Where are the original Gladiators now? With the ’90s show set for a reboot, FEMAIL reveals the VERY varied fortunes of the cast – from a drug-fuelled blackmail plot to painting watercolours
- Gladiators ran for eight series and had a previous reboot before ending in 2000
- Original cast included Wolf AKA Michael Van Wijk who now owns chain of gyms
- Jefferson King, who was Shadow, became involved in blackmail plot
- Warrior Mike Ahearne has also had brushes with the law and was jailed in 1997
From becoming involved in a drug-fuelled blackmail plot to a sedate life painting watercolours and keeping fit, the cast of Gladiators have certainly had their ups and downs in the 30 years since the show first aired.
The much-loved game show, which originally aired on ITV in the 90s, was axed after losing half its viewers, but now it’s set to return on BBC for a new reboot – 20 years since the last remake of the show.
According to Metro filming of the show – which saw members of the public battle it out against the show’s cast of bodybuilders and gymnasts, known as Gladiators -will begin in Sheffield next year.
The original series was watched by over 14 million viewers and was hosted by Ulrika Jonsson and John Fashanu as well as featuring gruff referee John Anderson.
Cast included Michael Van Wijk, known as Wolf, who went on to set up his own gym called ‘Wolf’s Gym’ in Auckland.
Meanwhile, Diane Youdale, known as Jet, who left the show due in injury went on to become a practicing Psychotherapist, Counsellor and Coach and Kim Betts, aka Lighting, is now an equestrian yard and fishery owner and still completing in body building competitions.
FEMAIL looks at the where the original cast members of the series are now…
Shadow: Jefferson King
Troubling: A court heard how he was involved in a blackmail plot after a day of smoking drugs ‘degenerated rapidly’
Name: Jefferson King
Now: In 2009 he went into rehab and stayed clean, revealing in 2011 that he had beaten his addiction and worked at a rehab clinic to help people suffering from drug problems.
However, he was eventually back on illegal drugs – and was charged with heroin possession.
Last year, a court heard how he was involved in a blackmail plot after a day of smoking drugs ‘degenerated rapidly’, according to the Sun.
The police released Shadow’s mugshot, showing him with hollow cheeks and dead eyes after he admitted taking part in a drug-fuelled blackmail plot.
King had demanded £1,000 last year from a mother for the safe return of her son who was allegedly being held hostage by a gang.
He was sentenced to six years and three months after admitting taking part in the drug-fuelled plan over a debt.
The former bodybuilder, who is barely recognisable from his 1990s heyday after years of drug abuse, is currently in custody awaiting sentencing at the conclusion of a trial of other alleged blackmailers.
Gladiators history: Jefferson’s Gladiators career fell apart when he was ousted off the programme for taking steroids. Soon after the drug scandal a mistress sold a tale of his infidelity to a newspaper and his marriage broke down.
He said at the time: ‘There is no excuse for cheating. I was mixing with drugs before Gladiators and when I was tested during the show there were no traces of cocaine but they found steroids’
Fun fact: Jefferson become a wrestler following his TV career and had a cameo role in the Spice Girls movie Spiceworld in 1997.
Warrior: Mike Ahearne
Scandal: In 2018 the shamed former Gladiator Mike Ahearne hit the headlines as a court heard that he was caught by police with shopping bags full of steroids and CS spray canisters
Name: Mike Ahearne aka Warrior
Now: After seven years earning up to £100,000-a-year, Mike Ahearne’s world of celebrity and luxury came crashing down, when he was linked to a corruption scandal.
He was arrested on the afternoon of Thursday, March 13, 1997 and accused of involvement in a plot to foil the prosecution of Philip Glennon Jnr.
Glennon Jnr had been accused of firing a handgun at a bouncer and then a police officer outside a Liverpool nightclub in 1996 and was charged with attempted murder.
Glennon Jnr is the brother-in-law of Liverpool drugs baron Curtis Warren, who tried to foil the investigation by paying corrupt officer Detective Chief Inspector Elmore ‘Elly’ Davies £10,000, to pass on details of what the police knew about the incident, when a doorman was also shot.
Ahearne had passed money from Warren to his friend Davies – then head of Merseyside’s drugs squad – for information about the case.
