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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. 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. In 2015, Tough Enough was revived again, this time with Chris Jericho 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 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 Yoshihiro 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).
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  • Josh Matthews - TE1 competitor (worked commentary; was the longest-employed TE alum until The Miz surpassed him; employed 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 Ring of Honor 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, 2020-2021).
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  • Matt Cappotelli - TE3 winner (career was postponed indefinitely due to a brain tumor that eventually claimed his life).
  • 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 of the original season of WWE NXT and The Nexus, then as Ryback following an injury; employed 2004-2007 and 2008-2016)
  • 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, wrestling as Kevin Hackman, 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 remained employed after Clay was released; employed 2011-2016).
  • 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 Vélez - TE5 competitor (eliminated from TE following injury, signed to FCW after the competition, repackaged as Sofia Cortez; employed 2011-2012).
  • Patrick Clark - TE6 competitor (repackaged as The Velveteen Dream and signed to NXT; employed 2015-2021).
  • Amanda Saccomano - TE6 competitor (repackaged as Mandy Rose and signed to NXT, then called up to Raw; employed 2015-present).
  • Daria Berenato - TE6 competitor (repackaged as Sonya Deville and signed to NXT, then called up to Raw; employed 2015-present).
  • Chelsea Green - TE6 competitor (previously appeared as Megan Miller in the Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon feud of Summer 2014; wrestled for TNA as Laurel Van Ness; employed 2018-2021).

