And the people rejoiced, for sports returned to their televisions.
No, wait, I’m serious. Stop and read, you’re not doing anything right now and you can pause Tiger King for the time it’ll take for you to read this.
After nearly a month of not having any televised sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s fifth sport is making it’s triumphant return to the airwaves just in time to give us a much needed escape from the coronaverse. MTV’s The Challenge returns tonight at 8PM for the debut of its 35th season and, whether you’re a long-time viewer or a rookie, here’s everything you need to know to jump right in and enjoy the only real sport we have left.
What is The Challenge?
The Challenge originally began in 1998 and plucked stars from MTV’s hit reality shows The Real World and Road Rules, pitting them against each other in a series of competitions with some prize money on the line. The series has since grown into a behemoth of its own and has expanded to feature stars from some of MTV’s other reality shows (Are You The One?, FloriBama Shore, etc.), as well as stars from CBS’ Survivor, Big Brother and The Amazing Race. The stakes have been raised over the years and contestants now compete for a $1 million prize, a far cry from the trips for two to Costa Rica and the couple thousand bucks contestants were awarded in the first couple seasons.
This season is titled ‘The Challenge: Total Madness’ and, while we don’t know all the details, we do know that the season was filmed in Austria and the Czech Republic and that the cast is once again competing for the $1 million prize. Instead of living in a luxurious mansion, as they do in most seasons, the cast will live in a “bunker” with no windows, which will surely help their mental state as the competition goes on.
Okay, that sounds fun, but who are these people and why are you calling this a sport?
First of all, this definitely is a sport. When the show isn’t filming, these competitors are training specifically for this show. They are legitimately some of the most athletic people you’ll see outside of professional sports. In fact, MTV put their stars up against former NFL stars like Terrell Owens and Shawne Merriman, Olympic medalists like Lolo Jones and Gus Kenworthy, and UFC fighters like CM Punk and Michelle Waterman in a couple short seasons titled The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros. For the most part, the stars of The Challenge outperformed the professional athletes in nearly ever competition. Here’s a look at some of the most brutal elimination challenges from past seasons.
Now, let’s get you familiar with some of the people you’re going to see this season on The Challenge: Total Madness.
Johnny Bananas and Wes Bergman
I couldn’t expect anyone to join us in watching The Challenge without making sure you’re aware of The Challenge’s greatest rivalry. This is Jordan vs. Byrd. Earnhardt vs. Gordon. West Virginia vs. Pitt. These two have hated each other so long that I honestly can’t remember how this rivalry started in the first place. If you really want to dive into it, MTV has created this handy timeline of their blood feud.
Both men are Challenge legends with eight wins between them — with six of those belonging to Bananas — and nether are afraid to stab someone they have an alliance with in the back to further their game.
CT is another Challenge legend. The Godfather of The Challenge, if you will. He’s a Masshole that, up until a couple seasons ago, was a certified psychopath and one of the most feared competitors on the show. He’s since taken up the role of wily veteran, but is still a force to be reckoned with in an elimination.
Every West Virginian should know that there’s always a West Virginia connection to everything. I mean, Carole Baskin from Tiger King lived in Charleston and was Gov. John Rockefeller’s secretary. It’s an unreal phenomenon that has held up for years.
In The Challenge universe, Ashley is that West Virginia connection. She’s originally from Hurricane and graduated from West Virginia University. She’s a two-time Challenge champion and is ultra-competitive and vindictive. She’s also batshit crazy. Basically, she’s built for this show.
Ashley’s most recent Challenge win came in a season where competitors were teamed up with their rival — Ashley’s being her ex-boyfriend, Hunter. Ashley and Hunter won the final Challenge but, because she had a better personal time, she was given the opportunity to split the money 50/50 with Hunter or stab him in the back and take it all. Naturally, Ashley took it all, making her the first $1 million prize winner. It was fantastic television.
The last person I’ll introduce you to is quite possibly The GOAT, and that’s not something I throw around lightly. Jordan has appeared on five seasons of The Challenge, has made the final in four of those season and has won the entire thing three times. He also did all of that with only one hand, due to being born with a congenital disorder that left him without four fingers on his left hand . What Jordan lacks by missing fingers, he makes up for with his mind. He’s cold and calculating, and can’t be counted out of any challenge.
Alright, I think I’m in. How do I watch The Challenge?
The season 35 premiere of The Challenge comes on tonight at 8PM on MTV. You can watch MTV through your cable provider or on channel 331 on DirecTV. You can also watch live on the MTV app (available on Roku, Fire Stick, Chromecast, AppleTV, etc.) or MTV.com with a valid cable/satellite log-in.