The Challenge: Ranking every Champion from seasons 20–30

With season thirty being over, there now have been thirty Challenge wins since Season 20 Cutthroat. Many people have had repeated wins (CT, Paula, Bananas, etc). While others are one time champions. In this I decided to rank the power of every single win during this point. I will not be ranking the players based on their entire Challenge careers, I am basing it off the win in that single season. Everything is taken into account for this, challenge wins, elimination wins, degree of difficulty, social game, political game, clutch factor. winning as an individual versus pair versus teams. On top of it, there’s a ton of subjectivity going into this. Sometimes you can put all the stats on paper, and it doesn’t tell the full story.

30–26

30th Dunbar Merrill — Cutthroat
29th/28th Brad & Tori Fiorenza — Cutthroat
27th Sam McGinn — Battle of the Seasons
26th Ashley Kelsey — Battle of the Seasons

The worst champion is obviously Dunbar. He was a decent social player as he was friends with many of the top players and hooked up with multiple girls. He barely won any daily mission wins, had a 2–4 elimination record, and lost his winnings on Cutthroat for filming a porn.

While Brad and Tori are in fact good players their win on Cutthroat was underwhelming. As the first female picked in the Cutthroat draft, Tori did little to validate the spot, and Brad coasted through. They only won the final due to the dehydration and possible concussion of Abram.

Ashley gets one spot above Sam because Sam was often the fourth best person on the San Diego team on Battle of the Seasons.

25–21

25th Jamie Banks — Battle of the Bloodlines
24th/23rd Zach Nichols & Frank Sweeney — Battle of the Seasons
22nd/21st Johnny Bananas & Paula Meronek — Rivals 1

Apologies go out to the wonderful Jamie Banks. He won a season with a weak cast and was carried a bit by his cousin. One of his two elimination wins was technically a loss. His championship also holds less weight after his bad performance on Rivals 3.

The weakened Battle of the Seasons cast is why Zach and Frank end up so low. Combined their team won the most daily challenges and won three total eliminations (2 by Zach, 1 by Frank). They anchored and dominated the game.

No disrespect to Paula. This win meant a lot to her and her story as a competitor. Her win on Rivals 1 was mostly due to Evelyn destroying the missions while Paula remained competent. She elevated herself to another level on Rivals 2. Paula’s Rivals 1 win was a bit lacking. The same goes to Bananas. The hard part about his win is that he and Tyler lost day one of the final by almost an hour, and Johnny struggled up the mountain on day one the same amount as Wes.

20–16

20th/19th Ashley Mitchell & Chris CT Tamburello — Invasion of the Champions
18th/17th Tyler Duckworth — Rivals 1/Cutthroat
16th Cara Maria Sorbello — Battle of the Bloodlines

Both winners for Invasion of the Champions benefited a ton from the format. Ashley likely would have never sniffed the final if multiple of the female champs were allowed in, while CT probably would have still coasted to the final, but lost to either Bananas or Darrell who were in better shape to run a final.

Rivals 1 Tyler gets 18th. He showed out a little less for most of the Rivals season, taking a backseat to the stars of the franchise. His best showing was the final where he did incredibly well despite having food poisoning. He also took two major hits from CT in Dug Out. On Cutthroat he was the best player of the Red Team who eliminated both Derrick and Bananas.

Again, while Cara Maria has proven to be a strong player over the years with her 5 finals appearances, her win came with a watered down cast. The big thing going for her is that she eliminated Bananas/Aneesa, her two biggest enemies en route to her win.

15–11

15th Wes Bergmann — Rivals 2
14th Camila Nakagawa — Battle of the Exes 1
13th Paula Meronek — Rivals 2
12th/11th Johnny Bananas & Sarah Rice — Rivals 3

This is kind of the section for dominating performances that didn’t have enough zest. As much as I love Wes, he was carried a bit by CT on Rivals 2. He helped manage CT’s emotions and piloted their political game for most of the season. They’d be higher if the two didn’t coast through the first half of the season.

From a physical standpoint, Camila was probably the best girl on Exes 1 (yes, even over Emily, watch all the episodes and pay close attention to the missions). Then you consider one of the major reasons she got far was due to the social relationships that Bananas had. If not, she would have likely seen a ton of eliminations. Still a phenomenal performance. Paula finishes 13th for one of the greatest sidekick performances ever. Her and Emily won more than half of the daily missions on Rivals 2 and killed the final. Paula’s ability to eat was the reason they won the final.

