Sometimes it just makes too much sense. When the opportunity arose for AlertBot to sponsor one of the highly talented teams in the BattleBots tournament, it just seemed like a no-brainer. (I mean, come on — we’re AlertBOT… it’s a match made in robotic heaven!) In this case, we were able to be among the select sponsors for team Whiplash, a much-celebrated family-run team that regularly competes in BattleBots. As part of the sponsorship, the Whiplash gang invited us to witness the filming of the latest BattleBots season in Las Vegas, Nevada, and it didn’t take much convincing for us to start booking our trip to Sin City.
A pair of us from the AlertBot team flew out to Vegas to meet the Vasquez family – AKA collectively known as Whiplash – on Monday, October 17th, 2022, to get a personal tour of the facilities. We met with Whiplash’s Debbie Vasquez (Whiplash Team Manager), who graciously showed us around the BattleBots pit area, and was an absolute delight to talk to. She even introduced us to other teams that we could speak with and see their bots prior to the fights. We met with teams that traveled as far as Australia (DeathRoll) to be here for the filming of the show. We enjoyed meeting the entire Whiplash team, which included Matthew Vasquez (Whiplash Team Captain, Designer, Builder and Driver), Jason Vasquez (Whiplash Builder, Auxiliary Weapons Operator, Pit Crew ), Jeff Vasquez (Whiplash Team Builder, Pit Crew), Debbie Vasquez (Whiplash Team Manager) and others on their team. They were all just like you see them on TV and a pleasure to be around.
2021 marked the first year that a new BattleBots arena building was set up to be a permanent hub for BattleBots tournaments. Next to the main arena building is a small collection of tents for various specialties dedicated to the needs of the BattleBots teams. Right alongside the arena is a designated welding area, where Lincoln Electric is set up to assist the teams in working on — or fixing — their respective bots. On the other side of these small tents is the main pit area tent, where one would find every single team set up inside with individual workstations for each team. It looked very much like a tradeshow with tables promoting the teams or selling merch. However, these are quite literally stations where the teams feverishly work on their bots — whether setting them up for their first fight or rebuilding them after a particularly violent encounter. Each team’s work area was also graced with a widescreen TV so they could watch the fights live while working, keeping the builders in the loop as to the progress of the new season. The hope and excitement in that pit area on the eve of the first day of filming the new season was palpable. Sadly, while each match would result in a winner, there must also be a loser.
We were amazed by the goodwill between the teams, too. You might expect there to be a cutthroat competitive nature between them, but instead, there was a shocking amount of love and admiration shared among the teams. By the way they behaved, you would think they were all on the same team together. It was hard to imagine these teams remaining friends after one might totally debilitate or demolish the bot of another. But somehow, they do. Still, it was impossible not to notice the passion, detail, and effort that went into each bot. Each team had immense hope of success with their bots, and you almost couldn’t imagine their hard work resulting in utter heartbreak.
The following day, we arrived early to make it through the front gate check-in area and join the VIP’s in finding a place to sit inside the arena in the audience on the bleachers. Each taping session is 4 hours long, and each day includes 2 of these recording sessions, with a 2-hour break between them. Fans can buy tickets to any of these sessions (pending ticket availability, of course) online, so they could attend one of these sessions, or both if they desired. We attended both the morning and the afternoon sessions that first day, with a set number of fights occurring in each session and extras squeezed in if possible.
Fans were expected to be very impassioned and involved in each taping session and were often instructed to cheer at specific times. Granted, you don’t have to tell these fans to be excited; they just naturally were. But for taping reasons, there needed to be specific moments of cheering and reactions from the fans to make the event appear smooth for the episodes that would air.
Everyone you’d expect to be in attendance at a BattleBots taping was indeed there. Announcers Chris Rose and Kenny Florian were there to offer their pre- and post-fight announcer commentary, and Faruq Tauheed was there to announce each fight (or, in some cases, re-announce the fight, if he or the producers needed a different take from him). The judges, who would clarify any close-call fights were also on the other side of the arena cage, and we’d learn of their final verdict when Faruq made his official announcement.
For the audience, comedian Bill Dwyer, who was the host of the show during its first iteration in 2000 and 2001, played hype man to the audience, and was just a lot of fun. He interacted with us on a personal level, as well as getting the younger fans engaged (and often rewarding them with free t-shirts and such). He would fill in the downtime between fights, which helped some of the slower moments pass by more quickly.
Members of the individual bot teams also would frequently run over to the stands and hand out signs or stickers to fans to enjoy or hold up during their fight to cheer them on. It was a neat little bonus for being there in person.
A given fight would start with Faruq’s announcement, the teams walking out (and posing), and their bots being wheeled into the arena “battlebox” on hydraulic carts. After setup, the countdown would begin, and the bots would go at each other for the win. Each fight is given 3 minutes total to play out, which were easily the most exciting minutes of the day, but some fights didn’t last even half that time. A fight would end early if one bot rendered the other undriveable, but other fights would last the full three minutes and then go to the judges to make the final call as to who the winner would be. In most of those cases, the winner would still be chosen “unanimously” across all the judges.
The fights were all pretty exciting. One match ended after about 20 or 30 seconds with a super quick KO, while a couple others needed the full time to complete. One particular fight ended with a bot catching on fire and it would take some time for the arena to be cleared and readied up for the next fight. In the second session, a pair of bots got stuck together after less than 30 seconds of fighting, and after quite some time trying to get them apart, they were cut apart and taken out of the arena for the next fight to commence. There was definitely no shortage of memorable moments during a full day of filming!
When we left Vegas for home, we took along with us a new appreciation for BattleBots and their talented teams. It’s a sport that appreciates its fans and has a surprising amount of heart on and off camera (especially off camera). We only witnessed a handful of the fights that will be televised next year, but you can be sure we’ll be tuning in to watch these teams go head-to-head for the championship! Fans can tune in on Thursday’s at 8pm (check your local listings) to see the new season of BattleBots on The Discovery Channel. Go, Whiplash!