The first episode of the new series of Robot Wars was filled with great expectation. Last year’s series was a resounding success (as evidenced by this website naming the final one of our 25 matches that defined 2016; I swear we’ll finish it before the end of 2017) and after two throwaway celebrity Christmas specials, it was time to get back to the real stuff. This year, the main development is a change to the arena format. In previous series, there was a button on the arena wall to open the pit of oblivion. Now, this button has two random options. If it swings to the left, the pit will open as normal. If it swings to the right, A ROGUE HOUSE ROBOT WILL BE RELEASED FROM ITS ZONE TO WREAK HAVOC! A new dawn in the world of combat sports certainly, but how will this affect this year’s series? Let’s waste no more time and go straight to our first bout. We begin with eight competitors, who compete in two fatal four ways. The top two in each match advance to a round robin group stage. The top two after the round robin fixtures face off one last time, with the winner moving to the end-of-season grand final.
Nuts 2 vs. Jellyfish vs. Terrorhurtz vs. Rapid – ***1/2
Rapid is quoted as having a flipper 10 times more powerful than last season’s champions Apollo. Jellyfish is created from reclaimed materials including a trampoline, bike tyres and a horse tooth file and is a clampbot. Nuts 2 is the sequel to cult favourite Nuts, who famously was the Millennium Falcon to Carbide’s Death Star, exposing it’s weakness and clearing the path for Apollo to destroy the fearless monster in the Grand Final. Terrorhurtz is a loved Robot Wars veteran, having appeared in numerous past series. The seeded Nuts 2 flails about, swinging its chains at everyone like Bruiser Brody, before last year’s bronze medalist is shockingly eliminated after Matilda LAUNCHES it out the ring/bulletproof arena with a buzzsaw hip attack reminiscent of Naomi’s Rear View. Jellyfish’s controls are destroyed by a flip and it is immobilised. It’s now cat-and-mouse as Terrorhurtz chases after Rapid trying to cause damage, failing to do so before cease is called, with both remaining robots going through. Nuts wildly throwing its chains about, even lodging it in Rapid’s mouth was supremely entertaining as was its spectacular elimination. Overall, a very good start to the season.
Sabretooth vs. TMHWK vs. Crank-E vs. Aftershock – **1/2
Sabretooth is the Tomoaki Honma of Robot Wars, as in sixteen years of televised Robot Wars, this team has NEVER won a bout. They use a drum which spins at high velocity to hit their opponents. TMHWK are from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, so are presumably trained by Bas Rutten and Joop Kasteel. Crank-E’s team captain dismantles nuclear power stations for a living and famously eliminated our Wrestlemania main eventer Razer in the first round last year. It is covered in tinfoil like a chicken in the oven to prevent it from burning in the flame pit and claims to be spinner-proof. Speaking of spinners, Aftershock has a vertical spinner and is a reimagining of Shockwave from last year. Crank-E immediately disproves its spinner-proof claims by getting cut to ribbons on Aftershock’s spinner, before being impaled on a spike and axed by Shunt. Aftershock turns its focus on TMHWK, ripping it apart like Sparta Rotterdam’s Mathias Pogba tearing up the Feyenoord defence this weekend. Sabretooth fights cautiously, concentrating on TMHWK until the cease is called AS THE BOTHOOD DREAM HAS COME TRUE! SABRETOOTH HAVE WON A MATCH!
Sabretooth vs. Terrorhurtz – ***1/2
Before this bout, there is a fantastic vignette showing how much succeeding at Robot Wars means to the team captain of Sabretooth. This did a better job of putting over Sabretooth in 30 seconds than WWE has done in the last year and a half with Seth Rollins. Terrorhurtz feature an “amateur rocket physicist”, which is akin to calling brain surgery “a hobby”. Sabretooth, now over the hump, have been installed with a new sense of invincibility, just wiring into Terrorhurtz with the spinner, destroying its aluminium tail and wheels. Terrorhurtz’ controllers start arguing over tactics when their weapons controller cannot get a good hit. In the process, Sabretooth’s drum is destroyed so they take a gamble and ACTIVATE THE ROGUE HOUSE ROBOT AS SHUNT RACES IN AND DEALS THE KILLER BLOW TO TERRORHURTZ AS SABRETOOTH’s INCREDIBLE STREAK CONTINUES!
Rapid vs. Aftershock – **
HA. HA HA. HA HA HA. HA HA HA HA. HA HA HA HA HA. There is a video featuring Rapid where we learn that their team is comprised of a self-made engineering entrepreneur who creates, amongst other things, components for the aerospace industry. Rapid cost £25,000 to create and is engineered to meticulous detail. Rapid’s team leader assures us that if they do not win the full competition, it will be because of their error, because no opponent can defeat them. Aftershock are worried about the flipper as they have not tested its ability to self-right after a flip. Rapid tries to get under and flip Aftershock, but Aftershock’s blade hits the floor and the force bounces it back upright. After a few moments of tussling, Aftershock NAILS Rapid with a shot that sends it flying. Their wedge is stuck, they cannot self right! Rapid has been HUMBLED! After all those hours, all that money, they are eliminated in lightning-quick fashion. Following the match, Rapid’s crew find out that their robot is so intrinsically engineered, it is physically impossible for them to open up their robot to repair the damage and are forced to forfeit their place in the group stage competition. One of the funniest moments in Robot Wars history.
