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American Ninja Warrior Cleveland City Finals recap: Too many runs were clipped short in the same spot

Only two Ninja veterans could navigate a tough new obstacle.

Duane Prokop/NBC

The Cleveland City Finals is one of those American Ninja Warrior episodes fans anxiously await. Beloved favorites like Joe Moravsky, Jamie Rahn and Najee Richardson try to maintain the momentum they started in the Qualifiers, while fans were eager for more in the thrilling story of Jesse Labreck and Allyssa Beird.

Both women were able to hit the buzzer during their Qualifying runs, leaving them primed to break more records in the City Finals. But first, they’d all have to face the newest Ninja killer, the Nail Clipper. And it was a doozy.

Let’s get into the action!

Here’s what you missed:

Course completions: 2

Ninjas taken out by the I-Beam Gap: 4

Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Nail Clipper: 20

The Course:

  • Floating Steps
  • Rolling Log
  • Razor’s Edge
  • Ring Jump
  • I-Beam Gap
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • Nail Clipper
  • The Clacker
  • Elevator Climb

Quick Highlights:

  • Michelle Warnky kicked things off with a bang, making it all the way to the new obstacle, the Nail Clipper.
  • Annika Neishalla, who made it to the Ring Jump in Qualifying, fell on the Razor’s Edge.
  • Jon Alexis Jr. put his height to good use and gave us all a confident dance as he completed the I-Beam Gap. He made it all the way to the Nail Clipper.
  • The Nail Clipper seemed almost impossible until Jamie Rahn became the first to complete it. He then tore through the rest of the course to become the first finisher of the night.
  • Jesse Labreck hit her first buzzer in the Qualifying round. She wouldn’t make it to the buzzer again in the Finals, but her strong run to the Nail Clipper landed her in the top 15!
  • Allyssa Beird was the first woman in season nine to hit a buzzer. Apparently, that was just the kick off to her impressive season. She also made it to the Nail Clipper, earning her a trip to Vegas.
  • James McGrath, a long time competitor, had everyone worried during his run. Several times he collapsed on the course, claiming sheer exhaustion. But his tank wasn’t quite on empty, as he didn’t fall until the Nail Clipper.
  • Najee Richardson upheld his reputation as someone who can fly through the course when he made it to the, you guessed it, Nail Clipper.
  • Joe Moravsky closed out the night with another of his incredible displays of strength. He cleared the Nail Clipper, and the Clackers. He then earned the fastest time of the night when he completed the course.

Heart-Pounding Moment:

Jamie Rahn created a fantastic run that had us cheering, and earned him the title of POM Wonderful Run of the Night. So we’re going to give this moment to the only other finisher, Joe Moravsky.

We’re pretty sure Matt and Akbar have bestowed the title of “Mr. Consistency” upon several competitiors as this point, but we’ve got to say that it’s Joe who is really living up to the moniker right now. Just as we’ve seen him grow personally on the show (his wedding, birth of his daughter, and now, he and his wife are expecting a son), we’ve also seen him hone his skills into a Ninja course weapon.

But nothing on American Ninja Warrior is set in stone. The greats take early falls all the time. Which is why, no matter how confident you are in a competitor, watching their runs gets your pulse racing. Especially with something like the Nail Clipper on the course.

But Joe held his own. He briefly paused to examine the Nail Clipper before he began, but he locked a strategy into place and moved through it with no struggle. On the Elevator Climb, he was already home free for getting to Vegas, but we wanted that glorious moment of watching him hit the buzzer. Which he delivered.

Heart-Breaking Moment:

James McGrath has such a long history with the show. He’s competed on seven seasons and is no stranger to the National Finals. He’s one of those competitors that lives and breaths the Ninja life and has seen the show develop and grow firsthand.

He’s been recovering from a shoulder surgery and the toll it’s taken on his body was obvious during his run. He moved slowly. He struggled. He collapsed several times and looked so ill at the top of the Warped Wall that Matt and Akbar were concerned for him. As a testament to his skill and strength, he still made it to the Nail Clipper even under all that duress.

But it was difficult to watch his painful struggle. You couldn’t help but wonder if we were seeing the dramatic decline of a favored competitor. We know that the athletes all struggle with exhaustion and fatigue on the course, but seeing how it was clearly troubling his mind as well was concerning.

Our hope is that James just needs some more time to heal his body. He did not qualify for the National Finals this season, but that might give him the breathing room he needs to reset his mind and his muscles.

Lesson of the night:

Do we even need to say it? Beware the Nail Clipper. Taking out 20 Ninjas is a huge chunk of the City Finalists field. That obstacle was a big deal.

What made it so hard? Well it’s hard to even put a finger on that. At first glance, it looks like a clunky monkey bar tactic would get you through. But then taking into consideration the small ledges, the movement of the cylinders, the fact that the Ninjas had already taxed themselves on seven other obstacles... It suddenly turns into an almost impossible beast.

Only Jamie Rahn and Joe Moravsky would get past it, proving once again that a seriously important Ninja skill is the ability to adapt on the fly to new challenges.

Next up:

On August 21, American Ninja Warrior circles back to Kansas City. Only 10 Ninjas survived the entire Qualifying course. Will anyone make it to the buzzer for the City Finals?