[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for The Challenge: USA Season 2 Episode 10, “A Less Perfect Union.”]
Wes Bergmann, who has been with the franchise since 2006, has said this season on The Challenge: USA that he’s retiring, but is that the case?
He was eliminated in the latest episode, having been sent in by the hopper to face off against Chris Underwood in Ripped Off — each, hanging from a tower, had to tear off patches from the other’s suit — and lost by one. And after, he announced that it was, in fact, his last Challenge.
TV Insider turned to Wes to find out if that’s still true.
Was this really your last season of The Challenge?
Wes Bergmann: Yes.
When did you know it was time? Was this something you’d been thinking about coming soon, even before you knew you would be a father?
Yeah, the father stuff is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’ve been having harder and harder times scheduling the difficulty of going completely away — it’s basically the equivalent of checking into prison as a business owner. It’s weird because everyone hears what they want to hear. So, especially the Challengers with kids, they hear that I’m stopping because I’m a dad, and it’s like, no. Then the people that have jobs are hearing that I can’t do The Challenge and have a job, and it’s like, no. I’m the owner of a burgeoning empire, and no one wants to believe that because it makes them feel very insecure with themselves, and fine, whatever, that’s their issue. And some of the parents have forgotten that they also took time off at the beginning.
But I’m also an older dad in the grand scheme of things. I’m turning 39 in a couple of months. So, all of it, from a scheduling standpoint, it’s becoming more and more challenging to leave. And for the last several years, it’s been a pay cut to go. The Challenge pays very well. The prize money is fair; everything is so fair in that department. It’s not even funny. It’s just that my earning capability as an entrepreneur at the helm of a thing that’s been around since 2012 is the anomaly. No one sits back and is like, “Oh, The Miz should rejoin The Challenge.” It’s like, no, the Miz earns the prize money every single season, every single month. And that’s where I’m at.
Are you ruling out returning completely, at least for now, or might you do something like is coming up with the vets on the new season of The Challenge, where they’re coming in for eliminations?
Yeah, totally. I want to make it very clear that I am retiring from playing, but I’m not retiring from the community. I’ve always been one of the ambassadors or spokespeople — I’m vocal about my feelings about all the seasons and the episodes even when I’m not on it. I’m going to stay that way. I’m going to be like a pundit, if you will, about the games. I love The Challenge, and I love all the different permutations of it. I don’t know how much more of the CBS [version] we have, but I’m going to enjoy it right up until the end. And guess what? Right after that finishes, we’ll go over to MTV, and we will watch a completely different set of personalities play the game completely different. And then by the time I get sick of that, we’re more than likely going to move over to a streaming service where we’ll watch a totally new [one]. It’s getting to watch my favorite game without ever getting tired of it every single week with barely any exceptions.
And so I guess another way of putting it is, I’m retiring because it’s the best time to be a fan. I’m just going to be that. I’m going to be the biggest and best fan of The Challenge that there could be. And if that means that there’s some sort of cameo that I can make or a mercenary role or talk with people like you about what’s going on in the game, then I will do that because I owe the people that make this show. I owe my friends that will continue to play it. I owe the fandom to be a part of it. And I owe it to myself because I’m leaving because of scheduling issues, not because of anything else. I might be busy, but I’m not too busy to turn on the television and watch a great show. You gotta wind down somehow, so why not choose this one?
Talk about your and Bananas‘ relationship because seeing him become your number one, watching that over the years… It’s been entertaining.
It’s disgusting. Chalk that up to another reason why I need to retire. If he’s my number one, then that is just so desperate that it’s time to hang ‘em up. If that is my best shot at salvation and friendship, then I have stooped to a level of just downright embarrassment.
It’s weird when people who are really bad couples somehow make it work until it ends in disaster. That’s kind of where we’re at. We’ve had a lot of things that we really dislike about each other, but then there’s always been things that we like about each other. We’ve always agreed that we’re funny, and we agreed we were funny apart. As we were making each other’s lives miserable, we’d each be smiling about it. If he was getting one over on me, he’d be smiling because he knew he was winning, and I’d be smiling because it was entertaining, and then vice versa. And then the same thing is happening when we come together. It’s just so ridiculous. As a good, fun conversation is happening, we’re smiling as it’s happening because it’s so ridiculous.
He and I obviously make fantastic television. It is a weird friendship that we have that’s hard to describe and is unlike anything that I’ve got with anybody else. It doesn’t mean it’s better. It’s not even a particularly good friendship. It’s just a weird one that is unlike anything else I’ve got with anybody else. So yeah, I guess as soon as he becomes my number one, that’s time to call it, game over for me.
That elimination may have been your last one ever on The Challenge. Is there anything you could’ve done differently?
I’ve asked myself that same question. I don’t think so. I brought it, and Chris beat me legitimately. You can sit there, and you can look at that clock ticking down and make it look like I did well, and I did. I got nine out of 10 of the patches, and it was close, and I definitively brought it, but he beat me. People use the phrase fair and square all the time. It was that. He wanted it more.
His strategy was, in my opinion, better. He knew when it was time to attack me, what to do better than I did. I used my upper body too much in hindsight. I grabbed onto his neck, and I basically had to pray for life that I could hold onto his shirt essentially while I grabbed. Not only did that not give me very much leverage, but it also, by default, kept me far away from his back, which is the one patch that I couldn’t get. His strategy was dramatically better. Even though it took him a little longer to catch me when he did, he wrapped his legs around me, and that was almost impossible to get out of. It also kept him so much closer to me, which meant it was easier for him to get the hard-to-reach patches. It was impressive.
You were targeted in the house, but you weren’t expecting Josh to be one of the votes. How surprised were you really about that? Do you think he faced repercussions for, as you put it, violating rule 1, a Challenger turning on another Challenger?
I don’t know what’s going to happen, right? They interview you that night, which sucks because those are depressing goodbye interviews, to say the least, because it’s late late and then you have a flight the next day. I have an idea of what happens later. But he was one of the ones beating the drum of, all the Challengers need to stick together. So, for him to do what he did, I don’t know. On one hand, I’m one of the more expendable veterans, so maybe he can make it work. He’s close to Bananas. He’s basically in the vacation alliance with Faysal and Tori. He’s going to be able to go to those people and be like, listen, I’m sorry that I went after a veteran. I’m not going to do it to you. I had to do it to him.
But it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t think he needed to do it because, yes, he got rid of one person that can beat him in the final, but what, is he going to do that every single week until he is completely alone and runs against himself? He’s going to lose to all those guys, too.
Since this was your last season, how are you looking back at your Challenge career?
I’ve accomplished everything that one could possibly want to accomplish. There’s not one single other box that I’ve yet to do, and it’s been that way for a while. I’ve only been playing for the love of the game for the past 10 years, but I was one of the quickest players to check off — Let’s go through some of these boxes: Challenge champion, the face of the show, highest paid, every opportunity ever, all the hosting, all the gigs, all the appearances, everything. Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, by my second one. I’ve been Mount Rushmore status for the better part of two decades. The motivation to care has been there just because I’m competitive.
But the other people are sitting there; they want that prize, they want to get first place, and I don’t blame ’em. I can only imagine what the monkey on your back would feel like there, but I’ve done it all. And so, what am I going to keep playing for? What, to go get my fourth Challenge championship? What is the carrot that is left? There is no upward mobility on The Challenge. I’m at the top. I’ve hit the ceiling. The only other opportunity is TJ‘s, and I don’t want that job [hosting], and I could not do it as well as him, even though I am wearing jean shorts right now in his honor.
I’ve been at the top for a long time. I’m tired of being at the top. Someone else can have my spot. I’m more than willing to just hand off the baton to somebody else, but I don’t know what else there is left to accomplish.
What moments from your years on The Challenge stand out to you?
I’ve been able to make a handful of really good friends on the shows that I’m very proud of. I [might have] made the most legitimate friendships with some of the best people. You look at my group, and it’s like they’re all tied for the best humans that’ve ever done it. And so I’ve considered myself to be a good judge of character, and I’ve been able to maintain these relationships. These are guys and girls that will take my phone calls for the rest of my life, and we can shoot the s**t. I’m proud of getting to be a part of their lives and make those friendships. Unlike normal people, we get to look back on some things that have been very well documented and say, you remember that time we did this and then turn on the TV and watch it if we wanted to. That’s pretty special.
What are you going to miss the most?
This is the closest thing that I play right now — or probably ever — to a sports competition. I’m going to miss that. To a certain extent, business is a competition. I’m going to treat parenting like a competition. I’m going to gamify becoming a good dad. That’s the only way I can figure out how to do it as well as I hope to do it. Sports have been a part of my life in such a big way for so long, and this feels kind of like the death of that, which is kind of scary. It feels like I’m losing a part of my identity.
What are you relieved about or OK with leaving behind?
I will not miss and will be relieved to miss walking into a house and it being filled with a combination of great people that will become very successful at some point in their life, but also, on the other end of the spectrum, clout-chasing douchebags. In my normal life, I get to edit clout-chasing douchebags out of my life very easily because there are interview processes, and I don’t even see them. They don’t get a job, or they don’t get to become a client, or they don’t get to become a friend. But with The Challenge, they’re brought on because they’re clout-chasing douchebags. I just like to consider myself someone that surrounds themselves by higher achievers, would be the nicest way to put it.
How do you feel about a season of The Challenge: USA being your last one? Is there a type of Challenge season that you would’ve chosen to be your last?
No, in my eyes, they’re all the same. I’m proud of the fact that I’m leaving the game at such an interesting time to be a fan, where there are so many different types of Challenges that they’ve got with different personalities. I’m proud that I’ve gotten to hop around and do all of them. If anything, I’m proud that in my last time, I got to check off a box on a completely new channel. I think it’s remarkable from even just a business standpoint what they’ve done, where they’ve got a family-friendly version, a younger version, a nostalgic one, and then even these other experiments outside of that, internationally. It is brilliant. To have been able to hop around and get to do all of them and show my versatility in all of them is great. I love how I’ll sit in that interview chair, and I’ll think to myself, where is this going to be streamed? And that will change whether it’s a dad joke or a cuss word. And I could do all of ’em, and MTV, CBS, Paramount+, they know this about me, and they’ll put me wherever needed. Very few people can do that.
The Challenge: USA, Thursdays, 10/9c, CBS