Yes, this is one of “those” articles, where we look back at something from the past, even though it is the future.
The thing from the past that I have chosen today, is the 1990s TV show Gladiators. It was a staple of my Saturday evening viewing, for I was too old to be doing adult weekend things, like drinking, I guess.
Back then, when I was but a child, a tiny, precocious, extremely irritating twerp, all I had was the TV to keep me entertained. I had Cilla Black, first and foremost, but immediately preceding her, I had John Fashanu, Ulrika Johnson, John Anderson and their motley crew of lunkheads to spin my adolescent mind into a frankly dangerous frenzy.
I also had the greatest theme tune of all time:
If that doesn’t give you goosebumps then you are a skinless wonder, no doubt.
But, erm, which ‘90s Gladiator was the best? That’s why you’re here, ain’t it? You want your memory jogged, and you want to see a picture of Wolf. Well, I’m here for you, and will answer that very question, like I’m some sort of authority on the subject. So, from worst to best, here they are:
Firstly, what we’ll do, is zip through the first eleven because they were all One-Series Wendys, and you can’t remember them. Like, you can’t. Stop lying.
Bash through this lot:
Bullit, Gold, Phoenix, Hawk, Laser, Khan, Flame, Raider, Vulcan, Diesel and Rocket
All good gladiators, I’m sure, but they didn’t make as much of an impact on my adolescent, snotty mind as the following glads did. Also, I started writing a bit for each one and the article ended up being longer than the last Harry Potter novel.
Normal service shall now resume:
Fox was in series 6, 7 and 8, even at one point being named ‘Toughest Gladiator’ by the production team. So pretty good at whacking people in leotards around the head with a giant ear-bud, basically. Imagine having that on your CV.
Four whole series to Rebel's name, plus a bunch of other appearances, including THE FILM GLADIATOR. She was in Gladiators, but was also in Gladiator. She was in Gladiator(s).
She wasn’t the only gladiator in Gladiator, either. Rocket was in it too, and so was Rio. Presumably the casting process for that movie involved questions like:
- Would people associate you with a gladiator?
- Do people often ask you to stop banging on about gladiators?
- Do you have a strong connection to the word ‘gladiator’?
- Were you ever on a TV show called something along the lines of Gladiators?
If so, then I can fully understand why some of the gladiators fancied their chances on a film called Gladiator. I’ve got an audition for a new film called Ranking the Gladiators next week – reckon I’m in for a good chance of getting the part.
So yeah, Rio was also in sodding Gladiator, but according to my ‘research’, she had a bit of a bigger part than the other two. Supposedly she played an ‘Amazonian warrior’ who met ‘a very gruesome end’. One place where she didn’t meet a gruesome end though, was the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, where she was quite good at being a gladiator.
Oh and also, she was in the top six of the “Babe of '96” competition, whatever that was. Seems like the kind of thing I would have been and also still am into.
Just absorb that haircut up there. Let it truly sink in. Two luscious, silky curtains, flowing lightly in the breeze, you part them, and what is behind? Ace’s gleaming, glistening, gladiatorial forehead, resting atop the most enthusiastic grin the arena has ever seen.
I always have time for curtains, and I’ll be honest with you once more, I think Ace’s placing on this list is entirely down to his hair. If you’re going to be on telly in the ‘90s, then you had damn well fucking act like it. Ask Beckham, or Ben from A1 – they were famous in the ‘90s and they plastered it all over their foreheads. Lots of respect for that, in my book.
My book being The Big Book Of Shit, Time-Sensitive Haircuts.
The music made Gladiators: the best part was obviously the opening credits, and the second best was when someone fell off on Hang Tough and they would play ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ by Queen, while the crowd did two pumps up, two pumps down with their big foam fingers.
Third best, well, that’s obviously whenever they played Zodiac’s theme song, which was ‘Oh Yeah’ by Yello, aka one of the stupidest and greatest songs of all time. Listen:
Peng Panther, I didn't use to call her, because ‘peng’ wasn't really around back then, but this is what I call her now when I'm down the pub mithering the barstaff and showing them my Gladiators drawings.
The two reasons that Panther was peng, was first and foremost, her giant haircut, which could hide a Fiat Panda with room left to spare. I seem to remember – correct me if I’m wrong here – that when the winner’s prize was announced, Panther would lie down and they’d drive the car out of her hair. It was all pretty spectacular.
