Hello, Good Morning, or Good Evening – Wherever you are or wherever you may be – and thanks for checking out Wrestling Online’s Tough Enough recap report.
After a five year absence, WWE’s Tough Enough returned last week on the USA Network with an entirely new format and a cast of 13 hopefuls vying for a WWE contract. Over the course of the next ten-or-so weeks, I’ll be sharing with you an official synopsis of each Tough Enough episode, a brief recap of the Tough Talk after show, and some of my own commentary on the episode.
In order to make this report as easy as possible to follow, I’d suggest heading over to the Tough Enough Cast page and re-familiarizing yourself with some of the participants’ names. With the exception of a few notable competitors, many of them seem to get easily lost.
Welcome to Tough Enough Episode 2!
The show kicks off with Chris Jericho and Renee Young welcoming the audience back and reviewing the rules for the competition. Each week, each judge will nominate one competitor to the bottom three, where the fans will then vote for their favorite. The competitor with the least amount of votes will be kicked off the show, unless one of the judges votes to use their ‘save’ on the competitor, which they can do only once during the season.
Jericho begins to recap the previous week and asks the judges to comment on how they feel about this year’s cast. Daniel Bryan comments on how he credits each of the participants on the sacrifice they’re making to be here and credits them for being the standouts among 11,000+ applicants.
Paige quickly interjects, noting that she thinks all of the competitors are incredibly boring and that they need to start standing out more if they want to win. It’s the first of a number of very abrasive comments from Paige during the night.
Meanwhile, in the Barracks…
We cut to the Tough Enough barracks, where some of the competitors briefly discuss Hank’s departure. While there are no outright negative jabs thrown his way, a few comments are made about how he was the obvious choice to go home first as he was just average.
The conversation quickly turns into a bit of a free-for-all as Gabi takes a shot at Amanda for calling her stupid and un-athletic. While Amanda tries defending herself, Dianna quickly sides with Gabi and the two proceed to bash Amanda, going on about how she doesn’t belong in the competition.
All it takes is one comment from Dianna to set the entire house against her. Dianna is immediately called out on her constant nagging about missing her fiancé. While several of the competitors all pile on, it’s Daria that really steps up and gets in Dianna’s face. Daria ends up dubbing Dianna as “Princess Dianna,” in an effort to describe her very prissy and entitled attitude. The comment irritates Dianna enough that she walks out of the room.
With tempers high and subtle jabs being thrown, Alex ends up calling out Patrick about how he’s constantly calling other people out about their wrestling knowledge. Naturally, Patrick fires back at Alex, which results in arguably the dumbest thing you could possibly say on a wrestling reality show…
Alex argues with Patrick that knowing about the wrestling business is not important. He admits he wasn’t a huge wrestling mark prior to entering Tough Enough and that all the knowledge in the world about the business does nothing for your in-ring ability. If you’ve watched any of part of Tough Enough up this point, you can guess this didn’t sit well with Patrick. He yells back probably the best quote of the week, “if you want something bad enough, you educate yourself on it.” He talks about passion and how learning the business shows that you’re serious about this being your passion.
It was a really great speech by Patrick, who clearly cares a lot about the business. To be honest, the entire argument made Alex look like a complete ass and as if he didn’t care about pro wrestling at all, which I’m sure isn’t entirely the case if he’s gotten to this point.
The Swamp Challenge
For the first competition of the episode, the competitors are taken out to the Florida Swamps. The pan across ZZ’s face was pure gold – as he wore a grin from one ear to the other.
Coaches Booker T, Billy Gunn, and Lita meet the competitors at the swamp and brief them on the dangers of the wildlife before explaining the rules of the competition. For this challenge, each of the participants must swim out in the swamp until they reach an airboat, where they’ll find NXT championship belts. After they get on the airboat and get their belt, they must then swim back to the starting line.
The swim itself was probably about 200 meters each way. While it’s certainly not an impossible swim, it’s definitely a challenge if you’re not used to competitive swimming or just don’t know how to swim at all. Combine that with the fact you’re in thick, murky swamp water and it’s easy to see the obstacles ahead.
As soon as the challenge begins, the camera pans out to what looks like an alligator about 50 yards away from where the competitors are swimming. In the diary commentary that’s intermixed in the race, Dianna comments about how it freaked her out. A few more flashes to the alligator and you can clearly see that it’s fake – but from where the competitors are in the water, I’m not so sure if they’d be 100% confident.
