A quick little explainer on the state of Monster Truck “racing.” Those of us IndyCar fans remember not fondly “The Split,” when the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway created his own series, The Indy Racing League. This pushed out the stars of the CART, later Champ Car, series. The split decimated American open wheel racing, a fate which it has yet to (and frankly probably never will) fully recover from.
Well, there is a new split these days. After some bad blood between Hot Wheels and Monster Jam about toy licensing, Hot Wheels decided to make its own Monster Truck series. How bad is the split? Well, the two series that ostensibly are promoting the same product, to the same group, are visiting the same market only two weeks apart. We saw the Hot Wheels Monster Trucks on February 16th at the Sears Center. Monster Jam will be visiting the Allstate Arena, which is only a several minute drive away, February 28th-March 2nd.
Another aspect of the split, is the star trucks. If you ask anybody to name two monster trucks, odds are pretty good that the first name anybody spits out will be Bigfoot. That will likely be closely followed by Grave Digger. Monster Jam apparently bought the rights to Grave Digger some years ago, so they of course have that truck. It seems there is no love lost between the Monster Jam folks and the Bigfoot team, so Bigfoot runs in the Hot Wheels series.
My kids, especially the older one, have been asking to see a monster truck show for a while now. I was going to take them to the Hot Wheels Monster Truck show when they were in town last year, but it was like -30 wind chills outside that weekend, so we stayed inside and played with Lego instead.
Both series being in town so close together, I was on the fence about which one to see. The weather was pretty nice this weekend, so I decided to pull the trigger on taking them to the Hot Wheels show. I piled the girls in the truck, picked up my father-in-law on the way, and got to the arena early so we could see the trucks up close before the show. Well, when we got our tickets and got inside, we were told that the “pre-party” admittance had been cut off. We were over an hour early, but not early enough. I later found the cut off time buried in tiny print on the ticketing site, but needless to say it was not well advertised.
We dropped our stuff off at our seats up top, and then walked down to the edge of the lower seats so the girls could get as close of a look at the trucks as was still possible. I was really happy to see a vintage body on Bigfoot. I was also puzzled to see a bare concrete floor. They hadn’t bothered to bring any dirt in.
So we went back up front to get a toy truck. You can’t take a kid to a monster truck show and not buy them a toy monster truck. I’m pretty sure that’s part of the Uniform Commercial Code. Now, one would assume that the HOT WHEELS monster truck show … you know the one owned and promoted by the most famous line of toy cars in the world … would be dripping with toy monster trucks. Well, my friend, that assumption was very wrong. There were six monster trucks at this event. They only had toys for three of them, and only one of them was in the form of the truck at the show. Thankfully both of my girls wanted a Bone Shaker, as that was the only one they had that matched the ones we were about to see perform. They had lots of copies of the truck V8 Bomber, a 67-72 Chevy K10, but it was in an entirely different paint scheme. They also had a few Bigfoots on hand, but none with the vintage body that it was wearing at the show. That’s it. No other toys. I was very not impressed. I felt really bad for the three year old boy and his mom who came in behind us wanting a toy Tiger Shark truck, as there were none to be had.
We went back to our seats and killed a half hour eating peanuts from the shell and playing with the toy trucks. Finally the show was about to start. The lights came down and the crappy music started blaring loud enough that both my girls donned their ear muffs. We were then introduced to the two hype men, Freddie and Kenny I believe. We suffered through their long rambling super hype BS intro explainer thing, and finally … FINALLY … we were about to see some action.
The first competition was a wheelie competition. This amounted to each truck making two runs, one run in each direction, across a line of cars. Total run time for each truck was something like 45 seconds, including turning around to go back the other direction. After which each truck was assigned a score out of 30.
Then came the donut competition, something like 30 second runs each, another score out of 30. Wait a damn minute though … Bigfoot did not participate. They just pretended all the trucks had run, and moved onto the long jump competition. Which is exactly what it sounds like. I missed most of that taking the little one to the bathroom, which took a total of maybe five minutes. Again, no Bigfoot.
Next it was time for intermission. They set up a couple of ramps, and brought out a few motocross guys to do some tricks, which was pretty cool. After that came a drag race. This time, not only did Bigfoot not participate for the third event in a row, but neither did another truck, Demo Derby. All this time, no mention is made of the trucks not running events, they’re just pretending all the trucks have run, and moving on.
Next it was time for
Truckasaurus Megasaurus. Megasaurus is on cat tracks, it unfolded, spit fire, and chewed a car in half. All to the soundtrack of the most generic “heavy metal” song you can imagine. I’ll just describe it for you. It’s about a 45 second guitar riff, then the one word of the song gets sung, which is simply “Megasaurus.” Then repeat that same sequence over and over and over…
After Megasaurus, it was time for the freestyle competition. I was pretty excited about this competition. I hadn’t been to a monster truck show in about 20 years, and I know things have evolved quite a bit since then. The interwebs are chock full of footage of monster trucks doing backflips and stoppies and all kinds of crazy stuff. Good news: Bigfoot finally participated again. Bad news: Demo Derby sat this one out as well. Worse news: the “Freestyle” event was literally 60 seconds of running back and forth across the cars and some donuts.
Now, my kids had fun, so externally I stifled myself, but I was pretty rip-shit pissed at this point. The trucks had maybe five minutes of run time in the nearly two hour show, the only real star truck, Bigfoot, had sat out three of the five events. Another truck had sat out two of the five events. And the big grand finally was a total dud.
This was clearly a show made to a tight budget, rather than one made to excite. Hot Wheels put out the absolute bare minimum of work and action, in exchange for extracting the maximum amount of money from the wallets of families. With the lack of toys, they didn’t even do a good job of the money extracting part. There was ten times as much Freddie and Kenny running their mouths, than there was actual action. No dirt, hardly any toys, and barely any run time.
I’ll try Monster Jam next year, but I definitely won’t be going back to a Hot Wheels show. It was thoroughly lame, and a waste of one and a half c-notes. Honestly, and I say this as an adult who has literally brought thousands of Hot Wheels, it has soured me on the Hot Wheels brand as a whole.
TLDR: Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live is pretty lame.