JR’s Treasure Trove #2 – Tough Enough I Casting Special

In case you didn’t know, Justin Rozzero has a rather large treasure trove of VHS, DVD and magazine goodness ranging across a variety of spectrums. In this regular piece, Justin will grab a random treasure from the chest and provide running commentary for our entertainment.

Tough Enough I Casting Special

MTV, 6/21/01

Miscellaneous Bin, Tape 42

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Two competitors will win WWF contracts!

In early 2001, WWF announced a new reality show that would be hitting the airwaves: Tough Enough. As part of their fat new deal with Viacom, WWF now had a whole new outlet to project their product thanks to the media giant’s large family of networks. Thus, in conjunction with Viacom owned MTV, the promotion revealed that hopeful wrestlers could send in audition tapes, with 13 lucky winners to be selected to compete on the show. Like most reality shows, they would live in a house together while training with bonafide WWF competitors. The two left standing at the end would receive official WWF contracts. While many that applied had legit wrestling backgrounds, the company clearly targeted those that didn’t, assuming it would make for a better show. The producers received more than 4,000 audition tapes in total, and from there they selected 230 to fly in for the casting special. 217 of them would be sent home and 13 would move to Stamford, CT to attempt to realize their dream.

The show opens with generic WWF clips and wise words from various superstars that set up the premise of the show. Triple H is clearly the angriest about this, yelling at a random tractor trailer about how the contestants better not blow this opportunity. Next up, we get a montage splicing together all the audition tapes they received. The first person we see? Josh Lomberger. You may know him better as Josh Mathews. Most of these submissions are way over the top, from a blacksmith slamming a forged WWF logo to skinny dudes Hulking Up in their rumpus rooms to dudes in ski masks to scantily clad women, it’s all there. And how can we forget “Boy Gone Bad”? Or Cham Pain? My lord, this is going to be quite a ride. That transitions to the long line outside WWF New York around 6:00 AM, where the 230 line up to check in and sign up for the show. Nobody really stands out other than this tool with spiked hair that says “I want to go to a children’s hospital where they are dying of cancer and their last dream is to meet me”. Class act all the way, budro. Our panel is made up of MTV judges and WWF superstars Al Snow, Tazz and Jacqueline as well as executive producer Kevin Dunn and WWF talent manager John “Big” Gaburick.

Snow talks about what criteria he looks for, including charisma, dedication, energy and physique. That leads to a montage of the contestants flexing and showing off the goods. Jonathan Coachman is also on the panel, decked out in a hideous Phoenix Coyotes jersey. Jackie asks contestant Chris to take his pants off to show off his leg definition. Tazz gets in a good line after the kid claims to always do a total body workout: “the last time I saw legs like that, they were hanging out of a nest.” There are actually families here eating and watching this thing. Up next is Nidia, a 21 year old from Texas. She does some jump roping, but is out of breath, which Tazz calls her out on. Tazz is brutal with her, ripping her for not wearing training clothes and then giving her shit when Nidia comes back with some attitude. Tazz had recently moved away from full time in ring competition and taken up announce duties, co-hosting Sunday Night Heat along with Michael Cole. The show aired on MTV and was filmed inside this same restaurant. He would stay somewhat active throughout 2001, but by early 2002, Tazz transitioned to the booth full time. Nidia defends her actions in a talking head. Back in the ring, Jackie is ripping her big time, mocking Nidia’s “pot belly”. Greg from Pennsylvania seems quite mild mannered but looks to be in good shape.

After that, we get some clips of the physical tests, including the rope slide shuffle. One fat guy named Robert falls down and Tazz says he is in atrocious condition and wants to know why he would even bother showing up in that sort of shape. Snow talks to us about dreamers and how the stand out because they are unprepared. We see some examples of large out of shape folks trying to do the condition tests. One girl even has her extensions fall out while jumping rope. This is getting awkward very quickly as contestant Paulina tries to cut a promo about women kicking men’s asses, but that fails miserably. She is really tall, which seems to impress Tazz. She doesn’t want to play basketball and is sick of that stereotype. Contestant Daniel is kind of small but cuts a solid promo and wants to do the Asian race proud. Tazz says he will never sit here and criticize someone for being too small, because he heard the same stuff. He is looking for the right attitude in his contestants. Daniel looks to be an early favorite.

