Tonight WWE Tough Enough will debut live on the USA Network, returning after four years. I’ve already broken down all of the changes to this year’s show and so for this piece I’m going to be breaking down the, what was in essence, first episode of Tough Enough, the Competition Special which aired last week on the WWE Network. I was really happy to hear WWE was going to be airing the special as not only did this add new content on the network, I’m always happy about that, but it also got you familiarized with the contestants, the trainers & the new Tough Enough season overall, prior to the debut episode on the USA Network. Let’s get into some highlights of the show.
Mike Hayes Steals The Show– Right from the first scene of MIke exiting his hotel room, you couldn’t help but root for the guy. He’s the first person we’re introduced to and someone who’s story we follow along with throughout the show. It’s revealed that Mike is a war veteran who was involved in accident while overseas which left everyone else in the accident dead and left Mike without one of his legs. Despite Mike having a prosthetic leg, he has still become a wrestler and was chosen to be one of the 40 finalists on Tough Enough. In the end, unfortunately, Mike’s body gave out on him and he took himself out of the competition. When he did leave the competition, however, he received a standing ovation from not only the rest of the contestants, but also from the trainers and Triple H which was a really nice sign of the respect Mike earned. The good news is that following the show WWE released a video showing that Mike was offered another chance to come back to the performance center, when he felt that his body was up for it.
This Isn’t For Everybody– What I always appreciate about these casting specials is that they show the hard work that the contestants are forced to endure in order to prove that they are, for lack of a better term, tough enough. Whether it be the contestant that puked as Triple H entered the facility or the individuals literally falling over, it was clear that this wasn’t for everybody. With that said, it was also nice to see that most of the contestants were wearing protective headgear so that if they weren’t trained prior, they would be able to protect themselves while learning how to take bumps. The trainers really seem to be a good fit this year as Booker T is back and does a fantastic job as the leader of the trio. Billy Gunn and Lita also seem up for the task and don’t look like they’re going to be messing around at all. In particular Billy Gunn’s criticism of Lorenzo not being coachable and of Alex (The Big Oh!) being too much of a “wrestler” as opposed to just being himself and letting the trainers get to know him as a person.
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly- With every casting special of every reality show ever, half of the fun is seeing not only the good contestants, but also the really bad contestants. Tough Enough had it’s share of both. Whether it be the cocky guy who claimed he was 6’0 only to have a tape measurer prove he was but 2 inches away from that height or the former exotic dancer who had zero WWE knowledge whatsoever or the infamous Kingdom twins who pulled out of the competition claiming that they felt the trainers could have been nicer in the way that they spoke to them (which lead to a great Booker T response by the way) there were some historically bad contestants in the final 40. I think Lita said it best when she said that she’d like to have a word with some of the producers who even wasted their time with some of the contestants. That said, there were also some really great contestants. Aside from Mike Hayes the contestant that everybody has been talking about is 18 year old Alligator Wrestler ZZ who’s small town charm (and Bray Wyatt demeanor?) captured the hearts of wrestling fans and viewers alike. There was probably no greater moment in the entire competition special than when ZZ returned to join the final 13 after being cut earlier in the show. On the contrary, it broke my heart to see Ashley (In all of her Eva Marie glory) not make the show because of a heart ailment as she seemed to want it more than any of the other girls there.
Closing Thoughts Overall, I’m a big tough enough fan and I’m enjoying the fact that everything is going on live as opposed to the entire thing already being recorded. I really hope they take a Big Brother approach with the live shows and show live footage intertwined with the major happening highlights from the week. Since this special launched, the tough enough contestants have taken to Periscope as a way for the audience following along interact with the contestants and get to know them better. They’ve also announced that immediately following the live shows, there will be a post show entitled “Tough Talk” hosted by the Miz that will air live on the WWE Network. Periscope and Tough Talk are both really great ways for WWE to tie in both social media as well as the WWE Network into the Tough Enough experience. Lastly, I also like that the tough enough house this year isn’t the mansion that it has been in past editions of the show. It’s fine for the contestants to have opportunities for rewards and fun but living in a mansion just isn’t realistic.
That’s going to do it for me today but be sure to check back later today prior to the Tough Enough premier to see my first edition of the Tough Enough Power Rankings where I’ll be ranking the chances of each one of the remaining 13 finalists. Until then, what are you most excited about this year’s Tough Enough?