It certainly wasn’t easy, but Tony Raines and CT Tamburello finished The Challenge: Champs vs. Stars in first place, beating out Louise Hazel and Casper Smart and Wes Bergmann and Daniel “Booby” Gibson in an intense final. This was Tony’s first win after five seasons on the show, so it’s certainly been a long time coming. “I think having CT as a partner really helped out a lot,” Tony told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY. “I really wasn’t sure what to expect going into a final on Vendettas, and I saw how hard they were, so I did enough to make a final…just not to win one. Coming onto Champs v. Stars, I incorporated more into my training that I knew I’d need. I played with my heart this season and it got me there. Of course, having CT didn’t hurt.”
CT and Tony have both been on similar journeys when it comes to The Challenge: They spent a few seasons messing up and getting in trouble, and even both previously got kicked off the show for getting physical. However, now they’re both dads, and it helped them connect on a deeper level when it came to pulling out this win. “It helped us grow a rapport between each other,” Tony explains. “It was one of those things where we kind of…clicked. I think that has a lot to do with us both being fathers and getting into a few things we shouldn’t have on these show. Just seeing where he came from and where I came from and meeting at this place and time and winning together…it was one of those things where you get together and click.”
How were you able to push CT to finish the final, even when his back was bothering him and he almost looked ready to give up? I guess just from doing so many of these Challenges and being in a position where I’ve had a partner not push me along the way in a positive way — I knew if I didn’t do that with CT…if I was just yelling at him and getting pissed off…it wasn’t going to help us. The only thing I had was to stay positive. Who am I to yell at CT? All that’s doing is making us stop and get in a fight right there. That comes from experience — back in the day I was a kuncklehead on these shows and maybe I would have reacted like that and I wouldn’t have won because of it. My experience and growth allowed me to take a leadership role in that moment and that’s pretty much what pushed the win for Champs/Stars.
You steered clear of the drama this season — is the old Tony officially dead and gone? For my family’s sake…I hope so! I’ve just learned it comes with experience. I’m still not perfect. I still make mistakes and slip up here and there. It’s about knowing how to control yourself in that moment and knowing how it’s going to turn out on TV when you watch it back. It’s not good for your game, your reputation or your family. I don’t want to say the old Tony’s dead and gone because it only takes one bad day. I just hope that I can stay on this straight and narrow and stay winning.
I hate to say the old Tony is dead and gone because I thought the old Tony was gone going into Dirty 30 and then you saw me kissing a girl [Camila] in the back of the bus, blackout drunk. When that happened, and I came home and [my girlfriend] Alyssa was basically like…get out…that’s what really triggered it for me. She let me come back after a couple of days to see my daughter and then I had to leave [again] and I was like…wait, I can’t do this. This is breaking my heart. Your kids are born, it makes you a good man and a new man. But when I messed up and I had to leave, I realized…I can’t mess up ever again. That means I’m walking out on my kids. That’s my driving force to stay on the straight and narrow. I didn’t know that feeling of not being able to come back home. It scared me.
Why do even pro athletes have trouble beating ‘Challenge’ vets on ‘Champs vs Stars’? Experience — that’s what it comes down to. It’s 90 percent mental out there. If you don’t have that, you’re going to crack. You won’t make the right decision in the moment and it’s going to screw you.
You’re officially on Johnny Bananas’ s*** list after ‘Vendettas.’ Do you regret how that went down? I don’t have any regrets for the decisions I made because my goal last season was to make a final and that included me making whatever moves necessary to get there. I knew Johnny was going to be a big road block for me getting to that final. We didn’t come in with a deal before the season. Anything we ever had was unspoken, as far as alliances.
I don’t have any regrets, but I feel bad for the lack of remorse that I had from it. I guess I could’ve showed him a little more remorse. I know he took it rough, but hopefully one day we can smooth everything over.
You’ve said you won’t be doing ‘The Challenge’ forever — do you see an end in sight now that you’ve won? I thought I might be done with these when I was 30 — I just turned 30 and obviously I’m still at it. I got this win which felt great, it’s been such a build up, but I don’t want just a Champs vs. Stars win. I want a regular season of The Challenge win. I want that big one. Not saying Champs vs. Stars isn’t great — Giving money to that charity is an amazing feeling, but being able to bring a grand prize home to my babies is probably going to feel even better. That’s the ultimate goal. So I’ll probably keep doing this until I win one.