Top 10 Most Legitimately Underrated MTV Challenge Competitors
When it comes to the Challenge and almost any form of competition, people love to throw around the terms overrated and underrated when discussing players. So much so that certain players become inherently overrated due to being labeled underrated so frequently. Whether you’re Mike Conley in the NBA, Cesaro in the WWE, or a performer like Aria Alexander, you can become famously underrated. For a long time, Challenge Fans called Brandon Nelson underrated as he won three eliminations on Cutthroat, but was mostly an anonymous competitor. Or people would note Brad as an underrated all-time great who would not get lumped in with the top 10 competitors. And then you have someone like Cohutta, the ultimate underdog, the guy who succeeds despite his size.
This article is going to focus on 10 competitors who at this point are so underrated that they’re not mentioned enough. Or those whose success is not properly attributed or appreciated. Let’s go:
10 Sylvia Elsrode
I do not believe Sylvia is quite as underrated as she used to be, that is why she is not higher on this list. However, I still see a fair amount of people say that Sylvia was carried by Joss in Final Reckoning. I think it is a completely bogus statement, considering Sylvia has more than held her own throughout her Challenge career. Sylvia currently holds a career 5–1 elimination record, with wins over Bananas, Tony, Kailah, and Tori. Those are four major figures from the show, all of whom have been part of the Champs vs Stars spin-offs. Sylvia is the fourth member of the Lavender Ladies. While she is loyal to her friends, she’s least likely to grab your attention; this allows her to succeed the most without their help. In my mind, Sylvia is a Challenge Champion. Her and Joss were the only pair to be in the house on Day 1 of Final Reckoning, and make it to the final without ever seeing a Redemption House. They also might have actually won if you believe in Challenge conspiracy theories.
9 Dan Renzi
I think Shane Landrum is the ultimate underdog — though everyone is aware that he’s an incredibly strong competitor. Shane is the kale of the Challenge. The original Shane was Dan Renzi. He was a competent player who had sharp confessionals and was not afraid of going up against some of the best male competitors. Dan was not afraid of poking fun at CT during the Peak CT era, where he could punch you through a wall at any moment. He won the Extreme Challenge, won his first career elimination with ease, and then made it to the final elimination of Inferno 2 where he ultimately lost to a young and elite Landon Lueck.
8 Johnny Reilly
He is underrated because his lone finals appearance came due to the Kill Card twist. Reilly never pulled the Kill Card and was able to avoid elimination after elimination to go to the final. It should be noted, Reilly killed the final. He demolished everyone else in the last, individual portion of the Final, kept good pace with Bananas, and mostly lost because he was partnered with Devyn during the worst leg to have her. For reference, Devyn performed even worse in mountain climb than Zach and Laurel… when Zach literally died on the mountain.
Reilly went on to win two eliminations with Averey on Exes against Adam and Thomas, who weren’t slouches (really, Thomas was kinda okay). He and Averey kept it close against Leroy and Nia; and succeeded in challenges where they did not need to communicate. Reilly won an elimination with Jessica Mccain for reference of how good he was. His elimination loss with her was essentially a 1 v 1 puzzle elimination between Jessica and Amanda where Amanda would win 100/100 times. He was a good competitor who had some bad luck to end his career, and great luck at the beginning.
7 Jenn Grijalva
When Challenge fans think of Jenn Grijalva, they remember a girl who flopped in four different finals and was more about drama then game. When I view Jenn, I see a person who MADE it to 4 different finals, politically maneuvered her way through the game without being a great athlete, and holds an impressive 5–2 elimination record. Jenn was the most annoying type of Challenge player — spouting propaganda regarding herself and other veterans as above rookies and not needing to see elimination. However it worked, Jenn was not voted into elimination for three straight seasons from Fresh Meat 2 to Cutthroat to Rivals 1. To put it in perspective, Emily Schromm and Laurel Stucky were voted in over Jenn. That’s a top tier social game.
6 Amanda Garcia
I need to lay down this stat. Of people who have competed in 30 or more daily challenges, Amanda has the 4th highest win ratio percentage of any female competitor ever. The three who are ahead of her are Laurel, Evelyn, and Jodi. Three of the most athletic and dominant women in Challenge history are followed by 5'4 and 110 lb Amanda. The Bitch Bye girl is a great competitor whose drama and fights supersede her abilities on the show.
Amanda is not going to sprint past you or physically dominate you, but she is competent, has good upper-body strength, great cardiovascular endurance, and is excellent in mental competitions. Eliminations being purely physical are what hurt her. Her two biggest allies have been Nelson and Ashley. Amanda is like the Chase Utley of the Challenge. Ashley and Nelson are Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, they are winning MVPs because they are flashier players, but are also a bit lucky, while Amanda is potentially better than both of them, except casual fans don’t value what she is good at.
