A decade ago, Rivals was airing on MTV. This began an era of Challenge seasons based around relationships and gimmicky themes. Admittedly, some of these shows were awesome. The competition was good and the drama was next-level.
Casting must have been a nightmare for production, as they needed to balance the need for a buzzworthy show, casting rookies, and scaring away perspective cast members. This meant some teams loosely fit the theme, or in the case of Rivals 2 they were completely forced onto the show. Behind the scenes, we knew production had to deal with some disappointments when they couldn’t assemble the perfect cast.
A lot of this is speculation, although some of it is rooted in preexisting casting rumors. If I was casting the show, I would have wanted these people to be there. But what can you do? Some people decline, and sometimes their replacements become stars of The Challenge.
Some seasons are omitted from this list because the theme doesn’t require specific qualifications. Seasons like The Duel or War of the Worlds is doesn’t need a single person to strengthen the theme.
Nany Gonzalez (Battle of the Exes)- Another thing ruined by Adam Royer
Dustin Zito (Rivals 2)- He would have made sense as Frank’s partner.
Heather Marter (Battle of the Exes 2)- This time she would have been paired with an actual ex. Still would have been Dustin though.
Robb Schreiber & Marie Roda (Battle of the Exes 2)- These two are real exes, not a behind the scenes hook up.
Theresa Gonzalez (Dirty Thirty)- She actually makes dirty moves. Unlike half the cast.
Puck Rainey (The Inferno 2)
The Inferno 2 has a carefully crafted cast full of some of the most bad ass people we’ve ever seen. In 2005, when the term “bad ass” came to mind, most people thought of the original Real World bad boy: Puck. He was a controversial figure who competed on Battle of the Sexes, and he was actually pretty great at the game. Rumor has it, production begged him to appear, but to no avail. He wanted a ridiculously high sum of money, so production passed.
Katie Doyle (Rivals)
Katelynn is an example of someone who was great for The Real World. The Challenge? Not so much. While Sarah had a minor argument with Katelynn on Fresh Meat 2, her bigger fight was on Rivals with Katie who was wielding a plunger. Katie is a firecracker, so this likely would have been an upgrade for Sarah… though she still would have blamed her partner for her loss.
Coral Smith (Battle of the Exes)
Coral undoubtedly had a role in the formation of The Challenge and should be recognized for her gameplay and commentary. Production has tried to get her back, but apparently she kind of regretted declining Battle of the Exes. It would have been the perfect environment for her, as she had friends on the cast and would have worked with Abe. The two dated during Battle of the Sexes 2, and by all accounts they remained friendly. Instead, Abe was paired with Cara Maria. The two were still dating, though it was a rocky “on-again-off-again” relationship at the time.
Danny Jamieson & Melinda Stolp (Battle of the Exes/ Battle of the Exes 2)
There may not be a Real World couple more recognizable than Danny and Melinda. The duo did seasons together while engaged and would eventually wed. By the time Cutthroat aired, Melinda announced they had separated. Production definitely wanted them to do Exes together: not just because they’re recognizable, but also for the buzz a married couple would create. However, it never happened on either exes season. It seems unlikely that this was due to animosity between the two because they did Battle of the Seasons together. They were friendly and respectful to one another. If they did an Exes season, it would have been solely for the buzz. Neither Danny nor Melinda seem to have a vengeful bone in their body regarding their split.
Johanna Botta (Battle of the Seasons)
While Danny and Melinda reunited in Turkey, Johanna wanted to stay far away. Production would have loved a little Fresh Meat reunion where two couples had to work together. This time, they were exes. However, Johanna had a bad time on The Ruins and declined. As a result, Lacey appeared. She’s an incredibly nice person, but The Challenge didn’t feel like the right environment for her.
Nia Moore & Averey Tressler (Rivals 2)
After Real World Portland, the most memorable fight was between Nia & Averey. It started with some dog poop and ended with some fists in the face. Then, we got Jessica and Anastasia on Rivals 2? While Ana did provide some drama that season, we all know the Nia & Averey were the ones we really needed.
Cory Wharton (Battle of the Exes 2)
Right after his Real World season, Cory was probably the biggest name from the show. He had a lot of buzz behind him, MTV knew it, but they couldn’t get him a partner. Jenny was back with Brian and wouldn’t do a season with an ex. Meanwhile, Lauren wanted to stay away from MTV. So Cory couldn’t do the season, even though he wanted to.
Cara Maria Sorbello (Rivals 3)
Once upon a time, production wasn’t swatting Cara Maria off of casts. After Bloodlines, the new Champion took some time off the show. Unsurprisingly, production wanted her on the cast of Rivals 3, likely to be paired with Wes. Not only was she a big name in the franchise at the moment, the show could have desperately used some competition. However, Cara Maria spent time with family rather than do the show. Sadly, her mother’s boyfriend (a father figure in her life) passed away shortly after visiting her in Montana. She made a great personal choice skipping the season, but left viewers with a predictable ending.
Rachel Robinson (Invasion of the Champions)
Let’s be real: production probably didn’t want Ashley on the Champions team. She’s a nice girl, but she isn’t as established in the franchise as other winners. They probably wanted Rachel or Evelyn to fill the spot, but Evelyn was in school at the time. This left Rachel, who is a fitness trainer and winner of a season with an individual format. Rumor has it, production begged her. She was also early in a pregnancy so she had to decline. This did encourage production to reach out to Shane, so some good did come of it (depending on who you ask).
Tori Hall (Final Reckoning)
Brad’s return on The Challenge was an entertaining mess, but he never had a lot of enemies when he came back. On Final Reckoning he was paired with Kyle for some reason, creating a strong team with little difficulty working together. During Vendettas, Tori mentioned on Twitter that she’d love to return and be paired with Brad so she could steal the money from him. Then, the next season had the exact format she described. Production likely saw the stars align, but Tori declined. I can only imagine the number of voicemails she had on her phone.