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Series / Robot Combat League

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A series on Syfy hosted by Chris Jericho where twelve 8-foot tall robots duke it out in one-on-one slugfests (basically as close to a Real Life Real Steel as possible at the moment). Each robot is assigned to a two-man team: the Robo-Jockey controls the arms, while the Robo-Tech controls the legs. These people include IT guys, robotic engineers, athletes, MMA fighters, military men, and others. The robots are created by Mark Setrakian, an alumna contestant of BattleBots and the man behind the animatronics of films such as Hellboy (2004) and Men in Black.

The twelve robot pugilists of Season 1 are as follows:

  • A.X.E.: Has a hatchet head which actually works as a secondary weapon.
  • Brimstone: Has a well-encased head and its leather armor absorbs impact. Interestingly, its jockey is Hot-Blooded.
  • Commander: Military trooper with massive fists.
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  • Crash: Fellow competitors despised the rollcage design as an unfinished child's toy, which turned out to be one of the best protection. Ultimately won the championship.
  • Drone Strike: Has barrel fists for aesthetic design/entrance pyrotechnics, yet gives them increased punching reach.
  • Game Over: Has a monitor face reminiscent of RoboCop 2, though the screen only shows static in battle.
  • Medieval: Clad in plate armor and mace fists. Bonus points for its operator being named Heather Knight.
  • Robo Hammer: One of the largest robots in the roster, given the jockey's father it will remind you of a tall cyborg in black armor.
  • Scorpio: Has arms heavily-weaponized with hooked elbows and bladed knuckles.
  • Steampunk: True to the namesake subculture, its armor makes this steam-powered robot very well-protected all the way to the finals.
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  • Steel Cyclone: A submarine-like robot with torpedo fists.
  • Thunder Skull: A futuristic gang-inspired robot with a skull emblem on its head.

Match-up results are untagged, so expect spoilers ahead.

Tropes used in this series include:

  • Achilles' Heel: The midsection, which houses all the vital wirings. Ditto with the arms. As part of the balance between the robots, some are better or worse protected than others.
  • Action Girl: Beyond the obvious ones, some of the females reveal they're more than just smarts and looks. Diana Yang (Team Scorpio) has kick boxing training.
  • Action Mom: Ashley Nunes of Team Steampunk who is fighting for the good of her son.
  • A Friend in Need: Ashley Mary Nunes of Team Steampunk is a struggling single mother who entered to win the money to help her son. In one of the most touching moments of the entire show, when Ashley loses the final round, Amber Shinsel, the Robo-Jockey of the winning robot Crash, immediately goes to her, hugs her, and tells Ashley she and her father will help her.
  • Anti-Climax:
    • Thunder Skull vs. Brimstone. While the aspect of "even fight" is foreseen due to both bots having hulking black armor and huge fists, the match ended on the first round with TS's disqualification due to sneak attacks on Brimstone even after the horn has sounded. Ironically, TS's jockey's explanation for the hits were that she was so into the fight she didn't hear the horn while Brimstone's Hot-Blooded jockey ceased fighting right away.
    • Robo Hammer vs. Drone strike. Drone Strike ended the fight at the start of the first round with one hit, and they spent the rest of the episode watching the tech, jockey, and pit crew try futilely to fix Robo Hammer.
  • Armor Is Useless: Inverted. The armors around the arm areas are as vital to the robot as the midsection. If these armors are knocked off, the actuators around that arm are extremely open to attack and will rupture in the ensuing impacts. In Crash v. Scorpio, Crash actually rips away Scorpio's weaker armor completely and immediately fighters and commentators note how vulnerable Scorpio is.
    • Crash's superior protection is a large factor for it winning the tournament. Instead of employing armor, it relocates momentum recieved to less vital parts of its body and the floor with impact bars.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Aggressiveness in dominating the opponent gives you an edge in the scoring. This is a byproduct of the boxing/MMA like rules used where it's good strikes on the opponent that earn points.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The midsection. The Commander fight highlights this.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical:
    • A lot of the well-armored robots' drawback is the very exposed midsection. Brimstone's leather armor also qualifies since if this robot gets a "hemorrhage", its own hydraulic fluid will destroy the leather.
