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 "It's that time, America. What goes up must wipe out."

An American Game Show on ABC in which 24 contestants compete in a series of events seemingly designed to humiliate and otherwise annoy them. The last contestant standing wins $50,000. Inspired by crazy Japanese stunt game shows like Takeshi's Castle (although older viewers may also find it not dissimilar to Jeux Sans Frontieres).

Not to be confused with the 1988-89 game show of the same name. Or the futuristic racing game series; coincidentally, this Wipeout also has a video game of it.


Game Show Tropes present:

  • Carried by the Host: The commentary of and banter between the Johns and Jill/Vanessa is part of what makes the show enjoyable.

 John H.: If I fall down... I want you to commentate on it!

John A.: I'm touched... and sort of can't wait. [smirk]

  • Covered in Gunge
  • Golden Snitch: Rankings in any given round have no effect on the next round, though you won't see the next round if you don't place high enough. Also, in the Wipeout Zone final round, the Gauntlet (when it appears) is often the match-decider, as it is a series of obstacles, often with a particularly hard one last, and wiping out anywhere on it forces you to start the entire set from the beginning.
  • Home Game: There are video game versions on the Kinect, Wii, and DS. Don't get those confused with the sci-fi racing game series of the same name.
  • Personnel:
Tropes used in Wipeout 2008 include:


  • Action Mom: Many of the contestants on the show are mothers, including one who referred to herself with the Trope name, and at least three winners (one of whom while teamed up with her son).
  • All There in the Manual: Averted on air during a Winter Family edition. If one family finishes and the others quit on the penultimate round, the family that finished is guaranteed half the prize money right then and there, and must compete in the Wipeout Zone against the team that quit last for the rest of the cash. Considering its ending, it ended up being irrelevant: the one family that didn't quit won the whole cash anyway.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Some of the obstacles slow down the longer it takes contestants to cross them, making the obstacle easier. Particularly noted for Season 3's Spin Cycle.
    • Justified with the Spin Cycle. It wasn't designed to create funny wipeouts. Its purpose was to disorient the contestant inside it, and it worked.
    • Also apparent with the Coin Flip obstacle, where the rotating coins change direction after the contestant wipes out.
  • Animal Reaction Shot: Occasional shots of wildlife near the set are used either in comedy bits or otherwise.
  • Bond Gun Barrel: Henson attempted this when a Bond Girl wannabe came on the show. He had trouble keeping the gun focused on her.

 "Is this like a screensaver or can I control it?"

