The first ten seasons of The Challenge were quite varied. We started with seasons where people didn’t vote each other off, then we moved to the elimination-based seasons like Battle of the Seasons and Battle of the Sexes (plus it’s later, inferior sequel). Emphasis was placed on Real World vs. Road Rules, and even Battle of the Sexes has a balance between the two shows. During this period, people like Coral, Veronica, The Miz, Abe, Theo V., and Rachel became the regulars on the show and fans anticipated seeing them each season.
Then, in 2005 we saw a change. The Inferno 2 saw a shift away from The Real World & Road Rules balance by placing “Good Guys” against “Bad Asses,” but the cast was largely comprised of the regulars. Then, The Gauntlet 2 came around and viewers realized The Challenge was never going to be the same.
The biggest change can be found in the cast. If you look all of regulars of the time, they were noticeably absent from this cast. This was not because MTV wanted to give fresh faces a chance to stand out. Rather, the regulars were coming to production with more demands. Certain cast members who had been central to the plot line were demanding more money to appear, and if they were not receiving pay they were following through with their threats not to appear. Other cast members were trying to build the cast, and refused to appear alongside their rivals. Keep in mind, this is before the pre-production stage was so heavily regulated. Cast members would call each other and form alliances prior to setting foot on The Challenge. Allegedly, this still happens today, but it’s against the rules and a risky move for cast members.
Allegedly, the pay structure for cast members changed with The Gauntlet 2. At the time, rookies were paid weekly and their overall pay was based on performance while the veterans received a flat rate just to appear. Not only did this show value in returners, but it also set the structure to encourage people to return. The pay structure has since changed, but this appeared to be a response to important cast members asking for better pay.
Fans of The Challenge tend to like The Gauntlet 2, but for production this season was met with many changes. This was the first real season where there was a struggle to meet the demands of MTV and the demands of the cast, but the result restructured The Challenge and allowed it to survive through casting difficulties. As we continue to see the show evolve, it’s clear that production has learned a thing or two since 2005.