When American Gladiators started airing in September of 1989, it signaled a new era in sports and entertainment TV. The show created a brand new genre of “Sports game shows” which was novel at the time. The show, which had a weekly cast of elite athletes, pitched them against each other in real athletics completion.
American Gladiators saw some of the finest and most competitive sportsmen and women competing for the $10,000 price. The first installment of the show had 7 seasons. American Gladiators returned in 2008 with Hulk Hogan as host and a handful of gladiators from the first edition making a return. For a trip down memory lane, here’s a short profile of some of the most legendary gladiators to have competed on the show.
Venom the Bionic woman
Nicknamed “Bionic Woman”, Beth Horn was one of the top stars of the American Gladiators Reboot. She dominated the game for two seasons. But even before participating in American Gladiators, Horn had made her mark as a competitive gymnast.
Back in college, she was a bodybuilder. Despite suffering injuries on both knees and undergoing two reconstructive surgeries, she still excelled as a sportswoman. She was a weightlifting champion and also won the National Fitness Championship in 2000. Horn also works as a personal trainer, model and has authored a fitness book.
Roids, Rage, and Redemption
Before participating in American Gladiators, Dan Clark was an NFL player with a specialty in health and fitness. Nitro’s entire career has revolved around the show and he even wrote a book about it. But he is also into Tae Kwon Do, does Yoga, and is an actor and voice actor.
The book titled “Gladiator: A True Story of ‘Roids, Rage, and Redemption,” which was released in 2009 was all about his life as an American Gladiator. Clark also authored another book inspired by his close shave with death after surviving cardiac arrest.
Zap the Ultimate Gladiator
Also popularly called the Ultimate Gladiator, Zap is one of the original gladiators. Raye Hollit was also known for her bubbling personality, strength, and beauty. She was an athlete in high school and started bodybuilding in the early 1980s.
Even more fitting is the fact that she lived in the body-building capital of the world, Venice Beach. Raye Hollit made a career out of her body-building exploits winning several competitions and starring in the 1989 film “Skin Deep” before joining American Gladiators. She was also a paralegal and owned 2 gyms in Pennsylvania.
Tower of Power
Nicknamed the Tower of Power, Steve Henneberry joined A.G. first as an alternate. But everyone wanted to see more of this handsome hunk so he eventually officially joined the cast. Henneberry was former Mr. America before joining American Gladiators.
His body-building career began in 1989. He was also an actor and model and was on different hit shows, including “Married with Children”. Tower was known as a tough athlete. During the fourth season of the show, he had an accident during a Powerball Match. Despite receiving 44 stitches on the head, he was back on the show within 3 hours.
William Romeo, the Mayhem
William Romeo was part of the first installment of the show in 1989 but as an alternate contender. In 2008, he was back as a full-fledged gladiator on the new series. Mayhem’s background in martial arts as a black belt holder gave him an edge in the Arena.
He was also into theater and dance and took on some roles on several TV shows and films including, “How I met Your Mother” and “Without a Trace.” In addition to these, Mayhem takes aerobics classes in LA.
King of the Duel Podium
Michael Willson was the king of the Duel Podium. All through his time on A.G, he dominated and never got knocked off by anyone. Before American Gladiators, he was a bodybuilding champion winning competitions in South London and Kent.
Cobra was renowned for his kicks and splits maneuvers. He was also a martial arts expert and had some boxing and kickboxing training. But Micheal Willson seems to have pushed his body too far and suffered several injuries. He has had hip replacement surgery and still needs another one. He also needs shoulder and bicep injuries.
Diane “the Jet” Youdal
Before her gladiator days, Diane Youdal was a gymnast and dancer. She was a fighter with a gorgeous face and sweet disposition that everyone loved. Jet was among the most popular of the gladiators in the first era of the show.
Her career as a gladiator was ended abruptly by a broken neck during a Pyramid Event in 1996. Doctors said she was lucky to have survived the incident. But her days in the Arena were over. She returned to school, got a psychotherapy degree, and is now a celebrity therapist with a show on British TV.
