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American Gladiators is an athletic competition game show where contestants, referred to as "contenders", competed against the show's titular Gladiators in a series of physical games called "events" with the goal to be crowned the Grand Champion at the end of the season and win thousands of dollars in cash and prizes.
Over the course of the original series and a 2008 revival, twenty-three events were conceived. Each event was scored, with the objectives for scoring differing from event to event. When the original series premiered in 1989, points were awarded in multiples of five. Following a reconfiguration of the show's format in 1990, points were awarded in numbers ranging from one to ten; this carried over for the remainder of the original series and the 2008 revival.
The number of events per episode ranged from six to eight on the original series depending on the season, while the 2008 revival ranged from five to seven depending on the season and round of play. The one constant was the final event, The Eliminator.
Years active: 1989–96, 2008
The contender had 60 seconds to hit a target using a series of projectile weapons, while avoiding high-speed tennis balls being fired at them by a Gladiator using an air-powered cannon. The course spanned the entire arena floor with each weapon located at a safe zone that provided some cover for the contender. Each successive station brought the contender closer to the Gladiator's cannon, and traveling to each one required the contender to cross open space where the Gladiator had an unobstructed shot at the contender. The contender's run ended immediately if he/she hit the target or was hit by the Gladiator's fire.
In the first half of season one, there were four safe zones consisting of a pillbox (where the contender started the event, weapon in hand), a burnt out building, a thatch bush, and two oil drums, and four weapons (see chart below). If the contenders hit the bull's eye on the target, which was located at the foot of the Gladiator's platform, they would receive 100 points. Hitting the outer rim was worth less points, originally 60 and rising to 75 by the end of the season. If the contender fired all four weapons unsuccessfully, he/she could take cover in the last safe zone until time expired to earn 30 points for a draw.
From the second half of season one onward, the course consisted of five safe zones and five weapons. The contenders also had to run to the first safe zone instead of starting at it, and the target was moved above the Gladiator's head. A finish line was also added after the last weapon station, and contenders had to cross the finish line within the allotted time in order to earn a draw.
Other changes made over the course of the series:
- For the second half of season one and all of season two, hitting the outer rim of the target was worth seven points and the bull's eye worth ten. Crossing the finish line at the end of the course earned the contender four points and a draw.
- Beginning in season three and continuing for the rest of the original series and the revival, all target hits were worth ten points. If they failed to hit the target, contenders were awarded one point per weapon fired. A draw awarded an additional point for a total of six points.
- Beginning in season five the contenders had to hit an actuator at the end of the course in order to earn a draw.
- In season one of the 2008 series, each weapon had to be loaded by hand and several smaller barriers were added to further aid the contenders. The second season returned to having the weapons pre-loaded, with the exception of one.
Assault Course configurations over the years:
|Season||Station 1||Station 2||Station 3||Station 4||Station 5||Draw Criteria||Target Hit Result|
|1a||Rocket launcher||Cannon||Glitter pistol||2 or 3 Hand Grenades||None||Last 60 seconds without getting hit at final safe zone||Gladiator is covered in dirt (males) or glitter (females)|
|1b||Crossbow||Rocket launcher||Cannon||Pistol||3 hand grenades||Must cross finish line within time limit||Pyrotechnics at foot of Gladiator platform|
|2||3 softballs||A smoke cannon shoots the Gladiator and their cannon|
|3 and early 4||Pump gun||Smoke cannon in front of Gladiator|
|Later 4||Ball rifle||Crossbow||2 softballs|
|5–7||Crossbow||Arrow rifle||Must hit buzzer at end of course within time limit||Smoke cannon shoots Gladiator|
|1||Slingshot||Turret Cannon||Rocket search/Smokescreen||Rocket crossbow rifle||3 balls, must be deployed with a button||Press button at end of course within time limit||Gladiator is launched into pool of water|
|2||Cannon (no longer rotates)||Bazooka/smokescreen|
This event is known in the British series as Danger Zone.
Years active: 1990–94, 2008
Atlasphere was conducted across the entire arena floor and saw the contenders and Gladiators enter spherical metal cages to do battle in a sixty-second event. The object for the contenders was to roll their spheres into any of four octagonal scoring pods while the Gladiators used their spheres to impede the contenders' progress.