  • Book Ends: Aside from the obstacles and the need to restart, the Qualifer and Wipeout Zone are fairly identical: each player goes one at a time, tries to get past a series of obstacles in order to each the finish spot, and tries to get the best time amongst them.
    • The key difference between the two is that you only have to attempt each obstacle in the Qualifier. If you fail, you simply need to swim or otherwise slowly advance to the next obstacle. In the Zone, if you don't make it to the end of an obstacle, you need to swim back and try again. Only the really tough obstacles can be skipped after wiping out, and with a large time penalty for doing so.
  • Camera Abuse: Happens more often in the most recent season, when players are finishing the second elimination game there's a camera perfectly positioned at the end of the platform after a long slide, most contestants that overshoot the platform end up crashing into the camera on the way past.
  • Camp Gay: "Fierce Dragon" Eddie Moton Jr.
  • The Cast Showoff: In "Ballsy gets a hard hat", Kenny gets a moment to show off his juggling skills.
  • Catch Phrase: "Good night, and big balls."
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The Wipeout Zone is decidedly darker than the rest of the show's courses. The music is more dramatic, and the Johns are considerably less snarky than they are the rest of the show. And oh yeah, there's fire everywhere in the background.
  • Cherry Tapping: Many challenges feature added distractions in the form of water being sprayed at the contestants or various objects being thrown at them. With balance being as much of an issue as it oftentimes is, sometimes just the lightest hit can knock a person into the water. Best exemplified in one episode where a contestant was knocked into a water by a thrown hot dog.
    • On the other hand, some of the newer obstacles are designed specifically with cherry tapping in mind. It's never -ever- the big obvious hazard that's going to pummel you and the obstacle never -ever- will work the way it seems to set up to be. Those are all distractions so they can smack you with something smaller that will throw you in the water.
    • Season 5 Winter Wipeout seems to have 'speed and motion' as the general theme with a lot of obstacles that move or require some element of speed to complete successfully. Which makes the occasional obstacle that doesn't seem like a nice respite... except making you stop is what they want you to do because it puts you in position long enough for a hidden obstacle to smack you into the water.
  • Cloudcuckoolander/Large Ham: Frank "Freak of Nature" Beasley. Though often many of the less-successful contestants are equally as hammy.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Half the fun of the show is seeing people get beat up by giant waterproof beanbags and fall into mud.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: If the spiked whackers are the first obstacle on the Gauntlet, the first time the contestant gets there, it will always wait until the contestant actually tries to cross until the first wall pops out. Every. Time. Except for the one time when the first wall would intentionally miss the contestant... and then it's the second wall that nails them as soon as they try to cross it.
    • This was lampshaded by contestant "The Wiggler" James Runcorn. "This is gonna hit me, isn't it?" When it knocks him back into the water, he shouted "I Knew It!!"
    • Also done by the Door Knock obstacle, which uses three mystery doors. While the contestants were told to just pick a door and see what happens, nobody told them all three doors would have a giant pendulum hammer activated right when they open it - however, this has been conquered by, among others, the aforementioned Frank Beasley, who was able to move to the side upon seeing the hammer. The ironic thing is that that obstacle was designed to prevent "ding-dong ditching". Other contestants have survived the Door Knock by absorbing the hit, somehow staying on that tiny beam.
    • In recent seasons, the Qualifier obstacles run on this, including the Smackwall Sweeper, the Fence Flapper, Drivers' Ed (which replaced the Sucker Punch of all things) and the Snowman Surprise. The creator even admitted that the Fence Flapper was near impossible.
  • Covered in Mud: Sometimes there'll be mud instead of water under the obstacles for the contestants to land in. So not only do they suffer an embarrassing fall, but they also have to be coated in mud.
  • Determinator: "Fierce Dragon" Eddie Moton Jr. refused to allow anything, even being over the time limit, to stop him from finishing the Wipeout Zone.
  • Dissimile: "[The Spring Fling] is like getting on a horse in mid-air ten feet above the ground!"
  • DVD Commentary: The official Wipeout Twitter account provides a director's commentary of the night's episode. This commentary is also available while watching episodes on the official site.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: In the Wipeout Zone, it appears that the longer you spend on an obstacle, the slower it becomes.