Original Gladiator Michael Horton
Gemini was one of the original six gladiators that were part of the show from the beginning Michael Horton was nicknamed the gentle giant. But his personality was a mix of aggressive and calm. One of the main highlights of his career on AG was getting into a fight with Billy Wirth during the first seasons of the show.
After American Gladiator, Horton worked as an NFL lineman working for the Panthers and the saint. He has two sons that play pro football and his daughter who played volleyball in college. He is a second-degree black belt holder with up to 6 years of experience in martial arts.
Jefferson King the Mighty Shadow
Jefferson King dominated the Duel on American Gladiators for three years losing only once. The Mighty Shadow struck fear in the mind of contenders. His career began in track and field but his eye has always been on the NFL.
As a bodybuilder, King won several titles. His days on the show were also quite eventful. But his career was caught shortly after he was banned for using illicit substances. King battled with addiction for years but has now recovered and helping others reclaim their lives too.
Deputy Sheriff Malibu
Deron McBee was one of the original six on the first season of the show. Before the show, he was a surfer and also trained in Karate and hand-to-hand sword fighting. McBee also spent some years in the ring as a professional wrestler. It’s hard to guess that this was the same person who started his career as a police officer and Deputy sheriff at the LA County.
Malibu also had an impressive career as a movie star featuring as a villain in movies like Batman Forever & Mortal Kombat Annihilation. McBee returned to American Gladiators for the live tour in 1991.
Controversial Sha-ri Pendleton
Sha-ri Pendleton’s hopes of participating in the 1984 Olympics in the jumping and hurdling events were dashed by an injury. In 1990, she participated in the Miss Natural Bodybuilding Championship and won. At the same time, she studied for a law degree and practiced criminal law.
As a gladiator, Blaze had a fearsome©e reputation and the Conquer event was her strongest fort. She got married to another athlete, Rodney “Knightmare” Mitchell from the rival TV show at the time, Knights and Warriors. Blaze now works as a high school coach.
Don “Hollywood” Yates
Yates belongs to the newer generation of American Gladiators appearing on 2 seasons of NBC’s reboot that aired in 2008. Wolf was 230 pounds, 6’4″, and took down many competitors in the Arena. From a young age, Yates had always wanted to be a show biz star
Scouted at a Las Vegas bodybuilding event, Wolf declined an offer to join the WWE but opted for American Gladiators instead. Before A.G, he was a professional rodeo bullfighter, winning several titles and breaking several bones.
Queen of the Powerball Event
Throughout high school, Lori Fetrick was an all-star athlete. She ventured into bodybuilding after high school and was an NPC bodybuilder. Lori was ranked first in California and third nationally. She joined the second season of the Gladiators as Ice and was the Queen of the Powerball Event.
Ice had one of the longest runs in American Gladiators participating in five seasons of the show and the Live Tour. She worked as a personal trainer for a while before opening up her gym in Florida.
Swimming Champion Amazon
Before American Gladiators, Sharron Davies was an Olympic Swimmer. She also participated in the 1978 Commonwealth Games and won two gold medals. After her successful career as a swimming champion, Davies joined the arena in 1995.
She had a short stint on the show. Her career ended with a knee Injury in 1996 and she was unable to return for the next season of the show. Davies returned to the Olympics in 2008 and 2012 this time as a commentator for the BBC at the swimming events
The Original Lace
Pare was one of the few gladiators that did not have a strong sports background before the show. She was an interior designer and singer in the Rock-band. Yet, Lace was among the original gladiators on the show and has an impressive run for three seasons starting from 1989.
She began her career in the arena in the 120 pounds lightweight category and was able to build up her strength gradually. Her Gladiator nickname, Lace was given to Natalie Lennox after she left AG at the beginning of the fourth season.
Shelley Beattie (The Third Lace)
The beautiful and athletic Shelly Beattie had a hearing impairment. But that did not stop her from being one of the most remarkable gladiators ever. Even before the show, she was already doing exploits, winning several bodybuilding titles.
