A former Gladiators star has spoken out about his time on the show, claiming not only that challenges were ‘fixed’ but also that contestants had ‘orgies’ in hotels.
Michael Willson is perhaps better known as Cobra after appearing on the popular show in its heyday.
He was a hit with fans, as he was regularly cheered on by fans as the six-foot former kick boxer entered the arena.
Now aged 58, Michael has spoken candidly about what it was supposedly like on set and claims producers had a hand in deciding the winners.
The final obstacle on the show’s course was the travelator, an incline with moving belts in opposite directions which gladiators had to run up to be first to reach the top.
But speaking to The Sun, Michael said producers would either slow down or speed up the belt, depending on what they wanted the outcome to be.
Bodybuilder Michael – who was one of only four gladiators to appear in every series of the show when it aired on ITV – said: ‘If you look at some of the old shows, on the travelator you see a little man’s head.’
He added: ‘There’s a bloke sitting there. He can slow it down, because it’s always dramatic when it’s a close one right at the end.
‘If someone’s struggling it’s easy to take the brake off so it goes faster suddenly and the guy they like is going to go up there.’
Michael claims that gladiators, like Warrior, ‘who wasn’t quick’ on the wall instead, an 10metre high obstacle which contenders had to climb.
‘Then they know that the contestants that they like are going to get away and get the points,’ he said.
And it wasn’t just the alleged behaviour of producers Michael lifted the lid on, as he also claimed co-stars would have ‘orgies’ while the show ran from 1992 until 2000.
‘There were orgies going on in the hotel. I was cheesed off — no one invited me,’ he said, with the show filmed at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham and stars staying at the Holiday Inn.
Michael has spoken before about his drinking, which led to him gaining a lot of weight, but now he’s said Pop Idol judge Nigel Lythgoe was forced to issue him with a warning amid filming because of it.
‘Every year we were frightened whether we were going to be asked back. Nigel said, “You’re drinking too much and you’re overweight. You need to fix this”,’ he recalled, as Michael started the show at 14.5 stone of pure muscle.
Then, once the show came to an end in 2000, Michael also split from his wife, Pat, and his drinking problem worsened.
‘I had a six-month period doing nothing. I was drinking too much and put on weight and got really ill,’ he shared.
Gladiators will return to screens wit all new superhuman stars in 2023, this time filmed at Utilita Arena in Sheffield
So far, 11 hour-long episodes have been commissioned and the revival shall feature both new events and some of the classics.
On whether the BBC should consult former stars ahead of the reboot, Michael reckons it would be a ‘big mistake’ if they didn’t.
‘They do need to stay true to the winning format,’ he admitted, but said he hasn’t really heard anything from the broadcaster yet, although he is rooting for them.
‘They’ve got to make heroes out of the gladiators, but also the contestants will become household names as the audience get behind them like they did back then.
‘I want the BBC to make a big success out of it.’