The Challenge (formerly, and forever in our hearts, The Real World/Road Rules Challenge) returns for it's 25th (!!) season on Thursday, once again pitting members of MTV's repertory company of professional fighting boozebags against each other in a series of physical challenges and interpersonal betrayals. The show is trash, of course, but it can be incredibly compelling trash, and since the cast members for each season are pulled from the same slowly-replenishing pool of contestants, The Challenge can often feature some of the more compelling long-form storylines on television.
But foremost, The Challenge is about competition. Random tests of brute strength, agility, and (far more rarely) quick-thinking that, when combined with the right bullying social strategy can score you some cash prize once or twice a year. Stripping away the fights and hookups, which contestants have been the most successful at actually winning on The Challenge? That's what we set out to discover.
The methodology is pretty simple. We tallied all the competitions from every season of The Challenge since the first Battle of the Seasons. (All seasons previous to this one didn't operate as elimination competitions and thus would skew our results.) Each individual win in a competition was worth one point. In this case, an "individual" win can sometimes come while competing as a pair (as in the Rivals and Battle of the Exes seasons) or as a season-specific small team. Competitions won as part of a larger team do not count for our purposes, since it's too easy for weak players to be pulled along. (Also, winning elimination face-offs also don't count, since those are generally competitions between players chosen for their weaknesses, either interpersonally or athletically.) Additionally, winning the grand prize of a given season was worth five points. Total points were tallied up.
So who came out on top?
Best Cumulative Challenge Performance
Chris "CT" Tamburello: 26 points (21 individual wins +1 season win)
Landon Leuck: 26 points (11 individual wins + 3 season wins)
Kenny Santucci: 25 points (10 individual wins + 3 season wins)
Darrell Taylor: 24 points (4 individual wins + 4 season wins)
Paula Meronek: 24 points (14 individual wins + 2 season wins)
Evan Starkman: 23 points (13 individual wins + 2 season wins)
Evelyn Smith: 22 points (7 individual wins + 3 season wins)
Derrick Kosinski: 22 points (7 individual wins + 3 season wins)
Theo Vonkurnatowski: 19 points (9 individual wins + 2 season wins)
Veronica Portillo: 17 points (7 individual wins + 2 season wins)
Wes Bergman: 16 points (6 individual wins + 2 season wins)
Rachel Robinson: 15 points (5 individual wins + 2 season wins)
Abram Boise: 14 points (4 individual wins + 2 season wins)
Emily Schromm: 13 points (8 individual wins + 1 season win)
Tyler Duckworth: 13 points (3 individual wins + 2 season wins)
Susie Meister: 13 points (3 individual wins + 2 season wins)
Jamie Murray: 12 points (2 individual wins + 2 season wins)
- The breakdown: Eight (8) original Real Worlders in the top twenty, nine (9) Road Rules alums, and three (3) who debuted on a Fresh Meat season of The Challenge. Thirteen men; seven women. The Real World: Key West is the most represented cast, with three (Johnny Bananas, Paula, and Tyler).
- Obviously, CT obliterated the competition when it came to individual wins, but his only grand prize win came fairly recently, when he had to pair up with Wes for Rivals II.
- It should be noted that most of Johnny Bananas' points came from winning four seasons, a testament to his ability to exploit personal relationships and generally bully his competitors into keeping him safe.
- Paula, whose storyline for so long was about her inability to win a Challenge, has performed the best of all female contestants, mostly due to the fact that she's participated in ten total Challenges. Her two season wins came in each Rivals season, paired with stronger women like Ev and Emily.
- That Landon managed to finish second on this list after only four seasons, and Jodi finished third among women in only three seasons, should give them special consideration.
- Theo and Veronica are the only competitors on this list to have competed in the Battle of the Seasons challenge that kicked off the modern Challenge era.
- Somewhat more interesting than who's on this list is who isn't: Challenge mainstays like Brad Fiorenza or Diem Brown or Robin Hibbard. Renowned dominant athletes like Alton Williams or Dan Setzler. Not to mention the two cast members who arguably made the Challenge into what it is today: Mike "The Miz" Mizanin and Coral Smith. You forget that the Miz only participated in five challenges, winning only once, and that Coral was kind of terrible for a few seasons there.