Bodybuilder Michael Van Wijk, known as Wolf on the original Gladiators, has said he “100%” could beat the rebooted show’s BBC cast.

The 71-year-old was one of the most famous members of the cast on the original sports entertainment show, which aired on ITV from 1992 to 2000, and featured across all eight series.

On January 13, a new generation of 16 “superhumans” will test their speed and strength against the contenders on BBC One.

Van Wijk told the PA news agency it was a “shame” he is not taking part in the new series at all and said the production company “did not bother coming back” to him about taking part.

He said: “I think they decided from the get-go that they would have nothing to do with the old show or nothing to do with any of the people, it was just (going to be a) completely new format, completely their way of doing it.

“I suppose because (it is airing on) the BBC and it was ITV, they just want to be completely separate. That’s just my personal opinion.”

Michael Van Wijk, better known as Wolf from the Gladiators (Michael Stephens/PA)

When asked if he could take on the current crop of Gladiators, which includes Team GB sprinter and Olympic bobsledder Montell Douglas and CrossFit champion Sheli McCoy, he replied: “Absolutely, 100%, I wouldn’t even worry about it.”

Van Wijk, who played the villain on the original series, said the new Gladiators should try to “make your character so strong that it stands out”.

Van Wijk, who also featured on the Sky revival in 2008 and 2009, said: “When we did the very first photo shoot, I said to myself, ‘I’m surrounded by these good-looking, super-fit athletes, if I want longevity on this show, I’ve got to do something that makes me stand out from these guys’.

“So I was thinking of longevity off of the show, before we even did the first episode, I was treating it like a professional job, and (I thought) ‘I’ve got to make sure I shine here because these guys are so good, I’ve got to make sure that I’m even better’.

“And when they gave me the name Wolf (that) was marvellous for me, because they gave me a chance to become the baddie and stand out from the rest of the crowd.”

The former gym business owner, who is now retired and lives in New Zealand, added that his success did cause his fellow castmates to say that he did not work as hard as them to win as “they’re never going to sack you” due to his popularity as the villain.

He said: “It was difficult, you know? When I walked out… sometimes there’d be some complaints saying ‘Oh, Wolf always comes out last. It’s not fair’.

The new Gladiators line-up (left to right): Comet, Fury, Apollo, Dynamite, Legend, Diamond, Athena, Giant, Apollo, Sabre, Phantom, Viper, Nitro, Bionic, Electro, and Fire (Guy Levy/BBC)

“And then the producer was able to give me a reason why you should come out last because they all come out and then they dim the lights and say he’s mean, he’s bad, it’s (Wolf), and they’re (the audience) already on their feet screaming.”

Van Wijk said he took his role seriously and asked contestants beforehand if they felt comfortable before “pulling the hairs out their armpits” along with other behaviour.

He says he told contestants: “I will not do anything that will interfere with your scoring but if you don’t want to interact with me, let me know now and I will clinically take you out and they’re going, ‘Oh yeah, we’d like to see that’.

“(I said) ‘Trust me, I will, but if you want to have a bit of fun, and it won’t affect your points, let me know’ and then I know who I can play with and who I can’t play with because you can’t just go out and somebody doesn’t want to do something and interact with them.”

Van Wijk, who said he continues maintaining his six-pack and muscles into his 70s, also said the public should know there were regular drug tests for performance enhancements on Gladiators.

He said: “I think it’s very important that people know that we worked hard to look like that, and that we weren’t taking any drugs.”

The BBC series, hosted by presenter Bradley Walsh and his son Barney, was filmed in Sheffield last year.

Gladiators will launch on BBC One on Saturday at 5.50pm and be available to rewatch on the iPlayer.