Ranking Every Individual Win in MTV Challenge History
Before I start this article, I want to acknowledge my thoughts on the murder of George Floyd and the protests going on across the country. Skip the next few paragraphs and jump straight to the list if you only want to read about the Challenge.
I’m a very proud Liberal Latino male. While I’ve always supported the Black Lives Matter movement/group, part of me was always standing on an island of thought where all people of color need to work together to unite to fight against cultural oppressors. I regret that mind of thought because while it does send a fun message of minority unity (and I still do believe in it to an extent), it is an act of attempting to diminish the Black Lives Matter movement, even if it wasn’t my goal. I want you to understand that the focus right now is on black lives, and while we should fight every day for equality of all minorities, there is a clear focus right now that we need to unite on.
The fact of the matter is, innocent black lives are getting taken every day. Black people live in fear every day. To make matters worse, some people are trying to pretend as if there isn’t anything to be upset about; or are attempting to belittle BLM by commenting on Red Herrings and creating false narratives. To me, it’s point-blank and straightforward, black people are getting killed and oppressed on a daily basis, and if you don’t feel the need to get behind and support them, that’s on you as a human being. Get on the train and attempt to assist in whatever you way you can, not just today, but every day. If you can donate, then donate. Here are some links:
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If you can’t donate, I get it. I’ve been in rough financial points in my life, and feel lucky to be able to donate now. If you can’t, then voice yourself on social media as much as possible. If you don’t have a following, focus on educating yourself and educating those around you. This is a human problem where if you can teach at least one person how to be less ignorant, you’ll make a massive difference. Ignorance breeds ignorance, and if we can get more people on board who can spread the right message, then we are moving in the right direction.
Again, this isn’t something that ends this weekend. We have to fight for it daily, inch by inch. Donating and then going on with your life may assuage the guilt and pain for a short moment, but the goal isn’t to get rid of the pain. No, the goal is to keep the pain in you forever so that you know that you never want to feel it again. Please keep it in so that your kids and grandkids will never have to feel it. If you keep it in, you’ll have something to fight for every day so that we can have a better world.
The Challenge Article
There have been 12 individual winners in Challenge history. I ranked them all.
12 Cara Maria Sorbello — Vendettas
There is a lot of historical merit to Cara Maria’s win on Vendettas. She was the first genderless individual winner in Challenge history and defeated males in the process. Except, when you dig deeper into her overall performance on the season, she only made it into one Troika all season, and most of her edit got wrapped up in her showmance with Kyle. Cara was able to coast based on her past performances, the fact the female cast was weak, and the males controlling the game would keep Cara around with the thought they’d want to run the final in a pair with her.
There’s nothing wrong with that, I mean, CT does it every season. However, when we talk about the merits of winners vs. winner, it matters. Had Cara Maria won Dirty 30, that season would rank highly on this list because she won a majority of the daily challenges, a five-person redemption, and finished first in the final five-person purge. Her Vendettas game left more to desire, and it doesn’t help that all it came down to in the concluding portion was a pattern memorization, the same type of competition that she’s won multiple times over the years. It also helps that Kyle and Kailah were in the final, and they have the same level of puzzle prowess as Nelson. Cara’s win is higher than most team/paired wins, less than the other individual winners.
11 Chris Tamburello — Invasion of the Champions
Quantifying the difficulty of Invasion of the Champions format for the Champions is a problem. On the one hand, only 1 out of 4 Champions gets to make the final, and you are facing a Champion in at least one elimination to get there. On the other hand, you are playing an abbreviated season where you are likely facing someone who has never won a final or even made one in the end-game. Generally, a person who has won a final gets HEAVILY favored in individual/paired finals against those who have never run a final or won one before.
CT benefited massively from this format as he probably couldn’t beat either of Darrell or Bananas in a final. The keystone moment for CT came during the daily challenge where players were only a moving platform and had to grab a rope they would hopefully hang onto as long as possible. The player on their team who held on the longest would be safe from elimination. Shane kamikaze’d into CT and Bananas, and Bananas hit the water first by the slightest of margins. Darrell vs. CT in Balls In could theoretically go either way, and my heart says Darrell wins; I also shouldn’t count out CT. Regardless, Bananas is a tougher opponent for Knot So Fast as he had experience in it. Then again, it’s gotten reported that production needed to physically cut the ropes he used because the knot he created was that cinched in.
Luck played into CT’s win, and even the final itself was not the most exceptional performance. Nelson being within 2 minutes of CT when he can’t swim, isn’t a good eater, probably never kayaked in his life, and has a weak mental game is hurts the value of CT’s overall performance. CT had to eliminate Darrell to get there, and that’s an accomplishment onto itself. 11th is fine.
