The most recent elimination between Hughie & Amber and Corey & Michele on Spies, Lies & Allies was an entertaining match-up filled with loads of drama. Was it the greatest elimination ever? No, but it will be in the back of my mind for a long time when thinking about this season. Over time, certain elimination match-ups get frequently discussed and put on Top 10 and Top 25 lists, and this article is not about match-ups like CT’s backpack or Joss vs. Derrick. This list is about the eliminations that don’t get mentioned enough when they are either: close battles, overlooked displays of dominance, lost in the shuffle of more famous eliminations from the season, are historically relevant, or just damn good entertainment.
I’m bringing you the Top 10 Most Underrated Elimination Match-Ups. If you don’t see an elimination you enjoy and think is underrated on here, then either I thought that elimination was rated correctly, or you have the actual #1 most underrated elimination.
Nelson vs. Hunter on Dirty 30: I genuinely could not tell if this elimination is underrated due to fan reaction generally being quite positive towards it. A gusty 2–1 battle between two best friends with some hilarious commentary after the match. This elimination’s impact got reduced within the season by the Redemption House.
Paula & Evelyn vs. Aneesa & Robin on Rivals 1: Contextually, this was Paula & Robin’s 8th season and Aneesa & Evelyn’s 7th season. It put them all Tied for 1st and 2nd most appearances by Female competitors in Challenge history at that point in time, and they faced off in the first elimination against each other. A bit absurd when you think about it for a second.
Wes & Nany vs. Jamie & KellyAnne: Blind soccer is fun.
Let’s get into the Top 10.
10 Cohutta vs Syrus on The Ruins
When people think of Cohutta on the Ruins, they think of him breaking Wes’s elimination streak in one of the biggest upsets in Challenge history. What gets forgotten is he won an additional elimination the following week against Big Syrus Yarbrough. The elimination was a heated battle in a variation of Hog Tie. Syrus started strong, using his size and explosiveness; meanwhile, Cohutta tried his best to keep up. Cohutta’s calm prevailed once the elimination became a game of finesse where they had to untie themselves from their carabineers. It is an elimination that gives you respect for both players; as Cohutta took down two Champs, and Syrus showed athletically, he still had a lot in him even at an older age.
9 Laurel & Cara Maria vs Camila & Theresa on Rivals 1
An elimination consisting of four of the Top 20 Female Competitors in Challenge history, and three of the Top 8, what more could you want? When this season aired, Theresa, Camila, and Cara were all still up and comers with loads of potential and some smaller successes already at that point. In contrast, after two seasons, Laurel was already established as one of the best to play the game.
For the second female Rivals elimination, these four players had a cardio battle where they had to flip as many panels to their side against opponents in the allotted time. Visually it is not the most stunning daily challenge. Still, it is a time capsule that makes you look back and go, “holy shit, these are two strong ass teams, and one is getting taken out in Episode 3.” If Camila and Theresa were on any season today, they would be the immediate favorites to win based on their athleticism and skill-set, which gives you a better appreciation for the pair that was Laurel and Cara. Also, Laurel attributed their elimination triumph to Cara’s stamina, a massive win for Cara, as she was someone most saw as the deadweight in the partnership.
8 Tonya vs Shavonda & Tonya vs Julie on the Inferno 2
One day, I’m going to stop covering the Challenge, either due to the show itself getting canceled or maybe because I joined an Amish Sex Cult; you can never predict the future. Until that day, part of my focus will go towards highlighting some of Tonya’s best performances and moments on the Challenge. She is a classically underrated competitor overshadowed by her lowlights. On Inferno 2, Tonya got put on a team with the Mean Girls: Veronica, Rachel, and Tina, who were completely against her and basically bullied her at times.
Tonya had to go into the final two eliminations of the season, where she faced off against Julie and Shavonda. Besides a few of her Bad Ass male teammates, the entire crowd was against Tonya in her eliminations. Tonya beat out Julie in a bungee cord Velcro wrestling match in her first elimination. She then decisively beat Shavonda in a human torture chamber battle where Shavonda tried talking trash, only to quit much earlier than expected. What most people remember of Tonya from the Inferno 2 is her dumping Beth’s clothes in the pool and dying in the Inferno 2 Final, yet, she put up these quality elimination wins knowing damn well that even if she won, people didn’t want her back in the house. Luckily for Tonya, she did redeem herself with a fantastic all-around performance on the Inferno 3.
7 Brad vs Big Easy on the Duel 1
Brad beat a guy with close to a hundred pounds on him in Pole Wrestle, and it does not get talked about nearly enough. Not only that, Big Easy called him out as he thought Brad would be the easiest win for him. It is important to note that this version of Pole Wrestle forced players on their knees, which made weight much less of a factor. Even then, it is one of the early eliminations that made it abundantly clear that being bigger does not mean you are going to win every headbanger elimination.
6 Frank vs MJ on The Gauntlet 3
Frank and MJ faced off against one another in Ankle Breaker, a Reverse Tug of War variant. Earlier in the season, Frank took apart Tyler Duckworth in the same elimination. Except for this time around, he faced a much more intimidating foe, the 6'5 former college football playing MJ. MJ assumed he could use his size and explosiveness to blow Frank out of the water. Frank was strong in his own rite and understood the physics of the game. The elimination was about strength preservation, leverage, and striking when the time is right. He waited till MJ burned out completely and then conquered the behemoth with ease. Frank Roessler was an absolute badass, and this slept-on elimination is an excellent representation of how good he was.
5 Kim vs Ruthie on the Duel 2
I ranked Kim’s elimination with Susie on the Ruins the best Pole Wrestle in Challenge history… TWICE. Once in Early 2018, and then again in Late 2020. With that Ruins elimination being her main legacy on the show, Kim’s elimination against the legendary Ruthie Alcaide gets swept under the rug. Ruthie and Kim played Back Off, the same elimination where Brad pulled a fast one to take out Landon in a huge upset before the final. Players had to grab a hook off their opponent’s back, then clip it to their own individual ring (one on each side).
Ruthie tried to play a physical game against Kim, and in return, Rookie Kim played like a veteran and focused on field position. Kim let Ruthie get physical while drawing Ruthie closer to her own ring. It was a tremendous physical battle, where even though Kim had the visual size advantage, Ruthie was someone you just didn’t want to fuck with in a close-quarter situation. Kim earned her stripes with this out of nowhere 2–0 win. Looking back, all 5 eliminations Kim competed in on her two seasons were pretty entertaining, which is shocking because she is a somewhat forgettable cast member in the grand scheme of things.
4 Knight & Preston vs Robb & Derek on Rivals 2
Blind stick fighting is probably the most polarizing elimination in Challenge history. It is so absurd and stupid that people either love it or hate it. I’m on both sides of the debate. Part of me embraces the fun and simplicity of the game, and then when it gets used to settle the Blood Feud of Bananas and Wes on Champ vs. Pros, I get pissed off. Then I think of Knight & Preston playing against Robb & Derek on Rivals 2, and I smile.
The first time this elimination got played, Knight, who is statistically the worst daily challenge competition of anyone with decent sample size, came up with a brilliant strategy. He and Preston came up with the codeword “NOLA,” a nod to their RW season, which they would use as a means for Preston to tell Knight to get low & swing. They lost the first round of this best of 3 and then adapted from there. Preston and Knight were one of the most entertaining pairs this show has ever had because they had legitimate disdain for one another, along with the fact they each weren’t great competitors. In this moment, they struck Gold and created the meta for what this elimination would become. I feel bad for Robb/Derek because they were the better team, but Knight/Preston made great Reality TV. Fun Fact: Knight went into 4 eliminations during his Challenge career and never once got voted in.
3 Jenna vs Tori on Total Madness
When people talk about the Jenna vs. Tori elimination, they do it mainly as a means to clown the ever-overconfident Tori Deal. Tori welcomed being the House Vote thinking that Jenna would volunteer and throw the elimination, and it would be a Free Red Skull. Of course, we know it ended with Jenna winning and Tori going home looking like a clown. The actual elimination was a back and forth banger.
