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Series / American Ninja Warrior

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American Ninja Warrior is a reality show inspired by the bi-annual competition in Japan, Sasuke/Ninja Warrior. In fact, for the first three seasons, the prize for the show was being a member of the 10 American athletes who were flown to Japan to compete among the Ninja Warrior All-Stars. It currently airs on NBC, and it's the sole surviving show from the original version of G4TV which shuttered in 2012.

The show had its origins as a more straightforward competition prize offered by G4TV, 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 initially evolved into an elaborate competition after a preliminary elimination round. The contest set up three groups of five to go against each other in various obstacles, usually items inspired by Midoriyama and including a physical strain between obstacles. The team with the lowest combined time has to send two of their members to compete against each other to determine who goes 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 rooted for each other and looked to build the strongest team to show off in Japan.

In 2012, the format of ANW changed. There are no longer boot camps, just tryouts. Tryouts were held in regional competitions, first in qualifiers (in which the top 30 advance to the next round.note , then in the City Finals. The top 15note  from each region was guaranteed a spot in Mt. Midoriyama in Las Vegas, with the remaining twenty-five slots filled by Wildcards. There is no time limit for the qualifier, the city final, or stage 3 of the finale, but stages 1, 2, and 4 of the finale are timed. The top prize is currently $1,000,000 (a sum that has doubled each season from the initial $250,000). The ANW Finals runs exactly the same way as the Sasuke version, with 100 finalists competing across four stages.

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 against each other 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. In that special, Team Japan again finished without any points, and Team Europe eked out a win over Team USA by 0.31 seconds in the tiebreaker.

As of September 14, 2015, the show has had its first-ever winner crowned in Isaac Caldiero, the first competitor to complete stage 3 and the second to complete stage four, beating out his competition Geoff Britten's time by 3.86 seconds.

The second "USA vs. The World" special, with the same rules as the first, aired on January 31, 2016. In this special, Team Japan once again failed to score points, and Team USA beat Team Europe 10–8.

On January 29, 2016, NBC and formerly Esquire spun off ANW with Team Ninja Warrior, featuring many of the fan favorites of ANW. In 2018, Team was renamed ANW: Ninja vs. Ninja, and the show moved to USA Network.

On May 2, 2018, Universal Kids announced the second ANW spin-off with American Ninja Warrior Junior, with 200 children who are superfans of the show tackling the course for the first time.

As of 2023, the American Ninja Warrior is hosted by former stand-up comedian and the winner of The New Celebrity Apprentice show Matt Iseman (since Season 2) along with former NFL player Akbar Gbaja-Biamila (since Season 5).

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

American Ninja Warrior provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Every season, the person who went the farthest in the national finals clearly qualified as this.
    • Levi Meeuwenburg until season 4. In the first season, he went the farthest, making it to Mt. Midoriyama Stage 3 but fell on the fourth obstacle, the Cliffhanger. He was the first competitor and had been to the actual course more than anyone. No one doubted that he would make it and was generally a fan favorite both here and in Japan.
    • In season 4, Brent Steffensen, who went the farthest in Mt. Midoriyama that season, became the first person ever to complete the Ultimate Cliffhanger, the fourth obstacle in Stage 3, beating the record set by Meeuwenburg in the first season. He would later fall at the sixth obstacle, the Hang Climb.
    • Later in season 5, the person who went the farthest that season, Brian Arnold, broke that record when he made it as far as but fell on, the eighth & last obstacle, the Flying Bar.
    • Joe Moravsky in Season 5. He made it to Stage 3 of Mount Midoriyama, a very impressive feat for even ninjas with years of experience, and it was his first year. Even more impressive is that he is a weatherman, not exactly someone you'd expect to be that good. He would later reach Stage 3 again in season 6, where he went further than anyone else.
    • Isaac Caldiero and Geoff Britten absolutely qualified when they became the first men to complete the entire course, with Caldiero edging out Britten's time in Stage 4 to become the first American Ninja Warrior.
