As “The Challenge” begins its 37th season (“Spies, Lies, & Allies”), what better time to break down the best cast members in the history of MTV’s hit reality show? Much like NBA fans debate Jordan vs. LeBron or football fans argued over Brady vs. Manning, Challenge fans will go at it over whether Johnny Bananas or CT as the best male competitor of all time, as well as which female stands out among the rest.
Before we get into who we picked, a few notes on our criteria. We didn’t simply go by the numbers, as the Challenge has majorly evolved during its 37 seasons. It started as more of a reality show than a competition show — so much so that Belou Den Tex brought her infant child with her on “Battle of the Seasons 1” and Gladys Sanabria showed up to “Battle of the Sexes 1” while pregnant. It was truly a simpler time. (Update: Melissa Reeves competed the entire season on “Total Madness” — including the first leg of the final — while pregnant, though it was unbeknownst to her at the time. The jury is still out on whether that makes her unborn child the youngest competitor in Challenge history.)
(Related: As a hurricane hit the Challenge house on “Battle of the Seasons 1,” married couple Chadwick Pelletier and Holly Brentson argued with BDT about her child-rearing practices. She literally cursed them, saying, “I hope you never get a child, yo. I hope that for your ass,” which is as cold-blooded as anything ever said on the show.)
So, while the total number of wins and finals matter, we weight them based on the era of the Challenge in which they occurred, with more recent wins being worth a little extra. The competition is more serious and the finals are generally much more grueling now.
We balance out that inherent recency bias with anecdotal evidence and intuition gleaned from watching far too many hours of this show. Hey, we’re allowed to be at least a little subjective. After all, we’re talking about an MTV reality show that is as much about getting drunk and hooking up as it is competition, so we’re dealing with a bit of an inexact science here.
You might disagree with our picks, but that’s OK. Just don’t scream at us like Camila, punch us like CT, or wish us barren like Belou Den Tex.
(Note: The following lists have been updated since their original publishing prior to “Total Madness.”)
Best male ‘Challenge’ cast members of all time
1. Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio (“Real World: Key West”)
The facts: Bananas has appeared on the most Challenges (20) and has the most Challenge titles (7). He’s achieved mainstream success while also staying as closely tied to “The Challenge” as anyone in show history. He’s eminently quotable (Sarah probably stills hears,