The Challenge Ride or Dies Team Preview: Darrell Taylor and Veronica Portillo
Give it up for the OGs. Veronica Portillo was the first player in Challenge history to become a 3x Champion and is one of only two women ever to achieve the feat. Darrell Taylor was the first player ever to become a 4x Champion and one of only three to accomplish the feat. Veronica won her first chip in 2000, Darrell won his first in 2004, and now they are here in 2022 to compete as a pair. The Challenge is a crazy fucking universe. Few people expected this duo, and it is a more than welcome surprise.
Introducing the Friendship:
Darrell & Veronica have always been friends and won back-to-back Championships as members of the Road Rules team on The Gauntlet & Inferno 1. They both had breaks from the show yet somehow always returned to the franchise around the same time: The Ruins, Invasion/Dirty 30, Challenge All-Stars, etc.
A true OG, Veronica debuted on Challenge 2000, literally the franchise’s third season. Veronica was truly the first cast member to be a consistent staple of the franchise, appearing in six straight seasons from Battle of the Seasons (S5) to The Inferno II (S10). She held the record for most seasons competing all the way up until her return to the franchise on The Ruins (S18). It wasn’t just that Veronica was on the show; she was Queen V: a star character, a dominant/social-political force, and highly underrated in the actual missions/comps.
People will look at Veronica’s 3 Championships and argue that it was because they were team seasons. I think that’s fair to say about Challenge 2000 as no players got eliminated during that season; thus, everyone had a 50% chance of winning. However, Veronica more than earned her victories on The Gauntlet & Inferno 1. The Gauntlet 1 had 14 genderless, meaning either men or women could get thrown in, and thus, more women got thrown as they got perceived as weaker by the men of their teams. Veronica didn’t see a single elimination, partly because she had a firm grasp on the political game, and since she was a strong player — she won 2 out of 8 lifesavers on the Road Rules team, more than Darrell, Abram, and Theo Von! She earned that Championship. Likewise, on The Inferno 1, Veronica didn’t ever see elimination because when she got nominated, she convinced her teammates to throw the comp so that she could win the lifesaver and they could toss in a weaker player. That is boss-level political gameplay.
As we know, Veronica would later go on The Inferno 2, making another Final, and was part of the infamous “Mean Girls” alliance alongside Rachel & Tina. She handed Jodi Weatherton a giant elimination loss where Veronica proved that when the bright lights are on her, nerves don’t phase her. Veronica then took a few years off, and we wouldn’t see her till The Ruins. On The Ruins, Veronica was a bit on the outside, though she was able to prove capable of turning a couple of political/manipulation tricks. Her game ended after losing to a strong player (KellyAnne) in elimination.
We wouldn’t see Veronica for another 8 years until Dirty 30. Veronica’s return to the show was such a massive moment that on departure day, the site Vevmo crashed after PinkRose revealed her. That’s some icon shit. Her run on Dirty 30 is a bit underrated. She won the obstacle course daily challenge with Nelson and solved the difficult 3D puzzle leading to the infamous Purges of CT & Cara Maria. Veronica got taken out that season via one of the lamest/poorly-designed Purge challenges ever and was unable to win the Redemption back. She went back for Vendettas & Final Reckoning. Those unspectacular showings ended via injury and failing in a Purge challenge where she got no shot at Redemption.
In those last couple of seasons, Veronica looked like she didn’t care to be there, and I think it’s because the house environment wasn’t fun and the people playing didn’t have active games. When we saw Veronica on All Stars 3, Queen V came out. She was part of the Treehouse alliance with Kailah, Tina, Sylvia, Roni, and Derrick. Together, they were smartly working through the game and killing the challenges. Veronica made it into three tribunals (all in comps with mental aspects), including a solo win in the trivia challenge. Had she not gotten injured, I think there’s a real shot that Veronica could have won the final daily challenge of the season and been in the Final. It looks like The Challenge bug has bitten Veronica as she’s back again.
Not only did Darrell win 4 Championships, but he also won them all in a row. His wins on The Gauntlet 1/Inferno 1/Inferno 2 were all solid performances. In those seasons, Darrell was a decent contributor to his team in missions, he played a great social game, and nobody threw him into elimination because they knew he’d be an asset in the Final.
His most impressive win was Fresh Meat 1, where Darrell & partner Aviv became the first players to win a true pairs season. They stayed under the radar for most of the game but kicked into high gear to end the season. Together, the two won the Final 5 Lifesaver and the last elimination of the season against power duo Derrick & Diem. In the Final, they dusted Tina & Kenny and Wes & Casey by close to an hour! It was a dominant Final performance led by Aviv’s puzzle prowess and Darrell’s ridiculous strength/cardio.
