After years of teasing, MTV has finally made the decision to bring back the fan favorite television show “Celebrity Deathmatch.” Toward the end of 2018, the television company announced that they had partnered with Cube Vision’s Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz, naming them both executive producers of the reboot, along with the show’s original creator, Eric Fogel.
The show originally ran from 1998-2002; then, the series re-emerged for two seasons in the mid-2000s and almost made another comeback in 2015 before fizzling out. Knowing that their audience loves a good clay-animation bout between celebrities, MTV has put serious effort into making sure the show not only rematerialized, but would have the staying power to stick around for years to come. The first episodes will air in early 2019.
While it’s impossible to predict how the new show will fare or who it will feature, we can look to the past for some clues. In the spirit of discovering what made the “Celebrity Deathmatch” such a hit, here are some of its best match-ups.
1. Jim Carrey & Mariah Carey
The thing that stands out immediately about this episode is its portrayal of Jim Carrey. The famous actor, who is known for his spastic physicality, finds his mirror in an equally herky-jerk animated figurine. In the episode, Carrey trash talks Mariah Carey and eventually manages to snare her in a choke hold. However, Carey takes advantage of her famous vocals to hit such a high note that “Celebrity Deathmatch” co-host Johnny’s ears start bleeding and Jim’s head pops off, giving the Christmastime songstress a definitive W.
In addition to the verisimilitude of Carrey’s character, another component of the episode that made it special was the total lack of animosity between its two combatants. Normally “CD” pitted real-life enemies against each other, or at least hosted brawls between pugilists that the American public wanted to see duke it out. In this case, the only justification for the pairing was that the two share a similar-sounding last name. That’s it.
2. Michael Jackson & Madonna
Two of the world’s biggest pop stars and a moat of hydrochloric acid surrounding the ring? Fantastic.
In this episode, two of the world’s greatest musicians exchange blows to prove who truly deserves the pop royalty crown. The match features a larger-than-average number of dance scenes, and fans get a glimpse of Michael Jackson circa 1983, when he first moonwalked across the stage during a Motown celebration. In this case, however, Jackson’s dancing eventually leads to his downfall.
3. Eminem & Kid Rock
Both from Detroit, Eminem and Rock fight in this episode of “CD” over the title of “King of the white rap capital of the world.” At the time, “Total Request Live” was the cornerstone of MTV programming, so for a special treat, the network featured a little crossover, as the then-host of “TRL” Carson Daly refereed the special edition of “Total Request Death.”
The show pokes fun at Daly’s hosting style, especially as it compares to the program he normally ran at the time, and the crowd lets him have it. We even get an appearance from Joe C, Kid Rock’s former bandmate, who, weirdly enough, winds up coming out on top. This episode shows just how bizarre the series could get, and people loved it.
4. Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O’Donnell and Jerry Springer
This fight is filled with celebrities: Jack Nicholson guest hosts, Oprah Winfrey fights Rosie O’Donnell, and Jerry Springer also manages to get in on the action.
Because the fight was a battle royale, audiences essentially get treated to a cage match. At one point, Springer uses mind tricks to pin Rosie and Oprah against each other as he enjoys from the sideline. Though he tries splitting the two up, karma comes back to split Springer himself. Soon after Winfrey and O’Donnell appear to have reconciled with each other, the ref reminds them that only one can leave the fight alive. Winfrey acts quickly and pushes O’Donnell through the sharp cage, causing her to fall out of the ring, piece by piece.
5. Mike Tyson & Evander Holyfield
This fight really stands out from the rest. In the bout, Tyson tries to trick his way into winning and runs out of the arena. Holyfield follows him outside and they take it to the streets. We get a parking lot escapade, a random bedroom scene, bar fight, elevator fight and even some roof action.
Though Tyson was the “raining champion”, Holyfield’s is able to come out on victorious. On top of the unorthodox brawl, the commentary is hilarious.
6. The Beastie Boys & The Backstreet Boys
In “The Battle of Boys with Toys,” audiences are treated to a fight between two generations, as well as two genres. This episode finds the ring removed, which allows for the large number of contestants: five Backstreet Boys vs. three Beastie Boys.
Not only does this fight eschew the show’s typical format, but the teams get to battle with “Official Deathmatch Robot Fighting Machines,” each of which comes with its own individualistic weapons and is set up for a “Celebrity Deathmatch” instant classic. The combination of the stereotyped characters also makes this an entertaining bit to watch.