Thousands of years ago, one Greek guy punched another Greek guy, and then they just turned it into a sport. Indeed, boxing is one of the oldest Olympic sports, and has since been refined and perfected over nearly 3,000 years; and today, two of gaming's toughest boxers go head-to-head.
In the tenth episode of season four, two experienced nigh-unstoppable boxers of video game origin are pit against one another. The hosts will match all-out brutality against speed and distance, a willingness to fight dirty against former cheats made natural, for both Balrog and TJ Combo are the forefront experts of their shared craft, but only one has the necessary skills to take home victory in a death battle.
Starting the episode is Balrog, and courtesy of Wiz and Boomstick, a look at his origins, where he sought to escape the slums he grew up in and become a world-renowned boxer. With his impressive frame and natural talent for boxing, to say nothing of a tendency to use underhanded tactics, Balrog soon became a champion prizefighter. His days of glory, however, were not long, as upon killing an opponent in the ring and inflicting lifelong injuries upon others, he was permanently banned from professional boxing and resorted to a life of crime. He would spend his days afterwards scraping a living out of fighting in the streets of Las Vegas and in underground circuits, trying to find money however he could. That all changed when M. Bison, head of the criminal syndicate Shadaloo, recruited him for his strength. Balrog would eventually use his muscle to rise through the ranks of Shadaloo and land a role as one of Bison's personal guards.
The same physical prowess and underhanded strategies that helped the crazy buffalo secure his positions as heavyweight champion and eventual top enforcer for Shadaloo still serve him well in any conflict. Balrog specializes in slugger-style boxing, which, unlike other forms accepted in professional boxing, emphasizes a straightforward technique, forgoing mobility in favor of pure brute strength. This sort of style is exactly the sort that Balrog uses in order to perform various special moves, such as the Dash Straight and Upper that propel him forward while attacking; the Screw Smash, an uppercut that enemy offenses fail to interrupt; and his infamous Gigaton Blow, the same hook he used to kill the Indian shaman Dhalsim's pet elephant, or his equally-iconic Turn Punch haymaker. To complement his assortment of punches, Balrog can also tense the muscles in his arm to heighten their already-immense damage output.
Unlike most other fighters, Balrog takes his natural skill and amplifies it to a superhuman extreme. To put his punches into perspective, the strongest known punch carried 1420 pounds of force behind it, and as elephants are capable of knocking down trees using at least 10,000 pounds of force, Balrog surpasses the real-life world record seven times over. His durability is likewise, an equally-impressive monument to his physique; one such example being when he once fought the sumo wrestler Edmund Honda on a cliff overlooking Thailand's Kwai Yai river and how the pair survived an ensuing 1,200-foot fall. However, while Balrog has all the muscle of a six-foot-four world heavyweight champion, he also possesses the intelligence expected of him. Other combatants in the Street Fighter universe have been able to analyze Balrog's simplistic fighting style and suitably counter his movements. Other instances of his lack of planning can be found in how, after M. Bison's demise, Balrog was subsequently crowned the new head of Shadaloo, and proceeded to squander the funds his predecessor had funded. Thankfully for Balrog, his strengths lie not in planning and forethought, but in his muscle and pure brawn, the same strengths that brought him to the heights he keeps aiming to reach once more.
- Balrog: (quiet chuckle) I can almost smell the money now. If I can pull this off, I'll be on easy street forever!
From Balrog the hosts move on, and on they move to TJ Combo, who was once born to a poor family as Tyler-Johnson Garrett. In the city of Galveston on the Texas coast, TJ was trained by his father to become a boxer, and though he lost his first fight, he soon made up for his failure, using rolls of quarters to amplify his punching power. Soon, the art of boxing meant nothing compared to the thrill of victory, but his deceit would catch up with him and was kicked out of the junior league. The rest of his childhood would be spent drifting in and out of trouble before TJ saved what little money he had and moved to Chicago, where he got a job cleaning up at a local boxing gym on the southside. All his time and money was spent perfecting his lifelong interest, studying world champions and acquiring lessons of his own before finally being given a second chance at becoming a champion. His efforts were well-rewarded, and to Tyler came fame, wealth, and prestige, all of which spoiled him; his success was spent on a lavish lifestyle and his insistence on neglecting to train and further refine his skills caught up with him when he eventually lost his title. The shadowy organization known as Ultratech contacted TJ and grafted titanium implants into his arms, enabling him to regain and keep hold of his title for twenty years; in return, TJ would eventually be order to throw a fight against one of Ultratech's premiere Fulgore units. TJ, thanks to Ultratech treating him like a caged animal and siphoning his winnings from him, took their abuse no longer and obliterated the robot, and in retaliation, ARIA, Ultratech's AI overlord, exposed TJ's enhancements, stripping him of his titles. TJ refused to let this disgrace define him, ripping the titanium out of his arms and working with the Disavowed, a rogue black ops squad, to expose Ultratech.