Particularly tough to rank and gauge is the Sarah/Bananas win on Rivals 3. In a weak cast, they were unanimously the best team put together before the season. It’s not fun to watch the best two players on the cast be on the same team against a cast of scrubs. They dominated the season and the final.

10–7

10th Jordan Wiseley — Battle of the Exes 2
9th Johnny Bananas — Battle of the Exes 1
8th/7th Camila Nakagawa & Jordan Wiseley — Dirty 30

I didn’t want to give Jordan the title of greatest sidekick because he was more than that on Exes 2. When partnered with Sarah he took her game to another level while being the same dominant athlete that he has been his whole career. Exes 2 had a strong cast, so winning the final in dominating fashion gives him a ton of clout.

Exes 1 was a dramatic turn for Johnny Bananas character on the show. With Evan and Kenny out of the MTV picture, they finally gave him a main character edit, and boy did he produce. Bananas socially and physically dominated most of the season until CT/Diem’s late game surge in daily missions. His ability to manage Camila’s emotions in order to win the season was magnificent.

It could be recency bias putting this too high or too low, but the wins for Jordan/Camila were quite impressive. Jordan was on a cast with four other champions, four finalists, and whatever Hunter is. His absolute demolishing of the other guys in the final is the grand work of art that defines his illustrious career. Camila won by winning missions, winning eliminations, and killing the final. As much as the house hated her, she still pulled out the win in the end. Camila winning is almost like a superhero movie where the superhero and all their friends die, and the last ten minutes is watching the villain reek havoc on the world.

6–4

6th Evelyn Smith — Rivals 1
5th/4th Emily Schromm & Chris CT Tamburello — Rivals 2

These can be categorized as the completely dominating wins that are still somewhat boring. Easily one of the greatest players in Challenge history, Evelyn showed that with a competent partner that she’s one of the scariest players ever. She carried Paula in most of the missions, and was able to get Paula her first ever win (an unimaginable feat at the time). Winning 50% of the missions is quite a feat.

Which gives Emily the edge for being able to winning 60% of the missions on Rivals 2. She physically intimidated the rest of the girls, and even had the guys wanting her and Paula’s votes. CT’s win on Rivals 2 was more sentimentality than it was impressive towards the overall CT career performance. He was a better player on the Inferno 2 and Rivals 1. Him winning this season is impressive because of the way he beat two stacked teams in the final. Whether it was swimming, running, eating, or puzzles, CT was the best person in every single portion of the final. Rivals 2 CT against Dirty 30 Jordan in a final would be a fantastic show.

3–1

3. Sarah Rice — Battle of the Exes 2

What puts Sarah’s season over others is the pure social and political dominance of the game. Before the season started, Sarah mapped out her alliances to perfection. She knew to politically hug the line between Wes and Bananas as the two sides of the house, while also knowing that her partner had loyalty from Zach and Reilly. In the early game she made a point of not creating any dissonance by nominating rookies. Playing the perfect game in the Challenge is predicated on timing, and that’s what Sarah and Jordan had. They politically got themselves to the end, and won when it mattered. Every single competition to the two participated in from their elimination with Zach/Jonna to the final, they won. Being clutch is more important than being consistent on the Challenge.

Anyone mad about Sarah “betraying” Bananas, she made a game move to win, and the end of the day she earned that power by winning the same challenge that Bananas lost.

2nd Johnny Bananas — Free Agents

He managed to only be in the Draw twice all season, and won when it mattered most. He won the final daily mission and nominated CT (leading to LeRoy’s elimination), won the final elimination against CT, and had over an hour lead going into the last part of the final. To top it all off, Bananas eliminated Jordan. Bananas winning three eliminations and the final with the strongest alliance against him in an individual game proved his elite status. For any Bananas detractors there are, Free Agents is the season where Bananas showed he can win the game on his physical merits.

1st Laurel Stucky — Free Agents

She only saw the Draw three times (two of which she pulled the Kill Card). On Free Agents she not only won the final, but she eliminated all of the biggest threats to her winning in the process: Theresa, Cara Maria, and Aneesa. There was no wiggle room to it, she faced all three of them 1 v 1 in different arenas and came out on top each time. Nany ended up being close to her in the final, except it wouldn’t have been if Zach didn’t die atop a mountain, holding her back by 30–40 mins. Laurel finished first in every portion of the final besides where Zach held her back. In an individual game, Laurel proved to be if not one of, the most dominating player in Challenge history.

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