Monday, September 7, 2015

Tough Enough: $1,000,000 Season

A couple weeks ago the sixth season of WWE’s reality show, Tough Enough aired and the winners were crowned. The show has undergone quite an evolution over the years. The last two seasons aired on USA Network, but with lengthy sabbaticals in between with the two seasons airing in 2011 and four years later in 2015. From 2001 to 2004 however, Tough Enough was on a yearly schedule. The first three seasons were prime time MTV programming and WWE along with everyone else was riding the ‘reality’ TV show craze that erupted with the success of CBS’s show, Survivor at the turn of the century. However, by the third season, the ratings lagged a bit and MTV would opt not to air the fourth season so WWE decided to mix it up a little bit for 2004 by having a couple of Tough Enough segments each week for a couple months on Smackdown to comprise the fourth season of the show. All those weekly segments are compiled into an abbreviated hour long feature that make up the feature presentation for the Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season DVD.

Each week on Smackdown for a couple of months there were two Tough Enough themed segments on the broadcast. One was a pre-taped segment usually showing one of the Tough Enough trainers like Bill DeMott and Al Snow or a veteran WWE star like Big Show or Kurt Angle going all drill sergeant on the Tough Enough recruits to well, toughen them up while they endured a set of physically taxing challenges. The other segment took place inside the ring, and was kind of the equivalent of recent examples like those horrible challenges off of NXT when it was on SyFy before it became WWE’s official developmental territory. Rinse and repeat this formula for several weeks as contestants are eliminated one by one until we have a winner that receivers a WWE contract.

Most of the segments each week were pretty laughably bad. There was one week where the contestants had to come out in drag to showcase their feminine side to the viewing audience, and another week where we had to witness a joust competition where it looked liked the competitors were on platforms and using jousts right out of a kiddy-bouncy-ball-pit. There were a couple of gem segments that unintentionally stood out from the pact. One week Kurt Angle wore out the contestants by making them do countless squat thrusts, he then instantly challenged the winner to an Olympic style wrestling match which he won handedly. He asked the rest of the contestants if they wanted to take him on, and former MMA fighter, Daniel Puder took on the challenge and actually went toe-to-toe with Angle and had him locked in a legit MMA hold until a ref got Angle out of the embarrassing situation by saying Puder’s shoulders were down and was pinned. I am always a sucker when WWE attempts to air a boxing match, and they had the final two contestants compete in a three round boxing match on the 2004 Armageddon PPV and called it a “Dixie Dog Fight.” It actually ended up being quite an entertaining match up.

WWE added a twist this year where the fans voted who stayed on each week, and the contestant with the least amount of votes was eliminated. In addition, the theme of this season is it is the “1,000,000 Tough Enough” where the winner would get a four year contract (although WWE made sure to point out in the ads calling for video submissions that only the first year was guaranteed, remember that for later).

If you have seen a season or two of Tough Enough you should know by now that WWE does not wash their hands of all eliminated contestants and keep on anyone showing real potential. Even from this season’s opening tryout montage you see two guys the WWE kept on, one Marty Wright was cut because he lied about his age, but WWE decide to keep him on and transformed him into the dastardly WWE character known as The Boogeyman who left us with countless Wrestlecrap-worthy moments for the ages.

A few other contestants from this season went on to far greater fame than the winner. Nick Mitchell got a good chunk of TV time for a year when he was prancing around as a member of the Spirit Squad faction. Ryan Reeves is still around, but he did not catch a break for several years later after suffering a few too many nasty injuries, but now you know him as the big guy and current Intercontinental champion, Ryback. Mike “The Miz” Mizannin went on to probably have the greatest fame and has been a regular part of the WWE roster since shortly after the 2004 season of Tough Enough ended. While The Miz’s tenure has had some lulls, it is hard to argue about how successful of a career you had where your shining moment is headlining a Wrestlemania where you pin John Cena. Now what about the winner you ask? Well, Daniel Puder got his guaranteed year, but other than a cameo in the 2005 Royal Rumble where he got the crap slapped out of him, he spent the year in WWE’s developmental territories until WWE decided he was taking up too much salary space and released him at the end of 2005.

Watching the one hour highlight version of the feature on the DVD is the preferred way to go. If you want though, you can watch all the weekly segments in their entirety on the WWE Network right now under the year 2004 in the Tough Enough channel of the WWE Network. They do have a lot of the in-ring portions of the Tough Enough challenges on Smackdown included in their entirety as DVD extras, but I would only recommend watching the Kurt Angle Invitational and the Dixie Dog Fight out of all them. There is around an hour of additional extras like audition tapes and exit interviews with the contestants, along with a few bonus stories from behind-the-scenes incidents. You can find this DVD online pretty cheap, and while the condensed hour long version on the DVD is my recommended way to watch this, I just feel bad recommending you pay money for this season that other than a couple of bright spots was not all that entertaining. You will be far better off watching the 2004 season on the WWE Network instead of shilling out extra dollars for the Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season DVD.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
RoH Supercard of Honor VII
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28
Wrestlemania 29
Wrestlemania 30
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
WWE Network Original Primetime Specials

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