WWF goes To The Mat With New Reality-based TV Series

By Lamar Hughes
Updated: February 13, 2007


Miss JackieNEW YORK, NY_ If your favorite NBA team held open tryouts for a spot on its roster, would you show up? Think about it. Here’s your one chance to play on the same Madison Square Garden floor that Pat Ewing plays on, or wear Laker gold like Magic and Kareem once did. For most of us, an opportunity like that would be a dream come true. And let’s be honest. We’ve ALL had that thought go through our heads at one time or another. Well, the WWF is giving its fans their shot at realizing a dream. Last Thursday night was the premiere of “Tough Enough”, a new reality-based show on MTV that’ll award one man and one woman a guaranteed World Wrestling Federation contract.

Watching the show, you can’t help but notice one thing. It isn’t a rip-off of “Survivor”. No one is fighting for money or 15 minutes of publicity. What “Tough Enough” is, though, is a cross between “The Real World” and “RAW is WAR”. Over a 2-month span earlier in the year, more than 4,000 applicants submitted videotapes to the WWF, displaying their physiques, “in-ring personas”, and reasons why they should be picked for this unique project.

Al SnowOf those entries, 250 were invited to WWF New York for live interviews with superstars and “Tough Enough” trainers Al Snow, Tazz, and Jacqueline. Those finalists were reduced to 25. Then, the final 13 — 8 men and 5 women — were chosen a couple of days later.

For 13 weeks, the contestants lived in a house in Stamford, Connecticut (which, incidentally, was a stop along the Underground Railroad a century ago). Their time in the house was recorded, a la “Real World”, complete with testimonials and cheesy melodramatic moments. That’s about where the fun and games ended, for once the training started, the 13 “lucky” finalists were one-by-one pushed down a razor blade slide into a swimming pool of alcohol.

The first few days of working with Snow, Jacqueline (“Miss Jackie” as she sternly requested to be called by the trainees), and Tori were grueling. Things that seemed routine on television, like falling on the mat, took the finalists two days to learn. One woman, a former stunt double, kept hitting her head as she landed, causing her to get dizzy spells and headaches. As difficult as the first three days looked, however, there didn’t seem to be a sense of boot camp or initiation drills taking place. No one on camera got yelled at or embarrassed. Al Snow actually told a few jokes during the day to lighten up the mood. And, for the most part, the mood remained mellow — until Tazz showed up.

TazzTazz comes across as, clearly, the most bitter of the four trainers. During the interviews at the WWF’s Times Square restaurant, it was Tazz who suggested that anyone complaining about being in the waiting room since 6 a.m. take their “prima donna asses, pack [their] s–t and get the f–k out”. On one of the Final 13′s training days (a day which they originally had had off), Tazz’s speech included the line, “If you don’t believe in God, start”. Working with Miss Jackie and the “mellow” trainers, the finalists learned to fall and do proper flips and lock-ups. With Tazz, they wrestled on their knees in pig slop. To make matters worse, they jogged back home in the same heavy, mud-covered sweat suits and boots they had worn all day.

Chances are pretty good that there were some folks who had seen Tazz’ act on TV at home and concluded that it was just that: an act. What they need to realize is that 2 people, with NO wrestling experience, will get in 13 weeks what took Tazz 12 years to get: a WWF contract. I don’t know about you all, but if someone earned a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy in four months, without having to write any 15-page papers or sit in 12 required classes over 4 1/2 years the way I had to, they wouldn’t exactly be on my Christmas card list.

All in all, “Tough Enough” is a solid show put forth by the World Wrestling Federation and MTV. Over the ensuing weeks, other superstars, such as, Kurt Angle, Stephanie McMahon, Mick Foley, and Tripe H lent a hand in training the WWF hopefuls, with each trainer explaining how hard it is to perform when both body and mind tell you it has nothing left to give, or when you’ve been traveling for weeks at a time without seeing your family.

Those who’ve seen previews of future episodes all agree that Triple H gives the most convincing story regarding the lengths to which they, as professionals and entertainers, must go so as to give the fans their money’s worth. It’s a topic he should know about, considering he once wrestled a match with a torn quadriceps muscle. Probably the best parts of the show are the moments when the finalists are working through their wrestling drills. It’s interesting to see how much effort and patience is required to be a wrestler. As I’ve written in the past, the bruises, frustration, pain and joy involved just to break in the industry don’t seem to be any different from that of a “real” athlete in a “real” sport. When your chance at fulfilling a dream comes around, you don’t pass up on it. Who knows when it will come up again? Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), for two people in that bunch, they’re going to get to see theirs through to the end.