Top 10 MTV Challenge Feeder Seasons
The Challenge has been able to go on for 35 Seasons and multiple spin-offs based off a larger casting pool from various seasons of reality television. It started off as the Real World/Road Rules Challenge where players from the two shows would face off against one another as teams. Battle of the Sexes 1 and 2 were the first times they broke the overall theme, and by the time of the Gauntlet 2, the show transitioned into more of “The Challenge” as they found it easier to stack casts with themes like Good Guys vs Bad Asses and Rookies vs Vets. Road Rules getting cancelled also played a part in MTV’s need to do to use broader overall themes. Once the Real World got cancelled, it forced MTV to use the show Are You The One and then jump the shark and allow people from any reality show (Bachelor, Survivor, Ex on the Beach, Big Brother, Love Island).
I decided to look back at the seasons of shows that gave the most to the Challenge and rank the 10 best. I don’t care about how good the origin show itself is, but how good the quality of players they contributed to the Challenge are/were. Fresh Meat and Bloodlines seasons were not counted. Yes, they provided rookies, yet, I wouldn’t categorize them as from “Feeder” shows.
Before we move onto the list, here are the Honorable Mentions:
Real World Philadelphia: Landon Lueck, MJ Garrett, Karamo Brown, Shavonda Billingslea
Real World X-Plosion: Cory Wharton, Ashley Mitchell, Thomas Buell, Jenna Compono, Hailey Chivers, Jay Mitchell
Road Rules Northern Trail: Dan Setzler, Roni Martin, Tara McDaniel, Anne Wharton, Noah Rickun
Big Brother 20: Swaggy C, Bayleigh Dayton, Faysal Shafaat, Kaycee Clark
Ex on the Beach 5: Joss Mooney, Kayleigh Morris, Melissa Reeves, Stephen Bear, Ashley Cain
Real World New York 2: Coral Smith, The Miz, Lori Trespicio, Rachel Braband
10 Real World San Diego 1 (25 Seasons, 3x Champs, 8x Finalists)
Relevant Players Added: Brad Fiorenza, Robin Hibbard, Randy Barry, Jamie Chung
Also Appeared: Jacquese Smith, Cameran Eubanks
What’s interesting about this Real World season is they have two people in Jamie Chung and Cameran Eubanks who weren’t significant figures on the Challenge, but became huge in the world outside of it. Jamie has starred in a plethora of Films and TV Shows (the Gifted, Sucker Punch, Hangover 2), while Cameran starred in the Bravo Show Southern Charm from 2014 to 2019. Jaimie is a one and done Challenge Champion and was the last Asian Champ until Dee won on War of the Worlds 2.
Brad is the most important player to come out of RW SD as he appeared on 10 seasons of the Challenge, made it to 4 Finals, and won Cutthroat. He is recognized anywhere between 20th and 7th for all-time, male competitors. Robin appeared on 9 seasons and appeared on the most seasons of any female competitor at one point. She was an okay competitor, and more importantly, returned to the show after giving birth to a child, one of the few moms to compete on the show. Robin also dated Steve-O for a bit.
Randy appeared on two seasons, had potential, won the Gauntlet 2, and was never on the Challenge again. Most notably, he dated Kina Dean for an extended period.
9 Real World Las Vegas 2 (29 Seasons, 0x Champs, 8x Finalists)
Relevant Players: Leroy Garrett, Nany Gonzalez, Dustin Zito, Mike Ross, Heather Cooke
Also Appeared: Naomi Defensor, Adam Royer, Heather Marter
Las Vegas 2 was both an entertaining Real World season and a pivotal feeder to the Challenge from 2010–2015, and it still has influence now. Leroy has appeared on 11 seasons of the Challenge. Leroy is a 4x Finalist tied for the 3rd most elimination wins by a male competitor, and also had a 4 elimination win season on Exes 2. In the modern era, Leroy’s known as the guy who is good enough to last a long time and will never win, but for a period, he was a top contender and a heavyweight when it came to raw physical headbangers.
Nany is in the top ten for female appearances, with eight seasons. She came close to a win on Free Agents (2nd Place) and has been an essential character on the Challenge since she debuted on Battle of the Season. Nany is a fan favorite even though she’ll likely never become a Champion. Dustin Zito had a hot start and was a key figure on Battle of the Seasons (finished 2nd Place). After that, he had disappointing early exits on Free Agents and Exes 2 before departing from the franchise. His Free Agent loss was especially surprising as he was juggling two girls during the first two episodes before getting taken out.
Mike Ross and Heather Cooke had two amazing one and done rookie seasons. Mike came in as a replacement for Adam as Leroy’s partner on RW Vegas. He was surprisingly competent in the challenge and acted as the brain to Leroy’s muscle as they came in 3rd Place for the season. Cooke got Cara as a replacement partner and went toe to toe with Paula and Emily in the end game, coming up short in the Final, finishing in 2nd Place.
