Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors was the US version of the British television game show, Robot Wars. It was broadcast on The New TNN (later known as the Spike Network and presently the Paramount Network) from 2001 to 2002. The show ran for two seasons, featuring two US Championships and various other side competitions in a similar style to Robot Wars Extreme.
Despite being made for an American audience and featuring US competitors, Extreme Warriors was actually filmed in the main Robot Wars TV studio used for the UK and other international series - Season 1 at Earl's Court, London, and Season 2 at Shepperton Studios. All battles took place in the then-most recent incarnation of the main Robot Wars Arena, with the series also featuring the House Robots and Judges from the original UK version.
In 1999, Viacom, parent company of TNN, was interested in broadcasting a robotic sports programme. Originally, Viacom executives Albie Hecht and Kevin Kay were looking to broadcast a series of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), but passed on the opportunity after deeming a pilot of the show to be boring. They then negotiated with Trey Roski's BattleBots, but were unsuccessful as Roski opted for Comedy Central instead. Eventually, after viewing the MTV Pilot, they decided Robot Wars would be perfect for TNN, due to its simpler, more exciting premise compared to FIRST. A deal was therefore signed with Mentorn to commission six episodes for an American spin-off of Robot Wars, called Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors.
At the time, Hecht and Kay were converting TNN into a pop station, which was soon to broadcast professional wrestling show WWF Raw is War. They felt Robot Wars would be a match for World Wrestling Federation programming, since both shows were considered sports entertainment, a genre where athletics was staged. To further entice WWF fans, Mick Foley, who had then recently retired as a full-time WWF wrestler, was hired as the host of Extreme Warriors. TNN aimed to start broadcasting Extreme Warriors before Raw is War, in order to maximise viewership for the WWF show.
For Extreme Warriors: Season 2, Mentorn selected which robots would participate from applications sent to its website. The majority chosen, such as Snookums, were inexperienced, with many only previously competing in BattleBots for a year maximum. Few BattleBots veterans attempted to join the show; reasons for this included strong ties with the rival robot combat show, and refusal to participate in anything that Steve Plotnicki was associated with. Some that did apply were rejected, including Son of Whyachi, believed to be because Mentorn wanted few machines deeply connected with BattleBots. Of the few veterans that successfully applied (including Todd Mendenhall, Robert Pitzer and Patrick Campbell), most had different reasons for jumping to Robot Wars. Some wanted to join the robot combat show that would prevail, others desired more toy royalties and television exposed they did not receive from BattleBots, and some simply were loyal to neither side. Pitzer and Dan Danknick, however, felt Robot Wars would ultimately prevail over BattleBots in the United States.
- "Trey is trying to prove something to his dad, but the writing is on the wall now. Robot Wars will come into the United States with Viacom's backing and Comedy Central won't matter. I'm making friends here. I'm trying to bring Team Raptor into every aspect of this sport. I don't owe anybody anything. I've spent tons, and nobody is really paying us back completely yet"
- — Robert Pitzer
Following criticism from British roboteers over the production company's lack of treatment to them, Mentorn responded by generally adhering to the needs of the American teams. This included providing three daily meals free of charge, situated in double-decker buses that contained booths and tables. The Robot Wars technical crew and production staff also assisted the teams, by providing the robots with specialised 40-Mhz radios, and failsafes. Each team also received $2,000 for competing.
Both seasons of Extreme Warriors were presented by Mick Foley. The pit reporter for the first season was Rebecca Grant, with Carol Grow taking over the role in the second season. Stefan Frank provided the commentary throughout the series, and would also do so for TNN's US broadcast of The Fourth Wars as well as Nickelodeon Robot Wars.
Each season of Extreme Warriors featured a US Championship and various other competitions. The first season featured seven episodes, each containing a separate competition. The first US Championship was contained in one single episode, featuring 24 robots in four six-robot battles to decide the four semi-finalists. The second season focused more closely on the US Championship, with nine episodes devoted to it and only four episodes featuring other competitions. The second US Championship featured 48 robots divided into eight heats, with each heat champion progressing to the final show, which took the form of a straight knock-out between the eight competitors. Unlike in the UK version, the robots and teams were allowed to have visible sponsorships, because the show was aired on a commercial network.
To appeal to WWF fans, filming for Extreme Warriors was made with the intention of promoting a sports entertainment feel. The robots and their teams became "actors", with the competitors being asked to stand in front of a tunnel and "playfully yell at each other" during interviews. No prize money was awarded nor were the champions allowed to keep the trophies they won.
Below is a list of champions, runners-up and semi-finalists of the two US Championships featured on Extreme Warriors.
|Extreme Warriors: Season 1||Panzer Mk 2||The Revolutionist||Manta, The Brute|
|Extreme Warriors: Season 2||Panzer Mk 4||Tricerabot 3.0||Destructive Criticism, The Falcon Mark 2|
- A third series of Extreme Warriors was hinted at on the official Robot Wars website, and would have been filmed sometime after or during The Sixth Wars. It is unknown whether the idea was fully implemented or it was cancelled before filming could start.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports
- ↑ WWF press release stating that its fans would be enticed to watch Extreme Warriors
- ↑ C21Media article announcing Extreme Warriors would be broadcast before WWF Raw is War
- ↑ Tornado - Robot Diary - Robot Wars Extreme 1
- ↑ Robot Wars Journal - Team Run Amok