Tough enough returned this year, and just like every other year it was met with hesitation. The show took a new formula that involved judges, trainers, and the WWE Universe. The trainers would train them and put them through challenges throughout the week. The judges would analyze the footage that we saw of the contestants throughout the week, then at the end of the show pick out the three contestants they thought were the weakest and put them in the bottom three. Finally, the WWE Universe would vote on the person they thought deserved to stay the most. This formula work fairly well, but definitely needs to be tweaked a bit. WWE just can’t seem to get the right formula for Tough Enough. This new season was fine but needed work. It had some good, some bad, and some ugly, so let's look over each.
As much as people like to say this show was a failure, it did a lot of things right. One of the things I really enjoyed about this season was the involvement from WWE Superstars. I really loved having a guy like Seth Rollins come in and give these guys some good advice on their ring attire and entrance. Or a guy like Wade Barrett come in and teach them how to cut a heel promo. Having Chris Jericho on hand to help with their general development as a veteran superstar was also incredible. If the goal of this show is to create the next WWE Superstar, then it makes all the sense in the world to have WWE Superstars who are some of the best in their field come in and help them. I would actually have preferred it if the Superstars did more when they arrived on the show, and stayed for the whole show or more than just one segement.
I also enjoyed most of the challenges that they did every week; It gave it more of a reality show feel, which I know that is what they're going for. Tying the challenges into being a WWE performer was actually a very good idea. Running the obstacle course and having to remember numbers along the way, while Billy Gunn is shouting other random numbers at them is brilliant. WWE superstars have to multitask and focus on the tasks at hand while thousands of people are shouting different things at them, and having at least one or two producers in their ear during the match. Now not all of the challenges were as good as the others but they were on the right track.
Another thing that they did right was letting the WWE Universe have a significant amount of say in who won and who lost. Fans, especially smart fans, tend to complain that we don't control who comes and who goes, who gets pushed and who doesn't. This was the perfect opportunity for the WWE universe to voice our opinions. While the judges have the opportunity to put people in the bottom three, or step in and save one person, the WWE Universe had the final say.
Daniel Bryan was by far the best judge throughout the competition. I will get into other judges later in this article, but I want to point out that Daniel Bryan was always the voice of reason. He gave good and legitimate advice to each competitor. He would explain why he was putting someone in the bottom three, and what they could do to fix that if they stayed in the competition. When someone wouldn't understand how to do something, he would explain it to them. Daniel Bryan did everything he could as a judge to help improve the competitors along the way. If Daniel gave you any form of harshness or put you down for any reason, it was usually justified. Daniel was really the only judge that I felt did a good job through the entire competition.
One of the bad things about this competition, was that they had challenges but they didn't mean anything. Winning a challenge no more guaranteed safety than losing a challenge. There were times when a contestant won a challenge, and ended up in the bottom three. Patrick, who is the favorite to win by the universe, end up in the bottom three after rubbing Hulk Hogan the wrong way, and end up getting eliminated even after countless challenge victories. Patrick simply rubbed a judge the wrong way which got him put into the bottom three. Which leads me to my next point.
Judges can put whoever they want in the bottom three for any reason they see fit. We saw this week after week when Paige would put Sara Lee into the bottom three for almost any reason. I will admit that I was pulling for Sara Lee, so there is some bias, and there were definitely weeks that she deserve to be in the bottom three. That said, there were definitely weeks where there were weaker competitors who deserved to be in the bottom three, but Paige just had this chip on her shoulder about Sara Lee for some reason. The judges should have been on a rotating system so that no one judge could pick on and attack one person week after week, or have a favorite who they specifically saved or kept out of the bottom three like Miz did with Amanda.
The voting time was another major issue the show had. The WWE audience got the opportunity to vote to save their favorite in the bottom three. However, they only had about 3-5 minute to do so. Many time I would find myself out or busy during Tough Enough, but I still knew who I wanted and didn’t want in the show. My phone would buzz telling me “It’s time to vote!” but by the time I opened the Tough Enough app and logged in, it was already too late, voting was closed. Fans deserve more than a few precious minutes to decide who stays and goes. They need to figure out a way to give the viewers more time to decide who they want to stay.
As much as I enjoyed some weeks challenges, I found others to be equally as infuriating and useless. Having the competitors swim to a boat in the middle of a river full of alligators and other swamp creatures really didn't show anything becoming of a WWE Superstar. It showed who could swim the fastest, and who couldn't swim at all. Another week we saw the teams working together to put out a fire, you can call that team building as much as you want but it's just a wasted, useless reality television challenge that could have been used on any other reality show.
There were some truly ugly segments and parts of the show as well. The one I'm going to start with is the one that bothers me the most. And that was the constant attacking and berating of several of their competitors. Sara Lee got it pretty bad considering she was trying pretty hard. ZZ also got it pretty bad, but to be fair he started to earn it more and more every week. Patrick got put in the bottom three just for saying that Hulk Hogan's era was over. Sara Lee actually continued to get berated and insulted by judges and trainers even after she won the competition. When asked if she was the right person to win every single judge and trainer said no, with no positive things to say after. No one even tried to justify why she was worth winning. That makes your product look TERRIBLE. It makes the whole show look terrible, and it is incredibly insulting to the fans who voted for her! Which were A LOT of fans. No one said a good thing about her, until Triple H stepped in and added some insight as to why she might have won, disagreeing with Billy Gunn about how long it will take her to be ready for the ring.
My next gripe ties in with my first point and that is Paige. It seems like every week Paige had some massive attitude problem with at least one person. She was constantly attacking, interrupting, or just generally being rude to at least one competitor every week. She would ask a question and before that person could get an answer out Paige would start yelling about why they were lying or that they were wrong. Not to mention she’d have rude comments, eye rolls, moans and groans at other judges as well. When Amanda tried to smear Sara Lee's name saying that she was a “ring rat” and sleeping with some of the other WWE or NXT superstars, Paige literally told everyone to shut up and to give her all of the details. She didn't tried to shut her down for slut shaming, or tell her that that has no bearing on the competition whatsoever, or that a person has the right to have whatever private life they want. Paige only wanted to further embarrass Sara Lee and smear her name even more. I found myself looking forward to watching the show, but bracing myself for any segments that involved Paige. Her behavior throughout the entire season screamed immature and rude, and it made it much harder to watch.
The biggest problem that a majority of people, including myself, had with the show was the forced, unnecessary drama. It's no secret that the show had a heavy amount of scripting when it came to some of the backstage or in the barracks drama. There was a lot of getting in each others faces, throwing drinks, saying insults, and backstab attempts. It was all pretty fake, scripted, and obvious. They wanted to make it more of a reality show, the problem is the WWE Universe is not that kind of crowd. You're not going to draw a regular reality show fans into the show, and you're not going to convince WWE fans that the unnecessary reality show drama is necessary. So in the process you end up isolating both groups. Next time, cut out the fake drama.