Details On WWE Tough Enough’s Return To USA Network

WWE sources have indicated to the Wrestling Observer that it is almost a done deal with the USA Network to revive Tough Enough, the reality show that many claim spawned UFC’s Ultimate Fighter.

Tough Enough aired on MTV from 2001-03 and kicked off the careers of John Morrison, The Miz, Melina, Skip Sheffield, Josh Mathews, Shad Gaspard, Luke Gallows, Matt Morgan, Daniel Puder and Kenny King. Only Morrison actually won the show. Melina was cut late in season three, as was Shawn Daivari who also had a subsequent stint with WWE. Gaspard was pulled from the cast at the last minute due to concerns between MTV and WWE about his criminal record. Gallows made the final countdown in 2004, as Drew Hankinson, but did not reach the top ten. Jackie Gayda was cut in the first season but then won the second season after changing her looks, despite Kenny King, as Kenny Mayne, being the best wrestler in the season. WWE felt that Gayda would made a more immediate contribution through a Playboy appearance, yet she declined to do the photo shoot. Morgan blew out his knee early in the second season but wound up getting a developmental deal from Jim Ross nonetheless.

Others from the show included Christopher Nowinski, Nidia and Taylor Matheny, who wound up marrying Brian Kendrick. Linda Miles was pushed to the main roster as Shaniqua, against the wishes of her trainers. She was cut due to a perceived lack of dedication and is now a substitute teacher in Cincinnati. Matt Cappotelli was the clear winner of season three but was forced to retire due to being diagnosed with brain cancer. He now lives in Louisville with his wife and runs a Christian clothing store, Faith Inc.

The final season aired as part of Smackdown, billed as having a $1 million prize. This season was judged by viewer votes and came down to Puder winning over Miz. The winning contract was a four-year, $250,000 per annum deal, which WWE had the right to terminate after one year. It did. A late cut on the show was Martin Wright, who lied about his age and claimed he was 30 rather than 40. He wound up being hired anyway and became the Boogeyman. Nick Mitchell from that season became Mitch from the Spirit Squad. He later became Torrie Wilson’s boyfriend and did some MMA training. Jesse Smith was cut early on despite having a good WWE physique. He went to K-1, had one emphatic defeat in MMA by Shane Carwin and appeared on American Gladiators with Hulk Hogan. Ryan Reeves from the final four of that season became Skip Sheffield, making him the only veteran of both Tough Enough and NXT. Daniel Rodimer from that season was picked by Stephanie McMahon to be the ‘Diesel’ to Edge & Randy Orton’s Rated RKO team, yet never actually made it. Puder is still unbeaten in MMA, wrestles in Japan and runs a gym in Hollywood.

The original show was criticised by some, including Triple H, for exposing the business. It also led to such memorable incidents as Bob Holly legitimately beating up Cappotelli despite the rookies being taught to not take liberties with their opponents; Gayda cheating on her fiance by making out with someone else in a hot tub; Puder legitimately hooking Kurt Angle in a televised match.

USA Network would like to expand into reality TV, which it has not touched in years. Tough Enough would likely lead to the end of NXT. It may be aired at 11pm on Monday nights, after Raw, which is the timeslot that Ultimate Fighter began in. WWE would prefer to air the show on Tuesday but USA would demand an above-average rating of 2.3 for primetime, which even the original show did not do. The later timeslot would mean far less pressure.

The revived show may be a mixture of Tough Enough and NXT in concept. The original winners had little experience and were not ready for WWE, despite getting over with the crowd through the show. NXT has featured people already trained in the WWE system, which meant there were fewer issues with how they worked. Despite most people thinking it would be a reality show, however, their real personalities were overlooked in favour of random challenges to amuse the people backstage.

Perhaps the best concept would be putting FCW wrestlers into a house. They would train as wrestlers but would not be beginners. Their personalities would be the focus, with some hated and some liked. Any matches would be taped and not live, or even not in front of a crowd. If the reality aspect gets people over with the audience then they would not be over-exposed and be in a better position to be able to carry the ball.

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Source: Wrestling Observer