entertainment

Where the Gladiators are now – prison, drugs battles and looking unrecognisable



Remarkably it’s been more than 20 years since the original series of Gladiators was last on our screens.

Back in the nineties, a host of muscle-bound stars burst onto our screens to take part in a series of epic challenges.

There was no shortage of excitement to keep viewers hooked, with millions of us tuning in to see the dramatic battles, eye-popping muscles and skin-tight lycra.

Life off-camera has proved to be just as action-packed for some of the athletes – with some getting into trouble with drugs and prison sentences.

Firm fan favourites including Wolf and Jet became household names, but the cast have been forced to ditch their characters and delve into new career paths.

Here is what became of the Gladiators after the show went off air…

Shadow – Michael Jefferson King








King as Shadow
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King’s mugshot was released by authorities
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Met Police)



Shadow has been jailed for his part in a blackmail plot where he threatened to kneecap a drug-user if he did not pay a £1,000 debt.

Michael Jefferson King, 60, had threatened to take a hammer to a man’s legs after he tried to escape from a terrifying ordeal in which he was hit with a metal pole and gagged.

King was said to be addicted to heroin and crack cocaine at the time, and lived in a flat in Acton, west London that was a “safe haven” for people to take drugs in.

He admitted two counts of blackmail and was jailed for six years and three months.

Shadow was one of the most popular stars of the hit ITV series but was axed from the show in 1995 after being caught snorting cocaine and testing positive for steroids.

Warrior – Michael Ahearne

Michael Ahearne was cheered by millions during his time on the show but his life came crashing down.

He played rugby union for England at youth level before becoming a prize winning bodybuilder – representing Great Britain at Mr Universe.

The 6ft 4in athlete became a household name as one of the stars of Gladiators during the first six series and was earning up to £100,000 a year.







Warrior was the name of Michael Ahearne’s character










Ahearne was jailed in 1998
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Mirrorpix)



However, his world came crashing down in 1997 after becoming 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 had been accused of firing a handgun at a doorman and a police officer outside a nightclub in 1996 and was charged with attempted murder of both.

Glennon Jnr was jailed at Preston Crown Court in 1998 for six years for attempted murder.

In 1998, Ahearne was sent to prison for corruption and perverting the course of justice in a firearms case and served part of a 15-month jail sentence.

Ahearne was released from prison after just six months, having impressed bosses at Wealstun jail in West Yorkshire.

He returned to his home on Oxton, Wirral, where he was the subject of an electronic tag.





Last year, Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard how 59-year-old Ahearne was the subject of a police raid at his home in the Wirral on January 23, 2018.

Officers uncovered a stash of anabolic steroids inside a plastic Tesco shopping bag, another bag and some boxes.

Ahearne was arrested on suspicion of possessing the Class C drugs with intent to supply, but no charges were brought over the haul.

However, Ahearne 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.

The case was brought back to court as Merseyside Police applied to destroy the steroids, which was granted by the district judge.

Ahearne was not at the hearing at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court.

Amazon – Sharron Davies

You may recognise this former Gladiator as she is actually much more famous for her achievements outside of the show.

Sharron, 54, was a successful swimmer before becoming Amazon, winning a silver medal at the Olympics in Moscow in 1980 and representing Great Britain at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships.

After retiring from the sport, she became a Gladiator in the ’90s, but had to retire after just a year on the show due to a knee injury.








Sharron is a very familiar face
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Sharron Davies attends the Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2018
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©Karwai Tang)



She went on to become a successful TV presenter, hosting the Big Breakfast and going on to become a regular face of the BBC’s sports coverage.

Sharron also competed in Dancing On Ice back in 2010.

In 2019 she was the subject of much criticism after demanding that transgender athletes ‘with a male sex advantage’ be excluded from women’s sport.

In March that year, she tweeted: “I have nothing against anyone who wishes 2be transgender.

“However I believe there is a fundamental difference between the binary sex u r born with & the gender u may identify as. To protect women’s sport those with a male sex advantage should not be able 2compete in women’s sport.”

The former Olympic swimmer sparked a fierce backlash in July 2019 after saying a transgender female and a biological man were the last people alive on an island.

The swimmer tweeted: “If you put 2 biological females on an island humanity dies out (but they’d talk loads) if you put a biological male & a trans woman on an island humanity dies out.

“But if u put a male & a female there we might stand a chance! Providing they can fish of course. Binary Sex matters.”

Wolf – Mike Van Wijk








Wolf was the big baddie
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Wolf was perhaps the best known Gladiator
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Rex)



TV’s original Mr Nasty was often cited as the most popular Gladiator because of his bad boy antics.

He was on the show for seven years, starring in eight seasons, becoming the main villain.

Wolf also returned for the revived Sky series as the “Leader of the Pack” and appeared in all of the series 2 episodes.

Mike, who is now 67, is living in New Zealand where he owns his own business – Wolf’s Gym.

Wolf has moved halfway across the world and gotten into “the best shape” of his life, with images of his ripping muscles filling the screen behind him and videos of him working out.

He still keeps up his fitness regime and is just as ripped now as he was back in the day.

