Eliminations are my favorite part of the Challenge. As cool as some daily challenges are, the visual of watching two people go one on one in different events, vying for their lives in the game, it’s just … undeniably enthralling. We watch people we have no opinions of gain favor in our hearts through valiant efforts. We watch our favorites pull off upsets, or simply fail when the pressure it at its highest.
I decided to put together a list of the 11 most entertaining eliminations in Challenge history. These are not the eliminations that I think are the 11 best, 11 greatest, 11 most impressive… I’m talking the 11 eliminations that got fans who were watching on their couches to stand up, bite their fingers, or fall back laughing. There are so many eliminations that I felt awful for leaving off the list. So much so that this was a list of 10 that last minute got switched to 11.
11 Brad vs. Landon The Duel 2
To start us off, I picked a controversial elimination. Landon and Brad played a game called “Back Off,” where the goal was to take a hook off the other players back and then hook it to a ring on the opposite side. It is controversial as Landon fans view this as a fluke victory for Brad. Regardless, the reason I rank this elimination so highly is because of the finish.
In a last-ditch effort, Brad hit Landon’s ring to unsteady Landon. In the few seconds it takes Landon to steady the ring, Brad hooks his ring and wins the elimination for one of the greatest Challenge upsets of all-time. It was one of the most ingenious moves, and it eliminated maybe the greatest competitor in Challenge history. This is Landon’s only loss!
10 Raphy vs. Mitch Bloodlines
An elimination that got me to jump out of my chair the first time I watched it. Bloodlines is not a fantastic season, and Raphy/Mitch are two challengers who if they were on a UFC PPV card… they would be in a non-televised dark match because nobody cares to see them.
Both being unknowns allowed each to prove themselves in elimination. In a tug of war battle, most expected Raphy to win as he looked physically stronger than Mitch. However, Raphy stupidly did not use his legs much when pulling the chain. He gave Mitch the edge as Mitch’s legs are way stronger than Raphy’s arms. Except we don’t account for someone literally tripping and falling, which is what happened to Mitch. When Mitch falls, Raphy can take advantage and win the elimination, and I am out of my seat in shock!
Until, he doesn’t pass the line required for victory in the tug of war, and his brother Dario pushes him in excitement because he thought Raphy had won. At this moment, Mitch takes the advantage back and wins the elimination. Dario and Raphy get eliminated due to a bonehead move. Meanwhile, Mitch and Cory would go on a hot streak, make the final, and finished in 2nd place. Zoinks.
9 JJ and Simone vs. Adam and Brittany Exes 2
This elimination might throw you off, and the reason it is on here is that the crowd watching the elimination and providing confessionals for it, put it over the top. The Challenge often has headbangers eliminations, endurance comps, puzzles, or involve feats of speed and skill. When Adam and Brittany took on JJ and Simone for the first ALL AYTO elimination, MTV decided to make them eat mini brownies, yucca sticks, and patacones. All of which are delicious, by the way.
In an elimination where Adam is killing himself to eat 7 mini brownies, and where John is struggling to eat patacones, the peanut gallery is ripping them apart. My favorite figure in this elimination is Knight. Knight starts a “John” chant as JJ is eating, and after the elimination, he and Zach split a patacone. This episode was an incredible exhibition of the casts’ comedy ability. They truly cut into these AYTO rookies and roasted them the entire time.
Sometimes being taken out of the typical competitive element is more entertaining than a headbanger.
8 Abram vs. Brad Inferno 2
We are going from a comedy elimination to an elimination, which was pure action. In the first game of Balls In, Brad and Abram went for each other’s jugular in an intense game that went back and forth. Abram and Brad set their hype levels up to 11. In the end, Abram wins 3–2 in the best of 5, where Brad’s final attempt bounces off the rim of the basket. The confessionals from Abram elevate this elimination as he goes from speaking calmly to letting all of his anger come through his voice.
This is the Challenge at its best. Two great competitors are trying to kill each other while flames are flaring in the background (literally). My favorite part is after Abram wins, he talks shit to the Good Guys team watching from the crowd. It elicits a response out of Darrell: “I’ll take you on any day. See me tonight, little poodle. You ain’t so tough. I’m fed, I’d beatch’ yo ass, and you know it, I can see it in your eyes.”
Fired up Darrell + Fired up Abram = a classic elimination.
7 Amanda vs. Ashley vs. Nicole Invasion of the Champions
A two for one elimination. In the first-ever triple threat elimination in Challenge history, Amanda, Ashley, and Nicole played a threeway version of Tug of War. When you have chords attached to yourself and two other people, you’re going to feel the weight of both people pulling against you. Let’s say Amanda weighs 110, Ashley weighs 125, and Nicole weighs 140. 110 lb Amanda is feeling 265 lbs pull her from two different directions while she is trying to push herself forward. That is quite intense.
