Challenge Double Agents Player Preview: Darrell Taylor
The player I’m most excited to see this season is Darrell. While people love him for being an elite competitor, I appreciate him as one of the funniest competitors in Challenge history. He has quotable confessionals, and his live-commentary reactions to other Challenge competitors always have me laughing. His mimicking Amanda throwing middle finger pistols during Invasion had me beside myself.
It’s been a couple of years, but Darrell Taylor is once again back to compete on the Challenge. Darrell is now the oldest cast member ever. He is now in the Mark Long role. Similar to Mark Long, Darrell is in better shape than almost everyone on the current cast. Darrell is most known for being the original recorder-holder for most Challenge wins as he won his first four seasons (Gauntlet 1, Inferno 1, Inferno 2, Fresh Meat 1). To this day, Darrell and Johnny Bananas are the only players to have achieved 4 Challenge Championships (Bananas with 7), and Darrell is the only person to 4-peat.
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Darrell returned to the Challenge in 2017 for Invasion of the Champions, proving that his physical dominance and prowess wasn’t limited to his era. He won significant physical eliminations against Zach and Bananas and won the spin-off Champs vs. Pros series alongside Cara Maria. Darrell has proven to be an elite player still. However, he hasn’t been able to pull down a Challenge Championship since 2006. Can he rectify that and set the record for the longest gap between Challenge wins (the current record is Wes with just under 7 years)?
Introducing Darrell: He first appeared on our television screens on the iconic Road Rules season, Campus Crawl. Darrell then appeared on back to back seasons with the Gauntlet 1 and Inferno 1, winning both. He was a shoo-in for the finals as his team wouldn’t want to put him into elimination as he was a strong player with great cardio. He took a season off, returned Inferno 2, and won the final alongside Miz, Landon, and Jamie Chung. That foursome might be the most star-studded four-person group in Challenge history, two of the greatest players ever, and two future celebrities. Darrell took another season off, came back for Fresh Meat 1, and with Aviv, won the first true partners seasons of the Challenge (the original Battle of the Seasons had the finals ran as RW v RR teams).
Darrell then took a few years off from the show, finally returning for the Ruins. He won two eliminations and seemed guaranteed to get his fifth title before getting provoked by a drunken Brad that led to a fight that was more or less, Darrell turning Brad’s face into a meat puppet. Darrell returned for Fresh Meat 2, lucked out by getting the first overall pick, took Cara Maria, and got eliminated first after Wes and Kenny colluded to get him thrown into the first elimination. It wasn’t until seven years later that Darrell would come back for Invasion (a format similar to the Ruins). Since the Champs had to face Champs in elimination and there were only four of each gender, Darrell was the odd man out due to lack of connections. He took out a much bigger Zach in Pole Wrestle and then knocked out the reigning Champ, Bananas, in Balls In. Sadly, CT was able to take him out through an ingenious Knot So Fast strategy where he created one giant master knot. Production needed to cut the ropes after the elimination.
He came back for Dirty 30 and got purged early into the game as he was unable to beat Cory in a dead-sprint. While Darrell likely would crush Cory in a marathon, speed decreases when you get older, and Cory is fast (College Defensive Back). Darrell then lost Redemption to Tony, where he had the upper-hand for the most part. Unfortunately, heights/balance were involved, and those are not Darrell’s strong suits. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen Darrell, and I think he has it in him to win. Although there are minefields in his way, Darrell is not an overtly political player and is a bit susceptible to purges as daily challenges are not his strong suit.
