CHALLENGE 24: Picking an All-Star Season

It’s happened.  Sometime earlier in the week, MTV (through their MTV remote control blog – clever name network formally known for music videos) formally acknowledged what has been known to us legion of devoted fans for some time: The Challenge is the fifth major American professional sport (sorry NASCAR wannabes) and it is time for a professional all-star game season voted on by the fans.  That’s right: the participants on the 24th season of The Challenge (they make it seem like “Challenge 24” may never “see the light of day,” but on a network that can produce several too many Teen Mom iterations, who are they kidding?) are going to be chosen by (or at least influenced by) who takes the time to go and vote.  This unprecedented move is a complete first for this form of reality tv competition program (if you can even call it that, The Challenge is so much more) and represents an incredible opportunity to have a say in who we want to watch.

In the spirit of honoring its rightful place in the professional sport fraternity, how twitter can and will be a major factor in this voting process, and the whole “Challenge 24” motif, I have decided to select the participants for this All-Star game season like the NBA (whose All-Star game is appropriately this weekend).  In the NBA All-Star process, there are twelve players for each conference: the five starters are voted on by the fans and the remaining seven participants are selected by a vote of the coaches.  In my mock The Challenge All-Star season formatting, I will choose twelve men and twelve women, the five “starters” will be the top five current vote getters in the most up to date polls remote control blog polls, and the seven remaining players will be chosen by me (a group of coaches I cannot find).  Like the NBA voting process, not every viable participant is included in the ballot.  Therefore, I will choose one additional “coaches pick” for both the men and women from an incredible group of past participants not included in the twenty names that MTV has provided.

Before we delve into my selections, I would be remiss to not breakdown the simply amazing prose and preamble that the MTV remote control blog provides for this innovative process (my comments are imbedded below):

“With 23 seasons under its belt, “The Challenge” has begun to sprout one or two silver hairs, but, as proven over the years, maturity doesn’t necessarily come with age.” (The awareness that The Challenge may have “sprouted one or two silver hairs” is just short of brilliant, and based on some of the nighttime activities in Turkey, maturity and age are not synonymous) No matter how many old or new faces picked for a game, it always delivers the nail-biting battles (and personal beefs) we’ve come to love. (Amen.  Battle of the Seasons really accentuated this point.  It delivered the goods with a cast of predominantly rookies and largely unproven veterans.) And we, like you, hope it’s only a matter of time before we’re off to some exotic land to fight another good fight. (Seriously.  Make it happen, MTV).

With 15 years’ (this is simply an incredible number) worth of participants on our hands, it’s impossible (so impossible!) to predict how any future roster might look, which is why we’re curious to hear YOUR opinion (Thank you.  The time had come). In the event “Challenge 24” ever sees the light of day (and it will), who would you want to see competing? Take our girls and guys polls below, and if you happen to check the “Other” box in either, make sure to write your picks in the comments.” (I love the crude methodology of picking an “other.”)

Now, on to the women and men All-Star teams.  I have included the MTV remote control blog person descriptions (because some of them are just that good) with my additional comments added as well.

THE WOMEN – STARTERS (according to the voting polls)

Laurel (15% of the vote!) – 4th season – “The outspoken Amazonian who doesn’t put up with BS.”

Laurel

Should she be selected as a starter?

Yes!  Her incredibly high vote percentage (twice the percentage of the next women) is a testament to her watchability as both a competitor and an after hours drama participant.  Since her first days as the “fresh meat” to Kenny’s then newly earned veteran status on Fresh Meat 2, Laurel has been a Challenge force.  Her recent reconciliation and beautifully kindled friendship with Cara Maria on Rivals are some of the best redemptive moments that this show has ever seen.  Laurel is not afraid to mix it up with both men (in competition) or women (anywhere) and is a deserved lock for any All-Star season, whether she is a starter or a reserve.

Sarah – 7th season – “The most well-rounded “Challenger” to never win the game.”

Sarah

Should she be selected as a starter?

Absolutely.  I have written this many times before in this space (she rocked it on Battle of the Seasons, spending most of the season on top of the weekly power rankings), but an All-Star season would not be the same without Sarah.  She is a fierce competitor who loves competing, loves puzzles, loves being a member of a team, loves trivia, and is a joyous presence for the viewer.  Her Paula-like quest for Challenge victory is a compelling narrative to follow on any season, but especially on an All-Star season when the stakes are raised so much higher.

Cara Maria – 6th season “The sensitive soul who throws down when it matters most.”

Cara Maria

Should she be selected as a starter?

As a starter, maybe not, but she should surely be a member of the team.  After the too-short and drama heavy Fresh Meat debacle on Battle of the Seasons this fall, Cara Maria is ready to be back in a competition with teammates who can actually complete challenges without disqualifying.  It will be interesting to see what the Laurel/Cara Maria tandem can do now that their “rivalry” has been converted to bonafide “bff” territory.

