Apologies for the lateness of this review, but I had a job interview yesterday for a data analysis post and needed to bone up on Excel for the skills test. If it makes you feel better, one of the functions I created to test my knowledge was =VLOOKUP(“Misawa”,A2:C4,IF(B5=“Tokyo Dome”,2,1), FALSE). But enough of that. It’s the Robot Wars Grand Final, motherfuckers!
“There is no perfect design,” says the voiceover, as usual. He is about to be proved very, very wrong.
The format of the final round is a little different from the heats, in that six robots are in the mix instead of eight. This means that the five heat winners will be joined by a wildcard entrant, allotted on the basis of great performance in defeat. In the same way that I wasn’t happy when Man United sacked off the FA Cup to go to Brazil for the World Club Cup and get a thumping 2-0 win over South Melbourne, meaning that Darlington of all teams got a reprieve when knocked out, I’m unsure about an eliminated bot getting into the final by the back door (oo-er missus). Why not commission an extra episode so everyone could earn their way in? But if they were constrained to a six-ep run, maybe this was the most elegant solution. Series 1, which was six heats and then a six-pack challenge final tacked on the end of it almost as an afterthought, was all wrong, as was the fact it was hosted by everybody’s favourite car enthusiast and racist, Jeremy Clarkson.
Dara and Angela announce the wild card and to everybody’s surprise, the adorable kids behind Cherub are in the final! Nah, just kidding, of course it’s Apollo. Having taking quite the battering in the heat final against Carbide, I don’t fancy its chances. “We look like a paper robot,” says one team member, paper coincidentally being the most popular kind of armour in Series 1.
If you think The Grand Tour is genuinely good TV I will think less of you. Just throwing that out there.
Apollo vs. Aftershock vs. Eruption
Instead of a fatal four-way, we get three-way dances to open this episode. I immediately think of ECW’s famous “The Night The Line Was Crossed”, which is also what I call the time I went round my mate Robbie’s house to watch England vs. Switzerland, ate a 13.5-inch Domino’s Mighty Meaty with chicken strippers and potato wedges on the side, then blocked his toilet with the biggest shit in recorded history. Thank god he was only subletting the place.
All our favourites are back from the heats: Papa Breitbart and Will from Aftershock; Eruption’s gawky yet somehow profoundly badass Michael, who waves at the crowd like he’s trying to guide down an ailing plane; and the Apollo stag party lads, who do some sort of Gangnam Style-looking rodeo dance which is apparently what passes for hip at Pontin’s.
It’s immediately apparent that Apollo’s working hurt. It’s covered in scrapes and tape, and is driving very cagily. However, it soon makes its mark when it flips Aftershock, whose vertical spinner hits the floor and causes a panel to shift out of place. The fight is stopped while the ring crew fix it. Either the Robot Wars arena used to be a lot more durable, or robots are getting more dangerous. It’s probably the latter; somehow I can’t imagine Stinger or Sir Chromalot ripping up the foundations.
The fight is restarted and Apollo is still very wary. We soon see why, as one huge punch from Aftershock knocks it out, leading to this marvellously understated exchange between the Aftershock and Eruption teams in the control room:
“You didn’t half hit him.”
“Ooh, aye, yeah.”
The Apollo crew (see what I did?) are clearly gutted, but promise to get on the Bull Nakano diet and come back bulked up and more durable to compete with the new generation of spinners. With Apollo the first competitor eliminated, we are guaranteed a new champion. It’s classic Heyman booking, like Tazz vs. Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanaka at Anarchy Rulz 1999. Only with fewer unprotected head shots. ***1/2
Carbide vs. Concussion vs. Ironside 3
Ironside 3 talk a big game, aided by the fact that the voiceover man goes to great effort to say the words “bar spinner” in the most threatening manner possible, but it really is just a Tesco Value Carbide. Or is Carbide a Taste the Difference Ironside 3?
Concussion is from a town in Dorset called Wool. What.
There isn’t a great deal to this one. Carbide opens by hitting the tyre on the wall (and nearly ripping it off its fastenings), opening the pit, but the pit is not needed. Concussion’s wheels, dodgy throughout their heat, prove its undoing. Its lack of manoeuvrability leave it easy pickings for the other two robots; one big Carbide hit, an axe from Shunt and it’s done. Carbide and Ironside 3 square up in what was presumably meant to come across as akin to the Rock/Stone Cold face-off from Royal Rumble 2001, but which more closely resembled the Undertaker and Kane/Scotty 2 Hotty face-off from Royal Rumble 2001.
