Ranking Every Pole Wrestle in MTV Challenge History Version 2.0
In May of 2018, I ranked all the Pole Wrestles in Challenge History. I am here to update it with 5 New Pole Wrestles added, along with re-ranking and fixing some mistakes when it came to ranking some of these contests. I copy/pasted a majority of the old article since it was many words, hours of hard work, and in all honesty, I remain committed to most of my original rankings.
Ranking Every Pole Wrestle in Challenge History
Pole Wrestle is the greatest physical eliminations in Challenge history. It is the simplest and purest physical…
Pole Wrestle is the best physical elimination in Challenge history. It is the simplest and purest physical competition, turning regular Challenge competitors into legends of the game. Even losers have become famous with the heart shown during their battles. The game has gotten played in various forms. Different rounds included the use of a single-pole, a cross/X-figure, a ring, a figure 8, and a rope. There are also rounds which are best of 1, 3, or 5; sometimes players have to be on their knees, or there will be ring outs. I decided to take every single “Pole Wrestle” in Challenge history, 29 in all, and rank them. It was challenging, and I spent several hours watching and rewatching these eliminations, re-ranking continually. Some have risen from 19th to 9th, only to fall back down to 15th and settle elsewhere. When ranking these eliminations, the following points got considered:
#1 Isolating the match-ups. We are separating partner-based Pole Wrestles and counting them as individual one on one battles. For example, Wes vs. Leroy on Exes 1 gets separated from Mandi vs. Naomi. Each elimination round will be examined as a separate match, though context will matter.
#2 Stakes matter. The final elimination before the Final will usually take precedence over an elimination that happens in the middle of a season. Still, if one is outright better than the other, it will be higher on the list. A mercenary defeating a competitor on Vendettas is lower stakes because it was early in the game, and the mercenaries could not enter the game.
#3 Context and history. A rivalry or a storyline going into the elimination automatically raises the ranking. Pole wrestle is much more fun when two people hate each other.
#4 Watchability. Some of these eliminations need to get watched to understand the inherent values they had.
#5 I’m wrong, but please, tell me why I am wrong. I made this knowing it would start a discussion, and I would love to hear your personal opinions. This list is so subjective, but I tried to take everything into account and give it the most fun and accurate ranking.
29th Aneesa Ferreira defeats Veronica Portillo on Vendettas
Lowest on the list because of a DQ injury win, nobody wants that. The stakes were potentially high because Veronica had eliminated Aneesa on Dirty 30.
28th Robin Hibbard defeats Casey Cooper on the Duel
In the episode famously titled “Goodbye Casey,” Robin made quick work of Casey in Duel Pole Wrestle. The sad part about this dominant win is that Robin has a career 1–5 in eliminations, meaning this was her only elimination win. This elimination only strengthens Wes’s argument as a great all-time competitor considering he won 5 exiles with Casey in the prior season.
27th Gus Smyrnios ties against Stephen Bear
Bear and Gus were the two men we wanted to see battle the least in a Pole Wrestle. Even worse, we never found out who was the better man because they tied 1–1 in a Best of 5 among their partners, where DaVonne won 2–0.
26th Faysal Shafaat defeats Jordan Wiseley on Total Madness
The game was a standard Pole Wrestle. Jordan played with essentially one arm against a D1 athlete with 70 lbs on him. Fessy won 2–0 in dominant fashion. I have to give props to Jordan getting a reset during Round Two. The guy gave it his best and refused to give up, even with a separated shoulder.
25th Mandi Moyer defeats Naomi Defensor on Exes 1
Although Mandi & Wes lost the overall elimination, Mandi beat Naomi 2–0 in her individual round. Easily one of the more forgotten Pole Wrestles in Challenge history. Mandi won pretty easily despite historically being a non-physical competitor.
24th Derrick Kosinski defeats Johnny Bananas and Abram Boise on the Island
It was not an actual elimination, but a face-off between three Challenge legends. Players had to keep two hands on a ring, and if one slips off, they get knocked out. The only problem is that the first round was Johnny and Derrick teaming up to defeat Abram, and in the second round, Bananas loses while trying to point out that Derrick might have taken his hand off the ring. Not often, we will get three players of this magnitude in a game like this. However, the stakes of this were low as Abram was trying to get voted out.
