The Return of the American Gladiators


It’s the return of one of the most exciting shows to ever grace the silver screen – “American Gladiators.” It’s a competition of everyday, normal men and women competing against twelve of some of the most in-shape and biggest warriors you’ve seen. was lucky enough to check out the set and speak to the gladiators and the hosts, Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali. Oh, and we were able to challenge the gladiators themselves. But after finding out I’m not a true American Gladiator, I decided to sit down with the guys who are.

That started with the hosts of the new show, Hulk and Laila. Both feel this updated version is exactly what TV needs to jump-start this new year. “I think when the people at home see this, when they realize what they’re up against with these clowns up here, these American Gladiators are physical phenoms,” says Hulk. “I think it’s going to be an interesting piece of programming in action TV. It’s kind of like a McDonald’s or Chevrolet or Babe Ruth or Hulk Hogan or Mohammed Ali – ‘American Gladiators’ has been intertwined with American society for so long that to bring it back is something that makes sense. It’s something that’s a genius idea at this time; I think it’s going to be something that people get addicted to. They’ve added more intensity to the events; there’s water involved in a lot of the events and I think the one thing that really is going to make people get hooked on the show is the competition. The contenders are normal people that came to the dance this time; they had to beat out thousands of people to get here.”

It’s all about the all-around competition for Laila. “It’s real people going up against gladiators; I, for one, don’t vouch for anyone I don’t know. I don’t care if they’re male or female – may the best person win. I’m not one of those women who’s like, ‘Pro women;’ I’m an individual, and I’m in an individual sport. So I see everyone as individuals, not as male or female. And I usually tend to root for the competitors, not the gladiators, because they’re the ones who are really here. They’re not really competing against the gladiators, they’re trying to get their points. I always try to remind them, ‘Hey look, you’re going up against each other. But you have to face the gladiator, though. But in the end, you have to remember that you’re trying to do better than your contestant is going to do.”

That’s what the hosts have to say. So what do the gladiators want you to know about “American Gladiators”? Titan, who was one of the gladiators on the original series is back for this round; he says the games are basically the same, but the set will change the way you look at it. “It’s amazing; the old set – we filmed up in Burbank; now, we turned the biggest sound stages into our home. We’ve got water, we’ve got fire, we’ve got everything – it’s insane. I did the joust and powerball before – there’s nothing better than powerball. You’re flying, you’re just knocking guys silly. There’s nothing better than that!”

“It’s bigger and better than ever,” notes Venom, one of the new female gladiators. “There’s action and energy, it’s pretty incredible. It’s awesome, it’s so cool. The wall – you’re chasing someone 40 feet above water, it’s incredible. You grab onto her around her waist and try to rip her off, and she plunges into the water – it’s awesome.”

Justice stands 6’8″, 300 pounds – his attitude is to intimidate the contestant before he even begins the game. “We all have an intimidation factor. I could be sitting and smiling at you right now, and cheering you on, but I turn it on when it’s time to get down – understand that!”

An ancient Polynesian dance helps Toa get ready for his competitions. “It’s a traditional dance, bringing down all your ancestors to your heart and preparing yourself for battle. It’s a pretty intimidating dance – you stare your opponents in the eyes. I’ve seen guys look at me and just like a puppy dog.”

Wolf’s past keeps him pumped every time he puts on the outfit. “I grew up playing every sport known to man, and then started fighting bulls. It’s kind of baptism by fire. I’ve been fighting men, animals my entire life, and that’s built me to become a gladiator. Last year I was gored by a bull and almost died. I came back bigger, better, faster, stronger – just like American Gladiators. They’re bigger, better, faster and stronger.”

“Our characters are an extension of who we already are,” says Stealth. “When we say, ‘We’re not acting,’ we’re just bringing out ourselves, but bigger and better. We’re all athletes, so our game face comes on. They’re talking a lot of smack, but when the whistle blows, the sport begins. And that’s what’s real.”

Hosting wasn’t something Hulk Hogan was looking for, but when the opportunity came up, he grabbed it. “The hosting part is great but what I’ve done is I’ve tried to find out what my niche is and what my groove is. I like to take advantage of the situation. I could have went several different ways but I’m all about this whole mindset thing and perception. The truth is, wherever they’re going, I’ve already been, if you want to know the truth. I’ve done this type of wrestling, I’ve done the other type of wrestling where they try to break bones, street fighting with submissions in Japan. I try to come from an entertainment perspective when I talk, but my vision when I’m talking to these gladiators is I’m kind of like their mentor. I’ve been in these wars for 30 years, whether they’ve been real or fake, but I’ve been there. That’s what I’m doing hosting.

Laila also told us that hosting didn’t fit into her plans, but “American Gladiators” just felt right. “I like seeing competitive people, I’m a competitor. It fits. I’m a gladiator, you can say, so I like this; and so this is perfect for me. Any other hosting job, I may not have been as excited about unless it was something that I… ’cause I can’t make myself do something well if I’m not interested.

And believe me, they’re fully ready and interested to be a part of “American Gladiators” for a long time. You can check out Hulk, Laila and the new competitors on an all-new “American Gladiators” Monday night at 9/8c on NBC.