Beattie achieved an unprecedented feat during her audition when she did 57 pushups in one minute. She joined American Gladiator as a replacement for the second “Lace”. Unfortunately, Siren died in 2008 after a fatal suicide attempt.
Natalie Lennox (The Second Lace)
Natalie Lennox was on American Gladiators as a replacement for the Lace Gladiator character. Before her time on the show, she was a model and actress. She had one of the shortest runs on the show-participating for just one season. But she left her mark on the show.
Lennox left the game show in 1992, the same year she joined. Shortly after, she was featured on Penthouse magazine as the “Pet of the Month”. In 2014, at age 48, Lennox participated in the NPC Europa Show of Champions and won.
Mark Smith the Rhino
After training for six months, Mark Smith won his first bodybuilding competition. From that point forward, he won practically every weightlifting contest he participated in including the London’s Men’s heavyweight title. On AG, Smith wowed fans with his slick moves and charismatic personality.
Rhino was a serial champion and continued his winning ways on AG. He went undefeated in the Gauntlet, Whiplash, and Suspension Bridge event. He was on Disney’s animated movie Zootropolis in 2016 as the voice of Officer McHorn, a rhinoceros which is quite a coincidence considering his moniker on AG.
The Russian Bodybuilder Vladimir Turchinsky was no stranger to breaking records. After lifting a 3.5-ton elephant, he broke the Guinness World Record again by pulling a 20-ton double decker bus with just one hand! Despite having a smaller stature (he was just 5’10) compared to other gladiators, Dynamite was a formidable champion.
Sadly, Turchinsky’s spectacular career was cut short when he died from a heart attack in 2009. He was 47 years old at the time. He was survived by his wife Irina and two kids.
William “Billy” Smith (Thunder)
Smith was an all-around sport athlete back in high school, but he eventually found his passion in weightlifting. As a weightlifter and bodybuilder, he had a remarkable career winning more than 25 titles during an eventual 16-year tour all over the world.
He got his first foot in the door on the Gladiators show as an alternate. But he soon got in office after an injury opened up a spot for him. The Thunder, as he was fondly called by fans on the show participated in AG for two seasons before stepping to start a nutrition company inspired by his desire to help his brother with Type 1 Diabetes.
John Seru the Vulcan
Fiji-born Seru began his professional wrestling career after winning the Australian Pro-wrestling championship title. He got heckled by fans in the wrestling ring but was better received in the gladiator arena as Vulcan. His gladiator career was not restricted to a single stage.
He first appeared on Australian Gladiators in 1995 and was also a British Gladiator in 1998. His favorite event was the Duel where he excelled well. Seru owns a gym in Sydney and has been managing it himself for more than 18 years. He also had a brief acting stint appearing in the Bond Movie, “The World Is Not Enough,” as a henchman.
Mark Griffin – My Life with the Gladiators
Mark Giffin was a squash superstar and bodybuilder before venturing into acting. He was in the second installment of Dr. Doolittle, and also appeared in movies like Doctor Who, Dragons of Camelot, and Daddy Daycare before joining the Gladiators in 1993.
Trojan was on the show for three arduous seasons between 1993 and 1996. In 1995, he authored a book about his experiences as a gladiator titled My Life with the Gladiators. Trojan returned to Hollywood a year later to pursue his dream of becoming an actor.
Double-Sided Bernadette Hunt
Bernadette Hunt has a sort of mixed personality. While she was a formidable and ruthless force in the arena, fans loved her off-stage for her kindness and passion for charitable causes. Her formidable persona in the Arena earned her the nickname “Dark Angel”.
Hunt trained as a dancer but had to drop her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer due to a back injury. She shifted her focus towards becoming an aerobics instructor and also participated in a body-building contest. Hunt returned to her life as a fitness instructor after 8 seasons on the Gladiators.
Sergeant Kimberly Rogers
Kimberly Rogers was exceptionally athletic even as a kid. In high school, she was the only girl on an all-boys soccer team. She ventured into bodybuilding during her time in the US Army. Sergeant Kimberly Rogers left the army to pursue a bachelor’s degree. It was during this time that she got the AG gig after trying it out in 1996.
