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Posers & Wannabes
A Look Back At Tough Enough
Originally published June 26, 2003
Written by Emer Prevost

Well, after weeks of nothing, your friendly neighborhood Spider…(oops, wrong intro), I have returned to OWW, and my Wayback Machine is in working order again. But, I won’t be using it tonight. I won’t need it to talk about reality TV.

Let me start off by saying that I hate reality TV. Whether it be “Survivor,” “Big Brother,” or even “American Idol.” I see it as nothing more than the networks running out of good ideas and making up for a screenwriters strike. None of these shows were really real (except for the original reality show, “COPS”), and wind up being nothing more than suburban waste wanting to prove that they are something they aren’t. It doesn’t matter if they think they can survive in the jungle, or if they think they can sing, the shows are always dull and boring.

The WWE jumped on the reality TV bandwagon with “Tough Enough”, and proved once again that anything anyone else can do, the WWE can do just as bad.

Now, I should let you know, that I didn’t watch a lot of “Tough Enough,” but whenever I did watch it, I felt sorry for all my fellow fans for having to someday put up with some of these vapid dimwits in the ring. Sure, Chris Nowinski has proven himself, but look at Maven, Nidia, Jackie Gayda, and Linda Miles. None of them have really gone far in the company.

I find it really funny that the only “Tough Enough” competitor that is really going anywhere didn’t even win the competition. I find it even funnier that all the female winners have been downsized from wrestlers to managers. Oh well, the winners got contracts, the WWE never said anything about having to wrestle.

When I first heard about the idea of becoming a WWE superstar, I thought it was going to be a good idea. Fans from around the country and beyond sent in audition tapes where they all cut annoying promos and dressed like Kurrgan when he was with the Oddities. At this point, my hopes for something entertaining went right out the window. If the audition tapes they were showing us on RAW were any indication of the crap that was sent in, no wonder the rejects who made it on the show made it. Everyone else was just lame.

Then, the audition episode came. The finalists for the show stood in a ring, cut a promo and showed their athletic prowess. Nothing much there. Then, the show actually got started.

All contestants on the show got to live in a house that looked like it was from the “Real World”. I huge house with cameras everywhere. They had plenty of food, and warm beds, and a hot tub, and everyone just hung out. How many real stars are going to say that they trained in a posh gym, and slept in a warm bed and ate real food when they were training. If Chyna and Mick Foley’s books have taught us anything, it is that real competitors have to struggle to make it in the business.

Oh, and there was some training, too. Here is what I watched the show for. I wanted to see if these kids could handle being in the ring. They had all proved they could talk into a camera and try to make everything sound like a soap opera, so they had half of the needed WWE training, but the other half was a little tougher.

Most of these kids were complaining at the start about taking back bumps. Sure, I can understand a few complaining about the pain (what little there is landing on the ring mat), but it felt like everyone bitched about it.

In fact, I feel that the training part of the show, the part that mattered most, was where the show dropped the ball. They shouldn’t have just done a few months training. They should have done at least a year of training each season. Actually teach the rookies some moves besides the basics. No wonder Maven can only do dropkicks and cross bodies, those are the things he was taught on the show, and OVW just taught him how to master them.

Besides the lack of time to train all of these wannabes, they also got to train on beaches and fly out to exotic locales and do even more training. Here, they slept in five star hotels and ate gourmet food. Again, what real wrestler actually made it in the business with these conditions. I’ll answer for you, none. Every real wrestler trained in a dingy gym, with a bitch of a trainer, and suffered to master the art of wrestling. These kids whined about basics and were chauffeured in SUVs from the gym to their house or from their new exotic training ground to their hotel. You see why I hate reality TV, it isn’t real.

Anyway, after weeks of whining about bumps and seeming to gain almost no real experience (again, I attribute this to the lack of training on the show), the big day came, when two of these “hopefuls” were weeded out and chosen to be WWE Superstars.

After the winners were announced, you saw them for all of two weeks on RAW or SmackDown!, and they where whisked away to the isle of misfit wrestlers and talent who the WWE doesn’t want to use, Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) or Heartland Wrestling Association (HWA). Here is where these young stars are to sharpen their skills with the year of training that should have been given to them in the first place. But, sadly, when they come back, it feels like little has changed. They don’t seem as green, but they still aren’t clicking on all cylinders.

Now, I shall look back at all of the winners of “Tough Enough” in a segment I will call “Where Are They Now? The Tough Enough Winners.”

Maven’s only real accomplishments are eliminating the Undertaker at the Royal Rumble and winning the Hardcore Championship (and later losing it to Spike Dudley at Wrestlemania X8) twice (he won the title back from Christian later at the same Wrestlemania). Besides that, he is just another RAW/Heat jobber who wins a match one in a blue moon. Oh, and it seems that Maven is clinging to Al Snow like a baby sloth over the last few weeks. Well, Maven’s career can only go up, unless he jobs to Gillberg, then his WWE career can be classified D.O.A.

Nidia’s comeback had her as the Hurricane’s stalker (a stupid storyline to begin with) and this evolved into Nidia de-evolving into trailer trash with Jamie Noble (another great star with a rotten gimmick). Besides this, she embarrassed herself at the Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view (just like everyone else at that PPV), and was used to fuel the Sable/Torrie Wilson feud.