The other reason Panther was so peng was because she had a massively bad spinal injury – like, the kind of thing that if it happened to me I’d give up there and then and immediately start getting as fat as possible. But she, after being told she might have to quit as a gladiator, went into beast mode, recovered completely and returned to the next series. It was handy because her physio moved into a flat in her hair so was able to be on standby whenever needed.
Do some back-flips and I'm yours, dag nammit. Being able to do a back-flip is very impressive, and I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never be able to do one. I could try, but you know, I'd probably end up banging my knee on the floor, and I just can't deal with that kind of thing at my age.
Vogue though, she could do back-flips, on repeat, forever, so she had me on side. Also, she had the distinct look of a terrifyingly strict gym teacher – the kind that thought she wasn’t running a Year 6 games lesson properly unless you were puking out your jam roly poly, you little maggot.
I do not understand how that hair works, I must admit. It’s a mullet, sure, but it’s a mullet that somehow defies gravity. Of course, there’s always the chance that Falcon’s head actually extends into the top part of the haircut, like some sort of prime-time ITV conehead, but I guess we’ll never know.
The reason I liked Falcon so much was that she was the nicest gladiator. Always being gracious and friendly to her opponents, even after she’d just punted them off a seven-foot podium with a giant straw – that’s true sportsmanship.
Scorpio is the scary, obsessive psycho home-and-relationship-invader in an early ‘90s Lifetime movie, isn't she? I was always wary – she was too Fatal Attraction, too Basic Instinct to be trusted. But then it was never an issue of trust for me, personally, for I was a little punk wiener sitting in his living room, not getting chased up a plastic wall with her hot on my tail.
And really, unless it’s Falcon, you can’t trust a gladiator anyway, can ya?
Trojan is named after a condom, a big one, and that’s the kind of title I can get behind. A big man gladiator called Durex, coming out to ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’, bollocks tightly wrapped into an ill-fitting leotard, a bag of haggis whacking each thigh as he runs – that’s Gladiators!
But yeah, Trojan, aka the Iron Sheath, was a good one, because he was very strong, and as a child that enjoyed the movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I liked to watch very strong people hurting other people on my television.
Also, he played Action Man in a series of top-notch PSAs that aired before the animated show of the same name. Heed these words:
I do not know why, but I was a bit scared of Nightshade. I think it was because of how good she was on Duel – she would give the contestants evils from another dimension. Those stares could pierce a skull at 100 metres.
However, this meant she was a very good Gladiator, and she was also a black belt in Tae Kwon-Do, which meant she would do kicks and stuff in her promos. As an only child, I would spend numerous hours kicking and punching the air in my living room, so I was fully on board with the whole martial arts thing. Kicky punchy Gary likey.
Much like Trojan, I liked Warrior because he was really strong – a thing I aspired to be. Thankfully I now am extremely strong, so thank you, Warrior for that – it’s down to you and Durex, and I guess Rhino and Shadow and all the other lot, too. Either way, I’m a hulking strongman now, people on the street desperate to take photos of me, grasp my arms, granddad my legs, determined to fight me, always hitting me, challenging me. You’ve ruined my life.
YES BLAZE. Easily one of my favourite gladiators of all time – real name Eunice Huthart (which is an extremely enjoyable name to say out loud, on repeat), she was originally a contestant on the show, and she absolutely trounced every other contestant by miles. She was the female equivalent of Wesley ‘2 Scoops’ Berry (perhaps the greatest human to have ever lived), only she made it one further and actually became a gladiator – the only contestant to ever have done this.
THAT IS EXTREMELY GOOD I THINK YOU WILL AGREE.
Hunter and Ulrika, sitting in a tree, KAY IY ESS ESS IY ENN GEE. Hunter was top-shagger gladiator, having his very own scandal with presenter Johnson, but being a very nice man about it all. He was also the youngest Gladiator to ever take part, starting the series when he was only 19. If you were to compare him to what I looked like at 19, I don’t think there’d be too much difference.
Mainly the arms, the legs, the chest, the blond hair, the adulation of his peers, his ability to take his hand to anything and be extremely good at it, and the women within a metre of him. Apart from that though: SNAP!
Amazon was not really one of my favourite Gladiators, until one day my parents took me to a car garage on the pretense of looking at cars – I sulked all the way there, the ungrateful pillock I was – BUT WHEN WE ARRIVED AMAZON FROM GLADIATORS WAS THERE SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS.
