BACKSTAGE orgies, criminal convictions and secret substance addiction – has there ever been a prime-time show quite as wild as Gladiators?
The blond hunk joined Gladiators in its fifth series in 1996 and was soon earning £2,000 an hour, hanging out with celebrities and even getting engaged to Katie Price.
But he admitted: “I saw destructive forces come into my life. My destructive choices were slowly killing me.”
In recent years, the OG Gladiators have lifted the lid on the unbelievable and sometimes dark underbelly of the show, which first ran from 1992 to 2000.
Ahead of a much-anticipated reboot coming to the BBC, we look back at its wild secret history.
Nineties pin-up Jet – real name Diana Youdale – was one of the original cast, but ended up quitting after four seasons.
Jet bowed out due to a neck injury she sustained in a nasty fall during one of the challenges in a 1996 live show.
She told The Sun: “I remember thinking, ‘Have I broken my neck?'”
Had she not been so bendy, medics said she would have suffered a fatal “hangman break” – the type of fracture that killed prisoners executed by hanging.
She explained: “It terrified me so much that I could have sat in a chair for the rest of my life and possibly worse.
“I had a choice, and I made that choice, and that was to leave.”
In recent years, Jet, now 49, has retrained as a psychotherapist and pilates instructor.
Panther – real name Helen O’Reilly – also sustained a serious neck and back injury after falling head-first during the Tilt event.
Hunter – real name James Crossley – has spilled the tea on the saucy antics behind the scenes at Gladiators.
He previously told the Daily Star: “There was a lot of sexual tension… We were a bunch of young girls and guys at the peak of physical fitness.
“Not everyone was involved but we were young, virile guys – I will leave it to you to work out what happened.”
He added: “There was a lot of testosterone flying about. Sometimes people would go off in threesomes or foursomes – sometimes even groups of boys or girls together.
“Of course there were affairs – some of which have never come out. I reckon those involved will be taking that stuff to the grave.”
Hunter himself even ended up dating the show’s presenter Ulrika Jonsson between 1996 and 1997, although they kept their romance under wraps until Ulrika’s 2003 autobiography.
Jailed for corruption
Warrior – real name Michael Ahearne – was cheered by millions on Gladiators until his life came crashing down.
The 6ft4 muscle-man starred in the first six series of the show, but in 1997 became embroiled in a plot to foil the prosecution of Philip Glennon Jnr, a then-associate of former international cocaine baron Curtis ‘Cocky’ Warren.
Glennon Jnr was jailed for six years at Preston Crown Court in 1998 for attempted murder after being accused of firing a handgun at a doorman and a police officer outside a nightclub in 1996.
Also in 1998, Warrior was sent to prison for corruption and perverting the course of justice in a firearms case.
He was sentenced to 15 months in prison but served just six after impressing bosses at Wealstun jail in West Yorkshire.
However, he ran into trouble with the law again in 2018 after a police raid of his Wirral home uncovered a CS spray and a stash of anabolic steroids.
He was charged over the CS spray canisters 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.
Cobra – real name Michael Wilson – admitted he was often “bleeding drunk” when he battled contestants on Gladiators.
Despite his rippling muscles and peak physical fitness, he would sometimes struggle to chase contestants up the infamous 32ft-high wall because he was so drunk.
Cobra, who was on the show from start to finish, told the Mirror in 2020: “I didn’t take it too seriously. I was mucking about pranking, I had so much fun…
“There were end of show parties, when we had international Gladiators come over, we would be up all night boozing.”
In recent years, Cobra is living a quiet life and has battled serious illness, even landing himself in hospital with pneumonia in 2019.
Blaming his illness on his punishing workouts for the ITV show, Cobra told The Sun: “I’m only half a Gladiator now. It’s been touch and go.”
Cobra also suffered with pleurisy, a ruptured bicep and shoulder, as well as severe acute pancreatitis in 2019, but his current condition is unknown.
Shadow – real name Jefferson King – was one of the most formidable Gladiators on the show, but his TV career was cut short in 1995 when he found himself at the centre of a drug scandal.
A drug test found steroids in his system and he was booted from the show.
Afterwards, Shadow’s marriage collapsed amid a cheating row and he went on to struggle for the next two decades with addiction and legal problems.
It appeared that Shadow has turned his life around, forging a new career working in a drug rehabilitation centre, but he hit headlines again last year after falling foul of the law.
Shadow was jailed for six years and three months after admitting two counts of blackmail over a drug debt.
He was one of four people who held Aaron Ali hostage for hours in a flat in Acton, west London, where he was subjected to an eight-hour ordeal of being beaten and filmed for “highly distressing” videos sent to his family to elicit a ransom of up to £1,000.
It has been reported that Shadow is a long-time user of crack cocaine and heroin.
His fellow Gladiator star Cobra claimed last year that Gladiators producers “turned a blind eye” to Shadow’s spiralling addiction.
He told the Mirror: “They knew he was doing cocaine and steroids for six months and they turned a blind eye to it…
“They built him up to be such a big star, there was so much pressure on him.”