    • Steampunk's well-armored torso trades off fragile shoulders and very heavy fists. The pneumatic connection of the fists to the arm is prone to losing grip due to weight. The knife-claw is also unwieldy once the weapon arm broke off, and Steampunk cannot use its arm as a flail as Crash can.
  • Badass Adorable: Crash is the robot version of this, due to looking like a children's toy compared to the likes of Thunder Skull, Drone Strike, and Scorpio.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Robot version. For all their armor, most robots have exposed midsections so expect a lot of backbone breaking. Though, Dronestrike and Hammer covered them and Crash has impact bars over its stomach.
  • Battering Ram: While most robots with big fists can be considered as such, Crash's fists are shaped more like a real battering ram compared to the rounded fists of 'bots like Steel Cyclone. All fists have enough force to crumple armor and incapacitate other 'bots.
    • Crash also got the Battering Ram weapon in the semi-finals which was considered as the Scrappy Weapon. It doubled as a small shield and its wedged sides made it a good flail.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The humans always look fine but that's because they're not actually getting hit. For the robots, however, the armor they start the tournament with is the armor they finish with. For those that fought more than a handful of rounds, you can very clearly see the wear and tear.
  • Blood Sport: More like hydraulic fluid sport.
  • Boring Yet Practical: Crash got the Battering Ram extension for the semi-finals, the least favored of the four weapons. By the time of the match against Scorpio (which had the Christmas Tree, the most favored of the weapons), Crash's arm is broken again. This made the battering ram even more effective: it became a flail, prying off what's left of Scorpio's worn out armor like a can opener and land solid hits to the open chest and arms.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Crash tends to do this often, usually with an uppercut against the opponent's elbow. The impact has a high chance of "fracturing" the elbow, but Crash's as well. It also crippled Steel Cyclone in this fashion with a blow to the chest.
  • The Cameo:
    • By George Lucas in the third episode. Not a surprise, considering his daughter is on the show.
    • Freddie Roach, trainer of Manny Pacquiao guested for a sparring practice with the jockeys in the fourth episode.
  • Competitive Balance: The twelve named robots are balanced aesthetically and in their armor, weight, height, and tools.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: Pretty much.
  • Cross Counter: The climax of the Crash vs. Steel Cyclone fight, breaking SC's elbow upward.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Steel Cyclone pummeled Crash on the first round, due to Crash's operators being out of sync. Crash returns the favor with precise body blows on the second round, resulting in SC's TKO.
    • Played straight with Scorpio vs. Commander, where Scorpio owning the entire three rounds and ending with Commander snapped in half.
  • Cursed With Awesome: Crash balances out having the best armor in the entire league with extremely fragile elbows, breaking one or both in every fight. While this would be a crippling injury, its Jockey Amber's refusal to stop swinging no matter what happens ended up weaponizing it, turning Crash's limp arms into Dual Wielding Epic Flails.
  • Cute Bruiser: Diana Yang of Team Scorpio and Ashley Nunes of Team Steampunk. On the mechanical side, Crash is one of the shorter robots.
  • Dark Horse Victory: The two finalists, as stated by the hosts, where probably the last robots anyone expected to make it to the finals due to their designs and communication problems with their jockeys, particularly Crash. In the end, Steampunk and Crash where the final two with Crash barely winning out. Conversely, Steampunk's Tech was always consistently stated to be among the best if not the best Tech in the league - it was the syncronization issues with SP's Jockey that was always the issue.
  • David Versus Goliath: Episodes are even described as such between the underdog bottom seed and the fore-running top.
  • Determinator: Team Game Over. Both arms are severely damaged and bleeding heavily, but still manage to put up a huge fight and survive all three rounds. Even though they lost, they managed to make it one of the closest fights.
