This Week in Weird Sports: America Ninja Warrior

Our greatest Japanese import—wait 'til you see the wall splits.
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Our greatest Japanese import—wait 'til you see the wall splits.
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Our greatest Japanese import—wait 'til you see the wall splits.

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Known as Sasuke in Japan, the original Ninja Warrior involved 100 competitors tasked with completing a grueling four-stage obstacle course. Seriously, this wasn’t some “Ha ha, I’m a kindergarten teacher and watch me get hit by these giant fake boxing gloves and get sprayed with a water hose” obstacle course. This was a “holy crap you want me to do what!?” obstacle course (be patient and wait for the wall splits).

Real athletes ran the course and often failed. The series was less about laughing at contestant pain (that was a good 33 percent of it, though) and more of an appreciation of the human body performing unbelievable feats of strength, speed, and testicular fortitude…with crazy yelling in Japanese.

The American version, appropriately titled “America Ninja Warrior” lifts most of their obstacles straight from their Japanese parent. And keeping in the same tradition is played up as a competitive exercise. In fact, Denver Broncos wide receiver Matt Willis ran a course.

Sadly, the Americanized version lacks the crazy Japanese yelling. Which, frankly, is 90 percent of the fun. But at least there's always the chance for a crippling groin injury!