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Monday, February 29, 2016

National Ninja League - Quick Update 2

National Ninja League Championship Cup and Medals! ©Arsenette

My body is (still) sore but happy that I more than survived the weekend!  It was an AMAZING experience driving up to Hainsport, New Jersey to see the first ever National Ninja League Finals!  I did a very quick update on Day 1.  I'm doing the same today just doing a quick update. I have a bunch of footage and several hundred photos that hubby and I took over the weekend.

Chris Wilczewski showing off the medals before the Second Stage ©Arsenette

First of all I wanted to thank Chris Wilczewski and his staff /volunteers at Movement Lab for running a really tight ship. I've been to a lot of competitions in other sports in my day but this was on time and run smoothly. I'm sure there were hiccups here and there (every event has them) but it was not clearly visible to the audience.  They had to deal with a max capacity for both days and they managed to keep the competition moving and always engaged the audience so they knew what was going on. I'm so proud that the first event focus was on the competitors and not any organizational problems.  That usually plagues other events and it didn't with this one. I was so happy and the crowd enjoyed it as well.

Close up of some of the grips underneath for the "Rock Problem" obstacle in Stage Three ©Arsenette

The transformation between days was amazing.  After the long first day of 170+ runs they immediately packed up the First Stage and went to work on building Stage Two and Three.  I was a zombie getting back home. I can't imaging how hard they had to work at night to get all that ready in the morning. Chris told me that they have been practicing for months so the transition was actually pretty smooth.  Their staff and volunteers quickly made the transition pretty quickly. I'm told only a couple hours.

William and ANW competitor Luis Moço ©Arsenette

I'm so happy that William was able to secure some interviews for his website. We'll have snippets of it for future episodes of our Final Stage Podcasts and full interviews up on his YouTube channel.  I'll have my own videos (just runs and general stuff) on my YouTube when I get a chance.  I also wanted to thank all of the ANW guys who were so warm to me.  Seriously. It was one of the most moving things in my life. I've been through a lot on my own (as I like calling my previous life before Sasuke/Ninja Warrior) and to walk into a place I was expecting hostility and getting the COMPLETE opposite was an emotional experience.  They knew who I was (and probably knew of my issues with the format of the show and ANW) but they were really nice to me. A lot came up to me (fans and competitors alike!) to introduce themselves!  I got a lot of hugs from longtime ANW vets that I finally had a chance to meet them for the very first time.  People like Luis Moço, Michelle Warnky, Mike Bernardo, Ryan Stratis, James McGrath, Geoff Britten, Travis Rosen, seriously the list goes on and on. I never felt so loved in an environment that honestly.. I wasn't sure how I was going to be received. Boy was I surprised. I'm so happy I was wrong to be worried. The Sasuke Spirit still lives on in the hearts of the competitors even if the show is gone here in the USA.  I was reminded of that. It was also awesome fun talking "old Sasuke" and discussing it's future here in the USA.  Sad thought but it was still fun to talk about it.

Seriously.. I am awake.. honest.. Mike Bernardo peeking at the start order for Stage Two ©Arsenette

I got in first that morning. LOL!  There was only 1 staff member when I arrived but quickly the zombie competitors got in. Many where here past midnight and we they were (mostly) in by 10 AM.  Some came running in just in time for the walk-through and you can tell they really needed at least a couple more hours of sleep! I swear some of them were still sleep walking and some I'm not sure knew where they were.  I know a few of them didn't even get to sleep yet!  LOL  Still though when they were on the start line their eyes came to life and they gave it their all.  That's some serious adrenaline!

Geoff Britten on the final obstacle on Stage Two ©Arsenette

The gym got packed in reaaaaaaaally fast. Hubby and I were worried that it was going to be a light crowd since when we got there just an hour before there was no life outside!  We went in to a quiet gym with a few ninjas here and there trying desperately to wake up during their stretching/warm-ups.  I turned around at one point and the door opened to see a FLOOD of people packing the rafters! I had to move into the competitor pit to get my video. Hubby helped with my iPhone to take photos. Never had I felt so woefully unprepared to document such an amazing competition. I have to find a way to correct that..

