The Eliminator was the only event throughout the competition where the contenders directly competed against each other rather than against the Gladiators.
The Eliminator was an obstacle course that the contenders had to negotiate, and it changed several times over the years.
Originally a timed and scored event with contenders having 60 seconds to complete the course. For the first two seasons, both contenders started at the same time with the trailing contender having to beat the leader by a certain amount of seconds in order to win. The deficit was determined by dividing the amount of the lead by five (first half of season one) or two (second half through end of season two). If a trailing contender won by the precise amount of time required to overcome the leader, the match would end in a tie and the contender would advance on a tiebreaker due to a faster time in the Eliminator.
The first season Eliminator was conducted in the following manner:
- Contenders rolled giant balls up a ramp, then placed them in a receptacle
- Run across balance beam, where six Gladiators swing medicine balls in attempt to knock contender off (lengthened considerably in second half of season)
- Cross a pit using a set of commando lines (also lengthened, with top line raised several inches to aid taller contenders)
- Swing on a rope over a wall (commonly referred to as the "Swing for Life")
- Negotiate a set of cones, then choose a corridor and a door-like paper barrier to break through. Four barriers were available to choose. In the first half of season one, two of the barriers were open while two hid Gladiators; beginning in the second half and continuing until the end of season two, three of the barriers hid Gladiators.
- Scoring format changed between halves. In the first half of season one, five points were awarded for every second remaining on the clock and penalties deducted 25 points (five seconds of time) from a player's score. Beginning in the second half and continuing until the end of season two each second remaining was worth two points and a penalty deducted ten points from a player's score.
- Scoring remained the same, but now the women had 75 seconds to complete the course while the men still had 60 seconds.
- Contenders ran up ramp, using a reverse treadmill (if a contender was unsuccessful in scaling the treadmill after three tries, the contestant would just scale up the ramp by itself); the speed of the treadmill would increase in later rounds.
- Cross pit through use of a hand bike
- Cross balance beam, where Gladiators swing weighted blocking pads to try to knock contenders off
- Climb a 20-foot (6.1 m) cargo net
- Zipline ride back to floor of arena
- Jump two track hurdles, then choose corridor and barrier with only one open.
- Contender with the lead was given a head start (one half-second for every point ahead [this eliminated the need for the scoring and timing of this event, thus making it so that the first person across the finish line was the winner])
- A penalty for falling off hand bike imposed by Gladiator and Game Judge
- Ten seconds for women.
- Seven seconds for men.
- Balance beam replaced by spinning cylinder; a contender was forced to climb a rope ladder to the end of the platform if they fell off as opposed to just climbing up to the platform as they were able to do before
- For the next obstacle, two different variations were used.
- The first saw the contenders climb a padded wall with a step on it to aid in scaling. Once over the wall, they would face a gauntlet with two Gladiators trying to impede their path with giant medicine balls, then climb over a hurdle once cleared.
- After several episodes, the gauntlet was removed. A second wall was instead used, and the stepped wall was moved to where the hurdle was before.
- Gladiators threw giant medicine balls at contenders from an elevated platform after second wall
- Climb over hurdle and break tape to win. Any part of the player's body that crosses the plane of the finish line determines the winner, not the player's torso. This resulted in players making drastic dives across the finish line, including the Series 3 Championship.
- Second wall taken out, first wall changed to plexiglass
- Swinging blocking pad gauntlet operated by two Gladiators replaces medicine balls
- Longer run from final hurdle to finish line
- Contender scaled a tower using a Versaclimber fitness machine (obstacle simply referred to as "The Versaclimber")
- After scaling the Versaclimber, contender slid down slide
- Treadmill moved to end of course. Two attempts were given and the machine was slower to compensate for course change. Referee is at treadmill.
- Rope swing through paper barrier with square holes in it to win
- Game judge administers match at start and starts both players (not referee) in addition to determining which player had which lane after the zip line.
Note: This configuration (specifically the treadmill/rope swing combo) was based on the UK Gladiators Eliminator.
- The first change between season 5 and 6 was the treadmill's free pass rule. The contender had a minute to make it to the top of the treadmill before they could run up the side.
- The down arrows on the treadmill were replaced by white stripes
- The barrier with the square holes was replaced by a door-like barrier with the show's logo.
