MTV has one show that has been airing for over two decades at this point: The Challenge. While Ridiculousness has probably received more air time, The Challenge has a much more vibrant history. Fans of the show have come and gone, only to see MTV is still putting effort into their staple competition show.
In fact, The Challenge has seen four spin-offs and 36 main seasons. All together, this makes 40 seasons of the show. Over time a lot of interesting things have happened. Some are swept under the rug or forgotten. These little tidbits are part of the reason The Challenge has such a robust history with so many dedicated fans.
Here, I am going to give a list of fun facts about the show. Most of these things are overlooked and understated, but they’re not exactly news. If you’re a long-term fan of the show you won’t find a lot of surprises here, just a fun trip down memory lane.
I am going to dive into some behind the scenes history, but I’m not going to be discussing casting or competition rumors. Everything on this list is true; at the very least it has been discussed by cast members. Rumors can be fun to discuss, but the facts aren’t up for debate.
1. The first “Challenge” season is “Road Rules” All Stars. It mimicked a Road Rules season with a cast of five prior Real World roommates. Sean and Rachel met on this season, and they’re still married today.
2. The first time Road Rules overlapped with Real World was on Road Rules: Second Adventure. The cast had to break into the Real World Miami house and steal the 8-ball from the pool table. They did it successfully by pretending to be the cleaning staff. Road Rules: Maximum Velocity Tour would later mimic this when they had to steal the robotic dog from the Real World: New Orleans house. Melissa hid the cast’s 8-ball in anticipation.
3. On Road Rules: Islands, the cast competed against Real World: Boston as part of their mission. This was kind of a backdoor pilot for the modern Challenge, and it was repeated during Real World: Seattle when they faced the Road Rules: Australia cast. Road Rules: The Quest would later face Real World: Back to New York, and Road Rules: Campus Crawl would face Real World: New Orleans. Road Rules: Latin America faced the Road Rules All Stars cast.
4. Early seasons of The Challenge would feature celebrities as parts of missions. Kobe Bryant was on the Real Word/ Road Rules Challenge. Other notable names were Jennifer Coolidge (Road Rules All Stars), Verne Troyer (Challenge 2000), LL Cool J (Extreme Challenge), and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (Extreme Challenge).
5. Kat Ogden allegedly broke the world record for longest bungee jump on the Stratos-Fear episode of Challenge 2000. Guinness never included the record in its books or website.
6. The Extreme Challenge was supposed to feature a mission where cast members were launched in a medieval-style human catapult. The mission was stopped at the last minute because the testers were significantly injured.
7. The Extreme Challenge also featured a fashion show at a fetish club. The episode never reran after its initial airing. It’s rumored this is due to the sexual nature of the mission or because copywritten characters like The Simpsons were portrayed.
8. Early seasons would feature appearances from other Real World and Road Rules cast members, but two were edited out. Christina Pazsitsky from Road Rules: Australia filled in for Anne on the RW/RR Challenge money chamber. Jon Holmes from Road Rules: Northern Trail appeared during a mission on The Extreme Challenge but was edited out.
9. Production on Battle of the Seasons (2002) needed to pause due to the impact of Hurricane Juliette. The episode featured a song from Basement Jaxx named Romeo.
10. Belou brought her infant daughter onto Battle of the Seasons (2002). Production hired a nanny to help take care of the baby. This is the last time they ever did this, probably for good reason.
11. Five of the six Road Rules finalists on Battle of the Seasons (2002) made deals with Real Worlders to split the prize money so no one would leave empty-handed. Holly didn’t want to make a deal, so she left with no money and Coral got her full cut of the prize money.
12. On the Battle of the Seasons (2002) reunion Mike revealed Lori was supposed to be his partner, not Coral. Lori was afraid to fly after the September 11th attacks in 2001, so she declined.
13. Battle of the Sexes is the last season to use a point-based scoreboard and Inner Circle. Colin Mortensen was the only person who never left the Inner Circle all season.
14. Gladys Sanabria was seven months pregnant while filming Battle of the Sexes. Still, two girls were eliminated before her: Julie and Beth.
15. Dan Rezi was the first person to ever return after being officially eliminated. Later, Devin & Cheyenne would return on Rivals 3 and Ashley Mitchell on Double Agents.
16. Production wanted to film The Gauntlet in Rhode Island, but residents filed injunctions that would have delayed filming. Production ended up in Colorado.
17. Piggy Thomas was originally on The Inferno, but she left for unknown reasons early into the season. She was edited out, though she can be seen in the background during a couple of scenes (like when Dave is explaining the rules). Christena replaced her, which is why Syrus can be seen carrying her bags.
18. 40% of the cast won The Inferno, making it the season with the highest percentage of winners (omitting non-elimination seasons).
19. The Inferno is the last season where the finalists won cars in addition to money. Cars were part of the final prize on: The Extreme Challenge, Battle of the Seasons, Battle of the Sexes, The Gauntlet, and The Inferno.
20. Battle of the Sexes 2 was the last season without elimination rounds. It was also the last season filmed in the United States.
21. MTV.com originally posted a poll while Battle of the Sexes 2 was airing encouraging fans to help cast the next season. Fans voted on whether the contestants were “naughty” or “nice.” The season became The Inferno 2 with Good Guys and Bad Asses. Robin wasn’t even included in the survey online, but she made the cast.
22. The Inferno 2 is the first season with an uneven number of Real Worlders and Road Rulers. The ratio would only widen with future seasons.
23. Jamie Murray was cast as a “Rookie” on The Gauntlet 2 despite having appeared on two prior seasons: The Extreme Challenge and Battle of the Sexes. He claims he doesn’t know why production made the decision, but he didn’t fight it.
24. A Gauntlet 2 elimination named Knock Off can be seen on the Gauntlet wheel. It was never played, so the premise is unknown.
25. The Don’t Bet On It final on The Gauntlet 2 was a last minute decision. Production was planning a longer, more traditional final, but needed to switch it. This is either because cast members saw production mapping the final or due to terrain concerns.
26. Almost all of the Fresh Meat newbies had auditioned for The Real World. The only exception is Ryan. He had dated Shane prior to the season, but this was never formally mentioned on the show.
27. The weight carried in the Exiles during Fresh Meat was determined by the weight of cast members’ luggage. Years later, cast members would confirm production really did weigh their bags.
28. Prior to the start of The Duel, 0 of the 10 males had won a Challenge. As of 2021, 9 of the 10 are Challenge champions. Big Easy is the only exception.
29. The Duel had a live reunion that aired on MTV’s Overdrive online video service. The reunion that aired on MTV is edited, but the whole show could be viewed at one point in time.
30. Many Challenge seasons are filmed over Halloween. Cast members like to pack costumes, and on The Inferno 3 Susie Meister dressed up as TJ Lavin.
31. Evelyn Smith was a teenager when she won The Inferno 3. She was born Feb. 3, 1987 and the final was filmed in late 2006. She was 20 when the episode aired. By contrast, CT was 40 when he won Double Agents.
32. The cast of The Gauntlet 3 was told the show was in danger of being canceled. Ratings were not very strong after The Inferno 3. Perhaps this encouraged the cast to be more dramatic. Obviously, this was not the end of the series.
33. Under Armor became a Challenge sponsor starting on The Gauntlet 3. The partnership is still active fourteen years later.
34. The Gauntlet 3 was the first season to have hour-long episodes. However, The Inferno 3 had multiple occasions when two episodes aired on the same night.
35. The Gauntlet 3’s finale was different than other seasons because teammates could not quit in the final. On The Gauntlet 1, the Real World only received a 10-minute penalty for Coral’s medical departure. Meanwhile, the Veterans lost because Eric was medically disqualified on The Gauntlet 3.
36. Kendal Sheppard was “on standby” for The Island. This meant she’d be a replacement if someone dropped out. According to her, this was a blessing because she received some pay but was a single mother in the process of switching career paths. Perhaps this act of kindness proves production isn’t too bad?
37. A teaser for The Island aired on MTV during Real World: Hollywood featuring Kenny and Johanna kissing in the ocean. The season was still filming at the time.
38. The Duel 2 cast learned a traditional Haka dance for the season intro. CT and Adam appear in the intro even though they were both disqualified before it ever aired.
