And We're Back (WotW2)
Sure, some pods and blogs and sites stuck around during the hiatus between the well-received and executed War of the Worlds season and the inevitable conception of the follow-up —which we now know is a team competition with the brave title of War of the Worlds…part deux. Which, considering the success of the completely revamped format and style of the original, it seemed a no-brainer to at least insinuate that the sequel will be a slightly-varied continuation.
Readers of thisisthefinalcut.com know I am spoiler-free, at least as much as I can be. I try not to focus on when our competitors leave and return to social media, or the mounds of information being tossed around everywhere. We do know, however, that this season will feature two large teams — US v UK —with four rogue free agents of sorts.
So, without much information, we can simply take what we do (and don’t) know about the competitors, and take a stab at individual power rankings, as well as attempting to put some thought on how the teams fair as a whole.
The last pre-season rankings were very hit and miss. Part of the issue was that we were ranking teams of two, rather than individuals. While I immediately thought Turbo could be a top three player overall, I had the team of Turbo & Nany near the bottom —as I thought Nany to be too much of a liability. As a team, they hung on until the comp moved to individuals, however mainly on the strength of Turbo winning comps week in and out.
Another swing and miss: Chase and Ashley M in my top three. Not my finest moment. I had never seen Chase, only knew of his moderately athletic background. I also believe that Ashley M, when focused, is a very underrated competitor.
So, how do we rank these teams? Good question, though it should be a lot easier than last time. I am able to take each character individually, instead of how I think they might work with (or against) their partner.
Right off the top, I think I share similar excitement in seeing returning legends like Laurel, Jordan and Tori. Laurel, with her long-running rivalry with teammate Cara Maria, and the recently engaged duo of Jordan and Tori, provide plenty of storylines and potentially explosive gameplay.
Paulie - This certainly could be a 1a/1b situation. I have been very forthright in my opinion of Paulie, and that I believe he is the future of this show and the best overall competitor (Turbo might have something to say about that). Interestingly, I’ve compared him to Jordan, whom I think (longevity aside) might be one of the best all-around players we’ve ever seen. There have been rumors that Jordan would no longer be apart of the Challenge, so it was easy to crown Paulie as his replacement. Instead, we have been gifted with both guys not just on the same season, but the same team. This could been an absolutely explosive rivalry or, who knows, the strongest allies to ever play the game. Paulie is the equivalent of Saquon Barkley to Jordan’s Christian McCaffrey - you’re happy with either pick if you’ve got the 01.01 spot.
Jordan - Who isn’t excited about this? See above. Let us also not forget that Jordan has high newly-branded fiance Tori on his side, and Paulie has Cara Maria. If the two couples are smart (and they are), it would seem like a no-brainer to join forces and be an unstoppable foursome. While I have always been outgoing in my hatred for Cara Maria…3 outweighs 4 and I’d love to see this group take the money and run —maybe with Cara getting eliminated at some point. Jordan might be slightly underrated, surprisingly. He has massive upside and is worthy of the number one tag.
Wes - I knew Wes would be at the top of his political game last season, but I didn’t realize he would just be, ya know, at the top of his overall game too. Wes came in with nary an ally (except Hunter), and still ran the game mentally. I’ve always been a Bananas-over-Wes guy…but watching Wes do his thing last season really gave me a newfound appreciation for the dude. I don’t see him doing anything but head to the finals for yet another season. Crafty vet, high ceiling and a higher floor.
Zach - He finally gets the bump over Bananas. One issue: will anyone be able trust him? He seemed to redact an alliance with Bananas last season and start a rivalry, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen Zach very unsure of his own footing. A shame, considering his run over three-straight seasons (Champs v, Vendettas —where he was robbed of a championship by production— and Final Reckoning— in which he dominated with partner Amanda until ego stepped in) seemed to push him into the almost-elite category. Where will Zach land, and will he shine or struggle without Jenna aboard? Risk play here. He’s the Zeke Elliott of the Challenge world.
