“WWE Tough Enough” is a competition, combining physicality and reality show drama with a little humor.
The show, broadcast 8 p.m. EST Tuesdays on the USA Network, is Vince McMahon’s baby. This is his sixth incarnation of “Tough Enough,” dating to 2001.
Mr. McMahon, WWE’s Chairman and and CEO, worked WWE Monday Night Raw on July 20 in Kansas City and then flew to Orlando on July 21 to lead “Tough Enough.” He is 69, and his work ethic is still amazing, and he’s adapted.
Times have changed for the show from its humble beginnings. The 2015 version features a live vibe -- along with its taped segments -- for the studio audience and viewers at home. Social media and technology make it more interactive, and thus more drama mounts.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Video introduction and interviews
with contestants ZZ, Patrick, Sara Lee
I can see it now. Mr. McMahon, well dressed, standing in the ring, on-set, discussing segments with “Tough Enough” host Chris Jericho and special guest Big Show. Always hands-on.
When doors opened at approximately 7:15 p.m., fans filed into the studio by number. They appeared at Building 4 as early as 4:30 p.m. to wait for a numbered wristband.
Following the elimination show, The Miz hosts “Tough Talk” on the WWE Network. During “Tough Talk,” fans in the studio audience let contestants know how they feel. Miz asks Amanda if she will win, and of course, she answers, ‘Yes,’ and the crowd boos.
In WWE’s world, that can be a good thing, because talent wants a reaction – good or bad. She may not win the competition -- as fans vote to eliminate a contestant each Tuesday, near the show’s end, using devices/technology – but if WWE sees something in her or any of the other contestants, they may sign him or her to developmental or keep an eye on them, if pursuing further training at respected schools and wrestling on the indies.
WWE superstar Daniel Bryan knows something about the indies. Now a judge on “Tough Enough,” he, along with fellow judges Hulk Hogan and Paige, sat at a desk nestled inside the ring in Building 4 of Full Sail University in Winter Park, near Orlando. The desk is part of an elaborate set, top notch for a WWE production. Full Sail also houses WWE’s NXT shows at the state-of-the-art Full Sail Live for the WWE Network.
Thanks to Full Sail Live, the WWE Performance Center, the coaches, staff, talent and the WWE Network, NXT -- the developmental package of WWE -- is also developing into its own white hot brand.
And Full Sail students work behind the scenes – mostly production – for NXT and Tough Enough programming. WWE awarded scholarships to Full Sail students, and some Full Sail students even landed jobs with WWE.
It’s a solid working relationship between Full Sail and WWE. “Tough Enough” is another example of that successful partnership.
As for the show, each judge selects someone to eliminate each week, and then fans vote for the one of the three to remain. Whoever acquires the least amount of votes goes home.
Prior, Bryan, Paige and Hogan discuss the contestants, the footage that week and later grill the contestants. That is all done live.
Hosted by the renaissance man Chris Jericho and the lovely and professional Renee Young, “WWE Tough Enough” is interesting to watch on television and even more so live.
Only one man and one woman from the Final 13 will receive a $250,000 WWE contract, but as contestant Patrick said after his shocking elimination, you don’t have to win to become a WWE superstar. He noted The Miz did not win Tough Enough and look at him now.
Billy Gunn, Booker T and Lita serve as trainers/coaches for season six, and their contestants live at the WWE Performance Center. House a group of people together, unrelated by blood, in one place, and you have built-in drama. Though, as the competition develops, you can see the contestants not only bickering with one another but also showing some compassion, caring. They are becoming family, albeit dysfunctional, but whose family isn’t in some regard.
A favorite to win “Tough Enough,” Patrick, when eliminated, received hugs and kind words from the remaining contestants. They actually felt bad for him, even though each wants to win. Others eliminated prior not sent away so nicely.
Miz does a good job hosting “Tough Talk” after “Tough Enough” on the WWE Network. He not only grills the contestants but also the judges, wondering why Patrick was in the mix to be eliminated.
Big Show did his usual good job as the special guest. He is so much more than a giant wrestler. He is a sports entertainer. Y2J noted it was a Jeri-Show reunion. Mada, an exotic looking contestant, had some fun with Miz and Big Show at Miz’s expense.
Pre-show, NXT’s Greg Hamilton prepped the crowd, making comments and asking questions about “Tough Enough.” Fans responded individually and collectively.
The studio audience for the live portion of “Tough Enough” acted courteous and professional, quite different and rightfully so from the raucous Raw or SmackDown crowds.
Fans did react when each named talent appeared, just before the show began. Plenty of “Yes’ chants for Bryan, followed by loud cheers for the tough and beautiful lass Paige, and then, of course, Hogan pops while holding his hand to his ear. Y2J chants for his entrance, and Y2J starts a “Go Renee” chant for his co-host Renee Young.
While the taped portions of “Tough Enough” are airing, the crew works feverishly to clear the ring, so Big Show can chest chop/slap each contestant in the ring on live television. Mission accomplished.
During breaks from the live show, Jericho is photographing and taking video of the studio audience and others. Big Show started dancing, and then spotted Jericho filming it, and Big Show immediately stopped and said, “Don’t trust Chris Jericho with a camera.”
Anyone need eye drops?
Black is the new black as the judges, Big Show, Y2J sported black attire, while the radiant Renee Young wore vibrant colors.
Jericho and Young talk with the judges during off-times. Bryan promoted his autobiography at the show’s start, and afterward, he gave the book to a young fan, Gavin, seated front row and then he signed Gavin’s WWE belt.
Witnessing it all live from the studio audience is quite the experience. You can watch the taped segments on the big screen inside the studio. See the live segments and also some of the behind the scenes. Big Show was joking with fans during breaks.
Tickets are free for studio audience members, but you need to obtain a numbered wristband on show day.
Watch “WWE Tough Enough” 8 p.m. EST Tuesdays on USA Network, followed by “Tough Talk” with The Miz on the WWE Network.
- Pro Wrestling On the Web
YouTube jim varsallone (jimmyv3 channel)