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Deadliest Warrior: A campy, absurd, but so much fun show

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If you came of age in the mid-2000s and joined the military, I’m almost certain that you watched the Spike TV show, Deadliest Warrior. I know I did. I recently dived back into the series and unlocked some core memories, mostly of me and my fellow Marines drinking beers and taking bets on who would win, as well as the overall campy feel of the show. Deadliest Warrior was a quasi-educational program in which two groups of warriors from various cultures and times would face off.

For each episode, the hosts would consult with “experts” and examine a particular warrior’s weapons. Then, they would often go out and test the weapons with the experts wielding them to show off their capabilities. Then, the hosts and show would then put various data points into proprietary software, which would apparently run a simulation over and over to see who would win (the software kind of looked like Excel, to be honest). At the very end of the show, you would get to watch a dramatized fight between the groups of warriors, and one would be declared the winner. 

The show was absolutely absurd and a ton of fun. The warriors could be anyone from a Viking to a Navy SEAL, but the show typically matched warriors from comparable technological backgrounds against each other, so a Viking with an axe wasn’t fighting a SEAL with an M4.

Green Berets Vs. Spetsnaz 

The first modern military face-off in the Deadliest Warrior’s first season was Green Berets versus Spetsnaz. If you were a red-blooded American, this episode likely got you fired up and made you doubt the program’s so-called software.  

The show got an actual Green Beret and Septsnaz operator to contribute. (It should be noted that the Spetsnaz operator was also a firearms instructor who wasn’t exactly known for teaching quality material and had shot a student before.) 

The episode is fun and cheesy, but I do have some problems with some of the Green Berets’ picked weapons and it seems like the experts get very little input on the weapons their dramatized units get. For example, the Green Berets get the Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun as their mid-range weapon, but if they had to take a shotgun, I’d bet it would be the Benelli M1014 semi-auto shotgun instead. Also, the Green Berets get an E-Tool as their special weapon. Really? Further, the Russians get a ballistic knife and the Green Berets get a shovel. The ballistic knife ends up being the weapon that makes the big difference in the dramatized fight.  

While the Spetsnaz won in the show, the war in Ukraine has shown us that the Spetsnaz aren’t all that impressive.

Related: Incredible mortar-assembly challenges with the Green Berets

Navy SEAL Vs. Israeli commando 

(Morningstar Entertainment, 44 Blue)

Having two allies fight is always fun. The Deadliest Warrior crew got a Navy SEAL named Rob Roy as the SEAL expert and Moti Horenstein as the Israeli commando expert. This was one of the most memorable and memeable episodes because of Rob Roy, a Recon 1 knife, and a ballistic dummy: Roy goes absolutely ham on the thing. He stabs, slashes, and cuts while yelling at full volume

My biggest criticism of this episode is that the SEALs don’t even use the knife when the dramatized battle occurs. After Rob Roy poured his heart into killing that dummy’s guts, the Deadliest Warrior people couldn’t even put that into the dramatized fight! I don’t have many other complaints: the chosen weapons are fairly typical, with the only criticism being that the Israelis would be using the Tavor, not the Galil rifle. 

Related: Watch: Israeli Navy SEALs recapture base from Hamas terrorists

Army Rangers Vs. North Korean SOF 

The third and final season of Deadliest Warrior added Navy SEAL Richard “Mack” Machowiz to the team as the tactical expert. Mack hosted Future Weapons for the Discovery channel, which was another show I adored as a young man.

Honestly, Deadliest Warrior was often afraid to be controversial, so almost all of us knew from the start the Rangers were going to take the cake. 

The dramatized combat between Army Rangers and North Korean SOF. (DWSimulationFan/Morningstar Entertainment, 44 Blue)

The North Korean expert, Charles Joh, is a Navy SEAL, so he provided an interesting perspective. While it would have been cool to get a North Korean SOF guy, it turns out North Korea won’t let Spike TV just borrow one. This battle apparently had the closest score in the proprietary definitely-not-just-Excel software. It was a very close fight and also one of the more likely fights to occur. 

Weapons and gear seemed pretty solid. I have no major complaints about this episode, except that the show ignored the ridiculous drum the North Korean SOF use on their assault rifles. The dramatic battle is absurd and corny. The Rangers ultimately win, and after losing his team and suffering from traumatic wounds, the lone surviving Ranger yells, “Rangers lead the way” into the camera. 

Deadliest Warrior is so over the top, campy, and fun that it can trick you into learning a thing or two. Is it always accurate? Not really, but it’s still worth the watch. It has this kind of insane edge we don’t see much of these days. I would love to see it come back, and I’m a little peeved I never saw my beloved Marine Corps get to face off with some enemy of democracy.

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.