American Gladiators was a TV show which ran between 1989 and 1996. It was a physical game show, in which the contestants (two male and two female) matched themselves against the program's stable of athletes in a variety of feats of strength and agility. The champions at the end of each season won a prize package, which varied from items that included a new car, a trip, and money (usually over $100,000 total). The contests were often quite extravagant and elaborate, with challenges featuring things such as highwires, steel cages, swinging ropes, and other obstacle course fare.

Rico Constantino, the 1990-91 season champion, went on to become well-known as a professional wrestler in the WWE, under the name of "Rico."

Most of the first 2 seasons were taped at Universal Studios in Hollywood. In 1991, they decided to move to CBS/MTM Studios. International episodes were taped in Birmingham, England, home of the British version.

The show was produced by Trans World International with Four Point Entertainment and was distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Television. If this program were still airing in repeats, it would be distributed by (much to the chagrin of some fans) Sony Pictures Television.

The theme music was composed by Bill Conti.

Nickelodeon GUTS, a Nickelodeon kids game show that premiered in 1992, was compared to American Gladiators when it premiered due to being similarly physically demanding.


List of GladiatorsEdit

Jim Starr (Laser) was the Gladiator with the longest run on AG. He appeared from 1990 to 1996, only missing the first half of season one (1989). The following Gladiators were with the show for the indicated years:

  • Erika Andersch .... Diamond (1990–1993)
  • Cheryl Barldinger .... Sunny (1989)
  • Salina Bartunek .... Elektra (1992–1993)
  • Shelley Beattie .... Siren (1992–1996)
  • Chuck Berlinger .... Viper (1992–1993)
  • Jonathan Byrne .... Steel (1996)
  • Danny Lee Clark .... Nitro (1989–1992, 1994-1995) (Clark became a co-host of the show in 1995, under the name of Dan Clark)
  • Debbie Clark .... Storm (1991–1993)
  • Shirley Eson .... Sky (1992–1996)
  • Lori Fetrick .... Ice (1990–1992, 1993–1996)
  • Victoria Gay .... Jazz (1993–1996)
  • Shannon Hall .... Dallas (1994, 1995)
  • Steve Henneberry .... Tower (1991–1994)
  • Raye Hollitt .... Zap (1989–1990, 1991–1995) (posed in Playboy)
  • Michael Horton .... Gemini (1989–1992) (years before was a contestant on the game show Press Your Luck.
  • Tonya Knight .... Gold (1989–1992)
  • Natalie Lennox .... Lace (1992–1993)
  • Deron McBee .... Malibu (1989)
  • Bobby Moore .... Rage (posed in Playboy)
  • David Nelson .... Titan (1989–1990)
  • Marisa Pare .... Lace (1989–1992) (posed in Playboy)
  • Sha-Ri Pendleton .... Blaze (1989–1992)
  • Ed Radcliffe .... Tank (1995)
  • Lee Reherman .... Hawk (1993–1996)
  • Cathy Sassin .... Panther (1992–????) (alternate gladiatior)
  • Billy Smith .... Thunder (1990–1992)
  • Galen Tomlinson .... Turbo (1990–1996)
  • Mark Tucker .... Rebel (1993)
  • Barry Turner .... Cyclone (1992–1993)
  • Lynn 'Red' Williams .... Sabre (1992–1996)


Most of the events tested the contenders' physical abilities against the superior size and strength of the Gladiators. Rarely did an event call for the contenders to actually match up against each other. Rather, in events where both contenders did compete simultaneously, success was determined by who fared better against the gladiators rather than overmatching the contender directly. All events prior to The Eliminator were played for points, the value of which often varied from season to season.

Only five events were used throughout the program's run on American television, all in the very first season. Other events were added and some discontinued for various reasons.

