The first American Gladiators logo, from 1989-1993.
|Created by||Dan Carr
|Directed by||Bob Levy|
|Presented by||Mike Adamle (1989-1996)
Joe Theismann (1989)
Todd Christensen (1990)
Larry Csonka (1990-1993)
Lisa Malosky (1993-1995)
Danny Lee Clark (1995-1996)
|Narrated by||Joe Theismann (1989)
John Harlan (1990-1993)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||139|
|Producer(s)||Trans World International (1989-1992)
Four Point Entertainment (1989-1996)
Samuel Goldwyn Television (1989-1996)
|Location(s)||Universal Studios Hollywood (1989-1991)
CBS Studio Center (1991-1996)
|Camera setup||Multicamera setup|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original channel||first-run syndication|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original run||September 16, 1989 – May 11, 1996|
|Followed by||American Gladiators (2008)|
|Related shows||Battle Dome|
American Gladiators (1989-1996) was an American competition television program that matched a cast of amateur athletes against each other, as well as against the show's own "gladiators", in contests of strength and agility.
The first competition sponsored by Dan Carr and John C. Ferraro was held at Erie Tech High School in Erie, PA and sold to Samuel Goldwyn Productions/MGM where the format was expanded into "American Gladiators."
The show was taped at Universal Studios Hollywood until 1991, then moved to Gladiator Arena for the rest of its initial run. The National Indoor Arena, home to the UK version, hosted the International Gladiators competitions.
American Gladiators ran from 1989-1996, and was conducted in a tournament style format. Up until season six, two tournaments were conducted each season.
In the first two seasons, 20 contenders (ten of each gender) in each half-season tournament were chosen from a nationwide contestant pool based on tests of strength and agility, with several alternates chosen in case a contender could not continue due to injury. Two contenders of each gender competed on each episode. Five preliminary round matchups were played with the winners automatically advancing to the quarterfinal round, along with the three highest scoring losers. Any alternates from that point on came from the previous round's losers.
The tournament then became single elimination, with the last two contenders standing meeting in the half-season final. The winners of each half received a cash prize and advanced to the Grand Championship at the end of the season, with more money and a new car available for the winner. The runners-up in the Grand Championship received a smaller cash prize.
In seasons three and four, the tournament format was changed. The preliminary round consisted of six matchups on each side, with the six winners advancing to the quarterfinals and no wild card berths available for the preliminary round losers. The three winners of the quarterfinal matchups along with one wild card, then advanced to the semifinals. The wild card was determined by the losing quarterfinalist who scored the most points in events common to all quarterfinal matches. The semifinal winners then met each other to determine the half-season champion and the spot in the Grand Championship.
For season five, the tournament format was revamped again, with the entire tournament now becoming single elimination. Eight preliminary matchups were played, and the winners of those matchups were seeded 1-8 depending on their performance. No wild card spots were made available to losing contenders.
In seasons six and seven, the tournament was spread out over the season, with no halves. The events were referred to as "rounds" due to more than one game being played per round. Three games per show are played by both males and females and 3 are split between the males and females, two in one round. In split rounds, the men went first, then the women. Including the Eliminator, 10 events appeared in each episode, and the lineup of single and split rounds changed during the season. The sole exception to this format was in the semi-finals & Grand Championship; each round was a single event.
Also, there were no quarterfinal rounds; the top 4 highest scoring contenders would advance to the semi-finals.
See also Category: Gladiators events
In each episode, the contenders competed in a series of events. Six to eight events were played per show, varying from season to season. Most of the events tested the contenders' physical abilities against the superior size and strength of the Gladiators, who were mostly pro or amateur bodybuilders and former football players. In most events, the contenders were not directly pitted against each other, but against the Gladiators. In each event, the contenders earned points based on their performance.
In the first half of season one, the points in each event were given in minimum 5 point increments, with 100 points usually the maximum in every event. After the first half of the first season, single point increments were used. Events with a clear winner typically earned the contender 10 points for a win, 5 points for a draw, and no points for a loss. Events without a clear winner and loser (such as Powerball, Atlasphere, Swingshot, and Snapback) earned the contender points for each success.
Starting with the fourth season, the final event before The Eliminator, was labeled "Crunch Time", and was played for more points.
The Eliminator was the final event played in each episode, and determined which contender would win that day's competition. The contenders competed side-by-side to complete a large obstacle course as quickly as they could. In the first two seasons, the Eliminator had a time limit, and both contenders started the course at the same time. Contenders scored points for every second left on the clock when they finished the course; the contender with the highest final score won the day's competition. Beginning in season 3, the contender in the lead was given a head start with each point they led by worth a half-second; the first contender to cross the finish line won.