    • Drew Dreschel and Daniel Gil are the only ones who managed to defeat Stage 3 in Season 11. Both of them showed remarkable skills in the past seasons - and it finally paid off. Dreschel is the only one to complete Stage 4 this season, thus becoming the next American Ninja Warrior.
    • Speaking of Daniel Gil... he was so close at summiting Mount Midoryama, but came just short by several seconds. Season 12 became a huge redemption for him, as he managed to beat every single course and advance to the Power Tower Playoffs where he defeated every opponent and was crowned the season’s winner. (However, since it was an altered season with a completely different format due to COVID, his win is not counted as Total Victory like Caldiero’s, Britten’s, and Drechsel’s- Season 12 had no Vegas finals, no Midoriyama, and was guaranteed to have a winner due to the tournament format.)
    • Season 13 underwent the so-called "Invasion of the Teenagers" where competitors of American Ninja Warrior Junior have taken the stage together with long-time veterans. They've shown remarkable agility and power on the courses, but the most notable among them is 15-year-old Kaden Lebsack. He not only successfully conquered Qualifiers and Semi-finals - he was the only one who defeated Stage 3 in the reinstated Las Vegas Finals. Even though Lebsack failed to reach the top of Stage 4 in time, his first-time performance on the "adult" show is remarkable.
    • In Season 14, Lebsack has further solidified his "ace" status by getting to Stage 4 for a second time - a feat which none of the competitors managed to accomplish in ANW history. And he was not alone: Jay "Lache" Lewis, Josh Levin, R.J. Roman, and Josiah Pippel joined him for a chance to climb Mount Midoriyama. This so-called "Final Five" provided a record amount of attempts at Stage 4 in a single year. Although every single one of the competitors failed to reach the top in time, Kaden Lebsack managed to climb further than everyone else, thus earning the Last Ninja Standing title again. note 
    • Season 15 ups the ante by having several competitors repeat Kaden Lebsack's streak of two attempts at Stage 4 - namely, the aforementioned Daniel Gil and R.J. Roman. Not only that, but the amount of people successfully beating Stage 3 had been increased to staggering eight athletes. Out of those "Great Eight", only two managed to secure Total Victory - Daniel Gil and Vance Walker, with the latter edging out the former by more than a second and successfully claiming the $1,000,000 prize, as well as becoming the third American Ninja Warrior.
  • Action Girl: Every season, many women try their luck in the competition with varying results. Ever since later seasons, the number of women participating in the competition grew larger and larger with each season. Most notable of these women, include:
    • Kacy Catanzaro, the first woman ever to successfully climb the Warped Wall and complete a qualifying course. She would later clear a Regional Finals course, becoming the first woman ever to accomplish this, as well as the only one to do it until Season 11. She did all this in the sixth season.
    • Also in season 6, rock climbers Michelle Warnky & Meagan Martin successfully climbed the Warped Wall and completed a qualifying course for the very first time. Later in Mt. Midoriyama Stage 1, Martin became the first woman ever to complete the fourth obstacle, the Jumping Spider, but she timed out on the Warped Wall.
    • Stuntwoman Jessie Graff, who in season 7 completed a qualifying course as well and made it to the ninth obstacle in a Regional Finals course, becoming the second woman (after Catanzaro) to make it to Las Vegas without being wildcarded. Later in Mt. Midoriyama Stage 1, just like Martin in season 6, she timed out on the Warped Wall.
    • Eventually, in season 8, Graff reached Mt. Midoriyama without being wildcarded for a second straight year in a row. She passed all obstacles in Stage 1, including the Jumping Spider and the Warped Wall, and hit the buzzer, becoming the first woman ever to complete Stage 1 in Mt. Midoriyama.
    • In Season 11, Michelle Warnky and Jesse "Flex" Labreck became the second and third women to complete a City Finals course, respectively.
