Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit atop a 2,000-pound draft horse, wearing 130 pounds of 8-12 gauge steel plated armor and charging toward your opponent at up to 30 miles per hour while trying to knock him off of his horse with an 11-foot long wooden lance?
That is what Charlie Andrews is hoping to show you on the new National Geographic Channel reality series “Knights of Mayhem.”
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Charlie is the captain of the Knights of Mayhem, his troupe of professional jousters, and the co-founder of the Professional Jousting Championship, which was formed in 2010. This is not a dinner theatre or renaissance fair show where the outcomes are predetermined. This is full-contact, heavy armor jousting, just like the days of old. The risk to the participants is real. In 2007, a jouster in England was killed when piece of a broken lance passed through the eye opening of his helmet and entered his brain. Broken bones and concussions are far more common.
The series focuses on the struggle to bring a little-known extreme sport to the masses, with the ultimate goal of creating a professional league and selling out arenas across the country. Andrews is hoping to replicate, at least in some small way, the success and growth mixed martial arts has experienced since the Ultimate Fighting Championship was able to take that sport from being viewed as “human cock-fighting” to now airing on network television in addition to at least monthly pay-per-view events.
A major component to the success of the UFC entering the mainstream was producing a reality series that focused on the individual fighters, showing them as human beings and athletes, not just bloodthirsty meatheads. “Knights of Mayhem” has brought together a group of individuals which includes former athletes, soldiers and bull riders, hoping to provide enough drama and entertainment to keep people watching.
Andrews, the reigning world champion, has brought his mentor, Patrick Lambke, along for the ride. Andrews met Lambke, also known as “the Black Knight,” ten years ago. Lambke, who is described as having not always been a model citizen, taught Andrews everything he knows. At last year’s world jousting championships, the roles were finally reversed and Andrews was able to beat the master. There appear to be some hard feelings between the two, which Andrews is hoping will not distract him from achieving his dream.
The rest of the Knights troupe, which totals about ten men, contains a good mix of veteran jousters and rookies, who Andrews sees as “the prototype jousters of the future.” He says he wants “guys who want to go out and be the most dangerous men on horseback.” The rookies Andrews has hand-picked include Jake “the Snake” Paul, a mixed martial artist, and Joe Ambrosius, a former BYU linebacker.
The veteran jousters include Jason Armstrong and Brian Stephenson. There is bad blood between these two that popped up in the series premier. Stephenson claims Armstrong manipulated him into missing last year’s championships by stating he had to bring his own horse, which he did not have at the time and actually turned out not to be the case. Andrews decided to have the two men settle their dispute during practice with a jousting match. It sure seems like a good way to settle a disagreement. While they both claimed afterward that their beef was settled, time will tell.
Time will also tell if America is willing to make Andrews’ dream a reality. He wonders if it is really worth all of his time, money and effort. While we await the verdict, if you’re looking for an entertaining and hard-hitting (literally) reality show to give you a break from your own reality, “Knights of Mayhem” is worth a look.
New episodes air Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on the National Geographic Channel.