8 Real World Las Vegas 1 (13 Seasons, 2x Champs, 5x Finalists)
Relevant Players: Alton Williams, Frank Roessler, Trishelle Cannatella
Also Appeared: Steven Hill, Arissa Hill, Irulan Wilson
Real World Las Vegas had three massive figures, none of which appeared on more than 4 seasons individually. Alton did 4 seasons, made the Final of 3, won the Gauntlet 2 as Team Captain, and holds an impressive 5–1 elimination. Had he not come back for Battle of the Seasons (2012), he’d have a completely unblemished record and would get commonly regarded as a top-five player. Nowadays, his rank varies, and his career records get weakened by the fact that his season isn’t ones that get re-watched/discussed often. Regardless, Alton was an athletic freak and dominant player whenever he was on the cast.
Frank only appeared on two seasons (Sexes 2 and Gauntlet 3). He was the star of a mostly incompetent team where Frank won three eliminations and the Final. Frank proved to be athletic, intelligent, and unbothered by people like CT and Kenny as he was as good as them at the game while also having a life outside the show. Trishelle made a name for herself by appearing in Playboy, appearing on The Surreal Life, competing as a lingerie football player, and then showing up in a plethora of reality shows and TV cameos. She famously took a fourteen season break before returning for Battle of the Seasons (2012), where she finished second-place when partnered with Dustin Zito.
7 Are You The One Season 3 (24 Seasons, 1x Champs, 5x Finalists)
Relevant Players: Hunter Barfield, Nelson Thomas, Amanda Garcia, Devin Walker, Britni Thorton, Cheyenne Floyd
Also Appeared: Chuck Mowery
Are You The One has a bit of an unfair advantage where they have a 20 person cast, and 8 people from AYTO 3 have appeared on the Challenge. Yet, this season stands way taller than all other seasons of AYTO as they brought on a significant amount of players who impacted the Challenge from Seasons 29 to the present. Hunter is the first AYTO Challenge Champion. He played on four seasons, made the Final twice, made it to the final purge (s) the other two times, holds a career 4–2 elimination record, and has been excellent in daily challenges. The guy also got 500k dollars stolen from him, hilariously. Great athlete, bad personality, and somehow was the most important male on Dirty 30.
Nelson has been on six seasons of the Challenge and has always been on the top five most important male figures of each season he’s been on besides Rivals 3. The guy has the second-best male elimination record in Challenge history at 9–2–1. He got a 2nd place finish on Invasion and generally makes it near the end every season. Nelson is the better problematic version of Leroy of his era. Both guys are great at eliminations, have massive flaws as all-around players. The big difference is Leroy knows his faults and won’t overstep his boundaries at all, meanwhile, Nelson is a habitual line-stepper and will sprint passed the line with ferocity. People like Leroy more, but Nelson mattered more to the show.
Devin is more bark than bite. The guy competed on four seasons, Champs vs. Stars, and an AYTO spinoff. His role in the show was to be an adversary to Bananas, where he was punching above his level until he got an elimination win over him on Vendettas. Other than that, he’s been pretty meh as a competitor. Devin isn’t a bad player; he’s not on the athletic level of most males on the show. He is an excellent confessional, which is why he has been decently important when on the show. His Rivals 3 partner Cheyenne only did one season, and they made the Final together as the lay-up team. Cheyenne’s importance came after she was done with the show as she has a child (Ryder), with the father being Cory Wharton (conceived at the Rivals 3 reunion), and they are now on Teen Mom together.
Britni Thornton is the most surprising relevant player in recent years. Her personality wasn’t great; her confessionals were much different than the person existing in the house. Yet, the girl worked out hard to improve on the show, actually has a 2–1 Elimination Record, and had a very open PDA relationship with Brad Fiorenza (romantic as well). Amanda was the heart of the Lavender Ladies alliance, has one of the best career win ratios in daily challenges, and acted as a villain to some and an anti-hero to others. MTV put her on Final Reckoning even though she had no interactions with her partner before the season, and they upped her appearance fee for War of the Worlds 1 because they wanted her that much.
6 Real World Portland (19 Seasons, 3x Champs, 6x Finalists)
Relevant Players: Jordan Wiseley, Marlon Williams, Nia Moore, Jessica Mccain, Johnny Reilly
Also Appeared: Averey Tressler, Anastasia Miller
Jordan is either the best player to compete on the Challenge or is somewhere in the top three. In six seasons, the guy has compiled 3 Championships, 4 Finals, and a ridiculous 7–2 record in eliminations. He’s always been a significant character, whether it be in a villain role like on Free Agents, an underdog on Rivals 2, or as Protagonist on War of the Worlds 2. However, not to tiptoe around, but his actions towards Nia and racially charged choice of words might have him kicked off the show. Sorry, if I’m not grilling into him, not sure if I just avoid the topic altogether, or how to insert it into this article.