While we await our next match, hosts Dara O’Briain and Angela Scanlon play Connect Four against a robotic arm which is able to adapt its behaviour to different situations, such as a player’s moves. He explains that this technology is being used in driverless cars to strategise ways to avoid having an accident. It will also help Skynet to crush the human resistance when they inevitably take over, with this website being co-opted by a nameless super computer reviewing UFC cards in the same way that we review Robot Wars now.
Aftershock vs. Sabretooth – **1/2
Sabretooth went through some heavy repair work to reattach their drum spinner and get it working again BUT OH MY GOD, AFTERSHOCK IS JUST MURDERING THEM! Aftershock overwhelms them, not allowing them to get any momentum. Aftershock shears piece after piece off of Sabretooth, before finally relenting and allowing Sabretooth to bleed out and cease to be called. Sabretooth is completely in bits now.
Jellyfish vs. Terrorhurtz – 1/4*
So after the forfeit of Rapid, they are replaced by the living, breathing car boot stall that is Jellyfish. Originally a member of team Nuts before an acrimonious split last season, the robot looks like a pile of shite. Honestly, it looks like the equipment table for some awful power electronics harsh noise project you’d see at a Merzbow gig in the 13th Note Cafe. But team Nuts have decided to pitch in to help their old friend complete the necessary repairs in order to get back in the arena in time. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough as Terrorhurtz shunted it loose, knocked out some wiring, then axed it through the wiring to completely immobilise it within 15 seconds.
Aftershock vs. Terrorhurtz – ***1/2
A purist’s fight here. This was less reliant on big spots but a gripping watch. Terrorhurtz’ driver John Reid gave strict instructions to not swing the axe for fear of it catching Aftershock’s spinner. Tactical combat was the name as Terrorhurtz kept itself out of reach and picked its spots. In the end though they got caught by the spinner and flipped in the process. Terrorhurtz was unable to self-right and it was curtains for them as Aftershock steamrolled to the final.
Jellyfish vs. Sabretooth – ***1/2
Call me a sop, but this match is the essence of all that is pure about Robot Wars. The match really wasn’t good at all, but that ***1/2 rating is a symbolic one. By all accounts, this should never have happened. The video shown before the fight of team Sabretooth shedding blood, sweat and tears to keep their dream alive with the team captain getting really emotional when their testing sees the robot actually live once again was a sight to see. At the time of writing this article, a rival TV station are broadcasting the US version of Robot Wars, Battlebots. That show, of course, features a load of jumped-up robots so much more powerful than anything on the UK show featuring MIT students sponsored by military research companies.
In every conceivable metric, Battlebots is superior, but it lacks the heart of Robot Wars. In Robot Wars, the robot built by an aerospace parts manufacturer for 25 grand can be knocked out with one blow and lead to a match like this. Jellyfish looks like a stall entitled “Things you can’t put in your recycling bin” and has no discernible way of damaging its opponents, and yet their bitter rivals in team Nuts buried the hatchet and helped them get it ready, renewing old friendships. Sabretooth went through two rebuilds to even make it back into the ring, a family clinging onto their dreams, even though they put their spinner on the wrong way round. The match had little action apart from Jellyfish bearhugging the life out of Sabretooth. Mawkish romanticism it may be, but seeing these two robots fight to the bell and last the three minutes without being immobilised. Jellyfish got the judges’ decision, but Sabretooth still made it to the final. A total glitch in the matrix with a happy ending for both. This was great.
Sabretooth vs. Aftershock – *1/2
Sabretooth said they would give Aftershock a taste of their own medicine in this final match, but it was not to be. Aftershock hit them straight away and Sabretooth were left helpless. Sir Killalot toyed with them, roasting them on the flame pit, before finally letting them go, allowing Sabretooth to be counted out. All-in-all, an easy day at the office as Aftershock advance to the Grand Final.
All-in-all, a strong episode to start is off. While nothing reached the heights of the ***** Apollo/Carbide/Storm 2 classics from last season, this was a considerable step up from the skippable Christmas specials. Sabretooth’s constant battle for survival was an emotional rollercoaster and Rapid’s humbling was incredible. At the end, there was a package for next week’s episode AND OH SHIT, BUSINESS IS ABOUT TO PICK UP! Footage is shown of last year’s champion Apollo competing next week, despite the roboteers behind our hero ripping the pish out of everyone on Twitter by stating they weren’t competing this year. You can look forward to continuing coverage on this site next week as we see the reigning ace look to reclaim his crown. See you next week!