Not many people can say with any certainty who would win in a battle between ninjas and Spartans.
But Max Geiger and Geoff Desmoulin can.
As hosts for Deadliest Warrior, the Spike TV show that launches its second season tonight, Geiger and Desmoulin have used high-tech gear and expert analysis to examine everything from Vikings vs. Samurais to Jesse James vs. Al Capone.
"We've got these match-ups on Deadliest Warrior that never went head-to-head in the field, but we take the hypothetical question of what would happen, and the debate surrounding it, and apply technology and expertise to determine the most likely outcome of these battles," said Desmoulin, who is both a biomedical engineer and karate black belt.
The show launches its new season tonight at 10 p.m. ET/PT with two modern warriors: SWAT Team vs. GSG-9, pitting the elite German anti-terrorism unit against its American counterpart. "What's great about doing the modern warriors like these is having the guys there doing commentary on the weapons," said Geiger, a computer programmer who inputs battle data to simulate outcomes. "They've seen things in the field which are authentic and actually entertaining to hear about."
The SWAT vs. GSG-9 episode, which was originally scheduled to air later in the year, was chosen to kick off the season because of the deadly high-tech weapons demonstrated, Desmoulin said.
"They're bad-ass, para-military organizations, and we got a lot of high-tech equipment," he said, obviously in full geek-out mode over the weaponry employed by both SWAT and GSG-9. "We actually shot a live human with a Taser. And I was able to get an O-scope and some resistors from the Taser group. M6 has an EOTech sighting system that uses a heads-up display, instead of the typical iron sights. Stuff like that."
There will also be a special 90-minute Back for Blood episode airing at 8:30 p.m. tonight that determines which of the nine winners from last season is the true Deadliest Warrior.
"We're doing a tournament of champions that airs before the premiere, where we'll be trying to determine who was the deadliest of our warriors from last season," Geiger said. "We'll have some new match-ups and a round robin to see who's the deadliest ancient warrior, and the deadliest modern warrior, from season 1."
The show attempts to recreate with as much detail and scientific analysis the battles its examining. Desmoulin, whose "day job" involves researching impact injury biomechanics, recreates injuries to determine what type of wound would be inflicted by the weapons used.
The third host, Dr. Armand Dorian, an ER doctor, does statistical analysis on the ballistics gel torsos, which simulate skin, muscle, tissue and bones.
And, of course, blood. The show doesn't shy away from the damage done by the weapons these warriors employ.
The success of the TV show has led to spin-off roundtable discussions on the network, and there's also a video game in development by Pipeworks Software that will be based on the television series.
"There's enough history, enough science and enough carnage to bring a wide audience into the show, and they come back every week to see what we're going to do next," Desmoulin said.
This season will see several modern warrior match-ups, including the KGB vs. the CIA and the Navy SEALs vs. Israeli Commandos. But the historical aspect of the show will still be around, with match-ups that include Nazi SS vs. Viet Cong, Jesse James vs. Al Capone, Attila the Hun vs. Alexander the Great, and Roman Centurion vs. India's Rajput Warrior.
"It's hard to pick a favorite for this season," Geiger said. "I'm actually torn a little bit between Ming Warrior vs. Musketeer, which is a great, great show about the early uses of gunpowder on the battlefield in both the East and the West, and Comanche vs. Mongol, where we get to use some awesome horseback maneuvers. And that's something that's new for Season Two, which is cavalry."
When the match-ups are chosen, the hosts try to make sure there's a balance in the level of technology used by each side.
"In Ming vs. Musketeer, it's the full gambit of early firearms and explosives, plus you have the bladed weapons," Desmoulin said. "We do try to have a balance so one guy doesn't steamroll the other guy. It keeps it interesting. Sometimes it takes technology completely off the table, but other times it's interesting to see how different classes of technology stack up when they're used on the battlefield."
"We also try to keep them apples and oranges scenarios so that, even if they're from the same era or using the same technology, they're still different enough that it makes for an interesting fight," Geiger added.