Prior Finish: Season 11 third-place with partner Mark Ballas
Pros and Cons: One of only five cast members to keep her original partner — so at least she’s used to Ballas’ training style — but as the least graceful and least enthusiastic dancer ever to crack the DWTS finals, she’ll need to show huge improvement in skill and attitude to avoid being the first contestant out.
Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani
Prior Finish: Season 8 third-place with partner Tony Dovolani
Pros and Cons: Jilted “winner” of Jason Mesnick’s season of The Bachelor was arguably more famous during her initial DWTS outing than she is now. And while her dance background is a major plus, pro partner Dovolani has only cracked the finale twice in 13 attempts — and hasn’t finished better than seventh since Rycroft’s season.
Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson
Prior Finish: Season 4 runner-up with partner Kym Johnson
Pros and Cons: The Fatone-Johnson partnership is an appealing one — and Johnson herself is a two-time DWTS champ — but Fatone once again finds himself up against Season 4 champ Apolo Anton Ohno, a competitor he’s unlikely to outlast. Plus, of the two ’90s-era boy band grads in the All-Stars cast, it’s Drew Lachey who looks like the true contender.
Helio Castroneves and Chelsie Hightower
Prior Finish: Season 5 winner with partner Julianne Hough
Pros and Cons: Dashing and popular former champ loses the edge that comes being choreographed by someone with the last name Hough. And while we wouldn’t be shocked to see him outperform his odds, he lacks the raw sex appeal of fellow heartthrob Gilles Marini and the widespread popularity of fellow sports star Ohno, which might lead to a surprise early exit.
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Prior Finish: Season 12 runner-up with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Pros and Cons:DWTS voters love women of a certain age who play through the pain and bring sophistication and humor to the ballroom. Still, Alley never quite achieved the technical brilliance of, say, a Jennifer Grey, something she’ll need to go far in this All-Star season. Plus, former contestant Hope Solo’s recent accusations that Maks slapped her in the face during training hours has cast a cloud over the couple. (Due to Alley’s travel schedule, the couple doesn’t yet have an official Season 15 portrait.)
Sabrina Bryan and Louis van Amstel
Prior Finish: Season 5 seventh-place with partner Mark Ballas
Pros and Cons: Had the worst finish in her original season of any All-Star cast member, but that early exit was widely considered an act of felony robbery among DWTS die-hards. A “comeback kid” edit seems likely, and that could carry her far, but new partner van Amstel has seen plenty of early exits during his time on the show, and only cracked the finals once (with Kelly Osbourne in Season 9) in eight prior tries. (Ryan and van Amstel have yet to partake in their official Season 15 photo shoot, seeing as how they were only added to the cast on Monday.)
Pamela Anderson and Tristan MacManus
Prior Finish: Season 10 sixth-place with partner Damian Whitewood
Pros and Cons: Another star who didn’t come close to mirrorball glory on her maiden DWTS voyage, Anderson nevertheless displayed charm and good humor during her time on the show. Gets a major upgrade in pro partners this time around, going from one-season wonder Whitewood to wickedly popular (and wickedly handsome) MacManus. If their chemistry’s good, Anderson could wind up as the Season 15 dark horse.
Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke
Prior Finish: Season 3 winner with partner Cheryl Burke
Pros and Cons: Of the three popular All-Stars who were originally paired with Burke, it’s Smith who’ll get a chance to recreate their winning chemistry. And while there’s no denying the affable, smooth Smith has a decent chance at becoming a two-time mirrorball winner, the quality and difficulty of dancing on the show may be slightly higher now than it was back in his season.
Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy
Prior Finish: Season 1 winner (later knocked to second-place in post-season “dance-off”) with partner Alex Mazo
Pros and Cons:General Hospital star brings a huge soap-fan following to the table, and as the winner of the very first DWTS season, can appeal the sentimental members of the Church of Mirrorball, too. The younger Chmerkovskiy seems like a good fit — at least their promo photo is pretty hot — but Monaco’s been away from the dance floor longer than any of her competitors.
Drew Lachey and Anna Trebunskaya
Prior Finish: Season 2 winner with partner Cheryl Burke
Pros and Cons: There’s a ton of good will toward Lachey among the DWTS faithful — his “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” freestyle is truly the stuff of legend — and he’s among the most fleet-footed, enthusiastic men ever to grace the show. The question remains, though, whether he’ll have the same chemistry — and success — paired with Trebunskaya, a pro who’s finished eleventh, eighth, and ninth in her last three spins around the ballroom.
Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd
Prior Finish: Season 8 runner-up with partner Cheryl Burke
Pros and Cons: Marini practically set the stage on fire during his suave, sexy Season 8 run, and his subsequent stint on ABC’s Brothers and Sisters only added to his notoriety. If he’s as serious about his ab routine today as he was back in 2009, he should be able to spur Bruno Tonioli to new heights of hyperbole — and be a serious contender to make the finale. Loses two-time champ and two-time runner-up Burke to Emmitt Smith, but picks up defending champ Murgatroyd as his partner in crime — not a bad tradeoff.
Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough
Prior Finish: Season 8 winner with partner Mark Ballas
Pros and Cons: Olympic gold-medalist used her gymnastics background to win the Mirrorball Trophy over fellow All-Stars Marini and Rycroft, and her athleticism, commitment to training, and positive attitude should serve her well on a return visit to the show. Loses pro partner Ballas to rival Bristol Palin, but winds up with Hough, who’s arguably the savviest choreographer among the entire DWTS pro roster. If their chemistry clicks, Johnson could easily turn out to be the woman to beat.
Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff
Prior Finish: Season 4 winner with partner Julianne Hough
Pros and Cons: If Johnson is the pre-season favorite among the All-Star ladies, then it’s fellow Olympic star Ohno who’s probably the safest bet on the men’s side. The charming speed-skater brought excellent technical skills and a showman’s dazzle to Season 4, and while he’s lost Hough to her Hollywood career, he finds a capable replacement in veteran Smirnoff, who finally won the mirrorball with J.R. Martinez back in Season 13.
Which DWTS All-Stars couple do you think is most likely to win? Who are your picks for the finale? Who’ll be the first voted off? Hit the comments and sound off!