In the first year that Atlasphere was part of the event rotation, the scoring pods had a large circular depression in the middle. The contenders had to roll into the pod and settle their sphere into it for one second in order for a score, which would be indicated by a blast of nitrogen "smoke" from the center of the pod. This caused problems for some contenders as they could not generate enough momentum to get out of the pod and would become stuck for an extended period. For season three, the pods were redesigned to prevent contenders from getting stuck. In addition, an actuator was placed in the middle of each pod and all a contender had to do to score was touch it, which would trigger a ring of chase lights and a plume of smoke to indicate the score.
1, 2, or 3 points were awarded for each score, depending on the season and round of play.
After season five of the original series, Atlasphere would not be played again until season two of the 2008 series. For the final two seasons of the original series, Snapback took its place in the event rotation.
Breakthrough & Conquer
Years active: 1989–96
Breakthrough & Conquer was a combination of American football and freestyle wrestling. The event was divided into two parts, each scored separately. This was also an event that the show did not initially allow female contenders to compete in; for portions of the preliminary rounds in 1989 a different game was played off screen (see Swingshot).
In Breakthrough, the contender began at the 15-yard line of an artificial turf field and had to carry a football into the end zone for a touchdown. A Gladiator was positioned inside the five-yard line and had to remain there until the contender reached them. The contender scored by getting any part of the ball over the goal line without being tackled, going out of bounds, or losing hold of the ball.
The contender then moved over to a circle to grapple with a second Gladiator for 10 seconds (15 in season four). The contender won by forcing any part of the Gladiator's body to touch the floor outside the circle. If the contender was forced out, they could re-enter the circle and keep grappling until time expired.
In the first half of season one, 30 (later 40) points were given for each successful part, and a contender earned bonus points if they were successful at both parts for a total of 100 points. From that point forward, 5 points were given for each successful portion of the event (although 3 were given during a point in season three).
During the second semifinal round of the first half of season one, Breakthrough and Conquer was the penultimate event before the running of The Eliminator and the Conquer circle was lifted off the floor. This meant that instead of just managing to force a part of the Gladiator’s body outside of the circle, in order to win the event the contender had to physically take the Gladiator out of the circle to the floor. For safety, a blue padded mat was placed on the floor surrounding the circle.
While the men played the event without consequence, the women’s competition did not fare as well. Gladiator Sunny was scheduled to face the contenders in the Conquer circle, and the first to attempt to take her out was Tracy Phillips. She chose to try and pull Sunny out of the circle from the front instead of either pushing or tackling her toward the rear, which caused Sunny to land awkwardly on her feet and suffer a severe knee injury. The Conquer circle was lowered back to the floor for contender Joanna Needham’s turn, but she was injured during her attempt at Breakthrough and had to withdraw from the match as a result.
Years active: 2008
In Earthquake, a contender and Gladiator attempted to throw each other off of a moving twelve-foot circular platform above the arena floor and either onto crash mats (season one) or into water. In order to win the event, one had to be completely removed from the platform and not be hanging onto anything supporting it.
The contender received ten points for throwing the Gladiator off the platform and five for lasting the entire thirty seconds.
Years active: 1993–96, 2008
In this event, the contenders had to run through a half-pipe chute while avoiding five Gladiators, all holding blocking pads to impede the contender's progress. 25 seconds were given to start. If the contender made it out in time or without being forced out of the chute, they earned 5 points. If they made it out in under 20 seconds, 10 points were awarded.
In the final season of the original series, the event was played with four Gladiators, and the time limits were reduced to 15 seconds for 10 points, and 20 seconds for 5.
For the 2008 series, the contenders were given thirty seconds to negotiate the Gauntlet, which was redesigned to take away the Gladiators' ability to push the contenders out of the chute. For the first season and the preliminary rounds of the competition, contenders received two points for passing each Gladiator for a total of eight, and then two more for breaking through a wall at the end after passing the last Gladiator. For the remainder of the series, the timed scoring rules were revived with contenders receiving ten points for escaping within twenty seconds and five for escaping within thirty.
Years active: 1990–96, 2008
Hang Tough saw the contenders use a series of hanging gymnastic rings to swing themselves from one side of the arena to the other with the object being to reach and land on a platform on the opposite side while trying to avoid being taken off the rings by a Gladiator or falling off on their own.