Jade was on the show till 1998. She was a formidable fighter dominating the Powerball event. Since leaving the show, she now works in the real estate market.
The Iconic Marc Ortega
Marc Ortega is one of the most iconic gladiators ever. He was on the third season of the show and his Grand Champion win has been hailed as one of the greatest legendary moments in American Gladiator history.
Many Hardcore fans of the show still rave about the event. To defeat champion Joseph Mauro (Bam Bam) in the eliminator event, Ortega had to throw over the line to win a photo finish. Interestingly, Ortega didn’t return for the next seasons, stepping out of the limelight completely.
Galen “Turbo” Tomlinson
Galen Tomlinson was everything the producers of the show could have ever wanted in a Gladiator with his charming good looks and incredible turbo speed which earned him his nickname. Tomlinson was on the show between 1990 and 1996, took a short break but returned in 1998.
Interestingly, Tomlinson hadn’t seen a single episode of the show when he auditioned for the first time in 1990. After leaving the show, Turbo has been working as the head coach of the Volleyball club of coastal North County.
Peggy Odita – Drawn by the Money
Peggy Odita was drawn to the American Gladiators by the Prize money. Before joining the show, she was already an accomplished athlete and was on a sports scholarship at Stanford. AG thought participating in American Gladiator would be super easy.
Of course, she was wrong. She later admitted that it was tougher than she expected it to be. Yet, she did well in the game, ending season 5 as the grand champion. She returned to a spin-off version of the show for kids as a referee and narrator in the year 2000.
Sky High Shirley Eson-Korito
Standing at 6’3,” Sky had a towering height which made her name just fitting. She was the tallest female gladiator and was no doubt a daunting opponent for anyone to face. Shirley joined the show during the live tour and remained on until the last season in 1996.
Eson-Korito started modeling and participating in bodybuilding championships when she was just a teen. in 1990, she won the World Gym Classic and many other competitions after that. She returned briefly to competitive bodybuilding in 2016.
Michael Ahearne the Warrior
Micheal Ahearne was one of the original gladiators on the UK Gladiator show and left a huge impact on six seasons of the show. He was an astounding 291 pounds which made him the heaviest competitor to have ever participated in the show. He dominated the Powerball and Tilt events.
Ahearne’s career began with Rugby, but he soon made the switch to bodybuilding. He won 15 championships as a bodybuilder. Unfortunately, the former bodybuilder ran into trouble with the law in 1997 when he was sentenced for money laundering. He got off with a shortened sentence after an appeal and opened a gym.
Darren “Daz” Crawford
Daz Crawford was a prolific amateur heavyweight boxer and was ranked 10th in the world at the time. He also had a remarkable martial arts career winning the RAF championship 3 times. He was invited to join England’s contingent at the Olympics in Seoul.
Daz was only on British Gladiators for seasons seven and eight of the show. Despite being an incredible athlete, Crawford’s main passion was acting. He took a break from acting to join the Gladiators after studying acting in England. He starred in the James Bond Movie, the World is not enough and was also in Blade 2.
The Golden Tonya Knight
Tonya Knight was a weightlifter in high school. She also participated in bodybuilding championships which was quite a big deal in the 80s. She won both national and international competitions as a bodybuilder and was one of the top bodybuilders in the world.
She continued her winning ways when she joined the American Gladiators in 1990. But her career was cut short by a knee injury. She is now a licensed cosmetologist and proud mother.
Suzanne Cox (Vogue)
Suzanne Cox was a Gladiators fan-favorite. She was a gymnast known for backflipping into the arena while the tune of Madonna’s Vogue played in the background. Back in high school, Cox was excellent at track and field events and also won several aerobic competitions both in the UK and on the world stage.
Cox still maintains some connection with the Gladiators show. Along with two other gladiators, Panther and Saracen, she runs a fashion retail store. She is married to Mark Roberts who was also a gladiator in the 1997 season of the show.