It is revealed that Carbide fucked the srimech at the back of Ironside 3 during the fight. We join Carbide in the pits as they look for damage to their machine and find precisely jack shit. When told this, the Ironside 3 lot ask, “Do you know if we scratched their paint a little?” Bless. **1/2
Eruption vs. Ironside 3
Like when you put too much seed on your bird table at Christmas, it’s time for the round robin. Michael the Eruptor knows that he will win his opening match if he flips Sainsbury’s Basics Carbide (in view of its self-righter having gone), but he’s disinclined to inflict too much damage because he wants his opponent in good nick to inflict damage on the other two bots in the group. They’ve got to go to Middlesbrough and get something. I still can’t believe Michael’s an engineering student; if Eruption wins the tournament he should be given a PhD on principle. His passion for his subject is obvious from the great relish with which he says “custom control circuit”. Ironside then do a promo where they come out of their shed, a la Goldberg.
This match is a masterclass in driving technique. Eruption flips Ironside 3 halfway across the arena, but Ironside manages to maintain equilibrium and stays butter side up. It tries running away to get the spinner up to speed, but Eruption is merciless and flips it over to end the fight.
Afterwards Angela congratulates Michael on his “secret plan” coming off. Trying to flip your rival in a Robot Wars fight is hardly the Schlieffen Plan, mate. **3/4
Carbide vs. Aftershock
I predicted Carbide to win this battle of the spinners, as Soul Calibur taught me at a young age that horizontal strikes trump vertical ones. It also taught me the joy swinging big evil swords, and of Liger Bombing improbably-breasted ninjas. Ah, Japan.
Dave from Carbide puts over their new custom-built components, and Will from Aftershock does a corking speech which ends with him saying, of becoming Robot Wars champion, “That’s what we’re built for, that’s what we’re aiming for, and that’s what we’re gonna do.” The best Robot Wars promos blend equal parts smack talk and engineering specs.
This one is short but wild. Carbide opens up with one of the biggest hits I’ve ever seen. “This could be one of the great Robot Wars battles,” says Jonathan Pearce, just as Aftershock packs up. Good to see that the commentator’s curse transcends football. Carbide gets in another strike for good measure, and then we see that the force of the initial blow meant that Aftershock’s side panel ended up EMBEDDED IN THE BULLETPROOF POLYCARBONATE SHIELDING THE CROWD. Carbide is the biggest hazard to paying spectators since Stan Hansen. Dave and Will have a male bonding session over the fact they nearly killed people. ***, mostly for the postmatch angle.
Carbide vs. Eruption
Oh yes, it is on.
Eruption runs straight at Carbide, the absolute madman. Although this seems like suicide, the strategy actually pays off at first; the initial couple of impacts seem to send Carbide flying more than Eruption. However, the blunt force trauma soon takes its toll and Eruption gradually expires, then is hauled onto its back. The ten-count starts, but Eruption flips itself the right way up. It’s all for naught though, as it is declared that Eruption had lost the ability to control itself. I didn’t know Dr Lucy Rogers was a judge at UFC 210 as well. A troupe of boy scouts in the crowd look beside themselves with glee, possible because Akela’s not been allowed to accompany them on trips after “the incident”.
Carbide is the final with one group stage match still to go, while backstage we get a look at Eruption’s ravaged exterior as some Adagio for Strings-like music plays in the background. **3/4
Ironside 3 vs. Aftershock
Aftershock are in dire straits after their tangle with Carbide. Will is interviewed and says they have less than 45 minutes to make their repairs. Here’s a thought; STOP YAKKING AND START REBUILDING YOUR MACHINE. I know these interviews are most likely a BBC obligation, but I know for a fact that if you don’t feel like talking to them you can just send Carlos Queiroz or Mike Phelan in your place. The repairs feature father and son pouring buckets of water over the chassis because it’s become too hot to touch, exchanging angry words, and sticking the polycarbonate armour on with gaffer tape seconds before the forfeiture deadline. It goes well.
Waitrose Essentials Carbide tries its usual “evade until the spinner gets going” tactic but runs into a thwack from Aftershock. Aftershock then drives onto the wall and we see more sparks than a 70s tribute band festival, but it survives. There then follow a succession of Strong BJ-style ramming spots (in the middle of which Aftershock’s weapon fails), and just when you think the violence can’t get more intense, Aftershock gets upended by the arena spike and can’t right itself. Pearce cackles hysterically over the replay. Such wonderful bathos. ****
Carbide vs. Ironside 3
Carbide is in the final already but, unlike Barcelona or Real Madrid in the Champions League group stages, doesn’t have the option of playing the reserves in a dead rubber. Though if there was a reserve version of Carbide, it’d probably look a lot like Ironside 3.
