This past Sunday, I posted my Top 10 Worst Final performances list. So I figure that it’s only right that I post my Top 10 Best Final performances list. I will say, generally I try to mix my top 10 lists with half men and half women, but this list trended more towards rewarding men.
Top 10 Worst MTV Challenge Final Performances Ever
This past week, we saw Paulie crumble under the pressure during the War of the Worlds 2 Final. He overexerted himself…
Johnny Bananas & Sarah Rice (Rivals 3): It is difficult to quantify their win as they were so much better than the rest of the teams, and the game itself was very pre-produced to get the money steal twist.
Ninja Natalie (War of the Worlds 1): She was the top female finisher of a 50 mile final.
Paula Meronek & Emily Schromm (Rivals 2): A fantastic comeback performance anchored by Paula’s eating ability.
Laurel Stucky (Free Agents): An excellent performance. Just misses out for no significant reason. The win itself is elite, but the final run is missing some oomph.
Johnny Bananas (Free Agents): Devyn setting back Johnny Reilly an overwhelming amount as a partner in the hardest portion, is what keeps Bananas off the top 10 for his Free Agents run.
Cara Maria Sorbello (Vendettas): Being the first solo winner is cool, but the final portion coming down to a puzzle was underwhelming.
Camila Nakagawa (Dirty 30): It is tough to break down Camila’s performance in the final, as MTV edited their final the best to keep it a mystery, of which three girls won the D30 final. They also did not give her any confessionals as the episodes got re-edited after her racist tirade and her assault of a crew member on Champs vs. Stars. She killed the final, but based on what we saw, it’s hard to figure out how much so.
SUPER HONORABLE MENTION:
Johnny Bananas & Camila Nakagawa (Exes 1): I switched this one and number 10 around so many times. They were a good team all season who made it to the final, held second place for a majority of it, and in the final stretch, passed up CT & Diem for a win that even upset Bunim & Murray.
10 Jordan Wiseley & Sarah Rice — Exes 2
I do not believe Jordan and Sarah get enough credit for their victory. They held the lead from the jump and never took their foot off the gas. Sarah and Jordan excelled at swimming, puzzles, biking, and everything in-between. At one point, Sarah did seem to have trouble with her cardio, but once she used the restroom, she was excellent for the remaining run. When you consider she had to keep pace with superhuman Jordan Wiseley, it makes sense why she struggled a bit. Since Jordan debuted, I am not sure if anyone could keep up with him one on one in anything based on endurance.
The rumor is they won the first day by about forty minutes. On day two, they were only given a five-minute head start, yet they were still able to prevail even with production giving Leroy and Theresa an opening to pull a Johnny/Tyler type win. Jordan and Sarah were the perfect mix of talent and desire. They both had the skills to succeed and wanted to win more than anything.
9 Evan Starkman — Duel 2
Evan’s final win on the Duel 2 is one of the greatest comebacks in Challenge history. During the climax of the final, male players waited for female players at a checkpoint to partner up and continue. Brad, Evan, and Mark were all neck and neck with each other when they hit this checkpoint. Brad got an almost assured chance of winning by finishing first, as Rachel had a significant lead on second place female Brittini.
A second-place Evan then hauled ass like crazy once he linked up with Brittini. He pushed himself further and further as he got closer to Brad, and Brad panicked. In the end, it came down to a dead-sprint where Evan crossed the finish line in the closest finish we have ever seen. Evan did not have the most dominant win, but he pulled out a win that shouldn’t have ever been possible.
8 Darrell Taylor & Aviv Melmed — Fresh Meat 1
Darrell and Aviv won the first-ever paired final in Challenge history, and they won by a massive margin. A massive shout out to Aviv as her ability to solve puzzles was the ultimate difference-maker among the three teams. In this final, teams had to carry weight dependent on their ability to solve puzzles within three attempts. Tina/Kenny and Wes/Casey failed each attempt, while Aviv got the first puzzle on her final attempt and then the following puzzle her first time going. Darrell and Aviv only had to carry 50 lbs of weight during a portion of the final, while Wes/Casey and Tina/Kenny had to carry 100 lbs throughout almost the entirety of the final. Aviv also solved her preseason logic puzzle in only 3.16 seconds. Forget Sarah Rice, Aviv Melmed is the Puzzle Master. You could make the argument that Aviv wins this final with Kenny or Wes as partners.
Likewise, Darrell is the best partner you can have in a final. The guy is a horse who was able to carry any weight or Aviv while keeping a good pace. Honorable Mention to Darrell for his Champs vs. Pros performance with Cara, where they won by more than half an hour against Champs and Pro Athletes.
7 Tyler Duckworth — Rivals 1
Before the Rivals 1 final, a doctor advised Tyler and Jenn not to run the final as it would be medically unsafe (they had food poisoning?). They decided to compete, and Jenn floundered.
Meanwhile, Tyler was an absolute champion. He had no problem with the final from a physical standpoint. If anything, his partner Johnny Bananas was dying while running the final.
There is controversy regarding their win as Kenny/Wes had a 40 minute lead on them on Day 1 that got reduced to only two minutes on Day 2. I am acknowledging Tyler because if a doctor literally told him not to compete, and then he goes and wins the hardest final in Challenge history (up to that point), then you deserve to be on this list.
6 Chris Tamburello — Rivals 2
I am the biggest Wes fan on the planet, and I am here to admit that CT carried Wes on the Rivals 2 final. Together, they made the perfect pair, and they complimented each other in incredible ways. However, in this particular final, CT was the reason they won, and Wes did an excellent job of keeping up.
