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Ninja vs Ninja recap: This season will highlight the art of winning

The Ninjas showcased the strategy and strength it will take to survive this game.

Eddy Chen/USA Network

The lead up to American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs Ninja has been long and full of hype. But was it all worth it?

In our opinion: Heck. Yes.

Ninja vs Ninja debuted as the newer, sleeker version of Team Ninja Warrior. With a fresh look and new rules, the premiere episode pit four teams against each other on a brand new course. The Ninjas not only brought their skills but also their competitiveness and just a dash of gamesmanship.

TL: DR: The Beasts from the East tried to maintain their footing against the Hashtag Ninjas, but were outpaced in the first round. Team Ronin made short work of the West Coast Warriors, sweeping the individual heats.

On the extended course, Team Ronin and the Hashtag Ninjas were almost equally matched, sending them into a nail-biting five heats. JJ Woods’ superb performances on the Zigzag Climb would be the deciding factor in Team Ronin’s success, moving them to the playoffs.

The match-ups:

  • Beasts from the East vs Hashtag Ninjas
  • Team Ronin vs West Coast Warriors

The obstacles:

  • Sonic Swing
  • Tick Tock
  • Criss Cross Ring Toss
  • Floating Tiles
  • Floating Shelf Grab
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • Rumbling Dice
  • Zigzag Climb

You can find more information on the rules of Ninja vs Ninja here. It follows a best-of-five, single elimination format. The last team standing moves on to the playoffs.


Beasts from the East

  • James McGrath
  • Erica Cook
  • Dave Cavanagh

Hashtag Ninjas

  • Nicholas Coolridge
  • Larissa Cottle
  • Jesse La Flair

Heat one:

  • James McGrath vs Nicholas Coolridge

James went into this competition undefeated in head to head races, but Nicholas is a confident competitor. They were evenly matched at the start. James went for a big dismount on the Ring Toss and it almost ended the race as he fell into the pool. He hung on, but it gave Nicholas time to glide past. Nicholas didn’t waste the opportunity and sprinted to the buzzer.

Point = Hashtag Ninjas

Heat two:

  • Erica Cook vs Larissa Cottle

Erica returned to competition after spending the year rehabilitating her ACL. Larissa was a rookie in the Ninja vs Ninja format, leading her to dip her feet on the Sonic Swing. But she quickly regained her composure and began to close the gap on the Ring Toss. Erica bust off the rings first, but her speed lead to a miscalculation and she was out on the Floating Titles. This provided Larissa the time to navigate a path past the obstacle.

Even though she won the heat by finishing the Tiles, this rookie wanted to prove what she had. Larissa kept going, completing the Shelf Grab. She then snagged her first Warped Wall in competition and hit the buzzer.

Point = Hashtag Ninjas

Heat three:

  • Dave Cavanagh vs Jesse La Flair

Dave was in the pressure position. He had to win this heat to keep the Beasts from the East in the game. Dave has four years of American Ninja Warrior experience, but he was facing the parkour sensation, Jesse La Flair. The two were neck and neck on the Ring Toss. Dave snagged the important first dismount and bounded across the Tiles. It looked like Jesse might catch up to Dave on the Shelf Grab, but his grip loosened on the second shelf, sending him into the water. Dave was uncontested as he completed the course.

Point = Beasts from the East

Heat four - RELAY:

While Dave had kept the Beasts alive, they were still in the position of needing to win this first relay. Hashtag Ninjas required just one point to end the match. Erica and Larissa took the first leg. Dave and Nicholas waited just after Tick Tock. James and Jesse would take on the Floating Shelf Grab and the Warped Wall.

The women started strong, tagging in their teammates at almost the same time. Dave and Nicholas were in-sync on the Rings. Nicholas gained ground on the Floating Tiles by hopping right down the center, bringing in Jesse first. Jesse might as well be called La Fast because he bolted down the course for the win.

Point = Hashtag Ninjas

  • Hashtag Ninjas WIN
  • Beasts from the East are OUT


Team Ronin

  • Flip Rodriguez
  • Meagan Martin
  • JJ Woods

West Coast Warriors

Pretty in Pink . . . #ninjavsninja #ninjawarrior #pink @ninja_linz

A post shared by Alan Connealy (@alanconnealy) on

  • Alan Connealy
  • Lindsay Eskildsen
  • JB Douglas

Heat one:

  • JJ Woods vs JB Douglas

JJ Woods has an almost unmatched competitive streak on the course. It pushed him to take a huge dismount on the Rings, which gave him a strong lead over JB. JJ stumbled a bit on the Tiles but recovered quickly. JB began closing the gap on the Shelf Grab, but in a blink, JJ was already up the Wall.

