The Challenge Invasion has made it more difficult than ever for the Champions to win in theory. In most seasons the top competitors come together to create a stronghold in the game and coast to the final together. The doomsday situation is that they face each other in eliminations and hearts will be broken, or butts will be sore(Bananas and Cara). On this season the Champs are forced to go up against one another in death battles until there is only one left standing(in each sex) before the final where they will face off with two of the underdogs.
For the champs, getting to the final is tougher than ever. At this point, someone like Camila has to defeat two of the greatest female competitors ever in order to get there. Cara has to try and overtake her former best friend/rival Laurel, and Laurel wants to maintain her streak of total dominance. On the guys side we have the greatest male competitor, Bananas. We also have the OG Champ, Darrell, and the most dominant physical specimen in Challenge history, CT. It sucks that they have to kill themselves to get to the final, but the ultimate prize is too much to give up. Making the final isn’t the prize, it’s getting a theoretical cake-walk in the final.
You might be wondering what I’m talking about, but I studied Challenge history and there is only one occurrence where in a season of pairs or individuals where a person running a final for the first time wins(excluding seasons like Bloodlines and Fresh Meat where half the players were inherently rookies). It’s not just that rookies fail to win, it is that people who are running their FIRST final in general almost never win. Let’s track the history of pairs/individuals in finals:
Season 28 Rivals 3: Person (Season, Final Attempt)
1st: Johnny Bananas(13th season, 8th final) & Sarah Rice(9th season, 5th final)
2nd: Jenna Compono(3rd season, 3rd final) & Vince Gliatta(2nd season, 1st final)
3rd: Devin Walker & Cheyenne Floyd(Rookies)
This season proved that the most experienced team was the most deadly. They torched Jenna and Vince, while Jenna and Vince torched Devin and Cheyenne.
Season 27 Bloodlines
1st: Cara Maria Sorbello(8th season, 4th final) & Jamie Banks(Rookie)
2nd: Cory Wharton & Mitch Reid(Rookies)
3rd: Jenna Compono(2nd season, 2nd final) & Brianna Julig(Rookie)
Bloodlines was a season where half the cast was rookies and more than half the cast in general was new to the show. In the end, Cara showed that despite being a co-ed pair, she was the most experienced and destroyed the final. The worst she did on any one portion was second.
Season 26 Exes 2
1st: Sarah Rice(8th season, 4th final) & Jordan Wiseley(3rd season, 2nd final)
2nd: LeRoy Garrett(5th season, 2nd final) & Theresa Gonzalez(6th season, 1st final)
DQ: Jenna Compono & Jay Gotti(Rookies)
The better physical team, LeRoy and Theresa, lost to a team that was dying to win. Jordan had embarrassed himself on the previous season and had something to prove, while Sarah was hellbent on winning after losing on 7 prior seasons and 3 finals. The rookies also floundered in hilarious fashion(#RIPJay2014).
Season 25 Free Agents
1st: Johnny Bananas(10th season, 7th final), Laurel Stucky(4th season, 4th final)
2nd: Johnny Reilly(Rookie), Nany Gonzalez(3rd season, 1st final)
3rd: Zach Nichols(3rd season, 2nd final), Devyn Simone(2nd season, 2nd final)
Johnny Reilly and Nany made names for themselves on Free Agents after strong finishes on the final. The problem is that they were both so close to winning that it showed how inexperience they were. They played just to finish and do well, while Laurel and Bananas were pacing to win the whole time. Had they been focused on winning, the ending might have been a little bit different.
Season 24 Rivals 2
1st: Chris “CT” Tamburello(9th season, 5th final) & Wes Bergmann(8th season, 4th final; Paula Meronek(9th season, 4th final) & Emily Schromm(3rd season, 3rd final)
2nd: Johnny Bananas(9th season, 6th final) & Frank Sweeney(2nd season, 2nd final); Heather Cooke(Rookie) & Cara Maria Sorbello(6th season, 3rd final)
3rd: Jordan Wiseley & Marlon Williams(Rookies); Camila Nakigawa(5th season, 2nd final) & Jemmye Carroll(2nd season, 1st final)
Jordan and Marlon were easily better than Frank and Johnny on Rivals 2, but they showed their inexperience on the water and in the kayaks leading to their early loss. Heather Cooke dominated the Rivals 2 final physically and mentally, but she didn’t see eating gross food coming, and Paula as a veteran pro won them the final after the eating portion. Wes and CT were hungry for wins as the most experienced team, CT showed it as he pulled out all the stops to win doing well in puzzles, swimming, strength, eating, and endurance.