Paula – 10th season – “The die-hard competitor whose emotions sometimes get the best of her.”

Paula

Should she be selected as a starter?

Without question, you cannot do an All-Star season of The Challenge without Paula, whose nine season quest for victory (an amazing win finally during “Rivals” with Ev is a major event in Challenge history) has been a key component of The Challenge evolution.  Her insider politicking, social game ties, underrated athletic toughness, and inevitable once a season meltdown put her certainly on the female Mount Rushmore of Challenge participants.

Kelly Anne – 3rd season –  “The hot chick who is much tougher than she looks.”

Kelly Anne

Should she be selected as a starter?

She is definitely a surprise starter (barely beating out Ev for fifth place) and probably would not have made the team otherwise (some may say the KG of the The Challenge All-Stars – although I strongly dispute that Kevin Garnett is not one of the twelve best players in the Eastern Conference).  Her Challenge history is short and not too memorable beyond the relationship theater that is any romantic involvement with Wes.  To her credit, she is willing to mix it up in both competition and in late night tomfoolery, will have a little something extra to prove, and will be a potentially intriguing ingredient to the mix.  Also, in the Challenge rumor mill, there is a story out there about Kelly Anne refusing to participate in the Battle of the Seasons Turkish Vacation when she heard that Wes would be there.  If true, her involvement in an All-Star season that should also feature Wes seems to be a no-brainer.

MY PICKS FOR WOMEN RESERVES

EvJenn

 

 

 

 

Evelyn – 8th season – “The born athlete who is rarely taken down.”

Jenn – 7th season – “The itty-bitty spitfire who tells it like it is.”

CamilaTrishelle

 

 

 

 

Camila – 5th season – “The fiesty Spring-Breaker with a record-setting temper.”

Trishelle – 4th season – “The comeback kid.”

DevynMarie

 

 

 

 

Devyn – 2nd season – “The quick-witted beauty queen who’s not such a clutch athlete.”

Marie – 2nd season – “The win focused rookie who always love a good happy hour.”

NanyEmily

 

 

 

 

Nany – 2nd season – “The girl who rides speedy loops on the emotional roller-coaster.”

Emily – 3rd season – WILD CARD selection

THE BREAKDOWN OF WOMEN RESERVES:

This was a surprisingly challenging group of women to decide upon, but looking at them top to bottom, they all pass the “who do you most want to see on the next Challenge?” test.  Ev, of the original Fresh Meat, will provide a consummate competitive fire and is one of the only women here who may align (based upon past seasons) with Wes.  She will not be afraid to stand up to anyone (especially the JEK Dynasty) while still commanding a great deal of respect from all of those around her.  Jenn is a Challenge mainstay that always places herself in the central mix of strategy and drama.  She should have been selected as a starter over Kelly Anne.  Camila’s Battle of the Seasons uncomfortable exit (the one in which she verbally berated her clearly overmatched teammate, Big Easy) and her Exes victory tour with Mr. Johnny Bananas highlight the ups and downs that accompany this Brazilian spitfire.  She is a lock.  Trishelle gets my nod for the All-Star season over Coral for the “old school woman slot” because of her great work on Battle of the Seasons, often playing a key intermediary role in conflict resolution.  Trishelle made some important connections with some of the new blood and I fear that Coral will find herself very out of place with this mostly younger women crowd (Fear not Coral fans: I have a place for her later on).  Devyn, Nany, and Marie all earned their place in an All-Star season for having breakout campaigns on Battle of the Seasons.  Devyn is going to be the best female soundbite and a perfect guide to describe the action to the viewer .  Her lack of athletic prowess is still a factor, but an All-Star season would just not be as much fun without her.  Nany had an incredible rookie season (that should not have been cut so short) in which she exhibited the commitment and fight of Sarah and the nighttime volatility of Camila.  Marie will bring a similar mix (but different flavor) of fierce competitor and inebriated crazy.  Both Nany and Marie will not be intimidated by anyone (Marie was having none of Wes on his brief stay on Battle of the Seasons) and will not waver on the fact that they have earned their right to participate in “Challenge 24.”  My wildcard selection is Emily (from Real World: DC) who, after Exes, is unfortunately remembered for some of the wrong reasons (the infamous blackface incident directed at partner, Ty), but is one of the best female athletes this show has ever seen and will be a worthy physical match against Ev and Laurel.  She is also a stabilizing force (in the Sarah vein) and this group of women could use a little more of that.

