By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders.
American Gladiators: Tao
Toa is pure intimidation when the contestants face the Polynesian warrior, but in real life he's just a fun guy. A former stuntman and cousin to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Toa still wants to be a good guy to kids. It's just the grown-ups trying to win money who have a problem.
"It's a good opportunity for us to be role models," said Toa. "We put on the game face at game time, but afterwards, we're trying to break our smiles and crack smiles with the audience and mingle with the kids in the audience and stuff. We're already being looked at as role models because we've gotten letters from kids saying, 'Oh my Gosh, you make me want to be a better person.' I think that's pretty cool that we're given this opportunity to change kids' lives."
Toa has a signature move that makes sure contestants know who they're up against. "My character, before the game, I'll call down my ancestors and I'll do this dance called the Haka, a traditional Maori dance, bringing down your ancestral beings into your heart to put yourself in balance. It's a pretty intimidating dance and at the end you stare your opponent in the eyes and that'll set the scene. The eyes look at me and just turn to puppy dog eyes."
With $100,000 on the line, anything is fair game. "These guys are going for $100,000. That's more than we all make together on this show probably. No, I have no remorse for them. They're walking away rich, so I'm going to try to make them earn that $100,000 and that car."
The male gladiators will face the male contestants, and females the females. Still, Toa saw some chicks who would be a fair match for him. "Oh, yeah, the ones who made it to the finals definitely earned it. They were all around athletes. All of them are athletes but these ones stuck out. Their agility and quickness, their strength and perseverance blew my mind away."