39. The Ruins was filmed in Thailand and was the first season to film in Asia. This was the sixth continent to host a Challenge. Road Rules: All Stars filmed in North America and the Australian continent. The Extreme Challenge was filmed in Europe. The Duel was filmed in South America, and The Inferno 3 was filmed in Africa.
40. Wes Bergmann didn’t let anyone know he was appearing on The Ruins, so many of the veterans were shocked to see him. Ironically, it’s against contract to discuss your appearance on The Challenge with other cast members prior to departure. Doubly ironic, Wes has built a reputation of “sliding into DMs” to form alliances on his later seasons.
41. Cohutta Grindstaff was the first person to ever beat Wes in elimination on The Ruins. Prior to this, he won 8 eliminations across three seasons.
42. Susie Meister met her future husband on The Ruins. He worked in production, but they didn’t date until after the show. No, he did not help her win.
43. The Challengers only won one daily challenge on The Ruins, making them the worst-performing team on a full team Challenge. But, the Blue Team on Bloodlines and the Stars on Champs vs. Stars accumulated zero wins.
44. Fresh Meat 2 changed the name of the show from “The Real World/ Road Rules Challenge” to just “The Challenge.”
45. Jonna Mannion was supposed to be on Fresh Meat 2 but she lost her passport prior to the appearance. This is why Evelyn arrives late for the show; she’s Jonna’s replacement.
46. Darrell Taylor was the winner of Fresh Meat, but he was the first person eliminated on Fresh Meat 2.
47. Brandon Nelson was allegedly disqualified for drinking a beer prior to Exile on Fresh Meat 2. According to TJ, The Challenge would never allow someone to drink before competing. However, Cara Zavaleta took a shot before her Gauntlet with Kina on The Gauntlet 2.
48. Camila Nakagawa debuted on Cutthroat after appearing on the Spring Break Challenge. She’s the first and only person from that show to do a proper Challenge.
49. Brad Fiorenza and Tori Hall were married when they won Cutthroat. They are the only married couple to win a Challenge together in history.
50. Rivals was the first season without any Road Rulers on it. By default, it was the first season a Road Ruler didn’t appear in the final.
51. When Adam Royer was disqualified on Rivals, he was replaced by Leroy’s friend Mike Ross. Leroy’s jersey then changed from brown to red.
52. Paula Meronek won Rivals on her eighth season. This is the most appearances ever taken to win a season by a female, but Sarah Rice and Cara Maria have the record.
53. Rivals was the first season to change locations aside from the early seasons filmed in Winnebagos. It’s also the first season with an overnight final.
54. Despite the name “Battle of the Exes” Dustin & Heather and Abe & Cara Maria were in relationships during filming.
55. The Battle of the Exes cast had a “Twitter” wall posted on the kitchen wall. Production needed to tell them to stop posting on it because it was vulgar and starting fights, but it can be seen in the background of early episodes on the season.
56. A Real World Sydney team was assembled for Battle of the Seasons but was disqualified for unknown reasons. Even the cast doesn’t know, but they filmed an intro segment so they had to get some payment.
57. Team Fresh Meat was flown in as a replacement team. Cara Maria was a last-minute addition, which is why her name is taped onto her jersey on early episodes. Carley Johnson was supposed to be on the team.
58. Bananas and Frank were rivals on Rivals 2 despite only having exchanges on Twitter. However, there is some merit to this pairing. Bananas was very bitter he wasn’t cast on Battle of the Seasons while Frank was vocal about the new generation of competitors during Battle of the Seasons.
59. The XXX Games on Rivals 2 has a stage that was never aired on TV. One cast member had to pump a keg while the other had to collect a milky substance in a cup. Likely this was unaired because the premise was too sexual.
60. Rivals 2 was CT’s 9th Challenge appearance and his first win. Of all the current Challenge champions, he has the most Challenge appearances prior to winning.
61. When Paula won Rivals 2, she was the first Real World female to win two Challenge seasons. She was also the first Challenge to appear on ten seasons.
62. Johnny Bananas appeared on his tenth season: Free Agents and won. He was the first Challenger to win five seasons, and he remains the Challenger with the most wins (though he has seven now).
