If you haven’t had the motivation to make good on your New Year’s resolutions to move more and get in shape, perhaps NBC’s American Ninja Warrior: USA vs the World will give you all the inspiration you need and then some. Anyone can call themselves a “warrior” but for these guys, the sport is so much more than just a hobby. It’s an obsession. That what makes this special so much fun. It’s watching the best of the best do their stuff.
This is the third annual international competition for American Ninja Warrior. The first competition pitted Team USA against Team Japan who was expected to win. Shockingly, Team USA beat them by a landslide. Last year, the network invited Team Europe to join in the reindeer games, but may have regretted that decision as they became victorious over the other two.
As always, this year’s special will be hosted by Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila (say that five times fast) with Kristine Leahy co-hosting from the ground floor.
Though the show has aired in America for seven seasons, this is just the third year for the world competition special which airs on Sunday, January 31 from 8:00-11:00 p.m. The spectacle fittingly takes place in Las Vegas and features the first three stages of the “Mt. Midoriyama” course, which is the final stage course that is used in the regular TV show. Instead of fighting individually, the warriors will run the course in a head-to-head format that will pit each team against each other. Each team consists of six of the best “Ninjas” from past seasons all on a journey to bring home the winner’s trophy. This year’s teams are:
This year’s team has all new members including last season’s $1 million winner, Isaac Caldiero, but absent is runner up, Geoff Britten, who can in second by mere seconds. Of all seven seasons of this show, these were the first two competitors to ever make it to the top of Mt. Midoriyama and they both did it last June. Caldiero will be joined by Kevin Bull, Drew Drechsel, Ian Dory and Joe Moravsky.
Team Japan is considered the experts at the Ninja Warrior game, but as the last two championships proved, they can be taken down. Still, they are a force to be reckoned with and will be trying extra hard to prove that they are the best. This year the team decided to bring back both Ryo Matachi and Yusuke Morimoto, both whom competed last year, along with Kenji Takahashi, Massashi Hioki and Tomohiro Kawaguchi. They are all veterans of the Japanese version of American Ninja Warrior.
Still feeling cocky after last year’s win, France’s Sean McColl, Italy’s Stefano Ghisolfi and England’s Tim Shieff will return to compete. Both McColl and Ghisolfi are world-class rock climbers while Shieff is a world champion free runner who is a champ with the United Kingdom’s version of the show. They are joined by two new team members Tim Champion (a top gymnast from England) and Alexander Mars, who was last year’s winner of the Swedish version of the show.
American Ninja Warrior is based on the hit Japanese sport show, Sasuke. Broadcasting from the Tokyo Broadcasting System Television network, the show is getting ready to present its 31st season this year. TV nerds will be interested in learning that the show is executive-produced by A. Smith & Co. Production’s who also produce Hell’s Kitchen, Unsung and Ellen’s Design Challenge. Here in American, the NBC version is a production between the peacock network and the Esquire Network.
Oddly, American Ninja Warrior is a sports show that just seems to get more popular the longer it’s on the air and is popular with both men and women. Perhaps it is because every competitor gets a little video biography of who they are and where they come from before they compete. Viewers actually get to know the competitors a bit and they in turn before more than just a name on the screen. Or, maybe it’s just because it normally airs during the summer when there is nothing else on.