BattleBots Long Beach 1999 (partially found footage of robot combat tournaments; 1999)
BattleBots Long Beach 1999 was a series of robot combat tournaments held in Long Beach, California from 14th-15th August 1999. It consisted of KiloBots (Lightweight), MegaBots (Middleweight), and GigaBots (Heavyweight) tournaments, as well as weight-class Rumbles. The event is historic for marking the first ever BattleBots robot combat competition.
BattleBots' origins stemmed from a series of legal wranglings surrounding the rights to the original Robot Wars, particularly between its creator Marc Thorpe, and its primary sponsor, the Steve Plotnicki-led Profile Records. Aside from Robot Wars '98 being cancelled on legal grounds, most competitors, including Trey Roski, decided to boycott future Robot Wars events in support of Thorpe and to oppose Profile's iron fist approach towards robot combat competitions in the United States. However, this left a sizable drought in American robot combat events from 1997 to 1999. A planned Robotica "party" established by Gary Cline for 26th June 1998 was ultimately cancelled following a lawsuit by Profile, who accused the competition of being "Robot Wars in sheep's clothing". The cancellation was made to ensure that said lawsuit was dropped, and subsequently continued the drought of robotic combat events.
Before Robotica's cancellation, numerous robot builders had formed the Society of Robot Combat (SORC). In SORC's first meeting, general consensus was reached that if it wanted to establish its own robot combat events, it would not attempt to obtain a licence from Profile even if that potentially could provoke further legal issues. As the Robot Wars legal situation intensified, Roski who had previously built La Machine in 1995, proposed creating his own competitions without Thorpe or Plotnicki's influence, a suggestion backed by most of his fellow roboteers. Hence, he had and cousin Munson announced on 10th March 1999 the creation of BattleBots, with its first event set to occur in Long Beach, California from 14th-15th August 1999. If it went ahead, it would have commenced a week before a proposed Robot Wars '99. Profile sued BattleBots in April 1999, alleging that it was a carbon copy of Robot Wars and was consequently causing economic harm to Profile's property. However, the Roski family were able to contest the lawsuit, and on 16th June 1999, Profile's bid to cancel BattleBots via a preliminary injunction was rejected in court, enabling BattleBots Long Beach 1999 to commence.
In total, 56 competitors intended to compete at the event. Such was the show's support that it caused cancellation of Robot Wars '99 due to a lack of entrants. The event would commence at the 5,000-seater Long Beach Pyramid, which would house the first ever BattleBox Arena. The original BattleBox cost approximately $100,000 to build, was 48 feet in length and 19.6 feet in height, and contained numerous hazards like "death daggers and buzz saw blades" to further intensify battles. The show's announcer was American Gladiators' Lee Reherman, whose hyperbolic approach to bigging up the machines was compared to professional wrestling. Troski also prepared for BattleBots future, including by inviting Hasbro and Mattel representatives to the event, with the intent to land a toyline deal. Additionally, a deal was struck with ZDTV to provide a live webcast of the competition. According to Munson, around 40,000 streamed the event. In comparison, fewer than 1,000 attended in-person, less than what was anticipated heading in. Nevertheless, the event also attracted media attention, including a report in the 18th August 1999 issue of The Los Angeles Times and an interview by CNN.
Finally, Troski and Munson met with TalentWorks' Lenny Stucker, the latter having recently engaged in failed negotiations with Profile. Impressed with the Long Beach tournament, Stucker convinced Troski and Munson to adapt BattleBots for television purposes, and also secured the following November 1999 Las Vegas event a pay-per-view slot on InDemand. The early events contributed towards BattleBots later signing a television deal with Comedy Central in 2000, which lasted for five seasons.
Three double-elimination knockout tournaments were held, with robots classified by weight. The GigaBots tournament consisted of heavyweight machines between 110 to 200lbs. MegaBots were middleweights between 55 to 105lbs. Finally, KiloBots were defined as lightweight combatants around 25 to 55lbs. Roboteers were also allowed to enter walkerbots, which were given more lenience when it came to weight. A KiloBot walker could weigh between 25-83lbs, a MegaBot was allowed to weigh 84-164lbs, while a GigaBot could weigh anywhere between 165-300lbs. Multibots were also allowed, and were still eligible to compete providing at least 50% of its segments remained mobile during battles. Roski also enforced a double-elimination tournament bracket; if a robot lost a battle, they entered the Loser's Bracket and thus remained in contention for the title. Losing again eliminated them from the tournament. While appreciated by some roboteers, Stucker would later recommend the removal of this format, insisting that second chances simply were not viable for televised competitions. Tournament winners would receive Giant Nuts and a share of the $25,000 prize money, with additional Giant Nuts given out to Rumble and post-tournament award winners.
