Every year, The Challenge gives us a crop of rookies, and the majority of them fade into oblivion. But, we also get some rookies who do impressive things that cement their places in Challenge history.
The Challenge has been on for a long time, so it becomes increasingly difficult to drop jaws with each passing season. That also means each season has its own accomplishments, and some of them have been diminished as time passes. But, there are some legacies that have withstood the test of time or impressed viewers after decades of investment in the franchise.
All factors will be considered here, including the density of rookies on a season and the competition included on the season. And I’m only considering players’ first seasons, so regardless of your definition of “rookie,” I’m only looking at debut seasons.
Leroy Makes the Final (Rivals)
Most seasons have a rookie in the final, so we can’t put someone on this list simply for making it. But on a stacked season like Rivals, the fact that Leroy avoided every elimination and made the final is seriously impressive. Sure, he won the first daily, but then he got Mike Mike after Adam DQed. It’s not like this added any muscle to his team, but it seems Leroy’s social game made him worthy of sticking around.
9. Mitch (and Cory) Get Bananas Eliminated (Battle of the Bloodlines)
It’s funny to think about Bananas’s fate on Bloodlines, and Cara Maria (rightfully) gets a lot of credit. She eliminated him, but it was Cory and Mitch that pulled the trigger to send him into elimination. Despite angering many of his veteran friends this season, this rookie pair made the big move and still made the final. But Mitch gets credit for winning the Weight For Me challenge by solving the final puzzle, despite the fact that his team was the last one to get to this stage.
8. Faysal Gets His Skull From Jordan (Total Madness)
To truly appreciate this feat, we need to separate our opinions of Faysal today from our perceptions of him from his debut season. When he emerged on Total Madness, he immediately became a physical threat. While beating Jordan in Pole Wrestle isn’t as impressive because of Jordan’s disability, the fact that he eliminated a 3-time champ in his rookie season is brag-worthy. Plus, it intimidated the vets enough that no one else was willing to call him out for the remainder of the season.
7. Natalie Wins The Most Challenges (Vendettas)
The fact that Natalie won more daily Challenges than any other girl this season is a bit of a shocker, but she did anything she needed to keep herself safe. She won five times, likely because she was on a lot of teams with Bananas. But this stat is often swept under the radar because Natalie didn’t even make the final, but she did excel in the daily Challenges this season.
6. Nurys Breaks Nelson’s Losing Streak (Ride or Dies)
A lot of people have been paired with good rookies, especially on a season like Ride or Dies where the veterans (allegedly) picked their partners. But at first glance, Nurys didn’t look like a huge threat in the game. However, I can’t understate how clever she is. Unlike other rookies, she was able to look at a competition and figure out how to use strategy to help Nelson win after a 54-challenge losing streak. This led her to win Hold On for Me and then Peaking Blinders a few weeks later.
5. Sarah Wins 5 Gauntlets (The Gauntlet)
While rookie status was far less important on season 7 of The Challenge, Sarah truly battled her way to victory. Other players had relationships in the game that kept them safe for a while, but the only people Sarah knew, her former Road Rules cast, wanted her gone from day one. Sarah set the groundwork for the show, because she proved that status doesn’t matter when you have the fight to win.
4. Kam Takes Out Two Mercenaries (Vendettas)
Two rookies made the Vendettas final: Kyle and Kam. One of them made it to the end based on his social game, but Kam was a fighter. However, two of her elimination wins were against mercenaries rather than her actual opponents. During Crazy 8, she was the only person to beat a mercenary, then she was the only person to properly win Yankin’ My Chain and return to the house. She also beat Natalie this season, but lost the final because of a silly card game twist.
3. Turbo Wins War of the Worlds
When Turbo debuted on season 33, he was viewed as a silent threat (the exact opposite of his Ride or Dies persona). By the time he got to the final, he’d never been in an elimination. People still didn’t know his potential, but he’d go on to take the grand prize. Many people believe this is the hardest final ever, and he outperformed every veteran this season. Theo had a similar run on the season, so he gets big props too.
2. Wes Takes Casey To the Finish Line (Fresh Meat)
On Fresh Meat, the alumni were clearly split between Real World: Austin and everyone else. This resulted in rookies being sent into multiple eliminations, and Wes took out all three of his former roommates. And despite having Casey as his partner, he made it all the way to the end and crossed the finish line. Did he win? No, but the duo did get $15,000 which Casey used to buy new boobs.
1. Jay Beats CT (Total Madness)
On Total Madness, CT had all the power. He picked his elimination match-up, had to move concrete and brick (and he’s worked in construction), and Take Shelter was a variation of Knot So Fast (a game CT perfected on Invasion). So, the odds were stacked against Jay, but he proved he was nimble and clever when he “made it weird” and defeated CT.