  • Epic Fail: In one second-season episode, a contestant reached the very first corner of the qualifier, slipped and fell, and promptly yelled "I'm done!" She lasted less than ten seconds.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: The Spin Cycle, the Dizzy Dummy, the various other spinners that have appeared in every season so far...
    • Also, depending on how the obstacles smack them around, the contestants can go into some pretty crazy spins themselves.
    • Those metal bases on the Big Balls seem almost impossible to reach, yet...
    • Justified since the spinning is intended to hinder the contestants.
    • In the Spring 2011 Wipeout Zone every obstacle spins (two vertically, one horizontally and requiring timing). Contrast this to previous zones where it was usually just one or two and usually just hazards rather than the obstacle itself. Unfortunately for the viewers, this new course seems to be quite a bit easier since the contestants take 4 to 7 minutes to complete the course which is several minutes faster than even the fastest times of previous courses.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Several of the obstacles, including the trademark Big Balls (which are giant rubber red balls).
  • Failed a Spot Check: Where's the pole?
  • Fan Nickname: During one episode, Anderson mentions they've gotten a number of 'scorpion' wipeouts which apparently refers to the occasional instances where a contestant's feet touch their head.
  • Five-Man Band: You watch enough of the recent 2010 season of Wipeout, you realize that the on-air crew actually fits this quite well (though the "ranking" may be shuffled around)...
    • The Smart Guy: John Anderson, the sensible third of the show's speaking-role Power Trio. Generally considered serious and uptight, though he's not above making Incredibly Lame Puns when a good wipeout happens.
    • The Lancer: John Henson, the constantly jokey third of the show's speaking-role Power Trio. The color commentator (being a comedian, after all) of the show, who will take any opportunity to deliver a Hurricane of Puns, which makes him and Anderson's interactions with each other basically an extended Boke and Tsukkomi Routine.
    • The Chick: Jill Wagner, the hot interviewer third of the show's speaking-role Power Trio. You may recognize her from those Mercury car commercials and her role in the TV adaptation of the Blade movies. These three are joined by...
    • The Big Guy (sort of): Kenny Shackleford, a member of Wipeout's "Black-and-Blue Crew", a group of current and former Marines who test-run the obstacles before the contestants go. Kenny also plays the Referee during the Bruiseball 3rd game and is one of the two people throwing stuff at contestants during either the "Jump over the spinning bar on the rotating platform" 3rd game or the "Go around all 4 stations without falling in the water" 3rd game. He's joined by...
    • Cute Bruiser (again, sort of): Megan Stiner, another member of the "Black-and-Blue Crew", who bears a more than passing resemblance to Playboy model Summer Altice.
  • Flanderization: When you make it to Round 2, one thing said during your interview will be the basis for all of the commentators' jokes about you.
  • Fun with Subtitles: "Due to hard economic times we don't have the money to buy the rights to this song, but let's just say her FOOT... is LOOSE.... :)"
    • The stick figures used to demostrate each course as well as to telestrate various contestants wipeouts may also count as they're all unique.
  • Genre Blind: Some of the contestants seem this way. "Hey, how come there's mud on one of several wall panels that might pop out and smack me into the mud puddle below? Probably a coincidence."
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: With the show's trademark obstacle called the Big Balls, this can be expected.
    • A mechanical bull round was dubbed "bucking nuts", how more blatant can you get, aside from the obvious pun?
    • The censors quite literally couldn't do anything about the abuse Funke Ho got. Yes, that was her actual name.
      • Followed up with a, unfortunately non-qualifying, contestant Amy Hooker which John shortens to A. Hooker. Though at least she lasts long enough for them to get in a quick joke about A. Hooker really holding on to a dangler.
    • The Shake-a-Lator obstacle in the Qualifier Round tended get this, mostly with the female contestants, and especially when they began to add velvet club ropes to it (the "V.I.P. Shake-a-Lator").
    • In one episode, Henson makes a joke about (what else) the bouncy balls being thrown at the contestants during a Spinner Challenge. Anderson quickly responds with: "Ah Johnny, you and your ball gags."
    • In general, the three hosts and production staff in general seem to be starting to "suffer" from making a lighthearted PG show day in and day out by slipping in all sorts of jokes and innuendos.
    • Mmm...MOIST.
    • "Nothing like a good ol' [BLEEP] whoopin' here on Wipeout." Pretty much not even trying to Get Crap Past the Radar at this point.
    • Played with in "John Henson, Zombie Hunter" where they call attention to and censor the hands of a contestant who constantly holds up her ring fingers.
