Wes Bergmann on ‘The Challenge: All Stars,’ Johnny Bananas, ‘Austin’

Again in 2005, a red-headed, cocky frat boy received on The Actual World: Austin by displaying as much as his audition drunk. It was a spontaneous determination for Wes Bergmann, who had met a woman at his Arizona State College fraternity home the night time earlier than. “She was very fairly, and for no matter cause, my strikes have been considerably working,” Bergmann, 38, says over the cellphone from his dwelling in Kansas Metropolis.

Ultimately, she informed him she needed to go get some sleep for her Actual World audition the subsequent day. “I believed fast on my toes and stated, ‘You realize what? So am I! And I’ve received this concept. Why don’t we keep up all night time lengthy, get actually drunk, after which present as much as the interview collectively and inform them the story of the hijinx that we did?’ That was a profitable technique.”

Sadly, the lady in query didn’t make it onto the fact present, however Bergmann did. A yr later, his ego, wit, and dry humor received him a spot on The Problem, the Actual World and Street Guidelines spinoff that options former solid members from these reveals residing in a home and competing in hardcore elimination occasions, vying to make it to the ultimate and win massive cash.

Since then, Bergmann has performed in roughly 20 seasons and received nicely over $300,000. He’s one of many smartest, most crafty opponents on the present, making him both a bitter enemy or steadfast ally of fellow solid members, by no means falling in between. “Both I’m getting smarter or the opposite individuals are getting dumber,” Bergmann says. “However both approach, I’m sitting right here on the high of genius mountain, and there’s not even actually an in depth second place.”

On Could 11, Bergmann will seem on Season Three of The Problem: All Stars, a Paramount+ spinoff that solely options Challengers who’ve made it to a previous remaining. He spoke with us concerning the upcoming season, his pleasant rivalry with Johnny Bananas, and which participant he thinks is the best of all time.

This was your first time on All Stars. What was that like for you, versus a daily season of The Problem
Each the flagship present folks in addition to the All Stars folks like to color these actually massive delineations between the 2. They prefer to say, “Oh, nicely, ours is that this and that, and the opposite one is that this and that.” And as primarily the one man that’s accomplished each of those [in] trendy occasions and back-to-back, they’re each as shut as they might presumably be. It’s the identical title. It’s the identical manufacturing firm. It’s the identical guidelines, it’s the identical prize cash, it’s the identical form of grit and politics. A lot of it’s the similar with simply barely totally different casting selections, and that simply shines a light-weight on how barely totally different personalities could make a completely totally different present, despite the fact that all the things else is all the identical.

It was an honor to do All Stars simply trigger I’d watched the primary two seasons and I’m in love with it. I used to be very proud to be part of it.

Is the extent of competitors the identical, or does it really feel like a senior tour to you?
Properly, I’m going to talk on the blokes, as a result of that’s principally the warmth that I’m in. The boys on All Stars 3 would beat the lads on [recent Challenge season] Spies, Lies, and Allies, no query. This is likely one of the most ridiculous male casts that has ever been assembled. And yeah, a number of of them are just a little on the older aspect, however they make up for that with knowledge and technique and a degree of intelligence that a number of the newer folks on the flagship present won’t ever be capable to obtain of their lifetime.

I don’t need that to show into an All Stars-versus-flagship sort factor, as a result of within the grand scheme of issues, I feel the flagship present in all probability would win outright. But when we have been simply isolating the latest male casts on each of the seasons, the All Stars group is a definitively higher male crew. And that’s not the case with Season One and Season Two, and who is aware of what’s going to occur in future seasons of the flagship or future seasons of All Stars. However this specific one was one of many harshest male casts that had ever been assembled. And once I came upon who was going to be there, it sucked, as a result of I hoped to roll in and have just a little bit simpler alternative. After I noticed the checklist, I used to be like, “Shoot, I’ve received a greater probability of successful the flagship present. What did I join?”