Linda Byrnes Beating the Men
All her life, Brynes has been a natural at outshining everyone including men in anything she decides to participate in. Before her days as a gladiator, she was an advanced life support officer in an all-make rescue squad. She also participated in a televised arm-wrestling showdown with Australian TV personality David Koch and humiliated him on the show, Where are They Now.
Byrnes is an IFBB Miss Australia heavyweight champion. She’s still very much active hitting the gym five times a week and working as a personal trainer. Flame is also a fully accredited financial planner.
Scott “Chuck” Berlinger (the Viper)
Scott Berlinger has been naturally athletic since childhood. He was a swimming champion and also participated in a range of other sports including water polo, football, and wrestling. While studying marketing in college, he participated in a weightlifting competition and won.
He was scouted for the third and fourth seasons of the Gladiators dominating the Powerball and Hang Tough events. On and off the show, the Viper had a bad boy persona. He once ripped up a fan sign that read “Viper Needs a Diaper.”
The Versatile Salina Bartunek
Elektra’s first appearance as an American Gladiator was as Shadow at the live tour. In 1992, she debuted officially on the fourth season of the show as Elektra. Before coming on the show, she was a nationally acclaimed gymnast winning titles in acrobatics, speed climbing, and dance.
Elektra performed impressively on American Gladiator. But she had an accident during the hang tough event and broke her nose. Off the show, Bartunek is so many things. In addition to being a professional dancer and a sports model, she also acted as a Broadway star and currently works as a fitness instructor.
Erika Andersch with the Diamond Muscles
German-born Erika Andersch was a bodybuilder for several years before joining the Gladiators. She was excellent at several sports, but bodybuilding was the strongest fort. In 1988, she won the New England Bodybuilding competition.
Andersch was on American Gladiators for two seasons from between 1990 and 1993, dominating the Breakthrough event. After the show, Andersch ventured into TV briefly starring in Batman Returns as the Knifethrower Dame. She was also featured in Playboy Magazine.
Jazz (the Second)
Victoria Gay is reputed as one of the fiercest Gladiators to ever compete in the game. She was known for her speed and aggressive style which allowed her to dominate for three seasons of the show. Gay was the queen of the Joust event.
Gay Joined AG in 1993 on what was, the fifth season of the show. She took on the name Jazz after a previous gladiator with that name left the show. Gay was also on the Live show and participated in the International Gladiators competition before stepping away in 1996.
Lee Reherman the Hawk
While in college, Lee Reherman wanted to pursue a football career and even tried out with the Miami Dolphins at some point as an offensive lineman. This was never to be. While working on getting an MBA at the UCLA business school, he started his television career on the side appearing in several movies and TV shows.
Dubbed the Hawk on International Gladiators, Reherman was a fan-favorite for two seasons of the show. After the show, he returned to TV and film where he had a successful career as an actor and movie producer before his death at age 49 in 2016.
Sahara, Queen of the Desert
Christy Skoglund started her Gladiators career in South Africa on MTN Gladiators. The show had an arena specifically for her gladiator character known as Sahara, Queen of the Desert. This was also the case on England’s International Gladiators which she also participated in.
Skoglund was an athletic prodigy that was well-loved by fans especially in her home country South Africa.Sadly, she died in 2001 from a brain aneurism at the peak of her career. She was just 33 years old at the time.
Special Ops Mike Harvey
Years Active: 1993 & 2008
Before his days in the Arena as Bullit, Mike Harvey was in the military as an underwater warfare expert. He joined the live shows in 1993 at Atlashpheres. Before this, he had won two bodybuilding titles in the year 1990. Harvey was strong and quite agile.
Bullit returned to the Area in 2008 on the second episode of Gladiators Legend. He said he was inspired by watching his son MC Harvey compete as a Gladiator on the show. Out of the area, Harvey also had an acting career appearing in a number of Hollywood movies.
Gladiator Zodiac Kate Staples
Zodiac dominated several Gladiator events. She was always a tough competitor to beat in Skytrack, Hang Tough, and Pyramid events. But her strength and agility were most apparent in the Pendulum event.