63. Battle of the Exes 2 is the first season to feature Are You the One? cast members. Of the four to appear on the season, only Simone has done any subsequent seasons.
64. Battle of the Exes 2 also introduced the Battle of the Ex-ile twist, making it the first time a competitor has earned their way back into the house.
65. Battle of the Bloodlines introduced 16 family members into the Challenge world. However, Mitch was credited as Cory’s cousin on Bloodlines. On Teen Mom, Mitch was credited at Cory’s friend. Teen Mom is the liar.
66. Cory Wharton holds the record for the most consecutive daily challenge wins. This happened on Bloodlines. Six wins with the Red Team and two with Mitch.
67. Abram and his brother Mike pitched a show called the Boise Brothers to MTV in 2006. The show was never picked up, but MTV was interested. Perhaps Bloodlines is a reminder of the show that could have been.
68. The cast of Rivals 3 jumped out of a plane at the start of the show. This hadn’t been part of an introduction since the original Battle of the Seasons.
69. Rivals 3 had 8 people leave without a proper elimination, the highest on any Challenge season. These people were: Leroy, Averey, Brandon, Briana, Thomas, Simone, Tony, and Camila.
70. Sadly, a crew member died while scouting filming locations for the Rivals 3 finale when a helicopter crashed.
71. Rivals 3 allowed Bananas to steal Sarah’s prize money. This was the first time a competitor earned over $200,000 on a season, and it allegedly cursed Johnny.
72. Invasion of the Champions was the first format to intentionally stagger the entry of cast members. All four of the rookies eliminated prior to the Champions entering the house have not returned to The Challenge (Theo, Anika, Anthony, and Bruno). The four rookies who saw the Champions enter the game have reappeared on The Challenge (Sylvia, Kailah, Nicole Z., and Hunter).
73. Cara Maria Sorbello and Darrell Taylor were eliminated from Fresh Meat 2 on the first episode. As a pair, they won Champs vs. Pros together.
74. Dirty Thirty reinvented many aspects of The Challenge. The cast had promo events, the whole cast was invited to the reunion, and the reunion was multiple episodes. Of course, it’s also the first time there was a $1,000,000 prize.
75. Alicia Wright and Briana Lacuesta were supposed to appear on Dirty Thirty as part of the original cast. Ashley joined the cast at the last minute, and Alicia could not compete due to an appendectomy. Production originally had their faces on the cast wall. Jenna originally replaced Alicia.
76. Simone Kelley and Shane Raines are the third and fourth people to be eliminated for violence that wasn’t caught on camera. Ayanna was the first on The Extreme Challenge and CT was the second on The Inferno 3.
77. Nelson Thomas’s disqualification allowed a second male to return in the third Redemption challenge on Dirty Thirty. Jordan was the second male, and he won the whole season.
78. Three alternates were flown to location for Vendettas: Corey Brooks from Big Brother 18, Kellyanne, and Derrick K. None of them were used, despite Eddie’s early departure.
79. Thanks to the inclusion of Big Brother 18 and MTV UK competitors, Vendettas became the first season to recruit outside of MTV USA. This started a long (some would say slippery) slope of off-network casting.
80. Nelson Thomas is the only person to have a “draw” in an elimination. This was against Darrell, a Mercenary on Vendettas.
81. Devin Walker was originally Bananas’s partner on Final Reckoning. He flew all the way to South Africa, but returned home when he heard is father passed away. This is why Bananas did not have a partner originally.
82. Production needed to refilm the final elimination on Final Reckoning due to an equipment malfunction. When TJ originally greets the cast, you can see the structure from the original game, not Milk and Cookies.
83. After winning Final Reckoning, Ashley Mitchell became the wealthiest Challenger ever. She had the highest single-Challenge winnings with her $1,000,000 prize. She was also the first person to cross the million-dollar earnings mark, though she no longer has the highest cumulative prize winnings ever.
84. War of the Worlds allowed Liz and Julia Nolan to compete together. This is the first time siblings appeared on the show outside of Battle of the Bloodlines. Liz promptly left on the first episode, and production even made her dye her hair darker so viewers could tell her apart from her sister.
