The Top 10 Most Important Injuries in MTV Challenge History
Injuries are a natural part of sports and competition, some more severe than others, and some have a more significant effect than what happens in the heat of the moment. Today, I’m trying my best to go through Challenge history and rank the injuries that had the greatest impact on changing the universe we live in. Sometimes a small injury to an insignificant player can lead to more outcomes than a big injury to a major character. It’s all about circumstances.
My favorite thing about this list is someone in the comments is going to mention a moment I completely blanked
Rogan on Vendettas: He came in with a bad back, and people like to say Bananas was in 13th in the Purge, yet I feel like Bananas coasted because he knew Rogan was dead on the ground somewhere. The injury made his win on WOTW 2 a real surprise.
Melinda on All Stars 2: She looked like a badass winning Part 1 of the All Stars 2 Final with a bad ankle. Sadly, it took her out of the next season.
Double Agents Injuries (Nam, Liv, Nicole Z.): In a game where skulls are involved, people getting taken out of the equation affects everyone.
Timmy on the Inferno 3: He might have won his elimination against Abram yet had to dip out due to getting cut up with glass in their elimination. If Timmy is there for the Good Guys and Abram isn’t for the Bad Asses, the Final plays out differently.
Big T on Total Madness: She could have been a skull for a Nany/Kailah/Mattie in elimination, and her leaving led to one less female making the Final. Fresh cotton pads.
Sylvia on Vendettas: There’s a shot she slips into the Final if she doesn’t get stuck. I believe taking out Melissa while sick and keeping her elimination record pristine is better for Sylvia’s Challenge legacy.
THE TOP 10
10 Hunter Breaking His Wrist and Jordan Fracturing His Leg on Dirty 30
Let’s start with a combo. When someone plays through an injury, we as fans gain respect because it shows heart and determination. Most fans saw Hunter Barfield as a hulked-out shorty who was a good athlete but had too much ego for someone with nothing in-between the ears. After breaking his hand by beating Leroy in a Hall Brawl-type elimination, Hunter followed it up by winning the next daily challenge to Purge out Jordan and send Derrick K in elimination. The tides turned for Hunter, and fans were on his side. People were sad to see him get purged in a challenge where he couldn’t do much because of his hand. They were clamoring for his return which led to him getting partnered with Ashley Mitchell on Final Reckoning, and he got the happy ending he always wanted; Hunter became a Challenge Champion.
Jordan fracturing his leg at the beginning of the Dirty 30 and proceeding to dust multi-time Champions in CT & Derrick was some hardcore shit and added to his existing Challenge legacy.
9 Injured Finalists: Kaycee on Double Agents, Bayleigh on Total Madness, Nicole on Vendettas, Coral on the Gauntlet 1
Let’s talk about people who got legitimately injured during a Final, not those who gassed out or were dehydrated.
If Kaycee does not break her foot on Double Agents, she and Fessy likely finish in 2nd or 3rd Place, and Leroy/Nany probably get purged out. It would have been a terrible outcome for Leroy’s last season not to complete the Final.
If Bayleigh does not hurt her ankle on Total Madness, she maybe solves the math equation before Kaycee and could finish in 2nd; I don’t think Bayleigh would be able to keep up with Jenny.
If Nicole Z does not hurt her ankle on Vendettas, she likely advances to Part 2 instead of Kailah/Kam and then comes in 3rd/4th as her memorization skills aren’t great. Kailah being the 2nd Place female was probably a better outcome for the franchise’s sake.
If Coral doesn’t get bit by a spider during the Gauntlet 1 Final, the Real World team probably wins, which means a lot of Challenge legends on the Road Rules side lose a Championship, including Darrell & Veronica. Darrell wouldn’t have started his career 4–0, and Veronica wouldn’t be tied for the most titles by a Female. The Miz would be a 3x Champ, and Coral/Alton would be 2x Champs.
8 Tony’s Ruptured Spleen and Candice’s Broken Toe on Bloodlines
Tony and Candice’s injuries resulted in the DQ of their pairings and led to production bringing in Abram and his brother Mike as alternates. Abram went on to have a crazy tear as Cara Maria’s psycho boyfriend who found out she was giving massages to tennis frat boy Thomas Buell. It was the last time we’d see Abram on a Challenge, and it was a unique look. He and his brother were legitimately great competitors, physically and mentally. Abram’s antics during his brother’s elimination is one of the most entertaining performances ever.
Sadly, seeing all the stuff to come out about Abram in recent years has left a bad taste on some of the TV moments he had over the years.
