Michael Van Wijk (born 30 September 1952) is an English bodybuilder, professional sportsman, actor and TV presenter. Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, Van Wijk is most well known for his role as Wolf on British TV endurance sports game show Gladiators, a role he held for seven years, eight series (1992-1999). Wolf was a villainous character who routinely displayed poor sportsmanship, and he is John Anderson's arch-nemesis. similar to a heel in professional wrestling.
Van Wijk owns a gym called "Wolf's Gym" in Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand, where he now resides.
Before his rise to fame he owned several gyms until he secured his first contract with his long term employer Gladiators. According to a Sky One interview, producers refused to allow Van Wijk to be mean as a Gladiator, but he soon persuaded them to let him try it. This distinctive persona led him to be the most popular Gladiator in the history of the show, although he courted controversy.
He was also known to video game players for appearing on the cover of the computer game Barbarian. Van Wijk was spotted by a member of the Gladiators production team shortly before filming began on the first television series in 1992. He once stated on Gladiators that his favourite television show was Star Trek.
Van Wijk used to run a gym in Hayes in Bromley, London called 'Wolf's Fitness Centre'. It was open until the late 1990s and included facilities geared towards body builders, boxers and general fitness. In October 1994, he played one match for the reserve team of Gillingham F.C., playing for 73 minutes in a match against Cambridge United's reserves before going off injured. The match attracted a crowd ten times the average for the club's reserve team games.
In 1988, Van Wijk appeared in a small, featured role in Ken Russell's film Salome's Last Dance.
In 1989, Van Wijk auditioned for a role in the film Dances with Wolves. He was unsuccessful, but the experience provided the inspiration for his "Wolf" alter-ego.
In 1997 Wolf was tricked by the spoof TV show Brass Eye.
After being missing from British television screens for nine years, Van Wijk told Loaded magazine in April 2008, "I want to come back, I want to be a Gladiator again." Loaded sent a journalist from London to Wolf's home in Henderson, Auckland, to persuade the actor to return to England to appear in the new series. According to the Loaded article, today, Van Wijk, 60, is a regular on the Kiwi Cage Fighting scene, and used to compete nationally in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu championships. He is a twice silver medallist competing against fighters half of his age for the New Zealand title.
Most recently he appeared on the Gladiators Legends Special where he took part in alongside Ace, Hunter and Trojan. But the standing ovation Wolf received when he reappeared in the Gladiator arena was said to have lasted for five minutes, holding up filming of the show and forcing producers to quieten the crowd. Sky could not deny any further the British public's desire for Wolf's return, and after Loaded magazine's campaign to bring the character back, Sky announced on 29 August 2008 that Wolf would return in the second series."It was like I'd never been away." said Van Wijk. "The audience was explosive and phenomenal and clearly wanted more of the Wolfman." However, he was to be a team captain rather than an actual Gladiator. The revived Gladiators was axed by Sky in May 2009.The Bruce (1996)