We wouldn’t see Darrell again until the Ruins, where it looked like he had a 5th Championship locked up until a drunken Brad Fiorenza instigated a fight leading to the DQ of both men. Darrell returned for Fresh Meat 2 and got blessed with the #1 pick, in which he took Cara Maria. Unfortunately, they got thrown into the first elimination of the season, where Pete & Jill pulled off a shocking upset win over them.
Darrell wouldn’t return to the show for another 7 years until Invasion. While it took Darrell a bit to acclimate back into some of the daily challenges, he put up dominant performances in headbanger eliminations: taking out Zach in Pole Wrestle and Bananas in Balls In. Sadly, he had to go into a third elimination against CT in Knot So Fast, where CT made an unbreakable that required production to cut the ropes up after the elimination was over. Darrell was able to get some redemption by winning Champs vs. Pros with Cara Maria; he was an absolute horse in the Final. In one of the most shocking exits, Darrell came back for Dirty 30 and got taken out via the opening Purge, then lost a close Redemption battle against Tony Raines. We would see him again on Vendettas as a mercenary, drawing the only “Tie” in elimination history against Nelson.
It would be another three years till we saw Darrell, but then we got a lot of him. He appeared on Double Agents and the three All-Stars spin-offs. Double Agents was going well; he won a trivia challenge that came with lifetime Burger King Whoppers, beat Devin in a tangerine puzzle elimination, and was there till the second to last elimination. The elimination came down to speed, and Cory is crazy fast — Darrell didn’t even have a chance to make the elimination a true tug of war because Cory blew him out of the water. Darrell performed awesomely in the dailies on the first two All-Stars seasons, making it to the Final of each. Except, his record of being unbeatable in Finals came to an end. He got outpaced by Yes Duffy in the last portion of the AS1 Final. Darrell & Janelle came up short in Part 1 of the AS2 Final to Nehemiah/Melinda and then in Part 2 to Jonna/Melinda.
All Stars 3 was a rough season where Darrell’s DQ in a heights challenge put him in elimination. He got outworked and outsmarted by Jordan in an endurance elimination that left Darrell needing medical assistance by the end. Darrell is still a king, but he’s lost a bit of mystique in the last few years. He is back to get some of that mystique back and, importantly, win some money.
Player Vitals & Stats
Veronica Portillo: 44 Years Old, 5'1, 11 Seasons, 2–2 Elimination Record, 3x Champion (Challenge 200, Gauntlet 1, Inferno 1), 4x Finalist, 1 All-Star Season
Darrell Taylor: 42 Years Old, 5'11, 195 lbs***, 9 Seasons, 6–3 Elimination Record, 4x Champion (Inferno 1, Gauntlet 1, Inferno 2, Fresh Meat 1), 4x Finalist, 3 All Star Seasons, 1–1 All Star Elimination Record, 2x All Star Finalist, Champs vs. Pros Winner
Skills & Physical Strength:
Darrell & Veronica are a complicated pair to project physically. In theory, some of their strengths make up for each other’s weaknesses; however, I’m not quite sure if their flaws are so massive they may overtake what is usually an advantage for each player.
For example, Veronica is fearless when it comes to heights-based challenges as long as Julie Stoffer isn’t trying to kill her. Typically, a more carnival game-y heights-based mission is when Veronica thrives. Darrell, it’s the opposite. He literally went into elimination on AS3 because of the fear/trauma he has with heights. Veronica might calm his nerves; I just don’t think she’ll be to get him to be as fearless as her, meaning they probably won’t ever win a heights-based daily challenge. Likewise, Darrell is a cardio machine. He is a great partner in any endurance comp or Final because he can go at a rapid pace while carrying weight. Darrell is willing to take on extra weight for his partners to have less stress so they can go faster. He’s physically carried Cara & Ruthie in different Finals. That’s a positive for Veronica, except I don’t know if that will be enough for them to ever come on top in any long-distance runs.
