After a difficult second place finish on The Challenge: Ride or Dies, MTV vet Johnny Bananas is back for The Challenge: World Championship. This season, he’s on the show as one of 14 Challenge veterans. The legends are each paired up with a Global MVP player, who come to the show from their respective Challenge seasons in USA, Argentina, the UK and Australia. In an EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife, Johnny admitted that these partnerships added a “tricky” aspect to the game.
“Even though we were paired up with the global MVPs, they, a lot of the times, questioned what our strategies and motives were,” Johnny explained. “It was almost as if they were going to go against the grain and go against anything the vets said just because they automatically assumed it wasn’t going to be in their best interests if it was an idea we were coming up with. Even though we were supposed to be in pairs, there became almost an impasse at times with your own partner. It made the politicking and the game a lot more difficult. There was this automatic distrust there because they just automatically assumed that it was a strategy coming from Bananas, there must be something shady going on. So it was just getting past that and establishing that trust.”
One of the fellow vets on the cast is Wes Bergmann, Johnnys years-long frenemy. The two used to be nemeses, but decided to team up and work together on Total Madness in 2020. Despite the alliance Wes still put himself in an elimination against Bananas that season, and was sent home (Johnny went on to win the season). Since then, they’ve maintained a friendship, but have not had to go against each other again.
“This is the first time we’ve been back on the same show since he made the ill-advised move to send himself in against me and eliminate himself,” Johnny laughed. “So obviously there’s a little bit of that still lingering there, where I don’t know exactly where his head’s at. I don’t think he does either. He’s an opportunist. He’s going to do whatever he has to do whenever he has to do it to benefit his own game, despite what it does to an alliance or deal he already has. So coming into this, I was hopeful, but cautiously optimistic that we were going to work together.”
The first two episodes of The Challenge: World Championship are streaming now on Parmount+. Read more of our interview with Johnny Bananas below.
On coming to ‘World Championship’ after a brutal loss on ‘Ride or Dies’: I think of all the Challenge losses I’ve had, that was probably the most gut-wrenching. We’d come so far and accomplished so much. We really, really worked for the position we were in. The thing is, when you get beat in a physical competition or something like that, you can be like, ‘Okay, there’s nothing more I could have done. I left it all on the field.’ You can at least have solace in knowing you gave it all you had. For us to lose the way we did [on a puzzle], making a very critical, boneheaded error in judgement — something I should have known better and been more focused and methodical about — that’s what made the loss so tough.
The Challenge has gotten so much more, not just difficult, but about luck falling on your side so many times. It’s not only the most strategic or most athletic that wins. With the draw and the way voting went that season, you just never knew what side of the coin you were going to fall on. Looking at the last two teams, I’m like…how the hell did we manage to do this? So you really do feel in that time like, ‘Am I ever going to be in this position or have the opportunity to be this close to winning again?’ So coming onto ‘World Championship,’ those kind of thoughts did tend to haunt me. But I’ve faced adversity on The Challenge before and I’ve won before, so I don’t count myself out. But I also knew it was going to be a steep mountain to climb.”
What was the most important advice you wanted to instill in your partner? Just confidence in her abilities and confidence in mine. I wanted her to have faith in me and that whatever decision I was going to make was going to be beneficial for the direction we were trying to go in, regardless of the what the rest of her alliance might say. Also for her to just down out the noise and know that being paired up with me is going to have drawbacks and benefits. The benefit, obviously, is my experience and my knowledge of the game. But the drawback is that we’re probably going to be targeted just because of the fact that she’s paired with me and no other reason than that. That’s hard for new people who’ve never experienced it before.
Was there anyone in particular you were hoping to be partnered with? I watched The Challenge: USA, and right out of the gate, you had Sarah [Lacina] and Justine [Ndiba], who both made the final. They came in with a pretty solid alliance with Danny [McCray] and Ben [Driebergen], so I just felt like that would be a good pre-existing alliance to get in with. They were team USA, too, so I’d be happy to compete with them on that side.
On filming two seasons back-to-back after taking a break from the show: Taking a few seasons off allowed some other people to step into the spotlight a little and hopefully take some attention off of me when I did make my return. Plus, it’s like any routine in life. I’m a creature of habit. I’ve spent so much time doing the same thing over and over. Not having The Challenge in my life for a couple of seasons, it felt like something was missing there. It gives me a reason to work out, to stay in shape. I kind of lost that desire and motivation when I stepped away from the show. I feel like I needed the show back in my life to get me motivated and back on track.
So, I took a little mental health break and I was ready to hop back in. And World Championship was such a unique experience. This was the first time we were competing against all these international competitors. Even though it’s still a Challenge, it’s a whole different mindset and competition level, so I just wanted to see what it was all about.