  • Assault (1989-1996): The two contenders competed separately against a single Gladiator. The object was to fire a series of five weapons to hit a target at one end of the playing field. Below the target, a Gladiator used a cannon to shoot tennis balls at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour at the contender. The weapons used by the contenders were located near protective barriers and varied from season to season. The weapons included a crossbow, pneumatic "rocket launcher" and "cannon", as well as softballs at the final station. Hitting the bullseye scored maximum points (usually 10) for the contender. In the most common version of the event the contender earned a point for each weapon fired as well as a bonus for crossing a finish line near the Gladiator's platform within 60 seconds. Getting struck by a tennis ball, either directly or by ricochet, ended the round.
  • Breakthrough & Conquer (1989-1996): This was a two-part event that was part American football, part wrestling. A contender would have to carry a football 15 yards and into an endzone against a single Gladiator in the "Breakthrough" portion of the event. In the "Conquer" portion, the object was to freestyle wrestle a different Gladiator out of a ring that varied in size (12-15 feet in diameter). Each success was worth a number of points and in earlier versions there was a bonus for winning both parts of the event.
  • Human Cannonball (1989-1991, 1992-1993): Contenders stood on a raised platform, opposite a Gladiator standing on a lower platform, holding a pad. The object was to swing on the rope and knock the Gladiator off the pedestal. Contenders faced two to three Gladiators (this varied by season) and earned bonus points for knocking down all three Gladiators.
  • Originally, contestants could do whatever it took to get the Gladiator off the platform. This was changed midway through season one, where a contender kicked Gladiator Malibu in the eye. After this, a "tuck rule" was put in place, where the contender had to stay in that position throughout the swing.
  • Joust (1989-1996): The contender competed against the Gladiator in a pugil stick battle; each trying to knock the opponent off his pedestal within 30 seconds. Maximum points were awarded for knocking the Gladiator off, but some points were also awarded for a draw.
In the first half of season one, the object of the Joust was to push the opponent back towards a trap door, which would spring when touched and drop the competitor to the floor.
  • Powerball (1989-1996): The two contenders competed against three Gladiators. The contenders would grab a colored ball from a bin, and try to deposit it into one of five scoring cylinders on the floor. Gladiators were to tackle or the contenders to the ground, or knock them out of bounds. If they did the contender had to get another ball and try again. Scoring varied from season to season but after the playing field changed from a semicircluar shape to a rectangle beginning in the season, the middle cylinder was worth more points than the outer cylinders. The only major Powerball rule was that the Gladiators could not tackle the contestants high (read head), and if they did they were automatically disqualified.
  • Atlasphere (1990-1995): Contenders climbed into large metal cage-like spheres, rolling them from within, and maneuvering them toward scoring pods on the playing field for points. Two Gladiators used their own spheres to obstruct the contenders from scoring. Contenders simultaneously tried to score as many points as they could in 60 seconds. The scoring pods changed over the years. At first the contestants needed to completely stop in the pod but later versions had a button located in the center of each pod that when compressed emitted smoke and awarded points. This change increased the scoring in the game and provided more action.
  • Hang Tough (1990-1996): A 55-foot field of gymnastic rings separated two raised platforms. On one stood the contender; the Gladiator stood on the otherr. The object was for the contender to swing to the opposite platform without being pulled off by the gladiator within 60 seconds. Contenders were given 10 points for success. Points were also awarded if they were able to stay on the rings without getting pulled off.
  • The Wall (1990-1996): Contenders would have to scale a rock climbing wall before being pulled off by the the Gladiator chasing them. In early versions of this event, contenders were given head starts of 10 to 15 seconds. The latest version saw the wall divided into partitions and Gladiators started at the same time as the contenders, but were forced to go over a vertical barrier to reach the contender's portion of the wall. Contenders were given one minute (the first incarnation of the event had a two-minute time limit) to climb the wall for 10 points. Finishing second could also net 5 points.
  • The Maze (1991-1993): Both competitors raced through a maze, attempting to find their way to the exit within 45 seconds. Four Gladiators positioned themselves inside the maze to obstruct the way. The Maze featured moveable partitions so that the maze could change each time the event was played.
  • Swingshot (1991-1996): The two competitors would compete against three (later two) Gladiators to grab scoring balls from a center post hanging in the air. Connected to a bungee cord, players would leap off their designated platform, down to the ground and then spring upwards toward the post. The Gladiators would try to intercept the contenders by timing their jump to get in the way. The balls then had to be returned to a scoring bin on the contender's platform. Balls higher on the post were worth more points. Scoring was worth 1-3-5, later reduced to 1-2-3.
  • Sky Track (1992-1995): Players, suspended by a harness, would race on an upside-down track suspended from the ceiling of the arena. The track was covered in Velcro and players would propel themselves using their gloved hands and their feet, racing against a Gladiator for points. Contenders got 10 points for finishing first, and 5 points for finishing second.
  • Super Powerball (1992-1993): This was a short-lived variation on the original "Powerball" event. The rules were similar to Powerball, however there were only three scoring cylinders positioned in a horizontal line at the middle of the field. To compensate for the fewer number of cylinders, there were only two Gladiators to stop the condenders. Interestingly, this version did not officially replace the original Powerball, despite the fact show producers had frequently made minor rule changes to other events (even Powerball itself) in the past. Super Powerball was the only one dubbed a "new" event and both versions were played on different weeks before the new version was abandoned.
  • Gauntlet (1993-1996): Contenders ran through a chute past five (later four) gladiators armed with pads of varying size and shape, who tried to slow or stop their progress. Points were given for getting past all the Gladiators within the time allowed, which varied from 20-25 seconds.
  • Pyramid (1993-1996): The premise of this event was similar to that of "The Wall". Contenders attempted to climb up a 42-foot tall stepped pyramid made of "crash mats." Two Gladiators began the event at the top of the pyramid to keep the contenders from reaching the top. Contenders earned 10 points for reaching the top first and 5 points if they could reach the top second within the 60 second time limit.
  • Tug-O-War (1993-1996): The contender and gladiator dueled in a one-on-one rope pull. The twist to this event was that each competitor stood atop a fulcrum-based platform that shifted position with the person's weight. The contender was given the physical advantage of having his platform in the "back" position to start the tug, while the Gladiator began the pull with his platform in the "forward" position. Pulling the Gladiator off within 30 seconds earned the contender 10 points. Staying on the platform and having pulled more rope to one's side earned the contender 5 points.
  • Whiplash (1993-1996): The contender and a Gladiator each grasped one half of a double-triangle-shaped item called "the bone". At the whistle, the competitors tried to wrestle the bone out of the grasp of his opponent. If the contender successfully pulled the bone away, or if he pulled the Gladiator off a raised circular platofrm within 30 seconds, he earned 10 points. If he lasted all 30 seconds without losing grasp of the bone, he earned 5 points.
  • Snapback (1994-1996): Both contenders and two Gladiators were attached by a bungee cord to walls opposide each other. Colored cylindrical markers were placed in the playing field between the contenders and the Gladiators. The contenders' task was to retrive the markers and return them to a bin for points. The bungee cords provided resistance and the Gladiators were assigned the task of keeping the contenders for scoring points, similar to their duties in "Swingshot"
  • The Eliminator: The deciding event was unique in that it was the only event that pitted the two contenders against each other rather than directly against the Gladiators. The two competitors would race through an obstacle course for time. Originally, The Eliminator was a scored event, with a set time limit to complete it (1:15 for women, 1:00 for men), with two points being awarded for every second left on the clock. This led to confusion amng some fans, as the player who had "won" by finishing first had often actually lost through points deduction. Any fall on the course was a two second penalty.

