It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
I started my article with that sentence for two reasons: 1-This was a better episode of Tough Enough than usual. 2-I’m hoping to bring in some Charles Dickens fans. ONTO THE REVIEW!
Tough Enough has been a real chore to get through this season, and I have talked about that extensively. This week, it feels like they finally figured out how to make it work, at least with this format. Unfortunately, the format itself really hinders the show and limits just how good it can be. For example, we now know that next week’s bottom 3 will be all the male competitors, since there are only two females left and the final episode has to have two females. SPOILER ALERT: TANNER WILL BE ELIMINATED. (Note: This is not a confirmed spoiler, it’s just one of those patently obvious type spoilers.) But let’s not talk about next weeks bottom 3 and elimination, let’s talk about what happened on this episode.
With Gigi going home, WWE.com said it was a stunning elimination. I assume they are either tone deaf(probable) or are commenting on Gigi’s appearance during her elimination. She looks really good, and the company tends to think that translates into “star”, but the fans spoke clearly by booting another mostly generic model figure. Maybe that’s not fair to Gigi as she seemed genuinely invested in succeeding and showed some promise, but it was far too little, too late.
I suppose one could say it was stunning that Tanner didn’t go home, and that may be a fair argument to make. Tanner is nearly void of personality and has been presented as the heel throughout the season in a show where you need fan support to advance, so that’s a little surprising.
But maybe it speaks to the larger issue: For years and years, divas have been presented as interchangable and unimportant (outside of a very small handful of characters) to the main product, so even an unlikable male is going to get more supports than an attractive, somewhat likable female. Gigi’s got a great figure and a heck of a smile, but so have literally dozens of other females over the years that have been relegated to 2 minute matches and backstage segments where they are portrayed as airheads, sluts, or both. Sara Lee (I still remember the Lee!) looks different than that, and comes off like a girl where you know her personality already, and that’s why she has been a lock to win from the start. Gigi’s biggest problem is that she very much looks like a WWE diva, and the WWE has instilled in fans that, ultimately, divas don’t matter that much.
But enough about the end of the episode, let’s talk about what got us there and why this episode worked-it was again mostly about people learning to wrestle. This time, they took their training thus far and performed a “match” in front of a crowd, the NXT roster. I used match in quotation marks because it is clear they have only learned lock ups, drop downs, shoulder blocks and body slams. Tanner looked like the new Dean Malenko (with half the charisma somehow) by busting out a FIFTH spot in performing a roll up. I’m not too upset with them only knowing and/or showing a few basic moves, it really hammers home the point that these guys are TRAINING to be superstars, and aren’t superstars yet.
Most of the performers were fine here, and Josh probably looked the best. ZZ is still going to win in the end, but Josh looked good. The only really noteworthy thing was Booker T being furious with Sara for constantly smiling. I thought this was curious, because she explained that’s just who she is-she always smiles. Maybe it’s a nervous reaction, maybe it’s actual happiness, but no matter what, she smiles. Rather than embrace it, they kept riding her about it, insisting that smiling is bad when you are wrestling and nobody will take her seriously if she can’t stop smiling. I have to agree, as NOBODY COULD EVER GET BEHIND A WRESTLER WHO JUST SMILES A LOT AND SEEMS TO ENJOY BEING THERE.
All in all, this was a better effort than usual, but it’s still Tough Enough. It’s still got Chris Jericho trying to be Seacrest, it’s still got Paige being over the top awful, and it’s still terribly flawed. Only two episodes left: Tanner goes home next week and then we find out if they rig the vote for Josh. See you then! Now, our power rankings.
JD’s Power Rankings:
1-Josh. I really like the guy, and think he has some true potential. I just think he has little chance to dethrone ZZ. They clearly want Josh to win, and the way to do that is edit him positively rather than bury ZZ. It just makes ZZ sympathetic, not pathetic like they’re going for.
2-ZZ. I’ve said it before, but he’s a great reality character that will not be a good wrestling character.
3-Sara Lee. She’s cute and likable and, like ZZ, they desperately want us to not like her for some reason rather than embrace that she’s got the fans support.
4-Amanda. She’s not a bad heel, but she is very forgettable. Stands no chance against Sara.
5-Tanner. At least Amanda’s getting to the final episode.
6-Paige. Just so I could put her last again.
Isaac’s Power Rankings:
1-Josh. “I guess he’s first.” A thrilling endorsement!
2-ZZ. “I think he’ll win. I don’t care.” This kid is invested!
3-Sara Lee My son has nothing bad to say about her, which proves SOMEONE HAS A CRUSH ON HER.
4-Tanner “Tanner is stupid.” Agreed.
5-Amanda “Make Amanda last.” He’s working backwards with his list.