Let’s be honest. Challenge fans can be somewhat judgemental. So when an upcoming installment is revealed, we like to formulate our opinions of the season before we even see a single episode.
In some cases, we’re super hyped. In other cases, we expect the worst and meet the season with complaints. But in some cases, we were wrong. Fans thought the show would underwhelm, and with our low expectations, it overwhelmed.
Keep in mind: This is written from a pre-season perspective before episode 1 aired. It’s also fairly subjective, but it’s not just my opinion. It echoes the voices of other Challenge fans.
After Dirty Thirty, a strong season with an equally strong cast, we saw a lot of the same names on the show with some really weird new faces mixed in. MTV fans weren’t exactly thrilled to see the Big Brother players crossover, and the UK players seemed to be a really odd addition. Yet they infused a lot of personality into the season. Kyle was funny, Melissa stirred the pot more than Bananas, and Kayleigh & Natalie entered into an epic rivalry.
Surprisingly, the cast carried this season. The format was pretty wild and nonsensical, but it was a fun season to watch.
4. The Inferno 2
Normally when we have doubts about an upcoming season, it results from casting choices. In 2004 and 2005, the Inferno 2 had fans confused because the theme was so vague. Good Guys vs. Bad Asses (or naughty vs. nice as it was originally speculated) had an uneven distribution of Real Worlders and Road Rulers, and it changed the mold we’d been accustomed to.
Needless to say, the season delivered. It has one of the most iconic (and famous) casts, and the drama has been unmatched by later seasons.
The end of the 00s and the beginning of the 10s was a weird time for The Challenge. During this period, the status quo involved more aggressive gameplay and a very hostile environment. The casting on Cutthroat shook this up. We had a more fun season with a weird format, but it was at the expense of some of the show’s biggest names.
While some people don’t get the hype, many fans love the experimentation that happened on this season. Without it, Fresh Meat 2 cast members like Cara Maria and Laurel wouldn’t have had their chances to shine. It also broke up the predictable nature of alliance-driven seasons (to some degree) and found a way to make the game feel fresh again.
2. War of the Worlds
After Final Reckoning, viewers were itching for casting to shake things up. Then, all of the veterans this seasons fell into one of three caps: just did Final Reckoning, took a 4 season break, or were Leroy. Really, it was up to the rookies to make the show interesting, and they did just that.
Pre-season, fans were very reluctant to welcome a crop of international and internetwork additions to the show, but many of them added value. They weren’t all sheep, and they actually made the veterans’ games harder. In the end, the top two spots went to international rookies, and it was a wild and interesting ride to get to that point.
1. The Duel
In retrospect, this is a beloved season. It’s the first individual game, many of the cast members would go on to become Champions, and some iconic relationships were birthed on the season.
Now put yourself in the shoes of a 2006 Challenge fan. You’d look at this cast and wonder where all the big veterans are? Fresh Meat were becoming solo players (an unpopular concept at the time), and that was a clear sign that Road Rules was dying. If you were an old school fan, a lot of your motivation to watch the show was absent this time around.
Yet it was great. Things felt different, but it was a fresh take on the show we loved. And every time I see a cast that I dislike pre-season, I think of The Duel. It looked so wrong on paper, but worked so well when it aired.