Spoilers ahead for the Season 14 premiere of American Ninja Warrior.
American Ninja Warrior is officially back for Season 14 on NBC, and the teen invasion from Season 13 that allowed competitors as young as 15 continued into the new round of competition. There were plenty of veterans as well, so the two-hour premiere was packed full of the kind of action that fans have been waiting for since last September. Still, I found myself wondering from very early on in the episode: was the first competitor who was cut at an unfair advantage?
The first competitor in American Ninja Warrior Season 14 was also the first competitor to be cut, as David “Da Cake Ninja” Wright was facing some formidable obstacles to start the night out. He powered his way through the first two challenges before coming to Split Decision as the third, where he had to choose between Domino Effect – which involved running across vertical domino-shaped boards – and the Serpent, which looked like it was pretty much just like a serpentine cylindrical balance beam.
He chose the Serpent, and unfortunately found out the hard way that the serpentine beam wasn’t stationary. Instead, it's made up of a series of bead-like cylinders that rolled when he put his weight on them. The Serpent was brand new for Season 14 as well, so he had no idea what he was getting into with the obstacle that ultimately proved to be his downfall . Everybody watching from the sidelines seemed absolutely shocked, and Wright reached up to feel just how much the cylinders move after he fell into the water.
To his credit, David Wright had a smile on his face while he was in the water after his fall, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. For many new obstacles, it’s at least more or less clear what muscles they need to use and what changes to expect, but nobody seemed to see it coming when the serpentine cylinders shifted and he plunged into the water. Hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila even seemed surprised as well when he went down.
So was it fair? Well, all the other competitors saw just what the Serpent does when they watched David Wright go down, and it’s worth noting that most of them seemed to choose Domino Effect rather than risk the same happening to them. Whoever went first – or whoever decided to try the Serpent first – may have been doomed to be the example of why it’s such a risky obstacle, and the order of the night mean that unfortunately had to be Da Cake Ninja.
Of course, somebody had to go first, and David Wright could have always chosen Domino Effect or just taken the time for a closer look at the Serpent before trying to race across it, so the run could have ended better for him, but the final run of the day just made me feel for him all over again. R.J. Roman was up last, with the bragging rights as the competitor with back-to-back fastest finishes in qualifying, so the expectations for him were high in the Season 14 qualifiers
And he didn’t disappoint. He easily had the fastest time of the night, and got the $10,000 bonus after reaching the top of the higher Mega Warped Wall without any problems. I just can’t help but feel that he wouldn’t have gotten as fast of a time if he hadn’t gotten to see all the other competitors who came before, of course including David Wright.
I’m not knocking Roman at all, and it was a thrill just to watch him through the TV screen, but I can’t help but wish that I could see Wright get another shot at the course now that he knows what to expect from Serpent. American Ninja Warrior is a rare show that pits competitors of all ages (from 15 and up) and genders against each other in the interest of fairness, but this is one element of the Season 14 premiere that just didn’t feel fair to me.
Somebody was bound to go down first on the Serpent; maybe I’d feel a little differently if it was later in the course rather than third. See how the next batch of hopefuls fare against the Season 14 obstacles with new episodes of American Ninja Warrior on Mondays starting at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. More familiar faces are on the way, including superhero stuntwoman Jessie Graff!
For some more viewing options now and in the coming weeks, be sure to check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule. You can also find past seasons of American Ninja Warrior and American Ninja Warrior Junior (which feature some of this season's ANW athletes who aged up into the adult version) streaming with a Peacock subscription.
Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.
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