Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: Let’s Get Reality! – Tough Enough Part 2

This week we conclude our look at the WWE’s Tough Enough, take a look at each contestant’s whereabouts, and ask – was this really worth it for the WWE?

Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: Let’s Get Reality! (Part Two) – WWE: 2001-present

After Tough Enough 2 wrapped on MTV, a third season was on the way. This time, however, there were only three trainers – the returning Al Snow and Ivory and Bill DeMott.

This time there were again thirteen contestants. The ladies were Jamie, Kelly, Lisa, Jill, and Rebekah. The guys were Chad, Eric Markovcy, John Hennigan, Jonah Adelman, Justin, Matthew Cappotelli, Nick Distelbrink, and Scott Chong.

The cuts were delayed again as Jill quit on the first day of training.

The next episode saw Lisa leaving. The cast was told that she’d decided that wrestling wasn’t the right career for her.

Actually, Lisa had a breakdown off camera and even threatened to jump off the house. She was removed from the show because of this. Later, she began sneaking backstage at WWE shows and even at OVW itself, saying that Al Snow had sent her there for additional training. It’s been reported that at one WWE event she even got backstage and got to talk to Vince McMahon himself. After that, her photo began being circulated among WWE security staff and they were warned to keep a close eye out for her.

Chad was the first cut because he couldn’t physically keep up with the rest of the group.

Rebekah was the next to leave. She had a family emergency and had to return home to deal with that.

Nick was the second cut due to the fact that a shoulder injury was holding him back.

Scott left next because the trainers decided that he wasn’t taking things seriously and also he kept blowing moves which made him dangerous in the ring.

Kelly was the next one cut because of a back injury which was holding her back.

Justin was cut next because the trainers didn’t think he was aggressive enough in the ring.

The winners were announced as John Hennigan and Matthew Cappotelli.

Where are they now?

Eric Markovcy’s Myspace indicates that he now resides in Allentown, PA.

John Hennigan was sent to OVW for further training. He returned to Raw full-time in 2004 and soon was given the name Johnny Nitro (which he used to suck up to Eric Bischoff. His entrance theme was also the old Nitro opening theme.). In June he lost a match that saw him sent back to OVW. When Nitro returned, he was part of MNM with Joey Mercury and Melina. Hennigan remains part of the WWE today as ECW’s John Morrison.

Jonah Adelman continued on the independent scene and debuted for TNA in 2003. As of June 2005, Adelman had retired from the ring and was working for Venturi Partners in Boston, a staffing agency.

Matt Cappotelli was also sent to OVW, where he kept suffering setback after setback due to injury. During 2005, Cappotelli became embroiled in a heated feud against Johnny Jeter. In December of that year he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After weighing his options, Cappotelli surrendered the OVW title to Danny Davis during an emotional announcement at an OVW taping in February where he told the crowd that he would be focusing on treatment. In May of 2007 Cappotelli underwent successful surgery that completely removed the tumor. Today Cappotelli is back in training as he looks to return to the ring.

The future looked bleak for Tough Enough after MTV announced that it was not interested in continuing the show. Instead, Tough Enough was reborn as a part of Smackdown.

Now, as a counterpart to Raw’s Diva Search, Tough Enough would award a one million contract to the winner.

The contestants were Chris Nawrocki, Daniel Puder, Daniel Rodimer, John Meyer, Justice Smith, Mike Mizanin, Nick Mitchell, and Ryan Reeves.

Tough Enough was off to its usual start as John Meyer quit before the competition even really got rolling. After that announcement, the trainees were sent to the ring. They were given 20 seconds to cut a promo on the Big Show. After the promo, Show bodyslammed each of them and then also dropped a knee on Rodimer.

The next week saw the contestants in a squat thrust challenge. The winner was Chris Nawrocki, who earned a match against Kurt Angle. Angle easily defeated Nawrocki and asked if anybody else wanted to try. Puder hopped into the ring and wound up getting pinned as he locked Angle in a kimura submission hold. Afterward, Angle threw Puder out of the ring and talked about how none of the contestants were tough enough to face him.

Week three opened with Al offering Nawrocki a chance to quit since Angle had broken one of his ribs the week before. Nawrocki refused and Al announced that Nick Mitchell was eliminated.

Torrie Wilson then came out and announced that the trainees had 15 seconds to make out with a diva. She then brought out Mae Young and the Fabulous Moolah. Mae judged that Puder was the winner and gave him a lap dance.

Al offered Nawrocki a chance to quit again the next week, and again Nawrocki refused. Al then informed Nawrocki that he was eliminated.

The challenge this week was to battle past both Basham Brothers and claim a flag at the far side of the ring. No one succeeded, but Puder got the closest.

The next week opened with Al informing Rodimer that he was eliminated. After that, They had a quick arm wrestling contest which Puder won.

Ryan Reeves was the next eliminated and Al announced that the contestants had to dress up like women.

The reason for this was for Bob Holly to judge who the best woman was. After each contestant tried to pick up Holly for 20 seconds each, the vote went to the fans who gave the win to Mizanin. Holly then attacked Snow before leaving the ring.

The next week opened with all three remaining contestants cutting promos on each other. Justice Smith was eliminated, and then the Puder and Mizanin got into an American Gladiators-like jousting contest that Puder won.

It all came down to Armageddon’s Dixie Dog Fight which was a boxing match between Puder and Mizanin. The match was surprisingly close but Puder won in the third round.

Puder was announced as the winner on the following Smackdown.

Where are they now?
Chris Nawrocki was awarded a development contract but was released in 2005. He retired and headed back to a job on Wall Street. In a column he wrote for, he claims, “…Call me thickheaded but I am not interested in pursuing the independents to get paid little to no money so I can beat up my body for a gym filled with twenty people. Tell me I don’t have the love for the sport, c’mon do it I’ve heard it before its nothing new. The fact of the matter is once you’ve had a taste of the finest wine in the cabinet, why go to the local grocery store to buy the boxed wine. At this stage in my career it doesn’t make sense. In all honesty I have much respect for the men who do the independent circuit and I definitely idolize them for what they are doing. It’s just not for me.”

Daniel Puder was sent to OVW for further training. After a year, Puder was offered a new contract that would see him transferring to Deep South Wrestling and receiving a substantial pay cut. Puder refused and was released. He returned to the MMA world and, in late 2007, made a couple of appearances for Ring of Honor.

Daniel Rodimer also received a development deal that saw him heading to Deep South Wrestling. January of 2007 saw Rodimer moved to OVW and rumors began to fly that he was close to a call up to the main roster. In August of 2007 Rodimer requested and received his WWE release. He is now pursuing a career in real estate.

Justice Smith currently appears on American Gladiators as the Gladiator Justice.

Mike Mizanin received a development contract and was assigned to Deep South. He made his way up through OVW and made his Smackdown debut in June of 2006. Mizanin remains with the WWE today as ECW’s Miz.

Nick Mitchell also received a development deal and headed to Deep South. He debuted on Raw in January of 2006 as Mitch of the Spirit Squad. Mitchell was released from the WWE in May of 2007. Today he and Torrie Wilson run a clothing store called Jaded.

Ryan Reeves also headed to Deep South under a development deal. He was moved to OVW in early 2006 under the name of Silverback Ryan Reeves. Reeves was released from the WWE in January of 2007 and still competes on the indy scene today.

The third class of Tough Enough only had three members continue on in wrestling – about average from the first two seasons, with only two still active today (a tie with season 2, although this is the only season in which both winners are still wrestling).

Out of season four’s contestants, almost all of them continued wrestling after Tough Enough (doubtless due to the WWE’s offers of development deals). The surprising thing is that only 2 of them are still active in wrestling today. However, while Puder and Smith are no longer wrestling, they continue to compete in athletic endeavors similar to wrestling.

So which season was the best for the WWE? Season three gave them John Morrison, a former ECW world champion, a multi-time Intercontinental champion, and one of the current tag team champions on Smackdown.

Season four gave them the Miz, AKA the other half of the current tag team champions on Smackdown.

The surprising thing is when the crowds are analyzed who tried out for the competition but were rejected. Melina Perez, Shawn Daivari, and Puder can be seen in tapes from Season three. (Melina of course is Melina of MNM fame and Daivari was the manager for Muhammad Hassan and the Great Khali). Season four also cut an applicant named Marty Wright for lying about his age on the application. Today Wright competes for the WWE as the Boogeyman.

So out of 47 contestants, only 2 remain with the WWE in a wrestling capacity today. Kind of says something about how successful Tough Enough was, doesn’t it?

Next week we’ll continue our look at reality as we switch gears to the annual debacle known as the Diva Search. As always, if you have any updates on any Tough Enough contestants, go ahead and email them to me and they’ll be updated next week.