85. Natalie Negrotti is mostly absent from the final edit of War of the Worlds. This is because she threw glitter all over Zach’s bed and angered production.
86. Theo Campbell won $200,000 for coming in second on War of the Worlds, the highest price for a non-winner.
87. War of the Worlds 2 was originally named “Bloody Hell.” You can hear Johnny Bananas reference the title in the season trailer.
88. Jordan and Tori got engaged on War of the Worlds, the first time we saw a proposal while filming a season, and the first time two Challengers proposed on a season. Don’t expect a wedding special.
89. CT won War of the Worlds 2, his third Challenge victory. All of his first three Challenge championships occurred in Thailand.
90. Rogan was the only person from the UK to win War of the Worlds 2 as part of Team UK. Two of the four reinforcements won; in fact, none of the reinforcements lost an elimination.
91. Total Madness had multiple working titles. Originally it was War of the Worlds 3, but it also had the title “Battle for Independence.” The latter actually aired in some promotional materials that aired on MTV.
92. Total Madness required competitors to earn a skull to get into the final, meaning all finalists competed in an elimination. This is not the first time, all finalists saw an elimination on Fresh Meat 2 and Battle of the Seasons (2012).
93. On Total Madness, we see a lot of drama between Zach Nichols and Jenna Compono over FaceTime. However, the drama between Nelson Thomas and Angela Babicz was edited out of the final product and regulated to online videos.
94. Dee Nguyen was mostly edited out of Total Madness starting on episode 11, but the unedited version of episode 11 aired on MTV Canada.
95. There is an unaired Universal mini-Challenge filmed in early 2020. Likely, it was meant to air during Total Madness as promotional material. Due to the pandemic and Universal’s limited operations during the time, it was pulled.
92. Melissa Reeves was pregnant during her whole time on Total Madness. Fortunately, her daughter was born without any complications. She named her daughter Vienna because she was filming The Challenge final in Vienna, Austria when she found out she was pregnant.
96. On Total Madness five people with power volunteered for elimination to win a Gold Skull, but only Jenna Compono was successful. Only two people volunteered on Double Agents: CT and Leroy. Both were successful.
97. Half of the rookies on Double Agents left, quit, or were forced to leave. Natalie needed to leave due to a positive pregnancy test, Liv left after an arm injury, Lio left due to mental health concerns, Lolo quit due to frustrations with the game, and Nam left due to a back injury.
98. Amber B. faced Amber M. in elimination on Double Agents, the first time two people with the same name on their jersey faced each other on a main series Challenge. Jenn Lee and Jenny West (both Jennifer) were the first time two people with the same name faced each other on Total Madness. Ashley M. faced Ashley K. on Champs vs. Pros.
99. Mark Long has a Challenge career spanning over two decades, but he won his first ever elimination on All Stars.
100. Of the ten finalists on All Stars, only one had never competed on a season hosted by TJ Lavin. That person was Yes, and he won the season. Maybe TJ needs to do a better job whipping his competitors into shape?
Challenge Career Facts
101. Johnny Bananas has won 7 Challenge seasons, more than anyone else. Every time he won a season, he won at least one elimination in the season. He made the Inferno 3 and Rivals 2 finals without going into eliminations. He lost those seasons.
102. Johnny Bananas has the most elimination losses: 13. He was the first male to lose two eliminations in one season. This happened with Nany on Battle of the Exes 2.
103. Aneesa Ferreira has the most elimination losses for the females: 11. She also has a season where she lost more than one elimination: Dirty Thirty.
104. Shane Landrum has the most Challenge appearances without seeing a final: 7. Somehow, he was still cast on Champs vs. Stars 2. He didn’t make the final.
105. Shane Landrum also has the largest gap between Challenge appearances (omitting the All Stars spinoff). He skipped 16 seasons between Fresh Meat and Invasion of the Champions.
106. If you include All Stars, Teck Holmes had a 21 year gap between appearances. He did season 3: The Challenge 2000. He returned for All Stars, which is the 40th season to air sequentially with spinoffs included.
107. Wes Bergman hold the record for most elimination wins with 13. Add 5 to that tally if you count the Champs spinoffs.
