A Moment in Challenge History: Vol. 3

Brian Batty
10 min readJan 29, 2021

The Haka

Life is nothing if not an endless string of moments. Some moments change everything, like quitting a job or falling in love. And sometimes they’re simply a minor annoyance, like stubbing a toe on your bed frame in the middle of the night. But certain moments gnaw at your memory until they’ve tattooed themselves on your brain, and it just becomes a part of you forever. For a Challenge fan, this is one of those moments…

It would be hasty of us to jump in. To understand everything surrounding this seemingly small moment, we need to ask some important questions, set the scene and take a look at the characters involved.

Where Are We: Queenstown, New Zealand

When Are We: Spring, 2009

What Season: Duel II

Important Characters: Everybody

Brief Description: For the intro for the latest season, The Duel II, the cast filmed a Haka, an ancient New Zealand ritual. Why this happened is unclear. Some took it better than others.

There are some questions one might be asking themselves upon digesting that information. “What do you mean filmed an intro?” is an obvious one for newcomers to the series. But the biggest one the myopic among us are asking is, what’s a Haka? Glad you asked. Before we jump into the first question and ponder what these intros may have been like, let’s take a trip back in time and learn all about the Haka and what it means to New Zealand.

While the Maori culture can be found throughout the world, it is mostly known to be indigenous to New Zealand. The Maori’s share many similarities to Hawaiian and Easter Island cultures, as they along with New Zealand form what is known as the Polynesian Triangle.

To the Maori, the Haka is an important cultural relic that can symbolize many things. Most, probably based on it’s violent nature, attribute it to being strictly a war dance. This is a total misnomer as the Haka can be attributed to many events ranging from celebrating great achievements to funeral processions.

The Haka is a dance usually performed by a group. It consists of vigorous movements and stomping of feet on the ground, usually accompanied by a rhythmic shouting. Think of it as a symphony, but instead of dozens of instruments, each piece of your body is used as part of the music. You’re entire body; tongue, eyes, neck, arms, legs, feet, plays a pivotal role in a true Haka.

It can be a magnificent sight to see and feel. The most well known version of a Haka is probably is the New Zealand native rugby team, The All Blacks, who perform it before each of their matches.

Being in the presence of a well-done Haka can be quite the bone-chilling experience. Like seeing a young CT out at a bar after nine vodka Red Bulls

For the relative newcomers to the Challenge universe, this show used to be the King of the corny intro. These days all we get are some flashy graphics and the title of the season flying onto our television from some unknown off-screen location. Pretty mild stuff on the creativity scale. But back in 2009, the sillier the better.

There are more differences between society in 2021 and in 2009 than I have time to list out or that you care to read. But there is one major difference that’s important to understand as it applies directly to our Moment in Challenge History.

In 2009 we still didn’t understand that the internet was forever. I guess we kinda knew, I can still hear my Mom warning me to not let anyone take pictures of me holding a beer can at parties. But deep down we didn’t really understand the ramifications of that embarrassing MySpace selfie. Or that tweet you thought was funny a decade ago, but now comes back to bite you in the ass in the worst way.

But even beyond that, it was more about understanding that filming yourself doing, oh I don’t know, a Haka on MTV wouldn’t just fade away. That some shithead with a blog would be making fun of it a dozen years later.

Luckily for the unintentional comedy scale and viewers alike, MTV had no issue taking advantage of this ignorance and putting Challengers in awkward positions for the sake of a nifty intro.

For example, on Gauntlet 2, they had the cast emerging from a swimming pool still completely dry…

…On Fresh Meat, they forwarded the simulation theory and had the cast members as characters in some sort of video game on TJ Lavin’s XBox…

…And not to be outdone by its predecessor, Gauntlet 3 introduced the cast be having them crawl out of the sand like a group of Spring Break zombies…

The early 2000’s were just a simpler time.

Everyone on the cast would be much too cool to do any of this silly nonsense these days. Growing up online makes one more image conscious than humans probably have any right to.

When the Challenge Gods announced to the cast that for this season’s intro they would be doing a Haka, and then subsequently explained to these goomba’s what a Haka was, things probably went one of two ways. Either they were all in or they incessantly complained about it. With this group of knuckleheads there is no shades of grey.

For the most part though, the cast bought in. But there were others that just were not picking up what the producers were putting down.

Because this isn’t just one moment, but a moment that happened before each episode, I need to throw the usual format out the window for this one. No awards, no gimmicks. I’m just going to keep it simple.