Players had to run up and down a ramp, grabbing wooden bricks they would smash on a grate, where the broken down bricks would fill up a wheelbarrow below, first to fill up the container wins the elimination. Jenna smartly turned her brain off and went into competition mode; she quickly grabbed bricks and chucked them into the grate over and over again. Tori overthought everything; she did not have the form down, tried to shove small pieces through, and was a disaster. The crowd participation elevated this elimination, with Jordan having a meltdown as Tori lost. As the elimination goes on, Tori gets the hang of it and physically outpaces; it is a little too late because Jenna pulls out the win. This elimination did not get the credit it deserved due to the Jay/CT and Nelson/Rogan eliminations that got all the attention. It is one of the best cardiovascular eliminations this show has ever had.
2 Sarah vs Katie on the Ruins
There is something special about eliminations where players have bad blood. During the Ruins, Katie and Sarah had an infamous where the Champs played a prank by putting a plunger in Katie’s bed. Katie sees red, and once she sees Rookie Sarah Rice laughing at her, she takes out her anger on Sarah. Among all the chaos, Katie kicks Sarah out of the room, hurls some low-blows Sarah’s way, and tosses out the very reasonable line: “Don’t laugh at me while I have a plunger in my bed, bitch.”
I know the Plunger Fight is technically not part of the elimination, but it kind of is because they faced in elimination the same episode!
Katie and Sarah’s battle in the O-Ring in elimination is so perfect because it is so simple. Wrestle for control of a ring in the middle of the air. Ironically, the trick to this elimination is more about holding on than ripping the ring free. Katie takes the first round, throws Sarah the bird, and gets cocky. Sarah takes round two, throws the bird back, and Katie curses her out. Fuck, any elimination where the players can verbally combat each other on top of just competing makes for an excellent elimination. Sarah makes a comeback by winning the third round and gets her revenge. Just pure entertainment here.
It pains me that Katie’s last main season of the Challenge was Cutthroat instead of Rivals; she was originally supposed to be Sarah’s partner instead of Katelynn. Sarah’s Type A competitive personality paired with Katie’s mix of both indifference and fiery passion would have made for great television. Imagine Katie cursing Sarah out for being the puzzle master who lost to Jonna/Jasmine in the most basic Cracker Barrell-esque puzzle.
1 Darrell vs Zach on Invasion
People take for granted how much of a dream match-up, Zach and Darrell, in a Pole Wrestle elimination was in 2017. While Darrell has been active on the Challenge over the last five years with six appearances across main seasons of the show and spin-offs (All-Stars + Champs vs. Pros), it is easy to forget he was gone from the Challenge universe for over 6 years prior, and only made 2 appearances over a ten-year span from 2007–2016. Wait, 3, he was on the Spring Break Challenge, which was a thing. His return for Invasion of the Champions in 2017 sparked a fire in many OG fans, especially those Road Rules lifers. Zach had also taken a two-season break following the passing of his Challenge-best friend, Ryan Knight.
The stars aligning for this match-up to happen is special. I don’t even know what the 2021 equivalent of this elimination is; maybe on Season 38, we got Frank Sweeney vs. Theo Campbell in a Hall Brawl. In terms of the actual elimination, Darrell proved that even though he got a majority of his wins in the two-team era of the Challenge, he was still a certified beast, as he took apart Zach in a decisive 2–0 victory. Zach tried to use brute force against a man stronger and smarter than him. Darrell focused on leverage and wearing down to Zach till it was the right moment to attack. Watching Zach get put in his place in a headbanger elimination is incredibly satisfying, especially when someone as cool as Darrell is the one to do it. If you wonder why I don’t mention Bananas or CT vs. Darrell, it’s because those aren’t underrated.
Before you leave this article, if you liked the elimination last week, check out Hughie’s interview with the Redditors React Podcast: