American Gladiators is back in a big way — and not because there’s a revival in the works or anything (although… not a bad idea!). You’re likely feeling gladiator fever because there are now two behind-the-scenes documentaries about the iconic ’90s sports/reality show available for you to stream thanks to the fine folks at Netflix and ESPN. They truly know how to give the people what they want this summer.
If this has made you nostalgic for a time when musclebound dudes and dudettes in spandex earned fame by roughing up accountants and teachers from the Midwest on national television, then you’ll probably want to watch the original series. We’ve got you covered, bro!
And if you want to know more about ESPN’s 30 for 30: The American Gladiators Documentary or Netflix’s Muscles & Mayhem: An Unauthorized Story of American Gladiators, keep on reading! We’ll break down how to stream both of them and what each of them has to offer.
Where to watch the original American Gladiators
So, this wave of American Gladiators nostalgia has you hanging ten like Malibu and you want to binge as much of the original series as you can. Fortunately for you, American Gladiators is available to stream in the most accessible place possible. No, it’s not on Netflix — it’s on YouTube. In fact, as of right now, it is only on YouTube.
That’s right — there is an official American Gladiators YouTube page that has episodes and clips from across the first seven seasons of the show as well as a few livestreams running at any given time. There are also playlists sorting videos by seasons and kinds of moments — like if you want to watch a bunch of examples of good sportsmanship, or if you want to watch a bunch of dirty tricks.
Where to watch Muscles and Mayhem: An Unauthorized Story of American Gladiators
Netflix’s five-part docuseries, Muscles and Mayhem: An Unauthorized Story of American Gladiators, is available to stream in full on Netflix.
Where to watch ESPN’s American Gladiators Documentary
If you’re thinking, “Wait, wasn’t there already an American Gladiators documentary this year?” — you are correct. ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series aired a two-part doc going behind the scenes of American Gladiators in May 2023. The doc is not on Netflix, so if you want to stream it, you can find out how with our guide to streaming ESPN’s American Gladiators Documentary.
What is the difference between Netflix’s American Gladiators documentary and ESPN’s American Gladiators documentary?
The most obvious difference is length and format. ESPN’s doc is in two parts and runs for close to 3 hours. Netflix’s doc is in five parts and lasts 3.5 hours. The differences extend beyond the running time, though.
Netflix’s Muscles & Mayhem was directed by Tony Vainuku (Netflix’s Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist) and Jared Hess, the director behind Netflix doc Murder Among the Mormons and the films Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre. ESPN’s American Gladiators Documentary was directed by Benjamin Berman, who directed The Amazing Johnathan Documentary and episodes of Lady Dynamite and Comedy Bang! Bang!
Both documentaries share some interview subjects, including gladiator Gemini (Michael Horton) and Malibu (Deron McBee), as well as American Gladiators director Bob Levy. Additionally, the ESPN 30 for 30 doc talks to series creator Johnny Ferraro, Sabre (Lynn ‘Red’ Williams), Thunder (William ‘Billy’ Smith) and Elektra (Salina Bartunek). Muscles & Mayhem features a lot of gladiators, including Nitro (Dan Clark), Storm (Debbie Clark), Diamond (Erika Andersch Bunker), Laser (Jim Kalafat), Ice (Lori Fetrick), Zap (Raye Olson), Blaze (Shari E Pendleton Mitchell), Sky (Shirley Eson-Korito), and Tower (Steve Hennebery).
Which American Gladiators documentary should you watch?
When it comes to running time and tone, both ESPN’s and Netflix’s American Gladiators documentaries run 3-ish hours and were directed by filmmakers with comedy and documentary backgrounds. The real difference comes in who each doc focuses on.
ESPN’s The American Gladiators Documentary has an advantage in that it has an interview with the over-the-top Johnny Ferraro, and therefore has access to a lot of his tall tales and bluster. However, this doc interviews very few gladiators.
Netflix’s Muscles & Mayhem has interviews with the director and producers but doesn’t have Ferraro (which may be why it has “Unauthorized” in the title). It does, however, have a ton of gladiators in it — including OGs like Nitro, Lace, Gemini, and Zap.
If you only have time for one doc, you have to ask yourself if you want to hear more about the wild and enigmatic Johnny Ferraro or more about life amongst the gladiators. If the latter is more intriguing, then Muscles & Mayhem is the way to go.
Muscles & Mayhem: An Unauthorized Story of American Gladiators is now streaming on Netflix.
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