7 Shauvon Busting Her Implant on the Ruins
Shauvon popping her implant has an argument to be #1 on this list in terms of immediate fan reaction. It probably has the least amount of effects on the show as a whole; nonetheless, it was a moment in time you would not forget.
6 Frank Sweeney’s Viral Pneumonia on Free Agents
I’ve always thought Frank’s pneumonia DQ on Free Agents was good for his Challenge legacy because he walked away from the show a 1x Champ, 2x Finalist, and had a 3–0 Elimination Record where he was beating people while sick. That’s pretty badass.
Had he stayed for Free Agents, my long-time belief is he probably would have made it to the Final 7 and then likely run up against one of the beasts of that season (CT, Zach, Leroy, Bananas) in a super physical elimination and lost. If Frank had been there, it does change the equation for every Free Agent team/partner selection from then on, and maybe in the universe where he doesn’t get hurt, Jordan doesn’t pull all the Kill Cards. Frank’s exit affected so many little things. The primary starting point is 2nd-Place finisher Johnny Reilly got to skirt out of an elimination potentially against CT, Jordan, or even worse, Swift. 6th might be too low of a ranking.
5 Josh Martinez on WOTW 1, WOTW 2, Total Madness, Double Agents, and Spies, Lies & Allies
Apologies…. I was under the impression Josh had been competing with a significant injury over the years. It turns out…that’s just how he is as an athlete.
5 Jenna Compono Breaks Her Ankle on Champ vs. Stars 2
Before Jenna’s injury, she was the Barbie Beast, a top featured female competitor just a level below their actual champions. She was one of the first people on Champ vs. Stars despite not being a Champion herself. Nobody batted an eye because she had 3 Final appearances and a neat 5–1 elimination record. Then she breaks her ankle in a parkour challenge, and she’s just never the same person again. Jenna got forced to sit out on Vendettas and essentially couldn’t work out for a year, leading to her losing some muscle mass which was critical as her biggest strength was always her size and fitness level. Not doing Vendettas allowed her best friend Kailah making outside friendships and becoming a more standalone character, rather than being one half of Jailah. Jenna came back for Final Reckoning and got purged immediately.
When Jenna returned for War of the Worlds 1, the competitive landscape passed her as MTV had stacked the cast with females who were either bigger, more fit/muscular, or were more skilled athletes. Jenna didn’t have the mental game to keep up with them or even the charisma to be a top personality, so she fell down the ranks quite a bit with the only thing holding her up was her up-and-down relationship with Zach.
The injury led to a rekindling of the two, leading to their eventual marriage. Any time you can marry a guy with a history of being verbally aggressive and who has cheated/ghosted multiple girls, including yourself, you sign up 11 out of 10 times.
4 Coral Smith’s Dislocated Knee & Evan Starkman’s Hernia on Fresh Meat 1
On Fresh Meat 1, Evan And Coral won 5 out of the first 6 daily challenges, and the one they lost, they purposefully threw to give the other teams a chance. Whether the competition was mental or physical, they looked like a dominant duo until Evan got a hernia, to which they became an average pair following his injury. Their season came to an end after Coral dislocated her knee, leading to their DQ. Had they not gotten injured is one of the great “What Ifs?” in Challenge history.
The assumption is they would have steamrolled through the season en route to a Championship as they were the best team. It’s a decent projection, although most teams would have tried their best to take a shot at them in the end-game, and also, when it comes to a Final/exiles, Aviv Melmed’s puzzle prowess and Darrell’s cardio would be hard to beat. I think it’s fair to say Evan & Coral would have dominated the challenges and likely come in 2nd Place at least; when you look at the big picture, maybe it’s better they got hurt for our entertainment sake as we saw different pairs and players emerge as competitors. Still, it would have been fun to see Evan & Coral put up the best daily challenge season ever.
3 Leroy’s Back Injury Going Into Rivals 3
This one is cheating as Leroy walked into the Rivals 3 house knowing he had a back injury. Regardless, it had a significant effect on Challenge history. Had Leroy & Averey not left due to injury, there’s a chance they don’t bring in alternates Amanda & Nelson or the already eliminated Devin & Cheyenne. Since Brandon Tindel quit, one of those pairs was likely to come in; though losing either would have impacted the show and Challenge universe. Amanda came in like a bat out of hell as an alternate and put Are You The One? on the map by popping off on anyone and everyone. She and Nelson’s introduction had them as more established newbies on Invasion, to which they’ve both become staples of the franchise.
