What ho, chaps. It’s time for another Robot Wars recap on our increasingly things-that-aren’t-wrestling-but-totally-are-centric wrestling website. Let’s hop to it, I’ve got mediocre NXT episodes to digest.
“There is no perfect design,” says the voiceover, who clearly didn’t watch Eruption last week. Dara talks of competitors so dangerous they can only be turned on in the bulletproof Robot Wars arena, as opposed to Jonathan Pearce, who can only be turned on in the commentary box.
Thor vs. Tauron vs. Chimera 2 vs. Concussion
The one-man Thor team, Jason, is back. I liked Thor a lot in the last series, the weapon wasn’t much cop but it was incredibly fast and powerful and Big Jase was an excellent driver with a sharp tactical brain. Ultimately it was utterly out of its depth in the final four, like that time Rob Van Dam was in a tag match with Stan Hansen, Kenta Kobashi and Toshiaki Kawada. The axe actually looks sharp this time, so Thor looks a force to be reckoned with.
Next up is newcomer Tauron, which I swear is the active ingredient in Red Bull. The captain is a video game tester. “I’m a bit of a gamer,” he says. You would certainly bloody hope so. Their weapon weighs a whopping 20kg, just like Ron Jeremy’s. Chimera 2 is a robot with the body of a lion, the head of a goat and the tail of a shitty robot with an ineffective little swinging bar at the back. They’ve bought a sign which offers a great deal of artistic acuity, especially if you follow wrestling, where most of the signs are of this ilk. Concussion’s captain looks just like former Progress tag champ Rob Lynch, but with a mohawk. They’ve “pulled a car or two”, Mark Henry stylee, but never had a competitive fight. Will they take to it like Kurt Angle in WWF, or CM Punk in UFC?
When the Chimera lot come out they genially wave to the crowd, except the young lad with shoulder-length hair who fulfils a stereotype by affecting a sort of Ozzy Osbourne pose. There isn’t a huge amount to this fight – with their speed and strength, Concussion and Thor look a cut above the other two, an impression that’s reinforced by Tauron almost immediately breaking down and making me angry it almost shares a name with the best Final Fantasy character. Chimera 2 takes a lot of punishment and eventually subsides to many mighty blows from Chris Hemsworth’s mighty swinging tool. **1/4
Expulsion vs. Foxic vs. M.R. Speed Squared vs. Heavy Metal
All my mates tell me the Foxic lot were a bunch of twats last time (I honestly don’t remember much that didn’t involve Apollo and Carbide wrecking shit), and they’re down to one team member, presumably because they all fell out over who was the biggest bollock. The remaining Foxer has brought back the hoodie with fox ears. I’ll allow t-shirt merch, but custom hoodies is a douche move, and anyway, you won’t top Ted Hankey’s entrance gear so why even bother? Heavy Metal – sadly, or perhaps, happily, not this one – has big fuck-off wheels which have never turned out badly for any robot ever, and make their entrance with the sort of engagingly lame inflatable guitars you buy for fancy dress parties given by people you don’t like enough to make much of an effort for. They also have a big lad in a mask I don’t know much about lucha to identify. If we don’t get an apuestas match between him and Mohawk Man, I’m writing a complaint to the commission.
Expulsion is a project by a bunch of high school students. For fuck’s sake, I could barely wire up a circuit correctly. They have an experimental (read: unlikely to work) retracting spinner. With all the problems robots in this series have had with overly destructive weapons chewing up their innards like so much White Ace, I’m not sure you want your spinner retracting. M.R. Speed Squared, or alternatively Mr. Speed Squared (“call me Speed – Mr. Speed Squared is my father”) is back from last year. Team captain Pete, who resembles a much less jacked Dave Meltzer, has promised to propose to his long-term girlfriend if his bot doesn’t win the tournament. Judging by its performance last time, I’d start getting quotes for those matching seat covers and cummerbunds now.