The contenders were given sixty seconds to reach the opposite end and received ten points if they did. If they lasted the whole sixty seconds and were still on the rings, they received five points for a draw unless the official determined that they did not make enough of an effort to advance, resulting in no points being awarded; this rule was instituted after several early playings saw contenders only go out a short distance from their platform. It also gave rise to a short-lived seven point draw possibility, which required the contender to advance to the closest rings to the Gladiator's platform (which were color coded).
In the 2008 Revival Contenders were awarded five points for reaching the red ringed zone (at the halfway mark) in sixty seconds.
Contenders were required to continue moving as long as they were not stuck on one ring or engaged with a Gladiator, and neither the contender nor the Gladiator could stay in one place for more than ten seconds. Gladiators were not allowed to contact the contenders above the shoulders or pull the contestant down by their uniform, or they would be disqualified.
Hang Tough debuted on the 1990 alumni show season premiere, but did not join the event rotation until the second half of the season began in 1991.
Hit & Run
Years active: 2008
Hit & Run was one of several events that the 2008 series adopted from the UK series.
The event took place on 50-foot (15 m) suspension bridge hanging above a water tank. At each end of the bridge was an actuator and each time a contender crossed the bridge and pushed it, two points were scored. Meanwhile, four Gladiators attempted to knock the contenders off by throwing 100-pound wrecking balls at them. The contenders were allowed to duck to avoid the balls but had to remain standing at all times otherwise. The event went on for sixty seconds or until the contender fell from the bridge.
Years active: 1989–90 (through first half of season two), 1992–93
The object of this game was simple: swing on a rope from an elevated platform and try to knock a Gladiator off a pedestal some distance away. The Gladiator was given a blocking pad for protection.
Originally, three Gladiators played this event and contenders received three swings. For the first half of season one, each successful swing was worth 30 points and 10 bonus points were given if the contender managed to knock all three Gladiators off the pedestal. In the second half of season one, this was reduced to three points for each swing and one bonus point for knocking all three off. After that, two Gladiators competed in the event and contenders were given five points for each successful swing.
After the preliminary round in the first half of season one, a rule was added that forbade contenders from leaving a tucked position while swinging; the rule was put in place out of safety concerns raised after Gladiator Malibu suffered a gash caused by contender Brian Hutson hitting him in the face with his feet extended. Any contender who did not remain in this position for the entire swing had the results of their swing disallowed. A first season addendum also called for removal from the event for a second offense, which happened to contender Elden Kidd in the second half of the season when he committed two fouls against Gladiator Titan.
Human Cannonball was replaced by Hang Tough in the rotation after the first half of season 2, and was brought back in season 4 before being retired.
Years active: 1989–96, 2008
The Joust saw the contender and Gladiator face off against each other with pugil sticks for thirty seconds.
In the first half of season one, the event was conducted on an apparatus resembling a bridge. To win the event, either the contender or Gladiator could knock the other off of the bridge or advance on them and try to get them to cross a line behind them. This was supposed to trigger a trap door, which would open and drop the loser onto the floor, but it rarely worked properly. In addition, each contender was guaranteed points regardless of the result. The scale started at 30 points and increased by 5 for every five seconds a contender stayed in the bout. Draws were worth 75 points and a victory was worth 100.
Beginning in the second half of season one and continuing across the remainder of the original and revival series, the object became to knock the opponent off of a pedestal onto a crash pad (original series) or into a pool (revival). Ten points were awarded for a win, with five for a draw.
Several things could result in a disqualification, such as:
- dropping the pugil stick (the initial half season also required both combatants to keep both hands on their sticks at all times)
- actively grabbing the opponent's pugil stick out of their hands (the only instance in which losing one's own pugil stick did not lead to being disqualified)
- touching the opponent's pedestal with any part of the body
- failure to mount an offensive effort
- both knees touching the pedestal (2008 revival)
- losing one's protective helmet
In the second half of season three the contenders and Gladiators began wearing gloves while Jousting. This rule was instituted after contender Marek Wilczynski had to have the tip of one of his fingers amputated when it got jammed against his pugil stick.