Following a trial at Nottingham Crown Court in 1998, at which Ahearne decided not to give evidence, the TV star was convicted of an act with tendency to pervert the course of justice and jailed for 15 months.
Davies, also from Oxton, was jailed for five years, while a third man was jailed for three years.
Glennon Jnr was previously jailed for six years for attempted murder.
In 2018, shamed former Ahearne hit the headlines again as a court heard that he was caught by police with shopping bags full of steroids and CS spray canisters.
Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard police raided the former bodybuilder’s home in leafy Rose Mount, Oxton, Wirral on January 23, 2018.
They retrieved a large stash of various anabolic steroids, contained in a plastic Tesco shopping bag, another carrier bag and two boxes.
Ahearne was arrested on suspicion of possessing the Class C drugs with intent to supply, but no charges were brought over the haul.
But he was charged over the CS spray and admitted three counts of possessing a weapon ‘designed or adapted for the discharge of a noxious liquid’.
He was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 12 months, at Liverpool Crown Court in October 2018 for these offences.
Gladiators History: Ahearne, who played rugby union for England at youth level and represented Great Britain at Mr Universe, was a household name in the prime of his career.
Standing at 6ft 4in, the ex-doorman was one of the best known faces in Gladiators, as the programme attracted viewing figures as high as 14m at its peak.
Cobra: Michael Wilson
Artist: A few years ago, Michael admitted during a piece in the The Guardian that he was often drunk on the show
Name: Michael Willson aka Cobra
Now: Now living in the West Midlands, Michael spends his time making watercolour paintings. He also travels to schools and youth clubs up and down the UK, promoting that keeping fit can be fun.
A few years ago, Michael admitted during a piece in the The Guardian that he was often drunk on the show.
He said: ‘I remember looking at The Wall and thinking, ‘I’ve got to chase this guy up it and I’m bleeding drunk’.
‘We never had to drive anywhere, we had hospitality twice a day so there would be wine and booze and stuff flowing. Ironically, I never used to drink a drop before I joined Gladiators.’
Gladiator history: Thanks to his quick-thinking and agility he became a master of the Hang Tough ring and was also the best Duel podium contender having never been knocked off. He became a fan-favourite Gladiator alongside the likes of Shadow, Wolf, Jet, Lightning and Hunter.
Fun fact: Proving that good things can come in small packages, Cobra – whose real name is Michael Wilson – didn’t let his tiny height get in the way of victory.
Phoenix: Sandy Young
Moving on: Sandy now works as a florist and is a mother to two children in the West Midlands according to Gladiator fan sites
Name: Sandy Young aka Phoenix
Now: Sandy now works as a florist and is a mother to two children in the West Midlands according to Gladiator fan sites.
Gladiators history: ‘Phoenix’ was forced to leave the show in late 1992, reportedly for being unable to meet fitness standards.
Years later she was sentenced to 150 hours of community service in 1996 for attacking her ex-husband due to a custody disagreement over their son.
The kick-boxer and former Bodybuilding Miss UK broke her ex’s ankle in what was described in court as an act of ‘wanton violence and revenge’.
Fun fact: Sandy was unbeaten in two new events during ‘Gladiators Live!’ in 1993 at Wembley Arena.
Hunter: James Crossley
Trainer: James spoke to MailOnline recently about how he has turned his skills to yoga in a bid to age ‘pain free’, while his girlfriend is also a yoga teacher
Name: James Crossley
Occupation: Last year, James spoke to MailOnline about how he has turned his skills to yoga in a bid to age ‘pain free’, while his girlfriend is also a yoga teacher.
James is currently working in the sports industry as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, but had dabbled in acting following his time in Gladiators. He most recently appeared on Channel 4’s, The Circle.
The TV star revealed that he has launched his own James Crossley coaching website to help people get fitter, as well as his yoga and gong bath practices.
Comparing his fitness now to when he starred on Gladiators in the 90s, James admitted that it is ‘very different’.
He said: ‘When I did Gladiators I was a machine. I was training twice a day, once with the weights, once with the events training, because the thing with Gladiators is all the events are very unique. My absolute fittest would have been in my late 20s.’
On Gladiators: ‘Discussing his time on the show, he said: ‘The first year I joined I couldn’t do anything – I locked myself away for a year to get better. You can be muscular and look good but it doesn’t mean you can climb those walls.’
