Welcome to WNW's weekly Tough Enough blog, Tough Stuff! I'm Jesse Sherwood, and most of you already know me as the Community Manager here on WNW, but before I wore that hat, I was the writer of the Smackdown Breakdown. I have to say, it feels nice to get back in the swing of writing! Now, this is going to be different from the rest of the reviews on WNW, as I am not going to give grades for things here. This show is supposed to be a "Reality" competition, and since I have had experience in the ring, I am looking at this as a former worker more than I am anything else. I will break this off into the applicable segments, so it will be easier to read. Let's get to it!
Opening Video and Judge Intro:
I have to say, first impressions are everything in this sort of show. And looking at the stock shots they took for the intro, WWE has a fairly impressive and diverse cast of rookies for this show. I love that they are using Bryan for a judge, since he has trained a number of successful wrestlers, including the current head of the Divas Trainers in NXT, Sara Del Rey. And Paige makes a lot of sense as well, since she has literally grown up in this business. And Hulk is an icon, though I am curious if he could tap into what makes a modern Superstar, not what was big in his heyday. I like Jericho as a host and essentially proctor for the show, but I think he should be on the judges panel as well. He is one of the few WWE stars to have great success in other forms of media, and he could bring that crossover appeal eye in. But what irks me is that each of the judges basically described that they wanted someone who fits into their own mold in a winner. What they should be looking for is a great, all around Superstar or Diva, someone who can easily work a crowd as well as work hard in the ring.
Strength Challenge 1:
I like how WWE used this to give us the competitor's intro videos, but I can't help but feel that they were skewed a bit to already give the fans a bias towards or against certain ones. Josh's I found kind of sad and goofy, with the Chewbacca call, Daria's was short and sweet, but gave me nothing to really remember her by, and Hank was cocky, but I couldn't believe him, because he didn't feel like he believed it himself. Amanda has already been dismissed in my mind because she perpetrated the typical Diva stereotype. Alex is a guy I could like in this competition, simply because he Byzantine Armor tattoos give him something different than your typical worker. I get a lot of heart from Patrick, and I hope he can go far. Mada just looks like a jerk. He looks like that meathead at a gym that clangs the weights to get every bit of attention he can. ZZ is 18??? So much for that 21 or older before WWE TV edict Vince had for years... I have a feeling he's going to be cut early. Dianna is a model, exactly what the Divas need less of. And in her video, she seemed very self absorbed. I hope that doesn't become a trend with her. Giorgia is another model, but at least she doesn't look like a 90 pound Barbie doll. I actually want to see more of her. And speaking of seeing more of someone, Gabi is an exotic beauty who sounds pretty tough! I think she could be an early favorite. Tanner on looks alone reminds me of Seth Rollins and CM Punk, and that is a good thing. Sara Lee's video made me immediately hope she would win the Diva's side, because you can tell she's in this for the right reasons.
As for the challenge itself... Ouch! Right off the bat, they aren't playing around! Parachute sprints are tough, even for trained athletes. And then add on the sandbag run and 5 story stair climb... My muscles would be screaming the next day, even when I was in excellent shape. And Tanner made it look like it was easy. But ZZ has absolutely horrid conditioning! Yes, it was 108 degrees on that field, and being a stocky guy makes it that much worse, but if you know you are trying out for a show such as this, you have to at least make an honest attempt to be in shape. There is no way after that showing that he makes it out of the first couple of rounds. And while I am appalled by ZZ's lack of conditioning, I am even more disturbed by the completely sexist comments Hank made. "ZZ is the least in shape out of everyone here, including the women." What, are women supposed to be beneath you? You were close to the tail end there bucko. There were a lot of the women that beat you! Look in your own backyard before you pop off. As for Mada's comments on Tanner... All he did was prove me right. He's a meathead jerk.
House and Bar Segments 1 and 2:
Well, they have military racks in a fairly nice looking apartment setting. I'd love to have that sort of kitchen space! But I think it is fairly sad that the contestants have a grueling first workout, and instead of taking the time to rest or possibly do things to improve themselves, the first thought on their mind is to get loaded. Why not enjoy your new digs? And either Patrick is underage too, or he just isn't a part of that sort of lifestyle. I have to respect him for staying home with ZZ. But ZZ showed his kid side a bit much in the video and later in the hot tub. Going to eat all of the cookies? Didn't you figure out that they aren't helping you thanks to that run today? And getting nude in a hot tub with people you just met is asinine.
As for the bar... That is exactly why I don't drink. I know I'd do something stupid like play on a pole or wrestle around. Dianna showed further just how self absorbed she is, and it looks like we already have a clique forming between Mada, Josh, Hank, and Alex. And in shows like this, that is never a good thing. Hopefully Tanner can rise above them and make it work.
