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How American Ninja Warrior season 14 made history

How American Ninja Warrior season 14 made history
Matt Iseman, American Ninja Warrior season 14 winner Kaden Lebsack, and Akbar Gbajabiamila during the finale. (Photo by Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

As 16-year-old Josiah Pippel navigated American Ninja Warrior’s stage three obstacle Pipe Dream, co-host Matt Iseman said, “stage three is not easy” but “these ninjas tonight are crushing it.”

They were: The previous 13 seasons of the NBC show had just five people make it to stage four combined. American Ninja Warrior season 14 had five in one night: Kaden Lebsack, Jay Lewis, Josh Levin, Josiah Pippel, and R.J. Roman.

All five faced off on the final 80-foot, 30-second rope climb for $1 million.

Kaden Lebsack on stage three of American Ninja Warrior's final course in Las Vegas
Kaden Lebsack on stage three of American Ninja Warrior’s final course in Las Vegas. (Photo by Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

There was another first: No one has ever made it to stage four twice, but 16-year-old Kaden Lebsack did.

Last season, he was the only competitor to make it to stage four—and also the youngest ever—and was unable to complete it in 30 seconds; while he didn’t get the $1 million, he became Last Ninja Standing and won $100,000 then.

Incredibly, all five finalists made it to the top of the stage four tower, though none of them did it in 30 seconds required for the million.

Side note: NBC sure saves a lot of money on this show! Only two people have ever won that ultimate prize: Isaac Caldiero in 2015, and Drew Drechsel in 2019. (Drew is now in prison, facing life in prison.)

Since no one won that $1 million, season 14’s final five were competing for the fastest time to win the $100,000. The winner was Kaden Lebsack once again; he beat Jay Lewis by about one second.

It’s “all of us together versus the course,” Josh Levin said after failing to make it to the top of stage 4 in 30 seconds.

Josh Levin on stage three of the American Ninja Warrior 14 course
Josh Levin on stage three of the American Ninja Warrior 14 course. (Photo by Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

There were some disappointments: Flip Rodriguez, who’s never made it past stage two during his 12 years of competing, did this year, but but fell on the stage three obstacle Ultimate Cliffhanger.

This year, the first year that the show allowed teenagers to apply (they were recruited last season), nearly half of the contestants who made it to stage three were 18 or younger.

Do the teenage contestants actually have an advantage? Here’s what AWN’s showrunner told me.

Jay Lewis, who’s 18, entered stage three with a perfect season, without falling once, something only three other contestants have done in the show’s history: Geoff Britten in 2015, Daniel Gil in 2019, and Kaden Lebsack last year.

“Can Jay do what his mentor Joe has only dreamed of?” Matt Iseman asked/taunted after a montage of his mentor Joe Moravsky falling on stage three during seasons six, nine, and 11 at the same spot. (Joe was watching via Zoom because he was not allowed to compete during stage 1.)

What happened on ANW stage three

R.J. Roman on American Ninja Warrior's stage three obstacle Cliffhanger
R.J. Roman on American Ninja Warrior’s stage three obstacle Cliffhanger. (Photo by Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

The finale began with several contestants attempting stage two, starting with “Country Boy Ninja” Josiah Singleton, a grad assistant at Liberty University, used his safety pass only to fall from the same place on his first try.

Meanwhile, 5’2″ Nate Hansen, the “Gnarly Ninja,” finished stage two with nine seconds to go.

No female competitors finished stage two, and of the 11 who made it to stage three, almost half were teenagers. There was just one person not in their teens or 20s who made it to stage three.

Here’s how they did on stage three, which does not have a time limit:

  1. Matt D’Amico, 21, fell on Flying Bar
  2. Kaden Lebsack, 16, made it to stage 4
  3. R.J. Roman, 25, made it to stage 4
  4. Josiah Pippel, 16, made it to stage 4
  5. Ethan Bartnicki, 17, fell on Pipe Dream
  6. Jay Lewis, 18, made it to stage 4
  7. Max Feinberg, 17, fell on Chop it Up
  8. Nate Hansen, 21, fell on Eyeglass Alley
  9. Cam Baumgartner, 24, fell on Pipe Dream
  10. Josh Levin, 28, made it to stage 4
  11. Flip Rodriguez, 33, fell on the Ultimate Cliffhanger

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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Happy discussing!

Dwain Wall

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

NBC American Ninja Warrior stole Millions from young men by creating an additional extremely difficult stage that is not humanly possible to achieve in the short time allowed

I’m ashamed of NBC and the Producers of American Ninja Warrior SHAME ON YOU

NBC makes tens of MILLIONS from the show yet cheats the contestants Wow



Wednesday 31st of August 2022

It is supposed to be hard. Part of the whole gist of the competition is that everyone faces the same course and once at the finals, if you fall, you're out. They are trying to teach resilience and determination and so many kids and adults have learned so much about themselves by competing, not necessarily winning. It took many seasons before anyone won the million. Some have argued that stages 2 and 3 have gotten easier so that more people have a shot at the million than in earlier seasons. Also, they added the pass competition to increase the likelihood contestants go farther. So instead of the contestants being "cheated," the opposite is true. Just because you don't win doesn't mean you were cheated. The worst thing ANW could do would be to dumb down the competition by having a stage 4 winner every year.

Mike b.

Wednesday 31st of August 2022

@Dwain Wall, yeah it sucks!!!! The top 3 should all get prize money and 1 million should be awarded to the top player.