Season 7 Finale Update – The Worst Case Scenario for ANW (spoilers included)

You can read my open letter to the creators of American Ninja Warrior below but I wanted to include this update here.

First off, congratulations to Isaac Caldiero, he won the show and deserves to get the grand prize. The reason this was the worst case scenario for the TV show is that after 7 years of build up, emotion, excitement and anticipation to see who would be the first to make it to the top of Mt. Midoriyama, finally someone did, and it was amazing real drama…and they got absolutely nothing for it. Then another competitor who had probably an extra 1-2 hours of rest if not more beat stage 4 and did it just 3 seconds faster and took home the prize. As a fan watching the show it felt as if a thief in the night came and stole the trophy and money from Mr. Britten right after he won it. It didn’t make sense.

Geoff Britten was the first American in 7 years to do what thousands had attempted and failed before. You CAN’T have him walk away empty handed.

The real problem with how this played out: I don’t mean any disrespect by this but Isaac Caldiero is just not that relateable to 90% of the people watching the show. He has spent almost his entire adult life living in a trailer out in the wilderness doing nothing but climb rocks. People sitting at home watching TV (read: ANW viewing audience) living a typical American life just have a really hard time relating to that.

We watched Geoff Britten give an amazing inspiring run on stage 3. We were pulling for him because he is a 36 year old family man, something that most of us can relate to. We can put ourselves mentally in his shoes and dream that we could do what he has done. Instead of being overwhelmed with joy and satisfaction, I watched the finale thinking, “that’s awesome that Britten was the first American to complete stage 4 but IC has had so much more rest he’s going to easily win so none of it means anything. And that is exactly how it played out. Isaac Caldiero seems like a really nice guy and he’s going to be able to buy a much nicer trailer now but I’d be lying if I said I was rooting for him to win.

This is why there HAS to be cash awards for finishing stages. At least do it on stage 4 so if you have a situation like you had in season 7 no matter who wins we can all leave happy.
The worst thing about how this all played out is that now the intrigue is gone. Mt. Midoriyama has been conquered, and it wasn’t by one of the crowd favorites. I’m not sure if the casual fans are willing make another emotional investment like they’ve made over the last few years just to have it end up in total disappointment. I love the sport but I worry that a lot of the casual fans of the show are going to drop off. The culmination of the finale was not rewarding enough for us. Contestants we actually relate to and care about can’t afford to climb rocks all day every day and so they will forever be at a disadvantage on the show.

An Open Letter To The Creators Of American Ninja Warrior


To Whom It May Concern:

I am a big fan of your reality obstacle course competition show American Ninja Warrior. So much so that although I have no dreams or aspirations of competing on the show I did start building different obstacles in my backyard during season 6.

It was only after building these obstacles and trying to actually complete them (and failing) that I gained a whole new respect for how amazing these athletes are.

I was a college athlete and consider myself to be in pretty good physical condition.

I was intrigued to find out during season 6 that Brian Arnold decided that in order to be able to achieve his goal of becoming the first American to complete all 4 stages of the fabled Mt. Midoriyama, he quit his job to train full time.

Makes sense, he was considered the favorite to be the first to complete the course. He had made it farther than any other American before him.

Only he didn’t.

In fact he didn’t even finish stage 2.

You fully understand that due to the level of difficulty of the obstacles and because you introduce new obstacles every year, any athlete, at anytime, no matter how amazing, can fail.

So what was Mr. Arnold’s reward for quitting his job and dedicating his life to train so that people like me and my kids could be entertained on Monday nights and your show would get higher ratings?

Zero. Zip. Nada.

Nothing but disappointment.

Too bad for him right? What about the guy that got first place? That would be Joe “The Ninja Weatherman” Moravsky. How did he fare?

He had one of the most inspiring finishes to a stage that I have ever seen. It made for some amazing TV.

Ultimately he fell on stage 3 on the upside down rock climb (see pic above). He went the farthest and was the hero of the show. What did he get for it?

You already know the answer. Absolutely nothing.

Because the way the show works only one person can win the grand prize and that is if they finish all 4 stages the fastest.

In 7 seasons no one has finished all 4 stages so you haven’t had to pay out a dime.

Can you imagine the NFL only paying the players that won the Super Bowl and every other player played for free?

Or how about only paying the winner of a golf tournament and everyone else goes home empty handed?

How long do you think those sports would attract the top talent?

