On the third episode of American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs Ninja, team Party Time posted a career comeback. Party Time, captained by Brian Arnold, has taken part in all three iterations of the competition (previously Team Ninja Warrior). They were the season one champions. In season two, they walked away after only the first episode.
But it looks like they want to be back on top this season. They bumped the Brazi Bros out of the competition in their first match-up. Party Time then swept the All-American Ninjas in the fight for the playoff position.
After the episode, we talked to Brian about being a Team Ninja OG, his long-time teammate Jake Murray, and season newcomer Barclay Stockett.
Responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
What were your thoughts when you saw the new Ninja vs Ninja set?
BA: I was totally blown away by the size and the formatting. Everything. It was bigger and better. I was blown away by the magnitude of it. I was excited. The screens, the fog, and everything. The production level went way up. I felt like I was on the WWE or something.
You and Jake have competed together on every season of Team Ninja. What’s your chemistry like with Jake?
BA: I don’t want another teammate besides Jake ever. If Jake left my team, I might quit and cry. Jake is so much fun. He makes the atmosphere so much better. He wants to win, which, I want to win, but he also has a good attitude about it, where, you know, we’re just going to have fun. That’s my attitude. I want to win, and I’m going to do everything I can to win, try my hardest, and I expect to win, but at the end of the day, it is all about fun. So having that perspective and someone with similar views makes the whole experience fun.
Why did you decide to select Barclay for the team this year?
BA: Because Barclay is strong! I think everyone wanted Barclay on their team. We posted on social media that we were having a tryout for Jennifer’s spot. (Jennifer Tavernier participated in Team Ninja Warrior as part of Party Time for seasons one and two.) She saw it and responded. We thought she was on someone else’s team, so when she informed us that she was not, we were excited. We just wanted to know what we needed to do to get her on the team.
Did you get to train together before the competition?
BA: No. We live too far apart. Jake and I did. Jake and I were going to the park all the time. One of the things I like to do is to go to random parks and run and make up courses. Jake and I did that a bunch leading up to the show. But unfortunately, Barclay was not a part of that.
What was the dynamic like when you did get into the same space?
BA: Oh, it was energy. It was awesome. We knew that we were some of the best contestants so we were pumped. We knew we had a potentially winning team. It was just a really positive attitude. We were all excited to be racing together. We knew what was about to happen. It was just a really good chemistry with all of us.
In season one, Party Time was the champion team. In season two, you left early. What were your goals this season as a team?
BA: Season one was amazing. Season two was depressing. I couldn’t even watch it. My expectations were I wanted to win again and I knew we could. We have a great team. I have high expectations for this season for sure.
In your match-up against Alexio Gomes, Alexio hit the buzzer four-tenths of a second faster than you. Are losses that are THAT close more frustrating?
BA: No. Any loss just sucks. I hate to lose. I don’t train as hard as I do to lose. It doesn’t matter what I lose by. If I lose, I lose. I definitely don’t want to fall. Falling is worse. There’s nothing worse than walking off the course wet. I hate to lose. If you see my face after, I am not happy. If you see my face, I realize that I probably lost, or that I didn’t crush him, and I wanted to show everyone how fast I am. I guess I’m not as fast as I think I am and I’m not happy with it even being that close.
Jake was using huge leaps to dismount from the Tilting Ladders. Did that risk make you nervous at all?
BA: Definitely. I feel like I’m super fast even when I’m going cautiously. I just wanted to get through the first race or two, just going at a nice speed, but not really taking any unnecessary risks. Then once I felt comfortable on the course I would start taking risks. Jake was straight out of the gate. He has a different approach. He’s just going to show everyone how good he is and it doesn’t matter. He’s going to go as fast as he can.
So that definitely makes me nervous because, if you remember in season nine (of American Ninja Warrior), Jake fell early in the City Qualifiers because he has that approach. So when I saw those huge dismounts, I was like “Oh, Jake! Not yet. Not yet. Feel the course out!” But Jake is Jake and he’s good enough he can do that.
Well, it paid off for the team. You moved on to face the All-American Ninjas. What were your impressions of that team?
BA: Man, those guys. I was so excited to be able to race them. The fact that I was getting to race Paul Hamm. I specifically asked production if I could race him because I watched him on TV years ago winning gold and he was my hero. I felt honored just to be able to race him. The fact that I was competing against him, it made me feel like a better athlete because of the caliber of athlete that he is. He’s one of the best in the world. It was such a huge honor.
In your race against Paul, you stopped just before the obstacles on the back half and looked back. Were you seeing if you had time to rest? Were you feeling a little tired?
BA: I was feeling a little tired. I was feeling a little more tired than I expected. That course is pretty long. I was being cautious. I just wanted to get through the episode not taking any unnecessary risks. I knew I had a lead. I was trying to strategize so before I started every obstacle I was super fresh. I knew I was far enough ahead at one point that I just didn’t want to do anything unnecessary.
Jake took the opposite approach and finished the whole course. He’s in such great shape. I don’t think there’s anyone in better shape than Jake. Especially cardio-wise. We live at altitude and Jake trains cardio more than any other Ninja that I know. His cardio is phenomenal. You need to see it. His approach was a little different. But he can do that because Jake is Jake.
Barclay and April Steiner Bennett had a really great race, pushing each other to the back half of the course. Were you confident that Barclay would pull out the win?
BA: Yeah. I did. I know Barclay’s abilities. Once she got the lead, she put the pressure on April to step it up. When someone gets a lead on you like that, and you’re not super experienced, a lot of people panic and start hyperventilating. Then they’re not relaxed. They can burn themselves out pretty quickly. I think that was happening. Maybe I’m wrong.
Party Time swept the All-American Ninjas to make it to the playoffs. How were you feeling as a team after that competition?
BA: The jitters were out of the way. The first round was over. Now, this is where I get faster. Once I get my first few races out of the way, that’s when you see me really open up.
Sounds like Brian Arnold plans to continue the party well into the season! Brian, Jake, and Barclay will return to Ninja vs Ninja in a few weeks to take on the playoffs.