What happened to 'Tough Enough?'
By Rennie Detore
Sunday, December 19, 2004
"Tough Enough" started as a reality TV show on MTV, and lasted for
three seasons. The fourth installment showed up as a "Smackdown"
segment and resembled its predecessor in name alone.
Originally, the main objective of "Tough Enough" was two-fold. For
WWE, the show afforded the promotion an opportunity to scour the
country in hopes of finding another "Stone Cold" Steve Austin or The
Rock. In the process, MTV latched on to another reality show that
potentially could attract the always-important 18- to 35-year-old
The combination of MTV and WWE produced a purposeful reality series.
"Tough Enough" smashed the stereotype that because professional
wrestling is staged, anyone can do it.
Even the most skeptical viewers took notice of just how difficult the
so-called "fake" wrestling was; that the common thought of wrestling
as two guys rolling around a ring in tights actually was a refined
process, which requires more than a flashy costume.
Contestants filled with dreams of performing in front of 10,000 people
became in-ring workhorses, who grimaced and winced in pain after only
a few bumps and bruises. The would-be glitz and glamour usually
associated with WWE live events quickly transformed into a one-room
facility, littered with training equipment, three trainers and one
As seasons came and went, wrestling fans and the MTV audience
emphatically realized that WWE wanted athletes with heart, dedication
and an unspoken respect for the business of professional wrestling.
The show, too, was constructed with a "Real World" setting, putting
WWE hopefuls in a house together and watching conflict -- either from
the "Tough Enough" trainers or butting personalities -- ensue. Head
trainer Al Snow acted as in-ring general, but also served as an
out-of-the-ring mentor to several, if not all, contestants at one time
WWE finally had found the perfect blend of sport and entertainment
with "Tough Enough."
After three seasons, though, the concept eventually grew tiresome, if
for no other reason than its repetitive nature from one season to the
next. MTV and WWE decided "Tough Enough" no longer had a viable
The decision to bag the show, most likely, was based on sagging
ratings, not to mention a steady decline in WWE's mid- to late-1990s
Still, Vince McMahon and company weren't ready to say goodbye just
A new idea: have "Tough Enough" as part of "Smackdown," where clips of
the training can be shown from week to week.
In theory, the mentality sounded strong enough to carry on the
tradition of the original show. The way "Tough Enough 4" translated on
television was another story altogether.
The show lacked discipline as part of "Smackdown," and WWE treated
contestants as mere fodder for their amu***t.
"Tough Enough" was never about contestants shoveling spaghetti in
their mouths, dressing up like women or having public make-out
sessions with Mae Young.
The show addressed professional wrestling as a legitimate lifestyle of
constant training and traveling to make a living. Viewers watched in
Season 1 as Jason, the bald-headed brute with a chiseled physique,
walked away from the competition, citing that he didn't want the
hectic life associated with being a WWE superstar.
He opted for peace over potential prosperity.
Moments like Jason's -- the ones that truly define what World
Wrestling Entertainment is all about -- have been supplanted by bogus
boxing matches and "American Gladiator" jousting stunts that serve no
purpose, other than for what McMahon might call entertainment.
Instead, McMahon and the rest of the "Smackdown" writers have
tarnished the "Tough Enough" franchise to the point that wrestling
once again looks like a circus sideshow that values gross-out tactics
and meaningless competition over the truly remarkable process of
becoming a WWE superstar.
The biggest loser in all of this is 23-year-old Daniel Puder, who won
the so-called contest last Thursday over MTV mainstay Mike Mizanin.
The mixed martial arts expert and former UFC fighter seemingly has all
the tools to become a legitimate draw in WWE. Unfortunately, he wasn't
afforded the kind of springboard that "Tough Enough" once provided its
Rennie Detore's Pro Wrestling Insider appears Sundays in the