- Spinning cylinder replaced by two ball-filled pits, which contenders had to wade through and climb out of
- The door-like barrier changed from blue to red
For both International Gladiators tournaments (1994 and 1996), which were held in the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England, the Eliminator was the same one that the UK Gladiators show was using at the time:
- Jumping over high hurdles and crawling under low ones
- Climbing a commando rope to a platform, then crossing the pit using a "hand ladder" (monkey bars; women only), or the hand bike (men only)
- Running across the spinning cylinders
- Climbing the cargo net
- Riding down the zip line
- Walking across a balance beam
- Running up the Travelator (treadmill)
- Rope swing through barrier for finish
- Climb an 8-foot (2.4 m) wall (a rope is provided if needed).
- Jump into a 20-foot (6.1 m) long pool from the 8-foot (2.4 m) wall and swim underneath a "fiery surface"
- Climb 30-foot (9.1 m) cargo net
- Barrel roll
- Very similar to the "Rolling Log" obstacle in the Japanese series SASUKE (Ninja Warrior). Contenders grip the barrel and roll with it down an incline. There is no penalty for falling off the barrel.
- Downhill balance beam
- Ascend the Pyramid
- Ride down the zip line
- Treadmill (Called the Travelator)
- There is a rope about halfway for assistance if necessary.
- There is no "free pass" permitted if contenders cannot ascend the treadmill, unlike the original series. In the spirit of sportsmanship, if a winner has been determined, the second contestant may have the treadmill stopped if that contestant is unable to successfully cross the treadmill.
- Climb up stairs and crash through a wall for finish
The second season's eliminator was revamped with the following changes:
- 8-foot (2.4 m) wall removed, pool lengthened to 40 feet (12 m)
- Barrel roll replaced with a rope swing
- Commando lines ("Tightrope") added before Hand bike
- 6-foot (1.8 m) deep ball pit added underneath the hand bike instead of time penalty
- Balance beam removed, replaced with spinning cylinder, called the "rolling pin"
- Teeter-totter balance beam added before the travelator
- Final wall replaced with a rope swing through banners and into water with pyrotechnics for the winner
The Eliminator was originally a timed and scored event. The contenders were given a set time of 60 seconds (later 90 and then 75 for the women) to complete the course, with both starting at the same time. Each second left on the clock when the contender crossed the finish line was worth two (originally 5) points. Any falls on the course or other violations resulted in 5 or 10 (originally 25) point deductions.
The trailing contender would have their deficit divided by two (five), and the number left would be the number of seconds they had to beat their opponent by. Doing so won them the competition. If they managed to tie their opponent, they would advance based on faster time.
Starting in season 3 (including the 2008 revival), the contender in the lead was given a head start based on how big their lead was, with each point being worth a half-second in time. (For example, a 10 point lead would be a 5 second head start). The trailing contender then had to make that deficit up. If there is a tie before the Eliminator, however, both contenders start at the same time. Also, the contenders had no time limit to complete the course. The contender who finished first won the match, regardless of score. From season 3 to season 7, if a contender managed to fall off the handbikes, the contender was detained by a Gladiator, 10 seconds for the women, and 7 seconds for the men. In the 2008 revival, no penalty was announced, but video evidence appears to show several contenders detained after falling off the handbike.
From season 5 on, there were no Gladiators operating any obstacles in the Eliminator, but in seasons 5 and 6 two Gladiators and a Game Judge were used in the Penalty Pit for the purpose of "enforcing" the time penalty for any contender that fell off the hand bike. The referee was now positioned at the end of the course, on the treadmill, instead of the start line; at the start line, the game judge would start the competition, and often the referee or second game judge would assist if the two start times were very close. In Season 7 and the 2008 revival, no Gladiators were present anywhere on the course.
Often in Season 3, the finish line created controversy over who crossed the line first as many photo finishes took place. There was no "player's torso" rule on crossing the tape, and often it was decided which part of the contender's body crossed the marked finish line won the game, not the torso crossing over the tape.
In the first and second season the contender who got off the swing over the barrier or zipline first would have a choice between which lane to take. For seasons 3, 4, and earlier rounds in 5, the player who arrived first at the end of the zip line took the outside line the player who arrived second took the inner line. Late in season 5, whoever got off the zipline first took the inside lane and the second one off took the outside. In very close races, the Game Judge would inform which player had which lane.