    • Ashley Nunes of Team Steampunk as well, throwing as many punches as she can to the point Steampunk's right Power Fist flew off.
    • Amber Shinsel of Team Crash. Crash's arm gets disabled? Not going to slow her down, she'll just swing Crash around and use Crash's broken arm like a club. Even collapsing from heat exhaustion isn't enough to stop her.
      • Amber and her dad Dave are both Determinators, considering Dave survived throat cancer and Amber kidney failure.
    • While the roll cage armor is a huge advantage, the reason they won the tournament was mainly because the Shinsels simply will not quit no matter what. Crash spends the majority of the final fight with Steampunk with one or both arms disabled, and Amber never stops swinging, even when Crash's fists literally broke off.
  • Death-or-Glory Attack: The robots are allowed to fight defensively however one of the rules is that they cannot return to their pit. Win or lose they must fight.
    • The add-on weapons for the semi-finals count as well. They can only be equipped by their users on the third round... if they manage to survive to the third round. If they do, the battle is all Die or Fly.
    • Team Crash's preferred method of fighting, using high impact blows that can either do serious damage to their opponent, break their arm, or possibly both.
  • Down to the Last Play: Steampunk vs. Medieval goes a full three rounds. The resulting point tally shows a difference of 5 points across the entire fight. Basically, if the losing team had been able to finish a small but vital repair, the fight could have easily gone the other way.
    • Crash vs Steampunk, which goes five full rounds with some rounds being as close as one point. Had Steampunk not lost its fist and fought extra aggresively, they could have gotten the advantage.
  • Epic Flail: Amber can turn Crash's broken arm into this. With a blunt/edged weapon extension, it becomes a robotic version of a morning star.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Steampunk and Crash are both given a deadly bladed weapon for the Final Battle of season one. Amber's fighting style doesn't go well with it and she swaps it out, but Steampunk shows just how dangerous it can be by sawing off Crash's fists with it. Three times.
  • Explosive Overclocking: While they don't quite get to the 'explosive' point, both teams put so much effort into the final fight between Steampunk and Crash that the alcohol used to clean Steampunk's feet before the second round ignites from the sheer amount of heat the robot was emitting. By the last minutes of the final round, both robots are smoking from the strain being put on them.
  • Follow the Leader: Team Commander exploited an interesting flaw to destroy the dummy's chest target plate in record time: extend the arm forward and charge. It is so effective that other teams followed suit.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: A TKO is the result of a robot being too badly damaged to be repaired between rounds. Once the actuators holding the robot's body get destroyed, it is nigh impossible to get it back up within the 20-minute intermission between rounds.
  • Gladiator Games: It's all about robot carnage. As a nod to Real Steel, Steel Cyclone's defeated team gets their broken robot's head as a trophy.
  • Glass Cannon: A general trait of all the robots. A robot might have a very advantageous strength (very huge fists or heavy armor) but each robot's main weakness is the midsection with varying degrees of protection. While the armor endures quite a vicious pounding, it could take as much as a single square hit on the exposed midsection that could spell a decisive victory or doom to a robot.
  • Graceful Loser: Team Medieval. Regarding to upper ranks, they are the least cocky about it (even furthering the "knightly" motif). During the fight with Steampunk, while its jockey Ashley looks like she's channeling all rage in her punches, Medieval's Heather looks more thrilled and simply enjoying the chance on controlling such large robots, even when the tides turned against Medieval.
    • While Devonric tended to be very cocky throughout the fight with Crash, Brimstone's crew likewise takes their loss with a smile and pretty much say 'oh well, you win some, you lose some'.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Amber of Team Crash has a habit of turning Crash's arm into a club whenever it gets disabled. This turns out be be surprisingly effective.
  • Groin Attack: When George Lucas visits his daughter, this seems to be his preferred mode of attack as he suggests it twice on camera.