Drew Dreschel completes Stage Two still bleery-eyed having just arrived to the competition just in time ©Arsenette

I'll do a full rundown with photos and videos of the competition but it was a ridiculous display of talent. Some ANW and Sasuke vets, some brand new hopefuls that are years from ever making it into ANW.  The course was wicked and the time was strict.  I thought the First Stage was hard.. but OMG the Second Stage was CRAZY!  The competition was AMAZING.  Just like any other Ninja event you had some huge surprises, outstanding performances and crushing disappointments.  They took it seriously and went all out. The crowd, as was I, were extremely lucky to be able to see such high caliber performances.

Travis Rosen playing on the Third Stage obstacles after the competition was over ©Arsenette

One  neat thing at the end of the competition was that any of the competitors (they had white wristbands) were allowed to try out the course in full.  It is a gym after all and it was really cool seeing athletes who didn't get to the Second and Third Stages try out obstacles they wouldn't normally get access to.  We saw a slew of high ranked Females tackling a 14 foot wall (and clearing!).  They also got to try out all of the hanging obstacles and grip strength obstacles that only the Finalists got to compete at just moments before.  So while I ran around talking to people flying above many of us were these ANW-bound athletes testing where their fitness is at this moment in time. It was like one continuous line of athletes and a slew of "you got this! you got this!  Pull up!  Yeah!  Body forward!" and other encouraging support for each other.  It was a glorious opportunity to try the more difficult obstacles in an environment that was conducive.  The staff was cool to be on hand and other ninjas to ensure safety was provided.  The support for each other was the biggest thing I enjoyed from that display.  From people being timed, to others working at spotting buddies to advice to those who never cleared certain obstacles from veterans who had the technique down. It was a clinic!

Stephanie Moravsky with OMG OMG SO CUTE!!!!!!! ©Arsenette

I had a total cute attack seeing the babies from many of the ninjas.  It was a huge family atmosphere and I swear that 1/3 of the crowd was under the age of 10!  One of them I never saw before but I sure recognized her face!  It was Mrs. Stephanie Moravsky with the new BABY MORAVSKY!  She was nice when I asked to photograph them.  I tried to give everyone as much space as possible but omg look at those cheeks!  OMG I WANT TO EAT THEM!  okay okay.. calm down.. I'm hope she didn't think I was nuts fawning over her little one.  Man.. the ninja baby army growing up now with their accomplished mothers and fathers are going to rule the world.. mark my words! LOL

Geoff Britten meeting a very appreciative fan! ©Arsenette

I was meandering about after the competition and I saw a lot of wonderful things.  The kids were practically in Disneyland since they were there able to see, hear and touch their favorite competitors.  Geoff in particular was one that was asked a lot for his autograph. He took the time to know everyone's name and talk to them for a bit.  This one came up with a printed photo of Geoff clearing the Final Stage in ANW7 and Geoff happily signed it and talked to the boy to know who he was.  It was really touching to see.  It's always also nice to be able to meet your heroes and leave with an extremely positive experience.  That's so rare these days that I had to document this one.  Those kids were lucky that everyone in the gym that day were so generous with their time and took care of the kids who looked up to them.  They were so lucky to be able to take selfies and get autographs and each of the ninjas were really open to doing that even if they were previously eliminated.  It was such a positive experience both days.

FUSION into Stratisfaction! ©Arsenette

I think the majority of the time I kept up with these two amazing goofballs!  It's weird. We've known each other for years but met for the first time.  It was like meeting someone you haven't seen in years!  It was wonderful talking about the history of not just their journey through this world but also Sasuke and American Ninja Challenge and even some nice words about G4TV!  Yeah.. you know it's bad when you think of G4TV fondly! LOL!!!!!  They are amazing and passionate guys about the same stuff I'm passionate about.  They were both exhausted having traveled so far just to be here. Strat was still nursing that recent surgery so he was just here to root on Bret Sims, Grace Jones and Mike Bernardo for the weekend.  I'm sad to say I totally missed meeting Grace!

Mike, Philip, Geoff, Me, Alex and Strat
Sasuke Line up complete with photobomb! ©Arsenette

LOL We were trying to figure out poses for photos and one of them was to renact the lineup from old Monster 9 days Sasuke (that we miss).  You would have a lineup of everyone all pledging an oath to Sasuke and at the end they would raise their right hand and yell!  What made it funny was that Geoff wasn't in the shot just a couple seconds before! I felt someone "passing" me by but in fact it was Geoff running behind me! LOL  I have to say I love the photo (despite what I look like..) because it's years of history in one photo.  ALL of us are also SMF (Sasuke Maniac Forums) members and it's a beautiful keepsake for such a memorable weekend.  Thanks hubby for timing that shot perfectly! ♥

For those who aren't familiar with that history.. this screenshot was from Sasuke 26 back in 2011.  This was the last time you ever saw it.  I .. honestly miss it. I wish it returned.