This one was a slight step up from the first eliminator. Permanent Exclusion’s lack of srimech would have fucked them over if they’d have remained operational for long enough to get flipped. This sort of thing is why I quit teaching. Things look like they’re going to peter out when the beautiful Alicia Foxic hilariously drives onto the flipper, gets upended and can’t self-right. The captain looks like some kids have shat on his lawn. Serves him right for being a throbber last series (apparently). The somewhat unstable spinnerbot Mr. Squared ends the fight by wobbling its way into Killalot’s CPZ, and Heavy Metal was anonymous enough to get through. Not very metal of you, guys. Jeff Hahnemann’s turning in his grave, probably at high speed. **1/2
Thor vs. Concussion
On to the round robin. Concussion Starring Will Smith shagged its motor in the opener and has had to bring in a spare, and Jason reckons Thor’s axe won’t be able to take too many hits. Never like to see robots working hurts, this is why Harley Race is in a wheelchair now.
Jason’s promo brings up his building background, and he is heard to say that “part of being a builder is demolition”. HERE COMES THE AXE, AND HERE COMES THE SMASHER. Concussion are the best kind of team, a bunch of guys who studied engineering principally so that they could be on Robot Wars. As debutants, they’re “going straight on at heavyweight” like those roidy Young Lions New Japan have at the moment.
In describing Matilda, Jonathan Pearce, as he so often does, betrays his BBR fetish. She’s no Helga from Ratchet & Clank, mate.
My god, does this bout have some twists and turns. Thor starts leaking CO2 after getting rammed a few times but Concussion ends up having wheel problems and is having to get around with only one working properly. To make matters worse, the pit, even though it isn’t activated, is an inch or two lower than the rest of the floor because the arena was constructed by British builders, and when Concussion ends up in that indentation it lacks the drive to get out again. Master tactician Jason quickly hits the arena side button, hoping to activate the pit and watch Concussion simply drop out of sight like WWE wish all those lawsuits would, but the lever falls the wrong side and Matilda gets released instead. Things look academic, but then Jason makes an uncharacteristic blunder and goes for the win by knockout. In trying to ram the trapped Concussion it takes a glancing blow from the spinning drum and ends up getting flipped over, and with no working axe by this stage it’s game over. What a goddamn finish. Concussion, bounded in a nutshell, ended up counting itself a king of infinite space. ****1/4
M.R. Speed Squared vs. Heavy Metal
Despite seeming to do nothing in the eliminator, Heavy Metal has somehow sustained a lot of damage. “One good hit from a spinner and it’s curtains,” says their captain. Quite the vote of confidence. He crashes cars for money, though sadly as a tester and not as part of some sort of insurance scam. He has a great line in his promo: “Compared to us, all the other robots are lift music – we’re heavy metal”. You know what’s a real heavy metal? Osmium.
Speed Dad’s interview is less fiery. “If you touch it you’ll be ripped to pieces,” he opines in the same level, calming tone you’d use to reassure the relative of someone in surgery. He is a cardiologist so this makes sense.
The fight starts with Heavy Metal ramming Mr. Speed Squared, but the unlowered pit is still off-centre and it can only get out by driving backwards. Fix the fucking pit, and mic the damn crowd while you’re at it. This match is summed up by the moment when Pearce says that Mr. Speed Squared is doing so badly that Pete’s girlfriend won’t want to marry him. Brutal. Its spinning disc, which completely surrounds its body and so in theory would be really effective, is doing nothing and Heavy Metal’s ramming it at will. Eventually we get the Royal Rumble 2005 finish as both competitors end up in the pit, but replays show that Speed2 clearly went in first and so there’s no need for Vince McMahon to storm out and tear his quads. **3/4, mostly for the finish
Noel Sharkey talks about robots helping fight climate change by collecting data about polar ice caps which is especially important in the Age of Trump, but he also waxes lyrical about the potential for aiding pollination in the future by using robot bees. Did he not see Black Mirror?
Heavy Metal vs. Concussion
An apt pairing, as it’s all too possible to get a concussion at a heavy metal show. Case in point: my mate who once stumbled woozily out of a mosh pit at a really hardcore black metal gig (okay, it was Reel Big Fish) and uttered the immortal line, “I’ve just taken a head to the face”. Concussion have to spend so long repairing their robot that they have to forfeit the match, but they put the lid on with seconds to spare and so we avoid a bout of Post-Concussion Syndrome.
