Season 8 of American Ninja Warrior is set to take place later this year, but fans of the show were treated to a special event in Las Vegas on Sunday with USA vs. The World II.
The first installment of the matchup, which includes teams from the United States, Europe and Japan, was taken by the Europeans in 2014. On Sunday, it was the Americans who claimed victory in dramatic fashion.
Competitors had to go through three stages with three heats each, earning a point for each heat win in the first stage, two in the second and three in the third.
Each athlete had to try and complete courses that included running, jumping and swinging obstacles with names like the Jumping Spider, Floating Boards, Psycho Chainsaw, Cliffhanger and more.
It came down to the ninth and final heat as Isaac Caldiero, a former bus boy and the first competitor to win American Ninja Warrior, became the fourth American to complete Stage 3, finishing in 4:28.84. The three points turned an 8-7 USA deficit into a 10-8 victory over Europe. Team Japan failed to score a point.
In a run directly before Caldiero, Europe's Sean McColl completed Stage 3 in 5:42.25, meaning Caldiero had to not only complete the stage, but do so faster than McColl. That is exactly what he did, and he couldn't be happier when talking with sideline reporter Kristine Leahy.
"I can't imagine it being any better," he said. "This is like the best thing I could ever imagine, and I'm glad to be sharing with the rest of my teammates and to be accompanied by such strong competitors from other parts of the world."
NBC.com shared some clips of winning-run:
|Stage 1||Winner||Team||Heat Points (Total Points)|
|Heat 1||Isaac Caldiero||USA||1 (1)|
|Heat 2||Tim Champion||Europe||1 (1)|
|Heat 3||Drew Drechsel||USA||1 (2)|
|Stage 2||Winner||Team||Heat Points (Total Points)|
|Heat 1||Stefano Ghisolfi||Europe||2 (3)|
|Heat 2||Drew Drechsel||USA||2 (4)|
|Heat 3||Sean McColl||Europe||2 (5)|
|Stage 3||Winner||Team||Heat Points (Total Points)|
|Heat 1||Ian Dory||USA||3 (7)|
|Heat 2||Stefano Ghisolfi||Europe||3 (8)|
|Heat 3||Isaac Caldiero||USA||3 (10)|
It was an inauspicious start for all three teams as no competitor made it past the fourth obstacle, the Flying Spider. Caldiero did, however, bring his team the win for the fastest time.
Europe's Tim Champion, a gymnast, nearly was the first athlete to complete a heat, falling on the ropes just before the end. He still earned his team a point in the first stage. As fate would have it for Europe, Tim Shieff was the first to complete the Stage 1 course, but it did not receive the point after USA's Drew Drechsel completed the course in 1:18.61, nearly seven seconds faster than Shieff, giving the U.S. a 2-1-0 lead.
Drechsel continued his dominance in the second stage when he completed the course in a time of 1:34. According to Leahy, no ninja during regular competition had ever broken two minutes on the course.
Yet, it was only the beginning for what would be an amazing second stage.
As impressive as Drechsel was, he would eventually be outshined by his teammate. After Geoff Britten was knocked out of competition before the second heat with a 103-degree fever, alternate Joe Moravsky stepped in during the third stage.
All he did was beat Drechsel's mark by 11 seconds (1:23.69), seemingly earning the U.S. two more points and a 6-3-0 lead. The Connecticut meteorologist said he had no idea where that performance came from and thought Drechsel had "crushed" his time when interviewed by Leahy.
Here's a look at Moravsky's run less than an hour after he was pulled out of the crowd, per Time Warner Cable:
However, the lead never came to fruition as McColl wowed the crowd by besting Moravsky by four seconds at 1:19.86. McColl was happy to win, but he showed respect for his American competitor when talking with Leahy.
"Joe's been a ninja for so much longer than me," McColl said. "I have the most respect for everyone on this platform. He had such an amazing time, which gave me really the competition spirit."
American Ninja Warrior host Matt Iseman acknowledged the drama of the competition on Twitter:
The drama amped up in the third stage, as Europe led 5-4-0. USA's Ian Dory gave his team the lead after the first heat by lasting the longest in stage three. However, he came within one jump of completing the course, crashing into the water as he missed the last bar before the final platform. He was in good spirits, but a bit disappointed as well when talking with Leahy.
"I wanted that one last jump really bad," Dory said, "but just didn't have it in me."
Dory's heat victory officially eliminated Japan from a first-place finish, which meant the competition came down to the final two heats between Europe and USA.
Stefano Ghisolfi won the second-to-last heat, giving Europe the 8-7 lead and setting up the final dramatics with McColl and Caldiero.
It couldn't have been a more exciting world competition as fans eagerly await the start of American Ninja Warrior Season 8. If it's anything like USA vs. The World II, they're in for a real treat.