108. Cara Maria holds the record for elimination wins for the women with 12. She has also returned to the house twice by winning Redemption challenges. This omits her Jungle on Rivals 2 where no one was eliminated.
109. Leroy Garrett has the most appearances in a final without a win: 5 (Rivals, Battle of the Exes 2, Vendettas, War of the Worlds 2, and Double Agents). Jenn Grijalva holds the record for the women with 4.
110. Kenny Santucci has the most consecutive appearances in finals: 6 (The Inferno 3, The Gauntlet 3, The Island, The Ruins, Fresh Meat 2, Rivals).
111. Cara Maria Sorbello has the most consecutive appearances in finals without taking a season off: 5 (Dirty Thirty, Vendettas, Final Reckoning, War of the Worlds, War of the Worlds 2). She only won Vendettas.
112. Only three seasons have one winner: Vendettas, War of the Worlds, and All Stars. Rivals 3 and Final Reckoning allowed one person to take all the money, but Sarah and Hunter are technically winners.
113. Aneesa and Paula have faced each other five times in eliminations: The Duel, The Inferno 3, The Duel 2, Rivals, and Battle of the Exes. Paula has a leg up, having won three of the five.
114. Coral Smith, Laurel Stucky and Darrell Taylor made the final on their first four seasons. Darrell won all four while Coral only won Battle of the Seasons and Laurel only won Free Agents. Susie Meister technically qualifies for this list, but she couldn’t get eliminated on The Extreme Challenge.
115. Laurel Stucky has the longest streak of elimination wins without a loss: 9. This spans from Fresh Meat 2 to Invasion. Wes holds the record for the men, with 8 wins on Fresh Meat, The Duel, and The Ruins.
116. As of Spies, Lies & Allies, Bananas holds the record for most appearances at 20. If you include spin-offs, CT is tied with him. Spies, Lies, & Allies will be his 19th season, but he did all three Champs spinoffs while Bananas only did two.
117. Landon Lueck might be the most notable name to never do a Challenge with Bananas. Landon also only appeared on sequel seasons: The Inferno 2, The Gauntlet 2, The Duel 2, and Fresh Meat 2.
118. Two people from the Champs spin-offs have migrated to the main series: Jozea Flores and Lolo Jones.
119. Sadly, four Challenge alum are now deceased: Michelle Parma, Danny Dias, Diem Brown, and Ryan Knight. Michelle only competed on The Extreme Challenge while Danny only competed on The Gauntlet 2. Diem and Knight have done multiple seasons and both appeared on Rivals 2 and Battle of the Exes 2.
120. Three married couples have competed on Challenges together: Chadwich & Holly (Battle of the Seasons), Brad & Tori (Cutthroat), and Bayleigh & Swaggy C (Total Madness). Danny & Melinda were never married when they did a season together.
121. On The Inferno 1, the Real World lost with 4 team members and $40,000 in the bank. On The Inferno 2, the Bad Asses lost with 7 team members and $70,000 in the bank. On The Inferno 3 the Good Guys lost with 6 team members and $60,000 in the bank. This means every loser in an Inferno final left with $10,000.
122. Johnny Bananas, Wes Bergmann, Leroy Garrett, Camila Nakagawka, and Sarah Rice appeared on all three Rivals. CT Tamburello and Abram Boise appeared on all three Infernos. Only Katie Doyle appeared on all three Gauntlets.
123. Derrick Kosinski and Kenny Santucci are both 3-time Challenge champs. They won all three seasons together: The Inferno 3, The Island, and The Ruins.
124. Johnny Bananas holds the record for most consecutive seasons. He did 12 straight, starting with Rivals 2 and ending with Total Madness. As of Spies, Lies, and Allies, Kyle Christie has the longest active streak with 7 (starting on Vendettas).
125. TJ Lavin has hosted 27 consecutive season of The Challenge as of Spies, Lies, and Allies. This omits spinoffs, though he did host All Stars. If anyone ever breaks this record, we’re going to have 65 Challenge seasons.
I am sure there are MANY more fun facts about The Challenge. Feel free to share any you know. In fact, I stumbled upon this list on YouTube while researching my list. I didn’t watch it until I finished my list, but it’s a great watch without too much overlap!