The Challenge Battle For A New Champion Male Cast Breakdown & Power Rankings
I wrote this blog back when the cast got originally announced on Vevmo, and I touched it up a little after learning the format yesterday. I ranked the 12 men based on who I believe have the best chance to win this season. Simple as that. Each player gets an overall rating that I would compare to player ratings from Madden — which, someone can have a higher overall rating, but not necessarily mean I think they have a better shot at winning. Let’s get excited that The MTV Challenge is back.
12 Hughie Maughan
I’m happy to see Hughie back on The Challenge. Hughie’s elimination against Corey Lay on Spies, Lies & Allies was one of the most entertaining eliminations in recent memory. Watching Hughie curse Corey out mid-elimination as he’s winning, almost accidentally sabotage himself & Amber by dropping the key needed to unlock themselves, and then hitting a full right split to retrieve the key was iconic. His elimination loss against Priscilla & Jeremiah was also hilariously entertaining as he couldn’t climb up a pole backwards because his giant Brazilian butt lift was getting in the way!
Hughie is an engaging and explosive Reality TV character, even though we can’t tell what he’s saying most of the time. As much entertainment as Hughie brings, that loudness paints a target on his back. Hughie is not ready for headbanger eliminations; he’s not a puzzle person and doesn’t seem super aware of the game itself. In terms of winning the game and going far, it’s not happening for Hughie.
11 James Lock
James was on one episode of The Challenge UK, and it was a traumatic experience for him, to say the least. In the first daily challenge of the season, he lasted less than ten seconds before fracturing both his eye sockets after a face first fall into the water. He came in last place during this daily challenge, got sent into elimination, and lost in Knot So Fast. Literally, to add insult to injury.
He is getting a second shot at competing now on the American version of the show. Honestly, I’m not a fan of his chances because he comes into the game with zero experience and no alliances. Based on his Instagram, James is a “fitness guy” and he’s in great shape up top. His body is a bit unique and not the type that usually translates to success on The Challenge.
10 Chauncey Palmer
Seeing how Chauncey does in a Challenge house without Amber will be fascinating. The two of them went far into last season, and I watched Chauncy compete in many daily challenges…and let me tell you this… there weren’t any challenges where I walked away super impressed by him.
To cut Chauncey some slack, I will note that Amber was his partner last season, and even though she is a beast in eliminations and Finals, daily challenges are not Amber’s forte. Still, there were multiple moments throughout the seasons where you hoped Chauncey would show off elite endurance, swimming prowess, or maybe some puzzle skills. Nope. None of that. Hell, in the first daily challenge, he miscounted how many letters were in his first name!
Chauncey is a former collegiate basketball player turned person trainer. The guy has a crazy impressive aesthetic physique and could rip some people’s heads off in a Hall Brawl or a Pole Wrestle. Except The Challenge is more than that. You need endurance, balance, flexibility, and the ability to tackle challenges mentally. There’s obvious physical potential there with Chauncey — it’s just we need to see the other side before we consider him a serious competitor.
9 Asaf Goren
First, I want to start by saying that I believe Asaf is an incredibly skilled human. Asaf is a marvelous dancer with ridiculous coordination and is super fit. The guy went decently far on So You Think You Can Dance? many years ago, he was a judo champion in a past life, and he successfully passed the Israeli Ninja Warrior’s opening stage. Asaf is a natural athlete with a lot of energy and drive.
At the same time, I watched Asaf compete on both Are You The Second Chances and Total Madness, and as gifted as Asaf is in many fields, mentally, he’s not the sharpest competitor. Or, at the very least, in the specific challenges these shows throw at people. From what I’ve seen in his small sample size of competing, Asaf is so full of energy that he often acts without thinking. In an obstacle course-type daily challenge, Asaf might dust a majority of the cast as he’s super nimble on his feet. Except once he hits puzzle checkpoints, I see Asaf hitting a massive roadblock.
Asaf is also a kind soul with a loud personality — which is good to be as a human; as a competitor, I’m not sure if it helps. He’s not going to be under the radar — it’s easy to take advantage of his kindness, and in the elimination arena, his lack of problem-solving is a real issue.
8 Callum Izzard
Callum appeared on The Challenge UK and made it to the Final, finishing in 3rd Place. That should get him a higher ranking than 8th, right? Well, The Challenge UK only had four daily challenges & eliminations, with half the cast qualifying for the Final. Callum did not win a single one of those daily challenges or eliminations; he coasted to the Final. In the actual Final, Callum was a distant 3rd Place, losing by an over hour!