William and Michelle Warnky ©Arsenette

William was working hard this weekend as well running around getting interviews and documenting the tournament in full.  Thanks again (I know I keep saying this) for EVERYONE who helped support the both of us by agreeing to interviews and photos.  We REALLY appreciate it. Everyone was sooooo nice!  Thanks to Michelle in particular who was sick as a dog and still was gracious and friendly with everyone.  It was so nice to finally meet her after talking about her from way back in the Sasuke ASEAN Open Cup!  It was an amazing weekend and I look forward to getting the reports up on the blog.  Please be patient as this week will be brutal with all of the projects I talked about in the previous update.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

National Ninja League - Quick Update

Mike Bernardo and Ryan Stratis doing an interview with William for the Final Stage Podcast between breaks ©Arsenette

I forgot to post my February update I posted on YouTube from Friday night on the blog!  Either way, starting from 11 am EST today - Follow for more coverage! Sorry I didn't tweet or blog about this earlier (I found out once I was there! LOL).  Stage 2 and 3 are up today with favorites like Drew Dreschel, Travis Rosen and even ANW Champion Geoff Britten!

SMF Represent! ♥ ©Arsenette

Dutch Tornado Perry Oosterlee along with Twitch commentators Philip and Alex and Final Stage Podcast's William all doing hard work for 14+ hours yesterday! (some of them even more!)

Me and ANW Champion Geoff Britten ©Arsenette

It was an amazing Day 1 finally meeting some of the best Ninja elites out there! They were incredibly nice and super friendly even though it was an intense day of competition!

Stratisfaction in Action! Mike Bernardo and Ryan Stratis ©Arsenette

I had a ball with these two goofballs all day!  It was great meeting them for the first time in person and enjoying their upbeat personalities.  Awesome reminiscing on a long gone Sasuke era in the USA.

First G4 American ever to compete in Sasuke!
Brett Sims waiting for his run in Stage 1 ©Arsenette

There were amazing runs, saves, disappointments along with a who's who in Ninja Warrior fandom. Sasuke vets where on hand to reminisce of a time long gone and new fans came to cheer their own and share in the love!

Our only international competitor Perry Oosterlee from the Netherlands is also in the Finals! I'm so happy for him! ♥ ©Arsenette

Along with my co-host William from the Final Stage Podcast, I headed up north to the Movement Lab for the National Ninja League Finals in Hainsport, New Jersey.  Some of you might have remembered me doing a quick video for the podcast and a small update on the blog.

Heading back out this morning for the Finals!  Hope you get to check out the Livestream!  I'll do a proper video and update when my brain unglues and the pain meds kick in! LOL

Friday, February 26, 2016

Unofficial Sasuke Update Show #5 on Nico Nico!

I'm happy that the Update shows are going on at a timely basis!  Previous shows (February, January, December and October).  November was the big month where he and Ryo were building Sasuke Indonesia and produced 13 behind the scenes videos on Nico Nico. There was an announcement this week on their new Twitter account that the next one is approaching fast. The name of the Twitter handle is S ura channel (which means Sasuke back channel).
Online Streaming Service Nico Nico (placeholder - page will be available March 5)
Saturday, March 12, 2016 - 20:00 (8:00 PM - Japan) JST
   6:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time) (SATURDAY Morning)
  3:00 AM (Pacific Standard Time) (SATURDAY Morning)
For those who are curious.. what is Nico Nico?  This is the online streaming service that was used during the Sasuke 30 and 31 broadcasts that had commentary on the tournament while it was airing live in Japan. Over the past Sasuke 31 season, it was used often for community updates and additional content.   This particular channel is new as this is a channel started specifically by the Sasuke Director himself. I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating:  I need to reiterate something about the channel.  This is not an official channel for TBS.  This is his own personal channel and the views and impressions on this broadcast/channel are not the official views of TBS.  For those who are unaware, Mr. Inui was hired to direct Sasuke after the collapse and eventual bankruptcy of Monster 9.  He is now creative owner for the televised image of Sasuke and he serves not only as Executive Director but sole Editor of the televised show.  However, he is President of FolCom and considered to be an outside independent contractor hired by TBS.  Remember that while what he discusses about the composition of the show (which he controls), he does not serve as representative of TBS. TBS controls the license of the show and is the only one certified to announce any official plans.  He wanted to make sure everyone knew that up front and there are certain answer he is just unable to give since he has limited control of the show and cannot possibly speak for TBS in an official capacity. 
 Poster for the new Nico Nico Broadcast ©Sasuke Back Channel