I spoke to her, and being a swimmer also (it was Sharon Davies, from the Olympics), I told her I was taking part in a swimming gala that night. She wished me good luck and I won. So she immediately went up in the rankings.
I have been planning this article for about 20 years btw.
Big fan of Saracen, who was one of only four glads to be in every single series – very popular lad.
His USP was, like Falcon, being a ‘nice’ gladiator. Yeah, he’d boot you out of gauntlet like a wet sock being thrown out of a teenager’s bedroom as their mum walked in, but was good about it. Gracious, kind, played fair – qualities you would want to instill in your son when you’re training him to be a gladiator. Which you should be, by the way – train all your children to be gladiators. Create an army of child gladiators and send them into battle.
Saracen would approve.
Oh, you thought I’d only met one Gladiator? You were wrong. Dead wrong.
Because I also met Rhino at the same car garage as Amazon.
Rhino was already one of my favourite gladiators, because – you guessed it – he was really strong. Perhaps the strongest of all the gladiators? I might be being controversial here, but if this isn’t the most controversial list to ever be published on the internet, then I’m doing my job wrong.
Also he could do a robot dance which I would also simultaneously do with him. Me and Rhino, like peas in a pod we were.
I had a peculiar relationship with Lightning. I liked her gymnastics and big hair and nice face, but the thing was, you see, I hated Hang Tough with a passion unheard of. And Lightning was Hang Tough. She was unbeaten throughout the entire run.
I couldn’t watch the event because it was far too tense, and I would spend the entire minute screaming as loud as I possibly could. The threat of Lightning having her winning streak broken was too much for me to bear.
In fact, I’ve broken out in a cold sweat just thinking about it. Let’s move on.
A lot of the gladiators were quite po-faced, everything serious, this is sport. But Cobra recognised the show for what it was: a big pantomime but with an escalator that went the wrong way. As such, he would act the fool, and as a fool myself, I backed his decision 100%. He would do things like pull silly faces or bring a blow-up sheep into the arena.
Blow-up things are funny, but because it was a family show, he couldn’t bowl in with a big blow-up cock. Sheeps are the next funniest thing to cocks, if you ask me.
When I was a youngster, I had a big poster of all the gladiators up on my bedroom wall. Shadow looked so scary in it, that we thought it was haunted. OK, yes, I was obsessed with ghosts and thought everything was haunted, including the airing cupboard, the window in the main bathroom, the downstairs toilet mirror and also a big piece of blue Silly Putty that I thought I saw the devil in once. Anyway, we used to take pictures of the Gladiators poster, then wait with baited breath as we got an entire roll of film back – much to my father’s chagrin – of blurred close-ups of an A2 piece of glossy paper. And zero ghosts.
But yeah, I really liked Shadow because he was clearly the hardest of all the Gladiators.
Jet could put her leg above her head, which was something I tried once, and was unable to do, so yes, impressive Jet, well done.
Jet 1 – 0 Me
I mean, really, Jet was up the top on everyone’s list, wasn’t she? She was really really good at all the events (including Hang Tough, oh God, pass me an aspirin), everyone fancied her, and also she was one of the nice ones. I find it very impressive when someone is very good at winning, and is nice about it. I am the world’s worst winner – you are not going to hear the fucking end of it if I beat you at anything.
Props to Jet for winning without then immediately following it with a contestant wedgie in the green room.
1. OBVIOUSLY IT’S WOLF YOU IDIOTS
I really don’t know who you could have possibly thought it would be other than Wolf. Wolf was the best gladiator and will forever be the best gladiator. Think how much better the film Gladiator would have been if Wolf had been in it instead of Russell Crowe?
Wolf: “My name is Maximus Decimus Wolf, bad-boy of the original gladiators, previous cast member of London’s Burning and staunch opponent of the TRUE referee, John Anderson. Owner of a receding mullet, advocate of an adult strop. And I will have my vengeance, in this large commercial arena space or the next.
“Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?”
Me: YES WOLF I AM SO ENTERTAINED THE SKIN ON MY TEMPLES IS ABOUT FIVE SECONDS FROM SPLITTING.
Well done Wolf, on being the best gladiator on Gladiators.
I need a lie down now, there’s blood dripping onto my shoulders from somewhere.