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Josh Lomberger didn’t quite have the look, but he had the desire

Next up is Josh Lomberger and we know he is going somewhere because we hear from his parents as well. Josh gets put on the spot and starts stammering about not worrying about getting hurt because Tazz & Snow are professionals. Now he gets backed into a corner by Tazz, doing his typical bully shtick. In a talking head, Josh tells us that Tazz is his favorite wrestler and he loved getting smacked down by him. Tazz asks him if he is a pussy and Josh says “I don’t think so”. Good start, Lomberger.

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After commercial, we hear from some of the contestants in line before going back to the ring, where we meet Victoria from California. She seems kind of shady, which Snow seems to like. Big likes her too and it seems like she may be a lock to move on. Tara feels very self conscious about her small chest compared to the other girls here today. Her promo isn’t too bad, despite it sounding like she may cry at any time. Snow loves her personality but says she is terrible physically. We get personal with William, who talks about his tough life situation and how he is a role model to his brother, since his father passed away. Mick Foley makes a cameo as a judge as Tazz tells us he likes William. Back to the physical challenges, with contestants doing the bag test and again, many fail and fall down. Jason is next and he is asked about his girlfriend that he claims to love but when asked he says he will follow his dream and “she will deal with it”. We also meet that girlfriend. Poor thing. Shadrick from Texas is our next showcase and he hedges when asked about having a girlfriend. Tazz asks him about hooking up in the house and he says “I need to get mine and they need to get theirs”. Contestant Kristy has crib notes on her wrist and she still can’t get the promo out. She is brutal and the judges are cracking up. Two chicks show up in bathing suits and cut a terrible promo before trying to grapple. There are some decent promo attempts in this segment, but most suck. Snow talks about innate charisma once again.

Maven hit on Jacqueline before impressing the judges
Maven hit on Jacqueline before impressing the judges

And for the first time, we meet Maven, who winks at Jackie and turns her on. They bust him up a bit about it but he says that has always been a dream of his. He seems to be pretty at ease out there, which is rare on this day. Snow thinks he looks like a kid you would see at a wrestling school. Back in the waiting room, we hear from a guy that wanted to commit suicide at a young age, but watching Bret Hart turned his life around and gave him purpose. Instead of diving into that more, we cut to some douche trying to guess which tits are fake or real. The girls laugh it off and defend their gifts from God. We have a very proud New Zealander with a great chest, but the judges are worried she is too old. Bobbi Jo Anderson, however, is flaunting it and Snow seems quite engaged here. She admits that her biggest goal is to pose in Playboy because she loves tits and ass. Good luck kiddo.

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They’re real…and they’re spectacular!

The first contestant we meet after our next break is Darryl from Michigan. His promo isn’t bad and he is a big dude overall. Contestant Tom is quite proud of his body and his whole promo is about how beautiful and sexy he is…Tazz just wants to hurt him. Snow explains the goal of the character drill, wanting to see these people connect with the crowd for 30 seconds. And we hear from the Evil Custodian, who is sad that nobody loves him…”when you are in the mood, I even disinfect it for you”. He was awesome, best promo so far.

Sharbell, brother of Hornswoggle, claims to be a McMahon descendant.
Sharbell, brother of Hornswoggle, claims to be a McMahon descendant.

Sharbell from Illinois claims to be Vince McMahon’s son that has come back for his company. Terrible stuff. Tazz wants people that are their characters, not just people playing some stupid character, like the Wolfman, who is in the ring right now. He is looking for someone that has been waiting in line all day and isn’t pissed about it at all. Tazz pays a surprise visit to the waiting room, ripping into them for bitching and moaning about waiting all day. Vintage Tazz. One girl is sleeping and he throws her and her “glamour ass” out. Welp. Tazz explains why he is so mad, because these kids are getting a chance guys like him never got. He waited ten years to get to the WWF and he is going to exploit it on the contestants physically and mentally.

Chris, from Harvard.
Chris, from Harvard.

Back from commercial we meet the lovely Taylor Matheny, who came out by herself in spite of her parents and their views of wrestling. And next up is Chris from Harvard. He has a great look and cuts a strong promo, easy shoe in right off the bat. He admits to training with Killer Kowalski for a few months and says he will have no problem getting deprogrammed and built back up. That is followed by more shitty applicants and Snow seems about done with the whole thing. With those 230 auditions finally done, we head backstage where Snow vents about the process.