New Poster is up!  The line-up for Broadcast #5 is smaller but has Director Inui at the helm as host along with 2 Sasuke Stars to answer fan questions now that Sasuke 32's Official Application is now live!  They expect a lot more questions now that it is official (and probably a lot of begging. LOL) so having a smaller cast may be advantageous to getting a lot of answers to those fan questions.
Host - Sasuke (Japan) Director Masato Inui 乾雅人 ©Masato Inui
Ryo Matachi (Cliffer #2) 又地諒 ©Ryo Matachi
Tomohiro Kawaguchi 川口朋広  ©Arsenette Reiter

The hope was for this informal channel is to provide a monthly update on the world of Sasuke from his perspective and provide an opportunity to engage the community live.  They seem to be doing more this time by not just keeping up with the Nico Nico live chat but also engaging the Twitter chatter and hinting in expanding to other platforms to interact with a larger audience..  They are actively working on the sound and video quality so it is their hope they aren't plagued by tech issues. He'll answer what he can so again, there are some topics he cannot formally address as it's either out of his hands, political or he just doesn't know the answer.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

USA vs World - NBC ANW7 Special - Part 6

Thanks everyone for being patient!  I've been working hard on a few of projects that I'm planning on unveiling soon™ and I procrastinated in taking time away from that to post this blog!  Without further ado I'm back to blogging about this year's American Ninja Warrior 7 Special - USA vs. World special that aired on Sunday, January 31, 2016 on NBC.  I'm  happy to report that many of the things that made me RAGE in last year's special has actually been addressed! Not all.. but it seems the major issues that TBS officially protested last year were fixed for this year.  A few stupid things remain but I'll point them out as I do the blog.

 Epic final dual?  Uhm.. there are 3 people oooooooh to decide the title.. yeah Japan is out of so this makes sense.

Reminder of the current standings going into the final heat.

Last heat, 3 points on the line and it will decide the winner of this year's show.

 Sasuke Grand Champion Yuusuke Morimoto 森本 裕介

Missing one description.. he's not only an 8 Time Veteran of Sasuke, he's the current Champion having won that title just a couple weeks before ANW.

  Also a reminder that Yuusuke as a rookie to ANW was the first man to clear ANW's Third Stage.

 Hioki cheering

And Sean cheering

 Only 6 athletes Akbar and he was the first.

Taking time to swing the door so he can get closer to the landing platform.

Hey Brian.  'sup!

Team Japan yelling encouragement.

Time for the superoveromgthisisobnoxiouslyhugecliffhangerjumpiething

 Akbar.. he was the first person ever to clear the Crazy Cliffhanger years ago..

Shut up Matt.. of course this one didn't have the jump.. you stole it from Sasuke.. it's been there for a few years already in Japan.

 So this one, with thicker ledge.. he's not going to miss.. and he's going to do it as a 180° turn because those are the rules in Japan...

Yuusuke: Yay I don't have to swim back home..

Matt: "Drew Dreschel has competed in Sasuke.. like a lot of Americans..... has great respect for the Japanese"..

LOL That was quite a sentence.. at first it sounded like Matt implied that a lot of Americans have competed in Sasuke. We know that's false (especially under NBC for the past 5 years).  Also, Drew was in attendance to see Morimoto in person clear the Crazy Cliffhanger (you know.. the original one that has the jump that NBC tacked on) so he's not surprised he cleared it just a couple weeks later.

The other is that Matt sounds surprised when he shouldn't be.. last year on USA vs. World NBC SHOWED Morimoto clearing the original Crazy Cliffhanger クレイジークリフハンガー - those are NBC tags on that video.. Matt even went out of his way to mention it to everyone that Morimoto cleared it. So for Matt to sound surprised now just makes me shake my head and laugh. In fact at the time that was Morimoto's only claim to fame.. that and the fact that he competed in Sasuke when he was 15 years old.