    • Also in Season 11, Sandy Zimmerman became the "first mom" to climb the Warped Wall, after the commentators repeatedly noted throughout the season that no mothers had done so.
      • However, due to the episodes airing out of order of how they’re filmed (each city’s qualifiers and finals are filmed over two consecutive nights, but aired a couple of months apart so that all the qualifiers are together and all the finals are together), this is technically untrue- Maggi Thorne was the first mother to climb the Warped Wall. She was just unlucky enough to have that episode (a Finals episode) air later than the episode when Sandy scaled the wall (a Qualifying episode).
    • Other notable female competitors include Nika Muckelroy, Tiana Webberley, Rachael Goldstein, Natalie Duran, Joyce Shahboz, Allyssa Beird, Barclay Stockett, Zhanique Lovett, Mady Howard, and Jessica Clayton.
  • Almighty Janitor: Isaac Caldiero, the first winner of the competition, worked as a busboy in his heyday, a fact that was mentioned by the commentators several times during his run on Stage 3.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: The Wolf Pack (namely Ian Dory, Brian Arnold, Isaac Caldiero, and Dr. Noah Kaufman) can be seen as the American antecedent to the Black Tigers of Sasuke.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Due to the unpredictable nature of the competition, this happens quite frequently. Whenever Matt and Akbar announce the most anticipated runs from elite ninjas, said ninjas later happen to fail the course. For example, Drew Dreschel's run at Miami City Finals in Season 6 ends much quicker than Dreschel himself anticipated - he falls at the second obstacle.
    • Quite a funny example comes around in Season 12. On the first night of the Semi-finals, Grant McCartney aka The Island Ninja makes an announcement about the sideline reporter Zuri Hall running the course... only for Zuri to immediately switch places back with Grant.
  • Bald Head of Toughness: Kevin Bull has alopecia universalis, a condition that prevents the growth of any sort of body hair. He's made it to Stage 3 in Vegas in the past and once cleared Cannonball Alley upside down.
  • Battle Couple: Chris Digangi and Jesse Labreck are engaged. Brent Steffensen & Kacy Catanzaro also dated for a while before breaking up sometime before Season 8. As of the 2020s era, Noah Meunier and Addy Herman became the first actual "Battle Couple" to qualify for Stage 1 of National Finals.
  • Bonus Space: The Mega Wall. A higher Warped Wall, offers a cash bonus to anyone who completes it. Generally, this is only offered in the preliminaries and semi-finals.
  • Catchphrase: Matt Iseman is usually the one who pinpoints "dismounts" at every opportunity.
    • Akbar Gbajabiamila is no slouch in this department himself. "I see you, baby!" and "That's what I'm talking about!" are his most frequent phrases.
    • And they’re both quite partial to reminding competitors to “keep them L’s”- i.e. keeping arms at a 90° angle while on an upper body obstacle.
  • Celebrity Edition: Celebrity specials were produced for the Red Nose Day charity telethons in 2017 and 2018, pairing up various celebs with notable Ninja Warrior competitors. The standout celeb was Stephen Amell in 2017, who did as well as any regular competitor and even insisted on doing the salmon ladder, despite it not being part of the Celebrity Edition course, since he was known for doing it on his own show. Next year, Akbar Gbajabiamila himself stepped onto the course, and he managed to do pretty well despite being quite a large guy (almost 250 lbs.!) and skipping one obstacle.
    • The regular show occasionally has celebs show up to compete as well; they're mostly pro athletes but Brennan Mejia from Power Rangers Dino Charge also had a go several times.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Levi Meeuwenberg, one of the top competitors in the early years of American Ninja Warrior, didn't compete in Season 3 to do stunt work, then showed up in Season 4 only to be eliminated by the first obstacle, and then retired to Michigan to become a farmer and was never mentioned again.
    • It could be said that much of ANW's early history has been retconned out of the series canon. None of the 10 competitors who qualified for Japan in Season 1 are still competing today, and the few that competed in the later seasons were barely mentioned.
