MTV's 'The Challenge' Bracket: Best Male Competitors (Round One)

CT and Ashley took home the crown on an underwhelming Invasion of the Champions finale, and another season of The Challenge is in the books. Usually your boy slips in to a mild depression knowing I have to go months without seeing my favorite reality stars compete for money. But have no fear, the Challenge gods threw a curveball with another spinoff series starting immediately.

Has MTV been reading my wish list diary? The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros begins Tuesday, May 16, with some of our favorite MTV "athletes" taking on actual professional athletes, including Shawne MerrimanLolo Jones, CM PunkCandice Wiggins, Kamerion Wimbley and some other people who apparently make a living doing niche sports.

In this groundbreaking season, we will finally find out if Bananas is comparable to an NFL linebacker or if the Patriots could sign CT to replace an injured Rob Gronkowski and not skip a beat. In the meantime, we want to answer the second-most important Challenge question: Who are the best male and female competitors in show history?

We've seeded our top eight picks and analyzed each matchup of résumés from every angle. Voting takes place on Twitter (because we've had it up to *here* with SurveyMonkey), and polls are embedded below each matchup. First round voting ends Monday, May 22.


(1) Johnny Bananas vs. (8) Evan Starkman

johnny-bananas-mtv-bloodlines-rivals3.jpg
host_evan.jpg

(1) Bananas

Real World: Key West

 Just like 50 Cent, except the bills are real. |   @MTVBananas

Just like 50 Cent, except the bills are real. | @MTVBananas

The Résumé

The Defense

  • Most championships won
  • Most finals competed in
  • Most weekly challenge wins
    • Bananas really has no weaknesses when it comes to doing the crazy things they need to do on The Challenge
  • Over $400,000 more dollars won than any other competitor ... and the name of the game is CASH MONEY
  • Won Free Agents, a completely stacked season (CT, Zach, Frank, Jordan) totally based on solo instead of team performance
  • Had one of the most impressive stretches in Challenge history, winning five of seven championships (competed in the final in one of the others)
  • The only competitor to go head-to-head with CT in an elimination and win
    • Pay no attention that it was in a lame puzzle
  • Won arguably the most difficult Challenge final of all time: the glacier in Battle of the Exes
  • Bananas is unquestionably the face of The Challenge

The Prosecution

  • Owns an extremely pedestrian elimination record with just 7 wins in 14 opportunities
  • Bananas is never the most dominant male on any Challenge season
  • Money isn’t everything
  • The only reason he has the most Challenge wins is because he’s been on the most seasons by far
  • Two words: Banana Backpack
  • Did you see what he did to Sarah? What a dickhead!
  • Bananas has hitched his wagon to some of the top competitors in Challenge history (Kenny and Evan) and is always given top notch partners (Sarah, Tyler, Frank, Camilla). Anyone could win with those teammates.
  • Seriously ... Banana Backpack. 

(8) Evan Starkman

The Challenge: Fresh Meat

 It's been a while since Evan was on a  Challenge , so large HD photos are few and far between. |  MTV

It's been a while since Evan was on a Challenge, so large HD photos are few and far between. | MTV

The Résumé

The Defense

  • The leader of the top alliance in Challenge history, The JKE Dynasty (Johnny, Kenny, and Evan)
  • Only elimination losses came to CT
  • 3 finals in 6 seasons
  • Won a whopping 23 weekly challenges
  • Most impressive season was The Duel II, where he won three eliminations and completed the most epic comeback in finals history, beating Brad by only seconds

The Prosecution

  • Only six total seasons
  • Showed up incredibly out of shape on Rivals, leading to CT question whether he was pregnant
  • One of the biggest snakes in Challenge history
    • The guy would send his own mother into elimination if it meant saving his own ass
  • An absolute SPAZ during eliminations. The guy was NOT cool under pressure.

(4) Darrell Taylor vs. (5) Wes Bergmann

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(4) Darrell

Road Rules: Campus Crawl

The Résumé

The Defense

  • The man won four Challenges IN A ROW
  • Darrell is a legit boxer. Just ask Brad.
 Unfortunately this video was removed from YouTube because it is too gruesome of a knockout. |  MTV

Unfortunately this video was removed from YouTube because it is too gruesome of a knockout. | MTV

  • On Invasion of the Champions Darrell sent home Zach and Bananas on consecutive eliminations
  • Darrell always played the game the right way. Left the drama to everyone else and let his athleticism do the talking.
  • Darrell is one punch away from winning his first five Challenges to start (and perhaps end) his career.

The Prosecution

  • Darrell did his best work in a different era of The Challenge.
    • From 1998 to around 2005, it was a completely different game. A time before Challenge males were jacked up on steroids or way too into CrossFit. A time when contestants could make it to the end without any risk of being sent home. The olden days.
  • Darrell didn’t face his first elimination until his fourth Challenge.
  • Three of Darrell’s championships were a part of a large team of 5 to 10 people. It was a different, ahem, EASIER era, folks.

