A Day in the Life of a Real American Gladiator


So I woke up at 6:45am, beyond excited about getting my chance to not only meet Hulk Hogan, but to take on the new class of NBC’s “American Gladiators.” That’s right, all 150 pounds of The Chupper was going to climb the Pyramid against Toa, one of the warriors on the show. (Toa also happens to be The Rock’s cousin and stunt double, and is built exactly like a brick wall).

I got to Sony Pictures Studios, Studio 30 at 8:30am – only 5 hours until it was time. I had a good breakfast, worked out (or stretched my legs a little – whatever you make of that).

But before all that, it was time to get introduced to the all re-invented “American Gladiators.” An all-American classic show of the 1980s and ’90s, NBC is bringing it back starting January 6th! And I couldn’t be more excited, not only because as a kid, I watched it every Saturday, but because Hulk Hogan was going to be the host. Laila Ali also serves as his co-host.

For those of you who don’t know what “American Gladiators” is, it’s a battle between giant monster men and women (who can pretty much kick anyone’s ass) and your average in-shape person. Think ‘Pro vs. Joe’ mentality. Throughout the hour-long show, the contestants compete against each other and the Gladiators in various games such as The Pyramid, The Gauntlet, Assault, Rock Wall, and Power Ball. All these games are dominated by the Gladiators. Check it out on YouTube if you want a refresher course on the original series.

Fast forward to about 9:30am. We meet Laila Ali, the daughter of legendary boxer, Mohammad Ali – and boxer herself. She talked about her involvement in the show, and what she’s looking forward to the most from this new season. “It’s definitely a competition,” she emphatically said. “It’s real people going up against Gladiators. The Joust, that’s done above the water. I’ve seen them take blows to the head; I’m like, ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ ‘Cause as a fighter, I’m trained to do that; but for the average person, I wonder if this is too much? Are we going to hurt these people? But they come out and say they had fun, so I’m like, OK. But I gotta try that before this is all over, ’cause it’s kind of like boxing.”

Around 10:15am, Hulkamania was runnin’ wild on the set of “American Gladiators” with his now 20′ pythons. Ok, so I may be a bit of a dork, but you have to appreciate someone like Hulk Hogan. The guy’s been promoting his sport for 20 years, and loving every minute of it. And I think each of his biceps are bigger than my head. Hulk was so pumped to be a part of this show and become a host – and not a contestant. “It’s faster and quicker than the old ‘Gladiators’ show; the production is a lot slicker. They’ve added water to the events. And I think the one thing that’s going to get people hooked on this show is the contenders who came to compete are normal people who came to ‘the dance’ this time. They had to beat out thousands of people to get here; they needed more than just the physicality, they needed motivation. It’s going to be the most exciting primetime television in a long time; it’s a piece of Americana that’s always been there. ‘American Gladiators’ has been intertwined in society for so long, that to bring it back is something that makes sense – and genius at this time.

With an updated cast, sex appeal was definitely part of the casting of these Gladiators. And I’ll tell you, these women look hot as hell, but they’ll take you down in a second – and I know, ’cause I saw it happen. Laila says there is something for everyone. “They upped their game on everything – visually, the Gladiators, the games themselves, the hosts. They just make you want to watch.”

Hulk knows from his own experience about the sex appeal of American Gladiators. “Back in the day, what hooked me on this show was a Gladiator named Ray – she was actually here the other day. But I was like, ‘Wow!’ I would turn the show on just to watch her. So I can imagine just with that experience, all these young girls will have their favorite male Gladiators and the young boys will have their favorite female Gladiators on that level. And I also think there’s something about in-shape people here doing this type of job, it’s going to attract some type attitude and element that sticks.”

Time check – 11:30am; 2 hours before the Pyramid is mine!

“American Gladiators” wouldn’t be anything without the actual Gladiators. The men are Wolf, Justice, Militia, Titan, Toa and Mayhem. The women are Siren, Venom, Fury, Helga, Crush and Stealth.

With my time fast approaching for ultimate glory, I needed some advice from them on attempting my challenge. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Toa: “Are you really serious? Don’t do it! Do you have life insurance?”

Justice: “You’re in trouble! Since we’re not really competing for money, we’re competing for honor. Oh, y’all going to get it! Oh, y’all going to get it.!”

Helga: “Uh, I think you should try the Rock Wall with a 30 second lead. Don’t do Pyramid, man.” (in the show, the contestant gets a 10 second lead on the Rock Wall).

Titan: “You going against me? Best advice from me is just make sure there’s an ambulance close. I’ll try to take it easy, but the switch goes on and I’m there and ‘grrreee!’ I get a little excited.”

Venom: “Make sure you have pain medication. Just be aggressive; you can try, but good luck.”

Mayhem: “Oh, it’s all over, dawg! I’ll be like, ‘What’s up? You with King Tut!'”

Fury: “I hope you’re in good shape! Don’t worry, you’ll like it.”

Wolf: “Let’s see, 150 pounds, 40 foot Pyramid, at a 45 degree right angle. Your head is going to end up on a black mat at the bottom.”

And sure enough, at around 1:15pm, my head ended up at the bottom of the black mat from Toa picking me above his head – straight armed – and throwing me down (see pics below!). Now, as you can imagine, I had no chance to make it, but I tried my best. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a long time. And all I could think about was, “Man, I’m glad I’m not a real contestant!”

So my day as an American Gladiator ended, but don’t fret – I’ll get my chance one day to take on Toa again.

You be hearing much more with Hulk Hogan, Laila Ali, and the rest of the new cast of “American Gladiators.” Until then, check out the new season beginning Sunday, January 6th at 9/8c on NBC.