Given his passionate interest in boxing, TJ models himself after some of the greats of the sport, in particular adopting the same outboxing style used by Muhammad Ali. With outboxing, TJ keeps himself out of the range of an opponent's reach and capitalizes on dodging their swings. TJ accomplishes this by means of several special moves, such as the multi-hitting Powerline. The native Texan can also create shockwaves with his overhead hooks and knock foes skyward with the Vortex uppercut. Unlike his fellow boxer, Combo also uses other methods of attack beyond punches, such as jumping knees and judo throws. Courtesy of Ultratech's machinations and experiments on him, TJ also has an enhanced healing factor and can enter a berserker state in Instinct Mode, which enables him to move and punch beyond his limits.
Having decades of experience and training on his side has helped TJ greatly. His uppercuts can launch his foes 13 feet into the air, can survive an 1,100-foot fall from an Ultratech-owned factory, and maintained his championship in boxing for a whole two decades; furthermore, without his implants, TJ is still experienced in fighting a wide number of foes outside the ring, including Ultratech's upgraded Fulgore units and their genetically modified Riptor dinosaurs. That said, TJ has never been the ultimate pugilist, nor will he ever be. Others from his series have proven triumphant over him in combat, such as the ice alien Glacius and squads of Ultratech soldiers, and his outboxing style can be overpowered by a sufficiently-aggressive opponent. But Tyler learns from his mistakes and seeks to make amends with them to prove his worth not only to the world, but to himself.
- TJ Combo: (hits a Fulgore unit with a Powerline) And don't think for a moment that I'll let anything get in my way. (picks up the Fulgore and slams it into the air) 'Cause if you give me that moment... I win! (activates Instinct Mode and punches the ground)
Both combatants have had pros and cons alike examined and objectively compared. One advertisement for the Blue Apron cooking service later, and now, it's time for a death battle!
A peculiarly-decorated stadium, with a horde of ecstatic fans cheering on all sides, is the setting for the upcoming bout. An unseen announcer introduces to the ring the crazy buffalo, Balrog. From the other side of the ring, the same announcer calls forward the reigning champion, TJ Combo. The combatants swap banter and tap fists together in a display of begrudging sportsmanship, before heading to their corners and throwing a few final warm-up punches. A referee in the middle taps a finger downwards, granting both men the clearance to do what they do best.
At his word, the heavyweights shuffle towards the center, TJ nimbly dodging a wide hook from Balrog. The crazy buffalo takes an early lead despite this setback, TJ getting hammered with wide-reaching blows. The Texan shifts backwards, evading an uppercut and giving himself breathing room to work with; swerving around Balrog's straight punches while his own are blocked. The boxers stay on the offensive, seemingly brushing off every single jab and hook that comes their way. Soon, Balrog lays into the former Ultratech subject with a strong left cross, giving him the opening he needs to unleash a series of punches to Tyler's midsection that swiftly disorients the reigning champ. TJ regains his balance, but not for long once Balrog catches him with a Dash Straight that knocks him clean into a match post. The Shadaloo enforcer follows up with a hasty charge and an onslaught of punches that rain down upon TJ, who can only helplessly shield himself against the barrage before ducking a wide hook and backing himself out of the corner. Balrog stares at empty space in confusion for a moment, before turning around and being met with TJ throwing a Superman punch that knocks the elephant killer straight into the match post. Dazed from being hit by the post, Balrog is left open to a hastened rush of punches, the announcer's shock emphasizing the speed and ferocity by which TJ Combo lives up to his sobriquet. Balrog recover and throws a Screw Smash, but the Texan catches on and quickly vaults back out of the uppercut's range. A missed overhead punch frees Balrog up to be caught from behind with a leap and a Tremor punch downwards that lands right on Balrog's face, knocking the crazy buffalo down.
