Blood on the Sand: Ivan the Terrible vs. Hernán Cortés

August 29, 2011

Geoffrey Thor Desmoulin here to get you primed on another "crazy" match-up and give you some behind the scenes info about some of this week's weapons tests that would make even my grumpy professors smile. Spain vs. Russia, the quest for gold vs. the quest to fulfill the duties of the field commander of God's Army (Arch Angel Michael), psychopath vs. self medication with a toxic poison… I give you: Hernán Cortés vs. Ivan the Terrible.

To prove to you that this episode is insanely entertaining, just listen to what our experts have to say about their respective warriors. Jason Heck, our Cortés weapons expert, was rarely at a loss for words on this episode but our Deadliest Warrior editors are rarely unkind. Hernán was… "more sane, he's just going to win!" Jason elaborated regarding the mental state of and reason why Hernán Cortés will win this fight. Ivan's weapons expert is Vladamir Orlov (Vlad); while Vlad could easily be mistaken for a Star Trek "red shirt" he was trained by Russian Special Forces and handles his lack of command of the English language with facial expressions (or lack thereof) and quips that would make the Tsar himself turn a grin. For example, Ivan has… "…best weapons, he's mad… the combination? Ballistic." said with classic stoic face and thick Russian accent. Did I mention he trained with Russian Special Forces? On an interesting side note you may recognize Vlad from the movie The Tourist starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. Yes, Vlad plays an evil Russian bad guy (sound familiar?) that takes a boat to the head (i.e. killed off) when he finds his pursuit of Jonny Depp's character has gone awry. Am I poking fun? Of course. Was I kidding about the Star Trek "red shirt"? Nope. To see and hear for yourself, watch the first act of Ivan the Terrible vs. Hernán Cortés.

The Warriors

Hernán Cortés was born around 1485 in Medellín, Spain and grew up to become a Spanish Conquistador and viciously ambitious explorer. Cortés gained military experience through an exploration to Cuba but went on to lead his own exploration of Mexico in 1519, literally, as he performed the action against orders to abort the mission from his superiors. Cortés used superior technology with deadly consequences to conquer Mexico and parts of South America as he knew the Aztec Empire had near endless supplies of gold. Early on Cortés set his sights on the Aztec capital city of Tenochitilán due to the combination of a rebellion and gaining the knowledge that Spanish troops had been dispatched to arrest him for disobeying orders he did not take the city until 1521. Cortés continued to seek wealth, land, and finally recognition for his achievements from the Spanish royal court until his death in 1547.

Ivan the Terrible was born in 1530 and went on to become the Grand Prince of Moscow at the age of three when his father died in 1533. Ivan did not formally rule until the death of his mother when he was eight yrs old. He crowned himself first Tsar of Russia when we was 16 years old. His reign, one of the longest of the Russian Tsars, saw the expansion of the Russian Empire to literally double in geography. This increase in size, largely by conquest, eventually allowed trade with Europe. While his English nickname (Ivan the Terrible) inspires fear and accurately represents his actions, it's probably not a very good translation of his actual nickname Ivan Grozny which is more accurately translated to Ivan the Formidable or Ivan the Great. Interestingly, Ivan died from a stroke while playing chess against his close friend and bodyguard.

Weapons Technology and Tests

I'm not going to lie that the time periods that depict warriors on the cusp of new weapons technology yet still need to wield edge weapons are extremely interesting to me since you see how those early rare firearms actually operateda. You see an evolution in tactics on how each weapon is used together in battle. Pirate vs. Knight (Season I), Ming Warrior vs. French Musketeers (Season II), and Joan of Arc vs. William the Conqueror (Season III) are all examples of these types of match-ups. So if you enjoyed any or all of these… you're in for a treat.

The first test that you will be extremely impressed by is the musket tests. These early firearms have been said to be inaccurate BUT despite me making fun of our weapons experts earlier you will see both Jason and Vlad handle them extremely well in a dynamic shooting environment (moving targets). So, well in fact that Jason only needed two rounds to hit three moving targets. How well did Vlad do? Watch this week's episode to find out. You are going to be surprised.

The second test that you'll be impressed with is the pole arms tests… BOTH men are requested to wield their respective pole arms in a fashion suitable to that of how they were actually used in combat. Sooooo… we have a static gel torso target for them to slash and hack as if it were an infantry man BUT also a moving target that consists of a human mannequin with armor mounted on top of a full sized horse mannequin that is rigged to run on tilted camera rails so that gravity pulls the horse towards the warrior wielding the pole arm. We do this to see how effective the weapon is against bare flesh BUT also how it performs against armor and de-mounting an enemy in a dynamic environment. The sensors involved detect pole arm vs. armor impact as well as head impact on the ground after the fall. Cool? I think so.

There are also sword vs. sword tests that we were running out of time to film. So, you may notice the light change slightly from bright sun to near darkness during that scene… BUT what you get is yet another test in which Jason and Vlad rise to the occasion.

That's it for this week's Blood on the Sand. I hope you're enjoying everything that we are bringing you in Season 3 of Deadliest Warrior!

New Episodes of Deadliest Warrior air on Spike Wednesdays at 10/9c and are posted on three days later.