Wes, Derrick, LeRoy, Bananas, Jordan, Landon, Kenny, Darrell, Alton, and CT. These are all of the male competitors in Challenge history who have won 5 or more eliminations in their career. Except it’s missing one person… Mr. Nelson Thomas. In three seasons, Nelson has compiled a 5–1 elimination record, a couple daily mission wins, and a second place finish on Invasion of the Champions. Nelson’s elimination stats put him with other all-time great players; it’s not a matter of if Nelson will ever win a Challenge, it’s a matter of when. He is a flawed player who has found a way to maximize strengths in order to compete with the best. The most similar all time players to Nelson are Wes (optimistic), Cara Maria (realistic), and LeRoy (pessimistic). At the end of the day, all great players to be compared to.
Nelson was an unknown face after Are You The One? and his first Challenge season. He was only the guy with a killer bod and a tiny bit of a temper. If you’ve ever seen the phrase “whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” It becomes the mantra of Nelson’s entire Challenge career. He started his Challenge career as a bad player who was near the bottom in most missions, but after every elimination win he came back a little more confident and began doing better in missions to the point he was average in them. After winning the Underdog Bloodbath, Nelson destroyed the final, and was the only person out of the final six to complete every single portion and not receive a time penalty. Then he went on Dirty 30, won the first regular daily mission of the season, and performed at least average in the rest of them.
When he eliminated Hunter on Dirty 30, Nelson had to face the house 7–1, except he had a look on his face after the elimination that made it seem like anyone facing Nelson in elimination would have to see a person who won’t give up. And then he decided to be wack and slap Derrick in the face while drunk, ending his season there. Nothing is worse than losing a season due to a disqualification because you ended up beating yourself. Never throw away a game you worked hard to play for one drunken moment. Even if Nelson would not have won the season, he probably would have taken a vet or two out in the process, and people within the game would have more respect for him.
Nevertheless, Nelson is back for his fourth season and is ready to get his first win.
Skills & Physical Strength: I compared Nelson to LeRoy and Cara Maria for a good reason. On the No Quitters Podcast, LeRoy called himself the male Cara Maria. They are not well-rounded players who are able to compete with the elite players because they are good at eliminations and dominating physically. So far in Nelson’s career, it’s been about the same, he’s in great shape and kills eliminations. The difference between Nelson and LeRoy is — LeRoy would like to win, Nelson wants to win. To Nelson, the Challenge is his sport, and he is a professional Challenger. After Nelson did poorly in the swim of the Invasion final, he posted clips of him at the gym practicing his swimming.
He might be one of the worst puzzle players in Challenge history, but he practices them. As he improves physically, he continually tries to make himself a better overall player. If Nelson can become average at the competitions where he would usually be weak in, his strengths will push him over the top.
Based on his Instagram, Nelson has been bulking up. Nelson is known for his killer abs and low body fat content — now his arms and chest are significantly bigger after becoming more devoted to his training and fitness. On Social Media, Nelson’s stories always consist of him being at the gym, doing cardio on the track, doing hot yoga, or training by doing martial arts. He focuses on being functionally fit and trying out different types of exercises to have a complete body.
Social, Mental, & Political Game: The pure amount of older generation veterans on Dirty 30 put Nelson between a rock and a hard place. Aligning with Cory and Hunter was a decent move because they would be forced to play the game of the veterans either way. Going into this season, Nelson needs to win challenges in order to gain political power, and then use that political power as leverage for future alliances. With all the rookie guys this season, Nelson’s focus should be on gathering them go against Bananas, instead of playing a lazy game where they vote in the rookie first.
He lacks true allies in this game besides Cory. Nelson needs to be a social butterfly and nice guy on this season. His mental game is his biggest weakness — he needs to keep his cool and not get into any fights again. Nelson should also pray for a good puzzle partner, he has done them in the past, just usually near the bottom of puzzle people.
Eliminations & Winning Potential: In my re-watch of Dirty 30, the thing that amazed me about the way Nelson competes in eliminations is he has the fighter mentality. It hurts him in the house environment when things get tense — in high-pressure eliminations, he is able to turn it on and fights for his life. When watching all the eliminations on Dirty 30, I could have envisioned Nelson winning every single elimination, not that he would have won, but him beating the people who did win/lose those eliminations is not a crazy idea. The only eliminations he would have likely lost in was to Derrick in the hamster wheel elimination, and maybe Hunter in the Paper Hall Brawl (though Nelson beat him in elimination already in the season).
Can Nelson win? Yes, but he needs to get Bananas out of the game in order to give him a strong chance of winning. Nelson is a flawed player who is bad at puzzles and is a poor swimmer. At the same time, nobody has the gas Nelson has when it comes to endurance and hunger. His chances to win the season are good.
Overall Rating: 90/100