Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Challenge: USA 2 episode 10, "A Less Perfect Union."
The three-time champion went into The Challenge: USA season 2 knowing that, no matter what happened in the game, it would be his last time competing on the franchise. He revealed his intentions to hang up his jersey earlier in the season when he was voted into an elimination and got visibly emotional about his decision to retire due to work commitments and his wife being pregnant with their first child. While he won that elimination and continued in the game, Bergmann was chosen to go into another elimination in this week's episode after one of his allies, Josh Martinez, betrayed him by voting for him.
Bergmann ultimately lost the elimination against Survivor winner Chris Underwood, and confirmed that this would be the last time he competed on The Challenge (despite host TJ Lavin saying he hoped that wouldn't be the case). Below, Bergmann clarifies what his retirement means, if fans will ever see him again in the franchise, how he feels about Martinez's betrayal, and more.
cbs Wes Bergmann on 'The Challenge: USA'
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How do you feel about your exit now that you've watched it in the episode?
WES BERGMANN: There's a lot of times where the people that, for whatever reason, have chosen to go after me, they are really mean about it and they literally never have the courage to say it to my face, but in interviews, they go behind my back and they'll say things like, "We're voting for him because he's an asshole." Well, in this situation, they were very truthful. They were like, "We're going after him because he will beat us in the end. He is better than us." The biggest mistake that I made was I kept up my running while there on the treadmill and they just sat around in a literal and metaphorical glass house and watched the guy parade around his abilities that I would run circles around them, and obviously I'm smarter than them. They knew that between the running and the puzzles, they were in trouble.
And I appreciate them being very honest about the threat capacity. In previous seasons, it's very much so been exactly that. They'll say, "He's an asshole," or whatever, and that gets to me. But in this situation, Chris in particular called his shot, and he did so for the right reason. I would've won this season pretty easily so they made the right move.
It's particularly sad because the likelihood that this is my last one is very high and obviously you'd love to go out on a W, but the game is so hard to begin with for normal people, and then there are others where the game is stacked up against us to make it harder for us. I never really had illusions that I was going to be able to wait until there was some sort of a win [before retiring] because winning this thing is very hard. It went through my head for two seconds to retire after [winning] All Stars , and it didn't feel like an option. I had a little bit more time left in me and so I kept going.
Speaking of that, how committed are you to your retirement? Frankly, losing a vet like you is devastating for the franchise.
Yeah, I had hoped that by the time that I was leaving that I was going to help mentor more people to replace me. Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful at doing so. There is a lot of people that are not quite ready to take on my role and that is a little disappointing, but I think that they will get there. What makes my "retirement" hard for everyone, me, the fans, and my fellow competitors to swallow is that it doesn't make any sense. And let me explain. I'm not retiring because I'm not good. I'm not retiring because I don't want to be there. I love the game, I love going, I love the aftermath, I love the in-between the seasons, I love the fan engagements, and the community. It's strictly a scheduling and work-related thing with my real job, which I happen to find more fulfilling and more lucrative.
I have this great problem where I have two jobs that are both very fulfilling and very fun. It's just one is more responsible, higher paying, and safer. I don't have to wrestle anybody falling out of a helicopter or anything. I wish I could do both. My colleagues keep saying, "Oh, you'll be back," and I'm like, "When?" My business books things out nine months in advance, we're in incredibly high demand. I would love to try and one day replace myself, but I'm just not there yet, and that's going to be a minimum of a two-to-four-year obligation, and by that time, I'm going to be in my early 40s, and who knows what kind of shape I'll be in? I'll be a father of a 2-to-4-year-old. And then, what, I'm going to go back on MTV and play this game? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I'm not saying that it's not plausible, but I'd put the likelihood that I'm back at less than 10 percent, at which point, with those types of odds, I might as well say goodbye.
But ... you're saying there's a chance ...