Followers have been psyched to see some vets for the primary time shortly, since latest seasons of The Problem have been full of rookies. 
I like that. At any time when I hear these cries, I’m flattered, however I additionally wish to shake them. I’m flattered as a result of they’re principally saying they wish to see extra of my mates and I, and that’s cool. However what they don’t perceive is plenty of my colleagues and mates have needed to transfer on and get jobs and begin households, and rookies are the lifeblood of our operation over right here. I do know change is difficult and totally different, and I do know a few of these folks completely have to get fired after their first season. But when they don’t put a bunch of recent folks into the flagship present and check them out, we’re going to finish up with a really unhealthy solid, as a result of we didn’t make investments sooner or later. After which what’s enjoyable is all these rookies that the folks complain about, after a season or two, they begin to get compliments after which they begin to construct up fandoms.

You’re pretty or unfairly recognized for shepherding rookies and being their chief, however rookies aren’t on All Stars. So what was your recreation plan going into this season?
My hope was to form of lay low. I had a number of mates that have been there, and so my hope was to form of corral them as greatest as potential. However, you recognize, I came upon actually early on that that simply wasn’t going to be the case. I’m in a small group of people that get to rightfully complain about having a more durable, uphill battle than the typical Challenger. Each recreation that I play within the flagship present, the issue is jealousy and insecurity, and other people considering that in the event that they take me out, they’ll be capable to take my consideration, cash, and energy, and that’s simply actually not how that works. So I’ve to compete towards plenty of younger egos that don’t perceive how I received to the place I’m at.

And on All Stars, just a little little bit of the mentality was, they simply don’t wish to be made to look silly. They’re adults. They’re mature. They worry me due to my rightful repute of being a famend genius, and they’d reasonably have their ass kicked in a fistfight on worldwide TV than lose in a puzzle or a strategic recreation towards me. So my hope of simply laying low actually wasn’t all that potential, as a result of your complete group was simply sitting round making an attempt to determine how one can eliminate me.

The Challenge All Stars S3- Unit

Laura Barisonzi/MTV/Paramount+

I’m positive there have been folks in the home that have been psyched to see you, although. Was there anybody you hadn’t seen in a very long time you have been joyful to reconnect with?
I imply, anybody that was joyful to see me, I’ve seen not too long ago. I preserve in excellent contact with Melinda [Collins] and Brad [Fiorenza] and Nehemiah [Clark] and some others. However I used to be additionally strolling into a gaggle that I knew was going to be an issue. I’ve received recognized rivalries — massive ones with Derrick [Kosinski] and Darrel [Taylor] and Jordan [Wiseley] and Veronica [Portillo]. However then, I didn’t actually understand all the brand new folks that have been going to be there that I’d by no means met. So the MJs [Garrett] and the Sure’ [Duffy] or any of the gaggle of folks that Veronica can manipulate. I used to be going to be strolling in on Day One to [being] in everybody’s crosshairs, and I didn’t comprehend it.

You had a extremely astute remark of Sure, that everybody sees him as this harmless, candy competitor. 
For my part, he’s really one of many worst people that’s graced the present, as a result of he places on this entrance like he’s such an incredible human, however these are typically probably the most harmful people that there are. I’m making an attempt to recollect the metaphor I used to be utilizing earlier than. It’s one thing alongside the traces of: All of us present up as wolves to play a really cutthroat recreation, and he reveals up pretending he’s a sheep. However actually, he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothes. And I feel that’s virtually worse, as a result of all of us acknowledge that we’re coming for one another. However he reveals up in and hopes that all of us roll out the purple carpet for him and that he’s going to be handled like some angel of a human. He’s simply as unhealthy as the remainder of us, if not worse, as a result of he is available in below false pretenses.

You have been additionally in the home together with your ex-girlfriend, KellyAnne Judd. Was that awkward in any respect?
It’s not my first present that I filmed together with her post-breakup, however there’s at all times going to be just a little little bit of awkwardness to it. However then to a sure extent, in a bizarre, small approach, she’s nonetheless a pal. So there’s nonetheless some enjoyable related together with her being in there and attending to see her.