Short but sweet, this one. The two fighters do a few exchanges and then, just as I think to myself that I’m not totally sold on the efficacy of spinning drums as a weapon concept, Concussion blitzes Heavy Metal and a WHEEL flies out of the arena. Concussion just sit back and claim the three points. Bish bash bosh, job done. These competitors with exposed wheels are asking for it more than someone who goes to a CZW show wearing a John Cena shirt. ***
Thor vs M.R. Speed Squared
Jason’s found a new problem with the drive, but at least Mjolnir hasn’t fallen apart on him yet. Pete flattens out a cog backstage by whacking it with a hammer in a wonderful piece of old-school roboteering. They don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Thor in this match was the definition of impressive but workmanlike. The weapon of Herr SS didn’t work again, and Thor just rammed the fuckety out of it until it cried uncle. “His drive is, like, next-level” says an SS member in the control room. *1/4
Jason says in his Backstage Fallout promo that his smile is back, because he’s been told he doesn’t have to put Bret Hart over in the heat final.
Concussion vs. M.R. Speed Squared
Only now do the M.R. The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down Squared team think to test the disc before going into the arena. I think Pete is trying to lose because he secretly loves his gf and does want to get married after all. They eventually get the disc working.
And when the fight starts, work it most certainly does. A ludicrous start to this one as the sheer centrifugal force of the spinner sends Mr. Speed Squared off balance, at which point the spinner comes into contact with the floor and the robot goes whirling through the air like a drunk seagull. If anything he’s spinning that disc too well, Clive. Inevitably, this means that the weapon is one again totalled, and there then follows a seriously impressive spell of driving in which Concussion pushes its opponent into Dead Metal, makes it slide into our DM a second time, and also finagles it into Sir Killalot’s grasp, precipitating the famous Cesaro Swing. But the fact that Mr. Speed Squared’s weapon completely surrounds it makes it hard for Concussion to penetrate its ring. Then, when it looks like Concussion will win the most obvious 10-8 round ever, it starts smoking. Luckily, like 2017 Goldberg it remains just about mobile, and gets the decision. Pete, disappointed that his robot turned into a Beyblade on him, resolves to propose to his lady friend, but sadly doesn’t do it live on the show like John Cena definitely will to Nikki Bella at Wrestlemania (I reserve the right to edit this after the weekend). ***3/4
Thor vs. Heavy Metal
For this fight Jason’s brought back the old, blunt-looking axe and put a flatter wedge on the front. This latter decision proves sound as Thor gets under Heavy Metal at will. To make matters worse for the metalheads, the dozens of little rubber gripping things on its wheels are moulting all over the place, and without these it can’t grip. Matilda comes over to put the team out of their misery, when suddenly SHE CALLS THAT THE REAR VIEW MAGGLE and Heavy Metal’s wheel’s off again. Thor’s going to the final, where it will fight for the glory of Asgard. Matilda wows the crowd after the match by backing up to the severed wheel and sending it into Row Z like so many post-1997 Roberto Carlos free kicks. **1/2
Concussion vs. Thor
Time for the heat final – the winner will be showered with praise, the loser will be taunted and booed until my throat is sore.
This is a good battle but in a different way to their more destructive round-robin encounter. Thor goes right for it at the start to try and stop the drum getting up to a dangerous number of RPM, but then goes cagey once the weapon gets going, trying to get the best angle for an assault. Thor’s CO2 tank, which has been an issue this series, starts to leak, but even without a weapon its sheer power makes it a force to be reckoned with. Concussion think they’ve won it when a blow from their drum flips Thor over, but far from having lost the use of his axe, Jason was brilliantly conserving his gas supply in case he needed to self-right. Blunder in the first Concussion bout aside, he really is a master strategist. He manages to get in under Concussion’s drum at the end but can’t do much more, and both robots seem utterly spend when the bell sounds to end it. The boyhood dream comes true as the judges award the match to the newbies Concussion, which in the end proves once again to be Thor’s Jormungandr. ***1/2
Another good episode this week, although lacking a standout robot – Concussion, while a very good competitor, isn’t on the level of Aftershock or Eruption and may be found wanting come the Grand Final. Nevertheless, this was entertaining viewing and really makes me wish the Beeb would commission longer series. To which I say:
There’s three hours a week of Monday Night Raws
Yet close to fuck all
Of Robot Wars