In a recently-revealed clip from The Challenge: Untold History, viewers can take a trip down memory lane with some of the OG cast members who were part of the show’s early evolution.
Initially, MTV’s The Challenge didn’t involve the extra-fancy production, an extensive cast of reality TV stars, or even a big money prize, as competitors roughed it in an RV.
Those early years brought Real World and Road Rules together to see which cast might win bragging rights for various missions, among other random prizes they received. Money was on the line at times, but never near the amounts competitors battle for today.
The show’s earliest cast members included legends like The Godfather Mark Long, Darrell Taylor, Jon Brennan, Theo von Kurnatowski, and Veronica Portillo.
A few other famous faces popped up during the early Challenge journey, including NBA stars Reggie Miller and the late Kobe Bryant.
Each of these stars and more will appear in the upcoming three-part documentary series focused on MTV’s The Challenge and how it first came about before evolving into the extravaganza it is today.
The Challenge: Untold History looks at MTV show’s origin
Just ahead of The Challenge: Untold History premiere, MTV unveiled a sneak peek clip to give viewers an early preview of the documentary series featuring past and present cast members, among others connected to the show or impacted by it.
The Challenge, now a full-blown competition series that has spawned multiple spinoffs and has up to a million dollars in prize money on the line, originally arrived in 1998.
It wasn’t even known as The Challenge when it first came to MTV. Instead, that debut season was called Road Rules: All Stars 1 and brought Real World cast members into a show following the Road Rules format.
That first season featured only five cast members: Rachel Campos from Real World: San Francisco, aspiring country star Jon from Real World: Los Angeles, Eric Nies from Real World: New York, Sean Duffy from Real World: Boston, and Cynthia Roberts from Real World: Miami.
The Real World cast members traveled around in an RV and tried to complete missions, just like Road Rules stars did back in the day.
While there have been substantial money prizes in recent regular seasons and spinoffs of MTV’s show, that first season gave each of the winners a trip for two to Costa Rica. Also, everyone in that five-person cast ended up as a winner.
“The viewers loved it. They loved getting to see these people again,” Challenge producer Jonathan Murray says of the show concept in just the first season.
Mark Long recalls ‘traveling circus’ days of The Challenge
The Godfather from Road Rules is a true OG that longtime and more recent fans will see in the sneak peek clip. Long has been along for the show’s evolution as he’s appeared in six seasons of MTV’s show and two of Paramount Plus’ spinoff, The Challenge: All Stars, a vision he helped bring to life a few years ago.
Like other OGs and more recent cast members appearing in the documentary series, viewers will see and hear from Mark as he gives his candid comments about the competition series. He talks about how the show changed just a bit from its first installment.
“When I think of the first Challenge I did, it was the second season. It was a straight-up Real World versus Road Rules,” Mark says, adding, “The Challenge back then was such an amazing, fun time. It was like we were a traveling circus.”
Footage shows off how cast members got to enjoy a “rockstar-style” tour bus if they won a daily challenge, while the losers had to ride in a “piece of crap Winnebago” that was affectionately named Bessie.
Check out the clip below, which shows Bessie’s fate during an early season of The Challenge, as well as commentary from Darrell and Veronica about their early seasons.
There’s also the late, great Kobe making a cameo, as the basketball legend was part of one of the missions in which cast members participated. One early cast member shockingly confesses that they don’t even know who the basketball star is.
Over 20 years later, viewers have seen significant changes to MTV’s competition series compared to its early editions. It’s even become known by some these days as a “fifth professional sport,” along with baseball, football, hockey, and basketball.
Some of the OGs featured in the clip above have returned to compete in the spinoff show The Challenge: All Stars, while a few have even continued to appear in new seasons of MTV’s main show.
Those more recent shows have featured much more intense competitive events with at least $500,000 in prize money, generally split amongst a few winners. The game gets brutal, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally, for cast members.
It’s evident from the comments of legends like Mark, Veronica, and Darrell in the documentary series that they were having the times of their lives in those earliest seasons of MTV’s franchise. Without that original fun factor, it may have never evolved to where it’s at today.
The Challenge: Untold History premieres Wednesday, September 21, at 8/7c on MTV. The Challenge: Ride or Dies premieres Wednesday, October 8, at 8/7c on MTV.