Jordan’s Rivals 2 partner Marlon is a one and done competitor. Together, they finished in 3rd Place, and Marlon proved to be a good athlete, on top of being a character of intrigue as he was bisexual and hooked up with men and women on his rookie season (Derek Chavez and Nany Gonzalez). Nia did two seasons, Free Agents and Exes 2. She went out early on Free Agents, losing to Cara in an intense elimination where both players sustained injuries. She won 3 eliminations with Leroy next season, proved to be very athletic and mentally formidable in memorization games. Then she got kicked off the show for crossing the line with Jordan by sexually harassing him, and was thus kicked off the show. Ironically, with Jordan’s fate on the show holding on by a string, she is doing Instagram Lives and interviews alongside him to defend her friend.
Then there’s Johnny Reilly, who finished 2nd Place on Free Agents, compiled a 3–2 elimination record, and has mixed reviews as he had awful relationships with his partners on Exes 2 and Rivals 3 (Averey and Jessica). Jessica Mccain shouldn’t be relevant, but she played on four seasons, made it far into Free Agents, and had a couple of showmances (Tony and Dustin). Averey Tressler is one of my all-time favorite players, and it pains me not to put her in the relevant category.
5 Road Rules South Pacific (22 Seasons, 5x Champs, 10x Finalists)
Relevant Players: Abram Boise, Tina Barta, Dave Giuntoli, Cara Zavaleta, Christena Pyle
Also Appeared: Jeremy Blossom, Chris Graebe
The big player to come out of South Pacific is Abram. He was a massive figure from the jump, whether it was him being the Mini Miz on the Gauntlet, or him having a threesome with Rachel and Veronica. Abram had a serious relationship with Coral that begun on Battle of the Sexes 2, and over time he became known as an elite competitor. Abram played 9 seasons, made 4 Finals, and won 2 Championships (Inferno 1 and Inferno 3). Tina also had an impressive Challenge career, making it to 2 finals in 5 seasons, going far into most seasons she played and held a 3–1 elimination record. She also finished 2nd Place on the first true pairs season (Fresh Meat 1). Tina was a great confessional who gets underrated as one of the funniest players ever as she played in the same era as people like Coral and Katie.
Dave appeared on the Gauntlet 1, won the season, and never showed up on the Challenge again. He did end up achieving mainstream success playing the leading role of the NBC Show Grimm (2011–2017). Christena also appeared on only one season (Inferno 1), and she won. She’s one of the few black female champions in the show’s history. Meanwhile, Cara Zavaleta appeared on three seasons, made it to two Finals, and won the Gauntlet 1. She became known for being one of the hottest women in Challenge history, and was the Playboy Centerfold for November 2004!
4 Real World Austin (34 Seasons, 5x Champs, 8x Finalists)
Relevant Players: Wes Bergmann, Nehemiah Clark, Johanna Botta, Danny Jamieson, Melinda Stolp, Rachel Moyal
Also Appeared: Lacey Buehler
Wes is one of the three most important players in the shows’ history. His longevity as a major figure is crazy. The guy has the all-time elimination record, is a 2x Champion, 5x Finalist, and has killed it on the Champs vs. Stars spinoffs. Not to mention, his relationship with Johanna and their eventual break-up caused friction once Kenny and Johnna hooked up on the Island. It severed any friendship between Wes and Kenny and began a rivalry that lasted until Kenny got removed from the franchise. Johanna competed in four seasons and won the Gauntlet 3.
Nehemiah is one of the most underrated competitors in Challenge history, appearing on four seasons, making the Final of the Gauntlet 3 and winning. He is the most recent Black Challenge Champion and is the only person to eliminate Kenny from a season. Rachel is maybe the worst player to ever win a season of the Challenge and is most known for crying after losing her elimination to a “civilian,” aka Jenn Grijalva. Danny and Melinda are known as two of the worst competitors in Challenge history. Together, they have a combined 0–10 Elimination Record (Danny 0–6, Melinda 0–4), 0 Finals, and 1 Divorce.
3 Road Rules X-Treme (25 Seasons, 8x Champs, 11x Finalists)
Relevant Players: Derrick Kosinski, Jodi Weatherton, Jillian Zoboroski, Ibis Nieves, Kina Dean
Also Appeared: Nick Haggart, Angela Trimbur, Danny Dias
Road Rules X-Treme has given the greatest roster of women out of any feeder season. Jodi played three seasons and won twice. She historically dominated the Duel 1 and became the first individual female winner in Challenge history. It’s not unlikely that she wouldn’t have won more had she kept going. Jill Zoboroski is a crazy 5–1 in eliminations, made 2 Finals in 3 appearances, won the Gauntlet 3, and was the first to eliminate Darrell.