Although he has lost all the hair.

In August last year, he appeared on Lorraine and confessed he’d been begging TV producers to bring the show back once again.

Jet – Diane Youdale

Jet was one of the original cast and was much-loved by fans at home.

She ended up bowing out after four seasons due to a neck injury she sustained in a nasty fall during one of the challenges.








Jet was one of the original Gladiators and one of the most popular
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ITV/REX/Shutterstock)










Diane Youdale was cast for the show when she was 22
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Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)



She said of her decision to quit the show: “I was beginning to see more spinal injuries. You can damage your ankle or your knee and it will recover, but breaking your neck – that’s a different story.

“After my accident, I decided to quit while I could. I decided it wasn’t worth it any more. I wanted to leave while I could still walk out of the studio.”

Diane, now 49, who hails from Middlesbrough, retrained as a psychotherapist and pilates instructor.

She found herself back on TV and has popped up on our screens many times.

She appeared as an expert therapist on Big Brother’s Bit On The Side between 2012 and 2014, and competed on Celebrity Pointless in 2014.

Hunter – James Crossley

James, 45, was the youngest castmember as he was just 19 when he started and he became the Gladiators heartthrob.








Hunter was the young heartthrob
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Hunter is still looking ripped
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He even and ended up bedding the show’s presenter, Ulrika Jonsson.

They dated for a year between 1996 and 1997, and they kept their romance out of the spotlight until the telly presenter told all in her 2003 autobiography.

After getting out of the Gladiators game in 2000, James has kept up his love of fitness and is a keen weightlifter. He spent years pursuing an acting career and working in theatre.

He’s gone back to the fitness industry in recent years and now works as a personal trainer.

Lightning – Kim Betts

Lightning was one of the toughest of the Gladiators, reigning supreme as the Queen of Hang Tough.








Lightning was the longest-serving Gladiator
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Kim has kept in shape since leaving the show and going into business
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Instagram)



She was a gymnast before becoming a Gladiator, and went on to become the longest-serving star of the show.

Kim competed in all of the UK series as well as the majority of the international versions, as well as returning for two Legends specials as part of the 2008 revamp.

However, the blonde bombshell quit TV after bowing out of the Gladiator ring.

Kim, 47, became a successful businesswoman spending 15 years in property development, as well as running companies including her own beauty parlour.

Even though she got out of the Gladiator game, Kim has maintained her buff physique and regularly posts pictures from the gym showing off her incredible body.

Cobra – Michael Wilson

During his eight series on the show, Cobra had rippling muscles and was in the peak of physical condition.

Many of the Gladiators fell into the party lifestyle, but for Michael it became part of his filming days as well.

But he would often struggle to chase contestants up the infamous 32ft-high wall because he was so drunk.

He confessed he was often “bleeding drunk” while he battled contestants on the show and got a telling off from producers.








Cobra was one of the original stars
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ITV/REX/Shutterstock)










Michael Wilson has had medical battles
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Daily Mirror)



“I didn’t take it too seriously,” admitted Michael to the Mirror in 2019.

“I was mucking about pranking, I had so much fun. It was brilliant I was with a lot of mates with similar interests, we were all similar age, it was fun…

“There were end of show parties, when we had international Gladiators come over, we would be up all night boozing.”

Michael leads a much quieter life now after leaving the showbiz world.

He became a motivational speaker in schools and youth clubs up and down the country.





In 2019, Cobra was seriously ill and battling pneumonia in hospital and blamed his illness on his punishing workouts for the ITV show.

“I’m only half a Gladiator now. It’s been touch and go,” he told The Sun.

“I don’t feel like I’m kicking the bucket at the minute, but it will only take another cold or cough and I’m in trouble.”

He added: “I’m isolated in my own ward. It goes to show – you never know what’s around the corner.”

Rhino – Mark Smith

Mark was one of the stars of the original American version of the show before transferring to the UK version.








Rhino was a hunky Gladiator
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He went on to become a Hollywood actor
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Instagram)



He exited the show in 1999 and went on to become a successful actor, living in Los Angeles.

He had a recurring role as ‘Jonhson’ in EastEnders before heading Stateside, where he’s starred in shows such as Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D, and NCIS: Los Angeles.

His movie roles include parts in acclaimed dramas Yardie, Creed, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

He also made an appearance as ‘Shadow Warrior’ in Batman Begins.

Ace – Warren Furman

Yorkshireman Warren, 46, was most famous for being Katie Price’s first fiancee back in the 1990s when she was known as Jordan.








Katie Price with her former fiance Warren Furman
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Scope Features)










Ace still has the muscles
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Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)



They were engaged for two years before splitting in 1999.

He said their luxury lifestyle led to the romance turning toxic, telling us: “We travelled the world first class, went for expensive dinners, had big houses and fancy cars.

“We both came from working-class families and were hustling for a few quid. We were put into a lifestyle where people had everything.

“We were absolutely petrified we would lose it. So we made some dubious decisions together. It jeopardised our relationship.

He was on the ITV show from 1996 until 1999 when he turned his back on showbusiness and found God.

Warren now lives in York with his wife and two children.





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