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Ninja vs Ninja recap: Competitors faced an unexpected cold front

The rookies brought their A-game, but could they hold their own against the more experienced teams?

Eddy Chen/USA Network

We’re staring down the backstretch of the American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs Ninja playoffs! In the eighth week of competition, four more stacked teams went head to head. Three of the teams had appeared on previous seasons of the show. But one new team, Frostbite, blew in like a blizzard to challenge the veterans. Did it get them through to the playoffs?

TL:DR: Najee’s Phoenix Force took out Noah Kaufman’s Think Tank after four rounds. Team TNT, the runner-up in both seasons one and two of Team Ninja Warrior, faced Frostbite, a group of head-to-head rookies. But in a twist ending, it was the new kids who swept the veteran team and moved on to the final match-up.

Phoenix Force and Frostbite challenged one another to five heats. The tie-breaker that gave Phoenix Force the win has to be seen to be believed.

The match-ups:

  • Phoenix Force vs Think Tank
  • Frostbite vs Team TNT

The obstacles:

  • Sonic Swing
  • Tick Tock
  • Pole Grasper
  • Floating Tiles
  • Spin Cycle
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • Rumbling Dice
  • Zig Zag 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.


Phoenix Force

  • Najee Richardson
  • Cassie Craig
  • Michael Torres

Think Tank

  • Dr. Noah Kaufman
  • Leila Noone
  • Matt Wilder

Heat one:

  • Michael Torres vs Matt Wilder

Michael and Matt are both known for their speed, creating a fast and even start. On the Pole Grasper, Michael went right over the top of Matt and got out of there. He bunny-hopped across the Floating Tiles and jumped on to the Spin Cycle. Matt caught up with Michael there and evened things out. Both ran for the Warped Wall. Michael hit the buzzer just a hair before Matt.

Point = Phoenix Force

Heat two:

  • Cassie Craig vs Leila Noone

This was short and not-so-sweet. Cassie was in the lead until she suddenly hit the water on Tick Tock.

Point = Think Tank

Heat three:

  • Najee Richardson vs Noah Kaufman

Najee bolted from the start line and led into the Pole Grasper. Noah jumped deep into the obstacle, landing a little low and getting his feet wet. Najee completed the Poles but tripped on the Floating Tiles. He saved himself and moved on to the Spin Cycle. Noah was still putting in full effort. Najee completed the Spin Cycle first and was up the Wall on his first attempt.

Point = Phoenix Force

Heat four - Relay:

Cassie and Leila started things out. Michael and Noah were positioned in the middle. Najee and Matt took up the last obstacles.

Leila led from the starting line. Cassie suffered a repeat on Tick Tock, falling there and triggering a five-second second delay for Michael. But Michael’s speed put him even with Noah on the Pole Grasper. Michael then brought in Najee, who tore up the Wall while Matt was just moments behind.

Point = Phoenix Force

  • Phoenix Force WINS.
  • Think Tank is OUT.


Team TNT

  • Travis Rosen
  • Emily Durham
  • Brett Sims


  • Nick Hanson
  • Zhanique Lovett
  • Jackson Meyer

Heat one:

  • Jackson Meyer vs Brett Sims

These two were close at the start, with the separation starting at the Pole Grasper. Jackson was in the lead while Brett slipped a bit. Brett then had two falls on the Floating Tiles, ending his run. Jackson went all the way to the buzzer.

Point = Frostbite

Heat two:

  • Zhanique Lovett vs Emily Durham

Zhanique led across the Tick Tock and then landed low on the Pole Grasper. Emily joined her there, but Zhanique recovered her momentum and dismounted first. She then fell on the Tiles but stayed in the game. This let Emily take the lead and they both lunged for the Spin Cycle. Emily went for the Warped Wall first, missing her first attempt. This opened the door for Zhanique to catch up and land the Wall on her first try.