23rd Idris Virgo defeats Sean Lineker on War of the Worlds 2
A solid Pole Wrestle between two bottom tier competitors. Sean vs. Idris was a tremendous first elimination to watch and was an excellent start to a below-average season. The only negative about this elimination is it made us believe that Idris maybe wasn’t an awful competitor. When he finally had to play against a formidable competitor, he got torched.
22nd Nelson Thomas defeats Stephen Bear on Total Madness
There were substantial stakes in this elimination as Nelson Thomas had been an asshole towards Kailah (Bear’s showmance). The two men did not like each other, and it could have been an intense battle. Sadly, Bear seemed mentally checked out once he got voted in. Nelson won 2–0 with ease and will remain a thorn in the side of most of the house.
21st DaVonne Rogers defeats Jenna Compono on War of the Worlds 1
For a long time, fans wondered how Jenna would do in an actual headbanger elimination. While Jenna had a 5–1 Elimination Record, she often succeeded in games that were more known as “Carnival Games.” Pole Wrestle is a game of pure physicality. Jenna and DaVonne physically looked like even matches from a height and weight perspective. However, DaVonne was may more willing to get physical and swept Jenna 2–0.
If you doubted DaVonne, this was the elimination that validated her as a competitor, created doubt for Jenna’s ability, and enhanced the rivalry between DaVonne/Bear and Wes. Wes kept yelling at Jenna to play dirty against DaVonne (she should have, it’s Pole Wrestle).
20th Aneesa Ferreira defeats Paula Meronek on the Duel
Paula and Aneesa’s elimination was better than I remembered. In terms of size and strength, Paula was over-matched. Yet, she does not give up immediately. Her body had no chance because she was still recovering from anorexia, and the fact Aneesa dominates in physical games. The match-up is historic because this was their first among five elimination matches between the two over the next ten seasons. For reference, no other pair of individuals have faced off more than three times.
19th Brad Fiorenza defeats Big Easy on the Duel
It was a potentially good match ruined by Big Easy’s absolute lack of knowledge on how to use his size. Big Easy’s laziness and over-reliance on his weight led to his loss, as Brad turned out to be the much stronger man. It was a decent upset at the time, not that big in retrospect compared to Brad’s other big wins.
18th Cara Maria Sorbello defeats Ashley Kelsey on Invasion
Cara vs. Ashley was a fun battle between two Challenge Champions. Ashley Kelsey held herself well, considering she had not been on a season in five years and was potentially concussed in the daily challenge the day before. Cara displayed her physical prowess with a 2–0 win.
17th Johnny Bananas defeats Mark Long on Exes 1
A good match that went 2–1 in Bananas favor. The elimination would be ranked much higher if there was not any controversy regarding whether or not Mark threw the elimination (it’s rumored he cut a deal with Bananas).
16th Jordan Wiseley defeats Shane Landrum on Vendettas
Physical eliminations are not Shane’s strong suit. Still, one would expect him to provide sufficient competition to a one-handed man in a game where you have to wrestle a figure out of your opponent’s hands. Jordan was able to succeed in this elimination as players had to run and grab the pole they were trying to tear from their opponent. Jordan’s speed allowed him to get an immediate jump on Shane each time in his 2–0 win. Also, the figure was in the shape of an infinity sign (or an eight), allowing him to wrap a hand within it for much better leverage than a standard pole.
15th Emily Schromm defeats Cara Maria Sorbello on Exes 1
Rewatching the whole elimination, Cara puts up a not awful fight against a bigger Emily in the first round. In the second, Emily displays her physical dominance in a five-second victory to beat Cara 2–0. Cara was not yet the Cara she is now, however, since her Fresh Meat 2 origins, Cara’s main strength has always been her upper body (gained from horse riding!). In this elimination, she got bodied.