On Day 1 of the Rivals 2 final, CT solved the 3D puzzle immediately while the other two male teams needed to Time Out after an hour of attempting to solve. Then on day two, CT killed the first puzzle to give him and Wes a massive lead they would never drop. When it came to the eating, CT ate at least 65% of their food (which led to him puking massive chunks). In the biggest cardio portion, CT did an incredible job of giving Wes positive support while Wes was beginning to fade from the heat (gingers, ya-know). Even the final portion, CT dug a hole so quickly (he low-key is the greatest digger in Challenge history).
After years of everything going wrong for CT, when the final came around, he finally put it all together.
5 Rachel Robinson — Duel 2
Rachel Robinson was so good at the Challenge. For years, she was a strong competitor, but because she was always in team games, Rachel never really got to show out. Once on the Duel 2, she proved herself by winning 4 out of 9 daily challenges, never once whiffing an elimination as she intimidated the other females, and was not only the first-place finisher for the females but the first person to finish for both genders.
Yes, she was not have been first when you consider the men had to wait to link up at the checkpoint; however, she finished first overall because Rachel played to win. Maybe she didn’t help Brad as much as he helped her when partnered, but she didn’t have to. However, the Challenge is a dirty game. Rachel saw a win in sight and put her foot on the gas, while Brad was afraid of crashing into an open road.
4 Evelyn Smith/Paula Meronek & Laurel Stucky/Cara Maria Sorbello — Rivals 1
Rivals 1 was the hardest final the Challenge ever had at one point. The men were going through the motions of this final. Wes and Bananas were cramping, Tyler was overcoming illness, Kenny was yelling at Wes, and Mike and Leroy were trying their best not to quit. Paula/Evelyn and Laurel/Cara focused on winning. These two pairs kept going back and forth in true race fashion. Neither team complained at the level of the male teams, and each kept pushing and pushing.
It is wild to watch Cara struggle with the War of the Worlds 2 final as she and Laurel went through hell almost a decade earlier. Shout out to Paula for housing the eating portion. Right, when Laurel and Cara thought they took the lead, Paula’s eating prowess swung her and Evelyn back into favor, and the lead they had from this point ultimately resulted in their victory.
3 Jordan Wiseley — Dirty 30
Jordan started his final by fracturing his leg. He should have quit right then and there. Instead, Jordan ran through the pain. Actually, he sprinted through it. Jordan won every single portion of the final except for one Sudoku puzzle that he finished a close second. This is remarkable when you consider the fact he was running the final against CT and Derrick. CT is one of the greatest players ever who was coming off winning Invasion and was highly motivated by the grand prize with a kid at home (CT told me in an interview, he’d have retired if he won). Derrick was a 3x Champion in the best fitness shape of his life.
Jordan wasn’t beating scrubs; he was dominantly beating all-time greats with a fractured leg!
2 Turbo Kamkiran — War of the Worlds 1
War of the Worlds 1 had the hardest final in Challenge history. It was a massive 50-mile two-day journey where players had to trek through the African desert. Thus, Turbo gets the #2 spot on this list for winning that final.
What makes Turbo’s overall performance so impressive is he finished day one in third place. Whereas some players falter once they fall behind, Turbo was able to go at a better pace on day two while Theo and Wes broke down. While Turbo was not the fastest, he was the best at accomplishing the checkpoints. Turbo used his brain and kept going forward even when dead tired, banking on the fact that others would falter. Likewise, Wes and Theo competed very admirably in this final. Wes is not good at finals, but he played it smartly by taking breaks when he needed to, and walking during the math portion as he’d rather be right the first time. Had Theo went with Wes’s math strategy, then maybe Theo becomes the War of the World Champion.
Watching Jordan compete this season makes me wish he ran this final against Turbo. Also, watching Paulie compete on War of the Worlds 2, assures he me he would have pushed himself too hard on the War of the Worlds 1 final.
1 Landon Lueck — Fresh Meat 2
One of the reasons I liked the twist of War of the Worlds 1 becoming an individual game half-way through is because, on Fresh Meat seasons, you get saddled with a partner on day one for the rest of the game. You can get lucky and get Laurel with a top 2 pick, or a Ryan Kehoe type partner with one of the last picks. It’s not fair that you can hit the lottery while others pull eggs, and that decides the rest of the game.
On Fresh Meat 2, Landon got the last pick in the draft and got Carley Johnson as a partner. Carley was a sweet girl, but she had no upper body strength, couldn’t climb a wall, and was not very athletic. However, she knew how to run at a not terrible pace and did not quit easily. Luckily, she had a Landon who would do everything she couldn’t for her. He won multiple daily challenges and eliminations with Carley where he acted as the brains and the brawn.
The final was a different story as they were going up against the very talented Pete and a champion in Jill, #1 overall prospect Noor and 3x time finalist (at the time) Jenn, AND the most dominant co-ed pair in Challenge history in Laurel and Kenny. And that’s when Landon’s inner superhero came out. Kenny and Laurel worked their hardest as a time to accomplish all the checkpoints of the final. Landon did his best to push Carley through the portions she had to achieve as the entire final was lightweight to him. Whenever there was a portion that can be done solo like a puzzle, Landon took it head-on so that Carley could take a break.
Right now, Team USA is complaining about carrying 140 lbs as a team, but Landon was pushing 140 pounds of Carley, who by herself, likely is a bit of lay-up. Landon pushed her to the finish line. So much so that during the final mountain climb, he literally dug his head into her ass and passed the finish line. An actual quote:
“Carley’s feet are starting to slip out, so I literally stick my head right between her butt cheeks and start pushing her up this mountain to the finish. Like I said: push, pull, carry — whatever it takes.” — Landon
The modern-day comparison would be a male competitor carrying Zahida to a final win over Jordan and Tori. It’s so ridiculous even to fathom that only Landon could pull this off.