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From orgies and drugs scandals to near-fatal injuries: Inside the dark world of Gladiators-Meghna Amin-Entertainment – Metro

‘I thought I was going to die’

From orgies and drugs scandals to near-fatal injuries: Inside the dark world of Gladiators-Meghna Amin-Entertainment – Metro

Gladiators stars were involved in a lot of controversies (Picture: ITV/Shutterstock)

Gladiators has officially returned to our screens with a brand new generation of superhumans following in the likes of Wolf, Hunter, Cobra and Lightening.

Bradley and Barney Walsh are hosting as some brave contenders battle against Fury, Sabre and Steel, in games of speed, strength and skill.

Gladiators first ran from 1992 to 2000, hosted by Ulrika Jonsson, and the competition has now been revived by the BBC after more than two decades.

But the original series has a pretty wild past – from drugs scandals, orgies and alcohol, to terrifying falls and near-fatal injuries.

Let’s take a look back at the dark world of Gladiators…

‘I was bleeding drunk during the live shows’

Michael Willson played as Cobra on Gladiators (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

Gladiators star Michael Willson, who played as Cobra, admitted he was ‘bleeding drunk’ during live shows.

The now 60-year-old admitted in a 2019 interview with The Guardian: ‘I remember looking at the Wall and thinking: “I’ve got to chase this guy up it and I’m bleeding drunk.”‘

But Hunter, real name James Crossley, later claimed that the rumours of Gladiators ‘partying’ all the time weren’t true.

He told last year: ‘People always say that we were partying during filming which is just not true because we were filming two shows a day.’

‘There were orgies in the hotel’

Despite Hunter denying the partying atmosphere existed, Cobra elsewhere alleged there were orgies going on in the hotel.

The former kickboxer told The Sun: ‘There were orgies going on in the hotel. I was cheesed off — no one invited me.’

The original series was filmed the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham and stars stayed at the Holiday Inn.

Hunter insisted the Gladiators weren’t partying all the time (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

But Hunter told us: ‘People seem to think we were having massive parties during filming, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Because people are in such a high stress state. It was such a physical show. But it wasn’t like that at all.’

He added: ‘[Staying in the hotel] was really good because it became like a big family because, it was quite a nerve wracking time.

‘Every show we’d have 10,000 people watching and it was a lot of pressure, because you knew that your job could easily be on the line because everybody wanted to be a Gladiator, and obviously when people were getting injured and stuff, they needed our support.

‘So I think it was really nice, everybody bonded and really helped each other through it.’

‘I was axed after testing positive for drugs – my life spiralled out of control’

Gladiators star Shadow, real name Jefferson King, was reportedly axed from the show after testing positive for cocaine and steroids for seven months, according to Cobra.

It was claimed that Shadow was axed from the show in 1995 after testing positive on a drugs test and was sadly missed out from the reunion in 2015.

Gladiators star Shadow said his life ‘spiralled out of control’ (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

He had previously opened up about his life spiralling out of control in the years afterwards but said he never took Class A drugs while on the series.

King told Sunday People back in 2015: ‘My worst low was a few years after Gladiators.

‘I started doing more and more drugs and had to fund my habit by working as a manual labourer.’

He added: ‘I had become a full-time crackhead. I lived in the darkness and dug holes so deep I could not get out.’

In 2021, King was jailed for his part in a blackmail plot over a drugs debt.

Gladiators were routinely drug tested, with the stars of the reboot series also reportedly undergoing regular drug tests.

‘I quit after I heard my spine crack in a terrifying fall’

Gladiators icon Jet has detailed the horrific injury which led her to quit the gameshow in 1996.

Jet, real name DIane Youdale, suffered a neck injury and heard her spine crack after an accident in Pyramid, during the annual ‘live event’ that year.

Jet quit after suffering a horrific accident (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

She told last year: ‘My accident was on Pyramid, and I remember I had a contender – who I have met since then – who was a bit bigger, stronger and faster than me.

‘And I pushed off the pyramid with her, they like these aerial tackles because it’s good car crash TV, and I just remember landing here and my bottom was there and she was almost on top of me.

‘The impact of that hyperextension of the spine and her, and then I quickly flipped because I heard a crack.

‘And I’ve heard that crack before when I’ve done ligaments in, and thankfully it wasn’t the bone, it was just compression.’

She was taken to hospital and had to rest her spine in a brace, but decided she was no longer going to put herself through it.

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‘I needed nine operations after my leg was torn apart’

Gladiators star Sharron Davies, known as Amazon, also suffered a terrifying accident and had her leg ‘torn apart’.

She recently told The Sun: ‘I was pulling and I pushed the contender off and she fell on top of my leg and snapped all the ligaments on my knee.

‘It did get to a point where a lot of accidents happened. She landed really awkwardly on my leg and it snapped.’

Sharron had previously explained that after sports injuries in the past from her childhood she went on to have nine operations.

Amazon had nine operations after an accident (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

Hunter elsewhere told us that between filming shows, when the Gladiators had two days off, many would be in hospital.

He said: ‘There’d be massive problems, whether it was tendinitis, whether you sprained your ankle, it was very high injuries [rate] because the games were so full on.’

‘Because it was such a small short space of time, it was so intense. So those two days off we tended to be kind of recovering. There was often promotional photo shoots and stuff to do, but most of the time people were hibernating and seeing physios or getting massages in just to try and get them back in shape for the next show,’ he added.

For those who were injured, there were still games they could partake in, meaning they had the opportunity to be filmed for the programme.

‘I turned around and my knee stayed behind me after an agonising accident’

In another horror accident, Michael Ahearne, known as Warrior, had to be rushed to hospital after his knee dislocated during Atlaspheres.

He told the show at the time, according to The Mirror: ‘I was in tremendous pain when the accident occurred… I turned around and my knee stayed behind me.

Gladiators’ Warrior had his knee ‘ripped out’ (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

‘I thought I broke my leg at first when I heard the noise and I realised it was my knee that had dislocated.

‘I have had an accident like this before… it makes people realise what a tough game it is.’

Physio Mike Garmston explained that the accident ‘actually ripped out the poly-mechanism of the knee’ and was caused by ‘tremendous force’.

He said: ‘It’s a little bit like a train sitting on the track and the knee cap has been pulled off its track with tremendous and there was considerable damage in the inside part of the knee.’

Lightening, aka Kim Betts, also revealed how frequently injuries took place.

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She said on This Morning: ‘There were a lot more injuries than the viewers saw or were aware of.

‘Quite a few people had operations or ended up in hospital.

‘Backstage, there was so much going on backstage than what you would see in the arena.

‘People were being pushed around in wheelchairs, people had their legs in casts, arms in casts.

‘I thought I was going to die’

Panther’s neck ‘almost snapped’ after a horrendous fall (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

Helen O’Reilly, who was known as Panther, suffered a ‘pretty horrendous’ fall in 1994, where her neck ‘almost snapped’.

She later revealed that she thought she was going to die, when she landed headfirst onto the crashmat after falling from the raised platform on Tilt.

She told The Sun in 1996: ‘It was the most terrifying experience of my life. I thought I was going to die.’

Panther was carried away on a stretcher to hospital, and decided to retire at the time.

Her recovery took five months, and she was left so traumatised that she said she had ‘no memory at all’ of the fall.

Gladiators airs Saturdays at 5.50pm on BBC One and iPlayer.

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