Tough Enough: Revive or Regret?
Submitted by LoneLee on 11/03/2018 at 01:07 PM

6 Seasons. 10 winners. A lot of wasted potential. Tough Enough was a reality series originally created in 2001 that allowed viewers a rare peek behind the curtain at the time. They took a regular Joe and Jane off of the street and groomed them into being WWE superstarsÖor at least attempted to. Many different concepts and challenges came in the seriesí 14-year lifespan and revival. Though met with outstanding criticism from both wrestlers and fans, it produced a cavalcade of stars, some of whom are the more recognized names in the business today. Does that mean the idea should be revived yet again?

Let me begin things by saying I am not a fan of reality television. Never have been, never will be. All reality shows have the same structure of mid-show cutaways of the stars sitting in a chair, discussing or narrating each episode as it follows. Iíve always found this to be a lazy approach. Also, I question the contentsí legitimacy or validity. Iím looking at you Total Divas. Be that as it may, I was intrigued at the original series when it debuted in 2001. It was a different time in the wrestling business. Kayfabe was a dying thing and sports entertainment wasnít as harshly exposed as it is today. We would see many of the then current stars out of character teaching young greenhorns to prepare to take bumps and secrets to working a live crowd. On top of that, it gave the impression that anyone could take on the profession by simply winning a TV show contest. All of the winners would celebrate their 15 minutes of fame only to be rushed to developmental, some never to be heard from again.

It's interesting to think that names like The Miz, Velveteen Dream, Mandy Rose, and Ryback all originally burst onto the scene through Tough Enough and share the fact that they actually lost the competition. With the exception of Johnny Nitro/Morrison/Mundo/Impact doesnít seem like the winners are cursed? Not at all. Because if a star has that charisma and drive, they will make it regardless of the obstacles in their direct path. Sure, in hindsight maybe they were some of the most talented in their class but how many of us had a chance to see that at the time? These guys were diamonds in the rough with characters that took years to develop. The Tough Enough format is forced to gloss over multiple contestants in a brief 8-week period. What can we truly learn about anyone in a half-hour time slot each week? More importantly, how much can contestants learn about each aspect that comes with being a WWE Superstar by earning a contract through a contest?

The show would be extended to one-hour in season 5, my personal favorite season. It dove more in-depth on hardships of working through injuries and the rigorous training both physically and mentally. Stone Cold verbally ripping people at the end of each episode was a major plus as well. But it also gave hopefuls the chance to visit and interact with Make-A-Wish children. One of the many outside projects that come with the profession. Imagine my excitement when season 6 was announced and in direct contrast, my disgust to what it had become. A game show-like, obstacle course, complete with the return of fan voting. The issue I have with fans deciding who works for a company they donít run is that we only see what they decide to show us. We fans are fickle, admit it. A brief format with so much left on the cutting room floor basically forces us to pick a flavor of the month. Slow, lazy, talentless ZZ was topping the polls every week for crying out loud! If fan votes are a determining factor, then several adjustments must be made to the structure.

If the show is revived yet again, a new season should be at least 6 months in length. If a contestant is being built from the ground up, he or she needs to have the appropriate time period to learn all of the in-ring fundamentals. WWE benefits from the fact that they have their own network, meaning a timeframe and content can be broadcast at their own discretion. It should show each and every bit of their rigorous training, ring based and resiliency, as well as their attitude as they grow. Essentials of what goes into making a show need to be appreciated, building the ring, production, marketing, etc. Even some aspects that canít be taught such as locker room etiquette, brutal travel schedules, performing in front of 10,000 fans live. These are things that the Performance Center cannot teach but only a true mentor could if a pro took a rookie under their wing (not like the early crappy NXT seasons.) It would give contestants a far more well-rounded experience of what theyíd be getting into before they sign and weed out the ones that canít handle it.

Tough Enough can be an amazing opportunity if everyone involved takes it sincerely. What do you think?

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