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Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge is an American reality television competition show that premiered on July 6, 2014 on Country Music Television. Its second season premiered on January 4, 2015 and ended on March 15, 2015. It is created and hosted by former professional wrestler Steve Austin. New episodes will air every Sunday at 8 pm EST on CMT.

Series overview

Each episode of Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge brings a group of eight contestants, either all male or all female, to the "Broken Skull Ranch" to compete in a series of physical challenges. In an interview with KMTV-TV, Austin revealed that the actual location was not the real Broken Skull Ranch, which is owned and operated by Austin near Tilden, Texas, but an area just outside of Los Angeles, CA designed to represent his ranch. The contestants were selected from athletic backgrounds, including CrossFit, Spartan Racers, Tough Mudder, mixed martial arts (MMA), and pro wrestling. The contestants are eliminated in a series of competitions with the last one standing facing a tough obstacle course known as the Skullbuster, and possibly win a US$10,000 cash prize and a chance to win even more.

Elimination challenges

In each episode, the eight contestants face off in head-to-head competitions in a single-elimination bracket format. The first round bracket match-ups are chosen at random. Austin first explains the challenge to the contestants and to the viewers, then provides verbal encouragement to the contestants and somewhat of a play-by-play analysis of the competition while it is ongoing. The competitions shown include the following:

  • Trench Warfare — a trench (45 feet long and 3 1/2 feet deep) is filled with water and has a bell hung from a post at each end. The contestants both start at opposite ends of the trench, then jump into the trench and must use any means necessary to get past the opponent and ring a bell at the opposite end of the trench. The first one who rings the bell wins. In season two, the trench was narrowed from 5 1/2 feet wide to 4 1/2 feet.
  • Pulverizer — a course (120 feet long) covered in sand is laid out with a series of three sets of two weight sacks (three equal sets of two 50-pound sacks for males, and two 10-pound sacks, two 15-pound sacks, and two 20-pound sacks respectively for females) over the course, a coil of rope at the starting end of the course, and a metal sled at the other. Two contestants must first run the rope to the sled and attach it. They then run back and pull the sled completely to each series of weights. They then run to the weights, load them into the sled, then run back to the rope pull area. This is repeated for all three series of weights. The first one to pull the fully loaded sled across a finish line wins.
  • Possession — a course (60 feet long by 20 feet wide) covered in sand has a 20-inch-wide circle of rope in the middle of the course. Two contestants grab the rope and attempt to force the rope out of the opponent's hands by way of yanking, pulling, twisting, throwing, or otherwise ripping the rope out. The one who obtains sole possession of the rope wins. This event is very similar to the Whiplash event of American Gladiators.
  • Loaded — a dirt hill (120 feet long in season one, 160 feet in season two) has a 35-pound yoke with hooks on it at the beginning and three sets of weights (each set 40 pounds total for males and 14 pounds total for females in season one; sets are 40, 50, and 60 pounds respectively for males in season two and 10, 20, and 30 pounds respectively for females) on pedestals along the course. Two contestants must shoulder the yoke then carry it to each set of weights, stopping to attach the weights to the yoke. They then carry the weighted yoke onward to the next set of weights. The one who carries the fully loaded yoke across a finish line first wins.
  • Snatch — a course (60 feet long by 20 feet wide) covered in sand has a 15-pound sandbag in the middle and a bell hung from a post at each end. Two contestants rush from the ends to grab the sandbag and then use any means necessary to carry the sandbag to the opponent's bell and ring it. The first one who rings the bell with possession of the sandbag wins.
  • Stacked — a course (120 feet long) covered in sand has three large tractor trailer tires (150, 170, and 185 pounds respectively for males; 80, 100, and 115 pounds respectively for females) staggered across it, with a 5-foot tall pole past a line and a bell hung from a post just past the pole. Two contestants must run to the first tire and flip it end over end until it fully crosses the line at the end. The process is then repeated for the remaining two tires. Once all three tires are across the line, the contestant must then lift and stack them in any order onto the pole, then ring the bell when completed. The first one who rings the bell wins.
  • Drag Race — a course (60 feet long by 20 feet wide) covered in sand has a 9-foot-long rope in the middle which is attached to two harnesses, and a bell hung from a post on each end of the course. Two contestants start facing opposite ends of the course, and must pull, drag, or lift their opponent to their bell and ring it, in a modified tug of war contest. The first one who rings the bell wins.
  • Bagged — a dirt hill (120 feet long) has three sandbags (40 pounds each for males, 25 pounds each for females) at the bottom, a wall (7 feet high for males, 6 feet high for females) at the top, and a bell hung from a post on the other side of the wall. Two contestants must first carry each bag up the hill to the base of the wall. Once all bags are at the wall, they then throw each bag over the wall, then climb over the wall and ring the bell at the end. The first one who rings the bell wins.
  • Pain Train — a dirt course (120 feet long) has a bell hung from a post behind a starting line and a set of steel plates (300 pounds for males, 175 pounds for females) chained together at the opposite end. Two contestants must run to the steel plates and drag them back towards the original starting line to the bell. The first one who rings the bell wins.
  • Summit — a dirt hill (50 feet long) has a bell hung from a post at the top. Two contestants race to the top of the hill and are allowed to impede their opponent's progress by wrestling, tackling, etc. The first one who rings the bell wins.
  • Tired — a dirt hill (160 feet long) has a tire (200 pounds for males, 115 pounds for females) halfway up the hill, a 5-foot post at the top, and a bell hanging from a post beyond it. Two contestants run up the hill to the tire and must move it any way necessary to the post at the top of the hill, then lift the tire up and onto the post, then ring the bell. The first one who rings the bell wins.
  • Barn Burner — a dirt course (120 feet long) has a harness at one end attached to a facade of a barn door and wall (280 pounds for males, 215 pounds for females) with a guide rope along the course and a bell hung from a post at the end. Two contestants are attached to the harness and must use the guide rope to aid them in dragging the barn facade toward the bell. The first one who rings the bell wins.
  • Rip Off — a course (60 feet long by 20 feet wide) covered in sand puts two contestants in the field with each contestant having a large industrial-strength velcro wrap placed around their ankle. The two contestants wrestle each other to remove the wrap from their opponent's ankle. The first one who removes the wrap wins.
  • Ass Kicker — a dirt hill (160 feet long) has four bagged kettlebell weights with ropes attached to them buried along the hill, each bag weighing 30 pounds for males, 16 pounds each for females. The two contestants race to the kettlebells and must pull them out of the ground then drag them to the next set of weights until all weights are such removed. The first one who crosses the finish line with all the weights wins.
  • Ball Breaker — a dirt hill (160 feet long) has three weighted balls at the bottom (20, 30, and 40 pounds for males; 10, 20, and 30 pounds for females), a wall (8 feet high for males, 6 feet high for females) at the top and a bell hung from a post beyond the wall. Two contestants must take the lightest ball partially up the hill and throw it a set distance so that it lands in a holding area. They then go back to get the second heaviest ball and go further up the hill to throw it into a holding area. They then take the heaviest ball to the top of the hill, throw it over the wall, climb over the wall, and finally ring the bell. The first one who rings the bell wins.