Nicole smartly turned around and pulled the other two girls whenever they began to near their bells (usually Amanda). Eventually, Amanda and Ashley realized they’d rather take their chances against Nicole one on one, rather than go against their best friend. In the end, Nicole’s vendetta with Amanda was stronger than Ashley as Ashley rang the bell and won an elimination where she was doing the worst out of the three. Ashley would then go on to win the entire season.
Meanwhile, the second elimination between Nicole and Amanda was even more exciting. They were tied together at the hip with a rope. The goal was to get two feet outside the barrier outside of a circular barrier, best of 3. On paper, it seemed like a physical “Balls In” type elimination. It was, but because the players got attached at the hip, a player could slip their feet out first and thus get the win. Amanda played a smart strategy of shifting momentum at the last minute and diving out. She lost the first round as her one foot made it out, but the other foot hit the rope barrier and was a literal inch away from being out. Amanda won the point in the second round with the same strategy.
By the third round, Nicole realized she had to change her approach and wrestled Amanda to the floor to keep her from diving out; winning by crawling backward. Nicole went into the one on one elimination so confidently, yet by the third round, she was terrified that she’d lose to Amanda. Being in the final with Ashley and Camila is an excellent what-if, as Amanda is just as good as Ashley at most challenges.
6 Jordan & Marlon vs. Ty and Leroy Rivals 2
An elimination that even if you had no stake in it, had you standing on your couch. Rookies Jordan and Marlon took on the physical specimens on Leroy and Ty. Leroy was viewed as a top competitor after a strong run on his rookie season and then eliminating Wes on his second. Ty had won three straight eliminations during his season prior, one of which was against Abram. Despite having roughly forty pounds on Jordan and Marlon, they lost 1–2 in four-person hall-brawl.
Jordan and Marlon won the first round with speed. Leroy and Ty won the second round with force. And then, the third round was a clusterfuck. Ty was inches away from hitting the bell in the third round to sinch a victory. Marlon was able to hold him back long enough for Jordan to use a spin move on Leroy and race for the bell in time to pull out the upset. Jordan and Marlon had performed well in the daily challenges, but on the biggest stage and in the darkest moment, they pulled it out. From there, they’d go on to make the final and place third.
Marlon would never go on another season. However, for Jordan, this was his coming-out party. He has since won two out of three seasons. Jordan is now staking a legitimate claim as the greatest ever to play the game. Imagine how differently fans and even production would view Jordan if Ty had been able to hit the bell first.
5 Susie vs. Kim The Ruins
I ranked this as the #1 Pole Wrestle in Challenge History in a previous article. It only ends up being #5 in total eliminations because it meant more within its group than it does in the broader picture of all Challenge history.
Ranking Every Pole Wrestle in Challenge History
Pole Wrestle is the greatest physical eliminations in Challenge history. It is the simplest and purest physical…
Kim was a pretty girl from the South, and Susie was a strategic bookworm who dominated competitions despite never working out. For Kim, an elimination win meant she would get a spot in the final. Susie was playing for her life as the only remaining champion girl. With individual bank accounts, they had a decent amount of money on the line (17k for Susie and 8k for Kim).
Classically, the game of pole wrestle uses a pole (no duh); in this version, they use a rope. Which I don’t know if you realize, is incredibly dangerous. Players can tie the rope around their body, shift it onto awkward positions, and, as seen in the photos provided, you can mini powerbomb someone using the rope.
MTV did not give a fuck about the safety of either of these girls. Is it appalling? Absolutely. Was it entertaining? Hell yes. MTV even added rain to this elimination to make it more intense.
In the end, Susie pulled the win out and remained undefeated for her entire Challenge career. Four seasons, four finals, two wins, and a spotless 4–0 elimination record.
4 Knight and Preston vs. Derek and Robb Rivals 2
Hate me if you want to, but Snapper, aka Blind Stick Fighting, is my favorite elimination in Challenge history. Sometimes we as fans (me especially), take the game way too seriously. We talk about how one person would dominate another person is this physical, or someone would outrun another player in a final.
At the end of the day, players are on their knees at the whim of the Challenge gods (aka production). If production goes, “hey before you get to the final worth 125k, we’re gonna have you stick fight blind-folded to decide who gets to stay”, you have to do it. The Challenge is ridiculous sometimes, and either you have fun and adapt, or you whine and complain.
The funniest part about this elimination is it includes Knight and Preston. Historically, two of the worst competitors in Challenge history (Knight has the lowest daily challenge win % of anyone who has participated in 15 or more). Somehow they figure out an ingenious strategy. Knight stays low and away while Preston directs him using their code word “NOLA” until it is the right time to strike. It resulted in Knight and Preston winning an elimination and influencing how players would play the elimination years later on Champs vs. Pros. Knight and Preston walked so CM Punk and Wes could run. Also, MTV named an episode the prior season “The Dark Knight,” and for this episode, it was aptly titled “The Dark Knight Rises.”