Essentially, what we know about Callum is he’s competent enough as a competitor to where he won’t be an obvious lay-up. There might be some potential there — again, he’s only gotten to compete in four daily challenges ever. Since doing The Challenge UK, Callum has been hitting the gym hard to prep for his celebrity boxing matches. Considering the type of training that goes into boxing, Callum’s cardio is likely stronger, and he can handle himself better in a headbanger elimination.
Part of me worries that Callum’s downfall will be his lack of connections in the game as a UK “rookie” entering a primarily American cast. That said, Callum is a charismatic guy who I can envision blending in quickly. He is bound to get into a showmance with someone as well.
7 Corey Lay
We saw Corey compete on Spies Lies & Allies, lasting only four episodes. There are some big positives and negatives with Corey. He won the first elimination of Spies, Lies & Allies; however, the elimination was heavily weight-based, and he was the largest person in that elimination by at least forty pounds. One of his biggest advantages this season and as a whole is that Corey is a massive man who lives in the gym. With no Fessy or CT, Corey is the biggest guy on this cast. Nobody will want to face him in elimination on the off-chance it’s size-based.
Yet, Corey’s size may also hamper him. In the last daily challenge and elimination on SLA that we saw Corey compete in, it looked like he had difficulty moving partly due to his size. The Challenge is not a game necessarily built for bigger, more lumbering men. Flexibility, mobility, and hand-eye coordination are essential. As is keeping your cool and not panicking, which is kind of what Corey did in his elimination against Hughie that sent him home.
After watching SLA and his original dating reality show, it’s evident that Corey is a very emotional human. There’s nothing wrong with being outwardly emotional, and more men should be — except in the heat of the moment in competition, those emotions can get the best out of you. Corey also loves to speak his mind and is willing to get into drama, which is great Reality Television, but in terms of gameplay, it puts an unnecessary target on him.
There is a ton to like about Corey and what he can bring to the show. Corey works as a game designer, so he’s pretty book smart; he’s a great swimmer, is physically fierce, and adds some LGBT representation to the show. The ceiling on Corey is quite high. That same ceiling has many red flags and an unstable structure that could collapse. I could see Corey going to the Final, and I could envision him making a mess and being the first boot. In terms of winning the Final — big muscular guys historically don’t hold up well in their first Finals (when playing solo/in pairs). Danny McCray performed well in his first Final; then again, he was a professional football player, so I think that’s a special case.
6 Nam Vo
Just kidding. Hope Nam is doing well.
6 Ciarran Stott
One of only three men on this cast to have made it to a Challenge Final before, Ciarran Stott appeared on The Challenge Australia, coming in 2nd Place. Ciarran originally comes from The Bachelor franchise and is one of the messiest playboys, adulterers, philanderers, fuckbois, etc., in Australian Reality TV history. He even had a nasty split from Jessica Brody, who was on Challenge Australia and is going to be on this current season, during Bachelor Paradise.
Ciarran is the type of dude built for the drama side of Reality Television. Literally, on the first night of The Challenge Australia, Ciarran cheated on his girlfriend at home. What’s crazy is from that moment on, Ciarran had a call home where he fessed up to his girlfriend about the indiscretion, and he sincerely tried to be a better man from then on. Instead of thinking Ciarran was just a scummy Reality TV guy, I became very invested in his storyline on Challenge Australia, where he felt like an actual multi-dimensional character. It helped that it was fun watching Ciarran compete. Ciarran threw himself into the daily challenges with reckless abandon and became more confident as the game went on. He won 1 Daily Challenge, 1 Elimination, and, importantly, never came in a last daily challenge — which Australia went for much longer than the UK season, so that’s more respectable than Callum achieving the same feat. Like Callum, Ciarran has spent much of his time the past couple years training in the boxing gym.
Since The Challenge Australia, Ciarran has had an up-and-down journey. It looked like Ciarrana had committed to improving his relationship with his girlfriend at home after returning from The Challenge Australia, and he quit alcohol for a bit. They’ve since broken up, and it seems Ciarran is back to being a playboy. I’m not sure what human we are getting on the show. Regardless, I’m thrilled to see Ciarran because I think he’s a perfect fit for The Challenge competitively and entertainment-wise.
I worry that Ciarran might be undersized for headbanger eliminations, and he does not enter the game with many connections. Like Callum, if someone here were to blend in easily, it would be Ciarran.