Pit challenges

The final two contestants face off in a two-part challenge. The first part is not an elimination challenge; it is designed to wear down the contestants. Once the first part is completed, both contestants proceed immediately into the Pit to determine a winner. The competitions shown include the following:

  • Junkyard — a dirt course (120 feet long) is laid out with two barriers in the middle, and a large amount of various scrap objects at the beginning, such as rolled chain-link fencing, small girders, and gas cylinders. Males have approximately 600 pounds of total junk, while females have approximately 300 pounds. The two contestants must move each individual piece of junk over or under the barriers and to the opposite end of the course.
  • Grip and Rip — a dirt course (120 feet long) has three bags of weights along it (30, 35, and 40 pounds respectively for males; 10, 20, and 30 pounds respectively for females) and a guide rope along the middle to aid with the players' grips. The two contestants are first harnessed to a large tractor trailer tire (246 pounds for males in season one, 205 pounds for males in season two; 150 pounds for females in seasons one and two). They use the guide rope to drag and pull the tire along to the weights, where they must stop and throw the weights into the tire. They continue to add weights and drag the tire until the tire fully crosses a finish line.
  • Chained Up — a dirt hill (100 feet long) has a post with two padlocks holding a large chain (200 pounds for males, 135 pounds for females) at the bottom of the hill, and a post with two keys at the top. The two contestants race up the hill, grab one of the keys, run down the hill, and unlock one of the padlocks. This process is repeated. Once the chain is fully unlocked, it must be completely dragged across a finish line.
  • Blowout — a dirt course (120 feet long) has 5 bagged kettlebell-style weights (20 pounds each for males, 7 pounds each for females) spread over the course, and a tractor tire (351 pounds for males, 190 pounds for females) past the weights. The two contestants first run to each individual "kettlebag" and carry it back across the starting line. Once all bags are across the starting line, they then run to the tractor tire and flip it end over end across the finish line.
  • Barrelled — a dirt course (120 feet long) has three wooden pallet platforms spread over the course, amd three enpty metal drum barrels (a 50-gallon, a 30-gallon, and a 20-gallon drum for males; a 30-gallon, a 20-gallon, and a 10-gallon drum for females) at the starting line. The two contestants must move each of the barrels onto one of the wooden platforms by any means except rolling them. The contestants must move all three barrells onto the three platforms.
  • Excalibur — a dirt course (120 feet long) has three concrete slabs (2, 4, and 6 inches thick respectively for males; 2, 3, and 4 inches thick respectively for females) with sledgehammers (30 and 50 pounds for males; 18 pounds each for females) embedded in the first two slabs and a rope attached to a kettlebell weight embedded in the third. The contestants start the course with a sledgehammer (20 pounds for males, 12 pounds for females), carry the sledgehammer to the first slab and use it to break the slab and free the next sledgehammer, which they carry to the next slab. This is repeated until the slab with the rope and kettlebell is freed which must then be dragged across a finish line.
  • Cranked — a dirt hill (160 feet long) has a weighted sled (115 pounds for males, 75 pounds for females) with a rope attached to it on the hill and a crank attached to a large spool at the top. Two contestants run to the sled, grab the rope, and attach it to the spool, then use the crank to pull the weighted sled to the top of the hill. Once there, they must grab a sandbag (25 pounds for males, 15 pounds for females) out of the sled and carry it back to the bottom of the hill.
  • Hard Labor — a dirt course (120 feet long) has three weight stations along it (200 pounds, 150 pounds, and 150 pounds for males; 125 pounds, 75 pounds, and 75 pounds for females), a wheelbarrow at the beginning, and a cart near the end. Two contestants run to each weight station and carry the weights back and load them into the wheelbarrow. The fully loaded wheelbarrow is then pushed to the container where all weights must be loaded into the cart.
  • Splinter — a dirt course (120 feet long) has two wooden posts (one 5 feet long weighing 60 pounds and one 15 feet long weighing 200 pounds for males; one 5 feet long weighing 37 pounds and one 15 feet long weighing 115 pounds for females) that are buried in the ground, with the smaller post being buried almost all the way and the larger post being mostly buried, and a bell hung from an elevated post at the end of the course. Two contestants must extract the first pole, carry or drag it to a hole near the bell post, and insert it into the hole, then repeat the process with the second pole. Once both poles are in the hole, they must then climb the pole and ring the bell.