14th Johnny Bananas defeats Adam Kuhn on Exes 2
Johnny has played this game many times. On Exes 2, Johnny and Adam faced off in a Battle of the Exile. Bananas had a fierce round against large-ish Adam Kuhn. The difference in this battle was experience. Adam tried to use brute strength and size, while Bananas smartly kept the pole close to his body and leveraged himself for the most opportune moment to rip it out. A strategy seen in most long pole wrestles and known by veterans of the game.
13th Kam Williams defeats Tori Deal on Vendettas
Tori came in as a mercenary in a best of 3 battle against Kam on Vendettas. Kam coming back from down 1–0 to win her first elimination against the Dirty 30 Rookie of the Year is when Killa Kam arrived. The elimination was an intense battle between two girls around the same height and size, each wanting to show off their strength as the new faces of the Challenge. The only reason this is not higher is that Tori did not have a reason to win other than to look cool as a mercenary. She was happy Kam won more than disappointed in the end; had Tori been in the game, it would have been a much more intense battle.
12th Nany Gonzalez defeats Brittany Baldassari in Exile on Exes 2
TJ blows the horn to begin at 6:28, and three seconds later, Nany clearly has taken the pole out of Brittany’s hands. An all-timer for how short it was. Nany “Goldberg” Gonzalez wasn’t wasting time.
11th Camila Nakagawa defeats Robin Hibbard on Exes 1
In this final elimination of the season, the two women played their hearts out to win. Robin had the size advantage, though Camila was in much better physical shape. Watching Robin lose this intense battle after almost making it back to a final for the first time in years was devastating. It especially hurts if you think Mark did cut a deal with Bananas.
10th Johnny Bananas defeats Dunbar Merill on the Ruins
The JEDK alliance had to send one of their own into the final male elimination of the Ruins. The low man on the totem pole was the worst player in their foursome (at the time), Johnny Bananas. Bananas had to prove himself after coasting through most of the season finally. Dunbar made Johnny’s life hell in this elimination. The game was an altered version called Rag Doll, where players had to tear a rope from one another. It made the game far more dangerous as players could leverage new and different angles they would never be capable of before. At one point, someone even pulled off a mini powerbomb.
9th Leroy Garrett defeats Wes Bergmann on Exes 1
Wes became a legend during his Pole Wrestle against Derrick on the Duel. Half a decade later, he was utterly trounced by Leroy in the game that made him famous. Wes tried everything he could think of to beat Leroy, and even got a sudden death overtime rematch because Mandi won her round against Naomi. He lost again. A former Champ was looking like a has-been. This loss pushed Wes towards realizing that maybe he can no longer rely on his physical ability, and the win proved to everyone that Leroy should be feared.
8th Darrell Taylor defeats Zach Nichols on Invasion
Darrell’s comeback is easily one of the greatest in Challenge history. Following a seven-year gap from Fresh Meat 2, Darrell came back as one of the Champions on Invasion. He got forced into the first champion elimination against gargantuan Zach. Darrell proved he was still the King by pulling off a strong 2–0 victory against the brute. Had this been the elimination to go to the final, Darrell’s win would probably be in the top five.
Darrell proved once again that the best strategy is to keep the pole as close to your body as possible. The goal should be to endure until you get in the right position to pry the pole out of your opponent’s hands. Then again, if both players played that way, the game could get boring quickly.
7th Ty Ruff defeats Abram Boise on Exes 1
The stakes of this elimination were very low compared to some of the prior eliminations. The actual elimination is a 10/10 in terms of watchability. Ty’s Challenge career is one of many disappointments. He is famous for gassing out when it matters most, so when facing Abram, a Challenge Hall of Famer with more gas inside of him than a Mac Truck, one would expect him to crumble under pressure. It especially looked this way when Abram took a quick 1–0 lead.
Abram went into full psycho mode, and his confessionals sold this performance. When Abram won the first round, he stood over Ty and yelled at him to stay down. Ty then had a complete personality turn and ripped the stick out Abram’s hands in less than ten seconds in the second round.
Round three was an electric ending with Ty pulling it out. He gets wholly gassed out, and Abram is upset as he still felt like he had gas in the tank. Meanwhile, Ty was mostly dead (a dead winner).
