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Media Essays: The Career of Tornado

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Yeah, doing another one pretty soon after the Apollo essay the other week, aren't I? Well I'm just in a Robot Wars mood and just feel like doing more of these so here we go. Also these posts tend to bring in the most views so why not do more of them?


For this post, I'll be covering a robot that fans either love or they hate. Yeah, we got ourselves a polarizing one for this post my friends. That robot is known for kicking up a storm whenever it hits the field, a mighty force that blows away the opposition. That robot...is Tornado.

Tornado

Champions of the Sixth Wars and a strong contender in many other competitions, Tornado has had quite a career with some major victories and famous wins, but they've also had some rather infamous wins too, especially against a certain robot I already covered, but we'll get to that...


In terms of the show, Tornado is a recognizable machine and heavily merchandised too with appearances in video-games like Robot Wars: Extreme Destruction and several toys made including a pullback toy, a die-cast minibot and a radio-controlled toy. In the fandom, it's a different story. As mentioned, Tornado has a polarizing reception in the fandom. Some love it for its aggressive, wall-slamming strategy while others find it boring for being just a box on wheels that slams opponents into walls and the Sixth Wars Grand Final didn't help its reputation any with fans even to this day debating if they're cheats or not. I personally love Tornado and this post is going to be me paying tribute to this famous machine by covering its entire career from the Fourth Wars to the Seventh Wars.


Look out for stormy weather people, for we're breezing our way through the career of Tornado...


Tornado Blows Through Its First Heat

Tornado Series 4

Tornado made its debut in Series 4, first appearing in Heat F of the series.


As you can see, it still looked very much like how it does today, only it has a more boxy appearance and its only weapon was a pneumatic spike. The machine had four-wheel drive, a durable red welded-stele frame and clear polycarbonate armour. There were fixed spikes at the front and back. Team member Andrew Marchant observed that a lot of robots that won battles in the show had good pushing power, so Tornado was built with pushing power in mind. It featured 24V motors being run at 36V and was the first robot to use that voltage with it being team member David Gamble's idea. The motors were geared very low to give it high pushing power of 7BHP. Its top speed was 10mph but it had very good acceleration and manoeuvrability over short distances. How strong is this thing? It could pull a LAND ROVER. I swear we underestimate how powerful these fighting machines can be some times...


Tornado was also designed to be invertible and was going to be equipped with tracks but the team found them too difficult to make, so go-kart tyres were added instead. Its weapon, the pneumatic spike I mentioned earlier, was housed between small twin air canisters and the canisters were painted blue as you can see in the image above. This was so the team could tell which way forward Tornado was facing when in battle. The spike was no good as even the team themselves didn't have anything good to say about it:


"We knew once we built it that the pneumatic spike was poor - pneumatic toothpick was more apt! Plus a mistake in the high pressure side reduced the number of shots we had available..." — Team Tornado website on their pneumatic spike


It's not like it needed the spike anyway as they did really well without any real weapons. But before I get to its Series 4 performance, you may be curious as to where the name "Tornado" came from. Why did they call it Tornado? Now THAT'S an interesting story. You see, it was originally going to be called "Plague". Andrew Marchant had a friend named Adrian who was building a thematically similar robot named "Black Death". Get it? Plague? Black Death? It's another name for the bubonic plague...never mind. The team had to abandon the name because another robot called PLAGUE was entered by Team R.A.T. in Series 3. It wasn't until September 1999 when Tornado got its name. The reason behind it is because one of David Gamble's hobbies is storm chasing (yes, that's a real thing). Andrew was originally hesitant after discovering a website for a lightweight competitor named Tornado dating back to 1998, but there was no evidence this robot was ever completed and the "Codesmiths" team behind the machine had fallen silent, so the team were able to use the name. Senior technical consultant Derek Foxwell would inform Andrew that another unrelated team had attempted to use the name "Tornado" but because none had previously been televised, they were able to use the name in the end. Seems a lot of things had to go into their favour to finally use that name, huh?


And finally, you may also be curious about the cow mascot that the team would wear on their uniforms and the robot would carry on its side panels in some of its appearances. Well, it's apparently a reference to the 1996 movie Twister. Those who have seen the film may remember that the film focuses on a group of storm chasers and there are plenty of tornadoes in that movie! One of the most iconic scenes in the film features a cow being flung around by a tornado, so you can see how it all connects together. A robot named "Tornado" with a cow mascot, it all adds up! The team apparently drew it as a joke but in the end, they stuck with it. Andrew Marchant also reckons that the movie was very likely what started David's storm chasing hobby. The movie IS well-known for kickstarting a lot of people's interest in storm chasing so I wouldn't be surprised.

