Tough Enough, Week 1


In our household, a few things are  true:

  • Coke is better than Pepsi
  • Miguel Cabrera is a beast
  • Pro Wrestling is awesome
  • So are reality TV competition shows

When I say I love reality TV, I am not talking about all of it. I don’t keep up with the Kardashians, I haven’t watched The Real World since The Miz was on, and I couldn’t pick Snooki out of a lineup. OK, yes I could, thanks to WrestleMania.

When I say I like reality TV, I mean Survivor. Big Brother. The Apprentice. The Amazing Race. Even Whodunnit. Basically, if it’s a show where there is a prize at the end and someone gets sent home each week, I will give it a chance and probably love it.

Yes, I even watched this.
Yes, I even watched this.

So, if I like wrestling and I like reality TV competition shows….I’ll LOVE Tough Enough, right? Well, if last nights episode was any indication, I’ll like it, not love it.

The first episode of this season featured a lot of changes from the previous season, most notably Steve Austin being replaced by Chris Jericho (a big downgrade). They also are playing with the format a bit, cutting to the live portion of the show and back to highlights of the challenge, then to the judges, then back to the house, then to the bottom three, and then the viewers vote.

That’s a LOT to fit into an hour and is probably my biggest gripe with the show after the premiere episode: PICK A FORMAT. After last nights show, I wasn’t sure if they wanted to be the WWE version of Big Brother, American Idol, Biggest Loser or The Real World. They certainly can’t be all of them, and to be successful, they don’t have to be any of them. UFC got it right for a long time with The Ultimate Fighter, so if anything, that’s the blueprint they should be looking at.

I don’t want to suggest the show is all bad. Chris Jericho isn’t necessarily bad, he’s just not Steve Austin, and given that the eliminations are American Idol style, Jericho can play the role of Seacrest better than he can Stone Cold. Paige was excellent as a judge, as was Daniel Bryan. I was kind of surprised that Hulk Hogan of all people was the one that showed the least personality on the panel.

The strongest part of the show though? Some of the competitors. What makes a good reality season is ALWAYS the players and never the game. I’ve seen all 30 seasons of Survivor, and the best seasons don’t rank high because of challenges or location, but because of the cast and their personal dynamics. Tough Enough has some promise in this department, with Tanner alienating the big guys by dominating physical challenges, Gabi clearly intent on causing drama, and ZZ emerging as the breakout star.

The star of the show?
The star of the show?

Let me now sing the praises of ZZ, for a moment. I know that he’s young and definitely doesn’t have a superstar look. My guess is he will be on the bottom again next week, if not every week until he finally loses. But this guy is a star. Will he be a wrestling star? I’m not so sure about that. But this guy was MADE for reality television. He sticks out like a sore thumb, but isn’t ostracized and doesn’t even feel any different. Everyone likes him, and he delivers great dialogue-look no further than explaining that all guys in a hot tub is the equivalent of meat stew. If you’re watching this show, you want this guy to last as long as possible.

But he might not, and why? One of the biggest flaws of the show-the vote out. Maybe they will format it different moving forward, but they opened the voting with 10 minutes left in the premiere and eliminated Hank with about 3 minutes left. That is a SEVEN MINUTE WINDOW. Not only are you handcuffing yourself from being able to trumpet that you got millions of votes (something WWE would love to do), it’s almost a punishment for DVR viewers. What they ought to do is announce the bottom 3, open the voting, and start the NEXT show off with the elimination.

Some other tweaks that I would make as a reality TV expert (or historian, if you will):

  • Figure out what they want the show to do. I thought it was odd that they could leave the house to go to the bar, but also had no wifi in the house. Dianna’s fiancé coming to visit also seemed odd. Either sequester them completely or follow their individual paths through the week from where they are staying
  • Adjust the volume levels. During the challenge, we would get confessionals from contestants, but the challenge music was still blasting and they were legitimately hard to hear. There’s an easy fix for this: Don’t give confessionals during the challenge. Just have Booker or Billy Gunn do voice over work as if they are narrating what’s going on during the challenge, ala Jeff Probst during a Survivor challenge.
  • Make the challenges matter. Tanner is dominant…..who cares? He gets nothing by dominating. Give him immunity, or if you don’t want to do that, give him a 1 on 1 training session with a superstar (so you can also showcase some of your current roster on TV). Heck, just make it a $5,000 prize for winning. If the challenges have no bearing outside of the judges saying, “You sure did suck at that!”, they’re purely filler.
  • Can’t do it this season, but axe the live reveal. Stone Cold’s in ring eliminations were gold, and the fact that they changed this is a big blow to the show.

Overall, the premiere was OK, and the right person went home in Hank. He was boring and made too many mistakes that the judges didn’t like. I can forgive a bad episode if it gets the right result. Moving forward, they need to focus a bit on character development. Let us know who these people are and why we should root for them or despise them, not just who is the most athletic. When Hank went home, I didn’t really care. That’s normally the case for a premiere episode, but we need to have someone we want to win as much as someone we want to lose. I have confidence that they can make it happen.

And now, its time for some power rankings. But not just my own. You see, when I watch wrestling AND when I watch reality TV (most of it at least), I’ve got a viewing partner — my 12 year old son, Isaac. We watch Raw together as well as Survivor. So when I was asked to do reviews for this season, I thought his involvement would be fun. Isaac’s rankings are calculated simply by who he liked in the episode. With mine, I factored in their chances of staying next week + chances of them actually winning the show.:

Isaac’s (Age 12) Power Rankings:

    1. Tanner – He’s a competition beast!
    2. Patrick – He’s a good social player.
    3. Alex – He looks the part and is ripped and ginormous.
    4. Sara Lee – All around, and from Michigan!
    5. Amanda – The only ripped girl
    6. Josh – Meh.
    7. Mada – Same as Josh. Double meh.
    8. Giorgia – Don’t even remember her.
    9. Daria – Did nothing
    10. Gabi – Gets in too many fights
    11. ZZ – Terrible at challenges.
    12. “Crotch Girl” AKA Dianna – Already annoying and a drama queen

JD’s Rankings:

    1. Daria – I feel like she’s an early lock to win the female side of things. She’s got the MMA background and the story about coming out on the special.
    2. Patrick – He’s confident, talented and in no danger of going anywhere for a while.
    3. Sara Lee – Plenty of other girls who will be targeted before her and may get fan votes over Daria.
    4. Mada – His look saves him for now, and I feel like there’s some personality there, we just didn’t see a lot of it yet.
    5. Tanner – Great at the challenges and cocky. Doubt he wins, but he won’t be an early boot.
    6. Amanda – Seems pretty solid.
    7. ZZ – Sigh…..I want him higher. He’s the best personality there and simply stands out just by appearance. But I see the judges repeatedly putting him in the bottom and I’m not sure how often he will be saved by the vote.
    8. Gabi – Will be kept around to create drama, but is gone the first time she needs votes.
    9. Alex – Tattoos don’t give you a personality bro. In fact, sometimes they substitute for one.
    10. Giorgia – Nothing memorable and looks too much like some of the other girls.
    11. Josh – He’s tall, AND YOU CAN’T TEACH THAT. But WWE isn’t hurting for tall dudes and the fans aren’t clamoring for them.
    12. Dianna – Clearly doesn’t want to be there, plus injured, plus drama=High chance of going home

We’re all mixed up at the top, but we’re in agreement in one thing: Dianna’s days are numbered. See you next week!