WWE has not had the best of luck when it comes to the Tough Enough show in the past, but season 6 felt as though there was a chance to improve on the mistakes of the past and really craft a quality program.
There’s been experiments with all sorts of different types of shows such as Legends House, Countdown, and more, so perhaps WWE would finally get the formula right with this one.
Now that the season is over, we can look back on what happened and assess whether or not that was true. In some ways, the mission was accomplished. In other ways, though, there’s still a long way to go before it’s banging on all cylinders.
In my opinion, when I reflect on the season, these are some of the pros and cons that stick out to me.
CON: The Voting System
For various different reasons, the voting on Tough Enough was not as well thought out as it could have been. First off, the idea of voting for your favorite to stay rather than voting on who you want to be eliminated seemed to confuse people at first to the point where Renee Young and Chris Jericho had to really call attention to it. This was even harder to do when rushing it with just one commercial break.
Second, it obviously needs to be said that this is just a popularity contest, to an extent. Sure, that’s not the worst thing in the world, but WWE isn’t looking for who is the most engaging reality star, they’re looking for the next superstar and diva. Someone like ZZ had no purpose being there in the finals, but because he was funny to watch, people kept him in the competition.
PRO: The Judges Saves
One positive aspect of the voting that was introduced was the “save”. Each judge had one opportunity to take someone out of the bottom three and prevent them from being eliminated, which was an interesting concept. The best use of this was when The Miz saved Amanda from being kicked off, illustrating that it could make a huge difference in the competition if pulled out at the right time.
CON: Daniel Bryan doesn’t use his save
When you have one save per season and you talk about how you really like certain people, why not use the save at some point? We never got to see Hulk Hogan’s save—if he would have ended up making one—and Bryan never utilized this tool, either. There were a few times in which Bryan could have heavily influenced the outcome of the votes by showing favoritism and not using the saves, so it’s not as though he was squeaky clean every week and wanted to remain completely neutral. Not using his save felt like it was a missed opportunity that maybe could have really taken the season in a different direction.
CON: Losing Hulk Hogan
How unfortunate was it that the Hulk Hogan fiasco had to happen right smack in the middle of this season? WWE removed him from everything, which meant that there was this awkward feeling of “heeey…can we just sweep this under the rug and not bring the topic up? Thaaaanks…” going on for a week or two. Video packages had to be re-shot and the dynamic of the show shifted quite a bit.
PRO: The Miz Replaces Hulk Hogan
While losing Hogan was a bad thing, gaining The Miz was a step in the right direction! Yes, he doesn’t have the same type of credibility that Hogan does, but The Miz is a much livelier entertainer and the judges panel was really bland before him. Paige was succeeding at being “the bitch” of the bunch, ala Simon Cowell, but that was annoying. Daniel Bryan was the pushover who smiled and chuckled quite a bit, which was okay, but so tame. Hogan wasn’t super passionate and really bringing much else to the table, so when The Miz transitioned from Tough Talk host to judge, he brought a whole new energy to things and even some different legitimacy, having already gone through the Tough Enough process.
This could have been a huge disaster, but The Miz picked up the ball and ran with it, proving once again that he’s better at this than a lot of people are willing to give him credit for.
PRO: Tough Talk
Even better than Tough Enough itself was Tough Talk, with either The Miz or Byron Saxton (who equally stepped up his game and admirably replaced The Miz as the host). Often, I found myself enjoying the post-episode review more than the episode that was the true focal point. This is something that WWE cannot lose if another season of Tough Enough happens, as it gave people a platform to elaborate more on what had happened, show their personalities off in a different light, and have a little more fun with the questions, too.
CON: Patrick’s Elimination
This was a real changing point in the competition that showed some of the flaws in the judgment system. Patrick was placed in the final three essentially to humble him for the next week as opposed to actually put him in danger of being voted out. As mentioned above, the way the show was edited portrayed him in a massively negative light which tons of people watching would have a problem with. He was messing with their favorite fun-loving guy, ZZ! They’ve got to kick him off the show to teach him a lesson!
Immediately after being voted out, the judges were regretful of their decision. Bryan lamented not using his save (not that he would learn from that mistake and use it in the future) and everyone embraced the idea that he should have potentially won the whole thing and that he didn’t deserve to be in the bottom three. After his elimination, the judges seemed to start taking the bottom three more seriously and only would put people in there that they felt legitimately should have a chance at going home. That was better for the show’s integrity, but that’s not going to give Patrick another chance at the $250,000 contract, is it? Basically, he had to take the hit for them to stop playing around, which is a shame.
PRO: Not Pulling Punches with ZZ
Another thing that came out of Patrick’s elimination where the judges and coaches stopped holding back and started getting real was how ZZ went from the joke everyone wanted to keep around for a few laughs to someone who was finally being criticized on the same level as everyone else. Fair is fair, and as entertaining as he was on the show, he was coasting on not enough positives while every other contestant was being nitpicked for the smallest things. I liked ZZ, but it was refreshing to see a more honest approach to his judgment where coaches and judges would point out that he was not keeping up with the rest of the pack and not giving him special treatment.