On the June 30, 2023, episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show, the show’s namesake spoke with talked with longtime friend and colleague Danny Clark about the fall of the hit TV show American Gladiators, which aired from 1989 to 1996 and revived in 2008, of which O’Hearn and Clark were featured cast members — O’Hearn as “Titan” and Clark as “Nitro.”
Over a decade later, a new docuseries on ESPN+ has been released, detailing the program and its competition. Watch the full episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show below, courtesy of Generation Iron‘s YouTube channel:
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The “American Gladiator” Experience
O’Hearn and Clark felt replaceable on American Gladiator. While “Nitro” didn’t feel like O’Hearn was a threat to his security in the competition, O’Hearn felt that he was unloved due to fan and competitor criticism. Regardless of whether they performed to expectations or not, they felt their jobs were constantly in jeopardy due to lack of popularity or potential injury.
O’Hearn’s first foray into the show was as an alternate. His stock rose after a video surfaced of him stating, “You’re going to have to go through the Gladiators,” followed by him cracking his neck with a voiceover, “Good luck with that.”
However, Clark and O’Hearn criticized the overproduction of the later versions of American Gladiators, which emphasized the backstories of the contestants, pulling focus from the competition. Clark and O’Hearn favored the “David vs. Goliath” structure — contestants overcoming the odds without the added bells and whistles used to ham up the spectacle.
The two former Gladiators felt it was a competition show at its core and that showrunners over-glamourized the production and the show lost its way. “There’s something within us that wants to compete,” Clark says in the podcast. “We can create and control our own future through hard work, dedication, and effort. And there’s no better place to do that than in an athletic event.”
The Truth of “American Gladiators”
There’s an ESPN 30 For 30 docuseries that Clark helped create about American Gladiators and how things went down in the 90s and 2000s during the show’s heyday. The docuseries covers Clark’s notorious fistfight with fellow gladiator and best friend Jim “Laser” Starr when Starr bit Clark’s face.
Clark is excited about ESPN’s docuseries, and O’Hearn is intrigued to see how history will remember his time as “Titan.” Part one of the American Gladiators 30 for 30 is available now on ESPN+.
Featured image: @loriicefetrick on Instagram
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