10 Rachel Robinson — The Duel 2
It’s rough making this list knowing that everyone at this point is a remarkable winner. Rachel’s win on the Duel was DOMINANT. She won 4 out of 9 daily challenges, never saw an elimination, and won the final convincingly. Yet, she is ranked 10th? It’s subjective. Her win could have been seen from miles away when looking at the cast. Within the context of the cast, nobody even sniffed Rachel. Paula still wasn’t fully taking the game seriously, Diem was always in good shape, just athletically and size limited. Jenn, Aneesa, and Tori are historically weak in daily challenges, Ruthie had no political game and size killed her for eliminations. Brittini was her only real threat, and she was a rookie.
It sucks that I’m somewhat diminishing her win. Except it’s not as dominant statistically as Jodi’s win, and simply lacks the aura that some of these other wins contain. It’s hard to rank Rachel because never played a season with Evelyn or Laurel, and only got to play with people like Cara, Camila, Sarah, and Emily in a season where she was in a dual female pair going up against co-ed teams.
9 Jordan Wiseley — Dirty 30
Jordan had one of the greatest finals performances ever (top 3 at least) on Dirty 30. His win stands out because, on paper, the Dirty 30 cast was stacked. You had five former champions with Bananas, CT, Derrick, Darrell, and Jordan. There were other previous finalists in Nelson, Leroy, and Cory, along with a competitor with massive potential in Hunter. Jordan beat all of them and then dominated a final against CT and Derrick (two guys with five wins between them). Never have we seen someone eviscerate two legends in a final quite like that. Not to mention, he fractured a bone in his leg right before it started,
So why is this 9th? Well, Jordan only won two daily challenges all season and was in the double-cross for most of the season. Part of that is bad luck, but also, Jordan didn’t go the extra mile in the challenges for the most part. You also add in the caveat that had Nelson not gotten disqualified, then Jordan wouldn’t have been able to make it back from Redemption due to there being two spots to return to the game instead of one. Although, the game goes in an entirely different direction if Nelson does not DQ.
8 Ashley Mitchell — Invasion of the Champions
This one may be controversial as many view Ashley’s win requiring more luck than the others. I agree, there is a ton of luck in play! Except for some factors that people are characterizing as luck, they should instead get construed as Ashley’s political and social prowess. For example, Ashley quickly identified Hunter as a physically strong competitor and did not have much to work with upstairs. She polidicked and used him to advance herself in the game. He earned Ashley an Oasis ticket; she worked smart, not hard. Not to mention, Ashley and Amanda used Hunter and Nelson as manipulable figureheads to create a broader netted alliance. Ashley and Amanda played a very Wes Bergmann like game where Anika and Sylvia were thrown into eliminations with no repercussions against them because they were able to convince their friends that it was the best game move for everyone.
Jenna, Tony, and Cory likely thought they’d control Invasion as they had multiple seasons on their belt, however, Ashley took control of the numbers. Even in the late game, Ashley was able to win the final bloodbath because Amanda was loyal enough to team up against Nicole, when if you watch that elimination, Amanda isn’t struggling anywhere near as much Ashley was. In the final, Ashley got the worst possible partner for Day 1 (Nelson), the second-worst partner for Day 2 (CT), and the worst partner for Day 3 (Cory). She didn’t have optimal partners for any of the three days, and she still won. Ashley played a tremendous political game on a show where usually physicality wins out, regardless of whatever narrative people try to spin. Just looking at the other individual winners on this list, Ashley sticks out like a sore thumb.
7 Evan Starkman — The Duel 2
The Duel 2 does not have the same depth as the Duel 1. It does have an extreme level of quality at the top with Evan, Mark Long, Landon, and Brad. Mark and Landon were elite and at the peak of their game this season, while Brad and Evan were HUNGRY to win finally. Evan had a target on his back as he had a small feud with Davis and Nehemiah.
During the season, Evan won 3 Duels, 2/9 immunity challenges, and had a fantastic comeback victory against Brad in the final. Not many Challenge competitors have won three eliminations in a season, and to do that, and pull off the W is massive. Since Landon dominated this season, had Evan been the one to take him out, he’d probably rank in the top 2–3 on this list. If Brad had won the final, then he’d be high up here as well.
6 Wes Bergmann — The Duel 1
When you look at the Duel 1 cast, you can view it in two ways. Retrospectively, 9 out of the 10 cast members went on to become Challenge Champions: Wes (2x), Brad (1x), CT (3x), Evan (2x), Derrick (3x), Nehemiah (1x), Kenny (3x), Tyler (2x), and Bananas (6x). Within the context of the times, none of the players had ever won a season of the Challenge before. If that happened in the modern era, there’d be many fans belly-aching over the lack of veterans. Yet, this is one of the greatest seasons in The history of the Challenge, and nobody here had ever been a Champion.
What Wes accomplished was highly impressive. He was nowhere near the top of the social chain in the game and got forced into creating a weird rag-tag alliance of himself, Nehemiah, Svetlana, Beth, and Aneesa. Together, they looked out for each other, and Wes only saw one elimination all season. He smartly created a deal where if Wes agreed to take Derrick and Brad, Evan would call out CT. That’s like trying to trade Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for LeBron James. Some crazy stat nerd might tell you it’s a fair trade, but it’s not — genius on Wes’s part.