It seems that the Tough Enough I winners aren’t faring so well, huh? Well, let’s see if the winners of Tough Enough II fared any better:

First up, Jackie Gayda. She seemed to have a lot of promise on the show (something I really didn’t think I’d say in this article, that a Tough Enough kid actually showed promise), but after her year at OVW, she has come back as Miss Jackie, the manager to the Adrian Street clone, Rico. But, she hasn’t had enough time to really develop a character, so she slides.

Linda Miles has come back as Shaniqua, the manager of the Basham Brothers. Oh, and she dresses like a cross between Jazz and a dominatrix. Again, she hasn’t had time to develop a real character, so she is pardoned from a final judgment, for now.

And as for Matt Cappotelli & John Hennigan, the two Tough Enough III winners, they are still in OVW collecting skill and experience. I hope the best for them on their way.

Oh, I almost forgot, Josh Mathews (another hopeful from the first season) saw WWE light, as an interviewer and as a commentator on Velocity. So, Nowinski isn’t the only one who made his way without winning the contest. Well, at least they aren’t putting Mathews in the ring, we all know what happens when announcers climb into the ring (**COUGH** Mean Gene vs. Mark Madden **COUGH**).

In fact, if anyone thinks I despise the people on this show, I don’t. I feel that if they fail in the WWE, or in any other promotion, it isn’t entirely their fault. The WWE really didn’t do the show right, and didn’t give the kids enough real training before shipping them to OVW to let Jim Cornette do the real work. Jim can do a lot of things, but he can’t work miracles. Even with the most talented rookie, if you don’t have the time to work with them, and if their previous trainers more or less gave them a thimble full of basic training, you have a long hard road ahead, and the WWE has to get these kids on their shows before everyone forgets about them.

And, after their Tough Enough experience, some of the “losers” (we really don’t want to call them losers, just to be polite) have moved on. While some have been through the indy circuit, others have been on NWA-TNA and some have even earned developmental contracts with the WWE (which was the prize for winning Tough Enough, in case you forgot). So, everything works out for the better, right?

Well, sorta. There are a few black eyes that Tough Enough had that impacted the show, and the major ones happened in the third season.

First, there was Lisa, who went totally bonkers (oops-sorry, I mean “had a psychotic episode”) and was kicked off the show and sent to a padded room for a while. Later, she was seen stalking the WWE (not a wrestler, but the whole damn company!!), and may still be roaming free to this day. [Click here to find out more]

Next, there was Wendell, who I will not even dignify to call a hopeful. This reject from a K-Kwik look-alike convention was winded after only a few minutes and spent most of the audition show on his back whining like a two year-old with a skinned knee. Whatever happened to this total loser, I have no clue. In fact, I really don’t want to know. But, if you feel so inclined, if you know where this joke of a man went after almost sabotaging Tough Enough III, feel free to e-mail me.

And what does the future hold for Tough Enough? Well, the last I heard, MTV wasn’t picking it up for a fourth season (MTV’s reason: “wrestling isn’t cool anymore”), but there is a slim chance (and I mean real slim) of the show making it’s way on TNN.

And, if TNN picks it up, I just might send in a tape. Why not, even if I would make it on and get cut, I might get picked up to be a manager in the WWE (a role I feel I was born to play). And, even if Tough Enough isn’t renewed for that fourth season, I still might send a tape in. The worst Vince and Co. can do is throw the tape out. No big loss.

Written by Emer Prevost (2003)

Related Links:
Tough Enough Kids
Tough Enough Gallery

Brad Dykens wrote (2011): Of course this column was written in 2003, so it is more than a little out of date. However, the overview of the show “Tough Enough” remains the same. As editor of Online World of Wrestling, I thought I’d provide a more up-to-date “Where Are They Now” on some of the former Tough Enough Contestants.

Christopher Nowinski had a short but decent career in the WWE before concussions ended his career. He then devoted his life to researching the effects of head injuries on athletes and created the Sports Legacy Institute (http://sportslegacy.org/)

Greg Whitmoyer had a brief career in independent wrestling under the name “Greg Matthews,” most notably performing for Combat Zone Wrestling.

Josh Lomberger is known as the #4 broadcast announcer behind Jim Ross, Michael Cole, and Todd Grisham.

Maven Huffman had a good run as a mid-carder but is now retired.

Nidia Guenard retired to start a family.

Taylor Matheny retired after a tour of Japan and is now married to Brian Kendrick.

Paulina Thomas made several appearances on some early TNA pay per views as the bodyguard of Disco Inferno.

Jackie Gayda is now retired and has a family with her husband, Charlie Haas. She still does fitness and bodybuilding competitions.

Jessie Ward has worked backstage for both WWE & TNA.

Kenny Layne is known as Kenny King on the independents and has become a star in Ring of Honor.

Linda Miles had a brief run with WWE as “Shaniqua” until an attitude problem sent her into retirement.

Matt Morgan is a big time star in Total Nonstop Action.

Matt Cappotelli spent a lot of time in the developmental system before announcing that he had brain cancer. Matt quietly left wrestling and secretely married girlfriend Lindsey. Not sure of his current status.

John Hennigan became perhaps the biggest star in Tough Enough history as John Morrison.

Marty Wright was totally buried on Tough Enough but still made a lot of money as the Boogeyman.

Nick Mitchell spent time in the WWE as “Mitch” of the Spirit Squad.

Mike “The Miz” Mizanin became the first Tough Enough alumni to win a World championship in 2010.

Ryan Reeves has a contract with WWE and is known as Skip Sheffield, formerly of the Nexus.

Daniel Rodimer spent some time in the developmental system but was later released because he was a cocky idiot.