Internationally this event is known as Duel
Years active: 1991–93
A giant maze was constructed across the entire length of the arena floor, and the contenders were given 45 seconds to negotiate their way through it. Inside were four Gladiators, armed with blocking pads to impede their path. To aid the contenders each Gladiator was restricted to a particular area in the maze and could not chase the contenders past it. In each playing of The Maze, there were only two correct paths to take, and with movable partitions inside the maze those two paths were different each time.
The first contender to escape in time earned 10 points. If both contenders made it out before time expired, the second contender was awarded five points. In order to receive points, a contender had to be outside of the structure with both feet on the floor before the clock hit zero.
Years active: 1989–96, 2008
Regarded as a signature event of the whole series, Powerball was an event where the contenders attempted to score by depositing red and blue colored balls (originally rubber play balls, then soccer balls and finally much smaller Nerf balls) into a series of upright plastic cylinders while trying to evade three Gladiators who defended the playing field.
In the first half of season one, Powerball was conducted on a half-circle shaped field with two bins filled with balls at one end and the scoring cylinders laid out on the edge of the circle at the other end. Each score was worth 15 points and for 45 seconds, the contenders would grab balls from their respective bins and try to score while the Gladiators attempted to stop them by any means possible (tackling, pushing the contender out of bounds, etc.) so long as they were not excessively rough with the contenders; if any Gladiator was determined to have violated this rule, the contender was rewarded with a score.
In the second half of the season, the Powerball field was extended to take up the entire length of the arena floor and the layout of the scoring cylinders changed and one was placed in the middle of the field, with any ball deposited there worth more points. In addition, the ball bins were placed on opposite ends of the field and the contenders had to alternate which bin they chose balls from. The Gladiators were not allowed in these areas. Also, penalties for rough contact now resulted in a Gladiator being removed from the event and all tackling was banned; with the exception of the tackling ban, these rules remained in place for the remainder of the original series (Gladiators were forbidden to tackle above the shoulders, though).
In the second half of the first season, goals in the four outer cylinders were worth one point and the center cylinder was worth two. After that, the scoring varied from 1–3 points for outer goals and 2–5 for center goals depending on the season and round of play.
For the second season, the scoring cylinders were redesigned. The original season’s cylinders were narrow, flat-bottomed, and had a tendency to fall over during play. It was also possible for a cylinder to become so full with balls that it could no longer be used during a game, and on several occasions the weight of contenders and Gladiators falling on them would cause the plastic to break, stopping play while a replacement was brought out. The redesigned cylinders were wider and able to hold more balls, and a rounded bottom prevented the cylinders from completely toppling over with contact.
The 2008 series' Powerball game was played for 60 seconds on a field had a retaining wall placed around it, which took away the out of bounds option for the Gladiators. For the first season, goals were worth two points for the outer cylinders and three for the center, and the cylinders had wider openings to encourage contenders to attempt to toss their scoring balls into them. The second season discarded that in favor of the original cylinder style and goals were reduced to one point for the outer cylinders and two for the center.
- Super Powerball (1992–93)
Introduced in season four of the original series, Super Powerball was a variant on the original event played with two Gladiators and three scoring cylinders laid in a straight line in the middle of the field. Three points were awarded for goals in the left or right cylinders, and five points were awarded for center cylinder goals. If a Gladiator committed a violation the contender was credited with a score.
Years active: 1993–96, 2008
The contenders faced a pyramid made out of tiered crash mats and were given 45 seconds to try to ascend it. Two Gladiators stood in their way, attempting to prevent them from reaching the top. At the top of the Pyramid was an actuator (originally a ring bell) that the contenders were required to hit to score. The first contender to do so scored ten points, and the second contender to do so earned five points.
The 2008 series increased the time limit to 60 seconds and adapted a rule from the British series for scoring purposes. The fourth tier from the top was marked with a white dotted line, referred to as the "scoring zone". Contenders earned five points for reaching this level; if one of them reached the summit and hit the actuator before time ran out, that contender scored five additional points and the event ended. The British series called the fourth tier from the top the "safety step" and instituted this after Diane Youdale, who portrayed female Gladiator Jet, was forced to retire from the series after suffering an injury on their Pyramid. The rule that the Gladiators could not chase contenders above the step was not adopted as contenders would have an unfair advantage.
Also in 2008, the Pyramid became part of the Eliminator course at the end of each episode. (See the Eliminator section below.)
Years active: 2008
Rocketball was an event that saw the contenders face off against two Gladiators in a high flying basketball game.
Each player was attached by harness to a bungee cord. The contenders each had a bin of colored balls that they would try to place in one of two colored baskets, one red and one yellow, hung from the ceiling of the arena. To do this, they would press a button on the stage floor which would launch them toward the baskets. The Gladiators, meanwhile, had buttons of their own and would use theirs to launch themselves up to play defense.
The process repeated itself for sixty seconds. For each ball the contenders put in the red basket, which was the higher basket, two points were awarded. Each ball in the lower yellow basket was worth one.
Years active: 2008
A new event for Season 2, Sideswipe has both contenders hopping or running from platform to platform above the water as they try to take a colored ball from a container on one end of a line of five platforms and deposit it in a "bullseye" goal at the other end. While the contestants are transporting the balls, three Gladiators try to knock them off the platforms by swinging at them on rope swings – with the Gladiators themselves being the projectiles.
Years active: 1992–95, 2008
In the version of Sky Track played on the original series, the contenders and a Gladiator raced each other on an inverted, Velcro-covered track. Using their hands and feet (each covered in Velcro to assist in moving), they would move down the track to the opposite end, hit an actuator button, then turn around and head back to the start/finish line.
There were three possible outcomes to every race and they were scored in the following manner.
- Gladiator finishes first: the contender who crossed the line in second place received five points.
- One contender finishes ahead of Gladiator: the contender is awarded ten points for winning the event.
- Both contenders finish ahead of Gladiator: the first contender to finish receives ten points, and the second receives five.
The 2008 series adopted the format used on the British series. Here, both contenders were chased by a Gladiator over a figure-eight shaped track and had to make one lap around the track. Each contender wore a harness with a ripcord on it, which the Gladiators would try to grab. If they did, the contender would be disconnected from the track and lose the event. Ten points were awarded for completing the course first, with the second contender receiving five.
There were two different events called Snapback played on American Gladiators. The first one debuted in season six of the original series, replacing Atlasphere in the event rotation, and was played for the remainder of the series. The second was part of the 2008 series.
- Original Snapback
The contenders faced two Gladiators, with all attached to bungee cords. The object was to run out onto the field of play and grab large red and blue scoring cylinders that were hung above the field, using the bungee cord for assistance. The Gladiators tried to impede the progress of the contestants and/or knock the cylinders away.
Once the contender had a cylinder, they would bring it back to a large scoring bin and drop it in if they kept possession of it. The red cylinders were hung lower than the blue ones and were worth two points (later one) for each one retrieved. The higher-hanging blue cylinders were worth three points (later two) as they were tougher to grab.
- 2008 Snapback
The 2008 edition saw the contenders try to hit a red button at the end of a 50-foot (15 m)-long lane. Each contender was attached to a Gladiator with a bungee cord, with the Gladiator providing resistance by pulling on the cord from a platform above the floor. Contenders were given thirty seconds to reach the buttons, and if they did the Gladiators would be launched across the arena. There were four scoring zones along each lane, and if any part of the contender's body was in one of those zones, which ranged from two to eight points in two-point increments, when time expired they received that number of points.
Years active: 1991–96
The contenders faced three (later two) Gladiators in a 45 (later 60) second event. The object for the contender was to jump from a platform using a bungee cord, use their momentum to propel themselves from the floor to a cylinder with red, yellow, and blue colored scoring balls, grab one, then spring back to their platform and deposit them in a bin. The Gladiators were there to try to block the contenders from doing so.
1 point was awarded for each yellow ball grabbed, since they were the lowest level and easiest to grab. The blue balls were on the second level of the cylinder, and were worth 2–3 points. The red balls were highest on the cylinder and were worth 3–5 points. Contenders were required to jump off their platforms immediately once in the position to jump, and could not throw off a Gladiator's timing by "faking" a jump. If they did, any balls they scored on the ensuing jump would not count.
In the first half of season one, the name Swingshot was given to a game strictly played by the female contenders in the early rounds of play in place of Breakthrough and Conquer. Footage of the game was never shown, only how the contenders did. The game was eventually discarded in favor of having the women play Breakthrough and Conquer with the men, so there is no record other than the offhanded mentions of how the game was played.
Years active: 1993–96 (as Tug-O-War), 2008 (as Tilt)
The contender faced a Gladiator in a two-man tug of war on tilting platforms for thirty seconds.