This reminded me of Otto Wanz vs. Vader, which for my money is the best fat bastard match of all time. It was just two great robots whacking each other over and over again with big fuck-off bar spinners until one of them stopped moving. I liked it a lot.
Carbide won, obviously. ***1/2
Carbide test their manoeuvrability after the bell, and we see in the pits that they took a gouge on the weapon motor during the fight, leading to it periodically cutting out. A chink in Carbide’s armour, or merely false hope? You de(i)cide.
Eruption vs. Aftershock
A win for Eruption puts them in the final. I’d go into all the complex scenarios if Aftershock wins and we get three robots level on points, but in all honesty I needn’t bother. Aftershock is in such a liminal state between life and death that CM Punk’s going to appear on a panel about it after the match.
A lively start, as Eruption flips Aftershock into the tyre and looses the rogue house robot. But just as Matilda gets ready to rampage, the fight is stopped due to more floor damage from Aftershock’s spinner, and Jonathan Pearce gets some major blue balls. Despite the glaring lack of a “LET THEM FIGHT” chant, both teams decide to throw caution to the wind and continue even with the arena falling apart around them.
Eruption takes a few hits and self rights, then pushes Aftershock into Dead Metal’s grasp. Aftershock lands a blow but is then flipped upside down again and goes skidding across the length of the arena and into the wall. Awesome. Aftershock then gets flipped onto its rear end and for a while it looks like they’re toast, but they somehow manage to wiggle themselves back to verticality. Eruption hits the pit release button but Aftershock just dies. It was probably for the best; it took insane amounts of punishment throughout the final. Brave stuff. But I’m glad they’re out, because I keep accidentally typing the name as Afterwhock and it’s really annoying.
Dara calls this the best fight of the series, but does he give a star rating like I do? Does he fuck. ****1/4
Carbide vs. Eruption
Michael cuts a babyface promo about his lifelong dream to win Robot Wars, but we all know in our heart of hearts that the sentimental underdog is about to get crushed, just like Eruption itself did to Cherub in the heats. It’s like poetry, it’s, sort of, they rhyme. Carbide has won every one of its fights in the grand final in less than one minute, and somehow I don’t think Eruption is going to be its Holly Holm.
Carbide sticks one on Eruption early doors, and Eruption dodges an anaemic axe blow attempt from Shunt that very much came across as “I better not twat anything too hard because it’s the final and we want a contest”. A contest isn’t what we get. Carbide peppers Eruption with hits, each once causing tangible damage to its speed, mobility and armour. There’s an incredible babyface hope spot as Eruption lands a flip, but it’s so damaged that the launch is only half speed. And at any rate, Carbide can run both ways up. What a machine.
More amazing heart shown by Eruption as, down to one working wheel, it rocks back and forth on it, hoping to time what little movement is available to it so that it can get another flip away on Carbide. But more bits are ripped off, and eventually wires are strewn across the arena floor. Carbide has fucked up Eruption more than a sixteen-year-old bedroom guitarist.
Sir Killalot tries to give Eruption the Cesaro Swing, but Carbide makes the save. The house robots then gang up on the victor, and I am reminded very vividly of the end of NXT Season 2. Move over new stars. Michael seems happy his robot lasted nearly two minutes, and that’s a victory in itself. Carbide, having fixed its weapon issues from the last series, was utterly dominant, and never looked like losing to anybody. It’ll take some beating next year. ****1/4
I see ICW commentator Billy Kirkwood’s name listed in the closing credits; apparently they use him to warm the crowd up. I hope he tones down his act, much as I’d like to hear “I’ve got a cock like Diotoir – it’s furry, covered in black spots and it’s got a googly eye.”
Well, what a series. I hope you have enjoyed David and my reviews; we’ve certainly enjoyed writing them. I could give you a long summation of the highs, the lows, the comparisons with previous series. But I think we’ve said all there is to say, so instead I will leave you with this:
O sing, ye Muse, of battles rough and fierce
Betwixt great warriors fighting ever harder;
Narrated by a hardy brute clep’d Pearce
For whom automatons induce much ardour.
Beneath the watchful gaze of Noel Sharkey,
The judge that all must face at their demise,
They gouged, and launch’d and decimated, hark ye;
The better to obtain that noble prize.
Our tales of their fine deeds ye all didst follow
Whilst bursting with an overweening pride.
And though some fell – Smash, Crackers and Apollo –
We bowèd down to our new king, Carbide.
Tho’ Prospero was free’d by your applause,
Yet ne’er let us be shod of Robot Wars.