    • Speaking of the Season 1 qualifiers, Travis Furlanic was one of 100 to qualify for the Las Vegas finals in Season 4, but a background check revealed that he had a DUI on his record, which disqualified him from the tournament. His absence was never explained and he has never returned to the show.
    • David Campbell, Ryan Stratis, Brian Kretsch, Brett Sims and Lorin Ball ("The Originals") are the aversions of this trope - they continued competing for well over a decade, and all of them are still going, hoping to achieve Total Victory.
  • Clifftop Caterwauling:
    • Many competitors will scream in triumph after hitting a buzzer, from the top of the Warped Wall, the tower of a City Finals course, above the cargo net of Stage 1, etc.
    • Ryan Stratis - one of the elite competitors since Season 1 - is known for raising his clenched fist into the air and letting out a mighty roar.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • At every National Finals since Season 4, ninjas' clothing indicates their respective qualifying city.
    • All-Stars specials assign colors to each Team participating in the relay races across Stages 1, 2, and 3. The same also goes for USA vs. The World competitions.
  • Cool Old Guy: Pretty much everyone over 50.
    • Jon Stewart (not to be confused with a DC Comics character or a TV show host) manages to defeat Denver City Finals of Season 6 despite being 52 years old! As Matt Iseman later pointed out, Stewart was older than Abraham Lincoln who was elected President of the United States at 51!
    • Other instance comes from Vietnam veteran Chuck Mammay, who managed to compete in ANW while being over 70 years old.
  • Crowd Chant: "Beat that Wall!".
  • 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 2014 special "USA vs. Japan", the Japanese team was all but wiped out, with the final result 6-0 in favor of USA.
    • Heck, the next 2 "USA vs. The World" specials both have the Japanese team failing to earn any score as well.
  • Darkhorse Victory: The first "USA vs. the World" special had one (the European team winning the tournament despite having no experience on the course).
  • Defeating the Undefeatable:
    • Stage 3 remained unconquered for seven years before finally being successfully completed by not one, but two competitors in September of 2015 - with the first being Isaac Caldiero and the second being Geoff Britten - who managed to finish the course and advance to Stage 4. Both men would proceed to complete the final stage, with Caldiero edging out Britten's time by just shy of four seconds, becoming the first-ever American Ninja Warrior.
    • As of 2020s era, Kaden Lebsack is the only one who holds the distinction of defeating the previously undefeatable Stage 3 twice. With the conclusion of Season 15, Daniel Gil and R.J. Roman joined that list.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Mount Midoriyama", the name given to the Japanese course and later the Las Vegas national finals course, translates to "Mount Green Mountain".
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • The Wedge is where you have to hop a bar wedged in a wedge-shaped gap.
    • Doorknob Arch is the other example. You have to use your grip strength to cross the pool of water, moving in an arc while grabbing literal doorknobs (which can also turn!).
  • Double Unlock: The Mega Wall in the preliminaries of the 2023 season. An attempt is only offered for a $10,000 bonus if the participant completes the entire course (ending with the regular Warped Wall) in under 80 seconds.
  • 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 edged out a victory against American Travis Rosen by a very slim 0.31 seconds.
  • Dramatic Unmask: David "Flip" Rodriguez, a competitor who wears a half-mask while competing on ANW and freerunning, during the Season 7 qualifiers. It worked, as he cleared the qualifying course, although perhaps subverted by the fact that he is for all intents and purposes a regular guy under the mask. Flip later revealed he wore the mask because of cripplingly low self-esteem due to the fact that he suffered sexual abuse as a child. After revealing his past on the show, he now works as a motivational speaker to uplift kids in similar circumstances and generally seems much happier and more confident.
  • Ensemble Cast: Since there are so many competitors, no one is really considered The Ace anymore. Generally, 1 to 2 competitors in each region get the most hype, but there are still many competitors who put on great runs and gain the respect and adulation of the fans, particularly walk-on contestants, or people with inspirational stories.
