The Show

History of Gladiators

The Gladiators phenomenon started back in the Roman Empire from 264BC to 325AD when powerful Emperors employed Gladiators to battle in the arena for their entertainment. Over 2,000 years later the inspiration for a new television show had just begun...

Johnny Ferraro
Johnny Ferraro

In 1982, American entertainer Johnny Ferraro and a friend produced a fundrasing event to build a new community hall in Erie, Pennsylvania. He watched residents competing in games which required feats of speed, strength and skill. Ferraro believed he had found a great formula and decided to transform the idea into a Hollywood movie.

It took 8 years of knocking on doors, rejection, constantly leaving his family, $500,000 in costs, movie scripts and flying coast to coast almost every week before his ideas were eventually taken onboard.

Finally, he convinced producer Ron Ziskin and the Samuel Goldwyn Company to produce 'American Gladiators', who decided that the format worked better as a syndicated TV series. The concept was also helped by the 1987 film The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzeneggar.

American Gladiators
The American Gladiators from the pilot and first season.

In 1989, American Gladiators burst onto TV screens across the USA. American Gladiators were an elite team of superhero characters with names such as Gemini, Nitro, Lace and Zap who were pitted against members of the public.

The series sparked a phenomenal reaction spanning the width and breadth of the United States. Fans cheered on while its stars were catapulted to stardom. In 1991, the show travelled across America.

Across the Atlantic, successful UK production team, LWT, spotted the popularity of the hit U.S series and saw the potential it could have when geared towards a British audience.

In 1992 the UK series, Gladiators, hit the TV screens on a Saturday evening slot and instantly made an impact. It immediately captured the imagination of its audience.

Gladiators UK
Gladiators UK (1992)

The 12 faces of the debut Gladiators team were primarily sportsmen and women and not merely bodybuilders. This gave each their own particular styles and strengths during events.

Gladiators was one of Britain's biggest success stories. The home of Gladiators, Birmingham's National Indoor Arena (now known as the Barclaycard Arena) held 7,000 fans and often attracted 14 million viewers!

As word of this exciting new concept in sports entertainment reached the four corners of the globe, other countries began creating their own versions of the show.

Australia, South Africa, Russia, Finland, Germany, Nigeria, Denmark and Sweden- everyone was getting in on the act. Gladiators was truly taking the world by storm!

The UK series was often sited at THE Ultimate Gladiators show of them all. This was tested when worldwide Gladiator teams flocked to the UK series for International Gladiators.

The show spawned other hit spin-off series' too. These included Celebrity and Armed Forces specials and a junior version called Train 2 Win, all to much accolade.

Sadly, following 8 thrilling years of action, UK Gladiators came to an end as the worlds most popular and longest running Gladiators show in 1999 with a special champion of champions series.

The shows were broadcast over the 1999 Christmas and New Year period, the final show being broadcast on 1st January 2000, certainly marking the end of an era!

Gladiators on Sky 1
Gladiators on Sky 1 (2008)

In 2008 it was announced that due to a successful revival of the American Gladiators by NBC that Sky was to relaunch the UK version of the show.

The return of Gladiators proved to be a massive success for Sky 1 with a series average of 1.4 million. Across the entire series Gladiators reached a phenomenal 10.4 million viewers! It returned for a second series in 2009 and featured many of the Gladiator Legends from the original series.