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Darrell Taylor: 41 Years Old, 5'11, 200 lbs, 8 Seasons, 4x Champion (Inferno 1, Gauntlet 1, Inferno 2, Fresh Meat 1), 4x Finalist
Skills and Physical Strength: It’s a bit difficult to decipher what Darrell’s strengths in the modern Challenge world are. We know that when it comes to cardio, Darrell can run long-distances and do it at a sustained pace. The only other competitors in Challenge history who could keep pace with Darrell in a final running-wise are Jordan, Landon, and Theo (maybe someone I’m forgetting). His other main strength is that Darrell is an absolute unit when it comes to 1 on 1 physical contact and head-bangers. He is a former golden gloves boxer, has quick hands (ask Brad), and knows how to take a hit. As a former boxer and personal trainer, Darrell’s core strength is ridiculous. His elimination with Cohutta back on the Ruins was representative of that; Darrell was able to stay in the crunch position for days.
His weaknesses are the fact that Darrell hates heights and is not flexible whatsoever (self-admitted). If they incorporate more purges or a last-place goes into elimination penalty, those could be problems for Darrell. Darrell is not a bad swimmer compared to the awful swimmers; however, if those players get eliminated, he might find himself near the bottom. When I was in high school, so many people dropped out of my advanced Spanish course that I went from being above average to slightly below average, and it was devastating. Darrell’s issue is he often takes it easy in daily challenges since there is no pressure to win most of the time. If money or his game is on the line, Darrell gives 110%, and his 110% is super-elite.
SSMP (Social, Strategic, Mental, and Political) Game: In the early team-based era of the Challenge, Darrell never had to worry much about politics. People knew he was a horse who could carry his weight and then some in the final, and thus didn’t even see an elimination his first three seasons. On Fresh Meat, most players lucked out that Wes spent a majority of the time in the exiles, allowing Darrell and other power players to coast. However, Darrell was the victim of one of the first modern blindsides in Challenge history when Derrick/Diem threw Darrell/Aviv in against Theo/Chanda. Luckily, they won the life-shield. In the modern era, Darrell has gotten voted out into way too many eliminations for a player of his pedigree. Part of is the fact that he’s not always around, and thus, lacks connections.
He plans to align with the Young Bucks this season, as they are the people he’s done shows with. Darrell had a good relationship with CT on Invasion. He’s done seasons with Aneesa, Ashley, and Nicole. Technically, he did a show with Leroy and Tori, except he got purged from the jump. He was in the same house as Theresa for Fresh Meat 2 for three days a decade ago. Darrell spent a healthy amount of time in the Redemption House with Devin on Dirty 30. Of course, the elephant in the room is his long-standing rivalry with Wes. Every season the two have done together, they’ve been on opposite sides and almost fought on the Ruins. Wes got Darrell thrown into the first elimination of Fresh Meat 2, and thus, was the main reason Darrell got eliminated for the first time in his Challenge career. The two have been friendly since filming Champs vs. Pros, as they’ve both matured. I think they should work together because they are two of the biggest targets. At the same time, I don’t expect Wes not to take a shot at Darrell.
In terms of the mental game, Darrell has been gifted strong puzzle partners in the past. He’s not an idiot; it’s just puzzles aren’t his forte.
Eliminations & Winning Potential: Darrell is a career 5–2 in elimination with quality wins over Bananas, Zach, and Cohutta. His losses have been to strong competitors in Jill/Pete and CT. He’s pulled off wins in endurance-based games, cardio/obstacle races, Balls In, and Pole Wrestle. The redemption loss to Tony and the tie against Nelson on Vendettas is a bit worrying; the old man might be losing some of the natural athleticism he used to have. As a whole, he’s still a monster, and nobody should want to face him in anything.
Can Darrell win? I’d be more skeptical about Darrell not winning if this male cast was a little stronger and had more legitimate winning options. Wes and CT are his two most significant threats, and those guys are shells of their former selves. Fessy has potential, Cory was good last season, Leroy is solid, and Nelson/Kyle have heart, yet, to say they’d beat Darrell in a final is a bit much. Nam and maybe a super dark horse like Jay could be threats, and that’s being very optimistic. If Darrell gets to that final, he should win (he’s never lost a final). The problem is, he might be the biggest target in the game.
Darrell’s Overall Rating: 95/100
Darrell’s Dirty 30 Rating: 94/100
Invasion Rating: 95/100