  • Filler: Some profiles. One particular example of filler was a two-minute-long profile for someone who went out in three seconds.
  • Fun T-Shirt: Most competitors wear custom T-shirts to the course. Their loved ones will often wear shirts matching theirs as well.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: This has been known to occur on several occasions, although most often the affected runs are re-taped and never mentioned on television.
  • Game Show Host:
    • Season 1: G4's Alison Haislip and Blair Herter.
    • Season 2-: Matt Iseman, along with various others.
  • Game Show Physical Challenge: American Ninja Warrior revolves around competitors trying to complete a series of difficult obstacle courses.
  • Golden Snitch: Averted in the international team competitions. The round structure is 1-2-3-Tiebreaker.
  • Harder Than Hard: Despite nearly 1,000 people trying every year, it would be seven years before anyone completed the entire course when Geoff Britten and Isaac Caldiero finally climbed the Mountain. You'd have to be as strong as a rock climber just to clear Stage 1 - and good luck progressing even further.
  • Handicapped Badass: Anyone who suffered serious injuries not long before the competition, as well as several amputees. In one particular instance, Artis Thompson III was awarded a Run of the Night after crawling through Log Runner (3rd obstacle) with his prosthetic leg.
  • Hunk: Plenty of them. There are some seriously gorgeous model-looking men with mouthwatering athletic physiques.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: One participant in 2014 said he honed his skills playing DanceDanceRevolution. Subverted when he went out on the second obstacle of the qualifier.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Both hosts - but more often Akbar - use the competitor's profession to make a terrible pun on nearly every run. Some examples:
    Akbar: [competitor was a school teacher] She deserves an apple!!
    Akbar: [competitor was a stand-up comedian] The joke has been on *him* the last few seasons!!
    Akbar: [competitor was a cowboy] He is back on that horse!
  • Last of Its Kind: The only remaining program of G4TV still in production.
  • Lightning Bruiser: A necessity. In order to successfully tackle many obstacles on ANW courses, the competitors have to be both strong as rock climbers and quick as Olympic runners. Isaac Caldiero, Drew Dreschel and Vance Walker - the titular American Ninja Warriors across the years - are the best examples.
  • Looks Like Jesus: Isaac Caldiero, the first American Ninja Warrior. In his debut, two years before he became the first man to win the competition, he actually showed up dressed as Jesus.
  • Lovely Assistant: The sideline reporters.
    • Season 1: Alison Haislip and Blair Herter usually took turns being this.
    • Seasons 2-3: Alison Haislip.
    • Season 4: Angela Sun.
    • Seasons 5-6: ESPN sportscaster Jenn Brown.
    • Seasons 7-10: CBS Sports reporter Kristine Leahy.
    • Season 11-: Zuri Hall.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The entire competition.
    • It starts with Qualifiying Rounds which present ever-changing obstacles each season - some of them can trip up even the elite ninjas. City Finals aren't just a subtle change from Qualifiers; they're always being made even harder by subtly changing earlier obstacles and adding new ones to the latter half of the course. Aside from the physical and mental approach required to successfully tackle these obstacles, you have to also pay attention to the leaderboards: only 30 competitors from Qualifiers who managed to get as far and as fast as possible are allowed to compete in the City Finals - and only 15 can make it to the National Finals.
    • National Finals turn the stakes up to eleven. Several Stages are timed, and you just can't afford to make longer breaks while running through the course. Even if you manage to get onto the next Stage, it becomes much harder and harder to progress. What makes it even worse is the fact that, unlike Qualifiers and City Finals, if you make a simple mistake and fall into the water - you're out of the competition. Period.
  • Marathon Level: The Third Stage, an untimed stage made up solely of upper body obstacles, has been known to take upwards of 10 minutes to attempt, compared to the relatively quick nature of the other stagesnote . Until the seventh season, it's never been beaten on American Ninja Warrior, and only one competitor in six years got to the last obstacle. However, it was defeated four times in USA vs. The World in Season 6, although those competitors didn't necessarily have to clear or even attempt the First or Second Stages to get there.
