The Real Challenge GOAT
So, here we are. A hotter topic than I originally expected. The widely accepted GOAT of the Challenge, Johnny Bananas, saw his final-less streak run to five-straight seasons with his early exit from season 33’s War of the Worlds. He lasted to the second elimination.
After winning S28’s Rivals III with Sarah Rice (and subsequently choosing to keep all of the winnings), Bananas was the clear-cut GOAT of MTV’s The Challenge. He had made an appearance on 13 seasons, winning an incredible six of those —and making the final in two others. Numbers like those are no accident.
However, with his latest drought, the numbers get watered down just a bit. He went from winning nearly half of his appearances to a third. The “what have you done lately” narrative looms larger than ever, and the critics are fucking everywhere.
If we are comparing GOATS —it would be easy to parallel Bananas with that of Michael Jordan (settle down) in the NBA. Both started winning a couple of seasons in, both went on a run in the middle of their career, and both (at least currently for Bananas) have had a quiet end.
Some forget that after Bananas lost the first season he appeared on (The Duel) in his first elimination, he went on to make a final the following year, lose in the Gauntlet and then win FIVE OF HIS NEXT SEVEN SHOWS.
Sorry for the caps, but they were intentional. And necessary. Call it what you will, credit it to whatever you need (solo performance, alliances, team wins, god...satan?) —Johnny Bananas went on a stretch where he won the Island & the Ruins consecutively, lost in Cutthroat, followed by wins on Rivals and Battle of the Exes, a finals appearance in Rivals II and his 5th of six wins on Free Agents.
Cap that with his infamous Rivals III win after two down seasons and you’ve got a resume that absolutely can’t be touched.
Johnny was the 3rd leg of the JEK alliance — a strong and loyal partnership that helped him get off and running quick. It takes cunning and trust to become part of a dominant alliance, and Bananas made the most of it.
The real question right now would be: if Bananas is not the GOAT, who is?
You’ve got some early contenders, certainly Mark Long (2 wins in 6 seasons) and Darrell Taylor (4 wins in 8 seasons; and won his first four) are distant options.
A small knock on Darrell, only 7 total eliminations in his career (although five wins). Nobody is downplaying Darrell’s dominance early in his career, but he’s got a similar second half to his career as Bananas’ last third —with a very suspect final showing on Dirty 30. Going 4-for-4 to start his career? Damn impressive. Since —he and Cara were first out on Fresh Meat II, and he hasn’t been the same since. Also, he benefitted from large team wins in his first two seasons.
I also hear the grumbling about CT. Let’s just get this over with very quickly: CT cannot be the GOAT. Is CT the most iconic? Maybe. The most feared and respected? Quite possibly. But just about every single person that competed or has seen CT compete, from day one to present, all agree that he is a freak athlete. The kind of guy that could smoke a cig and eat a burger, and go out 15 minutes later and wipe the floor with everyone that gets in his way.
That, unfortunately, is why CT is not the greatest. What did he do with all that talent, respect and fear? Not much. Because CT had a very hot temper, which got him in hot water (sensing a ‘hot’ theme for the ladies). He’s likely the greatest story of what could have been.
In his long, illustrious career, CT has two wins: Rivals II and Invasion of the Champions.
On Rivals II, CT was arguably in his prime (seeing as how he was still in great physical shape and a better mental place) and paired with an also-in-his-prime Wes. There have been other stacked teams in this show’s history —but this very well may be the strongest 1-2 punch of all time. Had CT not won this, he’d have questions to answer. It felt like MTV was finally paying it back to CT in some way —seeing as how he was one of their most recognizable faces.
His win on Invasion? I won’t let you guys off that easy. Any time I speak of Ashley Mitchell’s win on Invasion, I get a whole lot of feedback about how easy that season was. How easy the Final was. Well, I’ve got news for you haters: it’s the same season CT took home win #2 —and it was easier for CT and the Champs seeing as how they came in much later and never lived in the ‘Shelter.’
Who else is on the docket? Cara Maria, just to appease, but her 2 wins in 12+ seasons won’t do it, although her 13-6 elimination record certainly looks good. But not enough.
Wes? Very similar setup to Cara — 2 wins in 10+ seasons (the + indicates they are currently in War of the Worlds, FYI), and a 13-6 elimination record. Also, as I stated with CT —one of his wins came with a stacked partnership.
Who else? Evelyn, Laurel, Kenny? While all impressive, not one of them can be factored in as the GOAT, and I doubt I need to argue that —this coming from a huge Kenny/Laurel fan.
The fact remains that, while he might be unlikable to many, Johnny Bananas doesn’t have anyone in the same conversation when it comes to “GOAT” status.
All of this is, for the most part, stat-based —none of this even mentions that he is the undoubted face of the show, that, if there is a person one thinks of when the Challenge is mentioned, it’s Johnny Bananas. He is a large personality, a spokesman for the show, and someone that has turned his run into multiple platforms, including a hosting gig on NBC.
Anyone else mentioned is nothing more than an “also ran,” and any fan that fights for another player or bad-mouths Bananas is likely someone that just isn’t a fan of Bananas, which is okay. Basketball has Jordan (with some other hopefuls), football arguably has Tom Brady, hockey has Wayne Gretzky. The Challenge? We have Johnny Bananas. Be thankful.
***EDIT: I also wanted to touch on Landon Lueck. While I whole-heartedly believe that Landon is one of the best Challengers of all time (4 shows, 3 wins; 5-1 elimination record), I don’t think he has the pedigree or longevity to be the GOAT. He was incredible during his run, and has proven to be nearly unbeatable. I feel, however, had he been in a handful of more seasons, even without winning, he might have a bit more of a leg to stand on —but unfortunately he was a big, bright star that flashed and disappeared a little too quickly to be considered the Goat of this show, IMO. While I’d love to see him back, I’d hate for him to tarnish his stats with a late-career flop.