See Chris "C.T." Tamburello's Transformation on The Challenge Over the Years

Currently competing in his 18th season, The Challenge OG C.T. has been dominating newbies, fighting and growing for almost two decades.

By Tierney Bricker Mar 03, 2021 4:45 PMTags
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Eighteen seasons. Four disqualifications. Three wins. $515,000 in the bank. A whole lot of diapers purchased. Such is Chris "C.T." Tamburello's time on The Challenge.

Since his first appearance on the MTV's reality competition series in 2004, the Boston native has quite simply dominated the show—in more ways than one. Athletic, brash, confident and very quick-tempered, during C.T.'s early years you never quite knew which version of The Real World: Paris star was showing up for a Challenge. He was either going to crush it or crush his chances by getting booted for violating house rules.

But over the years, C.T. has settled down and fans have watched as he's experienced love and loss with the late Diem Brown, become a father and a husband, and gone from ripped 23-year-old who was more than OK to be sent home for fighting to a 40-year-old with a self-proclaimed "dad bod" looking to earn some cash to buy diapers. 

And C.T. is currently competing for his fourth win on Double Agents, finally getting his chance to go into an elimination to win his gold skull to run T.J. Lavin's final. (Yes, you have to call it that.)

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In honor of his big episode, let's look back on C.T.'s journey and ever-changing hairstyles on The Challenge...

The Real World: Paris

MTV viewers first met C.T. back in 2003 when he was one of seven strangers picked to live in a house in the City of Lights. Little did we—or MTV—know that the 22-year-old from Bahhhhhh-stan would go on to become one of reality TV's most famous stars.

The Inferno

In his debut season on The Challenge in 2004, the Real Worlder made it to the final but his team was bested by the Road Rules gang. 

The Inferno II

We'll give you one guess based on this photo which group C.T. was placed in for the franchise's first heroes vs. villains-themed season in 2005.

The Duel

One of The Challenge's most memorable love stories began in 2006 as C.T. met Diem Brown and viewers began to see a different side of him as their Beauty and the Beast-dynamic played out. Returning to the series after finishing her first treatment for ovarian cancer, the season, C.T. gave Diem the "confidence and the push" she needed after returning to the series after finishing her treatment for ovarian cancer. (Do we still get choked up at the memory of her removing her wig for the first time? Yep.)

"I don't need to be ashamed or scared," Diem said after her elimination. "I feel so happy and so lucky and so blessed "Are you kidding me? I get to do everything I ever wanted to do and finally feel OK with being me and you can't put a price on that."

They'd go on to date for almost two years, appearing on several seasons together—both as a couple and as exes.

The Inferno III

Sigh. C.T. made it just 20 minutes into the first episode of 2007's "Good Guys vs. Bad Asses"-themed season before he was disqualified for punching The Real World: Denver's Davis Mallory in the face. 

The Gauntlet III

As a member of the Veterans team, C.T. made it to the final in 2008, but returning players were defeated by the rookies. However, more importantly: Look at that hair!

The Duel II

Before any challenges could even take place, C.T. was booted from the 2009 competition for getting into a physical altercation with his The Real World: Paris roommate Adam King. It was a scary moment for reality TV, with C.T. yelling he was going to "smash" Adam's head in and "eat it."


So... remember that time C.T. punched Adam? Well, they were made partners for this 2011 season and performed surprisingly well together!

Battle of the Exes

Paired with his ex-girlfriend Diem, the former couple finished in second place in 2012, but managed to talk through their issues and form a close friendship.

Rivals II

It turned out opposites could attract as C.T. won his first Challenge season when paired with Wes Bergmann in 2013, each vet taking home $125,000. Both have gone on to become some of the franchise's most popular and dominant players.

Free Agents

Johnny Bananas bested C.T. in the last male elimination before this final in the 2014 season, exacting his revenge for the infamous "Bananas Backpack" moment in season 20. 

Battle of the Exes II

After their strong showing in the first Battle of the Exes, expectations were high for the beloved pair's performance. Sadly, it would mark Diem's final season on The Challenge. Becoming severely ill in episode two, the MedGift founder who'd battled multiple rounds of ovarian and colon cancer was medically evacuated, C.T. by her side.

Two months after filming ended, Diem died at the young age of 32 in November 2014. And C.T. posted a touching tribute to his former girlfriend on Instagram.

"You have always been My Angel. And now you have your wings," he wrote. "We've been thru so much over the years. Thru the ups and downs we somehow managed to keep our promise. We never gave up on each other. Our plan to be together forever hasn't changed... it's just going to take a little longer now. And I'm going to hold onto this ring for you till we are together again. So don't worry mama, I'm not afraid. I know you will always be with me to give me your strength. You are The Love of My Life. My reason to be a better man. I Love You Always and Forever."

Invasion of the Champions

After taking a break from the show following Diem's death, C.T. returned in 2017 with a renewed sense of purpose after becoming a dad the previous year. He'd go on to take home the grand prize in this winners vs. underdogs outing.

"I felt like he helped me get my life back," C.T. told HollywoodLife of his son inspiring his return to The Challenge. "Coming on this show, I like to think that I did it for him and for the right reason. Also, it became more about me and getting my life back and doing it for me."

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Some of his fellow Challengers were relieved when C.T. didn't show up on the first day due to passport issues and was unable to enter Cartagena. But he made a late arrival in the second episode of this 2017 season, going on to come in third place. 

Final Reckoning

C.T.'s ousting in episode five of the 2018 season proved to be his earliest exit outside of a DQ. Was C.T. losing his winning edge as a dad?!

War of the Worlds

Another season, another early exit from C.T., who went home in episode four of this early 2019 outing after the franchise welcomed competitors from U.K. reality shows for the first time. 

War of the Worlds 2

If at first you don't succeed, brush yourself off and change teams to take home the money—which is exactly what C.T. did when he was put on Team UK instead of competing with his fellow US competitors in late 2019. It was their loss, though, as he went on to win his third Challenge, proving there was still a lot of fight left in this veteran. 

Total Madness

Honestly, we think C.T. is still shocked that Jay Starrett, a rookie competitor from Survivor, managed to send him home in the third episode...after C.T. sent himself into the elimination, making for one of the biggest upsets in Challenge history. 

"I have no one to blame but myself for this loss," C.T. said after his 2020 loss. "But I think if I want to continue to compete at a high level in this game, I need to give myself a tune-up. I promise you when I come back I'll be stronger than ever."

Double Agents

So did C.T. come correct after his disappointing Total Madness outing? Time will tell if he takes home the win, but he's still in the competition in his 18th season...

The Challenge airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on MTV.