Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
All-time greatest champ Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio was eliminated on Tuesday night’s episode of The Challenge: Vendettas — the latest season of MTV’s long-running reality show. Despite Bananas’ six wins, the most prize money won and most finals appearances in the history of the show, it was one of his protégés, Tony Raines, who sent him to battle for his life.
So, does this mean he’s done working with Raines? And what does he really think about Devin Walker, the man who tried to take him out all season?
PEOPLE caught up with Devenanzio to answer that and more, including questions about supposed “secret hookup” with Kayleigh Morris and his relationship with would-be house flame Natalie Negrotti now.
PEOPLE: Johnny, this is one of your earliest exits. What happened?
Devenanzio: Life happened, I guess! This elimination was the culmination of kinda of a perfect storm of bad timing and bad events. Going into it, I had the most serious injury I’ve ever sustained on The Challenge, and that’s saying a lot ’cause I’ve been put through the ringer. And I was hiding the injury a lot because in this game people try to use that against you. And then add the fact that it was a puzzle, everyone knows I don’t have the best track record at those.
PEOPLE: Why do you think Devin set his sight on you so hard?
Devenanzio: I think it’s because who I am, the storylines around me — I create storylines. Devin doesn’t do that, so he basically is absorbing TV time and attention off of me. If we were batteries, I’d be a car battery and he’d be a 9 Volt. One is going to drain power off the other one, and it’s not the car battery. The only thing he has the ability to do is muddy the water. And I think by causing controversy with me, it’s going to give him a storyline. And it worked. I gotta hand it to the guy, he’s done it. I mean, it worked for Cory [Wharton]. He’s kind of on the same boat.
PEOPLE: But why does Devin get under your skin in a way that Cory doesn’t?
Devenanzio: Because Cory actually brings more to the show than just that! Cory is an athlete, he’s a competitive guy. Even though his track record on The Challenge isn’t that great, Cory’s a gamer. Cory has the ability to move pieces in the game. Devin doesn’t. Devin just has the ability to create controversy, and he knows that’s his only move. It’s been like that every season I’ve done with him, and it was like that on Are You the One?, too. He’s more comfortable in the villain role. And it’s not that he necessarily gets under my skin. The two blowouts that we’ve had this season were basically revolving around the girls.
PEOPLE: Speaking of the girls, what did you think of Devin trying to use Natalie and Kayleigh like that against you?
Devenanzio: What I thought was funny about that is Devin had been aware of this secret hookup for weeks. Now, Nelson [Thomas] is supposed to be Devin’s best friend in the house, yet he doesn’t decide to tell Nelson this until he thought it was convenient for him. But the girls were all looking for a reason to put Kayleigh on the outs. They were looking for a scapegoat, essentially. But it didn’t affect me at all. It affected the girls’ game more than it affected the guys’ game.
PEOPLE: What about you and Natalie, was that just on the show or do you still speak?
Devenanzio: No, no, no, we talk all the time. She’s a good friend of mine. The show does weird things, you kind of want to keep people around you that are going to make you feel comfortable. So it’s just like a natural progression a lot of times. But me and her are still tight.
PEOPLE: With Tony being in the Troika and ultimately sending you in, do you think that was the right move for his game?
Devenanzio: No. Maybe at the time, but I’m the time of person that thinks ahead, and that’s what’s made me so good at this game. You have to think, like, even if this works out for me right now, even if I get rid of Bananas, anyone that knows anything about The Challenge knows that I’m the most constant thing that’s ever taken place. So if you eliminate me this season, I’ll be back next season, and probably for ten seasons after that. So it’s almost like, is the short-term gain worth the long-term repercussions? You can’t just think in the moment. Tony is going to come into the next Challenge and know what it’s like to start working day one. He’s never had to do that before.
PEOPLE: You really have always taken care of him. Did you feel especially betrayed that it was him sending you in?
Devenanzio: Yeah, I kinda took him under my wing from day one. I wasn’t even necessarily upset about the move, but I could’ve at least used a heads up. I felt like after everything I’d done for the guy he at least owed me that.
PEOPLE: Who do you think has the best shot now that you’re gone?
Devenanzio: I think it’s pretty much open. I think Zach’s come in this season in phenomenal shape, and he’s playing a good game, too. He’s moving pieces but allowing other people to take the heat for it.
The Challenge: Vendettas airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on MTV.