In the original series, the platforms were at equal height and the contender started tilted back with the Gladiator starting tilted forward. The object was to pull the Gladiator off the platform, which was worth ten points. A flag was placed in the middle of the rope and the contender could earn five points for a draw if they stayed on the platform for the entire thirty seconds and had the flag on their side of the arena. Neither the contender nor the Gladiator could let go of the rope, as doing so would result in a disqualification.
In the 2008 series, which saw the event adopt its British series' name, the rope was attached to two harnesses worn by the contender and Gladiator and the Gladiator's platform was raised above the contender's to put them at a disadvantage. Ten points were awarded for a win and staying on the platform for the entire thirty seconds earned the contender a draw.
Years active: 2008
Vertigo was another UK series import added to the 2008 series rotation.
The event was a race between the contender and Gladiator on a course of seven poles hung from the roof of the arena. Each participant had their own set of poles to traverse. The race started with the contender and Gladiator climbing up the first pole, and from there they had to maneuver from pole to pole and reach a hoop at the end of the course. The first to pull their respective hoop won the race.
The contenders earned ten points for winning. If the Gladiator won, the contenders could still add five points if they had reached the fifth pole before the race ended.
Years active: 1990–96, 2008
The Wall saw contenders trying to ascend a rock-climbing wall without being pulled off by a pursuing Gladiator. The original series conducted the event on a 32-foot (9.8 m) structure. The height of the wall during the first season of the 2008 series was 40 feet (12 m) high, and it was extended to 50 feet (15 m) for the second.
Debuting in the first half of season one, the time limit for The Wall was two minutes. The contenders were also given a head start on the Gladiators, with the men receiving fifteen seconds and the women ten. Beginning in season two, and continuing across both the original and revival series, the limit was set at one minute. Originally, the head starts were carried over and both men and women contenders received ten seconds with the exception of a brief spell in season four when fifteen seconds were given.
In season five of the original series, The Wall was given an overhaul. The Wall was divided into five sections, with grips placed on the dividers so participants could cross between sections. The contenders started in the second and fourth sections, respectively, while their assigned Gladiators started in the outermost sections. The contenders and Gladiators each started climbing their assigned partitions, with no head start for the contenders. To pull their contender off the Gladiators had to cross over at least once. The contenders, meanwhile, were able to cross over to the center partition and force their Gladiator to cross two partitions to pull them down. When the series returned in 2008, The Wall's previous format returned with it but with only a seven-second head start given.
Ten points were given to the first to successfully ascend The Wall and five were given to the second if both made it. For the first two seasons (and very briefly in season four), the higher advancing climber earned five points if both were pulled off. The 2008 series awarded five points for staying on The Wall without being pulled off for the entire time (Inspired by UK gladiator).
Years active: 1993–96
The contender and Gladiator stood atop a 20-foot (6.1 m) diameter circular platform, with each participant having one hand strapped to a handle of a triangular apparatus referred to as the “dog bone”. The event was played for thirty seconds, with contender and Gladiator pulling on their sides of the bone in an attempt to break the other's grip and thus “own the bone”. Neither participant could place their free hand on the bone, and doing so resulted in a disqualification.
For the first two seasons of Whiplash, each participant had different objectives. The contender could win by either “owning the bone” or using it to pull the Gladiator off of the platform, scoring ten points in either instance. All the Gladiators were required to do was remain on the platform for the full thirty seconds to win, although they could also win by “owning the bone”. For the seventh season, the rule was changed and the Gladiator could only win by “owning the bone”. If the Gladiator was still on the platform when time expired, the contender was awarded five points for a draw.
The Eliminator served as each episode's final event and was the only event where the contenders faced off directly with each other instead of against the Gladiators. The Gladiators would still participate but as the years went on they were involved less and less.
The Eliminator was an obstacle course laid out over the entire arena floor. The obstacles used varied from year to year.
For the first two seasons the Eliminator was played for points like every other event. Both contenders started at the same time and had to complete the course within a time limit. That limit was sixty seconds for the men for the first two seasons, while the women had sixty in the first season and seventy-five in the second.