Being an American Gladiator isn’t the only accolade that Kate Staples has won. She was a pole vaulting champion breaking 29 British and Commonwealth records in Pole Vaulting. Unfortunately, her career was cut short by a serious accident during the 1996 series.
Philip Dow Poteat (Atlas)
Atlas was a gladiator on season 4 of the show. Even though he did not return for the next season, he has dominated the game for the single seasons that he was on, particularly the Maze and Cannonball events. But his personal favorite was the Powerball event.
in addition to participating in the Gladiators show and other TV shows like the Ben Stiller Show and Silk Stalkings, Philip Poteat loved acting. He was in the movie, “The Naked Truth”. Philip died in 2017. He was just 50 years old at the time.
Titan’s Short Stint
David Nelson Joined the American gladiators as Titan in the second half of the first season of the show. Although Titan left the show after only one season, he was a tough and remarkable competitor excelling in various events, especially Human Cannonball and Powerball.
Nelson was known for being aggressive and it is believed that his temper had something to do with him being fired from the show. After his short stint on AG, he has appeared in various TV shows, movies, and TV commercials. He made a return to bodybuilding in 1998.
Debbie Clark Blew the Scouts Away
Debbie Clark was training for track and field at the Olympics game when she was scouted for American Gladiators by Gary Parker who was the assistant producer on the show. She is believed to have blown the scouts away by her performance which is why she was named “Storm” when she joined the show.
Clark’s career hit a rough patch in 2008. She was a victim of domestic violence and found herself homeless. Thankfully, some celebrities raised funds for her to get an apartment and knee surgery. She now works as an advocate for the homeless.
Mark Tucker the Rebel
Mark Tucker began his sporting career as a professional football player. He was with the Colts for six seasons. He moved on to the Saints and later played more seasons in the AFL. Tucker also had a short stint as a coach.
He was recruited by Gladiators Sky and Turbo while working out in the weights room at USC. He was recruited as an alternate but eventually made the cut in Season 5 of the show. Mark Turker’s unique look earned him the nickname Rebel. He was a dominant gladiator and his favorite events were the Powerball, Atlaspheres, and Joust events.
Longest Running Gladiator
Lightening had one of the longest runs in Gladiator history and was undefeated for a long time. She played in the UK Gladiators and only lost on 1 occasion. Her only defeat was at the first edition of the Australian Ashes series.
Kim Betts was known to be strong and resilient. The fierce competitor returned to the Arena just 3 weeks after delivering a baby boy. In 2008, she was one of the participants at the Gladiators for the Legends show.
Jim Starr and His Injuries
Jim Starr holds the record for the Gladiator with the most injuries. Interestingly, his foray into the sport was born out of an injury. He was formerly an NFL player and bodybuilder. Laser won the Mr. Montana Body Building Championship.
He was a player for the Los Angeles Rams for a short time in 1987 but had to stop playing football for a while due to an injury. It was during this time that he met Gladiator Dan Clark (Nitro) who recruited him for the show. He was a gladiator for 7 seasons and holds the record for the longest-serving Gladiator in the male category.
Original Gladiator Sunny
Cheryl Baldinger was among the Original 6 American Gladiators. But she was only on the show for one season. She suffered a knee injury during a Conquer all semi-final match with Tracy Philips after falling off a high platform.
Baldinger had to pull out of the show. She was replaced on the show by Jade. After leaving American Gladiators, she went into acting and modeling. She was also a competitive bike rider.
Cyclone Stormed the Open Calls
Barry Turner took the Gladiator world by storm in 1992 after defeating over 300 other elite athletes during an open casting call. He considers qualifying for the Gladiator show as the single most important achievement of his professional life.
Unfortunately, his time on the show was cut short by a bicep injury which made it impossible for him to compete. After the show, he appeared in the movies, “Death Becomes Her” and “The Bodyguard.” He now runs a healthy snack company which he co-founded with his friend Barry Graham.