Welcome to WNW's weekly Tough Enough blog, Tough Stuff! Last week, we saw Daria fall, literally and figuratively, a complete lack of professionalism from WWE with how they handled Dianna's departure from the show, and Seth Rollins give the newbies character pointers. This week, the competitors will be getting a new barracks buddy in Chelsea, and some BAD NEWS from the current King of the Ring, Bad News Barrett! Plus, another elimination! Let's get to it!
Opening Video and Judge Intro:
Daria is gone from the intro, but considering they are adding a cast member this week, I expected to see a shot of her in it. I guess they wanted to keep her look a secret from those fans that aren't watching Tough Talk on the WWE Network or are constantly monitoring WWE's social media accounts. I do find it interesting that all of Bryan's picks so far have been the ones cut. Maybe that shows the fans watching are agreeing with his idea that they aren't worth it? But I don't like that Hulk is pulling back the curtain a bit far with this. He and Paige both act like they are gunning for people, and Hulk especially did it when he said "based on what I've seen this week". That shows that they are not only seeing the footage beforehand, but are being coach on how to direct the fans opinions. BAKA!
Barracks Segment 1:
Wow... Chelsea is right at home already! And she looks like she is going to bring the drama. I wonder if Bryan will recognize her... Or if it will be brought up! I think that could make for some hilarity! But the photo for Tanner and the HUGE glass of vodka she poured for herself... That's already a bit much. It's like they want her to be a polarizing figure. Well! That's not where I expected the drama to start this week! A fight over fake tatas? Which both Amanda and Gabi have in large portions! This SCREAMS Kevin Dunn's writing! I have to agree with Chelsea... This couldn't have been what she was expecting when she signed up for Tough Enough.
Promo Challenge 1:
Promos! The lifeblood of this business. You can be 6'8", jacked to the moon and back, and the absolute greatest of all time in the ring, but if you can't work a mic, you may as well be useless. You have to be able to cut a promo and draw in the crowd. And words ALWAYS go further than ring ability with the casual fans, which is 66-75% of the weekly audience. But for a promo challenge, they picked King Barrett? He's not bad on the mic, but there are so many others they could have brought in. Heck, have Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, or even John Cena come in for this, because they can all talk circles around Barrett. But I have to give him credit where it is due. For something he clearly improvised off the top of his head, he did pretty well! And I had forgotten that Billy Gunn was a King of the Ring winner! The little snippets of the promos really didn't give me a lot to work on with how they really executed their promos, but out of what I saw, I thought Patrick, Tanner, and Sara Lee nailed it. But then we got the BEAST MODE of Mada! He got right into Barrett's face, and he did what no other competitor appeared to do. He showed the physical side of a promo. there has to be some level of physical involvement as well, otherwise it looks like you are trying to act. Mada sold it home.
Promo Challenge 2:
Welcome to Improv Is JERICHO! It is very fitting Y2J is hosting the Promo battles between the contestants, considering he is one of the greatest talkers in the history of WWE. And performing a promo in front of a small crowd, like at a comedy club, is a perfect way to gauge their confidence levels. We started with Mada and Josh, and Mada brought his intensity again. I understand he is Egyptian, but slipping into the language too much in a promo could typecast him in WWE. But Josh went back to "Bronson" the British Brawler, and it flopped harder than Daria falling on herself last week! I'm sorry Josh, but PLEASE stick to being a yeti. Chelsea sounded like she was teaching a class of kids instead of cutting a promo. Which is a shame, considering she wasn't awful as