Point = Team Ronin

Heat two:

  • Meagan Martin vs Lindsay Eskildsen

Meagan is another competitor who is undefeated in this format and she started things off with a bang, speeding from the starting platform. Lindsay wasn’t distracted by though and worked to catch up on the Rings. However, Meagan had the lead and dismounted from the obstacle first, and the Tiles offered her no trouble. Lindsay slipped on the Tiles but pushed forward.

The Shelf Grab challenged both Ninjas. Meagan hit her head on the transfer. Lindsay took a flip/fall from the obstacle. Even though she’d taken a bit of a knock to the head, Meagan still landed the Warped Wall and completed the course.

Point = Team Ronin

Heat three:

  • Flip Rodriguez vs Alan Connealy

Now it was Alan’s turn to feel the pressure. He had to go against Flip to save the West Coast Warrior. Alan pushed hard, keeping close to Flip. On the Rings, the Ninjas were side by side. Flip went for and landed a big dismount. Alan went to follow suit, but missed the landing, ending the heat.

Point = Team Ronin

  • Team Ronin WINS
  • West Coast Warriors are OUT


  • Team Ronin vs Hashtag Ninjas

Round three takes place on the extended course of nine obstacles, adding in the Salmon Ladder, Rumbling Dice, and the Zigzag Climb.

Heat one:

  • JJ Woods vs Nicholas Coolridge

This race brought the intensity to a new level. Both competitors were off to a fast start. They were matched when they leaped on to the Rings. Then, things got crazy. JJ made a grab toward Nicholas after losing one of his rings. Both positioned their bodies to try to slow the momentum of the other, leaving them both dangling from one ring only.

Nicholas dove off the rings first and flew across the Tiles. JJ tied it up again on the Shelf Grab but in a shocking moment, he missed the bar on the dismount and hit the water, ending Team Ronin’s winning streak.

Point = Hashtag Ninjas

Heat two:

  • Meagan Martin vs Larissa Cottle

Meagan gained a lead on Tick Tock. Larissa closed the gap on the Rings, but Meagan navigated a successful dismount. Larissa was almost an obstacle behind when Meagan was on the Shelf Grab. It looked like Larissa had a dull bounce on the trampoline to the Shelf Grab, and fell into the water. Meagan finished the Warped Wall and took the point.

Point = Team Ronin

Heat three:

  • Flip Rodriguez vs Jesse La Flair

Flip went into this race so focused he even had earbuds in. Both of these Ninjas are known for speed and they SPRINTED off the start. They were so close together there was no way to predict a winner. Flip got his foot wet when he opted for a big dismount, but he was still across the Floating Tiles first. Jesse pushed for the comeback on the Shelf Grab. No one could have predicted Flip’s hands would slip off the final bar of the obstacle, ending his run.

Point = Hashtag Ninjas

Heat four - RELAY:

With the Hashtag Ninjas at two points, Team Ronin was precariously close to ending their season. Meagan and Larissa took the first leg. Flip and Jesse waited after the Ring Toss. JJ and Nicholas stood at the top of the Warped Wall, ready to take on the final three obstacles.

Meagan was in a slight lead but got hung up on the Rings. For a second, it even looked like she was heading backward. She righted herself and tagged in Flip, with Larissa bringing in Nicholas a moment later. Flip was up the Wall in a flash and brought in JJ. But speedy Jesse was not far behind, tagging Nicholas. Nicholas blazed up the Salmon Ladder, bringing things back to a tie on the Rumbling Dice. JJ built a slight lead, sending him to the Zigzag Climb first where he really kicked it into gear, hitting the buzzer well before Nicholas.

Point = Team Ronin


The teams reset themselves in the same order as before and headed into the all-important last race.

Meagan again started with a slight lead and seemed more confident on the Rings this time. Larissa was close behind and both Ninjas ended up on the same side of the obstacle, with Meagan in front. Larissa wasn’t going to make this easy on her. She positioned herself directly behind Meagan, preventing her from swinging back far enough to gain the momentum for the dismount. It took Meagan several slams into Larissa to wriggle herself off the obstacle.

The move let her bring in Flip before Jesse. From there, the race played out very similar to the previous relay. Team Ronin gained a lead and performed flawlessly. JJ has mastered that Zigzag Climb, leaving Nicholas far behind.

Point = Team Ronin

  • Hashtag Ninjas are OUT
  • Team Ronin will return for the playoffs!

The Mitsubishi Drive of Night went to Larissa and Meagan’s battle in the last heat. Rookie Larissa used strategy to put the veteran Meagan “on the ropes” of the Ring Toss. Meagan stayed calm and dug deep into her strengths to still pull out the lead. It was a marvelous example of the contact action we can look forward to all season!

Next week:

On March 8, four more teams enter the arena!

  • Lance Pekus’ Dark Horse takes on Tyler Yamauchi’s Midwest Muscle.
  • Jesse Labreck’s Labreckfast Club will face Ben Melick’s Team Tarzan.