To Live and Watch Robots Die in L.A.

Note: There are linked videos of BattleBots fights in this post. They are all from last season. There are no spoilers for the upcoming season, which will be on the Discovery and Science Channels this starting this May.

Some vacations are about visiting friends and family. Others are about going places you’ve never been, taking in the scenery, the food, the feel and the air of a distant city. Still others are just about getting away from everything and taking a break from a routine.

This vacation was not about any of those things. This vacation was about watching robots kick the ever-loving crap out of each other. It was about fire, and noise, and saws, and hammers, and mower blades.

This vacation was about BattleBots.

Warhead vs. Complete Control in what I regard as the greatest fight in the history of all fighting sports. I am biased.

Nicole introduced me to BattleBots a year or two ago and I was instantly hooked. It has far more violence than any sport I’ve seen, but no one gets hurt. It rewards tactical thinking, the ability to design, the skill to build, and the quickness of wit to face a foe bent on the destruction of your bot. In a better world, it would be more popular than any other sport.

So, when Nicole saw that tickets were on sale for the taping of season 3 (or 6, or 7…BattleBots has a difficult history), it was a no-brainer to grab a pair to the final frickin’ show. This was one of those items you don’t realize is on your bucket list until the opportunity presents itself.

Hypershock vs. Warrior Clan. Please marvel at Hypershock's non-traditional choice of weapons.

We looked at the timing and the finances and decided that, rather than make a vacation out of it, we would make this trip a short one and focus on the single event rather than trying to “see L.A.” We flew in Saturday evening and we’re on our way home on right now (“right now” being 8:00 AM Monday morning; I’ll be posting this later as the idea of buying in-flight Wi-Fi by the hour does not appeal).

The upshot is that we have very little to report from a tourist standpoint as we spent most of our time near our hotel (near LAX and Inglewood) and in the part of Long Beach that doesn’t show up in the brochures (unless those brochures are for things like “shipping containers” and “small commercial airports”). Mostly, we saw a lot of the 405, which looks a good deal like other freeways.

Chomp vs. Captain Shrederator. The Captain's builder expressed disdain for Chomp prior to this fight, calling the bot "over-engineered." 

Food-wise, we decided to try a well-reviewed Mexican joint within walking distance of the hotel called Casa Gamino. If you’re from Texas, I would advise you to avoid this. The food was plentiful, but bland does not begin to describe. Wait, that’s not true. “Bland” is a exceedingly accurate description of the chiles rellenos and red chile plate.

Lunch the next day was more successful but not without a little difficulty. We tried a place called Panang Thai, literally next to the hotel, which shares a building with a Thai massage place and an aquarium. The food wasn’t spicy, but it was flavorful, well-prepared, and plentiful to a fault. The appetizers were entire meals on their own, and, due to what I hope was a language problem, I was served a bowl of chicken curry instead of the Thai fried rice with chicken I’d ordered. Or, we thought it was “instead of,” as ten minutes later, it turned into “in addition to” a plate of beef fried rice.

Then, it was time for the main event: BattleBots! We drove to a hanger in Long Beach and, through some unlikely bit of luck, found ourselves in the front of the line for the group filling one side of the arena. I got some serious chills when we walked in and saw the set for the first time. We picked out an optimal spot and then we waited.

Minotaur vs. Warhead in a battle of two of the most outrageous powerful weapons in the tournament.

If you’ve ever been to this sort of an event, you already know that there’s a good deal of waiting involved. Carting the bots into the arena, cleaning up after a particularly vicious fight, getting the announcers and the judges into places, doing alternate takes (of which there were surprisingly few; the entire crew were pros at this), but it was all worth it.

I’m afraid I can’t discuss the content of the battles until after these episodes air, but I can tell you this: It was worth it. Television does a great job of capturing the violence of these fights, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The sounds inside the building are much louder than they seem on TV, and when something unexpected and incredible happens, everyone in the building laughs and screams even the old pros seem to be delighted by the spectacle. There was one moment in particular; you’ll know it when you see it, that had everyone from the stage crew to the other teams to the on-screen talent lining up to take photos.

After a generous number of undercard fights, we finally got to the final. Obviously, I can’t say anything specific, but what I can say is that you’ll want to see it. Last year’s final, a battle between Tombstone and Bombshell, was a bit of a dud and was over quickly without much in the way of spectacular action. That is not the case with the final this year.

Tombstone won the tournament last year. This is not the final because the final wasn't very good. Most fights against Tombstone are not very good. Ask Counter Revolution.

We had an absolute blast. Would we do it again? Of course! My voice is absolutely shot and we must have sweated off half a dozen pounds over the course of the evening. One of the most fun, ridiculous things we've done. 

But who won?


Looks like it was me!