3 Zach vs. CJ Battle of the Seasons
What sometimes gets forgotten in the Zach and CJ elimination is that CJ was a college football player. Yes, he was a punter. He played football for a lot of his life, and athletically he’s probably not far off from Zach when you include skill, balance, and timing. In this game, CJ remembers his tackling drills and automatically takes out the big guys’ legs. It makes sense why Zach was a wide receiver instead of a tight end; his blocking skills are atrocious.
When watching this elimination, most fans were rooting against Zach. Zach and Frank were the bad guys. They were the evil duo running the game and treating their teammate (Sam) awfully. Then they get put up against CJ, the male model with Christian beliefs leading his team to victory with hard-work and a can-do attitude. It was a battle of good vs. evil where the good guy kicked the bad guys’ ass repeatedly. CJ won the first round 2–0, and then in a sudden death best of 3, CJ had his most decisive win over Zach to go up 1–0. There is an added subplot of Zach is dating Jonna (CJ’s teammate), and CJ is trying to woo Ashley Kelsey (Zach’s teammate and ex GF).
TJ blows the horn for the second overtime round, and Zach leaps over CJ when he attempts to hit him low. I was still very new to the Challenge when I watched that elimination the first time, and let me tell you, my jaw dropped. The concept of one big male jumping over another grown man in a tiny hallway never crossed my mind until it happened. CJ expects Zach to repeat the same strategy the next round, Zach does not go for a leap, and out-muscles CJ to get the third point and eliminate Team Cancun. My heart drops. The good guy loses, and we never see CJ Koegel on a Challenge again. His return on Battle of the Seasons was reminiscent of Frank Roessler from Gauntlet 3. He came from out of nowhere and stole our hearts, and then he’s gone for good.
I tell people that the Battle of the Seasons is an excellent season if you want to learn about life. You detest Team San Diego, yet they keep winning. Not all stories have happy endings.
2 Derrick vs. Wes The Duel 1
This is THE Challenge Elimination. Challenge eliminations were still relatively new by the time the Duel happened. By this point in time, players had created resumes, though. Derrick had the most elimination wins in a season by a male competitor by winning four times on the Gauntlet 2. The following season, Wes broke the record and won 5 exiles on Fresh Meat 1. Wes’s record of 5–0 went toe to toe in elimination with Derrick (5–2) after Wes called Derrick out in the Duel. It was a heavyweight championship battle between the two biggest prizefighters. The winner would remain in the game and hold the record for most elimination wins.
Wes had never lost an elimination. One could argue Wes’s wins were less impressive due to the fact he and Casey carried much less weight than any of the other teams they faced. Likewise, he was entering a physical elimination, which was Derrick’s forte. Derrick was a humble, hard-working player, while Wes was an arrogant work smarter, not harder type of player. In a cutthroat elimination, the players go back and forth and continually get reset as you are not allowed to stand-up in this version. Derrick is savvy in physical eliminations; he knows the angles and will know when to get a restart when his opponent gets momentum. Watch his elimination with Joss closely, and notice how Derrick uses the restarts to his advantage. It’s almost like a wrestler having the awareness to roll out the ring to prevent their opponent from getting the pin.
In the end, Wes gets the win and it propels him to the stratosphere. He is now 6–0, has eliminated the other elimination beast. His previous wins get validated by beating someone of Derrick’s caliber. Wes then wins the entire season. He rides this win for over a decade. In many ways, it overshadows the fact he’s generally been not great in every other physical elimination he’s done. Regardless, nobody can take away the title of the elimination king from Wes. He had the greatest start in Challenge history and is possibly the most important player in the show’s history.
When Derrick loses, he talks about needing to reevaluate his life. This confessional rips my heart out as you can tell, Derrick hates losing, and especially to someone like Wes. They play the game in such opposite ways, and he is questioning his existence. Luckily, Derrick comes in the next season on the Inferno 3, wins the final elimination, wins the whole season, and then goes on a three-season winning streak with Inferno 3, the Island, and the Ruins. Today, he is still around hosting the Challenge Mania Podcast and kicking British ass as a mercenary.
It’s hard to imagine us getting an elimination of this scale anymore.
1 CT vs. Bananas Cutthroat
For this video, I made sure to copy the URL at the time of the CT/Bananas backpack. When people ask me why I watch the Challenge, this is the clip I show them.
A 180 lb grown man is not supposed to be lifted in their air off another grown man’s back like that. Cutthroat CT probably could have stormed Area 51 without a problem. I don’t really know what to say about this elimination that you can’t just see in the video.
Honestly, the highlight of this elimination is Abram’s face after CT wins:
He looks so disgusted that he’s going to need to create another tattoo just to get over the traumatic experience.
The Challenge is awesome sometimes.