Of the events that debuted in the show's first season, only six lasted the entire original run on American Television: Breakthrough and Conquer, The Wall, Joust, Assault, Powerball, and the Eliminator, although The Wall did not debut until the second half of the first season.
AG has used a number of end credit sequences over the series run:
During the first half of the first season, the show's set resembled that of an ancient Roman gladiatorial arena, hence the show's name (only with the walls being dark gray), with the stands raised high above the ground. For the second half, the show's set was changed into the more familiar sports-style arena. The hooded figures that officiated the games were replaced by veteran NFL referee Bob McElwee, who wore a red tracksuit with the show logo, and would often speak on camera to announce infractions during the game. An onscreen clock was added in the second half of the season, which allowed viewers to follow along with how much time a contender had left to complete an event or how long an event had left to run.
Starting in Season 2 former Pacific 10 football referee Larry Thompson became American Gladiators' new referee. Unlike Bob McElwee Thompson wore the traditional zebra-striped shirt, and would also announce infractions immediately after they occurred. The onscreen clock gained sponsorship from Armitron, and would remain sponsored for the remainder of the show's run.
After being based at Universal Studios Hollywood for the first two seasons, American Gladiators moved production to the CBS Studio Center, with their studio being referred to as "Gladiator Arena". Other than the studio change and a few minor cosmetic changes, nothing much else differed from the second to third seasons.
Season 4 marked the only season in which there was no introduction of the gladiators anywhere in the introduction (the show introduced the Gladiators in some way in every other version of the show opening). The show also removed the fake grass design from its field events (Powerball, Breakthrough and Conquer) and replaced it with red and gray carpeting. This was a precursor for the changes that would take place during the following season. Also, beginning this season several officials in referee clothing assisted Thompson in events and during the Eliminator, and were referred to on-air by Mike Adamle as game judges.
In season 5, the show received a massive makeover, including a change in logo (a more angular and three-dimensional look, along with a changed font), a change in color scheme (from red, white, and blue to silver and scarlet), the use of two video screens (added in season 6, and sponsored by Slim Jim, referred to as the "SlimJim Superscreen"), and music played during the introduction of each event from this season to the end of the series run (which also was used during the International versions, only in the International versions, music was played while the event was actually played, as the show was directly from the British version), the music being played being from the American Gladiators: The Music soundtrack (only with no gladiator or announcer voices). Both the 18 track soundtrack and the 21 track soundtrack music was used.
However, the most notable change was the change of the opening theme, which was a rock remix of the original theme, composed by Bill Conti.
The second theme was featured on the American Gladiators: The Music soundtrack. The event music, and the remix of the original theme were composed and performed by Dan Miter and the Steele Penny Band.
During the final season, three more things changed. The logo changed completely from its gem shaped logo to the metallic "AG" logo, with the A on top of the G to form a diamond shape (this is also when the announcers used the acronym "AG" to identify the show on a regular basis, as the previous two seasons only found it being used sparingly), and the opening featured each gladiator in a pose to show off their physiques, only with little clothing on. The logo for Season 7 was based on the British "Gladiators" "G" logo. Finally, the set was changed in where one of the audience stands was completely taken out, replaced by a huge "AG" logo in the center of that side that also housed the steps into the arena, giving the appearance of a bigger arena. This slightly affected the gameplay of Assault, since the stairs were closer to the first safety zone, giving the Gladiators less time to hit the Contender before they reached the first station.
|Season||Men's Championship||Women's Championship|
|1||Brian Hutson d. Lucian Anderson||Bridget Venturi d. Tracy Phillips|
|2||Craig Brahnam d. Rico Constantino||Dorann Cumberbatch d. Maria Nichting|
|3||Mark Ortega d. Joe Mauro *||Kathy Mollica d. Kimberly Lentz|
|4||Clifton Miller d. Marty DePaoli||Cheryl Wilson ^ d. Betsy Erickson|
|5||Wesley "Two Scoops" Berry d. Troy Jackson||Peggy Odita d. Kim Tyler|
|6||Kyler Storm d. Dan Cunningham||Adrienne Sullivan d. Liz Ragland|
|7||Pat Csizmazia d. Richard McCormick||Tiziana Sorge d. Carla Zeitlyn|
* NOTE: Season Three's Men's Grand Championship was decided by a video review after eventual champion Mark Ortega and Joe Mauro finished the Eliminator in an apparent dead heat. Ortega was declared the winner because he was ruled to have crossed the finish line at 48.86 seconds versus Mauro's 48.88 seconds.