 And here comes the swing

Morimoto having to be creative to get through this with his wingspan.

 LOL Even in a show that doesn't have Kacy we still get a mention.. what's the Kacy count now?  Over 200 mentions over the past season?

LOL Isaac doesn't want to hear the commentary either.

Sean looking on. He's coming up next.

 I know Akbar is right about time but Morimoto literally doesn't care.  Sasuke is not a speed run, it's an endurance test in the Third Stage. So, he will clear it in his time when he's ready. He's not going to rush only to fall.

His philosophy is to clear it and make the others still to run clear it also. If they do it faster then more power to them.  He just wants to clear it and that's enough for him.  Given that everyone in Team Japan has fallen today, a clear is a moral victory.

I can't argue with that mentality.  He's under a lot of pressure coming in as the Champion of Sasuke. So going home without a clear is more demoralizing than losing in a race for time.

I still don't like the look of this obstacle. LOL

 He usually doesn't show emotion. It's nice to see that he wants this so badly.

If I was there I'd be doing the same thing. LOL!

Team Japan on its feet.

SasukeGrip™ - He's trained this grip for more than half his life.

He has such control on that grip..

Fans going nuts - no one has cleared this stage today..

Almost.. there..

NBC loves you Beast and Strat!

 Letting out a scream.. his arms are on fire..

Landed the last one!

BACK TO BACK STAGE THREE CLEARS! First in ANW history to do so!


Finally Japan has something to cheer emphatically about!

That's our Champion folks!

I'm always happy that the crowd is so supportive of everyone.  That's one highlight of the trip that the Japanese adore.  It's a lot quieter in Japan.

USA and Japan on their feet. LOL

Morimoto Trademark Peace Sign.

Heh.. he even tucks his fingers in the ledge.. they aren't allowed to use the rigging to support themselves in Japan and instinctively he grabs only the ledge.

I still laugh because I know of that internal bet. He's so excited he isn't kicked off the team for failing the 5cm ledge. LOL

Replay of the Flying Bar

Sasuke Grand Champion Yuusuke Morimoto 森本 裕介 - STAGE THREE CLEAR!

LOL She's totally towering over him.

He's thrilled to have cleared. That was his goal today and was so excited to let me know that he did it two ANW tournaments in a row.

So rare to see him yell like that.

OMG He's so excited!!!

Group hug??

PDA!!!!! WE GOT PDA!!!!!!!!

Wait.. we are Japanese.. we aren't supposed to hug each other in public.. think of the children!!!

 Now for the Professional. The pressure is on now that he HAS to clear to even be in the running.

 Last time he got all the way to the Flying Bar before going down.


Time on left is Morimoto's full clear time. He has to beat that.

Isaac is right after him.  We know Isaac can clear it, he did it the night before in ANW7 Finals on his way to his Final Stage win.

 Easily through the doors

On to the UCH

 Same handhold as last year too

Turns around and uses all of that ledge and rigging. I expect that to change next year if they use this obstacle.

Easy clear on the UCH  wait.. did they dismiss Drew Dreschel? He cleared this UCH in ANW7!  Why wasn't he on the list of Americans that .. oh.. because he didn't have a climbing background and didn't fit the narrative? Drew gets no respect... C'mon Matt.. you were there...

LOL Smooshes the Pixy Stix together

 Giggles. A combination of the Japan swing along with jumps.

Very nice pace through this.

This should be easy. LOL

Shake out those arms first.. Use that rigging! LOL Hell I don't know what the rules are. I'm not sure they know either.

 Funky shoes!

Using more riggin LOL No no.. wait.. he's using the hand hold.. totally legal!

Because.. I'm BATMAN!

 Isaac no longer plugged in but still looks stoned.. Then again.. he's also exhausted from last night so I have to be fair on this.. but he does look stoned.. LOL

Giggles.  I should have done that!

 And back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.

 I still don't like this obstacle..

Okay.. shaking arms and getting blood out of his head now..

And we're off!

Let's see if he can do what he didn't last year..

Yes!  He got to the last one!



To be defeated by someone who also cleared is not something to be ashamed of.  He rightfully applauds.  Well done!

Team Europe runs to greet him!

Isaac has to duplicate last night to win over Europe now in this heat.

Group hug! And I'm so happy to see those times visible to each competitor. No funny business.

 Well done Sean McColl

I'm.. Batman.. okay okay I already did that joke.

