Contenders ready! Gladiators ready! [whistle blows]

Everyone always talks about “Saturday morning cartoons,” but the real fun on Saturdays in the ’80s and ’90s used to begin after the cartoons when the syndicated programming started with shows like professional wresting and American Gladiators, which was one of the original reality competition shows in history. Two sets of contenders (one male, one female) would square off in a series of competitive events like the Joust and the Assault with a crew of muscle-hound, outrageously dressed Gladiators. The show became a weekend staple all through the 1990s, spawned numerous international spinoffs, and even had a short-lived revival in the mid-2000s.

But where did the notion of turning modern gladiatorial combat into family-friendly entertainment come from? That will be the subject of a documentary of the American Gladiators franchise, coming soon to ESPN and its 30 For 30 documentary series. Per Deadline, “the untitled documentary ... explores the story of the show, which ran from 1989 to 1996 and was later rebooted by NBC in 2008 ....the project will feature many of the larger than life former Gladiators, as well as Johnny Ferraro, who has been referred to as ‘the Godfather of reality television.”

This seems like a subject ripe for a documentary. Like, who in the hell thought of putting people inside giant metal balls and rolling them at one another for the pleasure of a live studio audience?

Also, there needs to be at least a few minutes on the origin of the American Gladiators theme song, one of the all-time great ’90s TV bangers:

The American Gladiators 30 For 30 will be directed by Ben Berman, who previously made The Amazing Johnathan Documentary. Do you think he had to prove his worth for the job by surviving the Eliminator?

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