Ever since the "The Gauntlet" aired in 2003, accepting a bid to compete in a "Challenge" meant also facing the risk of going home by means of losing an elimination round. And for 15 seasons since the Colorado rodeo, the one-on-one battles have espoused a completely separate aspect of the game that includes its own entire realm of politicking.
Some Challengers have the method of avoiding elimination down to a science, and others luck out by earning exemptions with regular-round wins. But we'd like to honor those who had to crawl, claw and bleed their ways to victory, and after careful consideration, here are the 10 elimination rounds across a span of nine years that have left us--for one reason or another--completely short of breath:
When it comes to elimination rounds, the exhausting, multiple-mile Exiles of the "Fresh Meat" franchise usually make it very clear who has won and who has lost. On "Fresh Meat 2," though, it came down to a matter of seconds when these two pairs sprinted to the finish line, and poor Paula collapsed as she actually watched the other team snag the win right out of her hands.
The Rookie vs. Vet matchup didn't make our list because of any broken bones or blood spilled. Because Kimberly knew she might not make it out of the Duel alive if she played "Back Up Off Me" the way it was designed to be played (by going head-to-head against Ruthie straight out of the gate), she thought outside of the box, patiently waited for Ruthie to come to her and snatched the win away from the powerhouse by outsmarting her. The collection of gaping mouths in the crowd proved just what an upset the win was.
We now know that Emily and Ty are officially "Battle of the Exes" finalists, and when this head-to-head takedown is considered, it's really no surprise. In Team Green's second Dome, they proved they were two to be feared in "X-Battle," as Emily completely plowed over Cara Maria, and Ty drowned out Abram's crazy screams enough to best him, even though he started at a deficit.
It was only a matter of time before full-time Challengers Wes and Derrick met in an elimination round, and when it finally went down in 2006's "The Duel," it was tough to watch. The two went innumerable rounds in "Pole Wrestle," and when it looked like any of the guys' four arms might finally pop off, Wes came out with the W and was so exhausted he collapsed next to his opponent.
In the middle of a rainstorm, the two saccharin sweet blondes showed gritted teeth audiences had never seen from either. Both were bloody in minutes, neither could stifle screams of agony and Susie, a competitor once thought to be a pushover, body-slammed Kim until she finally got the win.
Even though Frank was essentially the only asset to the Rookies' success, he was an unfortunate pariah among his teammates and faced multiple Gauntlets. Team Blue thought they'd finally be done with the guy when they pitted him against hulking MJ, and even Frank was worried he'd finally be sent home. But the strategist used his biggest strength, his brain, to figure out a way to pull the much-heavier MJ all the way to his own safety by tiring out the former football player first.
Or...should we say...CT versus Johnny?
Were it not for the controversy surrounding CT's sudden appearance in the game, this "Cutthroat" battle would rank as No. 1, no questions asked. And though its fairness is contested, the battle's impact still makes it worthy of the top five. CT's Megatron walk with his "custom-made Johnny Bananas backpack" (nice, Dunbar) still gives us nightmares. Poor Johnny never stood a chance, but at least Tyler went on to win his first "Challenge" after defeating his frenemy.
Over the course of her "Challenge" career, Aneesa has won nine elimination rounds. NINE. But the usually composed victor's "Elevator" battle against Tori in "Duel 2" was so grueling and so close that her stone face was brought to tears for the very first time. After TJ's horn signaled her win, our pulses were racing, and the vet went on to win her second bit of "Challenge" money with a third-place finish in the finals.
Take a look at those two. When the mission is to knock the other person out of a circle three times, who would you bet your money on? The big guy, right? Which is exactly why Derrick and Syrus' "Gauntlet 2" battle is so memorable. Derrick completely devastated his opponent, and there is no greater David vs. Goliath tale the "Challenge" has since told.
What can we say? We'll just never forget this one. After Team Road Rules unconscionably sent Sarah into five eliminations (two against dudes!), it looked as if her ailing back might have finally meant her undoing when she faced one last "Deadman's Drop" against the thin and nimble Irulan. But after nearly an hour of inversion (and a tear-jerking internal monologue), Sarah pulled out another unlikely win and set the still-unbeaten record of five elimination victories in a single "Challenge" season.
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