Tornado vs. Gemini

Tornado's first battle saw it face off against the 8th seeds Gemini and Kater Killer in Round 1. Tornado dominated the melee, slamming Kater Killer into submission and setting a great first impression for what it could do. Even Gemini were barely able to keep up and Tornado really impressed us by pushing Shunt around at one point! Even though it drove into the pit at the end, it barely mattered for Kater Killer had been immobilized for too long so Tornado went through with Gemini. In Round 2, they faced off against the 24th seeds Berserk 2 and once again, dominated the fight with no real trouble, which brought them into their first ever Heat Final against Gemini. Despite having two robots to deal with, Tornado was too much for Gemini and even managed to immobilize one of them by slamming it into one of the arena spikes and as the rules of clusterbots go, if one machine is immobilized, the whole machine is classed as defeated. Tornado were immobilized after the other Gemini bot flipped it around a few times but it was too late for the other half was immobilized and so Tornado made the semi-finals. And on their first try no less! Not bad, eh? The producers were likely annoyed since Gemini had been given the 8th seeding with the intention of it and Chaos 2 going up against each other in the semi-finals and then this newcomer just came in and ruined that plan. XD

Tornado is flipped out

Tornado made it to the semi-finals and won a tough battle against Wheely Big Cheese after buckling one of its wheels and taking the fight to a Judge's Decision. Then they ended up against reigning Champions Chaos 2 in the second round of the semi-finals where Chaos 2 flipped them out of the arena, eliminating them from the tournament. As I detailed in my Chaos 2 essay, this fight was actually filmed three times and what we saw was the final result. See my Chaos 2 essay again for more details.

Best Newcomer Winner

In the end, Tornado had a damn good first run in Series 4. I mean reaching the second round of the semi-finals on your first try is nothing to sneeze at. That's a great way to make a first impression! So much so in fact that they outright won the Best Newcomer award. Even if Tornado didn't win Series 4, they went home with something at least. And they would win more trophies as their career went on...


An Extreme-ly Good Run

Extreme Tornado

The team were back for Extreme and Series 5 and their machine was given quite an upgrade. Its chassis was rebuilt with a modified front, centre and rear sections. These rebuilds made it easier for the team to work on the robot with more space, helped prevent its rear wheels from being lifted off the ground as easily and most importantly, made space for them to actually add in a proper weapon for Tornado. Ditching the spike from last time, they now have a spinning drum which ran off a 3.5HP motor. Tornado received two castors on the front top above the drum, new logo stickers along its sides and upgraded armour, including rear titanium plates to protect its vital components. Did all these upgrades achieve anything? ABSOLUTELY!

Tornado vs. Behemoth

Tornado had one of the best runs in Extreme with only a few defeats. They won a Vengeance battle against Stinger, then went on to reach the All-Stars final after defeating 3 Stegs To Heaven, Pussycat and Chaos 2 only to lose at the last hurdle at the beak of Razer, they reached the quarter finals of the World Championship Tournament where (again) they lost to Razer and they competed in a Mayhem against King B Powerworks and The Steel Avenger...in where they somehow lost despite being the best robot of the trio. What's crazier still is that KING B POWERWORKS of all machines was the one who defeated it! It just rammed Tornado in the side, the impact knocking the safety link out and Tornado were just dead in the arena as a result, making it one of the VERY few times Tornado was ever immobilized by another robot! Most of Tornado's losses are down to pitting, Judge's Decisions or being flipped out of the arena with Razer and King B Powerworks being the only ones to defeat Tornado via immobilization. It's also worth noting that the second World Championship was the debut of Tornado's trademark scoop weapon that it would use more of in Series 6 and 7 later on.

Challenge Belt

Its biggest moment of glory was in the Challenge Belt Tournament. Tornado was Behemoth's third opponent to come for the belt after Stinger and The Steel Avenger were unable to win it and after a tough battle with both machines giving it their all, Tornado were the winners and the belt was rewarded to them. And throughout the rest of Extreme, they kept hold the belt. They were challenged by Commengetorix, Wild Thing, Chaos 2 and Pussycat and it beat them all. It was allowed to keep the first belt after beating Wild Thing and in order to win a second Challenge Belt, they needed to beat three more opponents...but for some weird reason, it only got Chaos 2 and Pussycat and then they pretty much put the tournament on hold until Extreme II later down the line. Why they did that, I don't know. Still, I know I would've loved to have won that belt myself. Looks pretty awesome! Might be a bit big though... XD


Tornado's Surprise Exit

Tornado vs. Gravedigger

Tornado were back for Series 5 and due to their performance in Series 4, they were seeded 12th. They appeared in Heat G and their first round battle was against former semi-finalist Gravedigger. Gravedigger was also a seeded machine once upon a time, being seeded 13th in Series 4 so this was quite a way to start off. Tornado were too fast and aggressive for Gravedigger to handle and they were bashed into submission. Tornado reached the second round in where they...