The referee starts the ten-count, but Balrog gets up by the time the count reaches two, infuriated at being the first to go down in the match. Before the two men can come to blows, the bell rings, signaling the end of round one; the pugilists return to their corners and catch their breath for a few brief moments before the bell heralds the start of round two. The match's overseer taps a finger downwards and wisely backs away from the two contenders as they resume their bout. Combo goes for the first blows of the round and is subsequently rewarded, swiftly dodging Balrog's oncoming punches and laying into Balrog with a series of sweeping blows. The beating continues as TJ and Balrog attempt to punch one another, but the champion is quicker to act, ramming a fist into Balrog's abdomen and following it up with a pair of uppercuts. Tyler-Johnson leaps back and goes for a Powerline, but the crazy buffalo catches him mid-sprint, willing and now prepared to use his underhanded tactics. Balrog headbutts TJ right in the face before stomping on his foot and throwing a ferocious rabbit punch; his Dirty Bull combination sending TJ tumbling to the mat. The crowd bursts into an uproar, boos and jeering flooding the stadium. The associate to the Disavowed gets up after a second before the referee calls out Balrog on his trickery, but gets battered with a quick series of punches and laid out on the mat for his trouble; even the announcer is appalled by the turn of events.
With both prizefighters back to their respective corners, Balrog sheds his robe, beckoning TJ to challenge him. TJ wipes some blood off his mouth, willing to take Balrog on. The Shadaloo enforcer charges forward with another Dash Straight, but now is TJ's turn to counter the offensive, hoisting Balrog into the air and slamming him onto the mat with a Shoot Toss, the force of which knocks Balrog skyward again. With a high-reaching kick juggling him, Balrog is vulnerable to a second Tremor, exactly how TJ continues with his attack. Though he attempts to chain his movements into a Powerline, TJ finds his offensive countered as Balrog shoulder tackles him. Now is Balrog's turn to strike, and strike he does, going all out with a Violent Buffalo attack, knocking TJ senseless with a series of alternating overhead hooks and uppercuts. Balrog attempts to finish his combo with a Turn Punch, but the moment he shifts himself around for the finishing blow does TJ recover and intercept the move with a strong left cross. The announcer balks at the fighters' stamina as TJ regains the lead in the bout, darting around Balrog's punches and rapidly pummeling him. Balrog tries to fight back, but his sweeping blows are too sluggish to connect with his more agile foe. However, the flow of the match shifts back in Balrog's favor when TJ attempts a Vortex uppercut; Balrog thus free to interrupt him with a sweeping low punch and uppercut. As TJ rolls out the way of an oncoming stomp as he drops back onto the mat, the fighters close the distance and wildly swing at one another, their punches connecting with such force that it cracks the mat around them. The boxers continue to trade blows, seemingly ignoring everything they take; fists collide, knuckle-to-knuckle, multiple times over before the impact sends champion and contender back against their corners.
White energy swirls around Balrog who rushes forward with an arm cocked back; likewise, TJ clasps his own cyan-laden fists together, charging at the crazy buffalo. An overhead punch swiftly dodged by TJ costs the Texan dearly as Balrog hammers him with a volley of hooks. Screaming at the champion, Balrog unleashes his trademark Gigaton Blow upon TJ, time seeming to slow down for an instant as the champion drops face-first upon the fractured mat. The announcer is awestruck at Balrog's seeming triumph, but the match takes on an unexpected turn of events. TJ regains his footing in the ring, the memories of his glory days surging through him and powering his Instinct Mode - Last Breath. Swiftly, TJ darts around an overhead hook and closes the distance; before Balrog can unleash another punch, Tyler-Johnson strikes him with a rapid-fire series of jabs to the chest; every attempt from Balrog to block is stopped by a frantic volley of blows. A Dash Straight is ducked under by TJ, who hammers Balrog's elbow, snapping his arm backwards with a grotesque crunch punctuating the injury. Whimpering in agony from his broken arm, Balrog fails to spot his opponent staying on the offensive, hooks sweeping across him in quick succession with no mercy; Balrog is only able to utter pained groans. TJ rears an arm back, a massive influx of cyan energy surrounding his fist as he prepares a final Vortex. The moment TJ's fist connects, the uppercut rips Balrog's head clean from the neck, soaring towards the stadium lights. The announcer's utter shock at the gruesome victory gives way to disgust as Balrog's decapitated cranium lands right on the camera recording the fight moments before said recording shifts to a test screen, thus ending the match.
