Tough Enough: FS Reprint

July 12, 2011

I wrote the following for my ďStorm FrontĒ article for ďFighting SpiritĒ Magazine, back in April, and it is being reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.

With Tough Enough Five right around the corner, a lot of people are asking me if I think it will be successful. Truthfully I donít know what kind of money they make or lose on a project like this so in that regard itís impossible for me to determine if the show will be successful. That said, if we just look at the concept of the show and judge it on its ability to creating new WWE stars, I think we have all the information we need, to determine its chances of success, by simply looking at the shows track record to date.

I was in WWE during all four seasons of Tough Enough, and even did a guest spot as a trainer season three, which was edited off the show and never aired. Iíve worked with the winners of all four seasons, in some capacity, so I have first hand knowledge of their successes and failures.

The winners of Season One were Maven Hoffman, and Nidia Guenard, and I met them both at their RAW debut (I believe in Montreal) shortly after winning the reality show. I liked Maven right away and the crowd reaction he got was very strong. The concept of letting fans follow, one of their own, as he struggles through going from fan to WWE superstar had worked beyond belief. The crowd that night was so into Maven that he received a star reaction in his first official night. I donít recall Nidia getting as strong of a reaction but that may have been more due to me not liking her much after our first meeting.

It wasnít so much that I disliked her, it was more that she came off like a star struck fan backstage, and I thought a more appropriate prize for her winning the show would have been seasons tickets. The office must have agreed with me because Iím pretty sure she was sent straight to developmental and did not return to TV for quite a while. To her credit though she improved a ton in developmental and when she was finally brought up she had become a pretty talented wrestler and I ended up liking her a lot. She was released after not too long, likely more based on her not having the swimsuit model physique they preferred, than a perceived lack of talent.

Maven faired considerably better than his fellow winner although he was released only eight months after Nidia was. WWE tried to give Maven a solid push based off his popularity coming out of T.E. but the simple fact was despite his fan support the office never felt he was ready for the big time. Over his four year run in WWE, Maven went from eliminating the Undertaker at the 2002 Royal Rumble and challenging Chris Jericho for the Undisputed World Title, to a long stretch of matches on Sunday Night Heat. In the end the star power he gained from his T.E. win was his down fall. Instead of starting at the bottom and being able to work his way to the top and grow, he was thrust into a position he wasnít ready for and when you start at the top there is no place to go but down.

Season Two was the womenís season with Jackie Gayda and Lynda Miles being crowned co winners. Both winners followed a very similar path, although Jackie did experience more success. Both debuted in a series of matches shortly after winning their season. The matches were not good, with the most memorable being a match featuring a horrendously botched bulldog spot involving Trish Stratus and Jackie Gayda. The spot became so infamous that I have no doubt Jackie still hears about it today. She took a lot of heat backstage for botching the move so badly but I always thought it was the officeís fault for putting such a green performer on live TV.

Both girls were sent down to developmental to eventually re-debut in Valet roles. Jackie had a fair bit of success on her second run including playing a role in both my dancing and large penis gimmicks (donít ask). Jackie was great to work with and I think she really got the shaft when released. Lynda didnít fair as wel,l her second run didnít last long and she was sent back to developmental. When I accepted the role of head trainer in OVW she was still down there. She struggled in developmental and finally after an expletive laden screaming match with Jim Cornette decided to quit WWE.

After the failing debuts of past winners, the Season Three winners John Morrison (then John Finnegan) and Matt Cappotelli, were sent directly to the WWE developmental system. Morrison got brought up briefly as Eric Bischoffís assistant but was quickly sent back down. Both of these guys were in OVW during my time there as head instructor so I worked with both men extensively. Matt was probably the most talented of all the Tough Enough winners but due to a series of unfortunately events never got his shot in WWE. His first call up to the main roster was sidetracked by a concussion, his second by a broken leg, and his third by the discovery of a brain tumor. He was eventually released before ever getting the chance, he worked so hard for and greatly deserved.

John on the other hand did get his opportunity and has had great success with it, and is the sole survivor of the Tough Enough experience, although it can certainly be debated whether any of this success can be attributed to his time originally spent on Tough Enough.

Season Four of Tough Enough was a little bit different because it wasnít a stand alone show, but a series of short segments that aired on SmackDown. This was the Million Dollar Tough Enough, so there was only one winner crowned, and that winner was Daniel Puder. After winning the season Puder took part in the 2005 Royal Rumble, but spent the rest of his WWE career in developmental. I worked with Daniel during his time in developmental and despite making some progress he was released because the office did not feel he was worth the $250,000 pre year price tag, winning the show entitled him to.

So looking back over four seasons of Tough Enough weíve had seven winners and only one true success story in John Morrison. That isnít a very impressive track record especially when you consider that Morrisonís success on Tough Enough didnít catapult him to WWE stardom but simply qualified him for a lengthy run in WWE developmental, before eventually working his way up the roster.

One for seven is not an impressive track record, but they do have their past mistakes to learn from. They also have far and away the most experienced and talent rich crew of trainers and mentors the show has ever offered, in Steve Austin, Trish Stratus, and Booker T. I have no doubt he show will be entertaining and worth watching but if the track record tells us anything in the end it will probably just be an extensive casting call for WWE developmental.

Lance Storm

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