He SHOULD be excited. Sean defeated the obstacle that defeated him last year AND did it in a time faster than Morimoto.

So happy to hear that he was happy for Yuusuke clearing and of course happy he was thrilled to have defeated his nemesis from last year.

Great competition never has to be doctored.  Glad we were able to see the event as it was played out.


 I'm surprised Matt still has a voice.. seriously.. to think he has another event to call the day after this.. I wonder when the hell we will ever see it.. anyone? ANW All-Star Special? Anyone? Beuller?

Now for the Final competitor of the night.  It is mathematically impossible that we will tie so this will decide who gets the 3 points and outright win the event.

LOL Points to Sean

Glances at Team Japan and gives a thumbs up

Reminder of where we are.  Europe is already ahead and they are ahead in this heat.  Isaac has to win his heat to vault over Europe. If he doesn't, Europe's lead grows and they win the event.

This is what I meant.. he is the only one listed as a Champion the entire show..

Lemme fix that for you..

And while I'm at it.. lemme include the Co-Champion.

 Anyway, Sean and Isaac met up at a climbing competition

Isaac does a jump from that distance

and misses

Sean wins easily

Isaac says he's intimidated in that arena

but a lot more confident in ANW.

And here we go.

We know that he can do it.. since he did this entire Third Stage just the night before.

On the boards

on the UCH

 Turn around

and clear

They are making it easy for NBC to pick them for crowd shots. LOL

mmm Pixy Stix.. wingspan..

 LOL He looks like a giant on this thing


Poor James is going to need a defibrillator after this. LOL

Wolfpack cheering him on

 Flies through this with his height

ouch.. his inner thigh..

Holding their breath.. LOL Japan is standing up too

Taking his time since he's got herds of time

And here we go

One more to go

Crowd having kittens

USA praying...

Sean praying.. LOL

And he catches the last bar

Isaac Caldiero - THIRD STAGE CLEAR

Matt and Akbar meltdown confirmed!

over a minute faster vaults the USA over Europe!

Crowd losing their marbles

USA jumps down too as a production handler tries to grab them in vain! LOL!!!

Sean in disbelief clapping in a "well done" way.

Group hug!

Golf claps from the rest of Team Europe. LOL

Japan on their feet really happy for Team USA

Oh yeah.. our sponsor! Lord knows we saw their towels all night...
wait.. defeated Geoff Britten last night?  Wha?  What ever happened to ANW being "man against course?"  Ah.. I'm beating a dead horse.. I can never expect ANW to be Sasuke. That ship has long since sailed.

That dress is not.. becoming..

Team Japan bows in appreciation of the kind words.

LOL Tomo gets on a chair and waves. 

More golf claps..

You know.. it's a shame that after the nice words Isaac said here he had to change all that literally the day after with all of those interviews trashing Geoff in pursuit of being the ONLY American Ninja Warrior.

I guess I can just savor the moment and what was on screen.  It's rare when I actually enjoy an ANW competition. I'm glad they fixed a lot of the problems that this show was plagued with. My hope is that they go back and fix more because everyone deserves a level playing field.

Congrats to Team USA for a hard fought and well deserved win!

Get some sleep guys.. you still have work to do..

And that's all folks!  See you next.. er.. this year! LOL

Contractually obligated to put on there.. LOL


 Owners of the format

Mike Bernardo with Team Japan in a Ginyu Force pose ©Mike Bernardo

So another year and this time I actually didn't rage as much. I'm really happy about that. As usual the only major problems I had was with the depiction (or lack thereof) of Japan's Sasuke and its history.  Everything else had to deal with the lack of training that Japan had but even then I was talked off the ledge by Team Japan.  They offer zero excuses and don't blame what happened to them to their performances.  I for one disagree.  They arrived in Vegas and went to the course only to be turned away leaving Team Europe to continue to train on the course on their own.  Japan didn't get a chance to practice on the obstacles.  I was told that Japan didn't care simply because they weren't really allowed to do so any other year prior and in Sasuke you aren't allowed to touch them at all. It was good practice to go in cold - just like Sasuke.  That said, I was infuriated since USA already competed on it the night before and all of that team would have to have been on the Third Stage to even be named to the team and Europe had a considerable amount of time and free reign on the course that morning. I personally believe if Japan knew about some of the obstacle quirks, they would have gone further.  Each of them disagree with me for different reasons.

