It’s steel fist to metal face in Syfy’s Robot Combat League, a show where WWE meets Terminator as million-dollar robots collide to separate the metal-chomping champs from scrapheap chumps.
“Technology has advanced to the point where we not only created robots who can fight, but they hit with 2,000 pounds per square inch, so one punch could kill you,” explains the show’s host (and current WWE badass) Chris Jericho. “We’ve created robots who can kill humans, so in 15 years when they’ve taken over the planet, you’ll know you saw it first on Syfy.”
Each fighting robot stands 8 feet tall and is controlled by a two-person team with one controlling the robot’s movements while the other person uses an exoskeleton in order to throw punches and fight.
“It’s similar to the movie Real Steel, but this is real,” says Jericho. “There are no special effects. There’s no CGI. It’s actually happening.
“I remember the first time I walked down into the battle pit area and saw one of the robots walking towards me. If it hadn’t stopped, I seriously would’ve turned and ran the other way. Remember Terminator when they’re in the future and you see the robots walking over human skulls? That’s what it reminds me of. The fact that they actually exist just blows my mind. These things are giants. You need to stand on a ladder to fix their heads if anything gets broken down.”
And in the heat of battle, Jericho explains that these robots suffer more than just a few dented domes.
“It’s like boxing at first, but as the rounds advance, they get weapons,” says Jericho. “Each robot has a different name, a different look, and something that differentiates it from the others. One of them had a saw blade on it and it actually cut the robot it was fighting in two. It was amazing. It just kept punching the midsection and it actually sliced through one of the actuators, and when it cut through, it caused the robot to fall into two pieces.
“When you see stuff like that happening, you get so into it, you forget that they’re robots. You get attached to each one because of their individual characteristics and looks.”
While Jericho doesn’t consider himself much of a tech guy, he found himself transfixed by the process of how the robots were created and how they reacted while fighting.
“You have three 2-minute rounds, and after each round, you can assess how much damage your robot has, almost like a NASCAR pit crew,” Jericho explains. “To see how they were able to fix the robots was fascinating as they went deeper into the software and deeper into the system. Each of these robots cost a million dollars to build and create, so to then throw them into these fights, it’s like having a Lamborghini demolition derby. You have these beautiful pieces of machinery getting ripped apart and destroyed, but that’s part of the brilliance of the show.
"It’s very, very high tech, and the more time went by, the more the people would figure out how to work the robots. That was very interesting to see because nobody has ever seen anything like this before. Nobody has. You, me, the producers, the guys who made the robots ... this is the first time in the history of television, in the history of the world that we’re seeing something like this, so we were all flying by the seat of our pants.”
Contestants on the show range from rocket scientists to robot technicians who work to control the movements, while MMA fighters, Army pilots and even Olympic athletes step into the motion-capture suits to control the fighting.
“It was a combination of these two people who had to work together, win the fights, and see if they could move on,” says Jericho. “I put the exoskeleton on one time, but I didn’t do very good. When I threw a punch, the robot threw a punch, when I ducked out of the way, the robot would duck out of the way, but at first, there was this strange disconnect. The more you do it, the more it becomes natural, almost like snowboarding where the board becomes one with you and an extension of yourself. That’s how it was with the robots. The more people did it, the more they understood how to work the robots, and that led to some intense fights as the rounds went on and the tournament moved forward.”
Only thing missing was the ability for Y2J to lock in his patented Walls of Jericho submission hold.
“You couldn’t do that because the robots don’t move that way,” Jericho says with a laugh. “But they do jump, so you might be able to give one of them a codebreaker.”
Robot Combat League premieres on the Syfy network Tuesday, Feb. 26.