  • Half the Robot it Used To Be: Commander and A.X.E., both being literally snapped by the waist. Scorpio seems to be making a habit of this.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Team Crash got stuck with the Battering Ram weapon upgrade in the Semi Finals, which everyone, including them, considered the worst of the possible choices. It turns out to be the perfect weapon to go with Amber's habit of using Crash's disabled arm as an Epic Flail.
  • Heroic Resolve: Both sides of the final match do this. The end of the final round sees Steampunk and Crash being badly damaged (both of Crash's arms broken and one fist cut off and Steampunk missing a fist and having its armor beaten completely to hell), but both sides just start beating away at each other harder to the point both begin smoking from the strain being put on the robots.
  • Heroic RRoD: Amber, who suffers from chronic health problems, collapses while at the controls due to over exertion.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Happens in Crash vs. Steel Cyclone.
    • Steel Cyclone gets his own comeback against Thunder Skull in the wildcard match. TS has been dominating the rounds with regards to the offensive, but SC fended off its punches for most of the fight. Cue the third round when SC delivered a fatal body blow against TS, earning Steel Cyclone the victory.
  • High Pressure Hydraulic Fluid: Be used to hearing the term vital fluids, for they spill in geysers. Justified as there is heavy pressure of fluid within the robots in the heat of battle.
    • In the Steampunk vs. Medieval battle, Medieval sprays so hard that its own Jockey gets drenched. Twice.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Due to broken shoulder armor, Team Commander employed the same tactic from Follow the Leader (see above) to protect the open shoulder and keep Scorpio from a distance. By doing so, Commander was bent back with its wirings wide open, allowing Scorpio to hack the spine and the sheer weight of Commander's torso toppled clean off the waist.
    • Team A.X.E. also does this, due to their strategy for defending against Scorpio's blades was to crouch down. While this did provide protection, they also made the same mistake of putting the robot's weight in the wrong place, which combined with Scorpio's blades resulted in it sharing Commander's fate.
  • Hot Scientist: Diana Yang (Scorpio), as her Robo-Tech describes her, a beautiful woman. She's also an engineering student. Some of the other females are also in similar fields though the hot aspect isn't called out as much.
  • Identical Stranger: The operator pair-ups of Steel Cyclone and Brimstone. Even photo stills mistake one for the other and both are coincidentally taken down by Crash in the very same manner.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Drone Strike's barrel fists pretty much does this to Robo Hammer due to heavy hits to its exposed midsection. RH ended up in a flinched position, its fluid spraying everywhere.
  • Impressive Pyrotechnics: Punches that land direct hits and cross counters deliver a delightful shower of sparks.
    • Brimstone practically explodes when Crash defeats it.
  • Informed Attribute: Crash’s armor is said to transfer blows directly to it's robot bones, yet the bot made it all the way to the finals.
  • Jerkass: Kyle (Steampunk) came across as a combination of this and Hot-Blooded early on - a good portion of the intro episodes covered the tension between him and Ashley, his Jock - but he got better. The two became a very good team, ending up in the championship match.
  • Kayfabe: Averted at many points. Robo-Hammer's One-Hit Kill left the production team with left over screen time; the Game Over vs A.X.E. fight early in the season, and the finals was almost a revisit of the first fight with Crash vs Steel Cyclone.
  • Large Ham: The host is Chris Jericho, so it is to be expected.
  • Losing Your Head: A.X.E. during the second round with Game Over, though it's reattached safely for the third round.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Inverted. Medieval's shield is more aesthetic, only lasting mere seconds at the start of each round before knocked off.
  • Machine Blood: Actuators are the muscles and arteries while hydraulic fluid is the lifeblood of the robot. As they take significant damage, actuators get ripped and hydraulic fluid sprays from vital areas. Without hydraulic fluid, the robots' limbs won't work properly; essentially paralyzing that limb and leaving the robot at a disadvantage.
  • Made of Steel
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: Subverted. A.X.E. earned the opportunity to get one in the form of a new weapon for their robot, but they passed it up in favor of picking their next opponent. This turned out to have been a bad idea.