Similar to Ashley, Wes made smart moves that leveraged himself into the best position to win. He also had luck on his side in massive ways. The last two male immunity challenges were swimming, his forte. Then in the final, he got an advantage/headstart because of a penalty shootout (Wes played soccer his whole life).
5 Camila Nakagawa — Dirty 30
She won 5 out of 9 daily challenges, won the final purge against Kailah and Jenna, earned two elimination wins, and dominated a final against two strong females (Cara and Tori). All of it gets overshadowed by her racist tirade and complete and total meltdown and degradation of human character. The girl became an absolute monster.
4 Jodi Weatherton — The Duel 1
Jodi’s win on the Duel 1 is ridiculously dominant. She won 5 out of the 7 female immunity challenges. Do you realize how crazy that is? There was only one winner every week, and she won 72% of the time. There will be some complaints that there was no real competition going up against her. It’s true, Kina went out relatively early, and Tina DQ’d the first week. Regardless, the stats speak for themselves. It doesn’t matter who you are facing, because nobody wins on the Challenge with that level of frequency. Not to mention, she won the final three immunities in a row. Literally, the other girls didn’t even get a chance to call her out for elimination in the end-game because Jodi won out.
Jodi could run, jump, lift, swim, and do everything in-between. It’s a boring and statistically undeniable win.
3 Johnny Bananas — Free Agents
Within the context of the period, Free Agents had a pretty stout cast. CT, Zach, Frank, and Bananas were all Champions. Dustin, Leroy, and Jordan were finalists in previous seasons(s), and then they had some gems with Cohutta, Brandon Nelson, and a rookie Johnny Reilly. Bananas won 5 out of 10 daily challenges, and most importantly, the last daily challenge of the season that forced a CT vs. Leroy elimination. It’s hard to believe, but Bananas had his back against the wall on Free Agents. Jordan, Zach, Reilly, and CT had an alliance, whether formally or informally, and were comfortable with gunning after Johnny. It’s not talked about enough that Johnny Reilly won the daily challenge and had the gall to throw Bananas in as a rookie (it set up the Jordan flipping all the cards scenario).
Most impressively, Bananas won three eliminations (yes, he used to win eliminations). He beat Isaac decisively in Balls In, took out Jordan in Wrecking Wall, and importantly, defeated CT in the final elimination. He won the final by dominating all of Day 1, so much so that he was able to take his time on Day 2 and still win by over 10 minutes. Bananas’ career resume has many chips in the armor; Free Agents is not one. It is a strong and unimpeachable win.
2 Laurel Stucky — Free Agents
Laurel had legitimate threats on Free Agents with Cara Maria and Theresa on the upward trajectory. Camila was there, Nany is solid throughout the season and a player whose size could match Laurel theoretically in Nia. It’s better competition than what Jodi faced. Laurel won 4 out of the 10 daily challenges during Free Agents, more importantly, winning 2 out of the 4 individual/pair challenges, meaning the less partner luck involved, the better she did.
What puts Laurel over the top? It’s the fact she won 4 ELIMINATIONS. It’s a rare feat in the history of the Challenge that hadn’t been accomplished in over ten seasons when Laurel did it. To add to that, she systematically took out her biggest threats in the game. Aneesa and Laurel had a bit of a mini rivalry, and Laurel beat her in a Hall Brawl type game. In the end-game, she defeated Cara in Wrecking Wall, and then Theresa in the final puzzle pyramid. When it got to the final, the only person who could feign a threat level was Nany. Even then, Laurel won or tied every single portion of the final except for when Zach died on the mountain.
1 Turbo Camkiran — War of the Worlds 1
I am not the biggest Turbo fan in the world. However, his win on War of the Worlds 1 stands tall for a good reason. The roster of this season is crazy stacked. From the male side, there are five former champions with Bananas, CT, Wes, Zach, and Hunter. You then have a former runner-up and elimination ringer in Leroy, and two other recent finalists in Kyle and Paulie. From the rookie side, there were two former pro athletes in Ashley Cain and Theo Campbell. He had to face steep competition.
During the partner phase of the game, Turbo and Nany made into 3 out of 7 Tribunals, which is impressive as Nany hadn’t been on the show in a few years, and hadn’t been that good when she departed. Once the game hit the individual phase, Turbo won 3 out of 4 challenges, 2/2 on male immunity days, and won the puzzle comp to grant him an automatic spot in the final. In the final itself, he trekked 50 miles by running, biking, kayaking, to defeat Wes and Theo. Turbo struggled a bit on Day 1, coming in third overall, and trailing Theo by 20 minutes. He displayed immense heart by kicking himself into a higher gear on Day 2 to come from behind and take the wins from the jaws of defeat.
The guys English wasn’t great, didn’t have too many solid relationships, and in the end, his physical performance and heart spoke for itself.