STRICTLY Come Dancing viewers were shocked tonight as Kevin Clifton was paired with Anneka Rice while Anton Du Beke got Emma Barton.
The BBC One dancing show returned to our screens tonight with a dazzling launch extravaganza featuring Kylie Minogue.
After the new batch of celebrities were introduced, it was time for them to be paired up with a professional dancer, and current champ Kevin’s pairing certainly raised some eyebrows.
Kevin, who won with now girlfriend Stacey Dooley last year, was paired with Anneka, 60, the oldest celebrity taking part this year.
As they hugged, viewers immediately noticed the height difference between the pair, with Anneka taller than her pro partner.
Many thought this, coupled with Anneka revealing dancing makes her feel “humiliated and awkward, would go against the pair.
Taking to Twitter, one viewer wrote: “Well I think we can safely say that Kevin from Grimsby won’t be defending his glitterball trophy this year… sorry Anneka!”
Another added: “omg Kevin with Anneka…….#Strictly @bbcstrictly obviously the BBC don’t WANT the reigning champion to stand a chance.”
A third tweeted: “Feel like anneka and Kevin are a bad height match.”
A fourth agreed, writing: “Kevin and Anneka: proof that the #Strictly producers really don’t match people up on height.”
Meanwhile Anton Du Beke was beyond delighted to be paired with EastEnders star Emma Barton, who has admitted her theatre background could give her an advantage over her fellow celebs.
The longest serving pro – who has had some dud partners in the past – swept Emma off her feet and joked: “So this is what it feels like…oh book me in til Christmas.”
Meanwhile Emma added: “I’m over the moon, my mum is going to be so happy.”
The first pairing was between ex-Coronation Street actress Catherine Tyldesley and Johannes Radebe, who got his first celebrity partner having previously been in the pro group numbers.
AJ Pritchard got his wish and was paired with YouTube star Saffron Barker, having previously said on The One Show that he believed they could win the competition.
Meanwhile Drag Race star Michelle Visage was paired with Giovanni Pernice and bookies favourite Alex Scott was paired with Neil Jones, becoming his first celebrity partner on a main series, having previously performed in the pro group dances.
The first male celeb to be paired up was Olympic rower James Cracknell who will dance with Luba Mushtuk, who is also making her debut as a main pro after performing in the group dances in previous years.
Pro Amy Dowden let out a squeal of delight after Tess Daly announced she would be dancing with Karim Zeroual, while Chris Ramsey beamed as he was paired with Karen Clifton, although he did joke about a “language barrier” on his part.
Meanwhile former goalkeeper David James was teamed up with Nadiya Bychkova while former champ Aljaz Sjorjanec was coupled up with Viscountess Emma Weymouth.
Paralympian Will Bayley looked delighted to get Janette Manrara as his partner, and Radio One DJ Dev Griffin was equally thrilled with Dianne Buswell.
BBC News reporter Mike Bushell was paired with former champ Katya Jones, while pro Amy Dowden let out a squeal of delight after Tess Daly announced she would be dancing with Karim Zeroual.
However one couple who won’t be taking to the dance floor when the series starts in ernest in two weeks time is Jamie Laing and Oti Mabuse.
The Made in Chelsea star was forced to withdraw from the competition earlier this week after injuring his foot during rehearsals.
His replacement – and Oti’s new celebrity partner – is yet to be confirmed.
Earlier in the show, the judges – including newcomber Motsi Mabuse – put on a spectacular performance surrounded by the pro dancers.
The professionals also put on a series of stunning routines, one of which introduced new pro Nancy Xu.
Last year’s winners, Kevin and his now girlfriend Stacey Dooley – also returned to perform their popular Paso Doble routine.