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American Ninja Warrior All-Star Special: Skills Challenge recap

All the Ninja Warriors who took home the medals.

David Becker/NBC

After watching an epic battle in the team challenge, the 2017 American Ninja Warrior All-Star Special turned our attention to the skills challenge.

In this segment, Ninja Warriors competed on drastically heightened versions of the obstacles until only one warrior remained, claiming the championship title and medal.

There were seven competitions in all.

Endless Invisible Climb

We started off strong with the Endless Invisible Climb, which was the Invisible Ladder we’ve grown used to seeing as the end obstacle at the City Finals. Except here, it was 2.5 times bigger than that and the Ninja Warriors had to race one another on it.

In heat one, Ryan Stratis challenged James McGrath. James lived up to his nickname of “The Beast” and soundly won the match.

Chris Wilczewski then faced Jamie Rahn. While the two Ninjas stayed much closer together, Jamie pulled ahead at the end for the win.

James and Jamie then raced for the medal. James won by a landslide, traversing 75 feet in 34 seconds with ease.

Winner: James McGrath

Super Salmon Ladder

This took the iconic Salmon Ladder and made it a casual four stories high. That required that the Ninja Warriors leap up 35 rungs. Mike Bernardo held that record from the previous skills challenge and he was back to defend his title.

David Becker/NBC

Four Ninjas took on the Super Salmon Ladder.

Jon Stewart made it up 25 rungs.

Jesse Labreck made it up 19 rungs.

Karsten Williams shot up all 35 rungs in just 1:00.03. He hopped down a couple as well just to burn off the extra energy.

Mike Bernardo was predicted to reclaim his title. He shot up the ladder with incredible speed but became snagged at one point, struggling to right the bar. He did get things back on track, but in a painful shock, he fell with 34 rungs completed.

Winner: Karsten Williams

Striding Steps

In this annotated section, Ninjas raced across the water on nine small steps spaced 5.5 feet apart. The goal was to race out and back to the buzzer in the fastest time.

Jake Murray didn’t make it across, but made sure his splash was in true wacky Jake Murray style.

Kacy Catanzaro completed the challenge, but her time kept her out of the finals.

The two fastest Ninjas were friendly rivals Daniel Gil and Thomas Stillings. Daniel stumbled and fell during his run. Thomas took home the win with a time of 15.04 seconds.

Winner: Thomas Stillings

David Becker/NBC

Mega Wall

This felt like the big show for the night. The Warped Wall is always a revered moment and this ever expanding monster was something out of a nightmare. Five Ninja Warriors attempted it.

  • Jon Alexis Jr.
  • Jesse Labreck
  • Najee Richardson
  • Flip Rodriguez
  • Joe Moravsky

The competition started with the wall at 17 feet tall. All five competitors were able to topple it.

At 18 feet tall, Jesse Labreck was out by a literal fingertip. She was so close to grabbing the ledge that we almost couldn’t believe it happened.

18.5 feet offered no challenge for the remaining competitors. Joe, Najee, Jon and Flip all completed.

At 19 feet, things got tense. Both Joe Moravsky and Najee Richardson were out. This left Jon Alexis Jr. and the defending Mega Wall Champion, Flip Rodriguez. 19 feet was also the record Flip set in 2016.

In a moment that stunned the crowd, Flip did not stick the grasp at the top, leaving Jon Alexis Jr. as the Mega Wall Champion.

Winner: Jon Alexis Jr.

Big Air Grab

Another annotated competition saw the Ninjas leaping from a trampoline to a shelf that was repeatedly raised higher and higher.

Brent Steffensen, Meagan Martin, Kevin Bull, Nicholas Coolridge and Grant McCartney took on this challenge.

When the shelf was at 14 ft, all the Ninjas were able to complete it.

David Becker/NBC

At 14.5 feet, both Meagan and Kevin took a swim.

16 feet brought Grant up short.

At 16.5 feet, Brent was out, smiling at the crowd as he splashed down. Nicholas Coolridge completed and earned the medal.

Winner: Nicholas Coolridge


This was a speed race up and down a thunderbolt shaped peg board. The Ninjas raced to be the first one to hit a buzzer placed in the center.

The first American Ninja Warrior to complete all of the National Finals courses, Geoff Britten, returned for this competition. He took on Travis Rosen and won the heat.

Jessie Graff faced off against Brian Arnold. Brian’s dedication to rock climbing came in handy and he won the match.

Brian and Geoff then went head to head for the title. Showing off the strength that got him to the top of Mt. Midoriyama, Geoff won the heat with a significant lead.

Winner: Geoff Britten

Supersonic Shelf Grab

The last competition of the night was a shelf grab that increased in distance. In 2016, Drew Drechsel and Isaac Caldiero tied on this challenge when they both completed 14 feet and the distance could not be extended any further.

Brett Sims, Meagan Martin, Najee Richardson and Drew Drechsel all tried to see how far they could fly.

With a nine foot leap, Meagan missed the landing and was out.

At 11 feet, Brett exited the competition.

As we reached 14 feet, the sun was rising in the background, a sure sign that these Ninja Warriors had been pushing their bodies hard all night.

Both Najee and Drew land the jump, smashing the previous record.

Then both missed the landing at 15 feet. Would the Supersonic Shelf Grab end in a tie for two years in a row? Nope. Producers opted to give them both one more shot.

Najee missed the landing again. However, Drew Drechsel landed it, creating an epic new record for future challenges.

Winner: Drew Drechsel

All in all, the 2017 American Ninja Warrior Skills Special was exactly what fans needed to keep their interest piqued as they wait for Season Nine to pick up in the summer. The way these Ninjas were pushing each other and smashing records means we’re in for some exciting new action.