Team Japan at the airport ©Yuusuke Morimoto

The ANW vets are used to crap happening to them in the USA (long live politics within NBC corporate) so this didn't feel any different. The deck is always stacked against them, they know it and have made peace with it.  The vets warned the others, just as the previous vets warned them last year that this was bound to happen.  So already prepared, they were unfazed by the stupidity that was that morning's lack of practice.  The new ones however got an education of a lifetime.  Kong said his legs were shaking so hard during the event that by the time he got to the trampoline for the propeller bar his legs were made of jelly.  Sasuke is a much different set. It's quiet.  It's isolated.  Between obstacles you can literally hear a pin drop.  You can hear the sounds of frogs and even the motors of the smoke machines and camera equipment.  ANW looked, felt and sounded like a raucous frat party with everyone drunk and screaming WHOOOOOOOOO the whole time.  They were frazzled and overwhelmed. Classic stage fright under the hot lights of the Las Vegas strip.

Brian Kretsch with Team Japan ©Brian Kretsch

Hioki and Tomo never left the country before and this was their first trip to the USA. No one on Team Japan are professional athletes competing as a career to be the best at a particular sport. None quit their jobs in pursuit of being awesome at a TV show.  Everyone has a regular job and have lives with Sasuke being a side hobby once a year.  Heck, Morimoto only trains 20% of the time devoting 80% to real life.  Even ninja competition-wise, neither Tomo or Hioki competed in international events (Yuusuke and Kenji did so in Malaysia and Ryo built and tested in Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia).  They simply got overwhelmed by the grandeur of the USA and frankly.. choked.  Hioki's story was both sad and funny. He wanted to know when this aired but he didn't want to see it because he was embarrassed.. but his wife wanted to see it so he had to ask. LOL  He was happy to see it because it's everyone's dream to be on American television.  He just wish he did better.  Tomo felt he did okay given the circumstances and I happen to agree.  Even then he profusely apologized for the team's performance.  They re-calibrated and brought a taller more accomplished team but still fell short.  They take full responsibility for their failures and apologized profusely for being overwhelmed by their surroundings. They felt they should have just coped and done better. "Everything in the USA is so biiiiig!"  Hopefully with more competitions under their belt they will get that competition experience that the rest of these teams have.  Japan is going to send a team to Vietnam this year and we also await the announced Sasuke World Cup to actually be organized.  This will only make the competition stronger. I look forward to it! ♥

Morimoto excited that he got the World Champion's autograph OMG! ©Yuusuke Morimoto

That said that nagging feeling still remains like a pit in my stomach that if things were even this would have been a glorious 3-way competition.. even better than what was to be last year.  Some remember the bitter disappointment from last year and so this year they were gunning to do better.  I also asked Morimoto if he was bothered that he wasn't called Sasuke Champion here in the USA and he laughed .. "what are you talking about?!? I was yelled at "CHAMPION" everywhere I went on the Vegas lot! I had to tell them to lower their voices because Sasuke had not aired in Japan at the time and didn't want to cause trouble (TBS aired it 2 weeks after Vegas taped). I asked again recently now that the USA broadcast finally aired and he didn't care that they didn't refer to that in post production. Sasuke doesn't air in the USA anyway and despite what NBC does, nothing erases that moment in time in Japan when he defeated Sasuke 31. He also was at least happy that they showed all of his Third Stage run because he was particularly proud of that.  He doesn't fret over things he cannot possibly control.  He's got a more mature attitude about it than I do!  That said, as a fan of Sasuke, it's my duty to yell when they won't.  They know the politics and they know they are guests representing their country on foreign soil.  Plenty would enjoy being in their shoes and they respect the fact that they were given the honor to represent Japan.  So while personally they wish they did better both individually and as a team, they still left the USA with wonderful memories.  Better memories than in years past.  With each passing year they learn to adapt so they can pass on that knowledge for future generations. They enjoyed their trip to the USA and they love meeting the other competitors.  Those small moments they did manage to get are the highlight of their trip.  Thanks to all of those stealthy ninjas who managed to support them and acknowledge their contribution to this sport. I wholeheartedly salute you. ♥  If any regret lingers, is that they wanted to be able to meet more fans.  They are just as much fans of them as they are being the objects of affection. (note the silly grin on Morimoto's face to meet THE Sean McColl)