Bananas - I’ve always ranked Bananas high. Sometimes with good reason, sometimes maybe a little unjust. The fact of the matter, love him or hate him, he’s been very good at this game. I know, he hasn’t won since he opted to take Sarah’s portion of their prize money…and his elimination record leaves plenty to be desired. That doesn’t change the fact that he knows how to play this game…and this might be the first time in years that he isn’t the top of the pyramid, and that might just be what he needs to sneak in and win it all. Has Bananas turned into the Lev Bell of the Challenge? Could absolutely be the best player in the house, but could also not show up.
Josh - This feels a little odd not ranking Josh at the bottom, and I feel a little dirty not showing Leroy some respect. However, it’s been eleven (ELEVEN!!!) seasons without much to show for it. But this isn’t about Leroy, this is about my biggest surprise from last season…Josh. I was not a fan of him on Big Brother, and I’ll never be ok that he beat Paul, but he showed promise and grit in the Challenge world. I loved his demeanor and attitude, and I’m looking for more this season. Josh has a low floor, and moderate ceiling. He can definitely provide value.
Leroy - Leroy goddamnit. This is the guy you root for that just cannot make the playoffs.
Laurel - I may get some hate, but when it comes to physically dominant and feared competitors on the Challenge, look no further. Sure, she’s been MIA since admittedly losing interest during the Invasion season and losing her very first elim in history(!!!), but we’ve also seen some greats make very successful comebacks in recent memory (Wes and Brad, for starters). She’s interviewed and claims to have the same fire as when she was prime Laurel…and I’ll take that any day. If this were Fantasy Challenge, Laurel and Cara would be the 1-2 picks, in no specific order. Huge upside.
Cara - Welp, here she is. I’ve been outspoken in my dislike for Cara as a character, and also as a competitor. I think she plays closer to a weight-lifter/CrossFitter than an actual athlete. Anyone can work out and get strong, but some people will just never be able to throw a ball or, I dunno, swim? I feel Cara has some great strengths, but she’s far from well-rounded. All that said, she continues to make finals, and whether that’s her gameplay, social standing, etc. it doesn’t really matter at this point. A final is a final is a final, and I fully expect to see Cara in this season’s final as well. Obviously, the main sideshow: Cara v Laurel. Ding ding! Consistency…Cara will likely see yet another final.
Tori - Tori is interesting. She looked good in her inaugural season as she made the final, but has cooled since. Tori has spent a lot of time getting in shape, and it doesn’t hurt that her main squeeze (and now fiancé) is the best all-around athlete on the show. Tori is well-liked and should do we all-around…can she win a show with Jordan? Tori is the sexy pick that you hope pays off.
Kam - Kam started this show with a bang, flexing her muscles and her brain. We are still waiting for her to put it all together, and stay out of the drama. That will likely not happen this season, with new fling Theo and old fire Leroy still chirping in the house. She seems to be in the middle tier with Tori and Ashley. Kam is a bit risky, but has high potential.
Ashley M - Let’s talk about Ashley. For years, I just couldn’t get behind her. I hated that she quit shows, always had excuses, and threw fits. However, put that aside, and she has as many Challenge titles as the heralded Cara Maria (2), and did it in far fewer tries. Regardless of how you think she got them, she still got them…and has a big bank account because of it. I find Ashley to be one of the most entertaining parts of this show, and I hope she proves herself with another good showing. Ashley is an absolutely hit or miss…where will she finish?
Nany - She made it much further than I anticipated in WotW’s, however just like I predicted, once she lost the protection of Turbo it was all but over for Nany. I fully expect this to be her swan song, and an early one to boot. Nany is the player you overdraft because you like her, but she never quite delivers.
Faith - There might be something about Faith I’m overlooking. JK. Could be some interest here.