    • Perhaps with the longer City Finals courses in recent years; most competitors take upwards of 5 minutes and some take nearly 10 minutes to complete all 10 obstacles.
    • In September 2015, Stage 3 was finally conquered by Isaac Caldiero, who managed to beat it on the regular show, and managed it in less than four minutes.
    • Season 14 (2022) set up a new record: 5 people managed to beat it. That's the very same amount of competitors who managed to do so across the previous 13 years!
    • Sure enough, Season 15 (2023) went even further with the previously established record: 8 people successfully advanced to the final Mount Midoriyama climb.
  • McNinja: All the competitors, especially when their real-world occupations or gimmicks are emphasized, such as "Cowboy Ninja" Lance Pekus, or "Ninja Weatherman" Joe Moravsky.
  • Meaningful Name: David Campbell aka The Godfather. He was the first to build a whole obstacle course in his backyard for further training; since then, many top competitors followed his example over the years.
    • Sam Sann aka The Survivor. While living in Cambodia as a child, Sam learned how to overcome many challenges - both physical and mental.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Many men are eye candy with chiseled, athletic physiques with very visible six (or eight) pack abs, huge veiny biceps and other muscles on par with statues of Greek gods, so getting to see them flexing, sweating and groaning as they take on the obstacle course can be nothing short of breathtaking.
  • 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.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Given how certain competitors have a degree (either MD or PhD), it's very hard to believe that they can keep up with the toughest ninjas. Dr. Noah Kaufman aka Ninja Doc is one of the finest examples.
  • Obstacle Exposition: The sideline reporter would describe each new obstacle course in detail before it is first played.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: During "USA vs. The World", Tim Schieff, captain of the European team, ran straight up the Warped Wall from the transition off of the Halfpipe Attack, effectively extending his running space by several feet. This caused the Halfpipe Attack to be redesigned into Sonic Road.
    • The new obstacle in Season 5, Jump Hang Kai, was made to stop competitors from just climbing over and rolling down the Jump Hang.
    • Season 12 itself (2020) is a major case. Due to COVID-19 pandemic drastically changing everything around the world, the format of American Ninja Warrior had to be changed along with it. To elaborate: instead of the usual structure "City Qualifiers - City Finals - National Finals", it adopted a much simpler one: 4 weeks of Qualifiers followed by 2 weeks of Semi-finals followed by the last 2 weeks of the Finals. The entirety of the competition is confined within the walls of The Dome at America's Center in St. Louis, Missouri. 50 top competitors were allowed to bring 2 more people each along with them (either former competitors, members of their family, fans, or co-workers), having a total amount of competitors of 150 - much less than in any prior season. The top prize is reduced to $100,000; however, the successful climb on the (completely optional) Mega Wall would bring the competitor an additional $10,000. And of course, medical testing combined with social distancing as much as possible are mandatory.
    • Season 13 (2021) retains the "no crowds" policy from the previous year; however, the Las Vegas finals at Mt. Midoriyama and the $1,000,000 prize were brought back.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Indeed. For many years, David "Flip" Rodriguez had been known to many as a Cool Mask wearer, and always wore it on the course. He was also known for his incredibly fast speed while on the course. However, this eventually cost him big time when, in Season 6, he suffered a shocking elimination on the Jump Hang. For the rest of that year, Flip suffered from a huge Heroic BSoD- but that's not the OOC part. That came the very next season, when Flip decided to reinvent himself. The first thing he did when he got onto the course? Take off the mask. It was so shocking at the time that both Matt and Akbar lampshaded it repeatedly, stating that Flip's Dramatic Unmask was a sign of a whole new Flip. And as you can guess, Flip Took a Level in Badass that year.
  • Le Parkour: Practiced by numerous competitors, not surprisingly.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Kacy Catanzaro, who was 5'1" and weighed under 100 lbs. While she had one of the slowest clear times on the Regional Final, the fact that she cleared it is impressive.