Dianna absolutely annihilates everyone in the swim. She’s the first out to the airboat by a longshot. Almost immediately, Alex, Mada, and Patrick start doggy paddling. By the time the bulk of the cast reach the airboat, Dianna is already getting out of the water and finishing – dominating the entire challenge.
Just as the majority of the cast start getting their belts, the Coaches have to throw a lifevest out to Patrick. Only moments later, one of the lifeguards overseeing the competition actually goes full speed into the water to rescue Alex, who was showing serious signs of swimmer fatigue and looked to be drowning. And while Mada doesn’t look much better, he ends up not requiring any additional assistance.
Back towards land, it’s Tanner, Josh, and ZZ battling to be the first of the guys. Tanner ends up hitting a shallow patch in the water, so he stands up and runs in. ZZ and Josh both scream out that it isn’t fair and ultimately finish behind him. While ZZ brushes it off and is just happy to have done so well, Josh and Tanner get in a bit of a verbal exchange about whether or not Tanner cheated. Josh shoves Tanner, who fires back with a big push. Josh shoves Tanner a second time and the two just back away from each other.
For a moment, it looked like it could’ve escalated a bit more.
As the rest of the competitors start hitting land, Booker T sends in a rescue boat to pick up Mada, Patrick, and Alex. Alex and Mada had rescue tubes to help them get to the airboat in the water and, after reaching it on his own, Mada decided he would not be able to swim back in.
Just as the competition wraps up, Billy Gunn notices that Daria’s belt is missing. We come to learn that it fell off her waist as she was swimming and sunk to the bottom of the lake. Billy Gunn blasts Daria, ripping her apart. He calls her out for not wanting this bad enough and not respecting the business, saying that people fight their entire careers to get their hands on a belt – and when they do, they don’t ever let go of it. Daria bursts out in tears, extremely upset about the whole thing.
Back in the Barracks…
We take a brief cut back to the Tough Enough Barracks, where Josh and Tanner are playing a game of pool with one another, recapping the competition. Josh continues on about how he wasn’t happy he didn’t win the swim for the guys and asks Tanner if he’d admit that he didn’t win fairly. Tanner argues that they were never told how they had to swim back in and he just chose the faster path. He continues to egg on Josh about being a better competitor, which prompts Josh to say to Tanner that they can ‘throw down’ any time he wants.
A similar conversation pops up between Giorgia and Daria, who seem to be bonding quite a bit. Daria talks about how Dianna cheated by running out in the water in a shallow area in the beginning and end of the competition instead of swimming the whole way.
In another part of the Barracks, Gabi and Dianna start forging a new bond of their own, despite being at odds just a week ago. Dianna comments that the reason she thinks they’re getting along so well now is because of how everyone in the house hates them both. Patrick, whose blatantly eavesdropping on the conversation, chimes in and suggests the two girls “kiss and make up so that they can seal their new friendship.” After a bit of lobbying, Dianna laughs it off and leaves the room. Patrick then propositions Gabi by asking her if she’d be okay with kissing him instead.
Roman Reigns Visits Tough Enough & Starts the Second Challenge
Virtually the entire exchange with Roman Reigns, we saw in previews and the special feature videos that WWE put out during the week. Roman gave the group a little bit of a pep talk before introducing Bull Dempsey and showing off Dempsey’s brutal top rope bonsai. The only thing worth noting is how Gabi’s immediate reaction to Roman was that “seeing him got her wet,” which made for some really awkward moments in Tough Talk.
We have a quick cut to the judges, where Paige comments on how impressed she is with Dianna after hating her the week before. Hogan chimes in afterwards, saying that he “doesn’t see courage … he smells fear.”
Back in the ring, we finally see the competitors doing back bumps. The entire segment is more or less a super quick highlight reel. After we see everyone do a bump or two, we find out about the second challenge of the episode – a flat back top rope bump! The coaches make sure to mention that the challenge is completely optional. Lita goes so far as to say that she wouldn’t do it herself, given her history with neck injuries.
Of course, everyone does it.
The coaches rigged a platform up to the top rope to give more stability to the competitors and the ring canvas was more of a giant mat to break the impact. Ultimately, it didn’t look too terribly painful – no more than a standard bump.
