In the era before smartphones and the internet, the TV series Gladiators wasn’t just a sports entertainment game show – it was a cultural phenomenon.
From 1992 to 2000, Saturday evenings were all about Gladiators, the series which pitted ordinary contests against each other in a series of physical contests that saw them fighting against the show’s Gladiators.
The Gladiators were an incredible group of muscle-bound characters, who came complete with their own unique name, personality and preferred event.
The was the stunning Lightning, the ever-reliable Cobra, everyone’s childhood crush Jet, the always-intense Shadow and series mainstay Hunter, to name but a few.
Presented by John Fashanu and Ulrika Jonsson, the series was a relic from a forgotten time, when there was no social media, haircuts were more creative and you could look tough in spandex.
Gladiators was and still is a glorious chapter in televisual history and one that gets better with repeat viewings. To celebrate the nostalgia, loaded tracked won Hunter, real name James Crossley, to talk about his time on the show and what he’s up to now. It didn’t disappoint.
loaded: Why were you given the name Hunter?
James: I was originally called Trident! The producers used to sit around a table discussing names. Once I had the job they changed my name whilst driving form the audition to LWT as they had a Trojan so thought it was to similar.
loaded: Did you socialise with the other Gladiators? What sort of stuff did you guys get up to?
James: Yep we went out a lot, Trojan , Rhino and Ace tended to be the lads I hung around with the most. Nice wine and nice food were always top of the agenda.
loaded: Be honest now: who was the hardest of all the Gladiators you lined up alongside?
James: They all had different skills some big some quick so was very dependant on the game.
Saracen was a good all rounder, Warrior was massive and Cobra mischievous.
loaded: Shadow always seemed intense – was that for the cameras or was he like that all the time?
James: He was pretty intense he lived the life of Shadow 24/7
loaded: Which of the female Gladiators did you fancy most on the show?
James: Jet , Lightening and Panther were all pretty hot.
loaded: Did being a Gladiator make you popular with women?
James: I tended to date girls from the show so avoided the madness.
loaded: When did you first realise you were famous? Did people mob you in the street?
James: It was a steady thing as I filmed the show in June and it was shown in October- It took a while for people to register me. After a few years it did become pretty crazy.
loaded:What as John Fashanu like? Is he as tough as his Wimbledon teammates like to make out?
James: He was great. A very keen martial artist. He used to tell us to get him in a choke hold at any time to see if he could escape. As you can imagine this was a regular thing.
loaded: Which was your favourite event as a Gladiator?
James: I loved The Wall, Pendulum and Hang Tough.
loaded: If you could change one thing from your time as a Gladiator, what would it be and why?
James: I would have been more aware of injury. I was very headstrong and competitive so just kept going even when my body was falling apart.
loaded:You’re known as the Ultimate Gladiator – how did you earned that title?
James: We competed against each other in the last show for the title of The Ultimate Gladiator. I won that show. I dislocated my shoulder in the first event but was determined to get through as it was the last show we were ever going to film. The medal is in a frame with my original Lycra.
loaded:What was the worst injury you picked up on the show?
James: I dislocated my shoulder 6 times so that became an issue. In the later shows you can see a big shoulder harness I wear.
loaded: You worked on the South African version of the show after Gladiators finished – what was that like? How did it differ to the UK one?
James: Amazing! What a beautiful country. They took us travelling so we really got to enjoy the place , wine tasting, shark diving, whale watching and for me the best was the white water rafting. The show was similar but lower budget so everything was smaller. It was a huge show out there.
loaded: Do you keep in touch with many of the guys and girls from the show?
James: I have contact with six or seven of them but Ace, Jet and Panther are the ones I chat to most.
loaded: Would you ever consider returning for a reunion with all the old gang? A one-off perhaps?
James: If i was given a few months notice then yes. My body is very different form how it was back then . The events on Gladiators require very specific training , so some adjustments would need to be made.
loaded: What are you up to now?
James: I’m a fitness writer , I also go into office educating workers on health and fitness helping them have a better quality of life. Im pushing #fitat40 campaign for fitness for the older body. Plus I’m an ambassador for Vivo Life all plant based supplements. I compete in Masters strongman recently winning Englands Strongest Master
loaded: What’s your one bit of advice for anyone looking to go from flabby to fit?
James: Consistency is Key in – nutrition , training , lifestyle. Go with the 80/20 rule stay 80% on top of it then be 20% be more relaxed.
James Crossley is an ambassador for plant based health products company, Vivo Life.
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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.