Tornado loses to Diotoir

...lost...to...Diotoir.


...


Yeah, that actually happened believe it or not! Just goes to show you don't underestimate the joke bots! So you may be curious to know how the heck this was even possible. Well you see, Tornado couldn't push Diotoir that well because the front of Diotoir is ramped and thus their front wheels would end up off the floor and Diotoir could grapple back with them. The fluffy bot's fur also got entangled in their weapon and after Diotoir opened the pit, Tornado's drive sprocket had failed so they were helpless to fight back as Diotoir pitted them. This stands as Diotoir's finest hour and one of the biggest shocks in Robot Wars history. Who on Earth would ever have expected DIOTOIR of all machines to beat TORNADO?!?! It wouldn't be until Series 10 with Nuts 2's win over Behemoth and Carbide to have a victory that was even more incredible!


As is, Tornado ended up going out of Series 5 surprisingly quickly and it stands as Tornado's worst performance in the main series. Losing to Diotoir, the fluffy joke machine, what a way to end your run guys. But they would be back for Series 6 and they were back with a vengeance...


Tornado's Controversial Title Victory

Tornado Series 6 and Extreme II

Tornado appeared again in Series 6 and they came with some big changes. The machine itself didn't look all that different with only the top castors being removed, mini wedges being added to the front and the side panels were now black all away across and the cow mascot was removed. But its biggest change was the new addition of interchangeable weapons. We briefly saw it in Extreme with the scoop but Tornado were back for this season with more weapons. It still had the spinning drum from last time and also the scoop, but in this series it also had...

Tornado spike

...a large spike that we saw it use only once against Anarchy in the Heat Final and...

Tornado anti-crusher frame

...we'll talk about that later. Although it IS worth mentioning that Tornado did use the frame prior to Series 6 when they competed in the US spin-off series, Extreme Warriors, where they won the International Championship Tournament. However, their win was an extremely lucky one because it went to the judges and they deemed Tornado the winner against Razer thanks to damage that had been done...only for it to turn out that the damage that they thought had been done to Razer was actually done to Tornado. Noel Sharkey mistook a piece of Tornado for a piece of Razer and that's why the decision was erroneously given to them. Noel even called it the worst moment of his career as a judge. Don't feel too bad Noel, we've all made dumb mistakes in our lives, we know what it's like...


Tornado also had anti-spinner and anti-axe attachments but neither of those were seen and weren't even allowed to be used due to them being perceived as defensive rather than offensive weapons and the Hypno-Disc team raised objections about the former device. So Tornado had to get rid of them in the end. Not that it needed them anyway.

First Round Melee

Tornado returned in Series 6 Heat G and like in the previous series, it was seeded 12th, which was only because Wheely Big Cheese and Pussycat didn't return so Tornado was seeded in their places. Their first round melee saw them up against Terror-Bull, Edge Hog and Inshredable. Tornado dominated the melee, pushing everyone around and doing damage to the other machines with Edge Hog conking out and it looked as if Inshredable were going out too...only for Tornado to pit Terror-Bull at the last minute so Inshredable made it through. Team Tornado were mortified at this, thinking Inshredable were immobilized and so they pitted Terror-Bull whilst thinking they were through. They even had to apologize to them by saying:


"Dead Metal got stuck in, immobilising Inshredable, or at least so we thought. So to end the fight we pushed Terror-Bull into the pit - and then Inshredable drove out from Dead Metal's corner! Sorry Terror-Bull guys, we should have left you alone, you would have gone through then..." — Team Tornado on inadvertently knocking out Terror-Bull.


Bit late for sorry there Tornado. =P Still, they made it through and faced off against Thor in Round 2. They won the fight on a Judge's Decision and went up against Anarchy in the Heat Final where for the only time in the show's history, they equipped the large spike on their machine and were able to spear the walker bot numerous times with it. They won on another Judge's Decision and made it to the semi-finals for the first time since Series 4.