Patrick looked by far the most natural and Tanner was called out when he tried to get fancy and out-do Patrick. Patrick ultimately won the entire competition, looking smooth in the ring for the regular bumps and for the “super” bump. Giorgia takes the honors for the best of the girls after Dianna is heavily criticized after taking a terrible top rope bump instead of just admitting she was afraid of heights.
We shoot back to the barracks once more before we head to the stage for the live vote. This entire segment was focused around the budding drama between Dianna and Daria. Dianna grows extremely agitated at Daria calling her Princess Dianna and after a scuffle in the kitchen area, goes to vent to Gabi. Daria bursts with Amanda and the four get in a bit of a war of words while the rest of cast sit outside the room with their ears to solo cups pressed to the walls.
Dianna ends up going into ZZ’s room and sweet talking him telling him how cute he is. She asks him to switch rooms with her so that she’s not sleeping with Daria and Amanda and encourages him to fart, snore, and bother them as much as possible. She’s super flirty and so of course, ZZ complies.
The Judges Rule
With the cast reintroduced to the live audience, Jericho turns the floor over to the judges to question some of the competitors. Daniel Bryan brings Alex up and asks him to explain why he thinks knowledge about the business doesn’t mean anything. In a relatively well-though response, Alex says how “knowing all the statistics for a professional sports team doesn’t make you a better player.” He tries to emphasize that he knows about the superstars in the business, just not the “random, regular guys who didn’t make it.” Daniel Bryan seems to accept his answer while Paige fires out, “you’re an idiot.” You’d think the comment was scripted with how perfectly hilariously timed it was.
Bryan argues in defense of Alex that you don’t need to be the biggest wrestling fan all your life for this to be something you eventually become passionate about. Hogan then sides with Paige, saying how you do need to be passionate about the business and you should know about its history.
Most of the rest of the judges’ comments to the cast were forgettable, with the exception of two things. Hogan calls up ZZ to have him explain his comment earlier in the show, where he was talking about how he’s now sleeping in the room with Daria and Amanda and will have to “see if the pie is hot.” The comment itself was completely out of place and made no sense. Nevertheless, Hogan had some fun with ZZ and busted his chops about gimmick infringement, stating that “The Rock is the only expert on pie eating here.” ZZ goes on to clarify his comment by saying “Women are like a nice pie. When they’re too hot, they can really burn you. When they’re cool, they can be really sweet.” Needless to say, ZZ got a big “aww” moment from all the women in the building.
The second notable moment was when Paige called up Amanda and Sara Lee to the stage and called them out on behind bland, forgettable, and not really even remembering their names. Up until this point, this was the only time in the entire episode that Sara Lee’s name was mentioned (when she wasn’t being introduced on stage) or that she appeared on screen in anything that wasn’t a shot of the whole group.
The judges make their selections for the bottom three:
- Daniel Bryan selects Alex for not knowing about the business and downplaying its importance (oddly, considering how he defended Alex earlier)
- Paige selects Sara Lee for having no personality. She also takes a jab at Sara Lee, saying that the only reason she even remembers her name is because it’s the same name as a cheesecake
- Hulk Hogan nominates Dianna for her actions and words always contradicting themselves (she claimed she was afraid of the water, then says she was on the swim team; she claimed to not be afraid of heights but couldn’t take a top rope bump)
The voting process begins and after the commercial break, Jericho checks in to see if any of the judges want to use their once-a-season save. To which – none do.
With an overwhelming 55% of the fan vote, Sara Lee comes out on top. Dianna is barely able to edge out Alex, who becomes the second competitor to be booted from the show.
- It’s a shame that Dianna is so hated in the house. She’s a beautiful girl, a tremendous athlete, and looks extremely comfortable on the microphone. The way she’s portrayed in the show, however, leads me to believe that she’s going to have a very hard time getting enough fan support to stick around should she fall into the bottom three again
- Patrick looked like an absolute stud in the few bits of actual wrestling we saw. His bumps looked incredibly smooth and fluid. His passion for the business is so clear in everything he does – I’d be shocked if he didn’t make it to the finals.
- I feel bad for Sara Lee. She’s cute and quirky and a far cry from a lot of the Divas that are on the roster already. Her personality, to me, is similar to what we saw from former Diva Kaitlyn early on when she was on NXT. Sara Lee does a fairly good job showing her personality off on Periscope, Twitter, and Instagram. But the fact she’s not tangled up in the drama really just makes her an afterthought on the show. I literally forgot she was still on it until she appeared in a group shot during the Roman Reigns bit.