I’m going to rank the cast members using pretty basic criteria: How badly they wanted to be there. Before we get to this Moment in Challenge History, I’ll sort through them all to get you ready. Counting down from twenty six all the way down to the the number one most enthusiastic cast member. So without further adieu…

26) Kimberly

25) Rachel

The character Disgust from the movie Inside Out has never before been more perfectly manifested in a person than than they were with Kim and Rachel on this day.

24) Brooke

Hard to tell, but you gotta imagine both knowing Brooke and how quickly the camera scurried away from her that she wasn’t exactly being bubbly at the time.

23) Paula

Classic Paula, gave it her best shot.

22) Ryan

The fauxhawk/sideburns/unattached goatee combo is just a lot.

21) Ruthie

Taught an entire generation of kids that drunk driving was not a very chill thing on her season of The Real World. Not quite as memorable of an appearance here.

20) CT

Notoriously hates doing shit like this, so not surprising he kept his hat on and didn’t buy in 100%. Also, I’m pretty sure he tried to devour Adam like six hours after this.

19) Katie

There were undoubtedly dozens of cigarette butts littered on the ground around her feet by the end of this shoot.

18) Brad

17) Tori

Tori probably cared for the first two takes before quickly becoming unbearable to be around. And Brad was so hungover he couldn’t even keep his eyes open.

16) Landon

Was probably just dozing off imagining going mountain biking or rock climbing or some other extreme activity I’d be exhausted just looking at.

15) Derek

Oh yeah this guy! He looks like if Buzz Lightyear and Anthony Rizzo had a child.

14) Jenn

Was a good sport but I’ll bet dollars to donuts that she talked a whole lot of shit about everything they just did on the bus ride home.

13) Davis

He was always much too sweet of a person to be surrounding himself with the scoundrels on this show.

12) Shauvon

Chances are high that when she called her family back home she told them that they just got done doing something called the “Parka Dance” and that she was really loving her time in Germany.

11) Easy

I bet he was giving them a lot of good takes at first but you just know big man started to get tired down the stretch. He’s moving, for lack of a better term, gingerly.

10) Aneesa

Aneesa’s had a multitude of distinct looks (hairstyles, clothing styles, etc.) over the years. Still to this day, this season is her BEST one ever. Period. End of discussion. Send all your hate mail.

9) Brittini

She said lemme serve this look real quick and then never ever lower myself to this show again…

8) Isaac

Only docked points on the “wanted to be there” scale simply because it’s unclear if Isaac even knew where he was.

7) Diem

I’d say she cared about this because she cared about everything. All the time. It was one of her countless wonderful qualities. So yeah, I’d say she wanted to be there. RIP Diem.

6) Nick

His big moment during this intro may have been the only memorable thing he ever did in his time on The Challenge. Second place is the time he earnestly used the phrase “get a boner” when describing the attractiveness of the women on The Ruins. I’m not going to look it up because I don’t care enough, but his original show was…Real World: Hollywood? I’d say please reply if you know the answer, but I have like eight other things to do today don’t bother.

5) Adam

Leave it to Adam to try just a little too hard during an activity where trying hard is a prerequisite.

4) Robin

I read a rumor once that before they started filming Evan convinced her the Haka was to channel ancient spirits and she totally bought it. I’m not saying that did happen, but it’s never been confirmed that it didn’t.

3) Mark

How long do you think he and Evan argued about who was going to lead the group? I wonder what kind of shenanigans they did to decide? Cross-fit competition? Drunk wrestling match? Beer pong? I’m dying to know either way because Mark Long has never met a spotlight he didn’t want to stand in.

2) Dunbar

For Dunbar, everything on the Challenge was some form of a dick measuring contest. Even eating lunch on The Island was a referendum on his personal masculinity. So it’s not surprising that the Haka was no different.

1) Evan

For a person like Evan, this moment was the pinnacle of all of his life choices to that point. Like everything he did, he took it the more seriously than necessary while simultaneously making fun of it.

Now that the dust has settled, and we’ve peeled back all the layers, you’re finally ready. So sit back, put on your comfiest Patagonia sweater, slice up some kiwi, and enjoy this Moment in Challenge History…

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out Volume 1 and Volume 2. As well as my updated Power Rankings for Double Agents every Sunday night and my Winners & Losers Recap’s after every new episode. Happy Challenge watching!

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Brian Batty

Writing about MTV’s The Challenge, one of America’s great institutions