Having sat out the bulk of the fandom discussions and spent most of my tenure here at manic expression critiquing movies from all across the board, I thought I’d loosen up this week and do something with one of my big guilty pleasures.

 

You might have heard of BattleBots or Robot Wars, or else seen the Simpsons’ version in the episode I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot. Tournaments are still held today, but the golden era in the U.S. was 1999-2002, when Battlebots Inc. hit their peak in popularity and got their tournaments – seven in all – broadcast on Comedy Central (complete with everyone from Bill Nye to Carmen Electra as hosts and the MythBusters, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, as competitors). Anyone could enter, as long as your robot met the requirements (Chief Wiggum would’ve been disqualified for giving his handgun to his robot as a weapon), and there were a lot of colorful competitors. But nowhere was the competition more intense than in the heavyweight – 220 lbs max – class. And now, drawing from the records and footage available online, it’s time to look into this still-debated topic and rank the ten best.

 

…But first, the runner-ups; some were innovative designs that later bots would perfect, some were solid but not quite spectacular enough, and most importantly, most of them are keys to understanding why the ten greatest stand as tall as they do. As we’ll see, they still gave us some of the best fights available in this sport.

 

 

Honorable Mention:

 

Nightmare (8 wins, 8 losses): Proof that putting a big saw on wheels was a shortcut that could only get you so far, Nightmare was a glass cannon with explosive wins and huge losses. It was a fan favorite, as something flashing a weapon that big is bound to be, but none-the-less was still all weapon and no balance or durability, though some did find its lank design hard lay into. Actually, with a .500 win/loss record and only one significant opponent on its list of wins, you could argue that it doesn’t even deserve this much. Still, I give it credit for coming back every season, always at very least getting in a good hit, and acting as a rite of passage for the truly strong bots.

Best win

It did defy its reputation a couple times and go the distance for hard-fought wins, but let’s face it, the match with Slam Job here is what people really wanted to see: http/www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJYbKqZNPGo

 

 

Punjar (11 wins, 6 losses): Sort of an inverse of Nightmare, Punjar was an armored box, all sturdiness and no weapon, unless you count its scoop-shaped front. The same goes for its career, beating chumps and losing to champs, just this time in ramming matches that usually went the distance. To be fair, Punjar was probably the better of the two (it did win their only fight), and where Nightmare usually won a couple and then lost, Punjar has genuinely good tournaments on its resume, with even a couple noteworthy wins. But just when you think Punjar is starting to look impressive, we get to the last two tournaments, in which it was beaten out in the first round by mediocre bots. Oh well.

Best win

Punjar is at its peak here, managing to overwhelm the impressive but inconsistent Killerhurtz, who we’ll get to later: http/www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSqt_xz8rAs

 

Hexadecimator (9 wins, 3 losses): In only 3 tournaments, Hexadecimator became one of the winningest bots in all of BattleBots. So who did it beat? …Well, Killerhurtz again, with the help of a technicality. With a wedge design complete with one of the best flipping arms in battlebots, Hexy D, as it was nicknamed, came close to making the list but lost out for losing to 3 of its 4 most noteworthy opponents (2 of which weren’t good enough to make the list either).

Best win

Phrizbee was an early attempt at the “spinbot” design – perfected years later to create much better robots – with a record of 5 wins and 3 losses that would have been more impressive if it had beaten anything with more than 2 career wins. Still, the design was Hexadecimator’s weakness, and Phrizbee was one of the few, at the time, that was at least solid enough to avoid self-destructing. Their match was one of Hexy D’s toughest, complete with one of the sweetest comebacks seen during the show’s run:http/www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNKHJ4Eleb4

 

Surgeon General (6 wins, 4 losses): As another saw robot, Surgeon General used a horizontal blade to be a more balanced, probably better robot than Nightmare, despite the fact that it happens to be Nightmare’s aforementioned only noteworthy win. Nightmare could overpower it, but the General could take hits and still dish out well enough to beat bots like Hexy D and this Killerhurtz that everyone keeps talking about. Still, with those two as its only good wins, 4 losses is too much disappointment for that to cover, even if Nightmare is perhaps the only embarrassing one. (Besides, in the post-BattleBots tournaments I’m not counting towards the records, Hexy D avenged the loss by beating bots that beat Surgeon General.)

Best win

I have to admit, the Hexadecimator fight was pretty cool: http/www.youtube.com/watch?v=faVLYGUSagE

 

Razer and Warhead (3 wins, 3 losses and 5 wins, 1 loss): And now, an insult to the entire UK division of this sport: Robot fighting was even bigger in the UK, and for a longer time, than it was in the U.S., and these two are the reason I don’t think holding this strictly to entrants in America is a big loss. The most famous and successful of the UK bots was Razer, a sort of Venus Flytrap robot, except the upper lip was a “beak” powerful enough to punch through steel. Since most BattleBots participants never competed in the UK, I can only go by the two early BattleBots Tournaments Razer entered, in which its performance was… eh. It had four noteworthy matches, with robots we’ll get to later, and lost three of them. The one it won was its opponent’s first match ever, which it avenged in the next tournament in the first round, ending Razer’s BattleBots career. One could argue that “honorable mention” is generous.

Team Razer came back for the very last tournament with a robot called Warhead, and actually, I’ll be nice to this one. Warhead was cool. It had movable wings to right itself when knocked over, a scorpion tail just because, and a spinning disc head that packed enough punch to overpower Nightmare. I wanted to put it on the list, and if it’d competed in more tournaments, maybe I could have. But how many points can you really give to a robot whose only noteworthy win was Nightmare, before it lost to one of the semifinalists?

Best win

Watch Robot Wars to see Razer show off. This one goes to Warhead vs. Nightmare: http/www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKW64NT0yic

 

Aces and Eights (6 wins, 2 losses): If I had to pick 11th place, this would probably be it. An even simpler design than Punjar, Aces and Eights was all driving skill, a block of metal on fast wheels that shrugged off and ran circles around better-armed bots. It was also invertible, which some builders tended to undervalue. At first, research said it only entered the last tournament, in which it beat Hexy D and Surgeon General, losing only to the best competitor in all of BattleBots. So it’s definitively better than the “honorable mention” bots and possibly even better than that, right? Well, as it turns out, it entered the previous year with a different name but the same design (if it was the reverse, I wouldn’t count it); it picked up a few more wins over nobodies but also a loss to another robot that was vying for 10th place, which was just enough for me to switch their positions.

Best win

Even this much attention is a bigger nod than it usually gets, as this is the only televised footage of Aces and Eights. (Don’t worry; it’s most of the good stuff compressed):  http/www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHjdJFk1lRE

 

 

Come back next time for the top ten, and see what it takes to become the best!

 

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