The adorable Taylor, who spurned her parents to tryout for Tough Enough
The adorable Taylor, who spurned her parents to tryout for Tough Enough

Now it is the next day, the 230 will be cut down to 25. The braintrust meets to determine if the 25 they picked is the right group. The judges put over Darryl and want him on the show. He gets added to the list at the last minute. The list gets posted on the front door and the crowd filters through to check it out. The 25 winners move into WWF NY for the next day of tryouts. The winners are overjoyed as they enter the restaurant and greet MTV staff. We also see some of the heartbroken applicants as they storm off. Lots of emotion here by winners and losers. Our poor New Zealander is upset that Playboy wannabes made it over her, when they don’t even care about getting in the ring. Big goes over the ground rules for the day, which include physicals and MTV staff interviews. He implores them to be themselves throughout the process. We now head to the hotel for all the medical testing and some random bullshitting and talking heads from the winners. Poor William tells us that his younger brother ran into some trouble last night and he has to decide whether to be selfish or return home to be there for him.

That leads us to highlights from the candid interviews from the contestants. Nothing stands out completely here other than some random oddities like clown college, masturbation and pierced nipples. After that, we go to the war room as the judges have to make their decision and cut the list to 13, with eight men and five women. Kevin Dunn proves he is an astute judge of talent when he compares Maven to Kurt Angle. Dunn is an ugly son of a bitch. What a prick. Lots of back and forth here, debating the plusses and negatives. Big doesn’t know if the 5’9″ guys on the board are standout enough to make it. He is down with short guys but they need to really be great to stand out. The decision is made and we have our official 13…whom we will meet after this break.

Noted Ugly Troll, Kevin Dunn
Noted Ugly Troll, Kevin Dunn

We start at the hotel, where the 25 prep and share their thoughts before heading to the restaurant. William stuck with it and is hanging around for the chance to make it. Maven is confident he will make the cut but if not, he will take the experience with him when he returns to teaching. Big takes the stage and brings out Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley to make the announcements. Steph gets a warm welcome as she struts out and issues a stern warning of what is to come in the following weeks for those that win.

Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley struts out to announce the winners
Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley struts out to announce the winners

The winners are:

Josh

Jason

Victoria

Maven

Taylor

Chris

Shadrick

Bobbi Jo

Chris

Paulina

Nidia

Darryl

Tom

I am shocked Nidia made it based off her audition on day one, but they must have seen something in her. Lots of sadness from the 12 that didn’t make the cut, but they all head out. Greg is shocked, and I am too as he had a pretty good look and attitude. William seems relieved to be heading home. Back inside, Steph wishes them all luck on this adventure. They pose for a group picture to close out the process.

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The winners…filtered with swank 2001 style effects!

Now we flash ahead one week to see the contestants all packing up and saying goodbye to their families before arriving at their house in snow covered Stamford. They all realize somebody is missing and then realize it is Tom. Big shows up and reveals that Tom had second thoughts and dropped out, so Greg has stepped in his place. Good choice, Tom sucked. Big lets them all in the house and he goes over all the rules. The house has a lot of history as part of the Underground Railroad and deserves plenty of respect. The next day, the training begins at Trax. One male and one female will win the competition.They divvy up the rooms and settle in as the journey is beginning. Big closes the show by telling us these kids have no idea how tough this will be. And with that, we fade out.

Big.
Big.

So, just a little background on why I even own this. Back in late 2000, my buddy John Walters told me about this competition coming up and he was interested in applying. Him and I whipped up an audition tape and submitted it and he was chosen as one of the 230 to visit NY. At the time, he had been training with Killer Kowalski for about a year and it was made clear they wanted very little to do with trained wrestlers. John fared well, making it to the final round before the cut to 25. He is featured very briefly on this special, but got no actual screen time. I taped this in case he appeared, but that wasn’t the case sadly. In the end, John was happy he wasn’t chosen because he avoided the stigma that came along with the role. I would say things turned out quite well for him in the end.

This was an entertaining enough casting episode, with a lot of different personalities. Wrestling lends itself to zaniness and when blended with MTV and a reality show format, it is hard to whiff. Tazz was easily the star here and he stole the show as the angry trainer. Snow was good too as the level headed lead dog. At the time, if you watched this episode, I would say it did its job of hooking you into sticking around.

So, that is a wrap for JR’s Treasure Trove. Please come back again and join me as I continue digging through my closets full of nostalgia, exclusively here on Place to Be Nation!

Author: JT Rozzero

JT Rozzero is a cohost of the Place to Be podcast and original member of the legendary Moliseum Video. He enjoys all sports. The only thing he hates more than traffic and customer service is people. He is a proud Svenjolly and has had a sinus infection since October 2013. Send Justin an email