June 23rd 2015 sees the return of WWE reality series Tough Enough to our screens via the WWE Network, a show designed to find the next top superstar in WWE. How will the new series measure up against past seasons? Will the show be what the company want it to be? And more importantly, will this new season be similar to those of the past? Or will it follow in the footsteps of the initial seasons of NXT? So many questions need to be answered about the show, but what I have spent the last few weeks wondering is why wasn't the original series of NXT done in the same format as Tough Enough?
The original series of NXT could have been so much better than it was. Lets be honest when most of us think of NXT in it's initial stages many believe it was utter garbage. Having pre-determined outcomes with those silly challenges that didn't really prove anything, and the winner already being decided just felt so false and was WWE's way of trying to feed you the guys they believe have the potential and that they want you to like. Lets look at season one; Wade Barrett won the first season, while Bryan was buried week after week for being an 'indy guy' and was clearly not someone WWE wanted us to get behind. But several years later look at their roles and situations now in the company. Barrett has become a multiple time Intercontinental Champion, while Daniel Bryan went on last year to become the biggest star in WWE and became the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. That's not a knock on Barrett, as he really is a tremendous talent but do I think he would have won in a show with the format of Tough Enough? I'm not so sure he would.
The original format of Tough Enough worked well and made for compelling television, with WWE breaking into the reality television market. It gave us names such as Maven, John Hennigan (known as John Morrison), Ryan Reeves (who would go on to be Ryback), Mike Mizanin (who went on to become known as The Miz), Christopher Nowinski, and Ariane Andrew (who currently competes in WWE as Cameron). Who will ever forget watching the first season and seeing Triple H appear in episode three and tell the new hopefuls some truths about life on the road and the realities of the business. Not only did they show the business side of things but WWE showed the contestants lives together outside of WWE, meaning we got to see more of what they were really like outside the ring. You could almost say the original Tough Enough was almost the male equivalent of Total Divas. You got to see what it really took to become a part of the WWE roster, how hard you had to work to get a contract with the company, and the struggles and sacrifices that had to be made to get there.
I believe NXT would have been a much bigger success originally had it followed the Tough Enough model, and would have benefited from the mentors actually helping guide their students through their journey to becoming a WWE Superstar and experiencing what life really is like on the road in WWE. Lets be honest, doing stupid challenges like an assault course, or carrying a beer keg don't exactly do anything for you in a WWE ring. Imagine what we could have learnt about Wade Barrett and Chris Jericho together. I can only assume that there was some mentoring done, but it would have been great to see that on camera. Lets be honest we know Wade Barrett isn't really a bad guy, it's just a character he portrays on television while it would have been a real treat to see another side to Chris Jericho, and seeing him pass on his years of knowledge and experience to someone hoping to make it big.
What now remains to be seen is how WWE handles Tough Enough going forward. Little information is known about how it is going to look and how the format will work, but if WWE can keep it similar to how the first three seasons were then I think they will be on to a winning format. It is believed WWE have revamped the series to see more fan participation than ever before, something that the original series seemed to lack but a feature that partly played into NXT originally. I am really excited by the return of the Tough Enough series and was disappointed that it took so long for NXT to find the success it has under a totally different format. Tough Enough is WWE's chance to put the memories of NXT's original format to bed and show they can produce a top reality show to find the next WWE Superstars in the right way.