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The Best Nickelodeon Character Bracket: The Elite Eight

With just two rounds remaining until the championship, a clear picture of Nick’s top talent has emerged

Adam VillacinHarrison FreemanCharles Morales

Thirty years ago this week, a rising but not-yet-ubiquitous kids network by the name of Nickelodeon launched its first original animated series. Introduced on August 11, 1991, under the brand of “Nicktoons,” Doug, Rugrats, and The Ren & Stimpy Show would quickly become hits and change the course of animation, television, and popular culture at large. To mark the anniversary, The Ringer is looking back at Nick’s best-ever characters and the legacy of the network as a whole. Throughout the week, we’ll be publishing essays, features, and interviews to get at the heart of what made Nick so dang fun—and now so nostalgic.

In a world of Nicktoon heroes, only one live-action man remains, and his name is Kenan Rockmore.

The Sweet 16 went just about as you’d expect, with 1-seeds SpongeBob, Arnold, and Tommy cruising to victory over Double Dare’s Marc Summers, Patti Mayonnaise of Doug, and Stimpy, respectively. But at the tail end of the bracket, mild shock set in, as Kenan comfortably defeated Arnold’s best pal Gerald with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Gerald isn’t the protagonist of his show, but he was seeded higher than Kenan for a reason. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect this matchup to be a lot closer—if not end with a clear Gerald victory. It’s a statement win for Kenan, particularly when you consider his path to get this point: Kenan’s first two draws of the tourney were also against live-action competition, and they hailed from the same series—Legends of the Hidden Temple’s Temple Guards and Olmec. The latter was expected to be a challenge for Kenan; his rout over the famed statue first put the world on notice. But then Kenan went on to humiliate a beloved character from one of Nick’s most famous series. With a one-two punch of ’90s nostalgia and contemporary relevance on Saturday Night Live, I think it’s clear we need to start taking this guy seriously.

But perhaps the most shocking result of the round came in the form of a 1-seed’s victory. Huh? Let me explain: Patrick Star is the 4-seed you don’t wanna see. The only reason he’s seeded that low, if we’re being honest, is because it didn’t feel right to load the top of the bracket with SpongeBob characters. So when Doug sneaked past the starfish by less than 2,000 votes, surprised whispers spread across The Ringer’s Slack channels … at least, that’s what it felt like over text. Unfortunately for Doug, his own best friend suffered a fate just like Arnold’s boy. Skeeter vs. Chuckie looked evenly matched on paper, but in the end, the red-haired toddler defeated the blue-skinned preteen with ease. Two sidekicks went down in the Sweet 16, but Finster is forever. Maybe.

Only Nick’s top-tier characters remain in contention. Welcome to the Elite Eight.

Voting on the fourth round is officially open. Remember: You can place votes here, on Twitter, and on Instagram until 6 p.m. ET.

Bikini Bottom

1. SpongeBob SquarePants, SpongeBob SquarePants vs. 6. Chuckie Finster, Rugrats

There’s no dancing around the subject here: A SpongeBob defeat at the hands of Chuckie would be the biggest upset of this tournament and possibly in the history of Ringer brackets. SpongeBob remains the odds-on favorite to win it all, while Chuckie remains a secondary character overshadowed by Tommy Pickles. But if I were to guess the narrow path Chuckie could take in order to shock the world, it lies in Nickelodeon’s generational divide. It’s true that SpongeBob SquarePants spans multiple cohorts of Nick viewers, but does SpongeBob deeply tap into the nostalgia of the 1990s? That will be a big question for voters to consider if Chuckie is going to accomplish the unthinkable.


Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    1. SpongeBob SquarePants, ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’
    (9530 votes)
  • 34%
    6. Chuckie Finster, ‘Rugrats’
    (4914 votes)
14444 votes total Vote Now


1. Arnold Shortman, Hey Arnold! vs. 6. Squidward Tentacles, SpongeBob SquarePants

Another 1-seed vs. 6-seed, this time with the lower-ranked contestant having a legitimate shot at success. Hell, Squidward might be the favorite. He’s coming off a beatdown of Renone of the holy grails of early Nick nostalgia—in which he won 61 percent of the vote. But Arnold’s 1-seed favoritism aside, this guy ain’t no slouch either. He straight-up decimated Ginger, Blue, and Patti, each with staggering vote deficits. When we talk about these contestants being “elite,” this is what it’s all about. I can’t wait to see how these two characters in top form duke it out.


Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    1. Arnold Shortman, ‘Hey Arnold!’
    (8326 votes)
  • 41%
    6. Squidward Tentacles, ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’
    (5958 votes)
14284 votes total Vote Now


1. Doug Funnie, Doug vs. 2. Rocko, Rocko’s Modern Life

Wowww, this is another good one. Arnold and Squidward might be the most “powerful” faceoff, but ultimately it could fall along generational lines. Doug and Rocko’s Modern Life premiered just two years apart. Are elder millennials’ heads going to explode when faced with making this choice? They’ll just stare blankly at the screen like: Error, cannot compute. Rocko crushed Daggett Beaver and Charlotte Pickles, but then had a much rougher go at the latter’s daughter, defeating Angelica by only 5 percentage points. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out whether Doug is vulnerable after just squeaking by Patrick, or whether he’s incredibly resilient by staving Patrick off. This is my dark horse pick for Most Intriguing Poll.


Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    1. Doug Funnie, ‘Doug’
    (8831 votes)
  • 36%
    2. Rocko, ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’
    (5009 votes)
13840 votes total Vote Now


1. Tommy Pickles, Rugrats vs. 3. Kenan Rockmore, Kenan & Kel

Throughout the week, we’ve talked about this being SpongeBob’s tournament to lose. If I’m Tommy Pickles, I’m feeling real disrespected right now. It was an absolute rout against Stimpy Cat in the Sweet 16, but what should really raise alarm is his performance in the round before that. Helga Pataki is an icon in her own right and benefits from appearing on a particularly classic Nick show. Tommy beat her by ... [checks notes] 85 percent of the vote. Yet as we acknowledged up top, Kenan has proved himself to be a formidable opponent. Can his enduring stature in pop culture win out against pure, unadulterated nostalgia? We’re about to find out.


Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    1. Tommy Pickles, ‘Rugrats’
    (9494 votes)
  • 33%
    3. Kenan Rockmore, ‘Kenan & Kel’
    (4704 votes)
14198 votes total Vote Now
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