When the Overwatch League began I remember watching a few Los Angeles Gladiators matches and thinking to myself “Man, this team seems to have a lot of good pieces but something seems to be missing with their main tank play.” In Stage 1 the Gladiators had a few shining moments but were a very middle of the pack team. They finished 8th with a few good wins under their belt but they weren’t able to make much of an impact. However, things changed throughout the season and now they are looking at the playoffs.
However, everything changed when Fissure was brought to the Gladiators for Stage 2 from the London Spitfire. Fissure completely changed how the Gladiators played. He brought a new swagger to the team, a new aggressiveness that we hadn’t seen before. He changed the LA Gladiators from pretenders to contenders throughout Stage 2 and while the Gladiators didn’t make the stage playoffs the rest of the League was put on notice that the Gladiators were coming and it was only a matter of time.
In Stage 3 we continued to see the growth of the Gladiators as a whole. Surefour became a top tier Widow and showing us he can play almost any hero at a high level if he’s given the time to practice them. We saw Bishu become an integral part of the Gladiators not only in the off-tank role but also his ability to translate from English to Korean and vice versa to Fissure giving the Gladiators a leg up on other teams with mixed nationality rosters. Hydration’s projectile play shined and we even saw glimpses of his much loved Doomfist. Shaz and BigGoose became a solid supports duo. All in all the team seemed to gel very well together earning themselves so much show that they are able to flex to almost any composition they want. They even have players switch positions totally; Shaz on Tracer, Hydration on Lucio, you never know what this team is going to throw at you. They earned a spot in the Stage playoffs at 4th. The were beaten by Boston handedly in the first round but they had finally made it to the playoffs.
Stage 4 was the culmination of all the hard work the Gladiators had put in through the whole season. Seemingly the king of the reverse sweeps the Gladiators were able to reverse sweep both the London Spitfire and the NYXL in the same week on their way to a 9-1 first place finish. In the end the Gladiators decided to choose their friends from the same city the LA Valiant to face in the first round. After a grueling 5 game set they fell to eventual Stage 4 playoff winners. They weren’t able to complete their ascension all the way to the top but they were now cemented as real threats going into the OWL Playoffs.
Entering the Arena
Going into playoffs, it looks like they are in pretty good shape. Slow and steady wins the race no? So far the Gladiators squad has had a slow and steady rise throughout the first OWL season. They will be going up against a Philly Fusion team that I have dubbed “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.” Philly can be one of the greatest teams in the Overwatch League or a middle of the pack team that struggles to beat those at the bottom. This matchup will most likely come down to Surefour vs Carpe/EQO on the Widow. We know how important a good Widow player is and most of the time the Widow that wins the Widow duel wins the series. With the amount of flexibility for the side of the Gladiators, Fusion will have to work very hard to crack through each on of their team compositions.
Their journey will not be easy but none of what Gladiators have done this season has been. If there was ever a cinderella story these playoffs it’s these guys. A team who started middle of the road and grew into a championship contender. Much like their namesake they will fight till the death. In the end they will stand tall, or be carried out on their shield.