Darrell & Veronica are both outstanding individual players, and their skills would complement many other players. I don’t know if they are a perfect match. They have experience on their side, and they’re ready when it comes to the problem-solving aspects of challenges. Based on their past shows, they are each solid swimmers as well. At the same time, they do have some aging weaknesses. While Darrell is still a physical powerhouse, he’s lost a ton of speed and natural athleticism/burst, as seen in his elimination with Cory. Veronica is a way better athlete for someone her size than most would give her credit, yet, the margin for error for smaller players is much larger. The Challenge has hit a point where if you want to be a good competitor at 5-’5'1, you essentially have to be someone who makes the show their life and trains for it 365 days a year. That’s not Veronica at this point in her life; she’s got other priorities.
SSMP (Social, Strategic, Mental, and Political Game): Their political/social game is on a rough trajectory due to no fault other than that most players are coming in with pre-existing relationships and alliances they do not have. Most of the people Darrell has aligned with in recent seasons (Cory, CT, Jemmye, Derrick, Kam, Leroy, Shane, etc.) are not there this time around, and he has a bit of under-the-radar beef with Devin.
You might be thinking, wait, Devin? Well…where does this start. Some of this is conspiracy, some is educated guessing, and some is actual facts.
On Champ vs. Stars 3, Devin got cast over Darrell despite not being an actual champion. The day that season premiered, Devin was acting a fool; Darrell sent out a tweet showing disappointment at how Devin (and Tony) were acting. Then on Final Reckoning, the rumor was Darrell would be a mercenary alongside Cory. Tragically, Devin’s dad passed, Tony came in as his alternate, and weeks later, Devin came in with Cory instead. Getting passed over twice for the same guy when you’re a 4x Champ can be frustrating. We move on, and then Double Agents, the two faced each other in elimination with Devin calling Darrell out; Darrell wins the eliminations. Then you add the house element where these two have different playstyles and personalities. Devin is best friends and cut from the same cloth as Wes; Wes is Darrell’s biggest enemy/rival during his time on the show. As we saw on SLA, Devin has political power and numbers. They will be going after Darrell.
Let’s talk about Veronica. She is a great strategic and political mind. Her only issue is gaining numbers and power. Veronica can make friends easily, but many of these people already have pre-game relationships. The only person Veronica can genuinely rely on is Kailah. The two must get on the same page and rally numbers as quickly as possible.
Regarding the mental game, Darrell is decent with puzzles, specifically tangrams. Veronica is pretty elite in mental comps. On AS3, every single tribunal she made had a puzzle or memorization aspect. She graduated from Berkeley, the #1 Public University in the Nation, and has always shown a natural talent at whatever she pursues. During Dirty 30, she solved that 3D puzzle that was giving everyone trouble and had an actual explanation of what it should look like rather than someone randomly putting something together. Veronica’s reality tv character and fame always overshadowed the fact she’s a brilliant human.
Eliminations & Winning Potential:
Darrell has one of the most impressive elimination resumes: Bananas, Zach, Derrick, Brad, Devin, and Cohutta. His wins have come in headbangers, endurance comps, exiles, and puzzles — he is capable in whatever you throw at him. Meanwhile, Veronica has an incredibly sparse elimination record where she’s only gone in 5 times (including spin-offs) across 13 seasons. She has quality wins over Jodi & Aneesa and losses against strong opponents in KellyAnne & Ashley. Veronica had an injury DQ loss to Aneesa on Vendettas. Veronica is not built for headbangers as she’s quite small, and her natural speed/explosive athleticism isn’t there as much anymore. For Veronica to win an elimination, she needs the game to be a puzzle or a carnival game. Veronica probably isn’t taking home a Hall Brawl win.
Can this team win it all? Veronica was pretty good in Finals back in the day — the problem is she hasn’t competed in one since 2005, and they’ve gotten a bit harder since then. I will say, The Inferno 2 Final was no joke, and Veronica held up well during it. Darrell hasn’t been to a main season Final since 2006 either. In theory, I want to say they can win; they have experience and are still very good players. Recent history says otherwise. If they got paired on All-Stars season, I would say. Going into this game, I’m not a fan of their chances. Nonetheless, I am incredibly thrilled to see them paired together.
Darrell’s Rating: 93/100
Veronica’s Rating: 77/100
Darrell & Veronica’s Pair Rating: 78/100
Darrell’s Challenge All Stars 3 Rating: 96/100
Darrell’s Double Agents Rating: 95/100
Darrell’s Dirty 30 Rating: 94/100
Darrell’s Invasion Rating: 95/100
Veronica’s Challenge All Stars 3 Rating: 77/100
Veronica’s Final Reckoning Rating: 80/100
Veronica’s Vendettas Rating: 83/100
Veronica’s Dirty 30 Rating: 77/100