Tough Enough Stuff, Episode 10: Leave It In The Ring

It feels like such a short time ago that I was recapping the WWE Tough Enough competition special. Over the course of two months, 11,000 video submissions became 40 hopefuls, who in turn became the 13 finalists. And now, just as quickly as it started, the journey is complete. One man and one woman proved that they were tough enough. At the risk of sounding too much like a principal at a high school graduation, let me just get on with this recap of the Tough Enough finale, “A Champion is Crowned.”

The Art of the Last-Ditch Effort

I’ve had a ton of fun writing about Tough Enough. I get to crack some of the worst jokes on the internet about this silly reality show that will eventually feed into an even sillier “reality” show, and I haven’t taken that for granted. But for the past two or three weeks, I was really hoping that the end would come soon. I’m a non-confrontational person by nature, and seeing the dwindling cast get increasingly combustible made me feel like some kind of awful voyeur. That creepy feeling came to a head last week, soon after Tanner’s elimination. Once again, we need to talk about Amanda.

I’ll try and give the cursory version of this. If you want gritty details, the dirtsheets are at your disposal. The story is that Amanda publically divulged rumors about Sara’s personal life, both on social media and on Tough Talk immediately following last week’s episode. Once her initial accusations of Sara being a “ring rat” were out in the open, corroborating accounts started to make their way out of the woodwork, but each piece of information was very he-said-she-said. That’s worth remembering here: Nothing produced yet has been concrete. So yeah, the week leading up to this episode was a big, blurry collage of slut-shaming pointed fingers, none of which proved any kind of point or served any kind of purpose outside of making Amanda look incredibly desperate for votes. This incident is mentioned very briefly in the first few minutes of this week’s episode, albeit in that wink-and-a-nod tone that WWE uses when something goes off the rails and results in a decidedly non-PG event.

Everything Amanda has done for votes since being saved by The Miz has backfired, but this isn’t about poor Twitter tactics. You can survive a social media blunder and still achieve greatness, just ask Seth Rollins. This is about feeding the resolve of the members of the WWE Universe who think this “scandal” matters somehow because, let me assure you, it f*cking doesn’t matter. It is 2015, people. My phone is more advanced than the computers NASA used to put men on the moon, we’re smashing subatomic particles together just to see what the hell happens, we have hamburgers with six slices of bacon on them, and some people still insist on getting bent out of shape when women do anything more overtly sexual than they’re conditioned to expect. Assuming that any of these rumors are true (and again, we don’t know that they are), as long as everyone is a consenting adult and no one is getting physically/mentally/emotionally abused, it is a non-issue. And for crying out loud, it’s the wrestling business. In an industry so densely packed with attractive people, just assume that everyone is having sex with everyone else. It is a waste of energy to be accusatory, and it only makes you look that much more desperate. The whole Amanda/Sara relationship reminds me of this image that started making the rounds after the recent Ronda Rousey/Bethe Correia fight.

Who f*cking cares, Amanda? Who. F*cking. Cares.

Anyway, there’s no real challenge for the week because the final four will be having live matches at Full Sail for their final test. Instead, the remaining competitors meet with people from the WWE’s Creative Design department to flesh out their ring gear and entrance music. I really liked this part. This is a section of the WWE machine that you don’t really see that often, and watching them sketch stuff on the fly for these four newbies really gives you an idea of just how good they are. They’re the Imagineers of the Pretend Underpants Fighting world. The cast is sent back to the barracks to work on their pre-match promos, but they’re interrupted when Billy Gunn arrives and tells them who their opponents will be for the live matches. Each woman will go one-on-one with Alicia Fox, and each man will face Cesaro. This is where it all gets crazy.

Amanda vs. Alicia Fox

Amanda makes her debut as Mandy Rose. You’d think the wise move for her would be to take advantage of her situation and cut a heel promo, but as we’ve discussed, wise moves might be a bit beyond her. She starts pretty messy, but, eventually, she nails a pretty good headscissors takedown and sunset flip. Unfortunately, no one told her about selling on offense, so she basically hulks up mid-match and no-sells Alicia’s offense until the end. Speaking of the end, Alicia messes up her scissor kick and ends up turning it into a match-winning flying crotch attack.

Sara vs. Alicia Fox

Sara’s got some problems right off the bat. Her entrance falls kind of flat, plus she chose the ring name “Hope” and she’s billed from Hope, Michigan. Your name is Hope and you’re from Hope? I would say that’s like if my name was Saint Anthony and I was from San Antonio, but no, it’s far worse than that. Her offense looks decent, but there’s not much of a payoff for the armbar finish she chose last week. Amanda hit her finisher without incident, but Sara locked in the submission right under the ropes and had to break it almost instantly. Also, Alicia screws up the scissor kick again. The Bellas are probably figuring out a way to fire her as we speak. All in all, it’s kind of a dead heat for the women. For their first matches in front of a live TV audience, it goes about as well as one would expect.

ZZ vs. Cesaro

So, remember in my G1 Climax recap when I was talking about Ricochet out-wrestling everybody, and I said that even a known miracle worker like Cesaro couldn’t carry a greenhorn to a good match because wrestling is a two-way street? I’m starting to think that I may have been wrong, because Cesaro is PHENOMENAL and he managed to drag ZZ to something that looked a lot like a wrestling match. ZZ’s “King of the Bayou” gimmick is basically the poorest man’s version of King Cuerno from Lucha Underground, just swapping an alligator for the deer head. I kind of want to see what would happen if he became a heel and went all True Detective season one on us. The important thing here is that Cesaro will gutwrench suplex your doughy carcass from here to kingdom come, whether you’re ready for it or not. He gets ZZ up for the giant swing, no-sells his Gator Grip submission, and makes him tap with a crossface. I think he hates this show, and it’s awesome.

Josh vs. Cesaro

Shout-out to WWE for having the foresight to put this match on last, because it was absolutely the most competent one. Although if I’m playing devil’s advocate, Josh’s ring gear was unimpressive (basically just grayish-silver boxer briefs) and he inexplicably started lapsing into Ebonics during his promo. Both Josh and ZZ somehow thought it was wise to steal Cesaro’s Euro uppercut, and Cesaro was very quick to put the fear of God in them. Don’t tug on the Swiss Superman’s cape, guys and gals. In the end, Josh looks pretty credible, delivering some power moves and eating a lot of Cesaro’s big offense, including the Neutralizer.

The Main-Event

Triple H then enters to award the contracts. Sara gets the Divas contract with 64 percent of the vote, while Josh takes the win with 70 percent. And well… that’s it. That’s WWE Tough Enough. Our newest developmental stars are a smiley work in progress and an ex-NFL yeti. Now, the real battle begins. Will they rise to the occasion on NXT? Could they be the bright spots of a future Takeover? Do any of the early castoffs have a future in the WWE? It’s too early to tell… all I know is that I have to end this column in typical fashion.

Week 10 MVP: You. Yes, you. The loyal readers who endured a weird reality show and my incessant pop culture references. I humbly thank you, and I invite you to follow all of my drivel over on Twitter.
Week 10 Jobber: Regressive views of human sexuality that make me devote half the column to a non-issue. Don’t be that person!
Week 10 Dark Horse: Don’s shirt from the competition special.

Check back later today, because I’ll have interviews with the runners-up AND the winners! Thanks for reading, and let me sign your yearbook on the way out!