6th Leroy Garrett defeats Johnny Bananas on Exes 2
Two best friends pitted against one another in the final elimination of Exes 2. The misconstrued part about Sarah blindsiding Bananas is that she sent him into elimination; she did not send him straight home. Leroy is built like a brick house and has insane grip strength. Bananas tried his best and took a prolonged ass beating from Leroy. He tried to use the same strategy he used against Adam. Sadly for Bananas, Leroy is way stronger than Adam. Exes 2 Leroy is one of the most underrated individual performances in Challenge history. I’m a bit bummed we didn’t get to see Prime Leroy face CT in a Pole Wrestle. He may not have won, but it would have been an iconic battle.
This moment cemented Leroy’s status as an elimination ringer because he won four eliminations to put himself in the Exes 2 final.
5th Derrick Kosinski defeats Joss Mooney
Derrick was a mercenary who came to compete in an elimination. He had no reason to go 150% other than pride, but he still did it. The elimination stakes were so low, yet he gave it his all against rookie Joss Mooney and pulled out the elimination with sheer will power and some veteran tactics.
Look at this shit. These guys were battling to the death over an elimination where one person had no interest in the game other than to take the other out. Joss injured his shoulder in this elimination and would have had to go home regardless. What is underrated about this elimination is the fact Derrick takes advantage of the rules of where once a player exits the ring they are playing in, TJ gets forced to blow the horn and restart the round. Each time Joss is on the verge of winning, Derrick gets the restart. Eventually, Joss thinks a restart will happen, releases the grip of the ring, and Derrick pulls out the win.
The physicality of this challenge was insane. If Derrick were a competitor in the game, this would be the top three, and if it were to get to a final, it would be #1. Because it is neither, it holds the #5 spot. Derrick vs. Joss is like an action movie; it is visually striking and exciting. Except when you compare to the context of the top four, it lacks depth.
4th Cara Maria defeats Aneesa Ferreira on Bloodlines
Until Bloodlines, Cara Maria was developing one of the most significant loser resumes in Challenge history. She had finished 2nd in three finals and had come up short of the final on arguably her best season, Free Agents (at that point). When she came back for Bloodlines, she was determined to win no matter what. Cara’s elimination win over Bananas in the final five made it seem like her troubles were over, and the season would be hers. Then Mitch and Cory won the last daily challenge and sent her into elimination to face Aneesa, another elimination great who dominates physical eliminations due to her sheer size. Before the elimination, the two got into a verbal bus altercation where Aneesa accused Cara of being completely fake, including her Boston accent. Cara took offense and went full Boston on Aneesa.
The two would see each other in an altered variation of Pole Wrestle. It was full-circle for the two of them as Aneesa’s first elimination win ever was in Pole Wrestle, and Cara’s most embarrassing loss was the same game. Cara displayed her true strength and power by winning 2–0 against the much larger Aneesa to get her spot in the final. She would finally become a champion after eight seasons, making the elimination win mean so much more.
3rd Theresa Gonzalez defeats Nany Gonzalez on Exes 2
The Gonzalez rivalry began during Free Agents when Theresa trashed Nany behind her back in confessionals. Theresa had a strong performance on Free Agents, eliminated right before the final by Laurel due to some bad luck. Nany’s good luck allowed her to evade eliminations all season, and she finished in second place for the season.
The following season, the two girls’ hatred for each other peaked as Theresa got partnered with Wes, and Nany partnered with Bananas. They got put on opposite sides of one of the biggest rivalries in Challenge history. Theresa won the early battle as she physically dominated the season and voted Nany/Bananas into elimination (where Nany lost). Nany/Bananas were able to come back into the game by winning four exiles to return and flip the house against Wes/Theresa, ultimately watching them go home. While Wes was on the ground following his Hall Brawl with Leroy, Nany’s laughter at his loss/pain was probably her worst moment in Challenge history. Theresa exacted revenge for her partner when she arrived to replace Nia in the LAST elimination before the final in Norway. Theresa took a THIRTEEN HOUR FLIGHT to play in the final elimination for a shot in the final.
What’s great about this elimination is these two girls HATED each other and were comfortable playing dirty as they had no remorse for their opponent. It was a two-season rivalry that culminated at this moment. Both their last names being Gonzalez has to count for something as well.
