We are currently four weeks into The Challenge USA. The game has been a format of rotating co-ed partnerships where we see new random pairings compete in the daily challenges and eliminations together each week. Watching these eliminations inspired me to write up the Top 10 list of the best Co-Ed eliminations in Challenge History, and so here we are.
I tried to be as comprehensive as possible when making this list. Some of the eliminations are historic upsets, some are intense physical battles, and others are pure comedy and entertainment. What makes the Challenge great is its variety.
Before we jump into the Top 10, here are the honorable mentions:
- Pete & Jill vs. Darrell & Cara Maria on Fresh Meat 2
- Evelyn & Luke vs. Paula & Jeff on Fresh Meat 2
- Big Easy & Cara vs. Wes & Lacey on Battle of the Seasons
- Dustin & Nany vs. Laurel & Trey on Battle of the Seasons
- Leroy & Nia vs. Bananas & Nany on Exes 2
- Jamie & KellyAnne vs. Nelson & Amanda on Rivals 3
- Hunter & Georgia vs. Ashley & Chase on War of the Worlds 1
- Big Easy & Jisela vs. Nehemiah & Kendal on All Stars 1
- Cory & Bettina vs. Jeremiah & Amber on Spies, Lies & Allies
10 Jordan & Sarah defeat Zach & Jonna in Hammer It Home on Exes 2
The elimination was straightforward: players used a sledgehammer to move an eye beam from one point to another as quickly as possible, with players switching off after hitting the halfway point. Again, a simple concept, yet the outcomes were unexpected and extremely satisfying.
Going in, Zach seemed like a lock to beat Jordan as he looked like Thor with his giant physique and long hair. You also had to wonder what Jordan’s ability to swing a hammer would look like due to his disability. The elimination kicks off, and Jordan quickly displays that not only can he swing a sledgehammer — he does it with perfect form and efficiency. Meanwhile, like a dumbass, Zach tries to muscle it and overcompensate, never taking a second to look at how Jordan is swinging his hammer. Watching Zach fail after how he treated Jonna all season was so fun to watch, which made Part 2 of this elimination better.
Jonna was put on this planet to do certain things: braid hair, look stunning in headbands, win Challenge All-Stars Finals, and outperform Sarah Rice in eliminations. Watching Jonna do well as Zach struggled was an absolute joy. Jordan & Sarah were the better team and deserved the victory.
9 Pete & Jill defeat Danny & Sandy in Exile on Fresh Meat 2
Jill & Pete were a strong duo on Fresh Meat 2 who got overshadowed because they went up against legendary pairs in Laurel & Kenny and Landon & Carley. In Episode 1 of Fresh Meat 2, they pulled off one of the greatest elimination upsets in Challenge history by taking down Darrell & Cara Maria, giving Darrell the first elimination loss of his career. That elimination isn’t what makes this list; it’s the exile battle between them and famous Challenge loser Danny Jamieson.
Going into the elimination, Pete & Jill were incredibly confident in their chances of victory as they had beaten Darrell, Danny was known for losing, and Sandy hadn’t shown any competitive ability to that point. The elimination begins, and we discover Sandy is great with numbers and puzzles, where she and Danny take an immediate big lead. As the elimination goes on, Pete & Jill begin to shit their pants, realizing the lead Danny & Sandy have taken — pushing them to give their all. Even though Sandy was killing the puzzles, she was wearing down physically from the intense exile. Ultimately, the difference maker ended up being Pete choosing to carry Jillian’s weighted backpack so that she could run unimpeded. Pete & Jill cross the finish line with Danny & Sandy in the background and win by less than thirty seconds. There is a high entertainment value to this elimination where Danny gets frustrated with Sandy’s lack of cardio yet doesn’t realize her puzzle skills are the only reason they are in the lead. Danny’s lack of awareness makes his streak of elimination losses feel sweet rather than heartbreaking.
Sandy was a one-and-done player, and Danny is one of the worst players in Challenge history, but they put up a hell of a fight against a great team. It’s an elimination you should rewatch, given a chance.
8 Kenny & Tina defeat Theo & Chanda in Exile on Fresh Meat 1
One of the Challenge’s biggest elimination upsets ever that’s not thought of as an upset because Kenny went on to become a face of the franchise, and Tina was an iconic character part of the “Mean Girls” alliance. Context matters; Tina & Kenny were a dysfunctional pair going against a power pair in Theo & Chanda. After getting voted in, Kenny & Tina were openly saying it looked like their time in the game was up.
Theo Von is probably the most underrated player in Challenge history. He made the Final of his rookie season (Battle of the Seasons) and was the top overall performer in dailies, won the Gauntlet 1 while tying for the most lifesavers on the Road Rules team, and then won Battle of the Sexes 2 (statistically, the hardest Final to qualify for). There is an actual argument that Theo Von was the show’s best player within the Challenge’s first nine seasons. His partner Chanda got a wallpaper edit, but she was an outstanding athlete and recorded the 2nd best 40-yard dash time among the Fresh Meat cast (men included).
So when Tina & Kenny managed their bickering and solved some puzzles to pull off the big elimination upset, everyone in the house was stunned. This elimination has great entertainment value as Tina, Kenny, and Theo are three of the best confessionalists the show has ever seen. It’s high comedy and real competition.
7 Hughie & Amber defeat Corey & Michele in Down to the Wire on Spies, Lies & Allies
From a pure entertainment standpoint, Hughie & Amber vs. Corey & Michele was amazing television. Going in, Corey had cut a deal with Fessy to throw Hughie in as Corey saw Hughie as the easiest player to beat in elimination. Fessy agreed and saw it as the perfect opportunity to get rid of Amber B by pairing her with an anchor (Hughie). The elimination was a jungle-gym-type maze where players were tethered and had to work their way back and forth to unlock themselves as quickly as possible.
Hughie & Amber took a quick massive lead while Corey & Michele struggled. Rather than focus solely on the elimination, Hughie chose to talk shit and curse out Corey mid-elimination. He ended up dropping the key the players needed to unlock themselves, a move that looked like it would sink their fate, except he was able to hit a full right split to drag the key back to them as they got the win. The aftermath of Hughie & Corey continuing to bicker is the mess you want following every elimination. It was a satisfying moment as Fessy/Corey had to eat humble pie after putting in the “weakest” player.
6 Nate & Christina defeat Cory & Ashley in Spun Out on Rivals 3
Elimination upsets are always fun to watch. On one side, you had a future 2x Champion and million-dollar-winner partnered with a future 4x Finalist, Teen Mom Star, and someone who got put on a Time Square billboard. The other side had the first boot from Bloodlines and the 140 lb guy who refused to jump out of an airplane to start the season. The elimination was players pushing a giant turnstile to pull an opposing player hanging on a bar attached to a rope. As the turnstile moves, the line extends, and the amount of tension increases; the first team to get their opponent to drop wins the point. In this type of elimination, the key to holding the bar is relaxing your muscles as much as possible — Christina figured this out, and their team pulled off a big upset.
What made this elimination so thrilling was the peanut gallery’s utter shock watching the power duo of Cory & Ashley crumble. Dario and Devin were chirping back and forth during the elimination for added drama. The result of this elimination has only become more staggering over time. Despite winning, Nate & Christina never got cast on The Challenge again; all the while, Cory & Ashley became new age faces of the franchise.
5 Adam & Brittany defeat JJ & Simone in He Said, She Said on Exes 2
The first set of players from Are You The One? got forced to face off in elimination on Exes 2, and they did not disappoint. It was an eating elimination where players would bid back and forth, claiming how much of an item their teammate could eat until one decided it was a number too high for them to believe their opponent could consume it in 3 minutes. If there was ever any doubt as to what players from AYTO could bring to the table, fans knew they were bringing in some legit competition when Brittany bid that Adam could eat 4 mini brownies, to which Simone promptly claimed that JJ could eat 3 mini brownies…
Look, this elimination is hilarious, and the commentary from their fellow competitors makes this one of the most rewatchable eliminations. Not everything on the show needs to be an intense battle.
4 Zach & Sam defeat CJ & Jasmine in Hall Brawl on BOTS (2012)
Zach vs. CJ in Hall Brawl is one of the greatest match-ups ever and is part of why Hall Brawl has become a staple for the franchise. This one does not rank higher because Sam vs. Jasmine was a dull, one-sided affair, with Sam winning. Now, it is still a partner elimination, and Sam winning her heat did lead to this being a three-round match and amplified the men’s battle.
The first round between CJ and Zach was a mastery of tackling and leverage by CJ. CJ stunned everyone in the crowd when he got low, pushed Zach back, and won 2–0. Again, watching Zach Nichols fails is always satisfying. Although he was a Punter/Kicker, people forget CJ was also a College Football player and went through loads of tackling drills his entire life. During their Sudden Death best of 3, CJ again took Round 1. After getting beat three times, Zach re-evaluated and realized if CJ was going to go low, he would just leap over him. As much as I don’t like Zach, his jumping over CJ was a moment that solidified my status as a Challenge fan. Zach went on to win the third round and pull off the overall victory for him and Sam.
Team San Diego were all-time Challenge villains, and to watch them dash the hopes of all-time good guy CJ Koegel after it looked like he was going to pull off the impossible makes this such a cruel yet thrilling elimination. Almost like a Horror-Movie where the Bad Guy comes back at the last moment to get the final laugh.
3 Darrell & Janelle defeat Brad & Jodi in Smash House on All Stars 2
We are moving on from an elimination where there was no partner cooperation to one where it was crucial. Darrell & Janelle battled with Brad & Jodi during the final elimination of the season for a shot to go to the Final. The game was Smash House; one player had to break down a furnished room with a sledgehammer, grab the remains, and transfer it through a 6-inch hole to their teammate, to which the teammate had their own hammer to break the debris into pieces that could fit in a 3-inch hole. The pair who compiled the most weight during the time allotted won the elimination.
Brad and Jodi were the favorites to win All-Stars as they were the two most physically imposing people in the house. During the elimination, Brad was an absolute madman smashing everything in sight. However, Darrell & Janelle played the elimination with greater efficiency, Janelle figuring out a form that would expend the least amount of energy (which was vital as she was dealing with a back injury), and also, it’s not like they didn’t give 110% either. The result was Darrell & Janelle winning 357.3 to 355.3 lbs, all that weight only to come down to a 2 lb difference with a spot in the Final on the line.
2 Leroy & Theresa vs. Bananas & Nany in Pole Wrestle on Exes 2
Theresa Gonzalez got home from Panama and unpacked her luggage, only to repack and get on a 14-hour flight to Norway for a one-chance elimination shot at the Final. The elimination happening to be against her sworn enemy Nany Gonzalez is something you can’t make up. The Pole Wrestle between Nany and Theresa was an epic battle with legitimate animosity and hatred between two players that had got built up for two seasons. Theresa had been part of Nany’s first elimination demise on Exes 2 when she and Wes threw Nany & Bananas against Leroy & Nia. When Nany returned from Redemption, she laughed hard when Wes was on the ground, potentially seriously injured during his and Theresa’s Hall Brawl with Leroy & Nia.
It looked like Nany had won out until Nia’s DQ forced production to scramble and bring Theresa in as a last-minute replacement. With the Final on the line, Theresa and Nany played a version of Pole Wrestle where there were no restarts, there was some dirty play, and in the end, Theresa got the last laugh.
And it’s not like Leroy vs. Bananas was a total snooze fest either. The two best friends had a good battle where Bananas put up a decent fight. Leroy on Exes 2 was a man on a mission, ripping the pole away, beating Bananas in elimination for the second time that season, and joining Derrick & Wes as the only men to win 4 or more eliminations in a single season.
1 Landon & Carley defeat Evelyn & Luke in Exile on Fresh Meat 2
Many of the eliminations on this list have been close battles, satisfying victories, or high-stakes affairs where a spot in the Final or the season’s winner has gotten altered. Landon & Carley vs. Evelyn & Luke on Fresh Meat is all of the above. Evelyn is one of if not the greatest physical female competitor ever; the same argument/claim goes for Landon. These two historic competitors got the “short-end” of the stick on Fresh Meat 2 when they were each given the last pick during the Fresh Meat draft, resulting in Evelyn getting Luke and Landon getting Carley.
While Luke and Carley weren’t the most naturally gifted partners, both pairs had found success on Fresh Meat 2. Evelyn won two eliminations with Luke and looked like they had the cardio to be threats in a Final, and Landon coached Carley up to where they had won a daily and an elimination. During the second-to-last elimination of the season, the pairs got pitted against each other in a super special nighttime exile.
The elimination was Evelyn & Landon both at their peak as they did whatever they thought was needed to win. Landon carried extra weight for Carley, solved all their puzzles so she could take breaks, and was completely supportive. Everyone loved Landon watching the eliminations, all while Evelyn would receive hate for the way she acted and treated Luke. In Evelyn’s defense, she was frustrated. During the exiles, teams had weighted backpacks they needed to carry, and Evelyn would carry the men’s bag because Luke struggled to run with it on. She was the one who solved their puzzles, pushed the pace, and a keynote/fact that gets lost is the fact that Evelyn was only 22–23 years old during this elimination (Landon was 30–31). Of course, you’re going to be mad if you’re 22 years old and you’re trying to beat the best male competitor in Challenge history, except your partner can’t even be someone who can carry the average amount of weight.
As I say all this in defense of Evelyn, watching Landon and Carley cross the finish line in time to beat Evelyn & Luke because Evelyn chose not to solve a puzzle that gave her team 5-minute time penalty was stupendously fulfilling. Evelyn’s temper tantrum led to one of the best TJ Lavin rants ever, adding to the legacy of Landon & Carley’s Championship in the end.
If you want more content, here is an interview I did with Nehemiah Clark for my podcast: