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Wrestling: WWE Tough Enough
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Tough Enough is a reality show developed by WWE where participants compete to win a WWE contract and be the next WWE Superstar or Diva. It originally aired in 2001 on MTV for three seasons, but was dropped. Its fourth season was integrated into SmackDown! in 2004, after which the series was cancelled until 2011, when it was revived once more with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin as the host.

Several of the competitors from Tough Enough have been employed by the WWE despite not being the overall winners of their respective seasons, and not all of the winners are still employed by the WWE.

Notable Tough Enough competitors include:

  • Maven Huffman - TE1 winner (notable for being "That Guy Who Won Tough Enough" and for his elimination of The Undertaker at the 2002 Royal Rumble; employed from 2001-2005).
  • Nidia Guenard - TE1 winner (notable for being the valet of cruiserweight star Jamie Noble and for her angle where she was blinded by Tajiri; employed from 2002-2004).
  • Chris Nowinski - TE1 competitor (notable more for his post-retirement success as a concussion expert; mostly remembered for his infamous debate with Scott Steiner and his participation in "That Jackie Gayda Match"; employed from 2002-2003).
  • Josh Matthews - TE1 competitor (worked commentary; longest-employed TE alum from 2002-2014).
  • Linda Miles - TE2 winner (briefly repackaged as "Shaniqua," a valet of the Basham brothers; employed from 2002-2004).
  • Jackie Gayda - TE2 winner (of "That Jackie Gayda Match" infamy and wife of Charlie Haas; employed 2002-2005).
  • Matt Morgan - TE2 competitor (worked in TNA as "The Blueprint"; employed from 2003-2005).
  • Kenny Layne - TE2 competitor (currently works in TNA as Kenny King; wasn't employed by WWE after his time on TE, and went to the indies afterwards).
  • John Hennigan - TE3 winner (repackaged as MNM's Johnny Nitro, then as singles star John Morrison; most decorated TE alum with five tag titles, three IC titles, and the ECW Title; he was considered its most successful alum until The Miz surpassed him. employed 2004-2011).
  • Matt Cappotelli - TE3 winner (career was postponed indefinitely due to a brain tumor).
  • Daniel Puder - TE4 winner (only made one appearance after winning; wrestled at the Royal Rumble; famous for an incident with Kurt Angle; was released in OVW, employed 2004-2005)
  • Mike "The Miz" Mizanin - TE4 competitor (first TE alum to win the WWE Championship; employed 2005-present).
  • Justice Smith - TE4 competitor (appeared as Gladiator "Justice" in the 2008 revamp of American Gladiators; wasn't employed by WWE).
  • Ryan Reeves - TE4 competitor (repackaged as first Skip Sheffield, then as Ryback following an injury; employed 2004-2007 and 2008-present)
  • Nick Mitchell - TE4 competitor (repackaged as "Mitch" of the Spirit Squad; employed 2004-2007).
  • Andy Leavine - TE5 winner (competed in FCW prior to competition, returned there after winning, but released after nearly a year; employed 2010-2011 and 2011-2012).
  • Ariane Andrew - TE5 competitor (of "Melina vs. Alicia Fox" infamy; signed to FCW shortly after elimination, repackaged as Cameron Lynn; was a Brodus Clay dancer and remains employed after Clay was released; employed 2011-present).
  • Christina Crawford - TE5 competitor (Alicia Fox's sister; competed in FCW prior to competition, returned there after elimination; employed 2010-2011 and 2011-2012).
  • Matt Capiccioni - TE5 competitor (well known on the independent circuit as "M-Dogg 20" Matt Cross, returned to the independent circuit after elimination; wasn't employed by WWE).
  • Rima Fakih - TE5 competitor (the reigning Miss USA going into TE5; wasn't employed by WWE).
  • Ivelisse Velez - TE5 competitor (eliminated from TE following injury, signed to FCW after the competition, repackaged as Sofia Cortez; employed 2011-2012).


This show contains examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: You have to look up Christina's bio away from anything Tough Enough-related to learn that she's the sister of Alicia Fox (Christina goes by her given last name of Crawford).
    • Or that Andy and Christina competed in FCW prior to the competition.
  • Ascended Extra: A few of the contestants (notably Andy, Christina, AJ and Ivelisse) were in the background for the early episodes of Season 5 but received more screen time as the season went on.
  • Angry Black Man: Inverted and double subverted in Season 5. Bill DeMott was definitely the meanest of the trainers but Booker T would snap and be just as tough when he felt like it.
  • Beauty Contest: Rima Fakih in Season 5 entered the competition as the reigning Miss USA.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Trish Stratus definitely. Ryan also showed his mean streak when he was pit against Mickael.
  • Bittersweet Ending: How Season 5 ended, with Season 5 winner Andy being slapped by Vince McMahon and then stunned by Stone Cold.
    • Shaggy Dog Story: He was released in early 2012 and since never had an appearance.
  • Black Chick Gets Eliminated First: Thankfully nobody died on the show but a double subversion came in the first episode of Season 5. Eric seemed like he was going to be eliminated only for Stone Cold to eliminate Ariane instead.
  • Butt Monkey: Every season had one. Ryan never really stood a chance once he garnered the name "Skidmarks".
  • Canon Discontinuity: John Morrison's guest appearance in Season 5, which ignored the fact that he won the third season.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Didn't happen until Christina and Ivelisse were the last two girls, and after that incident it never happened again.
  • The Determinator: Could be said for most of the eventual winners and a large number of the runner ups.
    • Averted with Rima "Miss USA" Fakih in Season 5. Everyone agreed she had the mental drive and a determinator-style desire to win, but she simply wasn't able to keep up with the physical demands of the competition, and was eliminated in the fourth episode.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Most of the trainers adopted this persona during the show. But most notably Stone Cold in Season 5, Kurt Angle in Season 4, Bill DeMott in Seasons 3 and 5, Hardcore Holly in Season 2 and Tazz in the original season.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The audition episodes of the earlier seasons saw a number of auditionees who failed to make it as a finalist but eventually ended up with WWE contracts such as Melina, Shad Gaspard, Kharma, The Boogeyman, Daivari and Raw ring announcer Justin Roberts.
  • Epic Fail: The first three eliminations in Season 5 were all cases of the contestants completely destroying themselves:
    • In episode 1, Ariane shot herself in the foot in every way possible, and seriously pissed off Stone Cold during the elimination ceremony (see Too Dumb to Live below).
    • Episode 2, Matt was given several opportunities to demonstrate his implied superiority (based on having greater experience than most of the others), and bungled every single chance he got.
    • Episode 3, Mickael not only failed to understand why he was in the bottom three to begin with, but when put in a promo duel with his hated archrival Ryan, he choked horribly, while Ryan gave a promo worthy of Raw.
  • Fan Disservice: Jeremiah's strip tease anyone?
  • Five-Token Band: Justified since they come from all over America.
  • Four Girl Ensemble: Five girls in Season 5: brunette white (Michelle), blonde hispanic (Ivelisse), black (Ariane and Christina) and Middle Eastern (Rima).
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Ivelisse and Martin from TE5, see Real Life Writes the Plot below.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Season 5's Luke and Jeremiah.
  • Hypocrite: Trish criticized Ariane for constantly pulling up her pants in the ring (even saying that it was her biggest pet peeve). Many fans had pointed out that she had her own share of in-ring wardrobe adjustments. In this case, Trish was referring to Ariane doing it during her entire match.
  • Hidden Depths: Most notable was Michelle who eventually quit the show to spend time raising her daughter. Also before the show, Ariane worked as a behavior therapist for autistic children.
  • In-Series Nickname / Embarrassing Nickname : Bill DeMott liked giving them to contestants, the most memorable being "Skidmarks" (a.k.a. Ryan Howe).
    • Martin Casaus (Season 5) was initially tagged as "Donny Osmond" by DeMott, but by the fourth episode the trainers made a specific point of no longer calling him that, in recognition of his excellent performances.
    • Others include Tumbleweed (AJ), Miss 11 Years (Michelle), Miss USA (Rima), Cool Hand Luke (Luke) and Evey (Ivelisse). Ariane also got labelled "Powder Puff" before her elimination.
  • Insufferable Genius: Most of the reason that viewers didn't like Luke was that he's the most talented of Season 5's contestants, and he knew it. Worse, he was a massive prick about it.
  • Insult Backfire: AJ Kirsch decided to embrace his nickname "Tumbleweed" and his fans now proudly call themselves Team Tumbleweed.
  • Ironic Echo: In possibly one of the most bizarre instances of this trope, Bill DeMott made fun of Christina's supposed ditziness by saying "pretty bird, pretty bird" on the show. A couple of weeks later, Christina herself posted that on her Twitter account.
  • Jerk Jock: Chris Nowinski was presented as this during Season 1, and then made it his explicit gimmick (crossed with Harvard snob) when he made his WWE debut.
    • Luke was definitely a natural straight example.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite being a hardass, Stone Cold had some nice conversations with both Michelle, Rima, and even Ryan concerning their eliminations.
    • As does Bill DeMott, who was good enough to even work with Rima one-on-one and talk to her at length on whether this was something she'd really wants to.
  • Joisey: Mickael, the much maligned contestant from Season 5 seemed to embody this to 11. This was even lampshaded by his arch rival Ryan.
  • Licensed Game: Subverted with the WWE game, WWE Day of Reckoning. The game has a tutorial mode featuring Al Snow teaching a pair of rookies how to wrestle. As a bonus, the two trainees are clearly modeled after John Hennigan and Matt Cappotelli, the two winners from Season 3.
    • An episode in Season 5 showed the contestants visiting THQ, makers of WWE All Stars. They're asked to use the game's create-a-wrestler mode to give Stone Cold an idea of what sort of ring attire and gimmick they'd choose for themselves, as a test of their creativity.
  • The Neidermeyer: Kurt Angle played this role in Season 4, in a deliberate heel move, which gave us the now legendary "MTV Sucks!" line to The Miz.
  • The Nicknamer: Bill DeMott in Season 5.
  • One Judge to Rule Them All: Played with in Season 5. All four trainers discussed who's in the bottom three, but they had to appeal to Stone Cold when it came time to choose who's going home.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: With the exception of John Morrison, none of the winners ever made it big in the WWE.
  • Reality TV Show Mansion
  • Really Fourty Years Old: Marty "Boogeyman" Wright in Season 4.
  • Re Tool: The $1,000,000 Tough Enough pretty much stands out as the most dramatic change to the format. The revival pretty much restored the show back to the original format but refined the elimination contest with a weekly "bottom three".
  • Revival
  • Real Life Writes the Plot / What Could Have Been: Matt Cappotelli, who was a heavyweight champion for WWE's then indy brand, OVW, had his career cut short due to him being diagnosed with Astrocytoma, and the surgery and chemo that followed. He had been at OVW from 2004 to 2007 and released from his contract in 2009, never even reaching the WWE again.
    • During a routine kick-out drill, Martin (Season 5) fractured his foot, and was ordered by his doctor to withdraw from the show. Up to that point, Martin had won three skill challenges in a row, and was unquestionably one of the favorites to win the show. It's also worth noting that Martin was pointedly never forced to give Stone Cold his belt to signify his elimination, he was instead asked to hang up his belt on his own, with Stone Cold noting that he is indeed "Tough Enough", save for this unforeseen injury. Ivelisse, who was also injured, was not given this distinction when she was eliminated.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Indirectly delivered by Triple H upon hearing that one of the contestants had hung a Goldberg poster in his room, to both Goldberg and the contestants, while lecturing the group on the level of commitment they need to be successful as wrestlers. Segues into the very best part of Dare to Be Badass. *Full Text*
    • Rather than just eliminate the contestants, Stone Cold liked to tell everyone who end up in his bottom three why they suck. Oddly enough, the contestants who end up surviving often got the worst of it as a way of "lighting a fire under their ass".
  • The Runner Up Takes It All: The most notable example is The Miz, who between the fourth and fifth seasons, managed to become the only Tough Enough alum to become WWE Champion.
    • Taken to the extreme with with the fifth season where the first contestant eliminated was the first to debut on WWE TV in an active role. Ariane is currently working under the name "Cameron".
  • Sensei for Scoundrels: Stone Cold.
  • Shocking Elimination: Arguably Matt Cross considering he had nine years of wrestling experience and watching one of his matches will show that he would have been a great addition to the roster. Unfortunately, Matt choked when he was put on the spot to show his experience, and was swiftly eliminated for it (see Epic Fail above).
  • Special Guest: Usually once per episode, a noteworthy WWE wrestler would visit the gym, and give advice to the contestants, and perhaps share anecdotes. In Season 5, the guest star usually gave a lecture that's specific to the theme for the week; for example, The Big Show visited during "technique" week, and emphasized in his speech that even "big man" wrestlers like himself had to have excellent technique, they couldn't only rely on their physicality.
  • Smug Snake: Luke (Season 5). Although he won the first two skill challenges, Martin would go on to win the following three. After Martin's second win, he acted graciously while Luke fumed, pouted, and refused to shake Martin's hand. Luke later whined in the confessionals that the trainers had it wrong and that he was clearly superior.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Not explicitly invoked, but only two of the final nine contestants of Season 5 were female, and both were in danger of undermining each other's chances due to injuries from botched spots and accusations of sabotage. Trish Stratus sat both Christina and Ivelisse down and told them to keep their heads on straight if they planned to survive to the end because "this is a man's game" and petty, cattish behavior wasn't going to do either of them any favors. Both heed the advice. However, Ivelisse's injury forced Stone Cold to remove her, to the point he said that was the sole reason he eliminated her.
  • Title Drop: In Season 5's episodes.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In Season 5, when Ariane was asked by Stone Cold what her all-time favorite match was, she replied with Melina vs. Alicia Fox.
    Austin: (trying to hold himself from strangling her) "Out of all the matches in the history of this business, that was your favorite?!"
  • Token Trio: The trainers for Season 5. Bill DeMott (white guy), Booker T (black guy) and Trish Stratus (white girl but Polish and Greek if you want to be specific).
  • Voted off the Island: Depending on the season, the eliminations were done by the trainers and/or public vote. However...
    • Non-Gameplay Elimination: Many of the contestants had quit the show for not wanting the job as much as they originally expected. Season 1 had more quitters than actual cuts by the trainers. Word of God gave this as the reason why the revival had a lot more experienced indy wrestlers than the original series.
      • Ironically, two of the most experienced veterans in the Season 5 roster were some of the first to go. Matt was a nine year indy veteran and considered a potential winner early on, but was eliminated in episode 2 for utterly failing when given a chance to show off his veteran skills. Michelle claimed to have eleven years of indy experience, but was so out of practice that she performed worse than many of the beginners, and ended up eliminating herself in episode 3, when she decided that being home with her daughter was more important than a WWE career.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Luke. Is there an episode where he hadn't taken his shirt off?
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alternative title(s): Tough Enough; WWE Tough Enough
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