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SNL's American Ninja Warrior Sketch Nails the Specific Heartbreak of Splash Falls

Season 41 Host Drake played ANW Host Akbar Gbajabiamila in the sketch about a Ninja who falls on the obstacle course immediately. 

By Samantha Vincenty

While Season 16 of American Ninja Warrior will uphold a couple of big changes from last season, like those side-by-side races during the Semi-Finals, the core reasons fans tune in to the competition show remain the same. First and foremost, there's the obvious draw of watching skilled amateur athletes ace an impossible-seeming obstacle course. Then there are the poignant, sometimes heartbreaking backstories that have you rooting for a particular contestant — or Ninja, as they're called on the show. And hard as they can be to watch, there's simply no denying those epic falls make for great TV, too. 

How to Watch

Watch Saturday Night Live Saturdays at 11:30/10:30c on NBC and next day on Peacock.  

Saturday Night Live's "American Ninja Warrior" sketch absolutely nailed the latter two tropes in a May 14, 2016 episode in which Drake pulled double duty as Host and Musical Guest. The rapper portrayed ANW Host Akbar Gbajabiamila, while Season 41 cast member Beck Bennett played co-Host Matt Iseman. Bobby Moynihan took on the highly physical role of a Ninja who brought a lot of heart, and little-to-no athletic skills, to the course. 

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Bobby Moynihan as Jeff Metcalf during the "American Ninja Warrior" sketch on Saturday Night Live Episode 1703

SNL's "American Ninja Warrior" parody nails those cringe fall moments

"Coming up next is a competitor with a very moving story," Bennett's Iseman says.

"Hi, I'm Jeff Metcalf, I'm 42 years old, and I'm from the beautiful town of Beasley, Texas," Moynihan's character tells the camera in his heartfelt intro sequence. "Well, it used to be beautiful, before the tornado. The tornado leveled everything. People lost their homes.That's when I decided I had to do something. I had to give back."

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Explaining that he used wood from his destroyed house to build a practice course, Metcalf wanted to "show the people of Beasley that, if the chips are down, you work hard and put your mind to it, anything is possible." Just as on the real American Ninja Warrior, Iseman and Gbajabiamila (Drake and Bennett) then introduced Metcalf's support squad (Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, and Kenan Thompson), standing by the course in T-shirts with his face on them.

Beck Bennett as Matt Iseman, Bobby Moynihan as Jeff Metcalf, and Drake as Akbar Gbajabiamila during the "American Ninja Warrior" sketch

"I am no longer Jeff Metcalf. I am Captain Tornado," Moynihan's character says, slipping a superhero mask on his head. "I'm doing this for my town!"

"Let's see if Captain Tornado will be our next American Ninja Warrior," Bennett's Iseman says. "And he's off...and it's over for Captain Tornado."

In two seconds flat, Moynihan's character falls into the water after bouncing off a pad.

The Ninja's friends and coworkers try to mask their shock and disappointment as the Hosts provide a brutal replay. 

"It was almost as if there was absolutely no communication between his brain and body," Drake's Gbajabiamila brutally narrates over hilarious slo-mo footage.

Bobby Moynihan as Jeff Metcalf during the "American Ninja Warrior" sketch on Saturday Night Live Episode 1703

"Now let's take a look at the reaction of his fans. If you watch closely, you can see the hope slowly draining from their faces," Bennet's Iseman says.

"I mean, any respect that they had for Jeff has now completely vanished, and that's got to suck for them," Gbajabiamila agrees. "They put their eggs in the wrong basket."

But because of his moving story, Metcalf gets a "special American Ninja Warrior do-over." Does he make it more than two feet into the course? Watch the SNL sketch above to find out — and watch American Ninja Warrior Season 16 on Mondays at 8/7c on NBC and the next day on Peacock.