  • Groin Attack: Some of the punches on the Sucker Punch are designed to give low-blows, and many other obstacles have the potential to do this too. And in this case, it's not just males who suffer the pain (although they get the most made fun of).
    • Jacob "Crunch Time" Mann had it twice in the Qualifier - the first from the aforementioned Sucker Punch, and the second from doing the splits on the Big Balls.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In one episode, two contestants (both named ones at that) are sharing a platform waiting for a hanging platform to come around. One offers the other the opportunity to jump on the platform... when there's exactly one spot left available for advancement. Henson immediately chimes in with "...and that's probably the stupidest sacrifice he'll ever make."
  • Hurricane of Puns: Trademark of the hosts.
  • Hypocritical Humor: One joke in a recent episode was John asking John Anderson if he's into sports. John replies he's not really a sports guy at all. John Anderson is one of the major anchors on Sports Center.
  • I Have Many Names/Prop Recycling: In some cases, a single obstacle may be used in several different episodes, but with different livery each time:
    • A walking spinner with a $1,000 bonus item was used as "Unclaimed Baggage", the "Sleepytime Spinner", and the "American Revolution."
    • Similarly in the same season we had the One Ring Circus, which was re-done in medieval and pirate themes too among other things.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Henson's specialty, with Anderson calling him out on the lamest of ones.
    • Jill gets one in (crossing over with a Take That) when talking to a contestant that's into building things and tools. "You know what my favorite tool is? David Hasselhoff."
  • Mercy Mode: In the final round of Wipeout, if a contestant is struggling or wipes out at the same obstacle several times, the obstacle is gradually made easier, such as a spinner spinning slower, so that the contestant can get past the roadblock. However, this can work against them if the contestant has to ride the obstacle to the other side since they will lose more time if the machine is going slow.
  • Mood Whiplash: Crosses over with Shoo Out the Clowns, the final round, even down to the theme song they use, is many times more professional and serious than the overall mood of the first three rounds.
  • Jumping the Shark: Parodied In-Universe as a Visual Pun for a Sweeper variant ... which literally involves jumping over a shark.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: The Shapeshifter is something like this. How the hosts describe the obstacle, it sounds like you have to jump through one of the shapes onto the final platform (via trampoline, swingset, zipline, slide, or the like)...except that, if you imagine that the Shapeshifter itself wasn't there, that jump is way too far for a human to reach. A grand total of three contestants have crossed it so far...two of them by landing in one of the shapes and riding it around until they could jump out, and the third by pushing against the contraption once through the hole to give himself the extra force needed to get through.
    • There are those moments of disbelief. In September 2010, Rico "Rolling Thunder" Curtis actually horizontally dived through the hole and landed on the platform with a tummy slide.
  • Name's the Same: The British version is called Total Wipeout to avoid confusion with a 1994-2002 gameshow - the British version of the 1988 Wipeout series.
    • The original American version is also shown in the UK as Total Wipeout USA.
  • The Nicknamer: Just about any contestant who makes it past qualification will get some sort of wacky nickname from the hosts. It's a way of making the contestants memorable, and to set up jokes based on the nicknames.
  • Nintendo Hard: Some of the obstacles are very difficult to pass, especially in the Qualifier since contestants don't have to repeat them. Probably the best example is the Sucker Punch with spray paint.
    • It's probably not a coincidence that Forrest's record-setting run mentioned above was done on one of the few episodes that did not include the Sucker Punch, and even if it had, it would have been the Season 2 Sucker Punch, the version that people have been able to get through.
    • The real winner of the Nintendo Hard award has to go to the Fling Set and all its variations. In the nine episodes it has appeared in, it has been crossed a grand total of zero times.
    • Taken to another level in the fifth episode of Winter Wipeout. The six-person qualifier introduced in this episode includes the Crankshaft (now with moving platform) and a vertically-rotating platform...as the first two obstacles.
    • Inverted with a new 2nd round (of 4) challenge in the first episode of spring 2011. Jill lampshades the lack of difficulty by complaining that no one's wiped out several minutes in.
      • She actually had missed the one wipeout that occurred.
    • And lampshaded by the Johns when a contestant wipes out... while climbing a ladder to an obstacle platform.
  • Nominal Importance: Each episode there are a few contestants who make it past the qualifier without getting a nickname. Guess what their chances are of surviving Round 2. Lampshaded a few times:

 John Henson: Who's it gonna be? Smelly's Boyfriend, or the contestant we've never met before... It's Smelly's Boyfriend!

    • Also:

 "So who's that [that just got knocked out of a round]?"

"Don't know, don't care."

(later)

"Who-who is that?"

"I told you I don't care!"

(even later)

"And who was that fellow?"

"What is it with you and names, John?"

    • And:

 "Is that the guy in purple?"

"Yeah, but if he did better, we'd have given him a better name."

  • One Steve Limit: Averted, as both of the hosts are named John.
    • But no contestant gets the same nickname as another. Unless, of course, they're twins.
  • Platform Hell: Most of the show could qualify as this, but the Qualifier courses in Seasons 3 and 4 began a trend of having at least one obstacle which is guaranteed to cause a wipeout or two (i.e. the Fence Flapper, the airbag on Drivers' Ed, etc.)
  • Product Placement: Two episodes in Season 4 contained promotions for the Home Game for Xbox 360/Kinect. The more prominent example came in "Does This Avatar Make Me Look Fat?": there was the Nintendo Hard "Wipeout Video Game Spinner" obstacle (a very fast turntable, with 4 rectanglar blocks with Xbox 360 avatars of the hosts and Jill on them, and a bunch of danglers), and Activision also sponsored a $25,000 bonus for the top time in that day's qualifier.
  • Puzzle Boss: The Crankshaft and The Arms and Dangerous are hard to complete just by rushing it through. Contestants must find their pattern to get across.
    • In spite of first impressions, a similar principle is true for most of the Qualifier's obstacles. Very few contestants have managed to deduce that "dash like a maniac" is a subpar strategy, though.
      • Admittedly the rules eventually did forbid unusual strategies, like hanging on to a sweeper and riding it around. Intentionally pushing contestants off an obstacle is also forbidden, and intentionally failing in a way that minimizes time loss (doing a running leap into the mud) warrants a time penalty.
    • The Spin Cycle, which contestants can get stuck in for a long time trying to figure out how to get out of (usually involving riding the cycle around the top, instead of trying to run against it along the bottom).
  • Reality Show Genre Blindness: An astoundingly large number of the contestants are horribly out of shape, and an even more astoundingly large number of contestants have no idea how to get past the obstacles, especially in the Qualifier (which is Nintendo Hard enough without taking contestant incompetence into account!) Though, this makes the ones who can figure out a way past the tougher obstacles and then pull it off especially impressive (such as the girl who got through the Big Balls by leaping onto each one belly-first and clinging on for dear life until she was stable before getting up and leaping to the next one.)
    • Lampshaded by the Johns in a recent episode. "No matter how many times contestants watch the show, they all start the day thinking they'll do great!"
  • Recycled in Space / Difficulty Spike: Many of the obstacles from season to season, usually by adding paint spraying (the Sucker Punch), foam (too many obstacles to name, but especially the Spin Cycle in the Wipeout Zone), and/or water cannons (the Overdrive and Double Cross). Then there's just those obstacles whose upgrades just seem silly, like when the Sweeper Bar from the first episode got largely superficial changes as the first season progressed (like "foam rubber teeth" to become the Sweeper Toothbrush, (which Henson called the Spikes of Doom in an awesome voice), or adding a MOBILE MADE OF CROWS). However, the silliness of the "upgrades" is probably intentional, given the nature of the show.
    • Other obstacles get moved from phase to phase in addition to modifiers. Crankshaft, always good for a wipeout or three, started off in the Wipeout zone, got moved to a third phase qualifier with moving platform, and then by 2011, is now a second phase qualifier where the Crankshaft has a more unique shape (crooked instead of straight) and has been put on an axle arm that spins.
  • Running Gag: The hosts tend to stick to one running gag per contestant and run with it for the whole show.
  • Second-Person Attack: They use what's called the Smash Cam. This is intended to show how the contestant fell from their own point of view (or at least the point of view of their lifejacket).
  • Shout-Out: Common procedure by the Johns. What isn't tends to be puns, jokes, or references based off the contestant.
    • When a contestant that happens to be a geologist wins the game, Henson says "If you smell what the rock star is cooking?", a reference to WWE wrestler, the Rock.
    • A mention is made for an air traffic controller about Oceania airplanes i.e. the stock airline used in pretty much every movie made. In the same episode when the contestant splashes down onto another in Double Cross, one of the Johns wonders where Captain Sully is, the airline pilot who did a waterlanding.
    • In something of a Double Subversion, one girl, a professed Anime fan, referred to herself as Mikachu. At first, the hosts seem confused as to what the name refers to, which makes one think they're unaware of (or trying to avoid) the reference... and then in the third round, one of the Johns randomly throws out a Jigglypuff reference.
    • The first episode of spring 2011 has a blink-and-you-miss-it Shout-Out to Bert and Ernie.
    • In "John Henson, Zombie Hunter", John puts out the classic "I'm here to kick butt and chew bubblegum and I'm all out of bubblegum."
    • In the "Boss and Employee" episode, when the employee of the "Robot Duo" wipes out on the Big Balls, Henson mentions he's playing a game of Robot Chicken.
    • One video-game obsessed contestant's wipeout earned a mention of the Konami Code.
    • A Winter Wipeout episode has the Johns paying tribute to the "Crazy Obstacle Inventor Guy" in the style of Budweiser's "Real Men of Genius" ads.
  • Soft Water: When contestants are launched into the Wipeout Zone, air bubbles are pumped into their expected landing spot to cushion their landing. Every other time, though, this trope is thoroughly averted, with some contestants having to quit after landing too hard in the water.
  • Take That: After the first Shark Jump obstacle, John notes that someone should do a whole week worth's of shark-related shows. Other John dismisses the idea as something that will never work.
  • The Stinger: After the credits, there's usually a funny scene with Jill and a contestant, usually a non-nicknamed one. Occasionally goes into brick joke territory. Other times, it's simply a Noodle Incident or Jill veering into Cloudcuckoolander territory.
  • Sublime Rhyme: "Enter on green, exit on red. Don't let the sweeper arms go over your head." (Overdrive)
    • Another overdrive one is "Enter on red, exit on green, don't let the sweeper bar nail you in-between"
    • "If you hesitate, we motivate." (Motivator)
  • That Came Out Wrong: "Which makes us a couple of Johns out looking for a good time."
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Occasionally said verbatim when a contestant is about to attempt an obsticle
  • Those Two Guys: John Henson and John Anderson.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Well, more like "too dumb to make it to the next round," but some contestants do some stupid things.
  • Trans Pacific Equivalent: The show is similar enough to Takeshi's Castle that the Tokyo Broadcasting System is suing ABC over copyright infringement.
    • Of course, the Johns don't seem worried about this as Henson tosses out a "Let's get it on!" plus hand gesture combo as seen on the MXC version of the show.
    • The BBC shows a UK version.
  • Up to Eleven: The Overdrive, compared to the Double Cross.

  "This is your announcer saying good night -- and big balls."

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