Tornado hit by Matilda

They appeared in Semi Final B where they held their own against the mighty Hypno-Disc and beat them on a Judge's Decision, marking the latter's first time it had failed to reach a Grand Final. This put them through to the next round where they faced Dominator II and what followed was one of the wackiest moments in the show's history. Tornado got hit by Matilda's flywheel and LAUNCHED into the air like you see in the picture above, VERY NEARLY ending up in the pit as a result but they just managed to land on the edge so they didn't actually go down it and Dominator II ended up pitting itself in all the confusion. It was bonkers, let me tell you! XD The hit from Matilda actually ended up warping Tornado's frame and they weren't able to repair it, so the frame has remained warped ever since then. Guess we could say Matilda left her mark on them.

Razer vs. Tornado

Still, they made the Grand Final and after a tough fight with Firestorm...well, it's finally time to talk about it. Here we are with the controversial Sixth Wars Grand Final against Tornado and Razer. Tornado went into the battle with their anti-crusher frame to keep Razer from being able to use their trademark weapon on them. But to make sure the frame could be considered an offensive weapon, they attached a spinning bar to it so they still technically had a weapon. What followed was a high-action, explosive Grand Final where Tornado pushed Razer around and bashed them several times, even getting them stuck on the wall at one point, but Razer was able to use the blade on their claw to hook Tornado's frame and pick them up. They tried to pit them but Tornado couldn't fit down it and Razer still had hold of them, thus technically meaning they weren't "pitted" and the fight went to the judges. It apparently took them about 40 minutes to make their decision. But in the end, they ultimately gave the win to Tornado, much to the chagrin of Razer fans everywhere.


This Grand Final remains one of the most controversial in the series' history alongside the Seventh War Grand Final with fans EVEN TO THIS DAY still being unable to stop talking about it. The debate still continues on whether Razer should've won and whether Tornado were "cheats" or not.

So this Grand Final. What do I ultimately think? Well...


(dramatic pause)


...Tornado didn't cheat. They won fair and square.

Yes, I can imagine a million Razer fans are ready to question what the hell's up with me right now. But here's the thing: TORNADO ARE NOT CHEATS. I'm not being a Tornado fanboy or anything, I am stating an OBJECTIVE fact of life. The frame was NOT declared illegal by the judges and was NEVER outlawed. It complied with all the rules of the show and the judges allowed them to use it, so how are they "cheats" if they...didn't actually break any rules? Even Vincent Blood from Team Razer was cool with it, saying:


"I've had a lot of fan mail on the subject of Tornado's anti-Razer device - most of which brands them as cheats. I'd just like to point out that their interchangeable weaponry was all declared at the weigh in. It was OK'd by the technical crew and so they can't be 'cheats'."

— Vincent Blood of Team Razer responds to 'cheating' allegations against Team Tornado


So yeah, why is this even a debate that's still going on to this day? Why is this a discussion that's happening in the first place? There's no discussion to be had. Tornado aren't cheats, they didn't break any rules and they won fair and square. If you people can't accept that and still think Tornado are cheats, then I'm sorry but I don't know what I can say to you to convince you of the truth mate. Razer lost, Tornado won, no cheating occurred whatsoever. END. OF. STORY.


Although it is worth adding that during an Ask Me Anything on Reddit, Team Hypno-Disc felt as if the frame went against the spirit of the competition. I can understand why some might have an issue with it but I personally see it as Team Tornado being pragmatic and finding inventive ways to win against their opponent. And besides, it was for the best they had the frame on, or else we would've had a boring finale where Razer just bites into Tornado and doesn't let go for five minutes. Would you rather have a Grand Final like Series 5 where it was boring as hell to watch because Razer easily curb-stomped its opponent or a Grand Final where it was more action packed and intense to watch because it wasn't so one-sided? So yeah, I'm glad they brought the frame in. It made the Series 6 Grand Final way more enjoyable as a result.


But I think I've ranted enough about that so let's continue.

Tornado European Champions

After winning Series 6, Tornado appeared again in Extreme II where they fought in the All-Stars and lost to Bigger Brother, the Challenge Belt where they managed to defeat Terrorhurtz in 19 seconds, a fight that stands as one of the fastest pittings to occur in the show's history, and the European Championships where they won thanks to Razer forfeiting their position to them. You see, Razer had Tornado hooked by the frame and tried to pit them but their motors burnt out and they were immobilized, leaving the fight to end with Tornado hooked by Razer and both robots unable to move. Razer were given the win, but they felt that they should've been counted out and so they conceded the match to Tornado. Thus Tornado went on to beat Philliper 2 and win the tournament.


So how about that? Winning the Sixth Wars, a second Challenge Belt AND the European Championships all at once! What a run, eh? And that brings us to Tornado's final chapter in the Seventh Wars...