Season 22 Exes 1
1st: Johnny Bananas(8th season, 5th final) & Camila Nakigawa(3rd season, 1st final)
2nd: Chris Tamburello(8th season, 4th final) & Diem Brown(6th season, 2nd final)
3rd: Emily Schromm(2nd season, 2nd final) & Ty Ruff(3rd season, 1st final)
After being away from the Challenge for a couple years after the incident on Duel 2, CT came back to the Challenge on Rivals 1 and got to his first final since Gauntlet 3 on Exes 1. Here he encountered that a pure high speed gas motor will lose you a final. He died on top of a volcano and he had to watch Johnny Bananas pass him by on the final stretch. Camila is also the only exception to the rule, she’s the last/only occurrence of someone winning on their first time in the final. It helped that she had someone as experienced as Johnny, and that Emily was saddled with Ty. Camila also proved to be a beast on Exes 1.
Season 21 Rivals 1
First: Johnny Bananas(7th season, 4th final) & Tyler Duckworth(4th season, 2nd final); Evelyn Smith(7th season, 4th final) & Paula Meronek(8th season, 3rd final)
Second: Kenny Santucci(8th season, 7th final) & Wes Bergmann(5th season, 3rd final); Laurel Stucky(3rd season, 3rd final) & Cara Maria Sorbello(3rd season, 2nd final)
Third: LeRoy Garrett & Mike Ross(Rookies); Jenn Grijalva(6th season, 3rd final) & Mandi Moyer(3rd season, 1st final)
Despite having the best chemistry as a team and not being rivals, Mike and LeRoy proved why they were Rookies on the final. And while Cara and Laurel were a strong physical team, they staggered behind Ev and Paula for most of the final.
Season 19 Fresh Meat
1st: Landon Lueck(4th season, 3rd final) & Carley Johnson(Rookie)
2nd: Kenny Santucci(7th season, 6th final) & Laurel Stucky(Rookie)
3rd: Jillian Zoboroski(3rd season, 2nd final) & Pete Connolly(Rookie)
4th: Jenn Grijalva(5th season, 2nd final) & Noor Jehangi(Rookie)
Good final. Half of them were inherently rookies as “fresh meat” and the other four who made the final had all done it before. In the end, the best teams were all awarded what they somewhat deserved.
Season 17 Duel 2
1st: Evan Starkman(4th season, 2nd final), Rachel Robinson(6th season, 3rd final)
2nd: Brad Fiorenza(6th season, 3rd final), Brittni Sherrod(Rookie)
3rd: Mark Long(5th season, 4th final), Aneesa Ferreira(6th season, 2nd final)
Brittni had an incredible rookie season but just could not compete with Rachel in the end. Aneesa was a deer in the headlights when it got to the final. Evan made a historic comeback beating Brad, and Mark got burned by having to wait over an hour for Aneesa to catch up with him for the final partner portion.
Season 13 Duel 1
1st: Wes Bergmann(2nd season, 2nd final), Jodi Weatherton(3rd season, 2nd final)
2nd: Brad Fiorenza(4th season, 1st final), Svetlana Shusterman(Rookie)
Svet’s rookie season is still talked about til this day. After being a major underdog she made it to the final only to be easily defeated by a powerhouse in Jodi. After many struggles, Brad made it to his first final only to lose to Wes.
Season 12 Fresh Meat 1
1st: Darrell Taylor(4th season, 4th final) & Aviv Melmed(Rookie)
2nd: Tina Barta(4th season, 2nd final) & Kenny Santucci(Rookie)
3rd: Wes Bergmann & Casey Cooper(Rookies)
Darrell to this day has never lost a final, Tina was not a good competitor, and Wes had to deal with the plague that was Casey.
Post: The way it is left, there are only two underdogs who have ever run a final: Cory Wharton(2nd Bloodlines), and Jenna(3x finalist, 2nd Rivals 3). According to Challenge history, it’s looking really good for the Champions. Cory and Jenna are also currently in the weaker alliance and are gonna need to fight their way to the final. It’s gonna be a great season.