To emphasize the outcome of the bout, an instant replay is brought up, highlighting the fatal blow from TJ that severed Balrog's head. The hosts admit the fight between the pugilists was an incredibly close matchup, with both combatants being equals in a number of fields, comparing the pair's striking power. With regards to Balrog's elephant-killing punch, the hosts translate its 10,000 pounds of force as 44,482 newtons; TJ, in comparison, can knock even quarter-ton Fulgore units 13 feet into the air, which would require 44,820 newtons, giving TJ the strength advantage, but just barely. Further emphasizing the physicality of the boxers is the immense falls both have taken, proving that, despite Balrog surviving a fall over 100 feet greater than TJ's highest known drop, the two are evenly-matched in durability. However, TJ held an advantage in the form of real-world boxing phenomena; the triangle theory, used to compare differing boxing styles, establishes that outboxers such as TJ hold an advantage against Balrog, who prefers the slugger style. Specifically, slugger-style punches are powerful, but also predictable and consume more energy, meaning a well-trained outboxer can keep their distance from the slugger, capitalizing on their mistakes and wearing their foe's stamina down over time. Although the hosts do note that individual boxers are different and thus the theory may not apply to all, it still holds up for the most part, with Muhammad Ali's victory over George Foreman in the famous Rumble in the Jungle as evidence. In addition, TJ managed to hold his championship belt for twenty years, giving him a further advantage in experience. While both pugilists are famed and powerful, TJ had a few key points that clinched victory in his favor over Balrog.
- Boomstick: You could say TJ had the Instinct for this fight and it was a Killer.
Wiz: The winner is TJ Combo!
TJ Combo: (throws two punches and hoist his arms up) Yeah!
Balrog vs. TJ Combo contains examples of:
- Black and Grey Morality: Such as it can ever be applied to Death Battle, the leadup emphasizes TJ Combo's shady past... after telling us what Balrog's been up to. The Crazy Buffalo comes across as the villain here.
- Boxing Battler: Two of the video game world's first and best boxers coming head to head serves as the premise of the episode.
- Call-Back: Balrog's elephant-killing punch was first brought up when Cammy White, who survived a fight with Balrog, appeared on the show.
- Camera Abuse: As if being decapitated wasn't enough, Balrog's head ends up flying into the camera and cracks it. It even ends the broadcast and the announcer says that he has to throw up.
- Casualty in the Ring: Balrog gets his head punched off sometime after he escalated the fight's stakes. Given the rules of the series, it was inevitable that one of the combatants would leave in a body bag.
- Combat Pragmatist: Both boxers are known to be dirty cheats in the ring, but while TJ grew out of it, Balrog still headbutts and stomps without shame. It's Balrog's decision to knock out the ref that turns their championship match into a Duel to the Death.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Balrog knocked the ref out and made things a Duel to the Death. He's the one who dies.
- How Much More Can He Take?: Even the announcer is surprised by the ridiculous amounts of durability both fighters possess."They won't stop! How long will this go!?"
- Megaton Punch: Balrog's 10,000 pound Gigaton Blow is a point of pride, though TJ's punches, such as the Vortex and Tremor, are powerful in their own right. Balrog finds this out the hard way.
- Not So Different: Both Balrog and TJ grew up to poor families and possessed talent in boxing. They also used underhanded tactics to stay on top, inevitably leading to them being stripped of their titles. However, whereas Balrog continues to cheat and eventually became an enforcer of the crime syndicate, Shadaloo, TJ would strive to prove to the world that he can win legitimately.
- Painting the Medium: The moment the announcer signifies the two to fight, the show's usual "FIGHT!" font appears onscreen.
- Product Placement: The Blue Apron food service is advertised prior to the match as usual, but banners sponsoring it are also littered across the arena in the fight proper. The logos of Shadaloo and Ultratech are also shown when both combatants are introduced.
- Punch Parry: This results in the ring being destroyed because of the power both boxers possess.
- Squick: The announcer of the boxing match is understandably disturbed seeing Balrog's severed head fall on the camera.
- Tactical RockPaperScissors: Used to help establish a point in TJ's victory; the boxing triangle theory points out that outboxers such as TJ hold an advantage over sluggers like Balrog. This was the deciding factor, as they were otherwise evenly matched in most other areas, with each having a very slight advantage but not enough to decide the bout.
- Truth in Television: The Rumble in the Jungle, where Muhammad Ali, an outboxer won against slugger George Foreman, is used as an example of the triangle theory.