    • Scorpio, Crash, Steampunk, and Steel Cyclone (who won the Wild Card match up) all get one in the Semi-Finals in the form of one of the weapons A.X.E. could've chosen from, though the weapons can only be added in the third round.
  • Meaningful Name / Ironic Name: One of the most interesting aspects of the show is that the robot names and designs have something related also to their operators. As mentioned above, Heather Knight is the tech for Medieval.
    • A.X.E. uses its hatchet head to great effect, but taking enemy blows and extended use can cause A.X.E.'s head to break off, decapitating itself.
    • Game Over survived through three rounds but still did not win. In video games, the player usually has three attempts before it's Game-Over Man.
    • Brimstone aka sulfur is commonly associated with fire. The robot's jockey Devonric handwaves his own anger issues.
      • In a twist of irony, Brimstone ends up catching on fire twice during its fight with Crash.
    • Commander is piloted by a US Army helicopter pilot and a NASA roboticist.
  • Motif: Robot creator Mark Setrakian ensured each robot has its own unique character.
  • Motion Capture Mecha: The robots' upper body are controlled via a rig worn by one of its controllers, causing them to copy the wearer's moves. They actually manage to do this fairly effectively, being precise enough that if the controllers try, they can actually parry and block one another's blows instead of simply dodging. Scorpio vs Commander showcases this quite well as does AXE vs Game Over where Axe is able to deflect or divert a number of GO's punches.
  • Never Bring A Knife To A Fistfight: Inverted. Compared to the big fists of powerhouse robots, Scorpio's blades are proven to be deadlier, reaching near Game-Breaker status.
    • Subverted when it comes up against Crash; while still dangerous, Crash's rollcage armor proves an effective defense and Crash ultimately wins.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Almost any fight where both robots survive all three rounds. The two robots beat on each other, armor gets crumpled, parts fly off, hydraulic fluid erupts, all until one is completely broken.
    • Crash vs. Steampunk in the championship match was a five-round version, with both robots delivering devastating punishment to each other.
  • One-Hit KO: Drone Strike vs. Robo Hammer, with DS defeating RH with a well-placed punch within the first minute of Round 1.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Ashley Nunes is shorter than everyone else. This is exaggerated by her Tech who towers over Jericho, who (while small for a wrestler) is still close to six feet tall.
  • Power Fist: You won't want to be on the path of any of those robots' fists.
  • P.O.V. Cam: All the robots seem equipped with these, though only for TV purposes - the competitors themselves don't have access to it. Just as well, since aside from Thunder Skull, a good portion of the camera's view tends to be their own armor making it cool for viewers but not practical for someone fighting.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: For the most part, the fights can look slow and cumbersome (sparks not withstanding), which can in turn make the robots seem weak and flimsy. But a cursory glance at the robots between each round will show that without fail, armor tends to be heavily scratched and dented by the force of the strikes despite the composition of the armor ranging from steel to a car's roll-cage. This was actually brought up in some reviews of the show as reviewers were expecting more boxing and MMA styled fights with nimble and agile fighters (eg Transformers and other movie robots) as opposed to half-ton brutes built like and moving like tanks (eg real life robots).
  • Rule of Cool: A large reason this show exists.
  • Shout-Out: When George Lucas cameos on the show, his entrance comes with a theme song that's close-but-not-exactly-the-same as the Imperial March.
  • Ship Tease: Team Scorpio occasionally comes across as this. Before the fight with AXE, they air-kiss for instance.
  • Slippery Skid: Due to the torrents of hydraulic fluid spilled on the arena, this could put both robots at a disadvantage. Their feet will lose traction and control over the needed mobility during the fight.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Robot Wars and BattleBots. Real Steel can be considered as its direct "predecessor" since the film addressed that a few years later in the present time, robot boxers will become mainstream.
    • Bonus points: Mark Setrakian is a long-time BattleBots veteran.
