“American Ninja Warrior” takes over Kansas City

“American Ninja Warrior” returned to Kansas City’s Union Station to find its next winner. (Photo property of Jake’s Take)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

For the past eight years, NBC’s sports action competition series American Ninja Warrior (ANW) has captured the hearts of the nation.

ANW will be returning to the National Broadcasting Company for its sixth summer to look for the best athletes in the country.

Their season nine search brought the show back to Kansas City for the first time in two years.

Hosts Matt Iseman (left) and Akbar Gbajabiamila (right) talked with me before filming. (Photo property of Jake’s Take)

“When we were here two years ago, it was the first time that we saw how the crowds were embracing this show.” Said Matt Iseman, American Ninja Warrior host. “We saw that the (Liberty Memorial)’s hill was packed with thousands of fans.”

Host Akbar Gbajabimila, who is returning for his fifth season, stated exclusively to Jake’s Take that Kansas City showed him the power of American Ninja Warrior.

“We knew that the show had an influence, but we did not know that it was going to bring that type of return.” Said Gbajabimila.  “It was overwhelming to see the thousands of fans at Union Station watching the show, and you had thousands more watching the action on the hill.”

Iseman also added that there the 2015 Kansas City tour stop created many show-stopping segments from Season Seven.

“There were so many memorable moments from that night alone,” Iseman said. “Isaac Caldiero started his journey in Kansas City, and he eventually became the first American Ninja Warrior.”

To get to Mount Midoriyama, every ninja must begin their journey with the Floating Steps. (Photo property of Jake’s Take)

Over 125 qualifiers were hoping to follow in Isaac’s footsteps. For the ninjas to even think about Las Vegas and Mount Midoriyama, they must complete the city qualifier course, which includes the show’s signature obstacles: The Floating Steps and the Warped Wall.

“I did the Floating Steps, and I was winded after doing that obstacle,” Gbajabimila stated. “You cannot overlook that obstacle. It is the real deal.”

Among the qualifiers that competed on the Kansas City course included Ninja Warrior veterans such as Lance Pekus (“Cowboy Ninja”), Roo Yori (“K9 Ninja”), Brandon Mears, Dan Polizzi, Tyler Yamauchi, and Ethan Swanson.

“The cool thing about participating in Ninja Warrior is that although it is a competition and we are competing, but when it comes down to it…it is you and the course.” Said Pekus, who will compete in his sixth season. “You build good friendships with all of the other ninjas, and we root for each other.”

Roo Yori, who is returning to the show after a successful rookie season, added that the ANW community is more of a family.

“This is one of the few places that all of us competitors are sitting back and strategizing how to take on this course together.” Said Yori. “We are trying to help each other get through the course. Nobody is preventing us from hitting the Warped Wall’s buzzer except for us.”

As the series continues to push towards its 100th episode, the ninjas exclusively revealed to Jake’s Take some of their favorite memories from throughout the show’s history.

“My favorite memory from the American Ninja Warrior course happened when I completed the semi-finals course in Season Seven,” Pekus said.

Yori revealed that one of his favorite moments happened during his rookie season when his fellow Indianapolis qualifier competitor and professional wrestler Zach Gowen tackled the course without his prosthetic leg.

“Zach used his one leg to take on the rolling log, and I was speechless when he made it to the other end of the obstacle,” Yori said.  “The whole place erupted!”

If you missed your chance to tackle the American Ninja Warrior qualifying course this season, the ninjas, Matt, and Akbar exclusively shared their advice to Jake’s Take on how fans should prepare for the show:

“The athletes are getting better; the courses are getting harder,” Yori said.  “But, just keep at it, and you will get there.”

“Just do it!” Pekus said. “Find a ninja gym, build some obstacles, and prepare for the next season.”

“Start training for Season 10…RIGHT NOW!”  said Gbajabiamila. “Get ready, because Season 10 is going to be bigger and better. We are going to put a lot into Season 10, so get your submission in early. Make sure you are the first to be seen by our crew.”

“It may seem impossible, but there is no substitute for hard work,” Iseman said. “It is the one thing that every great ninja has in common. They may not share sizes, athletic backgrounds, or sports history, but it is their hard work that sets them apart. We also want to hear YOUR STORY as well.”

To find out how Lance, Roo, and the rest of the Kansas City hopefuls do on the City Qualifier course, tune into NBC on July 3.


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Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar