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Monday, January 3, 2011

Tough Enough Is Back? Why?

First off, Happy New Year to all of you loyal PWI and Inside Wrestling/The Wrestler readers. I'm happy to be starting my fourth calendar year with the family, and per Stu Saks' advice, I'm gonna try this blogging thing a little more often.

Now, onto the news.

If you frequent WWE.com, you probably already know that WWE is bringing back Tough Enough for a 10-episode run in the spring. The show returns April 4 (the night after 'Mania 27) on USA immediately following Raw, then will precede Raw at 8/7 CT from April 11 through its conclusion sometime in June.

And my first thought is ... uh, what? Why?

Doesn't WWE already have NXT as a showcase for "a group of 12 individuals looking for a once-in-a-lifetime shot to become the next WWE Superstar or Diva" with "the grand prize winner ... awarded a contract with WWE"? I thought so, but those are WWE.com's exact words regarding the show.

Oh, wait, Tough Enough is "non-scripted." So then if it's different, I guess NXT must be scripted, huh? Could've fooled me, what with every cast member from Season 1 getting jobs, while the "fans' choice" for Season 2's winner has already been released from his contract.

Yes, that's sarcasm.

From reading the press release on WWE.com, it looks like WWE is basically taking the Diva Search and UFC's Ultimate Fighter, putting them in a blender, and rolling out a "new" format.

Great ... but even if it's done with 12 true rookies (read: not guys/gals who have been in FCW or the indies for years) fighting to become a WWE Superstar, it still doesn't really make sense. After all, if they have that time slot and that ability, why not just start NXT Season 5 that day, put that on USA, and push guys you're already invested in? Guess they really need a new feeder system for FCW now that we're upwards of two dozen guys taken for NXT within the last year.

I'm not even sure Vince McMahon knows the answer to any of that, but whatever.

The person I honestly feel the most sorry for is whoever ends up winning that thing. Seriously, these are the winners of WWE's other three "reality" competitions:

Tough Enough: Maven, Nidia, Linda Miles, Jackie Gayda, John Hennigan, Matt Cappotelli, Daniel Puder

Diva Search: Christy Hemme, Ashley Massaro, Layla El, Eve Torres

NXT: Wade Barrett, Kaval, Kaitlyn

So, off the top of my head, that group of 14 did ... uh, not much.

For the TE gang, Hennigan is the exception that proves the rule (he's John Morrison if you weren't aware), and Cappotelli gets a pass due to health issues - but Maven did little outside of a couple brief runs with lesser titles, all three girls spent most of their careers as valets, and Puder got five minutes of fame (and the ass-kicking of a lifetime) in the 2006 Royal Rumble.

The Diva Search chicks are a little better off, as both Layla and Eve have won some incarnation of the women's title and both Christy and Ashley got WM title shots at some point.

Meanwhile, Wade Barrett has had some high-profile matches but not actually won anything yet, while Kaval is already gone from WWE and Kaitlyn is making Vickie Guerrero lunch reservations or whatever on Smackdown.

Now, want a list of people who DIDN'T win those competitions?

Tough Enough: Chris Nowinski, Josh Mathews, Kenny King, Matt Morgan, The Miz, Nick "Spirit Squad Mitch" Mitchell, and Ryan "Skip Sheffield" Reeves were finalists, while Melina, f ODB, Shelly "Ariel" Martinez, Awesome Kong, Shad Gaspard, and Daivari were all semifinalists at one point.

Diva Search: Maria, Michelle McCool, Joy Giovanni and Amy Weber, Kristal Marshall, Maryse, Milena "Rosa Mendes" Roucka, and Taryn "ECW GM Tiffany" Terrell were all finalists.

NXT: Gabriel, Slater, and Otunga have held the WWE tag title, Daniel Bryan is U.S. champ, and five other finalists from S1-S2 are on the WWE main roster (Sheffield, Darren Young, Alex Riley, Husky Harris, and Mike McGillicutty).

Quite a skewed success ratio, no? Sure, you can say that it's because of a greater amount of people in the pool, but when the most successful alums of the Diva Search (Michelle or Maryse), Tough Enough (Miz), and NXT (Bryan) are all non-winners, while maybe a third of the 14 winners have had any career worth writing home about, it proves that victory means little but temporary bragging rights and a guaranteed Wikipedia page.

Sounds like American Idol, actually. Maybe that's what Tough Enough should be.

-Louie Dee
Contributing Writer

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