Ibis was viewed as a bit of a lay-up until she dominated Roti eating in the Gauntlet 2 Final that ultimately was the reason her team took home the win with ease. Kina was the captain of her team on the Gauntlet 2 from the first daily challenge on, meaning if her team lost on a female elimination day, she’d have to go into elimination automatically. She went the entire distance to make the Final and win. Derrick is the prominent star to come from this season as he made 5 Finals and won 3 Championships (Inferno 3, Island, Ruins). He also cemented his status as one of the toughest players in Challenge history by winning 4 eliminations on the Gauntlet 2. Angela Trimbur ended up having mainstream success as an actress, though her Challenge career wasn’t much.
2 Real World Key West (38 Seasons, 11x Champs, 17x Finalists)
Relevant Players: Johnny Bananas, Paula Meronek, Tyler Duckworth, Svetlana Shusterman, Janelle Casanave
Also Appeared: Zach Mann
Key West contributed multiple multi-time Challenge Champions. Johnny Bananas has appeared on 20 seasons, made 8 Finals, and has won a record 6 Championships. His stats speak for themselves. Paula appeared on 10 seasons, made it to 5 Finals, and is a 2x Champion. Her success on the Challenge makes you feel good when considering her Real World season; she was battling anorexia. By the end of her run, Paula was one of the fittest people in the franchise.
Tyler went from early-career flop to filling out his body and strongly winning his final two seasons. He eliminated Johnny Bananas, Derrick Kosinski, and Chris Tamburello in consecutive eliminations! Svetlana is a one and done rookie who was known for getting a casting call every season and immediately declining. In late 2019, I listed Tyler as one of the most underrated competitors to ever play, and he was voted the most underrated by my readers. Janelle played two seasons, won the Inferno 3 and is the last Black female to have won. It’s hard to deny a season with three multi-time champions with a total of 11 titles.
1 Road Rules Campus Crawl (24 Seasons, 8x Champs, 9x Finalists)
Relevant Players Added: Darrell Taylor, Rachel Robinson, Shane Landrum, Kendal Sheppard, Sarah Greyson
From a pure quality standpoint, Camps Crawl has to be #1. Darrell Taylor was the original Challenge GOAT as he won the first four seasons he appeared on, and on this day, nobody has touched the feat. He is second all-time in Challenge wins, holds a 5–2 record in eliminations (with wins over Derrick, Bananas, Zach, and Cohutta), and even picked up a charity win on Champs vs. Pros. He is also the most underrated confessional in Challenge history as Darrell is a hilarious shit-talker.
Shane was a phenomenal daily challenge competitor when he first appeared on the Challenge. He made it far into both Battle of the Sexes, won a couple of daily challenges on Fresh Meat with the last draft pick as a partner, and ultimately lost on the Inferno as he faced CT in a milk and cookie eating contest (Shane is lactose intolerant). However, when Shane reappeared for his second run, he played under the radar strategically at first, and then became willing to stir the pot and jab back at anyone verbally. Shane was easily the MVP of Invasion as he played the game politically, helping his team win challenges, shined individually, and even won a crucial elimination. On Final Reckoning, he filled more of an antagonist role where he was popping off, fighting with everyone, and got undone due to a purge. Shane was the brains of the Lavender Lady alliance, and as a whole, I think he helped save the Challenge as it had a real low-point around Rivals 3. Whether you liked him or not, he got a reaction from you and was actively playing the game.
Rachel played 7 seasons, went to 3 Finals, and won 2 Championships, most importantly, was the second solo female Champion (Duel 2). She was an LGBTQ icon who dominated the challenges physically. What impresses me about Rachel is that she will occasionally interact with fans on Twitter because she recognizes her accomplishments on the show, but also acknowledges that she’d only come back if the systematic toxic masculinity and some of the most misogynist males were to get removed/lessened.
Kendal and Sarah are two one and done competitors who had vastly different experiences. Sarah became Queen of the Gauntlet as her team threw her into elimination after elimination. She won 5 total eliminations, a record that’s only been tied once in the history of the show, and won them in 1 on 1 games, against both men and women. Sarah also was part of the winning team in the Final, meaning she has statistically, one of the most dominant records in Challenge history. For reference, Sarah has as many elimination wins as CT. Kendal was America’s sweetheart, appearing on the Inferno 1, winning one elimination, and then pulling out a win in the end. A much easier rode than Sarah, yet, fans loved Kendal. What adds to her character is in recent years, she has appeared on social media and been incredibly kind to fans, answering any questions and being an all-around good person.