Meanwhile, Rivals 3 was a major season for Devin and Cheyenne as they were the team who kept pulling skulls and refused to die. They were the first AYTO players to make a Challenge Final, even as lay-ups. Devin started his rivalry with Johnny Bananas and built himself up as a prominent character. It’s easy to shit on Devin, but he was the star of AYTO Second Chances, was on a Champ vs. Stars spin-off, appeared on Ex on the Beach, has taken out Wes & Bananas in elimination, and was a top guy on Spies, Lies & Allies. You also have to remember that Cheyenne & Cory built a connection this season and conceived their baby Ryder during the Rivals 3 reunion. So there’s a chance Cheyenne and Cory don’t become Teen Mom stars if not for Leroy’s back.
Sidenote: A healthy Leroy & Averey is a solid physical duo who probably comes in 2nd Place behind Bananas & Sarah. If that happens, Averey Tressler’s Challenge career continues rather than dies out abruptly. Leroy mentioned on a podcast back in the day that the back injury is part of what kept him off Invasion, which if he got added to the dynamic of that season, who knows what would happen.
2 Alan Valdez Breaks Hand on War of the Worlds 1
I didn’t want to rank this one that highly because I don’t think Alan Valdez would be a fantastic competitor or personality or anything. However, he finished 4th in the opening purge, which greatly affected how the opening partner draft would have played out.
Being able to communicate with your partner matters, and because of this, I think Alan would be inclined to pick a Spanish speaker like Natalie or Nany. If Alan takes Nany, Turbo gets left with a tough choice where he picks either Amanda or Ashley as a partner as she got on well with them. Nany was the perfect partner for Turbo, as her social connections and physical abilities led to them blending in socially and competitively. They were a good team without a big target on them; once she got Turbo to the individual portion, he killed the challenges on his own en route to victory. If Turbo has Amanda or Ashley as his partner, he is going into multiple eliminations, probably against decent players in which his performance might not even matter.
Even if Alan picked Natalie/Ashley and Turbo still got Nany as a partner, the rest of the picks do get scrambled for JP, Chase, and Gus. None of those guys are great competitors, but who they had as partners could have led to way different outcomes in the game. We also have to add that Josh Martinez just gets purged straight up, to which he wouldn’t make enough of an impact to get cast on War of the Worlds 2. In that scenario, we probably see Josh pop up on Total Madness, except without all the experience and connections he got from the previous two seasons, he probably gets rolled over immediately as a lay-up. Then eventually, Josh ceases to exist in the Challenge world. The winner of the season likely changes and the most disliked person among Challenge fandom getting minimized is two drastic changes alone.
1 Cara Maria Breaks Hand on Free Agents
Cara Maria breaking her hand on Free Agents was a moment in time that changed the trajectory of her life and Challenge history. While Cara Maria had been a multi-time finalist and elimination winner going into Free Agents, she was always on strong teams or had excellent partners. Cara went on Free Agents in great shape and kicked off the season by winning two eliminations, including a crazy long battle against the much bigger Nia Moore. Going into her third elimination at Final 6, Cara began to have animosity with former Rival and best friend Laurel Stucky, culminating in a breaking point when she competed against Jessica McCain in a Balls In elimination where Laurel was cheering for Jess. Cara Maria goes on to win the elimination despite breaking her hand. She gets told by production she needs to go home, and Cara boldly continues competing with a broken hand.
At this moment, Cara Maria goes from cult favorite to everyone’s favorite underdog on the planet. Everyone thought she was badass, and what helped Cara was that Laurel was coming off as a terrible friend who was attached to the most annoying guy that season (Jordan) and was a dominant competitor. Nothing makes a better underdog than a grand powerful force to go up against. For that reason, all people wanted was to see Cara beat her and become Champion. Even though it didn’t happen on Free Agents, Cara took this momentum and became the female face of the Challenge. People were on her side going into Bloodlines, and her win meant a lot to fans. Cara’s approval rating, for the most part, was pretty damn good until she merged into one human with Paulie around Final Reckoning/War of the Worlds 1.
It’s crazy to say, but Cara wouldn’t have ever become as loved, hated, and polarizing as she is now had she never broken her hand. Hell, I’d go as far as to say Cara would have gotten less out of not getting hurt and beating Laurel in the Final straight up. Yeah, Cara is only one person, yet, you can’t talk about the Challenge without mentioning her, for better or worse. Cara’s impact goes farther than herself as so many people’s Challenge careers and storylines are built upon friendships, rivalries, or drama with her because she was the female face of the franchise for a few years there. In various ways, this one human’s broken hand affected the lives of so many others.