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.note 
    • 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.
  • Badass Normal: Jeremiah Riggs, a former MMA fighter, had no wrestling training prior to Season 5. Yet his fitness was top notch and he picked things up shockingly quickly.
  • Beauty Contest: Rima Fakih in Season 5 entered the competition as the reigning Miss USA.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Trish Stratus definitely, and Matt Cross was put up for elimination almost entirely on her suggestion. Ryan also showed his mean streak when he was pit against Mickael.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Season 5 ended with the fan favorite Andy winning...only to get a stunner from Stone Cold and slap from Vince McMahon. He would later get suspended for failing a drug test, and quietly released.
  • Black Dude Dies 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.
  • Break the Haughty: Patrick Clark was eliminated in Season 6 after placing in at the top three weeks in a row for his perceived failure to learn the value of humility.note 
  • Butt-Monkey: Every season had one. In particular, Ryan (Season 5) 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 Season 3.
  • Companion Show: Season 6 had Tough Talk, which happened to be more popular than the actual show.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Didn't happen until Christina and Ivelisse were the last two girls, and after that incident it never happened again.
  • Determinator: Could be said for most of the eventual winners and a large number of the runner ups. This was 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. Most notably Tazz in Season 1, Hardcore Holly in Season 2, Bill DeMott in Seasons 3 and 5, Kurt Angle in Season 4, Stone Cold in Season 5, and Billy Gunn in Season 6.
  • 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, Luke Gallows, Kharma, The Boogeyman, Shawn Daivari and Raw ring announcer Justin Roberts.
  • Epic Fail:
    • Season 1:
    • 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 an opportunity to demonstrate his in-ring abilities. After telling Trish that he was known for flips and high flying, he failed to demonstrate anything in a session in the ring. Stone Cold chose to eliminate him for not standing out from the pack.
      • 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.
  • Expy: Contestant Mada Abdelhamid to Tommaso Ciampa.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Jeremiah's strip tease in Season 5.
    • ZZ had a couple of instances in Season 6, taking off his trunks in a hot tub in Week 1, not to mention his less-than-flattering "M'erica Zane" costume in Week 3. That said, the costume isn't even the reason.
  • Five-Token Band: Justified, since they come from all over America.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: Of the girls in Season 5 Ivelisse was the mannish one, Ariane the childish one, Christina the pretty one and Rima the Team Mom. Michelle was not featured as much and did not interact with the others.
  • Game-Breaking Injury:
    • Averted with Jackie Gayda from Season 2, who suffered an ankle injury and still won the contest.
    • Ivelisse Velez in Season 5 suffered a leg injury after a miscue in the ring with Christina. She tried to keep going, but the leg swelled up and Stone Cold was forced to eliminate her. She later said that it had been for the best, as she could have done serious permanent damage had she stayed on.
    • Martin Casaus from Season 5 also fractured his ankle during a drill, and was forced to withdraw from the contest immediately.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Season 5's Luke and Jeremiah.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Season 4 saw a challenge in which The Big Show ripped into the contestants for being handed an opportunity without paying their dues. Many though ill of the fact that this came from the man who's very first wrestling match saw him defeat Hulk Hogan, in the main event a pay-per-view (WCW Halloween Havoc 1995), to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.note 
    • 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 while trying to run the ropes at the same time.
    • Billy Gunn's comments to ZZ about not taking the contest seriously after the latter came up with his comedy "M'erica Zane" gimmick in a character-creating competition. Gunn's problems with ZZ stem from more than just that.note  However, one could be forgiven for thinking ill of this particular critique considering it's coming from the man who was once known as Mr. Ass.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Michelle eventually quit the show to spend time raising her daughter.
    • Before the show, Ariane worked as a behavior therapist for autistic children.
  • Improbable Age: One of the judges in Season 6 was Paige, who was only twenty-two at the time, yet has been wrestling since she was thirteen. Thus it can be a little surprising to see her tear into the contestants, most of whom were older than her.
  • In-Series Nickname: Bill DeMott liked giving them to contestants:
    • Memorably, Ryan was referred to as "Skidmarks".
    • 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 labeled "Powder Puff" before her elimination.
    • Dianna was referred to as "Princess Diana" by the other female contestants of Season 6.
  • 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, 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.
    • Bill DeMott 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 Tough Enough trophy is featured in WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 and is awarded for winning ten matches using a created wrestler.
  • Manipulative Editing:
    • Lisa in Season 3 disappears from the show, with the trainers telling the contestants that she decided wrestling wasn't the right career for her. In reality, she suffered a psychotic breakdown and had to be hospitalized.
    • Matt Cross's scenes were cut down in his two episodes to fit the definition of "the boring guy" and the reason he was eliminated. Among other things this included bumping into his good friend CM Punk while working backstage, and apparently setting himself on fire while in the house.
    • Dianna in Season 6 was made to look as though she quit the show because she missed her fiancé. She revealed after the episode aired that one of her friends had been paralyzed following a bar fight and she left to be with them. She was reportedly not happy with the way the show edited things.
  • Manly Tears: Luke in the final episode of Season 5 is seen crying when he says goodbye to his mother.
  • The Mean Brit: Played straight with Paige in Season 6, who was by far the most critical of the judges.
  • Mercy Kill: Non-fatal example. Rima was eliminated in Season 5 without the need for a bottom three - precisely because she wasn't able to keep up with the contest and it was best to eliminate her early.
  • 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.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: In Season 5 when the trainers were at three, Trish was the Nice - a Cool Teacher who would usually try to encourage the contestants to be creative. Bill of course was the Mean - an incredibly tough Drill Sergeant Nasty. Booker T was the In-Between - and it was almost lampshaded when he yelled at Ryan "don't take my kindness for weakness".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Happened with Tanner in Season 6 every time a Cat Fight popped up.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: With the exception of John Morrison, none of the winners ever made it big in WWE. Not even the first runner-ups, the sole exception being The Miz.
  • Reality TV Show Mansion: The contestants stayed at one in Seasons 1, 2, 3, and 5. For Season 6, the contestants stayed at the WWE Performance Center.
  • Really 17 Years Old: Marty "The Boogeyman" Wright in Season 4, who was really 40 years old at the time.
  • "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.
    • 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".
  • Remember the New Guy?: The Miz in terms of being added as one of the judges for Season 6 after Hulk Hogan was fired by WWE.
  • Retool: The $1,000,000 Tough Enough (Season 4) pretty much stands out as the most dramatic change to the format. The 2011 revival pretty much restored the show back to the original format but refined the elimination contest with a weekly "bottom three", though its 2015 revival reinserted Season 4's weekly fan voting. Season 6 also introduced a panel of judges in addition to the trainers who could choose to save someone from elimination if they wanted.
  • Revival: Seasons 5 and 6 which aired in 2011 and 2015, respectively.
  • 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. For even more added hilarity, The Miz was the one chosen to replace Hulk Hogan as a judge in Season 6, bringing everything full circle.
    • Taken to the extreme with with Season 5 where the first contestant eliminated was the first to debut on WWE TV in an active role. Ariane worked under the name "Cameron" until 2016.
    • The only real subversion was one of the Season 3 winners, John Hennigan, a.k.a. John Morrison. However, his successful career is why people tend to forget that he had been on the show, let alone one of the winners, because Tough Enough winners never amounted to much. The most successful winner after Morrison, Maven, is best known for eliminating The Undertaker from the 2002 Royal Rumble, and his gimmick was basically "that guy who won Tough Enough".
    • Eventually subverted with Christina who, although she returned to FCW when the show ended and became Women's Champion, was released shortly after it was rebranded into NXT.
    • Season 6 is an extreme case as both the male and female winners were released before they could even make it to TV besides Tough Enough. This includes NXT. In fact, of that entire season, the only Tough Enough competitors to make any impact are Mandy Rose (who was on a season of Total Divas), Daria Berenato (signed on as Sonya Deville), and Patrick Clark (who was repackaged as [[The Velveteen Dream on NXT).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: A large amount of contestants left the show due to injuries or realizing they weren't cut out for the business. Six contestants quit in Season 1, three left in Season 2, one left in Season 3, though they said another left as well when she hadn't, none left in Season 4, only one quit in Season 5 and again just one in Season 6.
  • Sensei for Scoundrels: Stone Cold in Season 5.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Bobbi Jo in Season 1 who admitted right off the bat that she hoped to pose for Playboy.
  • Slut-Shaming: Amanda tried to do this to Sara Lee, claiming she was "playing ring rat".note  Mick Foley slammed her for it.note 
  • 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.
    • Tanner in Season 6 started out like this but it eventually died out especially when his main rival Patrick was eliminated.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Not initially in the first season - as there was an almost equal number of males to females, with two female trainers as well. By Season 5, however, there were five females in comparison to seven males. Likewise, there was only one female trainer. Season 6 once again had an equal split of male-female contestants. However, there was only one female trainer and one female judge.
  • Spear Counterpart: Season 4 featured entirely male contestants, which consisted of weekly skits on SmackDown!. This made it a male version of the Diva Search, which was on Raw at the time.
  • 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.
  • 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: "Out of all the matches in the history of this business, that was your favorite?!"
    • Alexander's argument with Patrick in Season 6 that knowing WWE history was not important and that "you don’t have to know anything about this sport" didn't exactly do him any favors with judges Daniel Bryan and Hulk Hogan nor the public who voted him out.
  • 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).
  • Unperson: As mentioned above, this happened to Hulk Hogan in Season 6 once his racist remarks became public.
  • Voted Off the Island: Depending on the season, the eliminations were done by the trainers and/or public vote.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Luke. Was there an episode where he hadn't taken his shirt off?

Alternative Title(s): Tough Enough


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