Tornado Are Beaten At Their Own Game

Tornado Series 7

Tornado returned as the reigning Champions, seeded 1 of course and they appeared in Heat E. Aside from putting the cow mascot back on the sides and some new weapons, Tornado were pretty much unchanged from Series 6. In terms of new weapons, they had to comply to the active weapons rule that Series 7 put in place so their scoops were fitted with extra weapons such as a lifter or a chain flail and their anti-crusher frame was converted into a bar spinner weapon, but it ended up not being used in the show since there was no real opportunity to use it. Even in their first round melee, the team opted not to use it since Tornado was low on battery power and so it was more pragmatic to use their other weapons. Only the drum spinner and scoops were seen and used during its Series 7 run.

Tornado vs. Tetanus Booster

Tornado won a dominant melee against Saw Point 2, Devastator and Ewe 2 which saw the former two pitted so Ewe 2 won alongside them, and then they won their second round tussle against Leveller 2 and reached the heat final where they fought Tetanus Booster. This was the only fight where they used the scoop with the electric lifter but the lifter never even worked in the fight so we didn't get to see it in action, not that it really needed it anyway as they still dominated the match and pitted Tetanus in the end. Tornado reached another semi-final and won battles against Raging Knightmare and Gravity in order to reach the Grand Final. I do wonder how the fight might've gone if Gravity's tyres didn't get punctured. Would they have won? Perhaps. But still, Tornado were in the Grand Final and...

Tornado vs. Storm II

...they lost. To another pusher bot no less. Yep, Storm II pretty much beat them at their own game and slammed them about after inverting them with their lifter. Not so fun when you're the one being slammed into walls, is it Tornado? And do you want to know the sheer irony of the whole thing? It was fellow Team Tornado member David Gamble who designed the speed controllers that Storm II used. So yeah, thanks David. It's all your fault. =P Jokes aside, it was quite a turnout with the apprentice beating the master in a way. There was one bit where Tornado was pushed onto the pit by Storm II and they got away just before they could go down it. Ed Hoppit claims that the pit was raised back up so Tornado could keep on fighting but given his previous claims on how things went down in Series 7 have long since been disputed, chances are this is NOT true and what we saw is how it happened.


Anyway, Tornado lost and ended up in the Third Place Playoff against X-terminator where they won due to X-terminator still being crippled from their fight against Typhoon 2, so they finished third overall in Series 7. Had there been a Series 8 afterwards, they probably would've returned and been seeded 3rd as a result. This wasn't Tornado's last appearance in the series for they would return again for the Third World Championships and team up with Storm II to pit Ansgar 3 but ultimately lose the melee to Storm II on a Judge's Decision. This was Tornado's final appearance in Robot Wars for the show was cancelled after Series 7 and they never appeared in the reboot due to Andrew Marchant not having time to build a successor for either season and the reboot was cancelled after only three seasons so Tornado never got their chance to come back. To this day, Tornado remains in Andrew Marchant's possession and has made appearances as a static display in various robot conventions and occasionally battle at live events, including a Robots Live! event at Stoke-On Trent in July 2022 where they got to face off against Apollo and Eruption, where they surprisingly didn't get flipped out of the arena. As is, Tornado's career is at an end for now, but who knows if they'll ever make a comeback and we'll see them fighting again in the future. Andrew Marchant may even make that new version of Tornado we potentially could've seen in the reboot, just who knows what's next for them...


Conclusion

Team Tornado

Tornado is one of the most unfairly treated robots in the history of the show. I say that in the sense that they're branded "cheats" despite the fact they didn't actually cheat and people just seem to hate the machine for no real reason. Tornado may not have the flashiest weapons and its battle tactics are essentially to just batter their opponents into oblivion, but that doesn't make the machine boring in the slightest. I find Tornado fights fun to watch honestly and it's impressive to see how what looks like an unimpressive box on wheels is able to win battles and perform so well with just sheer brute force and drive power alone. Tornado stands as an example on how simplicity is sometimes the most effective route to victory and that in robot combat, it's not always about the weaponry. Brute force sometimes is all you need to win. Rather than looking down on Tornado, we should look up to them and they should be celebrated for their achievements, not scorned for them. Maybe in the future, time will be kinder to Tornado and the fandom can look at them more favourably. For me, this machine will always be an example of one of Robot Wars' best contestants and for some truly spectacular wins...


And that's all I have for the career of Tornado. I hope you enjoyed this essay and I'd love to hear your comments down below. Did you find it interesting? Do you like Tornado? What are your favourite Tornado wins? I'd love to hear what you have to say.


Next week I'm taking a trip with the Rising Volt Tacklers to review Pokémon Horizons: Season 2...see you then media fans!

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