The opening Duels and Quarter-Finals for each tournament commenced on 14th August, with the Finals and Robot Rumbles conducted the following day. Aside from BattleBots mainstays like Biohazard, frenZy, The Mauler, and Nightmare, Robot Wars stars such as Killerhurtz and future Robot Wars UK and World Champion Razer also competed in the GigaBots tournament. In the road to the GigaBot Final, Biohazard received a bye to the second round. It then defeated Kill-o-amp 2, Monster, Tazbot, and Killerhurtz to reach the Final. Meanwhile, Killerhurtz also received a bye, before defeating Punjar, Nightmare, and Vlad the Impaler, before ultimately losing to Biohazard. In the Loser's Bracket Final, Killerhurtz beat Rhino to reach the Final proper. In a rematch, one photo shows BioHazard inverting Killerhurtz, although the latter was able to self-right. Both robots survived the distance, with Biohazard declared the GigaBots champion via a crowd vote.
In the MegaBot competition, Automatum Technologies' Son of Smashy, armed with an axe, defeated Golddigger, Ankle Biter, Deadblow, and Knee-Breaker to reach the Final. Knee-Breaker managed to overcome Stuffie, Dr. Inferno Junior, and Carnivore. After losing to Son of Smashy, it beat Turtle Roadkill in the Losers' Bracket to reach the Final. Son of Smashy again proved victorious after taking out its foe's drive chain, winning the MegaBot title in the process. Finally, the KiloBot competition also saw a rematch in the Final. Defiant beat Endotherm, Rasta, The Crusher, Tentomushi, and Ziggo to reach the Final undefeated. Ziggo received a bye in Round 1, before overcoming multibot Hot Air, Executioner, and Toe Crusher. Despite losing to Defiant, Ziggo remained defiant itself, beating Executioner once more to earn another rematch in the Final. This time, Ziggo edged out Defiant via a crowd vote to claim its first of three KiloBot Championships. Interestingly, Ziggo won the tournament with a handicap; after winning its first match decisively, Ziggo's team were requested to tone its spinner's power down to avoid potentially causing a safety hazard.
The event concluded with three weight-specific Robot Rumbles. The Rumbles consisted of numerous competitors simultaneously battling it out until only one machine remained mobile or a crowd vote commenced. In the GigaBot Rumble, Razer won its first-ever title by outmatching twelve other machines, including Biohazard. Razer had also outlasted the two machines that beat it in the GigaBot tournament, Tazbot and Rhino. In the MegaBots Rumble, Deadblow gained vengeance on Son of Smashy, while also outmatching Knee-Breaker and others to win the battle. Finally, in the KiloBots Rumble, 19 hopefuls competed in combat, among them Ziggo and Defiant. Alas, neither won the event as HammerHead achieved the loudest crowd vote. What was remarkable was that HammerHead endured a disastrous KiloBot tournament, as it lost to Paranoid Android in Round 1, before losing to Harvey WallBanger. This ensured some redemption for the KiloBot machine.
Post-tournament, BioHazard also won the Best Engineering title, with KillerHurtz's John Reid declared as the tournament's Best Driver. Nightmare, who was defeated by Killerhurtz and Punjar after also being forced tone its spinner's power down, was deemed the Most Aggressive Robot. Walkerbot Mechadon lost to Ginsu in Round 1 and forfeited before facing Ricon, with its heaviness contributing to its poor performance. It nevertheless earned the Coolest Robot accolade, being the most unique machine at the tournament. Finally, Tentomushi was defeated by Defiant and Executioner, but became the only non-GigaBot to win a post-tournament Giant Nut, for being the Funniest Robot.
Footage of BattleBots' inaugural event is somewhat scarce. Despite around 40,000 viewing the ZDTV webcast of the event, the livestream has never publicly resurfaced. The only confirmation of its existence came from a ZDTV promotion, which promised to provide 16 hours of live coverage. Additionally, the website provided news reports, summaries of each contestant, and updated brackets, though none of this was ultimately archived by the Wayback Machine.