The Pit is always featured as the final individual challenge to determine the episode's overall winner. It is also always immediately preceded by one of the previous challenges as described earlier, with no rest period except for the player who completed the previous challenge first. Beginning in the second season, a rule was instituted that the second contestant must enter the Pit within one minute of the first contestant or he/she is disqualified. The Pit is a circular dirt ring resembling an amateur wrestling circle or a sumo wrestling ring, measuring 15 feet wide. Once both players have entered the Pit, a signal is given, and the two contestants wrestle each other. The first person able to force their opponent out of the ring is declared the winner. Takedowns may occur but they do not apply toward the final outcome. The style of the Pit is very similar to the Conquer portion of the Breakthrough & Conquer event of American Gladiators.

Skullbuster

After a day's rest, the winner of the elimination challenges moves on to face the Skullbuster, a 1/2-mile-long obstacle course with a series of ten obstacles over the course. Some of the obstacles are identified as "restart elements", where the contestant must restart the obstacle from the beginning if they fail to properly complete the obstacle.

In the first season, the obstacles of the course were as follows, in order of their appearance:

  • Backbreaker — carry a log (60 pounds for males, 30 pounds for females) down 1/4 mile of road.
  • Shredder — crawl under 30 feet of barbed wire.
  • Mudbath — cross a 15-foot rope swing over a pit of mud onto a landing area. If the contestant falls in the mud, they must restart this obstacle.
  • Spiderweb — climb over a 60-foot section of cargo net suspended between two containers.
  • Nutcracker — negotiate a series of a 4-inch-wide balance beam, a balance post, a teeter-totter, and three more posts all over a sand pit. If the contestant falls into the sand at any point along this series, they must restart this obstacle.
  • Commando Crawl — climb across a 24-foot-long suspended rope crawl which is 12 feet off the ground. If the contestant falls off the rope at any time before completing this obstacle, they must restart this obstacle.
  • Wallbusters — climb over three military-style wall climbs (6, 8, and 10 feet respectively for males; 4, 6, and 8 feet respectively for females).
  • Deep Freeze — climb through a pit with water at 35 degrees Fahrenheit and two beams in the middle, going over the first beam and under the second.
  • Heartbreak Hill — climb a 100-foot hill with a 40-degree incline, circle around a post at the top, and run or slide back down.
  • Ropeburn — ascend a 17-foot vertical rope climb up to a bell and ring it, thus ending the course.