I have to say I love that Billy Gunn is a trainer on this season. He's a fun guy to have in the group, but you also know he works them twice as hard as he would anyone else, because he wants the next star to be great. I have to agree with Mr. Ass though... Dianna's push up was just plain awful. Even with me being out of shape now, I can still do a better push up than that!!! And her excuse of being hurt was absolutely bunk. She looked like she was being lazy. Tanner blowing away the rest of the guys wasn't surprising, nor was ZZ being last. He's quickly showing that he doesn't belong here. Of course, the drama from the bar had to carry over the next night, with the clique calling out Tanner. I know this is a competition, but with attitudes like that, they will drive away the voters. I won't be surprised if one of them gets cut soon.
Strength Challenge 2:
Running the ropes SUCKS! But seeing the inside of the WWEPC was nice, and Jason Jordan showed those rookies exactly how someone should run the ropes fluidly. I never was that fluid when I did it. And up-and-downs aren't any fun either. They were always my least favorite thing to do while training, because any time we messed up, Derrick King would have us do them, even if he wasn't training us! I'd rather take bumps all day than up-and-downs. Dianna broke a cardinal rule here though. You never call yourself the weak link and make an excuse why. If you are legitimately hurt, you should tell the trainers. At this point, I think she is faking all of it, and am wondering why she is even here in the first place. I have to say Tanner is impressing me with his confidence. He's got balls, and more than anything else, appears to have the skill to back it up. If there is an early favorite, it is him. And Patrick brought a fire and conviction no one else has shown up to this point. He called Tanner out, and I have to say that he probably has the most heart out of everyone in the group.
One thing I clearly didn't like about this is that the guys worked with a standard dummy bag, and the women had a sand bag like what was used in the first strength challenge. Doesn't WWE have smaller dummy bags for the women? But how the heck did little miss "hurt" Dianna manage to beat EVERYONE else at 17 reps? She is looking for pity and the easy way out. I hope that she was put through the paces that hard because she made an excuse. And Tanner's 16 doubled the average, but wasn't quite what he bragged. But still, very impressive. I can't wait to see them actually start taking bumps.
House Segment 3:
Boy, this is turning into the Dianna show! They show her out with her fiance, and then all of the women being catty about her... BAKA! You knew that this was going to be a 10 week competition. If you are so enamored with your future husband that one day away is too much, then I have to say the others are right, you shouldn't be here because your heart isn't in being a WWE Diva, it's getting your 15 minutes of fame. But DAMN! Tanner went from impressing me to showing that he has quite the ego. Yes, he deserves to have one, but it could cost him if he isn't careful. He needs to step back and be sure he isn't going too far.
Alright, so to review the voting rules, one person gets chopped each week, for a total of 9 before the finals. Each judge can save one person from elimination per season, if they so choose, and the person with the least viewer votes each week is cut. That actually makes some good sense, even if it could cause some interesting issues. For a scenario, what if Bryan and Hulk both save a person in a week? That means there is only one person that could be cut. It could make for a forced decision, or a way to forcibly get rid of a pest. Dianna gave the exact right answers to Hulk, and that's not exactly a good thing. I feel it was a bit disingenuous, because while I know they cut together the juiciest footage, I feel that she really doesn't want to be there for WWE, but for herself. I'm really glad that Paige called him out on his sexist comments. His response was a very political one, and I think he was just covering his bum. Daria is simply not striking any chords with me. She has a very bland personality. Hulk choosing ZZ was fairly well expected, especially since he has performed so poorly in the challenges. But I like that Hulk talked up his personality, which he clearly has a ton of. I think Bryan stole Paige's pick with Hank, and it was quite a justified one. He has been nothing but insulting from word one, and that negativity is not needed. Josh is HUGE. But he is reminding me of the last Tough Enough winner, Andy. And that's really not a good thing! And he's speech to save himself further hammered that home. He has the charisma of a piece of wood. ZZ's speech was great and impassioned, but he was a bit hard to understand. Hank, though, fell even more flat than Josh! And when Jericho announced he was the one eliminated, I couldn't have been happier. He was clearly not deserving of it, especially with how he carried himself this week.
I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this crop of workers. I think we may have a couple of true gems here. But if I have one big complaint about the format of the show, it is that they are focusing way too much on the drama and cutting a lot of the challenges. I want to see how they are working to become the next great star, not how they are bickering. But to each their own. I'm sure Kevin Dunn sees that as what will drive ratings. But I want to hear your thoughts! Post them in the comments below, and I'll be back next week for more Tough Stuff!