Fun facts: James dated the show’s host Ulrika Jonsson, but the pair remained coy on their romance, until she uncovered all in her 2003 autobiography.
Wolf: Michael Van Wijk
Then and now: Michael now runs his own gym in Auckland, where he currently resides, which is named Wolf’s Gym, after his Gladiators personal
Name: Michael Van Wijk aka Wolf
Now : Michael owns a gym called ‘Wolf’s Gym’ in Auckland, New Zealand where he now lives. He had owned gyms previously before finding fame on Gladiators
Following his time on the show, he became a regular on the Kiwi Cage Fighting scene and also used to compete at national level in Jiu Jitsu championships, according to a 2008 Loaded article.
Michael appeared on Lorraine in 2019 and told the host he would love to revive gladiators, and said: ‘I would love to do it, I wish the producers would bring it back. You would get all the baby-boomers from the past watching it and you would get a new generation coming up as well.’
Gladiators history: He starred on the show for seven years and eight series throughout the entire time Gladiators aired on ITV.
Fun facts: Wolf was deemed the most popular gladiator on the series, albeit controversial thanks to his mean persona.
Ace: Warren Furman
Change: Having turned his back on showbusiness, Warren found God and now runs a Gospel choir in York, where he lives with his wife and two kids
Name: Warren Furman
Occupation: Having turned his back on showbusiness, Warren found God and now runs a Gospel choir in York, where he lives with his wife and two kids.
Speaking on This Morning previously, he said: ‘I used to worship myself, I thought I was fantastic. I have now turned to God’s grace. I am a Gladiator of the gospel.
‘You’ll never know God until you change your direction and so I realised this. It was great, we had loads of money and women, but I realised I had to change’.
Warren, who dated a young Katie Price in the 90s, admitted in 2019 during the appearance that he sometimes struggled to earn £20 an hour since the show finished.
Gladiator history: Four years after the show began in 1996, the blond hunk beat 60 other hopefuls for a place on Gladiators, where he stayed on the series until its end in 2000. He returned for the revival in 2008.
Fun facts: Warren was engaged to Katie in the late Nineties, during which time they enjoyed a particularly lavish lifestyle. He previously said: ‘We travelled the world first class, went for expensive dinners, had big houses and fancy cars’, yet things later broke off acrimoniously.
He said: ‘We were both deriving our identities from being relevant in the media. We were both selling stories.’
Amazon: Sharron Davies MBE
Heading up: Prior to heading on to the show, Sharron was a swimmer for Great Britain in the Olympics and European championships
Name: Sharron Davies aka Amazon
Now: Following her Olympic swimming career, Sharon now works as a BBC pundit.
Sharron was a swimmer for Great Britain in the Olympics and European championships. The media personality also organised a support group for parents of young athletes and does after-dinner and motivational speaking.
Sharron competed for England in the Commonwealth Games. She has produced various fitness videos and served as a patron of charities for disabled children.
Sharron has been outspoken on the rights of biological women and has campaigned to stop transgender athletes competing in women’s sports.
Last week, she revealed her stance has led her on the road to financial ruin.
In an interview with You magazine, the swimmer said she suffered a huge drop in income after anxious employers dropped her because of her stance on the ‘toxic’ transgender debate.
‘There’s been so much hate and bullying,’ she says. ‘It’s been very hard. Charities I’ve worked with for 30 years have dropped me, agents I’ve worked with for 30 or 40 years don’t use me any more, because the trans activists can be so vicious and malicious – they go after your work, after your brand, they attack everything.’
She describes how she was only able to stay afloat financially because of an inheritance from her mother, who died five years ago.
Gladiator history: Sharron joined the show in 1995 yet a knee injury forced her to withdraw from the show in 1996. She famously complained of the health and safety aspects of the show
Fun fact: The blonde beauty enjoyed a stint on Dancing On Ice in 2011.
Jet: Diane Youdale
Now: Since her time on Gladiators has remained on views’ TV screens and radio airwaves, presenting on BBC Tees and featuring on BBC shows like Look North and Inside Out
Name: Diane Youdale
Now: Since her time on Gladiators has remained on views’ TV screens and radio airwaves, presenting on BBC Tees and featuring on BBC shows like Look North and Inside Out.