  • Stone Wall: Crash, whose roll-cage armor is probably the strongest in the league. It's been repeatedly stated that the armor normally looks like its hardly taken any damage and the damage the robot's sustained is almost always to its arms (and that's typically been due to punching the other robot so hard it's broken its on arm, normally doing severe damage in the process). It's also got the best midsection protection of any robot, which, given how many vital parts are in that area, is definitely a plus.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: It's everybody's game. The ones on the upper ranks tend to be too confident over the underdog, basing their chance of victory on their speed ranking in the practice round. And boy did that theory collapse at the very first match.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Each team's Jockey and Tech must work in-sync to move around the arena and deliver hits to the opponent.
    • Reversed in the sense that the athletes are the technicians who focus on the physical training and over-analyzing strategies while the geeks are the performers who tend to be underdogs but can hold control over their robot well.
    • Played straight with any match between an athletic jockey and a geek jockey, usually the front-runner and underdog respectively. To paraphrase Team Scorpio's Diana Yang, "You could be a skilled MMA fighter, but it's the robots fighting, not us." The top seed Steel Cyclone is the first to learn this the hard way.
  • Tempting Fate: Team Commander's jockey Jeff opted to "ignore the (Scorpio's) blades", calling them "shiny metal crap just for decoration" since Commander is "well armored". The tech Paulo did bring up that the robot's lower half is well-exposed. Things did not go well for Commander.
    • After winning the second challenge, Team A.X.E. ditched the chance to equip a weapon prize for the second round (to other teams' chagrin), choosing to fight Scorpio instead. Robot A.X.E. did not last to the second round.
    • Devonric's "You need to knock me down in order to win!" Guess what happens to Brimstone early in the third round.
  • This Is a Drill: The Christmas Tree "mega-drill" weapon, a massive metal cone covered with menacing studs.
  • Trash Talk: As to be expected between the engaging teams of Robo-Techs and Robo-Jockeys, wherein the team with the more athletic member tends to be very cocky towards the geekier opposing team.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Five out of the six preliminary matches between top seed and bottom seed are won by the latter. The only top seed that won is Brimstone, and that is only due an early technical disqualification of Thunder Skull.
    • Team Crash embodies the trope. They fell on the last place for both power-up challenges and the weapon lottery (getting the least favored weapon in the process), and the robot's rollcage armor was near-universally despised by other teams that it does not belong to a fighting league from the get go. However, Crash's easily-breakable arms turned out to be more versatile and the rollcage proved to be one of the best protective armor. In the end, Crash won the title.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Crash is often on the receiving end of this, due to being a Lethal Joke Character and originally the lowest ranked team. Both its wins are by knock out, one of which involved the much larger opponent catching on fire.
  • Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object: Crash vs Scorpio could be seen as such, being that Crash is the Stone Wall and Scorpio has the most effective weapons of any robot and a habit of bisecting its opponents. The Immovable Object wins.
  • Up to Eleven: The semi-finals weapons, which had an early cameo during the 2nd power-up challenge. These are duly designed to destroy armor and midsections to Ludicrous Gibs in true gladiatorial combat.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish:
    • For almost every Confession Cam appearance of Amanda Lucas, the audience is duly reminded that her dad is George Lucas. Compare this to how she was in actuality among the competitors, intentionally avoiding saying who her father ways to avoid any implication that her father had any part in her success.
    • The contenders' Confession Cam moments mention their brief backstory and motivations once or twice, then all of them are about the current fighting robots. Ashley's Confession Cam moments are mainly her story and her son.
  • Visual Pun: Crash caused literal fire in Brimstone, twice.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer...: Many contestants used The Same But More philosophy, some won.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The wild-card fight was performed without an audience.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Crash was ranked lowest in the league and got curbstomped in round one against Steel Cyclone. The reason for this was because its controllers weren't in sync. The pull it together after that and show what they can do when they are in sync.

Three... Two... One... FIGHT!


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