Rarely does a concept ever fully die off in World Wrestling Entertainment. Most of the time, they are retooled (for example: WWECW or the transition from Taboo Tuesday to Cyber Sunday and finally the WWE app voting process). Sometimes, they just need to be put in hibernation to return at a later date, as evidenced by Main Event and Superstars.
The latest in the former’s case is Tough Enough, which has been the subject of speculation for a return for several years now. Ever since it’s original run from 2001-2004, fans have been wondering when WWE would continue the concept. A short-lived revival occurred in 2010 which many refer to as a failure, seeing as how the only thing to come out of it was Ariane Andrew, who had been ridiculed immensely for her time on the show. With not much to show for the effort and since NXT was already fulfilling a similar role, Tough Enough faded away.
When the WWE Network was launched, speculation rose once more as it appeared to be an obvious choice for a show to run on that platform. With WWE wanting more programming that would be relatively cheap to produce, it made sense to bring back an established name, film it at the WWE Performance Center and kill even more than two birds with one stone by also producing a crop of talent for the developmental NXT territory. This appears to be happening, although not for the WWE Network, as it has been announced that USA will run an upcoming season of the show.
Now that that speculation has died off with confirmation of a return, we’re all left to move onto the next set of predictions: who will end up being the trainers and hosts of the show? It’s impossible to predict the talents that will be training—let alone a winner—but there can’t be too many names to pick from that could fill in the spots of overseers that help determine who gets a shot at WWE stardom.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the potential picks that are within the realm of realistic plausibility. WWE will be looking for names that have been in the company a decent amount of time, have proven a certain level of trustworthiness and acumen. While fans would love to see the trainers be people like Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Bret Hart and Kurt Angle, we must also assume that anyone
too big won’t be up for such a task. There needs to be the right level of popularity/availability along with skill level and the ability to pop on the screen rather than to be someone like Lance Storm who may be too wooden to casual fans.
So keeping that all in mind, who might be in the field of players WWE will look at to be on this team?
LEAD FEMALE TRAINER
With the #GiveDivasAChance movement still in the ethos, it would be foolish to think that there wouldn’t be at least one woman among the ranks of trainers. Trish Stratus filled that role last time, but there’s a good chance that she won’t be returning for the 2015 season. Many fans would point to Eve Torres as a possibility to take on that mantle, but she is currently preparing for a family, which rules her out.
Three women that could fit the bill with everything WWE would likely be searching for are
Victoria, Mickie James, and my personal pick, Beth Phoenix.
Without sounding too harsh, their best days are behind them. While they can still go in the ring, it’s unlikely that any of them would make a full comeback to the roster. They have other priorities (such as children) to take care of and being on the road just doesn’t seem to fit in with that lifestyle. However, they’ve all proven themselves to be in a noteworthy class. All are future Hall of Famers that were much more talented in the ring than many others in WWE’s past. On top of that, they have the years behind them to be seen as proper veterans.
Mickie James has expressed interest in being involved in developmental before, even making an appearance at the Performance Center in the past. What may get in the way of her taking this spot is her music career and her work with TNA, but that’s not a factor for Victoria, who has denounced Dixie Carter and that company at great length. After leaving the Squared Circle restaurant, this may be the perfect next step in Lisa Marie Varon’s career to get things back on track. In the case of Beth Phoenix, she was arguably one of the top three performers in the women’s division during the entirety of her career. We can assume she has great ties to the company still and since over a year has gone by since the birth of her and Adam Copeland’s daughter, she might be itching to get back into the swing of things.
THE TWO SUPPORTING ROLES
The last incarnation of Tough Enough featured not just the lead host and the lead female trainer, but two more that helped take some of the training responsibilities and bring some diversity to the coaches. Bill DeMott was the hardass (who was perhaps a bit too rough, considering what’s gone down recently) and Booker T provided a more humble and softer approach. Likely, the same kind of casting would apply, meaning there could be room for a couple coaches from the midcard spectrum in comparison to the lead host.
Although there are plenty of people to choose from that are already used in some kind of trainer capacity such as Dean Malenko, Jason Albert, Fit Finlay and William Regal, my mind immediately ran to four names in particular.
GOLDUST: It’s been said time and time again how in his current run, Dustin Runnels has looked perhaps better than ever. He’s definitely in the proper shape and he’s got the lineage behind him to justify his spot as a coach. With 15 championships to his name and over 20 years in WWE alone, Goldust can attest to not only success but longevity. He can provide lots of wisdom as far as creating memorable characters, reinventing one’s self, and going against the grain but in a way that fans can connect with rather than simply being odd for the pure sake of shock value.
VAL VENIS: While he never rose to the top of the company, Sean Morley was a mainstay for quite a long time in WWE. Similar to Goldust, the Val Venis character pushed boundaries and became super popular, but he wasn’t a one-trick pony, either. His time in Right to Censor was a fun departure and after that, Morley continued to function as a dependable older star before his exit several years ago. For the past 6 years, he has been working the independents, which means he could provide some insight into the current status of that side of the business whereas those who have stayed within WWE’s walls would be relatively unaware of what is happening outside of it.
X-PAC: Every team needs a rebel, right? Sean Waltman has had more than his fair share of troubles, which could put him in a bad position to get this kind of a role as far as trustworthiness, but that could also be a bonus, actually. People who are interested in joining WWE need to be aware of what to do just as much as they need to be aware of what not to do. Waltman can inform this new breed on the dangers that await them with drug addiction, getting in with the wrong crowd, and knowing how to spot a bad decision before ever making it. He’s been on the WWE and WCW side of things, wrestled for TNA and all over the globe for various other organizations, and he has a reputation for being someone that can work well with virtually anyone, according to several legends. Plus, wouldn’t it be interesting to see how a member of The Kliq viewed the crop of contenders?
SHELTON BENJAMIN: Frequently referred to as the best pure athlete in WWE, Shelton Benjamin is a case of someone who was so good in the ring that he could have been a mega star if he just was able to create a character that matched his wrestling level. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who is as good or better at what goes on between the ropes than Benjamin, who could put on a spectacular mat-wrestling bout just as easily as a ladder match. Learning from someone with his knowledge and technical abilities would be an invaluable resource for the trainees and Benjamin’s still rather young age could be a nice juxtaposition to the older coaches.
That brings us to one more person…
THE LEAD TRAINER / HOST
It’s possible that this role could be split up, giving us a head trainer along with an actual non-training host of the program. If someone is hosting the show in the latter position, I would think someone like Scott Stanford—who has been much less active compared to the very busy folk like Renee Young and Tom Phillips—might be a great choice. Then again, considering Byron Saxton’s former ring experience and current role as a broadcaster, he may be an even better fit for the job.
As far as a head trainer, though, that’s a tough choice. Obviously, if Stone Cold Steve Austin could return, that would be the biggest star the company could get, but that doesn’t appear to be happening. Rumor has it that Chris Jericho may be at the forefront, although that’s not confirmed by any means. Both would be great names that are big enough stars to be the top man on the show and have enough character to keep it entertaining. If we rule them out, though, are there any other more reasonable people in mind?
My primary suggestion is a step down in comparison, but not without his own legitimacy. He’s a veteran of roughly 20 years, a former 2x World Heavyweight champion, 2x ECW champion, 4x Intercontinental champion, 1x Light Heavyweight champion, 1x Hardcore champion, 1x European champion, and 9x Tag Team champion. Yes, I’m talking about
Granted, Edge was the bigger star of the duo, but Christian has succeeded in many ways and etched his name into WWE history multiple times. In the later stages of his career, he made himself a legitimate main event star and put on some of his best matches during that time period, such as his feud with Randy Orton. During his stint in TNA, Christian was at the top of the brand as he became NWA World Heavyweight champion twice before returning to the company he belongs in. There’s a lot of experience under his belt as someone who had to work hard to get where he ended up, seeing as how many figured he could never get to that level with a TNA curse on him doubled up with being “the Marty Jannetty” of his tag team and an older star upon his return. He could have stuck in the midcard and became a jobber, but that didn’t happen. Now that his career is effectively over, WWE has yet to properly utilize him and having him be the head coach on Tough Enough would be a great means to get him back out there and allow him to give back without needing to worry too much about his health. Also, it could lead to a fun episode down the line where special guest Edge shows up—something he would be more willing to do if his best friend was in that position. USA is comfortable with Edge judging by his acting roles on Syfy’s Haven (which Christian also made a guest appearance on), so that’s yet another reason to cross-promote.
Now that my two cents are out there, I’m curious about your thoughts. Who would you like to see as the coaches for the upcoming season of Tough Enough? What do you think of my potential picks listed above? Tell us what you’re thinking, predicting and wishing in the comments below!