American Ninja Warrior: Matt Iseman dishes on Ninja vs. Ninja
American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs. Ninja continues tonight, and Matt Iseman told FanSided how the teams change the show and how the show’s changed him.
American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs. Ninja is in full swing on USA, with a new challenge for TV fans, competitors, and the show’s peerless host Matt Iseman. Matt and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila are back hosting the series, which turns Ninja Warrior from an individual event into a team competition.
FanSided connected with Matt Iseman to talk about how making the franchise a team event puts a new spin on the action, what storylines he’s looking out for this season, and how he feels he’s a different person after almost a decade hosting ANW.
Check out what he had to tell us below, and then don’t miss a new episode of Ninja vs. Ninja on USA tonight at 9:00 p.m. to see who makes it through the next qualifying runs!
FanSided: The hook of American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs. Ninja is that there are teams instead of individual ninjas. What do you think that does for the show?
Matt Iseman (MI): What I love about it is it just changes the dynamic. When I watch ANW, you feel the pressure. There’s no room for error. One mistake, your season’s done [and] there’s a million dollars on the line. In this team format, I feel like they know they’re probably going to get multiple runs, and because they’re going head to head they’re not as cautious. So we get to see these ninjas go as fast as they can.
I think this is what they do when they’re training. As supportive as they are, they’re still competitive in a way that pushes each other. They bring out the best in each other and we see so many remarkable races. What I love is it can turn on a dime. Someone can fall or someone can catch up, so a race is never over until the buzzer is hit.
This show is actually harder on us because there’s never a moment when it’s not non-stop action. We’re screaming at the top of our lungs the entire time and it just makes it so fun. It’s such a good compliment to the original show to have this team format.
FanSided: Which begs the question, how much does your and Akbar’s job change at the desk when you’re commenting on teams and not individuals? Is there a difference?
MI: It completely changes. You don’t have nearly as much time to talk about their background. You’re really focusing on what’s happening on the course and trying to figure out [what may happen]. It’s really fun, because we’ve gotten to know these ninjas so well, know their strengths and weaknesses.
The other thing I love is we never know what’s going to happen. People ask us who our favorite is to win — I gave up predicting a long time ago, because you never know with ANW and it’s the same thing with Ninja Vs Ninja. When two ninjas take the course, anything can happen, and that’s what I love about it. These athletes work so hard for this and just to see them show us who can go the fastest, who can go the farthest — it brings out some phenomenal performances.
FanSided: There have been some changes to the team lineups this season. Are there any shifts or competitors that are on Matt Iseman’s radar? What are you looking out for?
MI: There are some interesting ones, like for the Towers of Power. Brandon Mears ended up having some family issues and couldn’t come out and Nate Burkhalter ended up stepping in, so now now they’re missing their rock. It’s always tough for someone to step into that.
I love Thomas Stillings, because he’s grown up so much in the past two years. He opened his own gym, he’s engaged and he’s become a more mature person. He’s still competitive and he doesn’t like to lose, so it really is fun to see him get out there and see the competitive fire come out.
I believe that’s one of the great things [about this show]. These ninjas get better together, they get better by pushing each other, and we really get to see it on Ninja vs. Ninja. There are some battles you can’t believe.
FanSided: Speaking of competition, the last time we saw you on TV was when you won NBC’s The New Celebrity Apprentice. Has competing on a reality show given you a new perspective on your “day job” hosting American Ninja Warrior?
MI: One hundred percent. I understood what it was like. I’ve competed before and I understand what it’s like to be the person on the field, but Apprentice was such a good reminder of that feeling.
I’ve made my living for the last 18 years being in front of people, speaking in front of people, doing comedy and hosting shows. Yet on Apprentice, I felt stress like I’ve never felt before — knowing millions of people were going to watch this, knowing I was competing in front of my idol, and knowing I was playing for a charity near and dear to my heart. So I felt the pressure.
I understand what these athletes go through. Most of them have never been on camera before. They’re out there in front of millions of people, in front of cameras, and one mistake and it’s done. I have such respect for what these athletes go through.
That’s the thing that people overlook: the mental toughness to deliver when you don’t get to practice. You get one shot. When you’re going head to head with one of the best and one mistake could send your team home, these athletes rise above it, and I love seeing that.
FanSided: Your first season of American Ninja Warrior aired eight years ago. You’re one of the faces of the franchise now. Did you still think you’d be doing this almost a decade on?
MI: Honestly, I didn’t know this show was going to be the phenomenon it’s become. It’s transcended the show. It’s become a movement, a community and as much credit as I would love to take for it, it’s the stories we tell. It’s the stories of these athletes.
I often talk about Akbar — he’s 6-foot-6, 260, and he’s one of the most remarkable athletes I’ve ever seen and he played in the NFL. But when you see someone like [Team Ninja Warrior season 2 winner] Joe Moravsky, you see yourself in that. You see these people who have full-time jobs, who have families ,and yet who still have found a way to be so dedicated and passionate that they whip themselves in shape.
It’s everyday people doing extraordinary things and I think that’s why people love it. Where else do men and women compete on the same course? I think it’s been great for young girls, and for people who maybe never found a traditional sport. They looked at this and saw something they can do. Just work hard and you can accomplish your dreams. It’s a great message, and I think that’s why the show’s done so well.
FanSided: How is Matt Iseman different because of his American Ninja Warrior experience?
MI: The opportunities that have come to me — obviously Apprentice came about because of Ninja Warrior, going on Megyn Kelly’s show with Akbar and talking Olympics for two weeks — the opportunities it’s provided, I’m so grateful. I’m really lucky.
This show is making a difference, getting people healthy and inspiring people to move or overcome obstacles. As good as they are as athletes, these ninjas are better at being people, and seeing how much they give back and give of themselves makes me proud to be a part of a show like this. To see these people want to inspire and help people in any way they can.
Artice originally posted on FanSided