Tough Enough Stuff, Episode 8: Don’t Smile Like You Mean It

It’s safe to say that the cast of WWE Tough Enough is realizing that it’s all downhill from here. Gone are the extraneous competitors — it’s down to top-caliber athletes and/or fan favorites now. With only six competitors remaining, who will step up to the plate? All that, plus a visit from WWE United States Champion John Cena, on this recap of Episode 8, “There’s No ‘I’ in Team.”

It’s Not Delivery, It’s Jericho

Directly after Chelsea’s elimination, the recruits head back to their barracks only to find Tough Enough host Chris Jericho waiting for them, bearing the gift of pizza. Giorgia is rattled that she came so close to being sent home, wondering why she’s not connecting with the WWE Universe. Bear in mind, she was the picture of perfection up until Week 5, when she went Team Amanda and basically ensured that Sara would end up as the most likable woman on the show. If you’re wondering where you went wrong, how do you not fill in that blank? Make a radical change, and it usually has radical consequences. That’s not a hard conclusion to come to, right? I don’t know, maybe the judges are saving the Cause And Effect challenge for the final week. Meanwhile, someone is finally having the important conversation about the nature of the competition. In case you’re just joining us, star athletes and actual wrestlers like Patrick Clark have been eliminated by the voting public just because they ended up being the least amiable recruit in the bottom three on a given week. Amanda has a problem with this, and she’s not wrong. ZZ disagrees, saying that emotional connection to the audience is vital, and he’s not wrong either. So here we are, in eight weeks into a 10-week program, and we’re only now discovering the problems of manufacturing a sports entertainer via reality show. And while we’re on that subject, I think I figured out how to fix the Tough Enough voting. Basically, they’ve been doing it upside-down. If they go ahead with another season, I think they should flip the process thus:

  1. When votes are opened, fans vote via social media or the app for their bottom three. Everybody casts three votes, one for each of their least favorite competitors.
  2. Using these votes, the least popular competitors are sent to the week’s elimination round.
  3. The three judges then decide (as normal) if they want to use a save, then deliberate and cast their votes for who should go home. The final elimination vote does not have to be unanimous.

So yeah, I fixed Tough Enough for you. Moving on!

Jericho asks the cast about their favorite matches. After hearing their answers, he points out that none of them would be possible without the capacity for in-ring psychology and storytelling. Then he does shots with them. Interestingly enough, this turns out to be something of a challenge on its own, because we find Tanner hung the hell over the next morning. Just from the look on his face, it seemed like one of those hangovers where you start having flashbacks to wars for which you weren’t even alive. Basically, the hangover I had on my 25th birthday. (This paragraph was brought to you by Maker’s Mark 46.)

Bada Boom, Greenest Guys In The Room

In the vein of in-ring storytelling, the recruits are sent to the ring to fine-tune their moves with some added personality. Sara gets called out for her ever-present smile, which isn’t a mark of her not taking things seriously, but rather just the polar opposite of Resting Bitch Face. Granted, it looks a little odd, but it’s not the worst problem to have. She just needs to put some nuance into it. Not even Bayley smiles all of the time, as we see above. From there, the cast is told to pair up and put together a short match. The coaches (as well as Chris Jericho) are really hands-on during this process, and it’s probably the most nurturing we’ve seen them thus far. The twist is that each match will take place in front of the NXT roster, which leads to some pretty interesting moments. ZZ gets a TRUFFLE SHUFFLE (clap clap clap-clap-clap) chant during his match with Josh, which goes pretty well for the both of them. Amanda and Sara put in a decent performance, but Booker T gets on Sara’s case again for her smile. Tanner overachieves with some slimy heel work during his match with Giorgia, but in the end, Josh has the best performance of the day.

I think my favorite part of the episode is the decidedly meta portion where Giorgia and Amanda are looking over the tweets they’ve been receiving. Tough Enough has been billing itself as “24/7 reality” and “the most interactive show on TV,” so it would have been weird if they glossed over this element. First of all, if you’re going to send anything to these two on social media, be constructive. Just tweet them a link to a Meiko Satomura match or something, that’s enough of a mic drop as it stands. Let’s totally ignore their not-always-accurate Regina George mindset of “If they’re talking about us, we must be doing something right” and instead focus on another harsh reality. Say they both get signed to WWE contracts at some point. They probably think it’s kind of cute right now that their phones are blowing up with every passing second, but if this somehow becomes their life, they need to prepare themselves for A LOT more of this. Pro wrestling in the social-media age has given us many weird things, with the weirdest probably being an unfiltered channel for anonymous D-bags to shout unkind, short-sighted, terrible things at celebrities with little to no chance of repercussions. Warhol said we’d all be famous for 15 minutes, but he never knew we could spend all 15 on some kind of perverse Most Wanted list.

I’m starting to see why I got so many of my college papers back with “WATCH THE WORD COUNT” written on them.

…And His Name Is John Cena!

With that, it’s time for the eliminations at Full Sail. John Cena shows up with his shiny new nose to commend the recruits on putting themselves on such a public platform as they develop, and then promptly leaves. Listen, the man’s got weightlifting videos to put on Twitter, he has a very tight schedule. Miz sends Tanner to the bottom three for his lack of charisma, while Daniel Bryan picks Giorgia and Paige elects her old standby, Sara. Daniel Bryan elects not to use his save, and with just 22 percent of the vote, Giorgia is eliminated. Just like that, we’re headed into the penultimate episode next week.

Week 8 MVP: Josh. I look at the Yeti and I see someone who’s got a shot at longevity in the WWE. ZZ and Tanner could quite possibly fill roles, but Josh looks like the star player right now. Just tone down the alpha-male crap, and whatever you do, do not become the WCW Yeti.
Week 8 Jobber: Amanda. I said she was going to be here last week, did I stutter? We already have one Dana Brooke, we don’t need another.
Week 8 Dark Horse: Tanner. When the field is down to five, you don’t really have any longshots, but he’s up against Josh’s ability and ZZ’s personality. He’s got a lot to work against, but I think he has the tools.

And as always, we’ve got an exclusive interview headed your way later today. Check back for Giorgia’s thoughts on the Tough Enough experience!