    • Jon Horton, who is also 5'1", became the smallest man to scale the Warped Wall.
    • The shortest woman, and person in general, to scale the Warped Wall is Barclay Stockett who stands at 5' even.
    • Tyler Yamauchi was the first to clear the higher Warped Wall at the height of 5'1" and the shortest person to ever beat Stage 1.
    • Before him 5'2" Dustin McKinney was the shortest to beat Stage 1.
    • As of 2023, Taylor Johnson aka "Teej" is the shortest woman ever to qualify for National Finals - with her height being 4'11".
  • Platform Hell: Rare real-life example.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Season 12 (2020) underwent massive changes described above.
  • Recurring Element:
    • The Quintuple Steps (previously the Quad Steps) and Warped Wall have been in every city qualifying course (although they are modified for Vegas: The steps are smaller and there is only half the run-up length for the Warped Wall), and the Salmon Ladder has been in every city finals course since Season 2.
    • Otherwise, this has been averted over the years, as many obstacles change over time. In Season 4 (the first season with multiple qualifying courses), only a few obstacles on each course were changed, compared to Season 7, where only the above three obstacles and the Invisible Ladder were constant on each course.
    • Modified as of Season 8, the steps now escalate, and the Warped Wall was increased by 6 inches.
    • Season 10 added the "Mega Warped Wall" for the Qualifiers. This wall is 18' high. The regular Warped Wall is still there. Also, the successful climb on Mega Wall awards the competitor $10,000.
    • Season 15 went above and beyond by introducing the duel element to the competition - double courses at Semifinals and Stage 2 for runoffs between competitors.
    • Obstacles in Mt. Midoriyama that appear every year include the Jumping Spider and the Warped Wall in Stage 1; the (modified) Salmon Ladder in Stage 2; the Ultimate Cliffhanger (which is modified in later seasons), the Hang Climb and the Flying Bar in Stage 3; and the Stage 4 rope-climbing course.
  • Sequel Series: Evolved from American Ninja Challenge, a segment on G4's Attack of the Show, in which a few Americans were chosen to go to Japan to compete on SASUKE, the Japanese version (making this a Spiritual Successor as well). Obviously turned up to eleven when 10 Americans went to compete in Japan in Season 1 and later 100 went to Las Vegas for the American-specific finals starting in Season 4.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • Many of the men run the course with bare torsos, giving viewers a lot of delicious eye candy. Some shed their shirts while running. Discussed in Season 8 by Matt and Akbar, who mention that some men don't wear shirts because they believe shirts make them more slippery on obstacles like the Log Roll.
    • Lampshaded in the Season 7 premiere, where Matt Iseman says: "Fear not, ladies. We have no shortage of man-candy here tonight!" after one of the more attractive contestants - Rob Moravsky aka "The Adonis" - failed on the second part of the course.
  • 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. Possibly subverted when several competitors from the former (namely, Drew Drechsel and David "Flip" Rodriguez) became elite competitors in the latter.
    • Team Ninja Warrior was created in 2015, featuring 3-person teams of popular competitors from the parent show, in head-to-head racing along parallel obstacle courses. In 2018, it was renamed ANW: Ninja vs. Ninja.
    • Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge, created by the producers of ANW, is perhaps a looser definition. The show was created due to the popularity of ANW, aired on the same network, was heavily cross-promoted with ANW, and featured several ANW stars in several episodes. The actual Spartan Race events, however, existed long before the show was created, and are not related to ANW.
    • American Ninja Warrior Junior was announced on 2018. Premiered on October 13, 2018, the competitors of this show are the children who are superfans of the main show, mentored by fan-favorite ANW competitors.
  • Tempting Fate: There's a surprisingly large frequency of the announcers commenting on how well a contestant is doing... and that contestant falling within the next few seconds.
