Pro Wrestling

8 Reasons Why The New WWE Tough Enough Failed Source:

WWE aired its season (and likely series) finale of Tough Enough on Tuesday, August 25th, on the USA Network. Two people won $250,000 each and a developmental contract with WWE. Over the ten weeks of the show, it presented viewers with a show that failed in nearly every aspect of its alleged goals. It wasn’t entertaining, it didn’t contain much wrestling, it lost viewers on a weekly basis, and at the end, the two winners probably won’t end up as real WWE Superstars, although they did, at least, get a bunch of money for winning. How could a show which had been so fondly remembered in previous incarnations go so very badly this time around?  While there’s no one reason why Tough Enough was a dismal failure, there certainly are a lot of things we could point to.

8. The Show Format

Right away, the show was in trouble when, instead of airing from inside the Performance Center gym, or even the NXT arena, it was set up to look like a stage show that happened to contain a wrestling ring. In every way, this season of Tough Enough was set up to resemble other, more popular reality shows like American Idol or The Voice, with a panel of experts, fan voting, and even Chris Jericho playing the role of Ryan Seacrest. The special that aired before the real show began was in the vein of the original series. It showed contestants working out, being grilled by experts about why they wanted to wrestle, basically a wrestling boot camp.  People were cut mercilessly for failing at calisthenics, and in heart-breaking fashion when medical tests revealed they weren’t able to continue. That was the show everyone expected, a ground-level look at the hard work it takes to be a pro wrestler. Instead, when the real show began, we were given the glitz and glamour of a theatrical production, with Chris Jericho mugging for the camera and short, pre-taped vignettes that barely scratched the surface of what was being done to turn these people into real wrestlers. Source:

7. The Wrestling (Or Lack Thereof)

For a show that purported to be about finding someone to be the next big wrestling star, there certainly wasn’t very much actual wrestling. Even Total Divas occasionally showed them training, preparing, and wrestling matches from time to time! For the first three weeks of the show there might have been five minutes of programming dedicated to showing any wrestling training at all, and most of that revealed that the entire group had the collective wrestling ability of a three-year-old.  Granted, WWE probably didn’t want to make them all seem incompetent, but in the original incarnation of the show, the vast majority of the footage was showing the group training in the ring and at the gym, slowly evolving into full-fledged wrestlers over the course of the program. In this one, we assume they were being trained, because WWE made a big deal about Booker T, Lita, and Billy Gunn being their coaches, but we barely see any of it happening. Which might matter more if the opinions of the coaches were taken into consideration when picking a winner, but they didn’t!  And all of this culminated in their final matches, none of which went over three minutes, all of which were fairly embarrassing. In the original version of the show, the contestants were putting together full matches with each other halfway through the season.  This year, they were barely trained enough to be carried by actual wrestlers. Source:

6. The Wrestler Challenges

All right, we can set aside the physical challenges, because even though they didn’t have any wrestling, physical challenges are just a part of every reality show, even Tough Enough, and they do show off the various physical abilities of the contestants. Sure, it was stupid to pretend that there was a chance they might get eaten by alligators during a swimming challenge in the Everglades, but it was the harmless kind of stupid. However, the really ridiculous stuff happened when WWE Superstars would make guest appearances. In the original show, these were treated both as special training sessions and an opportunity for Superstars to share their experiences with the contestants, to impress upon them the gravity of the lifestyle they were planning to get into. In this version, wrestlers seemed to be brought in for nothing more than the purpose of intimidating the contestants, with challenges like “take a chop from The Big Show” or Roman Reigns questioning whether they could handle getting hit with a splash off the top rope from the 300-plus pound Bull Dempsey. The final challenge was an actual wrestling match with a WWE Superstar or Diva, with speculation about how much that might damage the contestants. The problem is, professional wrestling is not about hurting your opponent, it’s about working with them to put on a good show.  The whole point of Tough Enough, allegedly, was to turn someone into a wrestler, not pretend that people are really punching each other. Source:

5. The Panel Of Experts

We’re not even going to include the fact that WWE was forced to abruptly remove Hulk Hogan as an expert after he turned out to be a massive racist, even though that would probably be a good enough example of how bad the entire concept of the panel was. In addition, it is sort of funny that WWE made Daniel Bryan part of a panel designed to help find the next big WWE Superstar when WWE itself spent so long refusing to see Bryan as one. But the real reason why the panel of experts contributed to making Tough Enough a bad show is that, even more than the coaches, they were essentially useless to the entire process. They didn’t train the contestants, they didn’t see them on a day-to-day basis, they had no real knowledge about the entire process outside of the same highlight reels that everyone else got to watch at the same time when the show aired on Tuesdays. Then they were expected to form opinions of the contestants based on that, which led to Paige spending half a season hating one woman because she smiled too much, which is one of the dumbest reasons I’ve ever heard for thinking someone can’t be a pro wrestler. Oh, and they also had the power to “save” one person each during the season, which, near as anyone could tell, they only did to completely screw with the obvious elimination that particular week. Plus, none of what the experts did mattered at all, because they didn’t have the power to actually eliminate any contestants either! Source:

4. The Fan Voting

That’s right, WWE decided that the best people to pick the next big Superstar was not the people who were actually training them, or a panel of selected experts made up of actual pro wrestlers. Instead, that privilege went to any fans willing to suffer through a terribly produced half-hour show that offered no real insight into the abilities of the contestants, who also had access to a smartphone. Actually, you didn’t even have to watch the show, you just needed to have the app and be available at the right time. Also, they only had the length of a commercial break to vote, which is plenty of time to make a decision that will end up awarding someone $250,000 and a contract with WWE, right? These are the same fans who are split down the middle on their feelings for the biggest star in the company, and WWE trusts them to make the hiring decisions for the company?  And even then, WWE could have easily edited the training footage to manipulate the fans into voting for the better candidates, but for whatever reason they just decided not to bother, which is why the guy who actually wanted to be a wrestler got voted out early, and the guy who couldn’t run 100 meters if there was a cheesecake waiting at the end ended up in the final two. Source:

3. The Contestants

Even in the old Tough Enough, it was accepted that the contestants were being chosen as much for their appearance and personality as for their desire to be a wrestler. It’s a reality show, you want to have characters, and truthfully, that’s the case with wrestling as well. The difference is, the people chosen for this season of Tough Enough, in general, seemed to have a level of passion for pro wrestling that bordered on non-existent. Most of them seemed to have applied for the chance to get on TV, be famous, and because they felt like they had enough physical ability or a unique enough character that they could win the competition. There was literally a segment where one of the favorites at the time got into a shouting match with another contestant (the only one who was actually a wrestling fan, according to the show) because he didn’t know anything about wrestling, or wrestling history, and that it didn’t matter because he didn’t need to know any of that just to win this competition. In the meantime, the women were forming cliques and threatening to have cat fights every six seconds, while everyone was apparently trying to sleep with each other. In the final episode, likely because she knew she was losing anyway, one of the female finalists started accusing the other of sleeping with a bunch of people in order to get that far. Once again, because any of this is relevant to whether any of them can actually wrestle. Source:

2. The Winners

At the end of all this, WWE got the winners they deserved. Josh, for the men, is really tall, seemed like kind of a nice guy, has an interesting gimmick as “The Yeti”, which will probably get modified into some sort of crazy mountain man gimmick at some point in his training. Also, he can’t wrestle very well, as his final match with Cesaro was as bad as a two minute match can be without someone getting hurt in the first thirty seconds. The only bright spot is, he was at least a better choice than the runner-up, ZZ, who had a great personality and gimmick as a former alligator wrestler, which was what carried him to the final, but whose physical condition was by far the worst of any contestant. In fact, he was cut during the original special for that very reason, and only invited back as a last-second replacement when a contestant dropped out. And for the women, we have Sara Lee, who at least seemed moderately interested in actually being a wrestler and was very like-able as a person (she was the one who smiled too much for Paige’s liking), but whose promo and wrestling abilities are fairly poor. Both of these winners will need a lot of work to even make it to NXT television, let alone the big stage, so we probably won’t see them for a long time (if ever).  But at least they won $250,000, and WWE gets to do this all again when they bring back the WWE Diva Search! That last sentence was not a joke. Source:

1. NXT

Above all and in the end, NXT is why Tough Enough was a failure on every level. WWE doesn’t need to run a fake reality show of regular people training to become wrestlers, they have a developmental organization full of actual, real people, some former independent stars, some former athletes, some sons and daughters of old wrestlers, and even some ordinary people off the streets who decided to try and become a pro wrestler. ESPN did an E:60 feature on three of them and it was great television. Every week on NXT on the WWE Network, we get to watch them grow and develop as characters and wrestlers, by actually being part of a wrestling show. One day, some of them might make it to the main roster, and they definitely have a better chance than the Tough Enough winners. If that wasn’t enough, WWE has already announced Breaking Ground, a Network exclusive series that will go behind the scenes to look at the Performance Center and the men and women who train there. That’s the show that Tough Enough should have been, and wasn’t, and for that, it deserved to fail, be watched by practically no one, and never be brought back again. Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.