[Laughs] Not really, no. I'm trying to be nice. And I want to be clear that I'm not leaving the community — I'll still pop in for random cameo-esque things, if there's a mercenary role, I might pop in and host something, I'm going to be active on the interwebs about the shows. I'm very proud of the game and the show and not everybody but a lot of the players, and I think that there needs to be a very public cheerleader, and I think that that's the role that I would like to move into now.
With All Stars and other seasons having shorter schedules, or if they do something big for season 40, will you still take those calls?
The "shorter season" rumor is indeed sort of true, but it's not any shorter than what CBS was. This is also how the Champs vs. Stars thing started — it was two weeks and then the next one was three-and-a-half weeks, and then the next one was almost six weeks. So I'm not holding my breath that All Stars is going to go in a different direction. And I'm also not complaining, they need that much time. But six to eight weeks for a "short schedule" is not that. And for me to lose two months of pay in my hometown, if I won every single season from here on out, the prize money wouldn't cover it. It's just getting to a point where it's just super irresponsible to be leaving and paying to go on this thing that is basically stacked against me every single time.
CBS Chris Underwood and Wes Bergmann on 'The Challenge: USA'
How did you come to this decision, and did you ever waver on it?
It's been multiple years in the making where my business was just getting more and more and more in demand. I've been watching in slow motion the challenge of scheduling getting worse and worse, and I keep warning [producers] — and they're doing nothing wrong! They're very communicative, they know I need more time than the average Challenger. But it's just, at this point, I would need them to start booking these things out five times earlier than how they are now, and that's not something that they can be amenable to me about.
And it's an absolute shame because The Challenge is a large part of my identity — it is the most important hobby in my life. It feels like I'm grieving the loss of something really important, and it's like grieving the loss of someone that hasn't died and is down the street, but you're not allowed to go visit. They're like, "Come visit us, but you'll be locked here for two months and you'll lose hundreds of thousands of dollars." Okay, I guess we can't be friends anymore. I'm going to miss it.
Let's get into this episode, which is now your swan song. Did you ever suspect Josh was going to betray you like that with his vote?
No, I did not suspect that Josh was going to betray me. On one end, I understand. He's right. I would've beat him in the final. I would've beaten him giving him a 30-minute head start, and if you covered up both my eyes. But so would Fessy and Cory and Bananas. He's telling me that he wants to be in this alliance with all the vets, and when he's telling me that, I believe him. It is in the back of my head, "He shouldn't be, because I'll win." His argument was, he's never been to a final and he really wants to get to a final. How I justify it is, obviously Josh isn't coming after me to get rid of a guy that will beat him guaranteed because all that's going to do is leave him with five other guys that can beat him. He might as well just work with everyone to get to the final and then just pray that there's a bunch of unfair things that happen that allow him to trip and stumble into a win. That's what my strategy would be if I was him.
But yeah, it just stinks because this is not the first time that this man has blindsided me, and again, it's not fair that my game, as a threat, I am only allowed to have one, two-ish rivals and targets that I can afford to go after per season, but guys like him are allowed to do whatever they want because everyone doesn't care if he's there. It's frustrating because he can throw things at me whenever he wants and neither me or anyone's really going to do much about it.
Do you think that he made the right move for his game, or do you think it was a mistake?
It's a little bit more of a mistake than not. Every single vet now needs to have one eye open with him. If his rationale of, "You can beat me and so therefore I need to vote for you," is true, then every single guy out there that feels like he's a threat to Josh should now be worried. And then every single person in this game and any game moving forward, the stuff that's coming out of his mouth doesn't necessarily mean anything. He's reverted back to Big Brother play, whereas on The Challenge, we are actually honest because we play so many games together that we don't want to get caught lying or going back on our word, and the best way to do that is to just not lie or go back on our word.
I know that sounds weird coming from these ruthless Challengers, but we essentially don't lie and backstab compared to all them [Survivor and Big Brother alums] because our game is just so different. So Josh's move means that if he ever plays again, anyone who plays with him should have that in the back of their head: "If I'm better than Josh, then he will cut me when the time is right." But even that still might not be scary enough for them to care.
The Challenge: USA season 2 airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.