These Challenge Rookies Defied Every Expectation

Ashley is the latest cast member whose performance has left fellow competitors shocked

Where the "Challenge" is concerned, there is, indeed, a second chance to make a first impression.

While Ashley spent most of her short time in the Real World: Ex-Plosion house sorting through a drunken fog, she has become an unlikely Challenge success story. She and former enemy Cory demonstrated solid rhythm as a team as soon as the very first Rivals III game, “Give Me Some Slack,” and though Ash took quite a tumble on “Out On a Limb,” she outperformed most of her fellow competitors.

Perhaps more impressively, Ashley managed to fashion her social cage-match with Simone into a convincing argument to vote Simone and Thomas, Cory’s best friend, into The Jungle. You can run laps and lift weights until the cows come home, but you just can’t teach those types of Challenge tactics…

While some competitors like Landon or Emily were obvious threats as soon as they joined The Challenge and immediately incited fear in their opponents on the battlefield, other rookies have proved you can’t always judge a book by a cover and exceeded expectations. Check out a collection of Challenge cast members who really stepped up to the plate, below, and tune in to a brand-new Rivals III episode Wednesday at 10/9c!

  • Not only was Battle of the Seasons the Real World: New Orleans cast member’s first game, it was her last too, and she certainly made it count. Through the duration of the show’s’ fifth season, Kelley, who’d never demonstrated real athletic prowess as one of seven strangers, thrived. Her commanding performance on “Vertical Limit” -- during which she beat out every fellow male and female competitor -- was one of the series’ all-time triumphant moments, and Kelley went on to win the final mission too.

  • Ruthie, Battle of the Sexes

    It’s not that anyone had any reason to believe that Ruthie would be an unreliable competitor, but nobody saw her total domination of Battle of the Sexes coming. Ruthie was single-handedly responsible for nearly half of her team’s wins -- her “Dead Man’s Drop” performance made a mockery of the men’s team -- and she spent every single week, excepting the first, inside of the women’s team’s inner circle. Let’s just say it: She deserved more than a second-place finish.

  • Kina, Gauntlet II

    Thanks to drawing the proverbial short straw, Kina was the second Road Rules: X-Treme cast member voted off the show, but she returned with a vengeance with her second Challenge bid. After Rookie Team Captain Jo quit the show, Kina was forced into the position, which she could only keep if she won an elimination round each time her team lost. Welp, she did precisely that, and after taking out three fellow team members, she went on to win a much-deserved grand prize.

  • Shane/Linette, Fresh Meat

    Linette’s beauty and compassion were clear to the game’s veterans at first glance, but it wasn’t until later in the Fresh Meat season that she proved she and Shane were silent threats. Though Evan and Coral dominated the game’s first half, their injuries and subsequent DQs opened the field for new frontrunners, and though Shane and Linette were eliminated just a few missions shy of the final, they spent a few easy weeks in the winners’ circle -- once after a mission that involved swimming with sharks.

  • Svetlana, The Duel

    As far as reputations go, Svetlana didn’t walk away from Real World: Key West with a favorable one -- her housemates found her to be entitled, whiny and lazy. That all changed during The Duel, though, when Svetlana, one of the few women who beat Superwoman Jodi a handful of times, exacted a true Challenge Cinderella story by making it to the final mission. Jodi eventually won the grand prize after a slog to a Brazilian mountaintop, but Svetty’s first outing was nothing to sneeze at, especially since she was a target and scapegoat the whole way through.

  • Sarah, The Ruins

    Sure, years after her first appearance, Sarah is widely considered to be one of the game’s strongest competitors, but on The Ruins, there was no indication the wide-eyed rookie would make it past the first round. In what Sarah has since called her favorite season of the game, she made quite a name for herself, racking up a handful of elimination wins and nearly beating a team of veteran players in the game’s final mission. More impressively, she did it as the game’s requisite punching bag, a position that took an emotional toll on her.

  • As part of a cast stacked with Adonis prototypes, thin, goofy Mitch didn’t necessarily have anyone shaking in their boots during his inaugural Challenge outing. Soon, though, his penchant for puzzles came into play, and on “Weight For Me,” he executed one of the most epic comebacks in the show’s history. Mitch gained a huge amount of confidence after taking out Raphy in “My Way or the Highway” and eventually earned a very respectable second-place finish in the final mission.