However sure, it was awkward, and at all times a bizarre dialog to have with the spouse if you get dwelling. As a result of I ended up rooming with KellyAnne on accident — really, in all probability not accident. It was in all probability purposeful on her half. I went in and selected the room. I used to be the primary one to choose a mattress. I came upon a number of hours later that she had picked one of many final beds in my room. And you’ll’t point out folks’s names on the cellphone together with your important different, so my spouse doesn’t know that I’m rooming together with her and I’ve to return dwelling and clarify to her, “Hey, not solely was my ex-girlfriend there, however I used to be really one mattress away from her your complete time.” Fortunately, I’ve constructed up plenty of belief together with her for doing all of the issues that I’m imagined to do, and she or he takes it very nicely. She’s very mature herself. But it surely’s nonetheless an uncomfortable, not-fun dialog to reveal if you go dwelling.

I used to be listening to you on Bananas’ podcast, and he talked about he views the sport as a producer first, and a competitor second. Do you agree with that? Do you set the present first, or your individual recreation first?
It is dependent upon the state of affairs, however he’s positively proper within the sense of, I assume you can say I care about each equally. Generally I care just a little bit extra concerning the recreation, however about half of my effort and headspace and creativity goes in direction of making the present higher. And that is a type of classes the place I actually hope that they sit the flagship-show opponents down in a classroom and play All Stars and level out all the things that I do, to allow them to see how a real knowledgeable not solely navigates a difficult recreation, but additionally makes a extremely good present. I simply placed on a grasp class of how one can be entertaining.

With all of the seasons now streaming on Paramount+, it’s straightforward to note totally different the present was once. The competitions have been like carnival video games. What are the most important adjustments you’ve noticed through the years?
It’s positively gotten much more like a sport. The artwork of all of it is simply so a lot better. When a helicopter rolls by to tug us down the desert or one thing, it’s proving massive, basic adjustments. We’ve received — insert helicopter, it may very well be tank, it may very well be practice, it may very well be bus, it may very well be cliff. However not solely are they pulling in one thing like a helicopter, however stated helicopter’s received Problem branding on it, after which there’s an explosion beneath that. After which we come right down to these nice, massive Problem letters, and the jerseys are a lot cleaner and nicer. The general cinematography of all of it, each final morsel that’s on that present, is simply a lot extra stunning than it was once. It’s virtually like each space of constructing each asset that they’ve received, they simply proceed to degree up their recreation.

Talking of sports activities, Invoice Simmons as soon as in contrast Bananas to Michael Jordan and also you to Charles Barkley. Are you flattered, insulted, or someplace in between?
For no matter cause, my spouse has the most important crush on Charles Barkley, so I feel it simply matches. On the finish of the day, Charles Barkley has much more enjoyable in his life, proper? He’s nonetheless working. He’s hilarious. Individuals like him quite a bit. He won’t have received as many championships, however he’s a extra fulfilled man. And in that respect, I might say that’s an apt comparability.

What’s your relationship with Johnny like proper now? After you guys teamed up collectively on Complete Insanity after years of feuding, you weren’t precisely mates.
The person not too long ago tried to chop my beard off on nationwide tv on his Movie star Sleepover present. So that is each a praise and an insult, however he’s a lot extra like a mischievous cousin than a pal or an enemy. As in like, I might by no means deal with him like an enemy, however I might by no means deal with him like a pal. He’s extra like that unhealthy child that simply occurs to be related to you by blood. I received’t let anybody outdoors of my household bully him, however I’m gonna bully him as greatest as potential. As a result of, dang it, he deserves it. He’s an anomaly of a human being.

Once more, I imply that each in a complimentary and insulting approach. He’s just a little bit like these Candy and Bitter Patch Youngsters, the place you can be on the cellphone with him or in particular person, and one second, he’s very candy and charming, after which the subsequent minute, he says or does one thing so obnoxious and insulting. After which proper as your blood is boiling, he comes again to the charming aspect. I feel he’s received this inside angel and satan on his shoulder that simply make him go from one finish of the extremes to the subsequent, and you’ll see either side of it in nearly each dialog he has.

Do you remorse throwing your self in elimination towards him in Complete Insanity
Hindsight is 2020. The armchair quarterbacks like to say that I ought to [have] waited. However given the entire info that we had at that precise time, I don’t take again the choice. Now, if I used to be allowed to take a time machine again and select to not go into that one, I might have, not solely as a result of I misplaced, but additionally as a result of we now know that there have been a number of different eliminations after that. One in all them would have been one which I might have been notably good at.