5 Jay Starrett
Flat out, Jay is a great competitor. He is an elite swimmer, has excellent cardio, good grip strength, isn’t afraid of heights, and vitally, Jay displays problem-solving skills in daily challenges/eliminations reminiscent of Challenge Legends. Going into this season, Jay has a stacked list of alliances and friendships, specifically on the women’s side, as he’s got Michele, Olivia, Moriah, and Nurys as allies from Ride or Dies. He also is in the circles where he’s partying and hanging with many people on this cast outside the show. Jay has three seasons under his belt, which is much more experience than most of the cast; he’s won eliminations (beat CT), he’s won daily challenges( including a mini Final), and he’s well-aligned.
Jay has a legitimately great shot to win this season.
So why do I have him at 5? It comes down to two things.
The first is size. A lot of people will say size doesn’t matter on The Challenge, as so many underdogs have overcome the odds. That’s just not true. Yes, you can be small and an elite Challenge competitor, but it means your margin for error is much, much smaller. As long as there are headbanger eliminations that come down to weight/size, Jay will always have an uphill battle. No matter how many daily challenges Jay wins, someone will always want to face him in Balls In, like Rogan did. Luckily for Jay, this season does not have as many giant humans as there would be in a typical season. Although, some heavyweight mercenaries are coming in.
The second and main reason I doubt Jay is that I think he is a bad political/strategic player who doesn’t know how to operate with a lead. Jay is a perfect underdog — watching him take down CT on Total Madness was such an epic moment, and he was so easy to root for. That is where Jay does well; he’s the guy with a bit of a chip shoulder, looking to prove something. In his last two seasons, Jay was a fucking mess after winning daily challenges and being in power. Now, Jay was partners with Theresa and Michele on those seasons — Theresa was looking to make big moves & Michele’s gameplay was erratic. People online blamed Theresa & Michele for ruining Jay’s game. To me, that’s a crazy concept because Jay had the ability to take ownership of his own game, and instead, he let them make the moves and then acted like a victim. On Survivor, he impulsively blindsided Michaela for the sake of making a move, not realizing that from then on, the numbers would be against him for the rest of the game. It’s almost like Jay is so afraid of being in control and failing that he puts obstacles in front of himself.
Jay is a fighter and a grinder. He’s a guy who is always chasing something, and when he’s at the front of the line, Jay doesn’t know what to do. It’s not something unique to Jay — Brad Fiorenza is a Challenge Legend who struggles mightily with being in power/holding the lead. Brad is a badass who has won so many daily challenges & eliminations and made many Finals. Yet, we walk away knowing Brad never won a season as a solo player or individual. Hopefully, Jay can put all the pieces together.
4 Emanuel Neagu
I don’t have many thoughts about Emanuel. He was a good competitor on Spies, Lies & Allies. Although Emanuel and Kaycee only officially won one daily challenge together as a pair, they were consistently in the Top 3, where if there were a Tribunal format, they would’ve been in there almost every time. Emanuel was also on the Emerald team that dominated daily challenges during the team portion. When Tori began hooking up with Emanuel, the immediate joke was to say he was a cheap dime store version of Jordan. In all honesty, as a competitor, Emanuel is a dime-store version of Jordan. That’s not a bad comparison when Jordan is maybe the greatest competitor in Challenge history. As a professional dancer, Emanuel has crazy hand-eye coordination and balance; he’s agile, has explosive speed, is a capable swimmer, and does have some puzzle skills.
He also went the entire game on SLA without being the house vote until the last minute on the spot elimination before the Final. It was a very notable feat as the Rookies got cannibalized on SLA. Even though I was annoyed by Emanuel being a bit of a corny veteran minion — he is undeniably friendly and charismatic. It’s why I don’t mind that he doesn’t enter the game with pre-established because I think he’ll able to form some once there. Like Jay and Ciarran, his lack of raw size could be an issue in eliminations; then again, maybe I should move these guys up since there aren’t many big guys on the cast.
3 Ed Eason
Ed made one of the dumbest moves in Challenge history on Spies, Lie & Allies when he volunteered for elimination because his friend Logan was injured. A brutally awful nice guy move, especially as Logan couldn’t have cared less for Ed. We then saw Ed lose 2–0 to a much larger and more experienced Kyle in a Pole Wrestle.
Now that I’m typing that and reading that back to myself, I think I should rank Ed 12th or even 13th. It was such an idiotic bozo move. Fucking bozo.