(5) Wes

The Real World: Austin

 Producer: "Okay put your hand on your chin like you're in deep thought even though we all know none of you think about anything, ever. Oh god did I just say that out loud?" |  MTV

Producer: "Okay put your hand on your chin like you're in deep thought even though we all know none of you think about anything, ever. Oh god did I just say that out loud?" | MTV

The Résumé

The Defense

  • The King of Eliminations, winning a record 13 do-or-die matchups
  • The top swimmer in Challenge history
    • That is a BFD, as every season has multiple swimming events
  • One of Wes’ most impressive seasons was the first Fresh Meat
    • Wes was teamed up with little Casey and instantly became an underdog in the house. Wes managed to drag Casey through five elimination wins to a thirrd place finish. 
  • One of the great politicians in Challenge history

The Prosecution

  • I’ll just leave this here:
  • Also, you can only be the King of Eliminations if you keep getting sent into eliminations because you aren’t winning weekly challenges

(2) Chris "CT" Tamburello vs. (7) Derrick Kosinski

(2) CT

The Real World: Paris

The Résumé

The Defense

  • The most dominant athlete in Challenge history (see: Banana Backpack).
    • One of the big mysteries in life is why CT wasn’t an All-Pro NFL linebacker. 
  • Suffered from incredibly bad luck (some self-imposed)
    • Was a couple technicalities (i.e. elimination against Brad on The Duel), a couple punches, and one Big Easy away from several more championships
  • CT always had a gigantic target on his back
    • Other men feared him and did whatever it took to send him home
  • Won Invasion of the Champions, outlasting Challenge greats Bananas and Darrell along the way
  • Somehow has gone through a complete rebranding over the years, transforming from bad boy womanizing scumbag to fan favorite dad.
    • CT sums it up in his own words:
“The main reason I came back, I know there’s going to come a time where he’s going to see me on TV. I want him to see me as I am today, and not some punk running around with his head cut off, smashing heads, you know. I wanted to set the right example … I felt like he helped me get my life back. Coming on this show, I like to think that I did it for him and for the right reasons. Also, it became more about me and getting my life back and doing it for me. I felt OK to come on this show in the very beginning, in this new chapter of my life. It did wonders for me. I was proud of it. I had my ups and down through my twenties, and I’m here now still sharing my life on TV.”

The Prosecution

  • CT was a loose cannon who couldn’t control his temper
  • Remember when he tried to kill Adam?
  • Two championships ... that's only two more then I have
  • CT famously ran out of gas in the Battle of Exes final, begging the question, is there such a thing as too ripped?

(7) Derrick

Road Rules: X-Treme

 Derrick's mangled Gollum fingers are a sure sign he's been through some wars on  The Challenge . |  MTV

Derrick's mangled Gollum fingers are a sure sign he's been through some wars on The Challenge. | MTV

The Résumé

The Defense

  • Won an amazing three Challenge titles in a row
  • Made it deep on every season he was on
  • Arguably, Derrick's most impressive season came on Gauntlet 2, winning four eliminations against men twice his size. A true David vs Goliath season for Derrick. 
  • What he lacks in size he makes up for in heart. The Challenge bulldog.

The Prosecution

  • WE ALL LOVE DERRICK ... that being said the guy just didn’t have the size to be considered the best to ever do it. Sorry.

(3) Kenny Santucci vs. (6) Landon Lueck

(3) Kenny

The Challenge: Free Agents

  Funny or Die

Funny or Die

The Résumé

The Defense

  • Seven finals in eight seasons. Let me say that one more time so it sticks: Kenny went on eight Challenge seasons and made it to the finale episode seven times. 
  • A perfect mixture of size, athleticism, political will and likability 
  • The leader of the CrossFit revolution in the Challenge houses
  • No one was better at the cut scene interviews than Mr. Beautiful
  • He literally climbed a mountain with another grown man on his back:

The Prosecution

  • Okay, he did carry Wes up a mountain. But Wes carried Kenny through the entire Rivals season up to that point
  • Retired in his prime
    • We’ll never know how many Challenge wins he could have racked up if he hadn’t hung them up so early
  • Gassed out in Fresh Meat II, costing Laurel a championship
  • Never went on a Challenge without a bunch of his boys with him
  • Survived multiple seasons without seeing an elimination round

(6) Landon

The Real World: Philadelphia

 It's nearly impossible to find a photo of Landon with a shirt on, so credit to us for doing so. |  MTV

It's nearly impossible to find a photo of Landon with a shirt on, so credit to us for doing so. | MTV

The Résumé

The Defense

  • A near-flawless Challenge career: only one elimination loss and championships in all but one season
  • Carried a weak partner (Carley) in Fresh Meat II to a championship
  • Played the game the right way
    • The White Knight of The Challenge
  • Landon’s one elimination came in the very last matchup of The Duel II, a season in which he dominated.
  • What a great guy!!!

The Prosecution

  • I would never say a bad word about Landon. The man is a saint. I just wish he graced us with his presence for a few more Challenges. Hard to be the GOAT without the longevity.