It’s simply, on the time, we knew that there hadn’t been a Corridor Brawl but, and that was developing. There was plenty of massive boys left that didn’t have their skulls, so it was going to be a Corridor Brawl, and I used to be right about that. We by no means know when the finals are, and we by no means know what number of whole eliminations there are gonna be. And [host] T.J. [Lavin] sits there and he annoys us with the entire, “This may be your final probability to get the cranium!” factor, so I’m utilizing each bit of information that I’ve received to make a sensible, knowledgeable determination. And it’s straightforward if you’re watching the present to say, “Oh, nicely, there’s three extra episodes left in my DVR that’s on the schedule, so subsequently there’s two extra eliminations after which the finals!” However given all the knowledge that I had on the time, I don’t take again the choice.


You’ve taken leaves from The Problem up to now. What retains bringing you again?
I don’t know. I assume I’m just a little bit obsessive about the sport. There’s nothing that basically may ever scratch the true itch of The Problem. Like, if you wish to play just a little sport, positive. Go be a part of an intramural soccer crew, which I do [laughs]. If you wish to get just a little bit into politics and cutthroat nature, you can begin a enterprise, which I do. However there’s nothing that you can do that basically would mimic The Problem. And if there was, I feel I in all probability wouldn’t return on The Problem, as a result of I don’t actually care anymore about being on TV after so a few years. Extra tv time doesn’t equate to any further enjoyable or something worthwhile. I am going again as a result of they’re the one purveyors of that sort of recreation on this planet, and, in methods, it’s harm me, however in additional methods it’s helped me, and, in methods, it’s made me a greater man.

Take your self out of the competitors actually fast. Who’s the GOAT: Chris “C.T.” Tamburello or Bananas?
That’s a tricky one. I’m going to finally say that it’s C.T. I’m each of these two guys, and I’ve to ask myself: Who would I reasonably not go into the elimination with? It’s C.T. Who would I reasonably not run a remaining towards? It’s C.T. Who would I reasonably not compete towards politically? It’s C.T. And so if you form of have a look at these three major buckets, he’s the very best. And you then begin to give compliments to Bananas on the leisure aspect. He’s extra enjoyable to observe navigate the politics. He’s received some one-liners in his interviews. However you then understand, “Shoot, C.T.’s additionally humorous, in his bizarre form of approach.” So it’s like, that man checks off each field that we may very well be on the lookout for, whether or not it’s within the scare issue, the dimensions issue, the endurance issue, and fairly frankly, even the leisure issue. He’s received all of it. And it sucks to not give the gold to Bananas as a result of quantitatively, he’s received probably the most, and that reality won’t ever go over my head. However you recognize, we’re speaking about Chris Tamburello right here. That’s the fucking man.

He’s certainly very humorous. He’s received that raspy dad voice.
He’s enjoyable to observe on TV, however that’s not humorous in particular person. Like, nobody sits there and says, “Oh, man, I’m actually having fun with my time with Chris.” That’s simply not the case. Whereas with Bananas, half the time you hate him, however a minimum of half the time you’re like, “OK, that is form of entertaining.” Oh, that raspy dad-joke stuff is de facto like the proper modality, and the one modality for it’s in an interview chair and also you watching it in your sofa. However in particular person you’d be like, “What’s he speaking about?”

Are you making an attempt to vary the unhealthy rap gingers get?
Oh, no, I’m not making an attempt to vary that. I hope that I’m the one ginger. I really feel like there ought to be some mental property safety that’s put there, and I ought to be the one redhead that’s allowed to compete. However that stated, I don’t actually need a superb repute nor care about one. In the event you take note of me, you recognize that I’m already good. And should you don’t take note of me, you fall for the platitudes and the propaganda that the opposite folks say about me.

However should you listen, I combat the bullies. I am going towards the unhealthy folks and I exploit unhealthy techniques towards them, however they at all times cross the road first. It’s simply as soon as they do, I actually hit them the place it hurts. Form of like, I might by no means shoot anybody except they got here into my home, after which I’d have to guard my household. Properly, within the recreation, I don’t go away my home and go looking folks. I keep within the confines of my dwelling. However if you step onto my property after hours, I’m gonna kill you earlier than I discover out what you’re there for.