Most difficult omissions:

Coral, Jasmine, Katie

Coral and Katie were both tough decisions.  Trishelle seems like a better selection for that the “old school” slot.  Jasmine has been an enjoyable member of the gang, but ironically, her more down-to-earth version on Battle of the Seasons is not as television compelling as her wine glass throwing freak outs of past seasons.

Other people not selected:

Rachel, Aneesa, Jemmye, Jonna, Naomi

Aneesa and Rachel have both had their time on the show and would not fit in too well with much of the above group (Exes was a bit of a social game struggle).  Jemmye had a very sweet first season, but needs more opportunities to be seriously considered.  Naomi , like Devyn, is not cut out for athletic competitions, but, unlike Devyn, has not yet exhibited an incredible wit and sense of humor.  After her Battle of the Seasons reunion sour demeanor, I am not sure Jonna is going to have any fun on an All-Star season.

Other potential wildcards not selected:

Veronica, Tonya, Tori (retired and happily married to Brad)

 

THE MEN – STARTERS (according to the voting polls)

CT – 9th season – “The closest thing “The Challenge” has to the Terminator.”

CT

Should he be selected as a starter?

Yes, without question.  Despite CT’s losing record (he has never won a Challenge), he is one of the definitive stars of this franchise.  His physical prowess goes without saying, he commands a healthy combination of respect and fear from all, and his recent streak of a kinder and gentler Chris is a late career reinvention.  Formally the enemy and chief rival of the JEK Dynasty boys, CT 2.0 is a more nuanced and more thoughtful individual outside of competition, but within the playing field, there is no one who will be more of a force.  His commanding first place lead in votes among men is well-deserved.

Kenny – 8th season – “You know him as Mr. Beautiful.”

Kenny

Should he be selected as a starter?

The Men’s vote is 2 for 2.  Kenny, as the “K” in the JEK Dynasty, has been one of the most instrumental people in fostering the growth of The Challenge into the phenomenon and respected national sport it has become.  An original Fresh Meat participant, there is no one who can cut you down with words and then in the next moment bring you back up with a smile as well as Mr. Beautiful (Sarah knows all too well).  He has not performed as well as his past elite level in recent seasons, so he will be even hungrier this time around especially to show some of the less proven fellow men (he’s looking at you Frank) a thing or to about the history of this game.

Evan – 6th season – “The cocky smart guy who only can be trusted by his boys.”

Evan

Should he be selected as a starter?

Yes, absolutely.  Like Kenny, Evan, the E of the JEK and an original Fresh Meat (Coral’s partner), is one of the men who has brought The Challenge to new heights.  His unfortunate and poorly conceived Rivals feud with Nehemiah was a tough last memory, so this All-star season surrounded by his traditional allies and some rambunctious (see: Frank) new competition will be a great platform for the Canadian.  Evan is a great athlete, a sound strategist, and an effective communicator who can sometimes be the more approachable public face than his more antagonistic partners, Johnny and Kenny.

Johnny – 9th season – “The self-proclaimed asshole with an impressive record”

Johnny Bananas

Should he be selected as a starter?

Yes and he probably deserves to be the leading vote getter.  An All-Star season would be his 9th, and there is a reason why Johnny Bananas (the J of JEK) has continued to be at the center of season after season of The Challenge: He has been able to find the perfect combination as a dynamic and engaging social power player while maintaining his competition cred in challenges.  He is always interesting and compelling, provocative about everything, and ultra-competitive.  His most recent wins in Exes and Rivals highlight how his often abrasive outer persona (I will never forget his motivational tactics with Camila in the final challenge) have proven to motivate individuals that he has some difficult history with (His redemptive win on Rivals with Tyler was one for the ages).  Of all past participants, Johnny Bananas may be The Challenge’s brightest star.

Dustin – 3rd season – “The guy with no misgivings about getting street.”

Dustin

Should he be selected as a starter?

You can make this argument.  Although Frank and Zach may have something to say about this, I think Dustin was the breakout male star of Battle of the Seasons (consistently topping the weekly power rankings) and is primed to be a Challenge regular for years to come.  Although he did have his moments of reaching his breaking point (certainly with Trishelle and maybe at night he can get a little too street), his combination of competitive fire, athleticism, and loyalty (his older brother/little sister relationship with Nany is of the most endearing terms) are of the highest caliber.  He will be willing to compete against the big boys (CT, JEK) and will quickly earn their respect.

MY PICKS FOR MEN RESERVES

Wes

Mark

 

 

 

 

Wes – 8th season – “Plain and simple: The man with a plan.”

Mark – 7th season – “The old dude who belongs on Olympus.”

Dunbar

Chet

 

 

 

 

Dunbar – 6th season – “An odd dichotomy of introvert and screaming-match contender.”

Chet – 4th season – “The straightlaced bow-tie sporter with a little chip on his shoulder.”