- I’m still not totally satisfied with the format of the show. This week had a bit more time allotted to the actual cast (maybe 30 total minutes out of a possible 42). But still, we’re not seeing any wrestling and the little we do see is blazed through. Even the challenges are shown abbreviated. It’s very clear the producers are trying to manufacture drama. It’s even clearer when you see how well they all get along on their Periscope live streams.
- Paige is feisty! She’s clearly the Simon Cowell of this show, holding nothing back when it comes to criticism. You can clearly tell she had a long, hard journey to get where she is and she’s not remotely about to let someone disrespect the business.
Tough Talk Highlights
- Miz gave Alex a few minutes to further explain his comment about wrestling history not being important. I did feel a little bad for Alex, as he did have a point. Just because you can name the 18th entrant in the 9th Royal Rumble doesn’t mean you’re going to be better at taking a bump. Unfortunately, he was consumed by the argument with Patrick that he made himself look foolish.
- Side note: Can anyone tell me who the 18th entrant in the 9th Royal Rumble was? Tweet your answers to @suggafnshane or leave your comments below!
- After Alex is off the stage, Daniel Bryan expresses his sympathy for nominating Alex and then him going home. He says he feels bad because each of the competitors have sacrificed a lot to be here. Paige is quick to remind Bryan that each and every one of them sacrificed something to be there and continue to make sacrifices. That’s what the business is about. Paige was on fire tonight!
- Miz brings Daria up and pours a little more fuel on the fire with her and Dianna. But afterwards, he parlays the conversation into Daria losing her NXT belt in the water. He gives Daria a chance to explain herself and then announces that they had professional divers go and recover the belt. Miz brings it out on stage and then gives an incredibly passionate speech about how all the people that have come before her have bled for the title and it’s the most incredible sign of disrespect to let the belt out of your sight for a single second. He gives the belt to Paige, who says she’ll give it back when Daria earns it.
- Daniel Bryan, the saint of the judges, chimes back in on Daria’s defense. He says that he doesn’t think it’s right that Mada or Alex still got their belts after the challenge and they didn’t even finish. Paige fires back again, saying that Daria had her hands on the belt and she lost it. That’s worse than not having your hands on it at all.
- Tough Talk got REALLY uncomfortable when Miz brought Gabi back up on stage and asked her to reiterate what she said about Roman Reigns. Miz finds that Gabi’s husband is in the crowd and then proceeds to walk up to him and ask him, to his face, how he feels about Gabi saying “she got wet” at the sight of Roman. The husband gives a pretty stock, respectable answer about how “she’s married to him, she comes home to him, and she sleeps with him,” to which Paige jumps in and says “she apparently wears the trousers, too.” That got a big pop from the crowd and turned the husband’s face the color of a fresh tomato. Miz continues to egg on the husband and asks, “What are you going to do if she wins this competition and she’s on the road 300 days a year with a locker room full of guys who look just as good as Roman.” The husband laughs it off and continues to reiterate that they are faithful and have a commitment to each other.
- Miz heads back on stage and just before he’s about to let Gabi go, Daniel Bryan shockingly stops her to ask one more question. Daniel asks Gabi to remind the audience how many times she’s been married (3) and then makes a comment questioning how faithful she’d really be if she won the competition, based on her comments about seeing Roman. The camera man did a quick cut to the husband, who looked incredibly embarrassed.
- Just before the show wraps up, Miz brings up Giorgia to the stage and gives her a few loaded questions, trying to stir some conflict with Sara Lee. Sara comes to the stage and the two have a cute, giggly exchange where they attempt to make jabs. They’re both far too nice of girls to even try to be mean. Unfortunately, it followed Paige’s rant about how she doesn’t buy the b/s about “not causing drama” and thinks you should be trying to stand out in any way possible at all times.
If you haven’t seen Tough Talk yet, I’d highly suggest checking it out. I’ve found it to be much more enjoyable than the actual show and I think it’s because we really get to know the cast members on a more personal level. The Miz is not afraid to ask anything!
That’ll wrap up this week’s recap. What’d you think about this week’s episode? Who do you see taking the lead as this year’s favorite to win? Are you enjoying the new, more interactive format?