Point = Frostbite

Heat three:

  • Nick Hanson vs Travis Rosen

Suddenly Team TNT, last season’s runner up, was facing a sweep. It was a tie through Tick Tock. Both took deep dives into the Poles. Travis then opened a very strong lead and was on to the Spin Cycle. Nick needed to move it if he still wanted a chance at winning. Travis was up the Warped Wall, but missed the grab! Out of nowhere, Nick shot past Travis and grabbed the win!

Point = Frostbite

Frostbite WINS.

Team TNT is OUT.


  • Phoenix Force vs Frostbite

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

Heat one:

  • Michael Torres vs Jackson Meyer

Jackson was stuck for a second on Tick Tock, allowing Michael to take a firm lead. Michael was on the Spin Cycle, while Jackson was still on the Pole Grasper. Michael moved on to the back portion of the course. When Jackson joined him, he was on the Rumbling Dice. But Michael was looking tired. Maybe Jackson was still in this. But when Michael executed the Zig Zag Climb with no errors, the first point went to the Phoenix Force.

Point = Phoenix Force

Round two:

  • Cassie Craig vs Zhanique Lovett

Cassie put her troubles with Tick Tock behind her for this run. The Ninjas were close through the Pole Grasper, with Zhanique heading to the Tiles first. She maintained her focus and pushed into the back portion of the course. Cassie was stuck on the Spin Cycle, eventually falling here.

Point = Frostbite

Round three:

  • Najee Richardson vs Nick Hanson

Now it was captain vs captain. Nick snagged a lead on the Pole Grasper, but they both battled down the course. Nick completed the Warped Wall first. Both Ninjas approached the Salmon Ladder at the same time. Najee closed the gap by grabbing the obstacle first and flawlessly completing it. Nick was slightly behind on the Rumbling Dice. Najee reached the final climb first and paused for a moment to catch his breath. Normally, this would have been a chance for Nick to make a bid for the win. Instead, Najee exploded up the climb before Nick could even start.

Point = Phoenix Force

Heat four - relay:

Frostbite was on the bubble, needing the win. Cassie and Zhanique stood at the starting line. Michael and Nick were in the middle. Najee and Jackson would take on the final obstacles.

The Tick Tock struck again for Cassie, give a five-second delay to Michael. Nick started his leg with Michael pushing to make up time. Jackson entered the competition before Najee. They were together on the Salmon Ladder. It was too close to call on the Rumbling Dice. Najee was charging up the Zig Zag climb when his leg suddenly slipped out, sending him tumbling. Jackson made it to the buzzer.

Point = Frostbite

Heat five - relay:

Things were all tied up. It came down to one last race. Frostbite shifted their run order, putting Jackson in the middle and Nick at the end.

In a worrisome moment before the race, Najee sat down, looking exhausted.

It was a repeat once more at the start. Cassie fell at the Tick Tock, delaying Michael. Michael chased Jackson through the obstacles, but Nick still received the tag first. Nick was ahead on the Salmon Ladder, but Najee knew what to do. It was a tie on the Rumbling Dice, with Najee dismounting first. Then suddenly Nick had the lead on the Zig Zag. Then Najee was ahead on the climb! They pushed one another to the last second, with Najee finally taking the win.

Point = Phoenix Force

  • Phoenix Force is heading to the playoffs!
  • Frostbite is OUT.

The last race earned the title of Mitsubishi Drive of the Night. Najee was exhausted and fighting leg cramps, and Nick poured everything he had into the race. The incredible final climb was a testament to both their skills and drive.

Next week:

On April 23, it will be the ninth week of qualifiers. That means there’s only ONE playoff spot left before the wildcard rounds. Here are the final four teams!

  • Superhero Squad: Jamie Rahn, Rachael Goldstein, and Sean Darling Hammond
  • Wisco Warriors: Drew Knapp, Andrew Philibeck, and Sara Heesen
  • Tri Hards: Sean Bryan, Rebekah Bonilla, and Adam Rayl
  • Hazard Brigade: Mike Bernardo, Grace Sims, and Michael Needham