Pole-Axe was an event played in the UK version of the television series Gladiators. In this event, a contender and Gladiator would race up a thin rotating pole, the first to the top being the winner.
One Gladiator faces one contender, and on the whistle the participants begin the race up the spiral pegs along the outside of the rotating pole. At the top of the pole is a button which both participants must hit upon reaching the top. The first participant to hit the button wins the event, as the climbing pegs on their opponent's pole retract, causing them to fall. 10 points were awarded for a successful contender win.
Both participants must start at the same point on their respective poles (with the exception of the 1997 celebrity special in which the celebrities were allowed a head start). Participants must hit the button at the top to win, reaching the top first does not automatically equate to winning.
If a participant falls off their pole, they forfeit the event. There is no time limit to this event.
This event only appeared in the UK series of Gladiators, although the event was played during both International Gladiators series. However, during these series, only two International Gladiators, Sahara from South Africa and Giant from Germany played the event with UK Gladiators playing it during the rest of the International competitions.
Years active: 1994-1995, 1997-1998
Pole-Axe was introduced in the third series (1994) of UK Gladiators, and despite an average contest lasting less than 10 seconds, proved to be one of the most spectacular events during the show's series.
The event was originally played on two 30-foot (9.1 m) poles placed on top of a 6-foot (1.8 m) inflatable crash mat. The losing participant would be sent into instant freefall when their climbing pegs retracted (the winning participant could freefall off of their own accord).
Before the event, referee John Anderson would instruct both participants to mount the poles, then for the poles to be rotated and finally for the bridges (allowing the participants to mount the poles) to be removed before starting the event countdown.
The event induced fear into both contenders and Gladiators, with some Gladiators such as Scorpio expressing concerns over the event's safety. By 1995, it had become the norm for the two contenders to face two different Gladiators in one on one events. Pole-Axe was one of two events which went against this norm in which one Gladiator faced two contenders in separate races.
During training for the 1996 series, both contender Nikki Claxton and Gladiator Zodiac seriously injured themselves, and the event was immediately axed, making the fourth event to be axed before the 1996 series following Tilt, Joust and Pyramid.
The event returned in series six (1997) after a radical overhaul to make the event safer. Both participants would be attached to safety harnesses, removing the free-fall aspect of the event. As participants would slowly fall back to the ground, there was no need for the 6-foot-high (1.8 m) crash mat. Thus the poles were made longer, and both participants would have to run up to the pole when the starting whistle sounded. The poles would start to rotate once the participant had mounted them. From 1997, a contender loss would be marked by the music "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen. In addition, two different Gladiators faced the two contenders.
Despite regularly appearing during the 1997 series, many fans felt that without the free-fall aspect, the event had lost its appeal and the event only made one appearance late into the 1998 series.
A 60-second event theme was created for Pole-Axe but this was never heard in the UK due to the event being over within 15 seconds. In the first International Gladiators series (1995), the event's music was changed in that the more pacier final seconds of the theme was used.For its 1997 revival, the event theme was reverted back to the opening seconds used during the 1994 series as the second theme proved too short for the longer event. The full 60-second theme would be used in the Australian series as the theme music for Joust.
Pole-Axe did not return for the first series of the 2008 revival.
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