One of the greatest perks of heading up American Ninja Warrior Nation is that I get to attend the live tapings. This means, for me, season nine kicks off in less than a week, and I’ll have to keep my big trap shut about the results until the show hits the airwaves in the summer.
So before March 7 gets here, and the Los Angeles Qualifiers take place, I wanted to write down my thoughts for season nine. Before my ideas are influenced by anything I see over the next few months, these are my gut feelings on what’s in store for American Ninja Warrior.
More women in the city finals and thus at the National Finals
In season eight, we all lost our minds when four women qualified for the Philadelphia City finals, the most in the show’s history. Jessie Graff, Meagan Martin and Jesse Labreck qualified for the National Finals.
This is going to become common place.
The door has been opened for female competitors. That mental block of “this is so much harder for women” has been shaken. The women are going to take to the course with a focused determination that’s going to push more farther than ever.
A new level of obstacles
I think we’re going to see obstacles that are of a whole new generation, demanding multiple strengths and skills at once from the Ninjas.
It’s no secret that the team behind the construction and management of the American Ninja Warrior course, The ATS Team, also constructed the course for the new Netflix show, Ultimate Beastmaster. There’s no way that creating all those new challenges didn’t give them some new ideas to bring back to the Ninja Warrior course.
In addition to that, the producers at A. Smith & Co, who also design the obstacles, know they need to keep the course fresh. Ninja Warriors are becoming more and more adept at the obstacles as specialized gyms pop up all over the country.
They have to think outside the norm to stay one step ahead.
Changing of the guard
This might just be me, but I’m feeling a shift in the fan base. There will be competitors that “newer fans” (who discovered the show in the past two seasons or so) won’t be familiar with, that long-time fans will always revere.
Due to the longevity of the show, we’re reaching a point where someone could have competed quite successfully for three or four seasons, but currently not be a known name. There are many reasons athletes step away from the show. It doesn’t always act as an indicator of their abilities.
Discussions around the “greatest,” “strongest,” “best” Ninja Warriors will be formulated around the now varying generations of fans.
One of the driving factors in the creation of this new fan generation will be because of...
Lots of successful rookies
In the past, one great disadvantage of being a rookie on the show was not being familiar with the obstacles and facing the pressure of a live audience.
In the last few years, the amount of Ninja specific gyms has sky-rocketed. The show’s obstacles are studied and recreated. Veteran competitors are training new competitors. They’re putting their heads together to try to estimate the new obstacles and prepare for them.
This has also led to a rise in local competitions. Amateurs can test their obstacle training against successful Ninja Warriors. They’re hitting timed courses with all their friends and family looking on.
Essentially, the secrets are out. The new Ninjas are entering the show with a level of practice we haven’t seen before.
No total victory
I would love to look back in a few months and say I was totally wrong about this one. But right now, sorry, I think we’re going to be out of luck in season nine.
It took seven seasons for the show to get a winner. (And very arguably, we got two winners.) We’re going to have to wait more than just one season between victories.
This is NOT to say that I don’t think the Ninja Warriors are prepared. Luck plays such a huge factor. One slip, one misjudgment on a trampoline, and we’ll need to wait another season.