In 2001, BattleBots released BattleBots Beginnings, a video which provided 40 minutes of highlights from Long Beach 1999. It provided key highlights from 84 battles, albeit in a random order, as well as behind-the-scenes footage showcasing the challenges in building and repairing the competitors. Alas, only the GigaBot Rumble was shown in full, resulting in extensive coverage still becoming lost. Nevertheless, some additional uncut battles have been uploaded to YouTube over the years, including the other Rumbles, though unedited Long Beach 1999 footage is still considered exceptionally rare as of the present day.
- 1995 Robot Wars UK Open (partially found rejected robot combat TV show pilot; 1995)
- American Robot Wars 2000 (lost MTV pilot of British robot combat game show; 2000)
- BattleBots (found Comedy Central robot combat game show; 2000-2002)
- BattleBots (partially found footage of robot combat show dress rehearsal battles; 2015-2021)
- BattleBots (partially lost build of unreleased GameCube/PlayStation 2 game based on robot combat TV series; 2003)
- BattleBots Collegiate Championship (partially lost unaired spinoff of robot combat TV show; 2009)
- BattleBots High School Championship (partially found footage of robot combat tournament; 2009)
- BattleBots Pro Championship (partially found footage of robot combat tournament; 2009)
- The Big Breakfast (lost appearance of Robot Wars team on Channel 4 breakfast show; 1998)
- Blue Peter (partially found segments of Robot Wars teams on children's television series; 1998)
- Dutch Robot Wars: Series 2 (partially lost footage of BNN robot combat game show; 2003)
- Mechanoids (partially found BBC robot combat game show; 2003)
- Plunderbirds: Talk Robots (found robot combat mockumentary film; 2019)
- Robot Wars (found cameos of robot combat-themed BBC 2 ident; 1999-2000)
- Robot Wars (lost footage and HSE documentation of behind-the-scenes accidents of BBC robot combat game show; 1998-1999)
- Robot Wars (lost near-death footage of Jeremy Clarkson from robot combat game show; 1998)
- Robot Wars (lost work on unfinished cartoon series based on robot combat game show; existence unconfirmed; 2002-2004)
- Robot Wars (partially found footage of robot combat show qualifying auditions and battles; 1998-2003)
- Robot Wars (partially found unaired or partially aired battles of BBC robot combat game show; 1998-2017)
- Robot Wars (partially found uncut battles from BBC robot combat game show; 1998-2017)
- Robot Wars Extreme: Series 1 (lost original BBC Choice version of robot combat battle; 2001)
- Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors: Season 1 (found TNN robot combat game show; 2001)
- Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors: Season 2 (partially found behind-the-scenes footage of TNN robot combat game show; 2002)
- Robot Wars Revealed (found BBC Choice spin-off of robot combat game show; 1998-2000)
- Robot Wars: Series 8 (lost unaired pilot of BBC robot combat game show; 2016)
- Robot Wars: Series 8 (found Science Channel reruns of robot combat game show; 2018)
- Robot Wars: The Kick-Off (lost BNN robot combat special; 2001)
- Robotica (found TLC robot combat game show; 2001-2003)
- Robots Revenge (partially found Discovery robot combat documentary series; 2001)
- See Hear (lost appearance of Robot Wars team on BBC magazine show; 1999)
- Why Hypno-Disc can't work in an office (found testing video of Robot Wars competitor; 2000, 2007)
- Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports documenting the legal wranglings in robot combat's early years and the formation of BattleBots' first competition. Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- SBNation documenting the history of BattleBots. Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- Robot Combat summarising the early history of robot combat, and the rise of BattleBots. Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- The Los Angeles Times reporting on the cancelled Robotica event (article found on Robot Combat). Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- Archived Society of Robot Combat website also announcing the creation of BattleBots. Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- Robot Combat providing the letter where Robot Wars announced its intentions to consult litigation against BattleBots. Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- Robot Combat providing BattleBots' response to a lawsuit launched by Robot Wars against it. Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- Robot Combat providing the letter announcing the cancellation of Robot Wars '99. Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- 18th August 1999 issue of The Los Angeles Times reporting on the event (article found on Robot Combat). Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- BattleBots 1999 Long Beach brochure. Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- Robot Combat summarising each tournament, classified by weight. Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- Run Amok providing the results of the tournament. Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- Archived BattleBots selling BattleBots Beginnings. Retrieved 4th Jul '23
- r/battlebots discussing rare footage of the event. Retrieved 4th Jul '23