The Challenge: Invasion of the Champions premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on MTV

By Aurelie Corinthios
February 07, 2017 04:42 PM
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The new season of The Challenge hasn’t even kicked off … but the trash-talking has already begun.

PEOPLE caught up with John “Johnny Bananas” Devenanzio and Cara Maria Sorbello, two champions from the upcoming season 29, to get the scoop on The Challenge: Invasion of the Champions — and they certainly didn’t hold back when it came to ripping on their underdog competitors.

“Remember that scene in the movie Rounders where they go to Atlantic City and they sit down at a poker table with a couple of novices and those guys have no idea that they’re sitting at a table with all killers?” said repeat champ Devenanzio. “That’s how I felt going into this game.”

The new season features 18 Challenge underdogs competing to earn their way out of The Shelter, their desolate, bare-bones accommodations in Thailand. Only 12 will earn a spot in The Oasis — but then they’ll be faced with a devastating surprise when eight of the most fearsome champs from the franchise are brought into the competition to fight for their share at the $350,000 prize.

The big reveal, as you can imagine, was “insane.”

“We all walk out and they’re standing there looking like a bag of Skittles in their colorful shirts,” explained Devenanzio. “And of course, we’re all murdered out in our black uniforms.”

“I was licking my chops — like, Look at these little cupcakes,” he added with a laugh. “Not one of them has a win under their belt, and not one of them knows how to play the game.”

“The team — especially the guys — really looked pretty scraggly,” chimed in Sorbello. “You look at them and then you see our guys … who are huge.”

Plus, there’s the fact that of the 18 underdogs, almost half are first-timers to The Challenge.

“It looks like they put an ad out on Craigslist, like: ‘Hey, we need Challengers. Who wants to show up?’ ” quipped Devenanzio. “They’re like lemmings. They really are! The new kids come into the game and they’re just following each other off a cliff. It’s like the blind leading the blind. There’s no pecking order, and establishing that is always a very weird situation. When you come into a house and it’s a bunch of rookies, it’s like: ‘How do we figure this out?’ ”

“They think it’s summer camp,” he said. “Week 1 goes by and they’re having such a good time and you just know that once the game actually begins — which isn’t until like, week 4 or 5 — that’s when everyone starts to crack. You know that’s coming.”

And according to Devenanzio, nowadays, the network just doesn’t have “the same pool of people to choose from as they used to” — hence all the (very amateur) rookies.

“A lot of the vets have kind of moved on, grown up — myself excluded,” he explained. “So they’re forced to then pick from Are You the One?, which is a dating show, so you’re casting people from a show where the only prerequisite to going on is: ‘Are you attractive? Do you like to drink? Do you want to get drunk and hook up?’ ”

“When it comes to The Challenge, it requires so much more than that,” he continued. “You have to be physically sharp and mentally sharp. You have to be able to understand human interaction and know how to manipulate situations and how to think on your feet — and a lot of them just don’t bring that to the table.”

“Keep bringing them! Just put me against all the Are You the One? girls,” said Sorbello with a laugh. “That’s all I ask.”

The Challenge: Invasion of the Champions premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on MTV.