How WWE Can Make Tough Enough’s Return Special

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In a recent announcement on WWE’s website, the company proclaimed the return of Tough
Enough to the USA Network. The previous season of the reality competition took
place in 2011, won by Andy Leavine. You know, Andy Leavine? The guy with the
long hair who worked hard for his family, but was almost immediately released
due to a lack of improvement and a suspension for drug use.

This undesired fate for
the contest’s winner capped of a program that drew more criticism for its
format than praise. The hosting of Steve Austin was good, and it gave an
insight into the initial training of WWE superstars that had previously been
something of an enigma. A number of the personalities of the competitors were compelling
viewing, illustrating their passion for wrestling.

However, these elements
were impacted with a number of problems. The show appeared to expose Bill
DeMott for the bully that many released developmental stars have claimed since he became the head trainer in NXT. A number of the challenges that were designed
to add entertainment appeared to devalue the significance of the athletic endeavor
to become a professional athlete. It shared too many similarities with the
embarrassing final seasons of NXT before it became its own roster.

But, the most terrible
indictment of the value of the show was the fate of its 14 competitors. Of
those that appeared three-and-a-half years ago with the goal of a dream job in
WWE, only one of them still works there today. Furthermore, not only is this person
not the winner Leavine, but it was who was first eliminated from the show,
Ariane Andrew, who today goes by the name of Cameron. Her preposterous statement
of a match between Melina and Alicia Fox as her favorite match of all time is
probably the most memorable moment of the entire season.



With the problems of
the format and the failure of the majority of its participants to make any impact
in WWE, a great deal needs to be done to ensure that its return does not fall
as flat. USA Network has already claimed that the sixth season will be a
complete change to the old system, including elements that will make it live
and interactive. Yet, many will remain skeptical about the potential this has
for success. Frankly, all of the previous seasons have impacted the roster with
their competitors, with the Miz, John Morrison and Josh Matthews the main
exceptions.

So, how can they make
Tough Enough’s sixth season it’s most successful? Personally, I would like to
see challenges and training that was more linked to wrestling than
entertainment. Instead of racing barrels up a hill or competing in obstacle
courses, look explicitly at their exercise regimens and ability between the
ropes. The personalities should come to the forefront, with insights into the
charisma, technical skill and passion for professional wrestling.


Of course, there will
be need to be some entertainment aspects. This won’t be on the WWE Network as
originally intended, and so will look to appeal to a wider audience than those
that purchase the network. Maybe this could be satisfied by doing alternative
takes on typical training exercises, with treats or punishments available for
the winners and losers respectively. As long as the gimmicks don’t go overboard
and aren’t held as the primary reasons for competitors’ departures, then there
isn’t any harm in using them for more entertainment value.


If Steve Austin could
be asked to return as host, his no-nonsense attitude was one of the best parts
of the previous series. In his podcast, Austin has often done a great service
to the new stars in developmental and heading onto the main roster, but is
always honest about how they can improve. Alongside his hosting duties should
be the NXT training staff, including DeMott (unfortunately), Billy Gunn and
Sara Del Ray. Additional appearances could be made from other experienced
members of the main roster, such as Goldust, Mark Henry and NXT General Manager
William Regal.

However, the most
important duty is to recruit talented competitors that actually have potential
to develop. Tough Enough’s credibility likely couldn’t withstand another season
with no participants making an impact in the future. They need to be handled
correctly by the trainers, fairly assessed and whittled down with good reason.
If the talent is there to fill up the show, it will likely be a success.

Think about the reward
that now awaits the winners and other notable contestants after the show;
instead of having to coast on shows like Heat or Velocity, sit in FCW or be thrown
onto the main roster before they’re ready, they will get a spot on NXT. NXT is
arguably the best wrestling show on television at the moment, catering to pure
wrestling fans on the network. The platform to appear in front of passionate
crowds, gain a following on television and compete with some of the greatest
young athletes in the world, the prize is greater than ever before.

Perhaps an interesting
additional incentive for the winner of Tough Enough, outside of the contract,
could be a shot at either the NXT Championship or NXT Women’s Championship,
depending on the gender of the winner. Although many could consider this
throwing them into the deep end, a strong performance against some of the best
the roster has to offer would be the best way to get them over with the crowd.


In the end, it is
because of the success of NXT that I have confidence for the upcoming season of
Tough Enough. They will be handled better than ever before, be given the
correct guidance and gimmicks, and will have a better chance to get over with
the audience. In the end, the past is in the past, and the failures of prior
seasons should have no bearing of the success of the future. If athletes with
potential are selected, the hosting is handled correctly, and it isn’t
overloaded with gimmicks in search of cheap reality entertainment, it will
improve on the previous attempts.

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