Like some other game shows, American Gladiators had their own themed shows. Some shows featured celebrities competing against each other (like castmembers from Baywatch and Superman portrayer Dean Cain, as well as host Mike Adamle & character actors such as a pre-Scrubs John C. McGinley), but other theme shows were present.
There were three alumni shows conducted during the course of AG. The first occurred in the second season, and featured competitors from the show's first season. Contenders Lucian Anderson and Cheryl Ann Silich emerged victorious, beating out Terry Moore and Aimee Ross, respectively.
Another alumni show did not air until season six. This alumni show featured the six grand champions that were crowned in the previous three American Gladiators series competing against each other in an elimination-style format, with two contenders left to run the Eliminator. Season five champions Wesley Berry and Peggy Odita won the competition.
Season seven's alumni show, dubbed as the "Battle of the Best", pitted season five grand champions Wesley "Two Scoops" Berry and Peggy Odita against season six grand champions Kyler Storm and Adrienne Sullivan, respectively, with the season five champions prevailing yet again. This show in particular saw two particular incidents that continue to be key topics of discussion among fans of the show, both involving Kyler Storm and Turbo. The first incident occurred during Breakthrough & Conquer, in which Kyler did a front flip over Turbo in the Breakthrough portion to score. However the aftermath was positive with Turbo, Laser and Hawk all giving him props for doing so and got a very positive reaction from the announcers and fans. The other, more ugly incident was later on in Swingshot. Kyler "faked" twice during the event (which is against the rules in Swingshot, but according to Kyler he wasn't informed of it) to get a total of 12 points from those two swings. It prompted Turbo to punch Kyler in the face when they met during a later swing. Following the incident Turbo apologized and explained to Kyler "they had rules here and you broke them." In the following interview Turbo admitted his fault as did Kyler thus the two made up. The punch at the time was described as "Completly Uncalled for." Kyler had the 12 points deducted from the faking, but regained 6 because of Turbo being disqualified for the punch.
In an unrelated show, former Gladiators Zap and Elektra, who left the show the previous year, faced off against each other, with Elektra beating Zap. This was part of another special episode with the male contenders being Twin Martial Artists.
In seasons three and four, AG conducted a show where current and former NFL players competed against each other in an elimination-style format. Six players competed, with the competition whittled down to four after the first two events, and then two for the Eliminator. Charles White won both competitions, both times erasing a deficit in the Eliminator.
The NFL players would compete head-to-head with the male Gladiators, however, they only faced the female Gladiators in non-contact events. The women faced the NFL players in events such as "Assault" as well as the penalty pit and the gauntlet during "The Eliminator."
In Seasons 5 & 6, these shows consisted of former Olympic Gold Medalists competing.
For the 1993 show, the males featured were 1984 Gold Downhill Skiing medalist Bill Johnson, 1988 Bronze Basketball medalist Danny Manning, and 1984 Gold Boxing medalist Tyrell Biggs. The females featured were 1976 Silver Basketball medalist Nancy Lieberman, 1984 Silver & Gold and 1988 Gold Track & Field medalist Alice Brown, and 1992 Gold & Silver Speed Skating medalist Cathy Turner. Alice Brown and Bill Johnson won the competition and $10,000.
For the 1994 show, the men were 1988 Gold Medal and 1992 Bronze Medal volleyball player Bob Cvrtlik and 1988 Gold Medal gymnast Mitch Gaylord. The women were 1994 Silver Medal and 1998 Gold Medal downhill skiier Picabo Street and 1988 Bronze Medal figure skater Debi Thomas. Street and Gaylord came out victorious.
A precursor to International Gladiators, this tournament aired in seasons four and five and featured contestants from all over the world. Among the contenders was in season four was eventual season five champion Peggy Odita, who was representing Nigeria and who won the women's competition.
A special championship series consisting of previous champions from various versions of the show from around the world. The initial series included contenders and gladiators from the USA, UK, Finland, and Russia. The second series had contenders and Gladiators from the USA, UK, Russia, South Africa, Germany and Australia. Both series were filmed on the set of the British version of the show, and used British games and rules. American Gladiators representatives won three of the four grand championships awarded, with Wesley Berry winning the men's championship in the first series and Pat Csizmazia and Peggy Odita winning the men's and women's championships in the second series.
In seasons five and six, contenders from each of the four of the five branches of the U.S. military (Coast Guard was not represented) (men and women in season five, men only in season six) faced off against each other, with the two highest scoring branches facing off in the Eliminator. The Marines won both competitions. Captain Myles Bly Mire, an AG alumnus, was later involved with the capture of Saddam Hussein's nephew.
