The Ultimate Tech Celebrity Deathmatches

As a species we love to hurt each other, but the tech business is far too polite for any of that. So what could be better than making today's tech celebrities beat each other up?

Nate Lanxon Special to CNET News
8 min read

Gladiators with oversized forks. Boxers with oversized shorts. Rugby players with frighteningly deformed ears. Throughout history, man has pitted himself against his fellow man and cheered as limbs were ripped from limb and teeth flew like confetti at a wedding. Given our general lack of buffness, however, geeks have never got in on the act. Until now.

Today, with tongue firmly in cheek, metaphors at the ready and whimsy mode set to 'on', we're pitching the top celebrities of the technology world against each other. Kevin Rose, founder of digg, takes on Rob Malda, founder of Slashdot. Web entrepreneurs Jason Calacanis and Dave Winer will fight to the blog-loving death. Who will live to tell the tale?

Microsoft bigwig Steve Ballmer takes on Google boss Eric Schmidt. Even Rupert Murdoch is here, set to beat the living daylights out of Mark Zuckerberg, the young whippersnapper who conjured up Facebook. Can an ageing tycoon mutilate a scruffy 20-something upstart? You're about to find out.

Come and witness the torment, the Superpoking, the abuse of firehoses and the unstoppable mass of sheer Ballmer. Can Linux defeat Windows? Can digg conquer Slashdot? Can midgets enter the Olympics? Almost all these questions are about to be answered in the most unlikely series of rumbles since Battletoads.

Are you ready...? -Nate Lanxon

Rob Malda founded Slashdot, Kevin Rose founded digg -- arguably the two leading user-submitted tech news sites on the Web. Both equally respected by their dedicated users, the two founders met in the Celebretech Deathmatch ring to decide which was best, once and for all.

Malda and Rose faced each other across the squared circle, each deafened by their legion of adoring fans in the stadium. Many Slashdot fans sat with cowardly bags over their heads, while a strong smell of Mountain Dew wafted down from the digg section.

Malda stepped up first, approaching the centre of the ring armed with a Firehose. Avoiding the torrent blasted towards him, Rose dived out of the way and quickly taunted Malda. "If I lose, then what the hell, at least I'll have died trying," he roared. "OFF TOPIC!" yelled annoyed Slashdot supporters. Enraged, Rose brought out his shovel and lunged towards his opponent. The shovel hit Malda square in the back of the head with a pleasing clang, almost knocking him unconscious.

Rose towered over the Slashdot founder. "I will have the final say," bellowed Malda in defiance. "I will decide what these crowds will see today!" Rose's lips tightened, the grip on his shovel stronger than ever. "Editorial control is dead, Taco. From now on, the crowd holds the reins!" At these words, the digg supporters stormed from their seats and in to the ring.

The Slashdot fans hurled themselves over the barriers and a furious flame war erupted in the centre of the stadium, as Rose and Malda slowly backed away. The firehose and the shovel were left unused, rejected, upon the floor, as several thousand people shouted, insulted and irrationally rated each others' punches.

The bloody battle continued into the small hours without a clear winner. The firehose, however, was sliced in two with the shovel, and the two competitors were later seen in a bar having a beer.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates made his vast fortune from the commercial success of the Windows operating system. Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, donated the foundations of a powerful and completely free OS to the public, providing an open-source alternative to Microsoft's paid-for system.

Gates left his corner of the ring, approaching Torvalds with a look of concern. How could someone who paid nothing to enter the ring be in the fight? Rather safe than sorry, Gates threw the first punch and smacked Torvalds square in the ribs. Reeling, the Linux creator managed to hurl back an uppercut, breaking the jaw of the ageing billionaire.

Only 30 seconds into the fight, a Linux supporter ran into the ring and kicked the floored Gates in the shin. Another landed in the ring and repeatedly slapped him about the face. More and more quick hits were thrown by angry Linux fans. Fans of Gates sat horrified in their seats, unable to come to his defence, and the Microsoft magnate conceded defeat after 20 minutes of pounding from hundreds of open-source contributors.

In a post-fight interview, Gates claimed he was suffering from an illness that was going around and his body's defences just couldn't handle the disease. An onlooker suggested people eat more fruit in future to better defend themselves from Gates' condition.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once claimed he would "f***ing kill Google," and on the day of this Deathmatch, he got his chance. His opponent -- Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt -- drives a company with the potential to cripple the core infrastructure of Microsoft.

Eyes closed, head tilted backwards and dressed in a t-shirt featuring the name of a martial arts group, an undertaker's Web site URL and a knife manufacturer's email address, Google chief Eric Schmidt stood calmly in his corner of the ring, arms open.

Ballmer, without waiting for the bell, ripped a chair from the audience and hurled it at Schmidt, who, in a Neo-esque movement, smoothly leaned away from the oncoming seating. Mouth open, Ballmer lunged towards the Google founder, his face burning bright red. "I'll f***ing kill you, Schmidt. I've done it before and I'll do it again!" he screamed, charging at his opponent with a company sword stolen from Apple founder Steve Jobs.