In the second season, the Skullbuster was modified. The obstacles of the new course are as follows, in order of their appearance:

  • Backbreaker — carry a log (70 pounds for males, 40 pounds for females) down 1/4 mile of road.
  • Mudbath — cross a 15-foot rope swing over a pit of mud onto a landing ramp. If the contestant falls into the mud, they are allowed to continue.
  • Holding Pattern — climb across a vertical wall 40 feet long by 15 feet high over a pit of water using separated hand and foot holds. If the contestant touches the water at any point, they must restart this obstacle.
  • Skyscraper — climb up and over a vertical cargo net 20 feet high.
  • Nutcracker — negotiate a series of a peaked balance beam, ascending and descending foot posts, and a spinning log all over a pit of sand. If the contestant falls into the sand at any point along this series, they must restart this obstacle.
  • Commando Crawl — climb across a 25-foot-long suspended rope crawl which is 15 feet off the ground. If the contestant falls off the rope at any time before completing this obstacle, they must restart this obstacle.
  • Log Jam — climb over a series of seven elevated log hurdles.
  • Deep Freeze — climb through a pit with water at 35 degrees Fahrenheit and a 8-foot-long fence over it, swimming or crawling under the fencing.
  • Heartbreak Hill — climb a 100-foot hill with a 40-degree incline, circle around a post at the top, and run or slide back down.
  • Ropeburn — ascend a 20-foot vertical rope climb up to a bell and ring it, thus ending the course.

The first contestant in the series to successfully complete all elements of the Skullbuster wins $10,000, sets the time to beat for all future contestants, and is declared champion. Any future contestant must complete the Skullbuster in less time in order to win the $10,000, thus becoming the new champion and setting the new time to beat. Male contestants have a male champion and female contestants have a separate female champion. If a contestant fails to beat the champion's time or does not complete the course, the champion wins another $10,000 for every unsuccessful effort. In the beginning of the series, if a contestant did not complete the Skullbuster and there was no set time to beat (no champion), no one won any prize.

Awards and honors

Year Category Nominee(s) Episode Result
2014 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Reality Programs Adam Vetri "Welcome to the Gun Show" Nominated

Episode results

Season Four (2016-2017)

E404: "Down & Dirty"

Original Air Date: December 4, 2016

  Trench Warfare Water Weight The Peak/The Pit
                           
   Amanda    
 Jennie    
   Jennie    
   Ashli    
 Ashli  
   Jade    
     Ashli  
   Vanessa  
   Maylean    
 Cheyenne    
   Maylean  
   Vanessa    
 Vanessa  
   Casey    


E405: "Broken Records"

Original Air Date: December 11, 2016

  Trench Warfare Water Weight The Peak/The Pit
                           
       
     
       
       
   
       
       
     
       
     
     
       
   
       


E406: "Take What's Yours"

Original Air Date: December 18, 2016

  Trench Warfare Water Weight The Peak/The Pit
                           
       
     
       
       
   
       
       
     
       
     
     
       
   
       


E407: "The Hunter and the Hunted"

Original Air Date: January 8, 2017

  Trench Warfare Water Weight The Peak/The Pit
                           
       
     
       
       
   
       
       
     
       
     
     
       
   
       


E408: "Leave With Your Head Held High"

Original Air Date: January 15, 2017

  Trench Warfare Water Weight The Peak/The Pit
                           
       
     
       
       
   
       
       
     
       
     
     
       
   
       


E409: "Best Of The Best"

Original Air Date: January 22, 2017

  Trench Warfare Water Weight The Peak/The Pit
                           
       
     
       
       
   
       
       
     
       
     
     
       
   
       


E4010: "Redemption, Revenge, Regret"

Original Air Date: January 29, 2017

  Trench Warfare Water Weight The Peak/The Pit
                           
       
     
       
       
   
       
       
     
       
     
     
       
   
       


External links


List of Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge episodes
Season One (2014)
My Ranch, My RulesDidn't Even Break a NailBeards and BrawnBoom or BustLocked and LoadedThe Good, the Bad, and the CrazyWelcome to the Gun ShowLooks Can Be DeceivingLast Man StandingYou Lose, You Leave
Season Two (2015)
Welcome Back to HellLadies FirstThe Last Face You SeeBig Girls Don't CryGods of WarFallen on Hard TimesTotally RippedMean GirlsPut Up or Shut UpBest for Last
Season Three (2016)
Rank and FightSpecial DeliveryFighters ChanceFlipping OutA Frog's Hair AwayHigh and DryWinners Never QuitStars and ScrapsIs There a New Sheriff in Town?You Gotta Dig DeepHeavy HittersA Woman PossessedKing of the HillStrappedGuns and HosesLabor PainShell ShockedFinish Strong
Season Four (2016)
Toughest Place in AmericaThe Girls Are Back In TownLast Man Smilin'Down & DirtyBroken RecordsTake What's YoursThe Hunter and the HuntedLeave With Your Head Held HighBest Of The BestRedemption, Revenge, Regret
Season Five (2017)
Set the ToneThe Women Bring ItIf I Brought it Back, I Made It HarderGive a Girl a ChanceSnooze You LoseHow Hungry Are YouRed, White and BoomThrone DownHeavy ImpactNever BeforePayback Is a B*Second Place Is a Piece of S...!Co-Ed Showdown