I like quasi, not-quite-real sports. Let's get that out of the way right now.
In our history, there have been athletes who have crossed over into celebrity, and sometimes even superhero, status. Babe Ruth was probably the first, but guys like Joe Namath, Michael Jordan, and, today, Tiger Woods (though, let's be honest, golf is a game, not a sport) have become part of the American pantheon of cultural heroes.
But they're not who I'm talking about.
I'm talking about the folks who are, by definition, sort of, but not really, but kinda, superheroes.
I've been a pro wrestling fan since I was nine. If you've read The Mighty TOWBAH for a while, you might remember that. What you don't know, what I'm not sure I want anyone to know, is in my time I've also loved other sorta-sports like the mid-80s roller derby update Roller Games (and its early aughts cousin, RollerJam) and, yes, the original American Gladiators.
I've also always had a fascination with daredevils and fitness heroes. The first of these was man-turned-brand Charles Atlas, whose 97lb. weakling got sand kicked in his face on the backs of comic books for decades. The man born Angelo Siciliano died in in 1972 at the age of 80, but the company that bears his name continues, under different ownership, to this day.
Most of my fellow geeks might cite Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferrigno, but my favorite fitness hero has always been Jack LaLanne. Seriously, have you ever done some research on this guy? He's performed some amazing things physically, and his philosophies on health, fitness, and longevity are sublime in their simplicity. And, as Jack is 93 and still literally going strong, they're apparently quite useful. I would not be at all surprised to learn Jack has been a secret super agent for the U.S.A. against everyone from the Nazis to al-Quaeda over the last century. He's that awesome.
Speaking of awesome, Evel Knievel passed away recently; he was another of my favorite pseudo-sports culture heroes, especially when I was little in the late 70s. Evel was exactly what happens when you simply don't believe you can't do it. I think he'll always be worth remembering for that, if nothing else.
We don't really have people like Evel or Jack LaLanne in the culture anymore. Today, it's all about image and celebrity, usually by media coronation if not outright self-declaration. There isn't a premium placed on doing anymore. You don't have to be famous for a reason, you just have to be famous.
But I digress. Back to bombastic almost-sports.
American Gladiators is back and I love it! It started as a guilty pleasure, where I imagine it stays for most people, but I've come to really love the show. It's faster, slicker, more intense, and just more fun than the original (especially in HD) and I can't get enough. I especially like the producers' efforts to allow the Gladiators individual personalities, rather than just names.
Also, some of the female Gladiators are something to look at this time around rather than just something to fear and feel sort of feminine by comparison to. For example, look at Crush up there, she's adorable AND she'll bash your head in with a giant Q-Tip. It gets no better.
Then there's Captain America and Sabretoo...er, I mean Titan and Wolf. I don't know about you, but I'd love to see these guys go at it on the big screen over the fate of the world. Even better, how about a movie where only the combined might of the Gladiators can save us from certain destruction at the hands of an asteroid? Or Xenu? Or an even bigger Q-Tip?
A movie is a long-shot, I know that. But that's not even what I really want. As an action figure geek of the first order, I want American Gladiator toys. And I know who I want them from.
One of the hosts of the new American Gladiators is WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan. Original Gladiators host Mike Adamle just started work on WWE Raw. These are but little omens indicating what we all know has to happen. Jakks Pacific, who provide ravenous collectors with a new set of WWE action figures every month, MUST acquire the American Gladiators license and make me some figures in the Deluxe Aggression format, starting with the three bundles of awesome pictured above.
Want attract more kids to the line? Simple, make figures in the new Build 'N Brawl scale too and pack them with parts to assemble one of the show's event with each series. There. Done.
They may not be the inspiration Jack LaLanne is, or routinely need to be extinguished like Evel did, but the new American Gladiators are a powerful, shiny team of super (sorta) sports heroes equally at home in the arena stomping lowly Contender spleen or on display in your office.
What could be more action-figure friendly than that?