Later, points amassed during the previous events were converted into time in seconds that served as a head start for the contender in the lead.

The Eliminator went through several changes during the run of AG.
First Season:Contestants pushed a giant medicine ball up a ramp, then place it in a bin. They then crossed a balance beam, where 6 of the gladiators would swing smaller medicine balls across the beam to try to knock them off. They then would negotiate a set of commando ropes, swing on a rope over a wall, then weave their way through a set of cones towards one of four paper barriers. Behind two were Gladiators, the other two were open (this is the only part of the competition where luck, rather than skill, played a decisive role in determining the winners).
Second Season: AG's second season Eliminator changed completely from the first season. First, the contestants would run up a treadmill, then use a specially-designed "hand bike" (players hung below a rope and pedalled with their arms) to cross a pit. The balance beam was next (with weighted blocking dummies swinging in place of medicine balls), followed by a climb up a cargo net and a zipline ride back to the floor. Then came the barriers, but this time a contestant had to clear two high hurdles and only one of the barriers was open.
Third Season: In the third season, the Eliminator underwent the following changes.
  • Falls off handbike earned the contender a penalty (:10 for women, :07 for men)
  • Balance beam replaced by a rolling cylinder
  • Contestant climbed 2 walls after zipline (originally one wall and a medicine ball gauntlet), Gladiators threw medicine balls at contenders after second wall
  • Contestant climbed hurdle and broke tape to win
Fourth Season:Second wall taken down, contenders negotiated gauntlet of swinging blocking pads instead, longer run to tape from final hurdle
Fifth Season:Another drastic Eliminator makevover.
  • Contestants started at a Versaclimber and used it to scale a tower, then slid down to the handbike. The rolling cylinder, cargo net, zipline, and wall climb remained, but the treadmill was moved to the end, and once cleared, the contestant swung on a rope through a paper barrier to win.
For the final two seasons, the rolling log was replaced by two ball-filled pits, which the contestant had to wade through and climb out of.
  • On the international tournament shows (which were taped in England at the home of the UK version of AG), The Eliminator consisted of the following.
  • Clearing a set of hurdles by alternating going over and under them
  • Climbing a rope to a platform
  • Clearing a pit using monkey bars (women) or the hand bike (men)
  • Running over the rolling log
  • Climbing the cargo net
  • Riding the zipline
  • Walking across a balance beam
  • Running up the travellator (treadmill)
  • Rope swing through barrier for finish

International VersionsEdit

External linksEdit

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