In June 2001, the WWE introduced a new reality show on MTV, with the aim to find new superstars for the company. That first series saw Maven Huffman and Nidia Guenard crowned as winners, and both had reasonable careers in the company without making a major, lasting impact on the company.
In the 13 years since, we have seen 4 other series of Tough Enough, with only Maven and John Hennigan winning championship belts after winning a series. Of course, the most successful contestant in Tough Enough’s history is Mike Mizanin, who as The Miz, won the WWE Championship and headlined Wrestlemania 27.
However, when Tough Enough was brought back in 2011, the show struggled to create any kind of star, with only Ariane Andrew, who performs as Cameron, reaching the main roster. So does that mean that Tough Enough should be consigned to the closed file of WWE history?
HAS TOUGH ENOUGH CREATED ANY STARS?
Despite the fact that the Tough Enough revival failed to find a main event talent, that is not to say that the programme has been a total failure. The first series saw the WWE audience introduced to Maven, who had a four year career with the company. His fellow winner, Nidia, had a three year career, mainly as the valet of Jamie Noble.
On top of that, finalist Josh Lomberger found success outside of the ring, as a commentator and backstage interviewer, using the name Josh Mathews. Fellow finalist Christopher Nowinski spent a year on the full roster, before the lasting effects of a concussion led to his retirement from the ring. Since then, he has established a reputation as a concussion expert, helping to highlight the risks performers in sports and Wrestling undertake if concussions aren’t treated properly.
Some members of the Tough Enough alumni have found success in other companies. Matt Morgan was forced to pull out of the second series with a serious knee injury, and after a brief spell with the WWE, found sustained success with TNA before retiring at the beginning of this year. He was joined on the second series by Kenny Layne, who found success in Ring of Honor and now TNA as Kenny King. In fact, Layne was a finalist in series 2, losing out to Jackie Gayda and Linda Miles.
Series 3 saw the most successful winner of the show, with John Hennigan going onto to compete as Johnny Nitro, and later John Morrison. A one time ECW Champion, Hennigan also claimed 5 tag team titles, and 3 Intercontinental Championships.
The forgotten story of Series 3 is that of Matt Cappotelli. After a couple of matches in the aftermath of the Tough Enough finale, he reported to Ohio Valley Wrestling, where he claimed the OVW Southern Tag Team Championships with Johnny Jeter, before defeating Jeter to become the OVW Heayweight Champion. When it appeared as though Cappotelli was on the brink of a call up to the main roster, he was diagnosed with a cancerous Brain Tumour, effectively ending his in-ring career. His treatment has been successful though, and Cappotelli returned to OVW this year as a trainer for the company’s beginner programme.
Series Four was the most successful for producing in-ring performers, despite not having it’s own television show. Shown as part of Smackdown in late 2004, winner Daniel Puder only lasted a year, after turning down the offer of a new contract. The breakout star of the series was The Miz, who finished as runner up, and to date, is the only Tough Enough contestant to win a World Championship, capturing the WWE Championship in 2010. He went on to headline Wrestlemania 27, defeating John Cena in the main event, as well as holding multiple tag team championships, as well as both the Intercontinental and United States Championships. Marty Wright, although disqualified from the competition after lying about his age, found success as The Boogeyman, even if the character wasn’t ever in line for a main event push.
Ryan Reeves overcame not winning the competition, and the disappointment of an initial release in 2007, to return and make an impact on the main roster as both Skip Sheffield as part of The Nexus, and Ryback, main eventing numerous WWE PPV’s over the past 18 months.
Daniel Rodimer and Nick Mitchell both found their ways onto the main roster, meaning that the fourth series of Tough Enough had six men find their way onto the main roster at some point.
I’d call that successful.
SO WHY BRING IT BACK?
If the last series of Tough Enough wasn’t a major success, why should WWE bring it back? And if only one World Champion has been produced, what benefit could Tough Enough have to the main roster?
One argument for not bringing it back is the fact the company now has NXT on the WWE Network. Why would they need to have a programme to find new talent if NXT showcases new talent on a weekly basis?
But the fact is that WWE have multiple weekend try outs through out the year, something which could be the base for Tough Enough. Personally, I would love to see what talents have to go through at a try out weekend, and how the process varies for novices, and seasoned professionals.
Obviously, if WWE did base Tough Enough around a try out weekend, things would have to be manipulated in some way. And how many talents would you bring in? Would you make it like The Ultimate Fighter where you have two teams led by WWE legends? Or would it follow the old format, where everyone competes with each other?
The one thing you can’t deny now is that there is an abundance of talent in promotions all over the world. Japan is still one of the biggest markets in the world, and talents still flock from every corner of the globe to work there. The UK and the rest of Europe are building an impressive reputation with countless workers seemingly capable of making the step up to a major promotion. You also have the North American scene, where more and more guys are being rewarded for their hard work with WWE Developmental contracts.
COULD TOUGH ENOUGH WORK?
With the WWE Network now up and running, there is definitely an outlet for Tough Enough to be shown, and with the right format, it could produce a star for the company. The problem is, what is that right format?
I would personally have a smaller group of talent, working in a similar format to TNA’s British Boot Camp, with a minimal eliminations before a finale where the best wins.
The problem is though, that WWE have NXT, where new talent are given a chance to showcase their talent on a weekly basis, so the need for Tough Enough has probably passed. With the WWE Performance Centre also in operation, WWE can bring who they want in for a try-out without the pressure of having to think about television cameras following your every move.
Unfortunately, it seems as though Tough Enough has had it’s time, and will be consigned to the WWE archives for good.