Bare with me, though; I have Ed ranked 3rd because he has all the skills to succeed on this show. Ed is a former Ivy League collegiate Track & Field athlete. First off, being a collegiate is one of those levels of athleticism that inherently puts a person in a different tier. Ed was a Pole Vaulter, a discipline requiring high speed, core strength, power, and coordination. All skills that translate well into daily challenges & eliminations. Second, he has an engineering degree from an Ivy League school. This show is mainly populated by morons, including him, except he’s a moron who can put together some puzzles. Ed performed decently throughout SLA, including winning a swimming challenge with Tori and an elimination with Emy.
A massive reason I think Ed is going to do well on this show is because he’s boring. Don’t get me wrong, Ed is a fun and goofy guy at times. The guys in the house will love Ed because he’s a total bro. Ed also enters with a girlfriend he’s loyal to and thus won’t be getting into showmance or any major drama, most likely. Unless Ed throws himself in again, he has a golden opportunity to coast through this game on likability. Also, Ed is fucking jacked, so no average competitor will want to face him in a headbanger, and with his book smarts, nobody will want to face Ed in a puzzle, either. Ed is like if Hunter Barfield wasn’t angry, able to solve puzzles, and could spell his own name. Now the only question is whether Ed has put on too much muscle to where his cardio isn’t strong enough to hold up in a Final (like Hunter on War of the Worlds).
2 Kyland Young
For most of The Challenge USA season 1, it felt like Kyland was the 2nd best male competitor, trailing only Tyson. Kyland proved to have good cardio, problem-solving skills, and book smarts. I’ve also seen him in person, and let me say, Kyland is well-built for a Hall Brawl or a Pole Wrestle elimination. The guy has broad shoulders, is more muscular than you’d expect, and can carry a ton of weight. Kyland can roll over half of this cast in a physical elimination.
He’s also intelligent and a student of the game. On USA 1, he went into a Knot So Fast with a clear strategy from watching past seasons. The little things like that stand out about Kyland and is why I’m ranking him highly. The competitors that do well on this show are the ones who try to problem-solve in dailies and eliminations. With Kyland, I saw flashes of an elite competitor.
What I worry about with Kyland is that on The Challenge USA, he aligned with Tyson, wanting to head-to-head with the best players in the Final. That type of naivete and ego will lose you a season. I’d like to see Kyland play a bit more cutthroat. Before he plays cutthroat, I need to see him become part of an alliance/group. Despite never having competed with anyone else on this season, Kyland has met/partied with a decent amount of people on this show through virtue of living in Los Angeles and going to Reality TV events. I expect him to be in the mix socially/politically from the jump. I’m likely overrating Kyland — it’s just more of a matter that I see fewer fatal flaws in him than most other men, and I do think he has skills that transfer to a Final.
1 Horacio Gutierrez
If you thought anyone other than Horacio would be #1 on this list, you’re insane. Horacio feels like the reincarnated version of Landon Lueck, except hotter and nicer. The guy is a phenomenal athlete with an insane level of cardio and a good, humble, hard-working personality. I’m not generally a fan of competitors like Horacio because I care about the drama/entertainment aspects of the show, and he’s as straight of an arrow as they come. Horacio has such a natural, honest charm that even the cynic in me can’t help but root for him.
There are holes in Horacio’s resume. Some of his elimination wins had help from the crowd, and not all of them were against tough opponents. Regardless, you go into 5 eliminations as a Rookie and win them all, that’s legend shit. Not to mention, one of the wins consisted of Horacio breaking Jordan’s ankles in a Balls In elimination, where Horacio made one of the fastest men in Challenge history look slow.
Another counterargument against Horacio is he never won a daily challenge with Olivia as a partner. While they never won, they consistently finished in the Top 3, including most of the high-difficulty challenges! Not to throw Olivia under the bus; if there was a weaker player in the partnership, it was her. Horacio gets to be on his now.
There are parts of Horacio’s game that he’ll need to improve, like eating gross foods and getting better at solving puzzles — he’s already willing to eat whatever and has some puzzle-solving skills; I’m just saying he could use some improvement. It would also be nice if he showed any semblance of a political or strategic game. Even then, I’m not sure Horacio needs it. Nobody here wants the smoke of facing Horacio in elimination. The women love him as he’s a genuine, kind human. After the way his season ended on Ride or Dies, everyone will be rooting for a Horacio win. He also knows what the show entails now and likely has spent more time preparing for what gets thrown his way. If Horacio gets to the Final, I think he will win in blowout fashion.