Gladiators: ranking the events of the original series

Which original Gladiators event was better - Hang Tough or Powerball? We had the debate so you don't have to...

Like many people, we enjoy watching people beating the crap out of each other and then doing grapevines while wearing a bra. Because of this, Gladiators is the only exercise-themed show we ever watch.

We spend our weekends watching Gladiators reruns while saying things like “I could do that, it’s just running up an escalator,” while secretly being depressed because we know we’re lying to ourselves. Sometimes, as a treat, we’ll call Jet/Hunter names while eating several wagon wheels.

There’s been an ongoing debate in our house over which are the best Gladiators events. Some we can agree are rubbish, and when these events are on we use the time to go to the toilet. However, we regularly fight about the best events. These fights don’t involve pugil sticks, but only because we haven’t bothered making them yet.

This weekend we knuckled down and had a serious debate about the merits of each event, and the result is the following list. Some compromise was achieved, mostly by one party threatening to kick the other party in the balls.

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We’ve ranked events based on the following categories:

Spectacle: Is it big and impressive? How much do you drop your popcorn while watching it?

Fairness: Do the contender and the Gladiator have a reasonably equal chance of winning?

Originality: Is it just a knock-off of previous events?

Conflict: Do you get the sense that someone might actually get killed?

Involvement of Shadow: Self explanatory.

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NB: We haven’t included the Eliminator – we don’t count it as a proper event since no Gladiators were harmed during the making of it. And we’ve only included events from the original Gladiators, because.

‘Awooga’ and all that.

23. Pole Axe

The game: Who cares, Hunter always bloody wins.

The most unfair event we’ve ever seen. A Gladiator, with months of training on exactly where the steps are and loads of practice, versus Geoff from Leeds who’s going “Now hang on, is there a step here?”. By the time poor Geoff has figured out he’s supposed to be climbing up, Hunter has pressed the ‘I am a dick’ button at the top, and sent Geoff hurtling half a foot to the mat below. Predictable and boring.

22. Dogfight

The game: Rubbish Duel while tied to a balloon.

This gets a billion points for spectacle, but sadly fails in the other areas. The ‘Going up, going up, going up up up’ sequence was phenomenal, leading you to believe the contest of the century was happening, what with people being 1000 feet up in the air. In reality, all that happened was the contender and Gladiator poked each other until one of them fell onto a mat.

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21. Catapult

The game: Quidditch.

Everyone was flying but not really, and having to score goals or something. No one ever got any goals, because the balls were too light, and it was like throwing a piece of paper into the sea.

Catapult was a good idea, but in practice took far too long to get going. By the time the action had started, it was over.

(We will not insert any ‘having sex with one of the Gladiators’ jokes in here. No sir.)

20. Tightrope

The game: Dicking about on the washing line as a kid, before your mum came out and bollocked you.

We have nothing specific against Tightrope, but it was very ‘bitty’. By the time you’d started caring about one part, that part was over and it was on to the next bit. Plus, we already had Skytrak, which filled the criteria for ‘upside down races’.

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19. Joust

The game: Rubbish Duel on a bucking bronco

Duel is already good. Why do you need to ruin it by making it ‘Half Duel where you’re on a hen night’?

Could be improved by the other Gladiators standing round shouting “WOOOOO! GO SANDRA!”

18. Pursuit

The game: “Chase me”

This is too much like being chased up the stairs, and the contenders really should just be giggling and falling over. Nowhere near enough fighting, although it is good when they trip on that net thing.

17. Suspension Bridge

The game: Rubbish Duel on a bridge.

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Meh. Wobbly Duel. We love Duel, so this is acceptable. Waste of an event though, when they could have done the one where you waded through syrup

16. Vertigo

The game: Shit on a stick.

Pole Axe mixed with some pole vaulting. The clip above is a rare win for the contender, but mostly they lose, because they haven’t had hours and hours of practice.

Also, if you’ve ever played Psycho Fox on the SMS, you can only see the following:

15. Sumo Ball

The game: Be fatter than the Gladiator. Push them in the ball.

Push! Push! Push! That’s about it. It’s fun, as a viewer, shouting that to the Gladiators and imagining they’re having a baby. The rest of the time, the massive inflatable ball just kind of gets in the way of them knocking into each other, which is what you’d really like to see. Also, none of them are really fat. If they were, that would make us feel better.

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14. Whiplash

The game: Pulling.

