s not like when Bite Force won the Nut and was seeded fourth the next season. As for Witch Doctor, it’s two finals in 2021/22 and two defeats. Maybe this year will be their year.

And so that draws to a close the bedraggled, belated coverage of one of the finest tournaments BattleBots has ever staged, perhaps ever seen in the history of fighting robots. There was carnage, there were upsets, there were thrills and spills aplenty. And at the end of it there was a deserving winner. It’s everything we want to see and more.

BattleBots season 7 (or ‘World Championship VII if you want to get technical about it) kicks off on Thursday, probably today but it’s hard to tell, what with me being in the UK and all. I can’t wait for it to get started, there’s so much to look forward to, and so much potential for upsets. Will we have a new champion? How will the rookies perform? Will Glitch come back with a bang and just win the whole thing? I kinda hope it does actually.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and enjoy the new season.

All images belong to BattleBots.

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