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/23 August 2000


by: E.C. Ostermeyer



Wrestling fans, I have seen the future.
His name's "Backlash."
Short for a combatant, he weighs in at just fifty-eight pounds, and is made of stainless steel.
Oh, did I mention he packs a sixteen-inch stainless steel buzzsaw blade?

Awright, now, y'all kin stop laughing.

Well, the programming staff over at Comedy Central, all of whom need to have their medication adjusted, (again) have come up wioth a sure-fire ratings winner for this Fall. They figured that they had to put some kind of programming on after "South Park" on Wednesday nights, so;

Why not something hilarious.
Something silly.
Something violent.

What better than "Battlebots?"

If any of you wrestling fans out there are also closet tech freaks, you already know about "Battlebots."
The "sport" itself has been around ever since you and your brother wrecked your R/C cars on Christmas afternoon.
Well, the "techies" have done some serious upgrading since then. What was once your plastic R/C cars have grown into some wickedly nasty machines, built by as odd a collection of twisted genius-es as you'll ever find outside of a psycho ward.
The concept of the show is simple: You build the biggest, nastiest, meanest-looking combat robot, and then have it go out and destroy your opponent's biggest, nastiest, etc. etc. in a forty eight-foot square, tricked-out "arena", with twenty foot-high plexiglas walls.
The mechanical combatants compete in four weight classes, ranging from the "100- or-so lbs" Lightweight Class, up to the massive Super Heavyweight Class, where some awesome mechanical monsters weigh in at nearly 500 lbs!
The 'Bots compete in matches of three minutes in duration, unless there's a knockout.
Each contestant is looking to disable or destroy his opponent.
The method of disablement or destruction chosen by each 'Bot's creator determines the design of the beast.

And in this sport, form really does follow function.

If you want to flip your opponent over, equip your 'Bot with a snowplow-like scoop, or a set of forklift blades.
Is "Slice 'n' Dice" more your thing? How about a radial saw, or a stainless steel chopper blade?
Like to poke things? How about wielding the ultimate "pointy stick," a pneumatic ram topped off with a carbide steel lance?

Each Battlebot tournament is of the "Single Elimination" variety, where the winners of each bout advance to the next round. The losers wind up being either sent back home, or off to the scrap heap!
Each match lasts three minutes with a three-judge team scoring points for aggression, strategy, and damage inflicted.
Damage points are given for "Slams," or ramming your opponent, and "Jabs", as in poking or striking your opponent with your 'Bot's weaponry.

Finally, points are also scored through the use of the ominously named "Hazard Damage."
The arena floor on which the 'Bots compete is home to a whole host of hidden surprises. Nasty items such as flippers, scoops, ramps, spikes, and, oh yes, those whirling buzzsaw blades, frequently make their appearance during a match. These surprises can intrude into a match at unpredictable, even inconvenient moments, and have been known to decide an outcome literally in a few seconds.
The combat is fast and furious. In the heat of battle, 'Bot shrapnel can be broken, smashed, or ripped off each of the combatants, and be just literally flying all over the place.

The show itself is a hoot to watch, and is aimed right at the "pro-wrestling fan" demographic of 18 to 34 year olds.
Comedy Central has tricked out "Battlebots" with some slick production values, coming up with a show resembling an amalgam of ESPN's "Sport Center," "ABC's Monday Night Football," and an Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament.
The two "talking heads" at Battlebot Central, are Bill Dwyer and Sean Salisbury.
Before each bout, they give a short rundown on each combatant, detailing construction, composition, armor, and weaponry. Combat styles of the opposing operators are discussed, and predictions as to the outcome are made. Additionally, the show features puff pieces on the 'Bot's designers, as well as technical advice, strategy, and tactics.

Larry Sklar does floor interviews, as does former "Baywatch" star Donna D'Errico.
Various heats will be televised, with the winners advancing to the finals. And all for cash prizes, the trophies, and the "...thrill of really kicking your opponent's ass!" as Mr. Dwyer says.

On this "Sneak Preview" show, Bill Dwyer gave his "HotBot Picks" in each of the four categories. They are:

Name:Mouser Mecha-Catbot
Class: Lightweight
Designer: Fon Davis
A low profile hubcap-style design, coupled with a fast-action forklift-like "flipper".

Class: Lightweight
Builder: Jim Smentowski for Team Nightmare
Looks like a Dustbuster with a stainless steel radial saw blade as it's primary weapon.

Name:Spin Orbiting Force
Class: Middleweight
Builder: Michael Winter for Team Robot Action League
This bad boy looks like a collapsed lawn chair frame, except for the 12 inch carborundum saw blade sticking out the front. Yikes!

Name:Pressure Drop
Class: Middleweight
Builder: Derek Young
Think of a pickaxe-armed toaster oven and you get the idea.