There’s been a number of homecoming seasons of The Actual World. Have you ever heard something about your season of Austin? 
Yeah, I’ve positively heard the rumblings, however there’s positively nothing official that’s within the books. I do know that our squad there would like to do it. I’ve talked to primarily all of them, and for numerous causes, we’re all down. We have been probably the most entertaining seasons of all time. I like the primary three seasons, however we’ve received a distinct dynamic than what [they] are placing on the market. It’s bizarre watching the New Orleans solid, they usually’re saying issues like, “None of us saved in contact and we hardly know one another anymore,” whereas we’re very a lot ingrained in one another’s lives, and typically each day. For instance, not solely have I simply spent All Stars 3 with Nehemiah and Melinda, however I discuss to Melinda weekly. Nehemiah lives in my hometown and works for a corporation that’s principally certainly one of my shoppers, and so I see him recurrently. After which I be in contact with Danny [Jamieson] and Lacey [Buehler] and Rachel [Moyal].

And that’s simply me. The remainder of them, in their very own methods, be in contact with one another as nicely. And so to seize the magic within the bottle that was us getting drunk on Sixth Avenue each night time really may be believable, as a result of we’d relish the chance to go there and showcase much more enjoyable and jovial ambiance. On the similar time, we nonetheless have fairly a number of actually urgent points that would want to get mentioned. I imply, Danny and Melinda had a divorce and have by no means talked about it. Johanna [Botta] and I had a messy breakup, by no means actually talked about it. Danny misplaced his mom, was principally beat up inside an inch of his life. I can preserve going. There’s a bunch of those factors of rivalry that basically want some remedy.

Some followers have speculated that Johanna doesn’t wish to do it. Is that true?
I don’t know. She’s the one one which I don’t preserve involved with, however I’ve talked to Lacey about it. She says she’s down. I imply, she clearly has questions. However I might be shocked if she didn’t do it. At at this level, if she’s the one holdout, then not solely would she be saying no to an incredible alternative to clear the air and a few good remedy, however she’d even be stopping the chance for the opposite six folks. Which implies she’d primarily be saying, “I not wish to preserve involved with any of them, as a result of I’m going to be lifeless to all of them if I say no to this.”

I wish to run a rumor by you: Some followers suppose you’ve been taking steroids or HGH. Do you wish to you wish to reply to that?
Oh yeah, completely. Nobody that’s ever lifted weights earlier than appears to be like on the approach that I’ve regarded and says, “Oh, man, that’s a steroid physique.” It’s all these fats or skinny folks that don’t perceive: In the event you carry weights for years and also you eat proper, your muscle groups develop. That’s how that works. At first it didn’t hassle me, as a result of I took it very flattering. However now I really discover these remarks to be very harmful, as a result of there’s some skinny or fats particular person at the start of their weight-lifting journey that thinks that the best way to appear to be me — a.okay.a. extremely horny and ripped — is to take steroids. And so when folks’s insecurities make them hurl these form of rumors out into the ether, they’re really harming the world much more than they’re hurting my emotions.

I’ve additionally heard there’s a flagship Problem season developing. Have they contacted you about that?
I’m unsure if I’m allowed to debate that.

OK. Do you hope to be doing this if you’re as previous as Mark Lengthy, a.okay.a. the Godfather? 
I don’t know. I hope to do them for so long as I presumably can. If it begins harming my household life an excessive amount of, if it begins harming my well being an excessive amount of, if it begins harming my enterprise an excessive amount of, I hope that I’ve the maturity to step again, and that’s primarily what I do once I take a season off right here or there. I’m like, “The timing simply doesn’t work out for me proper now as a result of my enterprise is below the gun and I actually must be right here throughout this time of transition or development” or no matter. Or, “I would like to remain dwelling as a result of there’s a private duty that takes priority.” And I’m happy with myself for with the ability to step out for a season or two once I know that my life is extra vital. And so so long as I’m capable of preserve that maturity, I don’t see why I wouldn’t be capable to at all times have one foot in some capability within the Problem world.

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