The points scale was different from the other events. A contender's score was determined by how much time was left on the clock when the course was finished. Each second earned the contender two points (five in 1989). However, there were penalties assessed to contenders if they either failed to complete obstacles in the proper manner or fell off of them. These added five seconds to the contenders' finishing time for each violation, which meant a loss of ten points from the overall Eliminator score (twenty-five in 1989).
Prior to the Eliminator, the deficit between the leader and the opponent was divided by the appropriate point scale and in order for the trailing contender to win the match, he/she needed to not only finish the course first but do so in enough time (once penalties were factored in) to earn enough points to overtake the leader. For example, in the first half of season one, a trailing contender behind by 25 points would need to make up five seconds. In the second half of the season a ten-point deficit would require the same amount of time.
Once both contenders finished the course and the scores were totaled, the contender leading won the match and advanced in further play. If the match ended in a tie, the contender with the faster Eliminator time won.
On the occasion that a contender was unable to run the Eliminator due to injuries sustained in the earlier parts of the competition, the opposing contender automatically advanced to the next round. In the preliminary rounds, that contender would be required to run the Eliminator as seeding for the quarterfinals were determined by score totals from the preliminaries. If a contender was forced to withdraw before the Eliminator at any subsequent point in the competition, the opponent would advance by forfeit and no Eliminator run would take place.
The first season's Eliminator featured the following obstacles:
- An inclined ramp that the contestants climbed while pushing giant medicine balls, which had to be placed in holders at the top
- A pair of pits to cross:
- First pit crossed with a balance beam, with six Gladiators swinging smaller medicine balls at the contenders to impede progress
- Second pit crossed using commando line ropes
- The "swing for life", a rope swing over a small wall
- A set of cylindrical "cones" which had to be weaved through
- A choice of two corridors for each contender, with a paper door at each end; one door was clear while a Gladiator with a blocking pad stood at the other
The second half of the first season saw the balance beam and commando line sections lengthened and the top rope was raised to aid taller contenders. The run to the finish also changed to have narrower corridors, and one additional Gladiator was added to the mix leaving only one of the four doors clear.
For season two, the Eliminator saw an overhaul with new obstacles and the finish line was moved from the front of the arena to the back. These were the changes made:
- Two reverse treadmill belts were built into the ramp, and contenders were given three chances to reach the top before being allowed to walk upon the side
- To get across the first pit a hand bike was used
- The balance beam was used to cross the second pit, with a Gladiator at the end of each beam with a weighted blocking pad waiting
- A 20-foot (6.1 m) cargo net climb to a platform, where the contenders rode a zip line back to the floor
- Two track hurdles were placed in front of the corridors, which were otherwise unchanged
Beginning with the first episode of the third season and continuing for the remainder of the series, the Eliminator was no longer scored. Instead the leading contender was given a head start of half a second for each point he/she led by entering the event and the opposing contender had to make up the deficit. Whoever finished the course first won the match.
With the third season came some changes, many of which remained in place for season four. The layout of both courses, with corresponding changes, follows:
- Falling off the hand bike resulted in contenders being detained by Gladiators for several seconds. The women were held for ten seconds, the men seven.
- The balance beam was removed and replaced by spinning cylinders. Falling off the apparatus forced contenders to use an unsteady rope ladder to climb back up.
- The old corridors were done away with in favor of several new obstacles.
The season three course featured two padded walls, one with a step, and a straightaway above which two Gladiators stood with giant medicine balls, which they would throw at the contenders. After this, the contenders would vault over a hurdle, where a short run to the finish line awaited; the first contender to reach the finish would break through a strip of yellow tape before crossing. Some early episodes instead featured only the stepped wall, with two Gladiators on the other side forming a gauntlet with giant medicine balls to impede their path, and then a short hurdle to the straightaway; this was quickly done away with in favor of adding the second padded wall after the zip line.
In season three, the distance between the final hurdle and the finish was short enough to allow for contenders to make desperate leaps to try to cross the line first. In fact, that season's Grand Championship was decided in such a manner; Mark Ortega was able to pass Joseph Mauro after jumping over the final hurdle and landing with his body across the finish line before Mauro broke the finish tape.
In season four, the contenders once again faced the gauntlet after climbing what was now a Plexiglas wall. This time, a series of blocking pads were hung from the ceiling of the arena and the Gladiators would operate it using handles to push and pull the pads so they would swing. The final hurdle was moved up slightly so the contenders had a longer run to the finish and could not leap across as easily.
