Per Matt
BattleBots‘ road to World Championship VII was a brutal one, fanning flames of destruction throughout the year while drivers fine-tuned their robots for the final tournament, but something felt a little off that I couldn’t quite figure out until the second or third episode of the year had aired. Many of the major players had returned for Season 12, but a familiar voice was missing within the broadcast booth in 2023, one which has become the voice of reason during the season. Back was Chris Rose, Kenny Florian and Faruq Tauheed and many of the popular teams, but gone for some reason was Pete Abrahamson!

Outraged, all I wanted to see was the return of the “Bot Whisperer” to BattleBots!

I was heartbroken that my favorite on-screen commentator was no longer heard on each broadcast episode, but even worse was the silence of the show’s producers, who refused to mention the situation of the series’ smartest insider. Not until midway through the TV season of the robot combat sport did the Bot Whisperer finally make his triumphant return, albeit through a series of behind-the-scenes videos.

Bot Whisperings highlights interviews with a variety of BattleBots teams that discuss the design and mechanics of their robot competitors. But more importantly, Pete’s videos also showcase so-called “botopsies,” which focus on the post-match damaged bots and discuss the destruction of the final battles with their team captains. Sadly, their uploads are infrequent.

No longer in front of the camera, Pete really needs a more vocal role on the show — he’s way too important to be regulated to Youtube status. I tried to imagine how his talents could be better incorporated into the program.

I’m glad he isn’t interviewing teams pre- or post-match, which feels beneath his talents. A three-man booth could be awkward, where each broadcaster is fighting for airtime, often interrupting each other or even worse, speaking over one other. I kept returning to the possibility of a two-man booth, where his technical expertise replaces the jokey color commentator skills of one Kenny Florian. Kenny may know MMA fighting skills, but Pete has lived as a BattleBots competitor and has infinitely more knowledge about robot combat than the retired fighter.

Look, it’s only a TV show, but the competition is real. This isn’t a first-world problem that could solve hunger in starving countries, but I just don’t understand the producers’ decision to first bring in Pete, allow him to focus on the technical aspects of the fights that neither Rose nor Florian have the knowledge about, and then unceremoniously remove him after realizing he was overshadowing the so-called first team.

Obviously, I’m not happy with the removal of the Bot Whisperer from the broadcast, but I did manage to enjoy some parts of Season 12. A handful of fan-favorite teams didn’t return this year, which was unfortunate. Also, I’m just not a fan of the show wasting time between battles — still fast forwarding through Faruq’s look-at-me introductions that seem to last forever. And the current show doesn’t actually kick into high gear until the final tournament is set. I thoroughly enjoy the one-and-done format, as the all-in attitude befits its Las Vegas setting.

Congrats to Team SawBlaze, your World Championship VII winner!

The early rounds were relatively uneventful, and it didn’t hurt my feelings when past winners Tantrum and End Game were quickly eliminated. Team Shatter did catch Team Riptide altering their combatant after weigh in (which is against the rules) in some pre-fight drama that was never truly resolved — what’s up with that? Why actually have rules if there’s no consequences after breaking them? Speaking of overall rules changes, there didn’t seem to be any really controversial decisions made by the judges this year (thankfully!), so the change in personnel feels like an accurate and much-needed decision.

Other random thoughts:

  • Hammer-bots seem to be a thing of the past.
  • Flippers do better but haven’t won the trophy in a while.
  • The last four winners were four-wheeled drive vertical spinners.
  • Another Team Hydra letdown demands design innovation next year.
  • I’ve finally realized I’m turned off by many of the team leaders’ personalities.
  • I really enjoyed watching the rise of Ripperoni (Should’ve been Rookie of the Year!).
  • It’s STILL disgusting the lengths this show will go, trying to hand Witch Doctor a championship.

Not So Surprising News: Each of the Top 4 ranked entries survived to the Final 8, but the HUGE-SawBlaze finale was pretty great. I’m not 100 percent certain, but I think Jamison Go is the first Asian team leader the show has ever crowned (It was his first world championship in 19 years of competition.).

In terms of format changes, I did enjoy the “Road to the Giant Nut” post-match discussions, while “The Scrap Heap” is a pretty great segment as well, briefly highlighting the losers of the tourney. There definitely needs to be more botopsies, but what the heck happened to the end-of-season awards? In what feels like a one-time-only thing, I definitely want to see more accolades given to these competitors, urging them to improve their combatants the following season. That feels like a huge, missed opportunity (pun intended).

All in all, I want more robotic destruction within my life, but BattleBots better bring back the Bot Whisperer, Pete Abrahamson, next season!