While this attack would've worked nicely in the past, the sword was large, unwieldy and unsuitable for modern duelling. The weapon barely scratched Schmidt, who was still rooted to the spot. As Ballmer closed in, the Google boss whipped out a series of documents, photos and books, each slicing at Ballmer's legs, the damage mounting. The paper cuts from a map looked particularly painful.

The damage was enough and Microsoft's CEO collapsed under his own weight. "Developers... dev...elopers... devel... oper...s," wheezed the downed Microsoft boss as the lights faded on the Deathmatch ring and the audience looked uncomfortably to their feet.

Radiohead is a highly successful British rock band. In 2007, the 'Head self-released their seventh studio album on their Web site without any label backing, letting their fans choose what they would like to pay. Fighting them were five lawyers from the Recording Industry Association of America, which since July 2006 has sued over 20,000 music fans, including 12-year old girls, dead women and people who don't own computers.

It was an emotional scene: 10,000 Radiohead supporters had chosen to pay for entry to the stadium, despite the band charging no fee. They were screaming, chanting and yelling their support for lead singer Thom Yorke. RIAA supporters had been required to pay for entry, and some did so without complaint, but many jumped the fence and bought hundreds of pounds worth of popcorn, fluffy hats and huge foam fists to show their support -- far more than the entrance fee anyway.

The bell rang. "I don't need you anymore and I don't owe you anything," Yorke yelled at the RIAA. "We're not going to fight you," Yorke continued, unfolding a pocket guitar. The RIAA immediately saw they were in danger of losing -- the battle itself was walking away.

It took just 25 seconds for all hell to break loose. Yorke, singing to his fans, his back towards the music industry representatives, ignored the repercussions of his mutiny. In a fit of pique, the RIAA leaped over the ropes and sped towards the stands, lashing out in all directions; their foam-fisted fans were to be annihilated for failing to buy a ticket. Bloodied teenagers threw their tiny wallets at their new enemy, and ran from the stadium knowing they would never again give any of their money to support these people.

Radiohead continued playing until the early hours of the morning and, by passing a bucket round, earned enough money to record their eighth album.

Dave Winer pioneered the creation of blogs and RSS syndication. A history of entrepreneurship behind him, Jason Calacanis has recently founded Mahalo, a people-powered search engine. Since they're not exactly competitors, we lied to them and told them the other one had been calling them names and making crude 'your mom' jokes.

Despite betting heavily on his own success, Calacanis decided to use only one arm. The other was dedicated to sending blow-by-blow updates of the fight to Twitter from his phone. The starting bell rang and Winer threw the first punch -- a powerful jab to the lower jaw. "You son of a...," yelled Calacanis, surprised. "I'm not interested in having someone beat me like this!"

The entire fight was something of a blur, a maelstrom of wit and insult, each combatant trying to better the other's verbal slurs.

The match got interesting when Calacanis enlisted the help of the top brawlers in the audience. "I'll pay you $1,000 a month to fight all my battles," he offered, "starting right now." The offer sparked an outburst of rage from Winer supporters. "Deathmatch spam, Deathmatch spam!" they yelled from their stand.

In the final minute, with Calacanis doubled over in agony from a brutal knee to the groin from Winer, his offer payed off -- a dozen battle-hardened veterans descended on the ring and carried the irate Winer from his hitherto victorious position and into a rubbish bin outside the stadium.

The contenders spent the following weeks further insulting each other on their blogs. The winner is yet to be determined.

Why did they fight?
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp purchased popular social networking Web site MySpace in 2005 for over $500m. Mark Zuckerberg, a young Web entrepreneur, founded the Facebook network that is taking the young and old by storm and was recently valued by Microsoft at $15bn. Can a fight between a pair separated by over 50 years amount to anything?

Pitching a decrepit old geezer of 76 against a lithe young chap of 23 was always going to be hilarious. But the fight, such as it was, was even more funny than we'd expected. Murdoch, determined to stand up for his investment in MySpace, arrived in an outfit decorated with broken red hearts, a black wig of straight black hair, and eyeliner.

Zuckerberg, in sensible white trainers, clean jeans and a plain white t-shirt, made the first move. The young whippersnapper lunged at Murdoch, mouth open, and bit his venerable opponent on the neck. "What the hell was that?!" screamed Murdoch. "I just turned you into a werewolf," replied Zuckerberg. "You turned... sorry, what?" said the bewildered tycoon. "That's so annoying!"

Irritated and surprisingly spry, Murdoch countered with a modified paintball gun that fired glossy, rolled-up fliers with adverts for lame pop-punk bands as he ran in circles around the Facebook founder. "You'll never stop me! No matter which direction you choose to block, you'll only receive more shots! Ha ha!" Zuckerberg, shaking with rage, wrenched a gargantuan plastic hand he'd hidden behind the ring and smashed Murdoch to the ground with its rock-hard finger. "You've just been Superpoked, old man," he screamed as the MySpace investor stumbled to the floor.

"But...," he panted, "my method was so effective, so direct, so... efficient." Zuckerberg knelt beside his fallen enemy. "Your time is over. Count your losses, and leave this ring while you still can. Do you have any final requests?" he asked. "Y... yes. I can... has... cheezburger?" Zuckerberg looked down and smiled, magnanimous in his triumph. "Yes, friend. We can all has cheezburger."