The last time we brought up Ninja Warrior was during the Beijing Olympics, when Jordan Jovtchev, a veteran of the Japanese obstacle course show, was in the finals of the men’s gymnastics rings event. Strangely, that’s also the last time we mentioned wrestling gold medalist Henry Cejudo, whose rags-to-riches story was largely ignored by NBC.
Ninja Warrior (aka Sasuke), fortunately, has a better sense of both humor and drama than NBC Sports does. Cejudo is one of the handful of Americans taking on the massive and slightly insane course in the 21st tournament. 100 competitors start each tournament; while several are plants purely for entertainment purposes, such as SNL-like comedians or the bar owner whose round head has lead to his moniker as “The Octopus,” most are serious athletes. In the previous 20 tournaments–2000 athletes making the attempt–exactly two have completed all stages of the course. This isn’t Battle of the Network Stars–it’s crazy-making athletic feats, including climbing a 17-foot concave pipe and crossing a moat using nothing but fingertips to cling to a wall while the rest of the body dangles over the water. Even better, it’s all narrated by an excitable Japanese commentator who would like you to believe the fate of the human race depends on the outcome of the Devil’s Swing. It sounds odd–well, it is–but there are very few things on television as entertaining as this. G4 is showing the 21st tournament at several times this week–don’t miss it.