Diane started out with a career in gymnastics and dance, before rising to stardom on Gladiators, but was later forced to take up presenting and acting after injuring herself during the show’s live event held at Wembley Arena in 1996.
She then went on to become a PE teaching assistant, before training as a pscyhotherapist.
Fun facts: With 20 years in psychology behind her, Diane has landed herself a regular slot on Big Brother’s Bit On The Side and is seen analysing the housemates – she has appeared on 33 episodes of the show.
The Rhino: Mark Smith
On the up: Since appearing on Gladiators, Mark has gone on to bag several acting roles, including appearances on EastEnders, The Bill and Robin Hood
Name: Mark Smith
Now: Mark, who now lives in Acton, west London, went on to bag several acting roles, including appearances on EastEnders, The Bill and Robin Hood.
He then set his sights on Hollywood and has featured on high-profile films including Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Argo, which was directed by Ben Affleck and Frozen Ground, starring Nicholas Cage.
Gladiator history: Mark starred on the show from 1995 until its finale in 2000.
Fun facts: Rhino was deemed the joker of the Gladiator pack and would have the live audience in fits of giggles with his robotic dancing and body popping moves. Mark too had enjoyed a fling with show host Ulrika.
Panther: Helen O’Reilly
Helping others: Helen now has her own gym in Uxbridge, London, where she preps other girls and travels all across the globe judging bikini girls
Name: Helen O’Reilly aka Panther
Now: Helen, who runs Panthers Gym in Uxbridge, said in a recent interview with a Gladiator’s fan site: ‘I think I’ve changed quite a lot… most people don’t recognise me… age, hair, colour change and of course I don’t war the trademark Panther Lycra anymore!’
Helen is a champion bodybuilder and became one of Britain’s best, with a number of accolades to her name including Miss Central Britain, Miss Europe, Miss Great Britain, Miss Russia and Miss Universe.
On Gladiators: ‘It was great, it inspired so many people into sport, to be able to be strong and feminine at the same time. We still get messages today, 25 years later, of people still being inspired to go to the gym.’
Fun facts: She now has her own gym in Uxbridge, London, where she preps other girls and travels all across the globe judging bikini girls, fitness girls and men’s physique and body building.
Lightning: Kim Betts
Strong: Lightning was known as the ‘Queen of Hang Tough’ and had remained undefeated in the UK Arena – asides from being beaten just once in Australia
Name: Kim Betts
Now: Kim, who is a gymnast, bodybuilder and TV presenter, is most recently a Equestrian Yard & Fishery Owner.
The TV star is an Instagram regular and often shares images of her gruelling work outs in the gym. Last year Kim was crowned winner of 2020 IBFA Miss Universe.
Gladiators history: She had starred on Gladiators from its launch in 1992 until its end in 2000, before returning for its revamp eight years later. She was the longest-serving female star of the show.
Fun facts: Lightning was known as the ‘Queen of Hang Tough’ and had remained undefeated in the UK Arena – asides from being beaten just once in Australia.
Kim had given birth to her son, Lexus, just three weeks before competing in 1999.
Blaze: Eunice Huthart
New career: Eunice is the the stunt choreographer for Justice League and DC’s upcoming Flash film
Name: Eunice Huthart aka Blaze
Now: Eunice is the the stunt choreographer for Justice League and DC’s Flash film.
After Gladiators, The Liverpudlian star went on to become stunt doubles for A-listers including Angelina Jolie, Milla Jovovich, Famke Janssen and Uma Thurman. She has starred in films including Golden Eye, Avengers and Titanic.
Gladiators history: Former McDonald’s manager Eunice made her debut on the show in 1994 where she was originally a contender going against one of the Gladiators but became the first ever UK contestant to come a Gladiator.
Fun fact: Eunice frequently works alongside Angelina Jolie and the pair have become close friends. She is also godmother to Angelina and Brad Pitt’s daughter Shiloh Jolie-Pitt.
Nightshade: Judy Simpson MBE
Happy days: Judy now spends her time working for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and is an Honorary President of the Women’s Sports Federation
Name: Judy Simpson aka Nightshade
Occupation: Judy now spends her time working for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and is an Honorary President of the Women’s Sports Federation. She has been awarded an MBE because of her sporting achievements.
Gladiator history: After retiring from professional sport, she joined Gladiators in 1993, under the alias Nightshade. She became renowned as one of the toughest female Gladiators ever. Her particular strengths were in Duel, Pole-Axe and Suspension Bridge
Fun fact: Jamaican-born Judy Simpson was one of Britain’s greatest all-round female athletes. The three-time Olympian competed in the Commonwealth Games, European Championships and World Championships.
Vulcan: John Seru
Changing ways: John owns a wrestling school, fitness shop and fitness centre that he has been running for 18 years in Sydney with his family
Name: John Seru
Now: John owns a wrestling school, fitness shop and fitness centre that he has been running for 18 years in Sydney with his family having previously enjoyed success as an actor.
Gladiator history: In order to give villain Wolf a run for his money, Australian Gladiator Vulcan was drafted in for seasons seven and eight of the British show. The former bodybuilder and wrestler didn’t disappoint, showcasing his skills on the Duel platform and in the Gauntlet.
Fun fact: After he was talent spotted by an acting scout he scooped the role of a James Bond villain. He starred in the 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, playing henchman Gabor.
Rebel: Jennifer Stoute
Career: Jennifer bagged a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1990 and now runs a management agency for athletes, Stellar Athletics
Name: Jennifer Stoute aka Rebel
Now: After the show, Jennifer set up Stellar Athletics Management with ex-partner John Regis and also been involved with founding the Driven Woman network.
Jennifer had been a former sprinter, with a hamstring injury halting her career for two years in 1993. She bagged a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1990.
She represented Great Britain twice, in 1988 and in 1992 when she won bronze in the 4×400 meter relay.
Opening up about her time on Gladiator, Jennifer told Athletics Weekly: ‘It was the highlight of my life.
‘After being a sprinter, there was something in me that was unfulfilled and Gladiators gave me that buzz I needed and was kind of like a transition between elite sport and living a normal life.
Gladiators history: She joined the show in 1996 as Rebel, but chose to continue with athletics while she was competing on the series. Jennifer later quit the show in 1999.
Fun facts: Jennifer had appeared alongside Russell Crowe in the blockbuster movie Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott.
Vogue: Suzanne Cox
Keeping it fit: Suzanne is now an aerobics instructor and had gone on to model and present TV show titled The Fix following Gladiators
Name: Suzanne Cox aka Vogue
Occupation: Suzanne is now an aerobics instructor and had gone on to model and present TV show titled The Fix following Gladiators.
Gladiators history: She joined the show in 1995 and had stayed with the series until it came to an end after its eighth series in 2000.
Fun facts: Suzanne is married to 1997 Gladiators quarter finalist Mark Roberts and they share two children together. She was a firm favourite among teenage boy viewers and was known for back-flipping while entering the arena to Vogue by Madonna.
Saracen: Michael Lewis
Different career: Micahel has swapped his spandex for fire gear as he is now a firefighter following years in the ring
Name: Michael Lewis aka Saracen
Occupation: He has swapped his spandex for fire gear as he is now a firefighter following years in the ring.
However, he still appears on TV from time to time, such as Sport Relief and This Morning. He recently returned to our screens for ITV’s series Ninja Warrior.
Gladiators history: Michael and his girlfriend Chrissie, tried out for the Gladiators show in 1992, Chrissie becoming a first series contender and of course Saracen joining the team. They are now happily married.
Fun fact: Mike tackled the tough Ninja Warrior course
And referee John Anderson…
Keeping them in check: John had been the show’s iconic referee and personally trained the gladiators on the show
Name: John Anderson
Occupation: John has continued to mentor and coach athletics stars in his later years, first starting out as a trainer prior to appearing on Gladiators.
On the show: ‘They were very good, they were professionals. They did everything very well, they were easy to work with. I was delighted to work with them,’ he said.
Gladiators history: John joined the show when it first launched in 1992 and stayed with it until it wrapped in 2000. He reprised his role as referee back in 2008 when the show returned.
Fun facts: John has trained an Olympian at every summer games between 1964 and 2000. He has also enjoyed success as a footballer and played for Scotland
The original series was watched by over 14 million viewers and was hosted by Ulrika Jonsson and John Fashanu as well as featuring gruff referee John Anderson
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