Class: Heavyweight
Builder: Donald Hutson for Team Tazbot
This one's got big rubber tires, flipper blades, a low center of gravity, and a grabber arm designed to drag opponents into the aforementioned "Hazard Damage" areas of the Battlebot arena. Not nice. It even looks a little like it's namesake from the WWF.

Name:Vlad the Impaler
Class: Heavyweight.
Builders: Gage Cauchois & Gregg Walker for Team Vladmeisters.
Another forklift, but this time attached to a malevolent-looking dehumidifier thingie. Also has a low center of gravity, and a powerful flipper action.

Class: Super Heavyweight
Builder: Scott LaValley.
What looks to be a miniature tracked artillery piece is really just ol' DoAll sporting a carbide steel ramrod, powered by a pneumatic drive piston. "Getting poked and prodded to death is not a pleasant way to go!" says Bill Dwyer.

Sean Salisbury likes Dwyer's choices, and has a couple of his own.

Class: Super Heavyweight
Builder: Daniel Rupert for Team Malicious
Looks like a tollbooth gate with a railroad spike on the end! Ouch!

Class: Heavyweight
Builder: Charles Tilford for Team South Bay Robowarriors
"A giant can of extra-chunky whoop-ass!" says Sean. Chew on that, Stone Cold.

Name:Ankle Biter
Class: Middleweight
Builder: John McKenzie
A stainless steel wedge robot, with go-kart wheels and a table saw in the prow for some offensive moves. Very offensive!

Class: Lightweight.
Builder: Jonathan Ridder for Team Ziggy.
"(Ziggo) has whirling steel blades that reach devastatingly high rpms. Get close and say good night forever!" says Sean.

The preview show also featured two matches.
The first was a Lightweight bout, between the buzzsaw-armed Backlash and a flipper-armed 'Bot named Disposable Hero.
The match was all Backlash from the get-go, as it got in the first, devastating lick with it's spinning saw blade that flipped Disposable Hero end over end. Backlash then moved in for the kill, first ripping off a flipper alignment bushing, then the entire flipper assembly. It then circled the stricken foe, tore away the antenna, and finally destroyed the speed controller unit for the knockout. Afterwards, Backlash did a spinning victory dance.

The stats:
Backlash scored 4 Slams, 1 Jab, 2 Hazard Damage, and a K.O.
Disposable Hero scored zero in all categories.

Post-match: Donna D'Errico consoles Disposable Hero builder Phil Putman, and returns the 'Bot's speed controller to him.
Larry Sklar's got winner Backlash's builder Jim Smentowski, who says the "victory dance" is to let the crowd know who's the best at "Battlebots."

Match #2 is preceded by a short biopic on the designer/builder of one of the contestants, a 14-year-old named Lisa Winter. Lisa plays the violin and designs killer robots. That should look real good on her resume. Lisa has designed Tentomushi, a deceptively cute-looking ladybug robot with a six-inch power saw blade under the hood. The tactics Lisa uses to score wins over her opponents are deceptively simple: smother the opponent with the outer ladybug carapace, then let the internal saw blade grind up her opponent.
Her opponent, Sallad, designed by Dallas Goecker of Concord CA, looks like an old steel cash drawer with an actuator/gripper mounted on a universal arm. Designed to grasp, hold and drag opponents into the Hazards, Sallad should be a worthy opponent.
The match opens with Tentomushi looking to trap Sallad under the ladybug carapace. This happens, but the saw bladed carapace is lifted out of harm's way by Sallad's gripper arm. Both 'Bots separate, and Tentomushi charges in for another go at Sallad , and succeeds in dragging it over to one of the saw hazards, which, unfortunately, takes a big bite out of both combatants. Tentomushi tries for another cover, only to get Sallad's actuator arm stuck in her carapace yet again, and that's the way the match ends.

Tentomushi: 0 Slams, 7 Jams, 1 Hazard Damage.
Sallad: 0 Slams, 4 Jams, 1 Hazard Damage.

Winner: Tentomushi (Decision)

Post-match, Dallas Goecker compliments his opponent's driving skills and design. According to Goecker, Sallad had more power than Tentomushi, but when the bug's carapace came down, it looked like she was in control when she really wasn't. As the loser Goecker gets a neat parting gift of pickled okra.
Donna D'Errico interviews the winner. Lisa Winter says her strategy was to capture Sallad and "get him over the spinning blades or grind him with my own grinder." "Did it make you mad when you lost your antennae," asks D'Errico? "No, they were just for decoration," says Lisa.

The "Robliteration" starts for real on Wednesday, August 30th at 10:30 PM.
"Battlebots" is fun, it's crazy, it's violent, and it's a hoot to watch!

My question to you all is, should I recap this foolishness each week for you?
Drop me a line and let me know!

E.C. Ostemeyer
[slash] wrestling

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Guest column text copyright (C) 2000 by the individual author and used with permission