Series: American Ninja Warrior

American Ninja Warrior is a reality show inspired by the bi-annual competition in Japan, Sasuke/Ninja Warrior. In fact, the prize for the show is being a member of the 10 American athletes who will be flown to Japan to compete among the Ninja Warrior All-Stars.

The show had it's origins as a more straightfoward competition prize offered by G4 TV, who ran the English subtitled Ninja Warrior. The opportunity to compete has grown to a large group of hopefuls who got the best time on an obstacle course.

It has since evolved into an elaborate competition after an initial elimination round. They set up three groups of five and go against each other in various obstacles, usually items inspired by Midoriyama and including a physical strain between obstacles. The team to have the lowest combined time has to send two of their members to compete against each other for who has to go home. Unique to reality shows, and certainly in the spirit of Ninja Warrior, is that despite the spirit of competition all of the people involved are rooting for each other and looking to build the strongest team to show off in Japan.

It can be expected that a lot of tropes applying to Ninja Warrior can be applied here.

In 2012, the format of ANW changed. There are no longer bootcamps, just tryouts. Tryouts were held in regional competitions, first in qualifiers then in City Finals. The top 15 from each region was guaranteed spot in Mt. Midoriyama in Las Vegas, with the rest of the spots filled by Wildcards. The top prize is $500,000. The ANW Finals runs exactly the same way as the Sasuke version.

In January 2014, NBC aired a 2-hour special called "USA vs. Japan". Instead of a straight Ninja Warrior run, this takes elements from the earlier seasons of ANW. Both teams compete eachother in 1-on-1 races. All of the warriors get to run the stages, even if they wouldn't have been able to in normal competitions. However, the winner of each Stage was determined on a best 3-of-5 in 1 vs. 1 matches. The winner of the Stage got the equivalent number of points as the Stage number. So Stage 1 was worth 1 point, Stage 2 worth 2 and Stage 3 worth 3. Stage 4 served as the tiebreaker if both teams had 3 points at the end of Stage 3, and it is truly 1 vs 1. The winner of each match was determined in one of three ways:
  1. Whoever cleared the Stage the fastest.
  2. Whoever cleared more obstacles if neither cleared the Stage.
  3. If both competitors fell on the exact same obstacle, whoever reached that obstacle faster.
In that special, Team USA completely wiped out Team Japan 6-0.

On September 15, 2014, NBC hosted the very first "USA vs. The World", which included Team Europe. The scoring is slightly different. Instead of best 3-of-5, a victory in each of the heats scored them points equal to the stage number. There were three heats per round.

NBC has announced that there will be another "USA vs. Japan" special in 2015, with the next installment being held in the Sasuke grounds.


American Ninja Warrior provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Levi Meeuwenburg was the first competitor and has been to the actual course more than anyone. No one doubts that he'll make it and is generally a fan favorite both here and in Japan.
  • Action Girl: Kacy Catanzaro, the only woman to ever clear Stage One.
  • Badass Grandpa: Jon Stewart (no, not THAT one) in season 6 DESERVES to be here. He finally conquered the Warped wall. Upon the Arm Rings, he could not traverse across normally, so he took a risk and swung from one of the rings AND succeeded. To top it off, he became the first person over 50 to complete the City Finals course.
  • Bald of Awesome: 2014 saw the debut of Kevin Bull, who has alopecia. He set one of the fastest times in Venice qualifying, then in the finals became the first of only four contestants to conquer the Cannonball Alley obstacle (using his feet!), as well as one of only two to actually complete the course (the other being veteran David Campbell, who is also bald).
  • Crack Defeat: Using your hands in a feet-only obstacle is an automatic disqualification, even if the competitor doesn't notice it at first. Happened with Jesse La Flair on Slack Ladder as he was about to finish the obstacle and Idoko Abuh when he touched the Dancing Stones as he was trying to clear it.
  • Cultural Translation: Despite the reality-show competition the only difference between the shows is that American Ninja Warrior has, well, American competitors. And the whole competition is more strength based than the Japanese version.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In the 2014 special "USA vs. Japan", the Japanese all wiped out, with the final result 6-0 USA.
  • Darkhorse Victory: The "USA vs. the World" special had one. Just look at the next trope below.
  • Down to the Last Play: In "USA vs. the World", Team USA and Team Europe competed in the tie-breaking stage 4. Sean McColl, of Team Europe, eked out a victory against American Travis Rosen by a very slim 0.31 seconds.
  • Filler: Some profiles. One particular example of filler was a two minute-long profile for someone who went out in three seconds.
  • Fragile Speedster: Some of the parkour athletes, but especially Lorin Ball, who in the 2014 Denver Finals blazed through most of the course at a ridiculous pace but lacked the strength and technique to get past the Salmon Ladder.
  • Golden Snitch: Averted in the international team competitions. The round structure is 1-2-3-Tiebreaker.
  • Harder Than Hard: You'd have to be as strong as a rock climber just to clear Stage One.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: One participant in 2014 said he honed his skills playing Dance Dance Revolution. Subverted when he went out on the second obstacle of the qualifier.
  • Le Parkour: Practiced by numerous competitors, not surprisingly.
  • Naked People Are Funny: When one competitor, Nate Mitchell is up, a streaker who goes by the name, Johnny Rocket goes onto the course, and does surprisingly well making it to the ramp. The commentary between Matt and Akbar is hilarious with Matt laughing and cracking jokes and Akbar being disgusted and wanting the guy off the course. Naturally, security grabbed him and took him off the course before he could finish.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Kacy Cataznaro, who was 5'1" and weighed only 100 lbs. While she had one of the slowest clear times on Stage 1, the fact that she cleared it is impressive.
  • Platform Hell: Rare real-life example.
  • Shirtless Scene: Many of the men run the course with bare torsos, giving viewers a lot of delicious eye candy.
  • Soft Water: The reason the course is constructed over a pool. Unfortunately, this was subverted in the 2012 season. One contestant fell from an obstacle, hit the water, and ruptured his eardrum.
  • Spin-Off: Jump City: Seattle, a competition between Freerunning teams which featured many ANW alumni. In fact, JSC was filmed during ANW Season 2 (between Boot Camp and the actual competition), with Levi breaking his wrist during the former and being unable to compete in the latter.
  • True Companions: Anytime anyone is eliminated, members of every team stand up to send them off.
  • You Go Girl: Kacy Catanzaro, and how! She is the first woman to EVER complete a city finals course and qualify for the Las Vegas finals, and the fact that she is just 5 feet tall and 100 pounds takes the trope Up to Eleven.