5 Jamie Banks
The most forgotten recent Challenge Champion. When people think of Bloodlines, they think of Cara Maria’s win. They forget that Jamie killed the eating portion of the final, giving them a good lead over Mitch and Cory and evaporating any chance of Jenna and Briana winning. He kept Cara cool and often acted as the motivating force she needed behind her. Whereas someone like Abram was a great partner, he was also a bit too soft on Cara because they were dating and he kind of wanted to protect her. Meanwhile, Jamie was cool being mean when he had to because Cara is his relative, they grew up together, anything he says will only drive her forward.
In his elimination with Wes on Rivals 1, everyone remembers Wes winning the tiebreaker to eliminate Jamie and KellyAnne, but they only had a tiebreaker because Jamie bullied Wes in the first round of the elimination and was bullying him in the tiebreaker until Wes pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Jamie might not have the hardest body, but he’s fit, and he can outmuscle a good amount of the men on the show.
4 Nehemiah Clark
If Kam, Leroy, Kayleigh, or Theo are all unable to win War of the Worlds, it will mark twenty seasons since Nehemiah won the Gauntlet 3 to become the last black Challenge Champion up to this point. Nehemiah’s sole challenge win was because of Big Easy’s death. However, he was one of only two males on the Gauntlet 3 rookies squad to even make the final and won two eliminations to get there. While his elimination record is 3–3, Nehemiah has never had a clean elimination loss in his career. On the Duel 1, he lost to Big Easy because they ran out of watermelons. During the Duel 2, Evan kept cheating during the Elevator elimination without penalty. Finally, on Rivals 1, Evan threw the elimination because he had to get home in time to begin his grad school program.
He has never lost clean and was the only person to ever eliminate Kenny Santucci. Nehemiah rocked. Also, does anyone remember when people thought he would be on Champs vs Pros 1 because he was hanging out with Wes in Los Angeles during filming?
3 Tori Hall
Only 11 women in Challenge history have won 2 Challenge finals. Tori Hall is one of them. A fair amount of Challenge fans do not like her because they felt like she was too controlling of Brad and was a bit of a crybaby. I was never a fan of Tori as a personality, but as a player, her social and political game was impeccable. Tori is a strong woman, she holds herself well and is willing to be a bitch if it meant she was going to be successful in the game. Fans get mad that she was the reason Brandon and Camila always went into the Gulag on Cutthroat, and were eventually eliminated. Meanwhile, Brad wanted to volunteer himself. Tori was having none of that. While Tori was fine volunteering herself for elimination as she was unsure of whether she was ready to run a final, she knew she wanted Brad to finally get a win after years of losses. Tori won 2 out of 3 seasons she played, finished 5th place on the Duel 2, holds a career 2–1 elimination record, and Brad made the final of every season he did with her. You may not like Tori, but she and her end-product is always great.
2 Jill Zoboroski
A Challenge Champion, a 5–1 elimination record, two finals appearances in three seasons, and was the first competitor to eliminate Darrell and Cara Maria from the Challenge. Jill Zoboroski is a Challenge competitor with a top tier pedigree of accomplishments, yet if you put a photo of her in a Challenge trivia game, a fair amount of casual fans will have no clue who she is, and definitely would not expect her to have been so successful. Jill was such a weird anomaly. She appeared very randomly across seasons (S11, S15, S19), and has no social media presence today. Jill was also on Derrick’s Road Rules season and has yet to appear on Challenge Mania. You either know Jill as a low-key badass or you don’t know she existed at all.
Sidenote: she is only three months older than Cara Maria, which is crazy to think about. Also, Road Rules X-Treme produced easily the greatest foursome of female competitors in Jodi, Kina, Ibis, and Jill.
1 Tyler Duckworth
I need to put this in perspective on paper. Tyler beat Johnny Bananas, Derrick Kosinski, and Chris Tamburello in consecutive eliminations. Was he assisted by a potential Adam King elimination throw in the final? Yeah, but still Tyler took two giant hits from CT and walked on top of each of those eliminations. Imagine beating three of the top 12 men in Challenge history and arguably two of the top five in their prime? If Wes did that, he’d have erected statues of his penis and possibly would have bought a small island in order to name himself King. Tyler Duckworth did that. Tyler is a two-time Champion who won two difficult finals, holds a 4–2 elimination record, and is potentially one of the strongest final runners in Challenge history.
Before Rivals 1, Tyler was told not to compete because he was too ill. Not only did he win the final, but he thrived in it while Johnny Bananas struggled. Tyler was a college swimmer who runs marathons for fun, is highly educated, tall and big, and learned Russian for fun. He should be in the conversation with guys like Derrick, Wes and Abram when they rank top competitors, yet he is always dropped down to a lower rank. I really wish Tyler would come back so fans could be reminded of how good he was.