Bryan's therapist. Giorgia was miles ahead, and I think she might be the best all around performer out of the Diva hopefuls. Tannerwas lukewarm at best, but then Patrick got on the mic and let him have it!!! Someone call Tanner a doctor! Even Jericho was smiling there, because he knew that we just saw something special with this 19 year old kid! But I thought Josh and Chelsea were bad... I didn't know a horrible promo until Gabi got a mic! She sounded like Sofia Vergara was lobotomized and told to talk about WWE. Amanda's was short and sweet, and basically put Gabi in her place. Sara Lee sounded like she had a decent idea in her head, but her nerves caused her to flub up. Plus, she was smiling as she cut a heel promo! I can understand why the fans booed her. ZZ has a very natural charisma, and that's what is helping him stay in this competition so far. Jericho completely surprised me with how intense he got with Sara though. He basically degraded her in front of a crowd, and she just took it and it rolled off her back. That's a great attitude to have in life, but in the WWE, it is going to quickly cost her a spot in the locker room. She finally tried to step up to him, but at that point, I wonder if it just is too little, too late. And it is apparent that the judges feel the same way. After the break, we got to see the crowd reactions for the winner, and while Patrick was the overall winner, he and Mada came extremely close in crowd reaction. Personally, I could see both as successes from this season. But of course, then we had to get more of the manufactured drama, with Patrick going against Mada and Josh. But this week it was Patrick that disappointed me, by bringing up that Warrior is dead and Hogan is retired and saying the day of big men is behind us. As much as I like that sentiment, it clearly isn't true. Look at Cena, Orton, Reigns, Sheamus, Ryback, Cesaro, and Kevin Owens. All of them are bigger guys. and they are all at the top of the card right now. Plus, you DON'T blast on one of the judges in the competition!
Barracks Segment 2:
Of course, all of the drama has to continue back at the house, and Gabi is the one taking the brunt of it. And Sara had a great point on Gabi: The judges are already laying into people for holding back, so why would you choose to do so in a challenge? It makes absolutely no sense. But now we are getting to the stuff that is going to make me sick: forced "romantic" angles. Chelsea JUST got back into the competition, and the first thing she is being shown doing in the barracks is being hit on by Tanner? BAKA! No wonder the ratings are in the toilet, which I will look at in the closing. WHOA!!! Tanner kissed her? OK WWE, that’s WAY too much. If I was any other writer, this would probably be where I quit watching. Alas... I love WNW's readers too much... I have to agree with Paige and Hulk. WEAK!
Performance Center Workout:
FINALLY! Some WRESTLING training! This is what we have been tuning in for! All of the guys' mechanics looked fairly solid. The only one I had issue with was ZZ's legs not being in optimal position, but hey, he's green.Chelsea, despite her awful promo challenge, looked good on the clip they showed. Lance Storm's troops are no slouches. WWE needs to be keeping a closer eye on his school. Sara though... *sigh* I want to like her. I really do. But every single thing they show of her is god awful! It's yet another case of the brass trying to rig the voting against someone. If they have people picked they want to win, then why even bother with the voting charade?
Barracks Segment 3:
I don't know how much of Sara's breakdown there was scripted or was truth, but you have to feel for her, even if she is now being singled out for a good reason. I admit when I was training at first, I had the same issue as she does. I would get in my own head and overthink every move, every motion, and it would make me sloppy. The key is muscle memory and reacting appropriately. I do like that the girls were trying to encourage her. There is only so much abuse someone can take before it hits you hard.