Theo - Theo - An absolute tragedy what happened to Theo after the Challenge season ended. He’s pretty clearly the class of the UK team, with fantastic speed, reach and agility. He’s also done nothing to hurt himself on the social spectrum, other than maybe earn an enemy in Leroy with the whole Kam relationship (which could turn Bananas into an enemy, as well). Hopefully he is a mainstay in the Challenge, and his eye injury will not inhibit what could have been a popular Challenger for years to come. Theo would never be a top 5 pick, but maybe end of the first round/early second.
Kyle - Kyle started his career on the Challenge as an out-of-shape, uninterested ogre that made a final by being well-liked, and turned himself into one of the most intimidating physical monsters in the game. He’s always had the height, but has now added a ton of muscle and a bit of a scary demeanor when competing. He's still got allies, and let’s hope the Kyle-Paulie-Cara thing is in the past. Kyle would be a late-second round type of guy.
Joss - The first time we saw Joss, he ran up a mountain fast and made us all think twice about the newbies. Since then, he’s been a quietly strong player and may very well have won Final Reckoning had he not been saddled with a late grenade. Value potential here.
Idris - Based on looks and a small profile, I’m interested but keeping my opinion back for now.
Bear - If this were a list of players I want to watch literally all the time, Bear would be number one. His all-nonsense, get-in-your-head attitude is as much fun to watch as it likely is to play. I think Bear is physically a little better than he gets credit for, but it’s hard to see him go too far with his prevalence to get under people’s skin. I’d love nothing more than for TJ to hand him a check, buuuuut…Mid-draft flyer because you’ve always been a fan.
Rogan - I think we should all do ourselves a favor and forget about Dirty XXX. Rogan, by all accounts, had a bad back, which cost him on day one. I’m very interested in seeing what he’s made of, and would not be surprised at all to see him in the final for the UK, especially as a potential sleeper at this point. Bruiser RB that snakes TDs.
Sean - Sean could very well be the most athletic person on the planet, but again, without some background, this is pointless.
Georgia - Georgia is almost the obvious number one with a bullet for the UK women, which is a scary thought. Georgia would struggle to make the top 5 for the US women, but I don’t see anyone being better at this point, based on one season and having a bit of experience. This could be a long season for the UK team, in particular the women. Early second round type of pick, if you pick her in the first you’re not happy about it.
Jennifer - Physically, Jennifer looks like she could be the real deal - but we just don’t know anything at this point.
Zahida - She was mildly interesting but never seemed to be overly exciting or scary. She had a good thing for a while with Zach, but I need to see her on her own to know what she’s made of.
5. 6. 7. Kayleigh, Nicole, Esther and Tula - Kayleigh is the only player with experience, and I would imagine she would be the lowest-ranked player. She has shown nearly-nothing as far as game goes. As for the other three, again, no point putting much weight into them before seeing what they can do.
Turbo - Defending champ Turbo would be the walk-on number one for the UK team, which is where I imagine he ends up. I see Turbo and Dee supplanting the first gone from the UK team, and CT/Ninja taking over for the US departed. Assuming that’s how it goes, it’d be smart for the UK team to snuff out their weakest player and figure out how to get him out, with Turbo coming in ASAP to save the day. If this season has anything to do with choosing who goes into elimination, the Americans would be smart to pick off Turbo and Theo/Kyle early and cruise. He has few weaknesses as a competitor. Would be the type of player you lead your fantasy team with.
CT - The former RW:Paris standout is a shell of his younger self, but is still a great athlete. If/when he joins the US, he would be somewhere in the second tier of players, behind Jordan/Paulie but mixed in with Wes, Bananas and Zach. US needs to figure out how to eliminate Josh and replace with CT.
Ninja - Ninja, while boring and awkward, seemed to be well-rounded but not as dominant as many might have thought. I think she is an upper-mid tier player with some upside.
Dee - Dee showed she was not afraid to learn how to be a better competitor, hence an impromptu swim lesson from teammate Wes. She's a middle-tier female player with moderate upside.