  • Ticket-Line Campout: In addition to regulars and people who auditioned, there's also a walk-on line for people to wait and hope they get in. It's usually referenced or shown when one of those walk-on competitors gets to run the course.
  • Timed Mission: Stages 1, 2, and 4 of every National Finals since Season 4.
  • True Companions: The competitors are extremely good sports, and are supportive of each other when they fall. Many of them train together in teams. Heartwarming when they are there for the competitors who take their losses hard.
    • Emphasized even more in Season 12. Due to 2020 being a very special year, the top ninjas bring along their best friends to give a shot at the competition.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Many Walk-Ons (competitors that were not selected through scouting and wait in line and hope they make it in) actually do surprisingly well despite trying the course for the first time. Kevin Bull is widely considered a hero for Walk-Ons for his 2014 performance. In Season 8, notably, many walk-ons became the first to hit the buzzers in the qualifiers.
    • Ever since Season 5, events where rookies (competitors entering the competition for their very first time) complete courses with insanely fast times and/or reach amazingly farther in a course or Mt. Midoriyama than expected have become pretty much pedestrian.
    • Ever since Season 13, the "underdogs" in question are much younger than the long-time superstars of Ninja world. Lowering the eligible age for competitors has led to younger Ninja contestants easily outshining their older peers on both regular and National Finals courses. The biggest underdog among them all, Kaden Lebsack, has literally never lost to make it all the way to Stage 4 in his first two years alone.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Arguably the Venice qualifiers (and subsequent City Finals) from Season 7. A particularly devastating obstacle, the Hourglass Drop, caused competitors to fail at never-before-seen rates. Only 7 people cleared the Qualifier and only 1 person (who obviously Took a Level in Badass) cleared the City Finals course, both record lows. The Hourglass took out so many people that several competitors who failed to clear it the second time were still able to move on to Vegas.
    • September 14, 2015. Not one, but two men finish a course that has been unconquered for seven years, with Isaac Caldiero being crowned the first American Ninja Warrior.
    • Season 8's Los Angeles City Finals had an absolutely brutal obstacle called The Wedge. Only two competitors, Josh Levin and Jessie Graff, were able to complete it.
    • Season 8's Vegas finale featured Jessie Graff becoming the first woman to ever defeat Stage 1. The video of her run has been viewed well over 4 million times.
    • August 29, 2022. Despite the brutal finale of Season 14, a record-breaking 5 people have advanced to Stage 4. None of them, however, were able to climb the rope in time for $1,000,000 prize.
  • Whole Costume Reference: Jessie Graff is often seen in a Wonder Woman-like attire.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Many veterans are given greater focus than the rest, but for a while there, the "Ninja Couple," Brent Steffensen and Kacy Catanzaro stood out the most, especially after Kacy skyrocketed in popularity for being the first woman to climb the Warped Wall and complete a City Finals course. However, neither of them competes anymore, and Kacy is unfortunately never able to replicate the success she had in Season 6.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Andrew Lowes seemingly cleared Stage 1 in Season 5, only to be told after a commercial break by co-host Jenn Brown that the judges ruled that he had run out of time.
  • 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 5’1” and 100 pounds takes the trope up to eleven.
    • Kacy is also the first woman to conquer the Warped Wall.
    • Jessie Graff, a stuntwoman who was the first woman to sit on top of a leaderboard, and only one of six people who completed the devastating Hourglass Drop. She did this again in Season 8 by conquering the astoundingly difficult Wedge. Then she became the first woman to complete Stage 1 of the Vegas Final.
    • Meagan Martin, after a string of bad luck in city finals courses, did exceptionally well on Season 8's Indianapolis finals course, coming in eighth place.
    • After Kacy finished a City Finals course in Season 6, no woman replicated that feat again until Season 11 - when two women did it in one night! Both Michelle Warnky and Jesse Labreck completed the course. Also noteworthy is that Warnky had completed the City Qualifiers with blood pouring down her face after hitting her head, then completed the Finals with gnarly-looking stitches that were less than 24 hours old. Badass.