Pull the other one off. This was on a Saturday teatime. My god.

Good for Gladiator v contender conflict though, and there was always the chance someone would lose an arm.

13. Hit & Run

The game: Remember the Green Cross Code. Then ignore it.

This was a good game, but it loses points for the rule that ‘You can’t ever stand still’. Meaning that, if the contender is to dodge the balls, they must be 17 stone and made of lead, and then the balls will just bounce off them. Because of this rule, they normally get knocked off far too early. Not a game to sacrifice for a toilet trip.

12. Swingshot

The game: Avoid getting blue balls.

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“Swing out sisters!” This is what commentator John Sachs always shouted during the women’s event, and presumably during the men’s event too. Otherwise, it’s just people banging into each other, but in a fun way. And they mostly just miss, so it’s pointless. But the banging is fun.

11. Danger Zone

The game: ‘Nam flashbacks.

“Get to the chopper!” If you don’t, a tennis ball will slightly hit you on the arm and it will hurt a bit. This game could have been so much better by replacing the tennis balls with real bullets. And all that happened to the Gladiator if their target got hit was they got lifted up a bit. If they went on fire instead, they might have tried a bit harder.

10. Pendulum

The game: Hoping the Gladiator is too thick to realise you’re on the other side of the ball.

This is exciting when John Anderson announces “start swinging!” or something like that, and then the arena goes all berserk. Also, Hunter sometimes loses, and then you get to laugh at him.

9. Skytrak

The game: Upside down Scalextric, without people pointing guns at you.

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Not sure why the contender in this clip is getting booed. Maybe she’s a tax dodger. Anyway, Skytrak was exciting, and fair, and relied mostly on how used you were to getting carpet burns. Although technically it was a race like Pole Axe, you don’t need any special training to crawl really fast, so everyone had an even chance at this. Plus, Scalextric.

8. Pyramid

The game: Stairmaster.

Wolf was the undisputed master of this event, using tactics like hair pulling, pants pulling, and hair pulling again to make sure his opponent didn’t get past him.

A family member of ours went to see Celebrity Squares being filmed, and she got Wolf’s autograph. We like Wolf.

7. Tilt

The game: Tug o’ war. One of them is higher up, I forget why.

Tilt is famous for Panther falling arse over tit and breaking her neck/spine/head bone. In the interests of ‘that was horrible’, we haven’t included that clip. But Tilt was a gripping (excuse the pun) game, where, to be honest, most of the time you just wanted Hunter to lose. Again.

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In this clip we have 77 stone Warrior, and we’re not going to make any jokes about how he’ll shoot you if he loses.

6. The Wall

The game: Climb up a wall while the Gladiators off of Gladiators can see up your bum.

Ranked high because it was such a Gladiators staple. Plus, contenders had a more than decent chance of winning. Unless – as in the case of the celebrity special we saw – a male contender is being chased by Jet, in which case he will deliberately lose. Seriously, she humped him for hours.

5. Gauntlet

The game: Run like buggery. Barge people.

Have you ever had a Saturday night out in Doncaster and you’re trying to get served? That’s what this is.

4. Atlaspheres

The game: Hamster balls.

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Novelty exercise for pet humans. The aim of the game is to get smoke blown up your rear.

Life would be simpler if everyone lived in an Atlasphere, and then no one would accidentally stand up your bum in the Tesco queue.

3. Hang Tough

The game: Super hang on.

We disagreed over this. The female half of this pair feels that it’s inherently unfair, because the Gladiators have had infinite hours to practise at Hang Tough, whereas they just stick the contender up on a platform and go ‘There you are, see what you can do with that’. However, the male half decided that Hang Tough was an excellent game because Jet.

It does, however, get points for the fact that they sometimes made unsuitable Gladiators do it. Seriously, they once made Warrior do it.

2. Powerball

The game: Bra rugby.

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Powerball is so much better than the dishwasher tablet it’s named after. For 60 seconds, you rabidly cheer for both contenders, while going “OOOOH!” “AAAAH!” and “OH SHIT!”, as the contenders dunk balls in baskets. Whenever they attempt to throw the ball into the basket, you must go “Oh God, as if that would ever work,” again while eating wagon wheels.

Mega points for conflict and general violence.

1. Duel

The game: Getting the stuffing beaten out of you by Shadow.

Shadow breaks all the bones in your body by staring at you. The end.