"American Ninja Warrior" Season 8 came and went last summer and, though Isaac Caldiero and Geoff Britten made history conquering Mt. Midoriyama, savvy fans may have noticed the absence of another event on the rigorous Las Vegas obstacle course - the "USA vs. the World" special. While the special aired just after the Season 7 finale in August 2014, fans did not get to see the global competition in 2015. Fear not, "Ninja" fans, "USA vs. The World" is here now.
A new “American Ninja Warrior: USA vs. The World” special will air on Sunday, Jan. 31 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST on NBC, taking advantage of the NFL's off week before the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. The event will feature three separate teams of five athletes from the United States, Europe and Japan — while the debut in 2013 featured only an American and Japanese team, the second iteration in 2014 added a European squad.
Team USA will feature "American Ninja Warrior" veterans Caldiero, Britten, Kevin Bull, Drew Drechsel, Ian Dory and Joe Moravsky.
Team Japan gathers stars from "Sasuke," the Japanes show that inspired "American Ninja Warrior," including Ryo Matachi and Yusuke Morimoto, both of whom competed in the 2014 special, as well as Kenji Takahashi, Masashi Hioki and Tomohiro Kawaguchi.
The returning champion, Team Europe, includes France’s Sean McColl and Italy’s Stefano Ghisolfi, both of whom are world-class rock climbers, along with England’s Tim Shieff, a world champion free runner and veteran of the United Kingdom version of “Ninja Warrior.” All three return to the show after winning it all in 2014. The two new team members include Tim Champion, a top gymnast from England, and Alexander Mars, the winner of the Swedish version of "Ninja Warrior.”
The format of the competition features three players from each team taking on each of the first three stages of the Mt. Midoriyama course in heats against athletes from the other teams. Winning a heat earns points for the winner’s team (a Stage 1 heat is worth one point, while a Stage 2 heat is worth two points, etc.). If there is a tie, the deadlocked teams must send one athlete each to compete in a winner-take-all heat up Stage 4's daunting, 77-foot rope climb.
In 2014, Team USA and Team Europe did, in fact, go into Stage 4 tied. Travis Rosen of Team USA became the first American to conquer Stage 4 in the final heat, but Sean McColl of Team Europe bested his time to win the title for his team.
Watch Travis Rosen climb Stage 4 below:
The Americans should have an advantage this year. Both Isaac Caldiero and Geoff Britten completed all four stages of the course in Season 8 of "American Ninja Warrior." That experience and added confidence on the course should pay dividends.
Will Team USA claim the title back from Team Europe, will Team Europe remain undefeated, or will Team Japan shock everyone? Fans will have to watch and see. "American Ninja Warrior: USA vs. The World" airs Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.