2 Wes Bergmann defeats Derrick Kosinski on the Duel
The match that made people fall in love with the Pole Wrestle elimination format. Up until this point, the pole wrestles that had gotten played were quick wins by larger females beating up on smaller opponents. This elimination was a battle between the two best male elimination players in Challenge history. When Wes had won exiles on Fresh Meat 1, people could always claim he won simply because of the weight advantage his team had due to light packing. Meanwhile, Derrick had earned his four gauntlet wins going one on one and winning straight-up. At this point, Wes and Derrick were tied for the all-time lead in eliminations wins (5), and they were battling for the crown of elimination king. Wes won the Pole Wrestle and the season. He’s continued to be the elimination king totaling 14 wins over his career, along with an additional 5–0 record from spin-offs. Derrick has the edge on overall Challenge titles, though!
A negative takeaway is the rule that you have to remain on your knees, and Derrick keeps getting restarts because he keeps standing up. It’s a bit clunky and flawed. I’m glad they got rid of the rule for modern seasons. The Theresa/Nany elimination is much more fluid in comparison.
The craziest part about this elimination is that Derrick and Wes were still beefing about it in 2018!!! We are a decade-plus removed from this elimination, yet the two had some harsh Twitter replies with one another after Derrick’s elimination with Joss. The good news is Wes appeared on Derrick’s Challenge Mania podcast twice, and the relationship between the two is still not great, but much improved compared to hatred!
1 Susie Meister defeats Kimberly Alexander on the Ruins
If you guys do not remember how insane this elimination was, you need to fucking watch right now.
This elimination occurred between two women who you would never expect to put on one of the greatest physical eliminations in Challenge history. Kim was a pretty girl from the South, and Susie was a strategic bookworm who dominated competitions despite never working out. These two went at it like it was the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. And for Kim, an elimination win meant she would get a spot in the final. Susie was playing for her life was the only remaining champion girl. To top it off, the individual bank accounts in the game meant they had a healthy amount of money on the line (17,000 Dollars for Susie, and 8,000 for Kim).
Because they are fighting over a rope and the girls are rail thin, they can leverage themselves into SUPER dangerous positions.
Early into the elimination, Susie has the upper hand and punishes Kim throughout. At one point, the rope is behind Kim’s neck and is 20% away from being entirely around it, choking her. She maintains her grip at the bottom of the rope despite it possibly burning her neck.
At one point, they both stand up, and the rope goes from under Susie’s legs to between them. Kim is trying as hard as she can to pull the rope from both Susie’s arms and legs. Meanwhile, Susie’s inner thighs are feeling the pain of a rope getting pulled through them. Can you imagine a robe burn on the inner part of your legs that close to your private parts? On top of it all, IT IS RAINING. Except it’s not, MTV used a rain machine to make it more intense. Simply wow.
Susie gets the upper hand again by knocking Kim to the floor, ties a mini two-hand grip to start lifting and smashing a grounded Kim and bringing her back to the ground. Kim is not having a good time at this point.
Now that Kim is making noises that sound like she is dying, Susie attempts to wrap the rope around her arm to limit Kim’s grip and pull out the win. Kim sees this and quickly grabs the top of Susie’s rope that she is leaving open to now constrict Susie’s arm.
As you can see, Susie does not take kindly to this move. The two white women are now bright red. Kim is nearing purple.
After a long battle in the rain and many rope burns, Susie pulls out the win that would essentially seal her place in the final. Watching Kim’s body language when she loses sucks, not because of anything bad, but you can see the agony that comes with losing an elimination where she gave everything. As great as some of the wins on these lists are, sometimes the losses are just as impressive. Susie was already an all-time great who walked away with an undefeated career record. Kim Alexander was a two-time competitor, somewhat lost in Challenge, yet put one of the greatest clinics of physicality and effort in this singular moment. At the end of the day, both women can be proud of what they did. Also, MTV needs to never let people play the elimination with a rope again. It is so dangerous. Yes, it led to the most exciting battle ever, but this could have easily resulted in multiple injuries.