I understand that I am comparing a reality show to professional sports leagues but I know how hard these ninja warrior athletes train. I know how hard it is to complete these obstacles. I have seen professional athletes come on the show and try and they have all quickly failed.

If you want the show to keep these amazing athletes then you need to reward them for entertaining millions of Americans each week.

Here is how you fix American Ninja Warrior

So here is what I am proposing. You need to implement is a tiered reward system for the 4 stages of Mt. Midoriyama.

Finish Stage 1 Get $1,500
Stage 1 is completed by the most contestants so the reward is obviously going to be smaller. But how do you think these athletes would feel if they finished stage 1 and got rewarded with $1,500?

Then to make the stakes a little higher you offer a $1000 bonus to the fastest finisher of stage 1.

Finish Stage 2 Get $5,000
As athletes move to stage 2 the course gets harder and so the reward should get better. You pay each athlete that finishes this stage $5,000. In season 6 this would have meant a payout of just $10,000 as only 2 athletes finished this stage.

You then offer a fastest finish time bonus of $2500 for this stage.

Finish Stage 3 Get $15,000
No American has successfully finished this stage yet (except in US vs The World) but again as difficulty rises so does the reward. $15,000 to finish stage 3.

Fastest finisher on this stage gets $5,000.

Finish Stage 4 Get $25,000
This one would only come into play if more than one athlete made through and finished all 4 stages. The athlete(s) with the slower time would get $25,000 for finishing stage 4 but obviously not get the grand prize.

Fastest Of Stage 4 Gets $200,000 Grand Prize
This is the grand prize for the athlete that completes stage 4 of Mt. Midoriyama the fastest. This prize could then trump all previous earnings for the athlete and they just get the $200,000 prize. I promise no athlete is going to complain about that.

Go The Farthest But Fail – $40,000
This is a big change and probably the change I wish you would implement the most. We as audience viewers view these heroic feats and we feel pride and emotion and live vicariously through these athletes. It is such a let down (for us as the audience) in the end when they fail and walk away with nothing.

We want to see them rewarded. We want them to walk away feeling like they won the show instead of feeling like they failed along with everyone else. So whichever athlete makes it the farthest on the show without completing all 4 stages should receive a $40,000 prize to go along with previous earnings.

Let’s take a look at what this would have looked like if we had this tiered pay scale implemented during season 6.

Stage 1 Finishers:
Elet Hall $2,500
Lorin Ball $1,500
Paul Kasemir $1,500
Joe Moravsky $1,500
Ian Dory $1,500
Joshua Cook $1,500
Chris Wilczewski $1,500
Abel Gonzalez $1,500
Jo Jo Bynum $1,500
Travis Rosen $1,500
Isaac Caldiero $1,500
Andrew Lowes $1,500
Dan Galiczynski $1,500
Ryan Stratis $1,500
Noah Kaufman $1,500
Yen Chen $1,500
Brian Arnold $1,500
J.J. Woods $1,500
(via Wikipedia)

A total of 18 athletes finished stage 1 at $1,500 each and a $1,000 bonus to Elet Hall for getting the fastest time. Total payout for stage 1 – $28,000.

Stage 2 Finishers:
Elet Hall $7500
Joe Moravsky $5000

Of the 18 who tried only two athletes finished stage 2. Elet Hall again got the fastest time bonus this time of $2500. Total payout for stage 2 – $12,500.

Stage 3 Finishers:
No finishers.

Both athletes failed on stage 3. Joe Moravsky went the farthest so he would receive the $40,000 bonus. His total winnings for the show would be $46,500. Elet Hall would have taken home $10,000.

I promise you every athlete that got paid would have been thrilled.

Total Prize Money Awarded:
All told with this new tiered system the total payout would have been $70,500.

A pittance when you consider the enormous amount of publicity and ratings the show received this year with amazing performances by “the Mighty” Kacy Catanzaro, Kevin “The Bull” Bull and the aforementioned Joe Moravsky.

What I am suggesting is not insane. It’s not unheard of. It’s just the right thing to do.

A. Deign & Co, I’m pleading with you, begging you, give your raving fans and athletes exactly what they want and deserve, a true winner in season 7 and beyond.


A Concerned Citizen

About The Author

adam whiteAdam White is the founder of Website Rocket, a web based software service that helps small businesses do their own SEO – get a Free SEO Analysis for your website. He is an avid fan of American Ninja Warrior and has also written and directed a feature film. He lives in Arizona with his wife and 6 children.