Leroy

Zach

 

 

 

 

Leroy – 3rd season – “The tenacious warrior with a heart of gold.”

Zach – 2nd season – “The hulking rookie who has no patience for quitters.”

FrankDerrick

 

 

 

 

Frank – 2nd season – “The emotional time bomb.”

Derrick  – 9th season – WILD CARD selection

THE BREAKDOWN OF MEN RESERVES:

Wes could be a starter (only over Dustin), but is a definitive lock as a reserve.  He has been the thorn in the JEK dynasty’s side for many years and embraces the target that always finds itself on his carrot top head.  He is an adversary, an antagonist, and a grand strategist who has earned his Challenge stripes overcoming many an elimination.  Mark gets the “old school slot” for the men because he is Challenge pioneer, well-liked by all, and now, into his forties, a freak of a physical specimen.  His recent connection to Johnny and CT on Exes and his ability to connect with so many different kinds of people will allow him to fit in in ways that Coral, another old school vet, may struggle with.  Dunbar gets the nod here over Tyler because in part, Tyler’s story seemed to find a perfect final moment (the Johnny Bananas redemptive victory on Rivals) and Dunbar still has much to prove to some of his Challenge peers.  Forever linked to Paula (as infamously highlighted with a partnership on Exes), Dunbar puts up metaphoric consistent numbers season after season, but has yet to have that definitive moment.  Chet earned his All-Star selection with a great showing on Battle of the Seasons that combined his wit (the male version of Devyn) with a newfound athletic and competitive drive.  Leroy has been a joy to watch in his three brief seasons of The Challenge, earned immediate respect from Johnny and the power structure, and is going to be a major force in competition.  Both Zach and Frank, with their Battle of the Seasons win and drama-filled rookie season, earned the right to compete against the Challenge royalty.  It will be interesting to see how they build an alliance amongst this group of veterans.  Derrick gets my nod as the wild card selection (over the stiffest of competition!) because of his amazing athletic ability, physical tenacity and determination, and, like Emily, he will be a rational, stabilizing force.  It seemed like each time he linked up with the JEK brotherhood they were the better for it because Derrick knows how to cut out some of the derailment that stems from late night extracurricular activities.

Most difficult omissions:

Tyler, Knight, Mike

Knight is a rising star, but it is just not his time yet.  A few more seasons under his belt and he will be on this list.  As already stated, Tyler’s career had a perfect ending and you don’t want to mess with that.  Mike is a pleasure to watch (especially when he and Leroy are giving us a peek into their genuinely beautiful friendship), but does not have the experience to warrant a selection just yet.

Other people not selected:

Trey, Robb, Alton, Big Easy, Vinny

Before Battle of the Seasons, Alton would have been a starter on this list, but, after the roller-coaster ride that was his time in Turkey, I am not sure he should be competing in The Challenge anymore.  Trey and Robb both have more to prove.  Vinny should be banned for life.  Finally, Big Easy is too much of a liability on a few too many challenges and it would be a shame for any of his teammates to have to lose because of him again.

Other potential wildcards not selected (and mind you, many of which I would have chosen over some of the 20 eligible vote getters):

Darrell (there was room for only one wild card, he has an incredible record of winning), Landon (I am not sure why he wasn’t he included in the vote), Brad (happily retired and married to Tori), Abram (he would have probably beat some of the current reserves if he had been in the voting), Ty , CJ, Miz (competing may not be the right thing for him at this point, but there may be something else for him to do…)

Finally, one thing The Challenge has sorely needed over the seasons has been some kind of sound resource for participants to go to to discuss strategy, different issues, or for in-game advice.  In the All-Star game season vein, for the first time there should be team coaches who are there for such a purpose.  My coach selections are the Miz for the men and Coral for the women.  Wouldn’t Dustin benefit from the Miz’s take on how to come back at Frank?  Couldn’t you see Coral giving Nany some tough love, but useful advice about why she needs to hold it together better?  Who doesn’t want this?  Yes, this needs to happen.

To recap the final selections…

THE WOMEN ALL-STARS:

Coach: Coral

Starters: Laurel, Sarah, Cara Maria, Paula, Kelly Anne

Reserves: Evelyn, Jenn, Camila, Trishelle, Devyn, Nany, Marie, Emily (wild card selection)

THE MEN ALL-STARS:

Coach: The Miz

Starters: CT, Kenny, Evan, Johnny, Dustin

Reserves: Wes, Mark, Dunbar, Chet, Leroy, Zach, Frank, Derrick (wild card selection)

MTV – great work with this poll.  You killed it.  Now the ball is in your court.  It is time for “Challenge 24” to become a reality.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  He writes weekly TV columns on Afterbuzztv.com (currently, Fox’s “The Following”) and his THE CHALLENGE: Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.

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