In keeping with the aesthetic overhaul AG went through at the start of its fifth season, the Eliminator too was given a makeover inspired by the British Gladiators course in use at the time. While most of the course remained the same, three new obstacles were added in season five and a fourth in season seven.
In seasons five and six, the Gladiators' involvement was limited to "enforcing" the time penalties for falling off the hand bike. (The Gladiators were removed altogether for season seven (penalties would be enforced by game judges) as well as both seasons of the 2008 revival.)
- To start the event the contenders were placed at the bottom of a tower and had to climb it using a modified Versaclimber fitness machine. They then used a slide to get to the platform in front of the handbike.
- The treadmill ramp was moved to serve as the penultimate obstacle following the wall climb. The belts were slowed and contenders were given two attempts to scale the ramp. Once they did, they swung on a rope through a paper barrier to finish the event.
- In season seven, the spinning cylinder was removed and two ball pits were installed. The contenders were required to wade through them and climb out to reach the cargo net.
For both International Gladiators tournaments, which were held in the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England where the British series taped, the Eliminator course from that series was used and consisted of these obstacles.
- Contenders started by negotiating a set of four hurdles, with two high and two low. They had to climb over the high hurdles and roll under the low ones.
- In order to get to the platform in front of the pit, a climbing rope was used.
- Both sets of contenders crossed the pit in a different manner. The men used the hand bike, while the women used a monkey bar-style apparatus called a hand ladder.
- Once across the pit the next three obstacles were the same as the American series: a run across the spinning cylinders, a climb up the cargo net, and a zipline ride to the floor.
- Once off the zipline each contender had to negotiate a balance beam.
- The treadmill followed, but keeping with British custom it was referred to as the Travelator.
- Once atop the Travelator a rope swing through a paper barrier was the finish.
The 2008 series used the same scoring rules that were in place from 1991 onward on the original series.
For the 2008 version, the layout was as follows.
- The course began with contenders climbing an 8-foot (2.4 m) wall. A rope was available for assistance.
- Once over the wall the contenders jumped into a 20-foot (6.1 m) long pool with a wall of fire on top, which they swam under.
- They would then climb a 30-foot (9.1 m) cargo net to get to the next obstacle.
- The Barrel Roll was next; the contenders had to grab and hold onto a cylinder as it rotated downward.
- The handbike followed with no specific penalty enforced for falling.
- After the handbike contenders negotiated a downhill balance beam.
- This placed the contenders at the base of the Pyramid, which they had to scale to reach the zipline.
- The last obstacle was the Travelator (adopting the treadmill's UK name). The belts were much narrower and contenders had a rope to use for assistance, but the previous series' free pass rule was not in place.
After the Travelator, a small set of stairs led to a series of crash blocks that the contenders had to break through to finish, and the first contender to do so won. If the second contender was still on the Travelator when the first contender broke through, the second contender could opt to have the Travelator turned off.
For season two, these changes were made.
- The wall was taken out and the swim under the wall of fire doubled in length.
- The Barrel Roll was replaced by a rope swing.
- The commando lines last seen in season one returned and were referred to as the Tightrope. The major difference was that instead of a straight line walk, the ropes were slanted downward.
- Two 6-foot (1.8 m) deep ball pits were placed below the handbike, and contenders had to wade through them if they fell.
- The downhill balance beam was replaced with a spinning cylinder, which was called the "Rolling Pin". The series opted to use another balance beam, called the "Teeter Totter" after its mechanism of action, as an obstacle before the Travelator; this was another nod to the British series (which called the obstacle the "seesaw"), which adopted the mechanism toward the end of its run.
- After the stairs, the finish reverted to the one seen on the last three seasons of the original series, with a rope swing through a paper barrier into the pool. Pyrotechnics would go off for the first person to break through the barrier.
- https://www.youtube.com/americangladiators; "The Dirtiest Contender".
- Sideswipe page on NBC.com Archived 2008-05-30 at the Wayback Machine
- Snapback Archived 2008-05-28 at the Wayback Machine – from nbc.com
- 1991 first half semifinal matchup between Tim Goldrick and Coz Worthington; Worthington attempts to overtake Goldrick with a leap but does not. Airdate c. December 1991.