Conducted in season six, featuring officers from both police departments in competition. One of the female officers, the LAPD's Angela Shepard, was a season three contender who did not advance past the preliminaries (due to an injury she suffered during the Eliminator).
In season six, this contest pitted two USC alumni - former football players Anthony Davis and Charles White - against two Notre Dame alumni. USC prevailed in this competition, marking the third time White won on American Gladiators (the first two wins came in the Pro Football Challenge of Champions events).
Throughout the series, American Gladiators had several regular segments that were not related to the competition of the day. These segments were used to allow the audience to get to know the Gladiators or to highlight some of the best moments of competitions past.
The American Gladiators had a dinner show in Orlando Florida. This dinner show showed many of the "main" gladiators. Ice, Sky, Hawk, Gemini, and others. The events included The Wall, Breakthrough and Conquer, Assault, Whiplash, the Eliminator and others.
Like professional wrestling, American Gladiators is considered a form of sports entertainment, with the primary difference in that American Gladiators, unlike wrestling, is not pre-scripted. There have been several crossovers between the show and wrestling itself. The most obvious ties to wrestling, of course, is the 2008 revival being co-hosted by wrestling legend Hulk Hogan.
The season 2 men's runner-up, first half champion Rico Constantino, went on to become well-known as a wrestler in WWE, under the name of "Rico." Rico retired from the wrestling business after being released by the WWE in 2004 and is currently a Las Vegas police officer, which was also his job during his American Gladiators stint.
Tony Halme, known in the then WWF as Ludvig Borga, was a Gladiator on the Finnish version. Matt Morgan, who wrestled for a time in the WWE and is currently in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (wrestling in both under his given name), debuted during season 2 of the 2008 revival as a Gladiator under the name Beast.
In 2008, longtime American Gladiators co-host Mike Adamle himself joined WWE as a backstage interviewer for the Raw brand before moving to play-by-play for ECW on Sci Fi three months later. He then returned to Raw as the brand's new General Manager but after feeling not cut out for the job he resigned. Prior to that, after the original series ended and while working with NBC Sports, Adamle indirectly worked with the WWE doing commentary for the short-lived XFL.
The American Gladiators format gained popularity all over the world. Several other countries created spin-offs based on the American Gladiators concept, including Finland, the UK, Australia, South Africa, Lebanon and more.
American Gladiators was also translated and rebroadcast in Latin America under the name Gladiadores Americanos. It was also shown in Japan as Gekitotsu Americane Kin-niku Battle. Japan also had a show called BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!, which had some American Gladiators elements in the show.
As noted above, all episodes exist and are currently airing on ESPN Classic.
USA was the first network to rebroadcast episodes of American Gladiators, obtaining the rights to the first three seasons shortly after the completion of the third season and airing them daily. They would eventually add the fourth season to the lineup after it was completed in 1993, but stopped airing reruns prior to the original series' completion in 1996 without obtaining the rights to any of the intervening seasons.
As part of its rebranding as "The First Network for Men," TNN acquired broadcast rights to American Gladiators in 2002 and aired the series six days a week at first, with afternoon airings on weekdays and late-night airings on Saturdays. Eventually the series was reduced to a lone late-night Saturday airing and was eventually dropped altogether shortly after the network's rebranding as Spike TV. TNN/Spike's package only consisted of the show's second, third, fourth, and seventh seasons, in addition to any special episodes televised during seasons five and six and both International Gladiators series.
ESPN's 2007 acquisition of American Gladiators marked the first time in nearly four years that the series had been seen on television. It also marked the first time that the first season was seen since USA's dropping of AG from its schedule and the first time the entire fifth and sixth seasons had aired since their original airings. Unlike Spike and USA, ESPN Classic acquired the rights to the entire American Gladiators series.
According to a press release from MGM, and in addition to the MGM website dedicated to the original version of the series (also links to the revival) and a multi-city live tour (similar to the early 1990s tour), an animated television series based on the American Gladiators franchise is in development.
On July 14, 2009 Shout! Factory released The Battle Begins, featuring commentary from the Laser, Zap, and Nitro, and an interview with Billy Wirth. However, for unexplained reasons, this DVD only has the last 14 episodes of season one (the mid-season recap, and the second half of season one).
October 1991 (NA)
March 24, 1992 (NA)
May 1993 (NA)
Nintendo Entertainment System
Sega Genesis Controller
Super Nintendo Controller
|Credits | Soundtrack | Codes | Walkthrough|
American Gladiators is a released for home computers and consoles. The game is based on the TV show of the same name.
Sega Genesis Boxart
Super Nintendo Boxart
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