I understand Jericho's point about trying to motivate her, but at the same time, it felt like more than just that. I don't know if Sara has made an enemy of Dunn or what, but this week has been multiple pointed attacks against her. She'll be in the bottom 3. I have a feeling this will be all women, with Gabi and possibly Chelsea joining her. And after the break, the hits just kept coming. Paige tore her apart, and with everything shown this week, rightfully so. And after all of it, Sara finally stood up for herself a bit. I love that she called all of the other women "Bikini Clones"! It is a PERFECT description of the Divas' Division up until this past Raw. Bryan threw her a softball, and I like that Hulk is playing the good guy here and trying to show that it wasn't all bad for her this week. Then when he went on to Mada and Patrick... I knew sparks were going to fly! I do agree with Hulk on the fact that Mada, perhaps, should have been the true winner. Mada truly was believing his character, and that is, like I said last week, the biggest thing about selling yourself to the home audience. I knew Hulk was going to take offense to Patrick's rant! But he has to be utterly delusional if he truly believes after 9 back surgeries that he could step into a ring and make anyone look like a fool, other than himself. I do beg to differ with Hulk on Patrick's promo skills. He does make it work, and well. He can pander to the crowd well. I wonder whom on the panel used to be guilty of that very same thing... But I am sure Hulk got his butt handed to him once cameras stopped rolling! I think this is the first time in WWE recorded history that the words "Smart Mark" were directly used in the industry meaning! Vince HATES using insider terms on TV. Of course, after all of the seriousness, Jericho decided to have a little fun and asked Josh what a sarcophagus was and how to spell it! And it was utterly amusing to see him fumble around on it! Once the bottom 3 started, I knew that Paige was immediately calling for Sara 's head. She will keep doing it too, even if she improves or someone else sucks more. Gabi wasn't much of a surprise either, but when Hulk called out Tanner, I was a mite surprised! He did start hot, like Hulk said, but now that he seems to be coasting... I guess it is time to see if he can be salvaged. And with no pleas this week, only a promo on the judge that nominated them... I expect Sara Lee to be sunk unless she just absolutely wows the home crowd. Gabi seemed absolutely confused in there. She did exactly what she wasn't supposed to do! She ended up making a plea, and just changed it by addressing Bryan at the very start of it. I love that Hulk stopped the clock before it even started for Tanner and tried to get him to really work for it. That's what the judges should be doing: encouraging this young men and women to make the most of this chance! Tanner tried to work it, but he felt very two dimensional, even after Hulk pushed him at 15 seconds. For a guy who's got the biggest mouth in the barracks, he was very muted here. But FINALLY! Sara Lee came out of her shell. Sure, she was still smiling all through her promo, but she finally got to drop a bomb on Paige, and it was good. Even Paige had to show her some respect. After that promo, I am a bit surprised no one saved Sara. I like that Jericho led on a bit of tension with Sara, just to let her know she was safe. But it was clear once they showed the tallies that Sara had turned the home audience with her promo, because she had a commanding 63% of the vote. Honestly, I am a bit disappointed Gabi went home, but if that was all she could bring on the mic, it was for the best. WWE already has a Latina that can't cut a promo or work to save her life in Rosa Mendez, so Gabi winning would only have compounded that issue. I love that Gabi called the show on some of it's BS! That curtain just got ripped well off, and I hope Dunn and VKM take notice. It isn't only us fans who are sick of the drama BS!
Earlier in the article, I mentioned I'd be bringing in some stats in this spot this week! I went back and did some digging on the ratings for the previous season of Tough Enough that aired on USA. Granted, last season was used for a lead in for a 2 hour Raw broadcast back in 2011 (Boy, how have times changed!), but at that time, Tough Enough was averaging 2.75 million viewers. With viewership numbers like that, it is no small wonder why USA was so keen to have Raw move to 3 hours, and why they forced WWE's hand to bring Tough Enough back on to USA. But this season has shown ABYSMAL numbers, to the tune of only 1.114 million. That is nearly a 60% drop off in over 4 years. Now, I'm sure you are wondering, "But Jesse, it can't be that bad, considering the format change and the fact the it isn't being used for Raw anymore." I had to say it... BUT I'M AFRAID I'VE GOT SOME BAD NEWS! When looked at the overall WWE picture of ratings, it is that bad. WWE's Raw viewership averaged 5.21 million viewers weekly at that time. As a fair point of comparison, I cut Raw this year down to the two highest rated hours and averaged them. And Raw now achieves 3.996 Million viewers weekly, on average. That is a little under a 24% drop off. It's still significant, especially if you compare the averages to the combined totals. WWE was getting 13.17 million viewers just 4 years ago on 3 hours of programming. Now, WWE is struggling for 11.75 million. An over 10% total drop may not seem much, but for WWE, that's millions in ad revenue. It's no small wonder USA is looking to cancel Tough Enough, especially when this episode couldn't even crack a million viewers.
Next week, we will get to see the competitors take on an Obstacle Course, we'll watch someone go down with an injury, and yet another person get chopped! Plus, I will look at the Winner's contract, and how it should tick off ANY NXT star! See you then!