 2015 Ninja Warrior Champions! ©Yuusuke Morimoto
ANW7 - Isaac Caldiero , Sasuke 31 Yuusuke Morimoto and ANW7 Geoff Britten

Ultimately my biggest problem was with this picture. It is a microcosm of everything that went wrong on the NBC broadcast. NBC just didn't handle this whole triple champion situation right.  A day after the ANW7 Final and only crowning one American champion, they had no idea of the fan backlash that would happen months later when they finally aired that on television.  To this day they have no idea why people are so angry and often appear baffled that their assurances fall on deaf ears.  Especially because changing this year's rules don't erase what they did to Geoff and they won't erase those scathing words out of Isaac's mouth.  They can now add the thousands of Sasuke fans who felt that great Sasuke snub yet again with Morimoto's image.  NBC had no idea that by the time they got to June, 2015 THREE NINJA WARRIOR CHAMPIONS would be crowned in the same year, present on THEIR television lot and there sharing the SAME TITLE.  Unlike ANW, Sasuke doesn't mind Co-Champions as evidenced by Kunoichi's Co-Champion situation from a few years back.  It's a badge of honor to have multiple champions on their show.  More people to spread the Sasuke gospel as far as they are concerned.  The competition in Japan is about man vs. course but ANW has evolved over the years into Man vs. Man.  That philosophy has repercussions and the perfect storm hit that Vegas lot at once.  Luckily enough American fans of Sasuke were there to support all three of the Champions even though NBC didn't see fit to do the same.  Japan felt that love and were happy that Morimoto was at least acknowledged by the rabid Sasuke fanbase.  NBC wasn't prepared and it showed.

USA vs. World Final Stage Double Rope Final.

Finally, I had only hoped that NBC showed this Final.  After USA won the event another small event took place shortly after. As a token of good will towards Japan who didn't get points (and what many considered a gimme to Morimoto since he did the best here and was recently crowned Champion in Sasuke - but I can't confirm that last part), NBC allowed a Final climb off with Morimoto on one rope and another from Team USA (since they won the event).  This wasn't for points or money, it was a gesture of goodwill.  Team USA chose Ian Dory since he was touted as the best rope climber from the team (even moreso than Isaac).  Ian and Yuusuke went head to head up the Final Tower in front of the live audience.  Morimoto won.  Don't ask what were the times because I don't know.  Morimoto doesn't remember either just that when he got up there he realized he won.  I wish I could have seen that. I think it would have softened the blow of how he was portrayed as that "kid with potential" during the broadcast instead of current champion, the current FACE of the sport and the future of Sasuke Japan. We never will because NBC didn't want to show it. It would break the image they created these 3 hours on network television.  It would also share the limelight with Isaac on the show and they can't have that.  ANW waited 7 years for a champion and they were willing to sacrifice the Japanese Champion (and even another American) for that pedestal.  After seeing how they edited the show, diminishing a lot of Japan's efforts and stature.. it's honestly not surprising.  They would have had to explain why Morimoto was there, why so many fans were happy to see him, but they weren't prepared to do that. I just wish they did. I expect too much. LOL To be honest, whenever this was mentioned, most of the criticism shifted to "wait.. why didn't they do a Champion climb off with Isaac instead?" LOL Another opportunity lost.

In upcoming weeks I'll be doing several blog reports and formally announce (finally) a couple of projects I've been working on for the past year. In addition to those huge projects, I'll be doing other odds and ends.  In addition to finally finishing my Sasuke 31 travel vlogs, I'll be traveling not far from my home for another Ninja event!  I'll be doing a report (not sure if it will be a special episode on the podcast, or my Youtube, or Williams Youtube or all of them!) on the National Ninja League Finals in Hainsport, New Jersey. It's going to be a CRAZY weekend with over 180 competitors - a literal who's who in American Ninja Warrior back to back for 13+ hours!  I'll be heading up there this weekend and pray I survive! LOL  I'll also be announcing a crowdfund for a return trip to Sasuke now that the Sasuke 32 official announcement has been made!  I pray that lightning strikes twice and I'm able to return.  So lots of stuff, lots of videos, blogs, vlogs and podcasts coming up on Rambling Rican.  Thank you so much for your support and please continue to follow this blog and my Twitter for more updates on a lot of exciting Sasuke related events, etc. on the horizon!  So nice to be back on Sasuke Season! WHOOT! Omg.. I have a book to write this year too.. GAAAAAAAAAH