For seven seasons, we’ve watched some of the most gifted athletes on the planet (and the occasional punter) be humbled by American Ninja Warrior‘s Mt. Midoriyama. Well, at long last, we’ve finally made it to the peak.
Since its inception in 2009, ANW – the spiritual spinoff of Japan’s Sasuke – has laid claim to the title of “Toughest Show on TV.” Thousands have entered with dreams of conquering its formidable final obstacle, Midoriyama, and claiming the $1 million prize that comes with making it to the summit, though only ten have ever made it to the third stage of the climb. All ten of them failed to advance beyond that point.
That all changed on Monday night, when two challengers – professional rock climber/busboy Isaac Caldiero and sports cameraman Geoff “Popeye” Britten – etched their names in ninja history by not only making it past Stage 3 of Midoriyama, but the fourth and final stage as well. Yes, after six years on the air, two men finally made it to the top of the Mount. The problem? Only one of them could be crowned American Ninja Warrior.
After blitzing through the seemingly impossible Stage 3, which can simultaneously be described as a rock climber’s wet dream and biggest nightmare, the duo took a stab at Stage 4: Scaling a 75-foot rope down within 30 seconds. Despite being absolutely gassed, Britten hit the buzzer in a nail-biting 29.65 seconds, as the crowd went absolutely bonkers.
Then, Caldiero did the same thing – only faster – earning him the title and the $1 million prize that comes with it.
Sadly for Britten, though he was technically the first American Ninja Warrior, that doesn’t pay the bills. As show producer Ken Weed explained after the finale, by rules, “the money goes to the fastest person,” meaning Caldiero walks away with the cash. And a healthy sense of superiority, too. But, hey, the dude’s earned it.
“Winning this event always seemed impossible,” Caldiero said after his incredible run. “As the first American Ninja Warrior, I want to use this opportunity to inspire the world to find your impossible and conquer it.”
Sorry, Britten. Maybe next year?