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Tough Enough is a reality show developed by the WWE where participants compete to win a WWE Contract and be the next WWE Superstar or Diva. It originally aired in 2001 on MTV for three seasons, but was dropped. Its fourth season was integrated into Smack Down in 2004, after which the series was canceled until 2011, when it was revived once more with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the host.

Several of the competitors from Tough Enough have been employed by the WWE despite not being the overall winners of their respective seasons, and not all of the winners are still employed by the WWE.

Notable Tough Enough Competitors include:

  • Maven Huffman - TE1 Winner (Notable for being "That Guy Who Won Tough Enough"; employed from 2001-2005)
  • Nidia Guenard - TE1 Winner (Notable for being the valet of cruiserweight star Jamie Noble; employed from 2002-2004)
  • Chris Nowinski - TE1 Competitor (Notable more his post-retirement success as a concussion expert; employed from 2002-2003.)
  • Josh Matthews - TE1 Competitor (Currently works commentary; longest-employed TE alum from 2002-present)
  • Linda Miles - TE2 Winner (Briefly repackaged as "Shaniqua"; employed from 2002-2004)
  • Jackie Gayda - TE2 Winner (Of 'That Jackie Gayda Match' Infamy and wife of Charlie Haas; employed 2002-2005)
  • Matt Morgan - TE2 Competitor (Currently works in TNA as "The Blueprint"; employed from 2003-2005.)
  • Kenny Layne - TE2 Competitor (Currently works in Ring of Honor as Kenny King; wasn't employed by WWE after his time on TE, and went to the indies afterwards.)
  • John Hennigan - TE3 Winner (Repackaged as John Morrison; most decorated TE alum with 5 tag titles, 3 IC titles, and the ECW title; employed 2004-2011)
  • Matt Cappotelli - TE3 Winner (Career was postponed indefinitely due to a Brain Tumor)
  • Daniel Puder - TE4 Winner (only made one appearance after winning; was released in OVW, employed 2004-2005)
  • Mike "The Miz" Mizanin - TE4 Competitor (First TE alum to win the WWE Championship; employed 2005-present)
  • Justice Smith - TE4 competitor (appeared as Gladiator "Justice" in the 2008 revamp of American Gladiators; wasn't employed by WWE)
  • Ryan Reeves - TE4 Competitor (Repackaged as Ryback; employed 2004-2007 and 2008-present)
  • Nick Mitchell - TE4 Competitor (Repackaged as "Mitch" of the Spirit Squad; employed 2004-2007)
  • Andy Leavine - TE5 Winner (Competed in FCW prior to competition, returned there after winning, but released after nearly a year; employed 2010-2011 and 2011-2012)
  • Ariane Andrew - TE5 Competitor (Signed to FCW shortly after elimination, repackaged as Cameron Lynn; employed 2011-present)
  • Christina Crawford - TE5 Competitor (Competed in FCW prior to competition, returned there after elimination; employed 2010-2011 and 2011-present)
  • Matt Capiccioni - TE5 Competitor (Well known on the independent circuit as "M-Dogg 20" Matt Cross, returned to the independent circuit after elimination; wasn't employed by WWE)
  • Rima Fakih - TE5 Competitor (The reigning Miss USA going into TE5; wasn't employed by WWE)

This show contains examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: You have to look up Christina's bio away from anything Tough Enough-related to learn that she's the sister of Alicia Fox (Christina goes by her given last name of Crawford).
    • Or that Andy and Christina competed in FCW prior to the competition.
  • Ascended Extra: A few of the contestants (notably Andy, Christina, AJ and Ivelisse) were in the background for the early episodes but received more screen time as the season went on.
  • Angry Black Man: Inverted and double subverted in the new season. Bill De Mott is definitely the meanest of the trainers but Booker T will snap and be just as tough when he feels like it.
  • Beauty Contest: Rima Fakih in Season 5 entered the competition as the reigning Miss USA.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Trish Stratus definitely. Ryan also showed his mean streak when he was pit against Mickael.
  • Bittersweet Ending: How Tough Enough Season 5 ended, with Season 5 winner Andy being slapped by McMahon and then stunned by Stone Cold.
    • Shaggy Dog Story: He was released early-2012 and since never bad an appearance.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Thankfully nobody died on the show but a double subversion came in the first episode of the new season. Eric seemed like he was going to be eliminated only for Stone Cold to eliminate Ariane instead.
  • Butt Monkey: Every season has one. Ryan never really stood a chance once he garnered the name "Skidmarks"
  • Canon Dis Continuity: John Morrison's guest appearance in Season 5, that totally ignores the fact that he won the third season.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Didn't happen until Christina and Ivelisse were the last two girls, and after that incident it never happened again
  • The Determinator: Could be said for most of the eventual winners and a large number of the runner ups.
    • Averted with Rima "Miss USA" Fakih in Season 5. Everyone agreed she had the mental drive and a determinator-style desire to win, but she simply wasn't able to keep up with the physical demands of the competition, and was eliminated in the fourth episode.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Most of the trainers adopt this persona during the show. But most notably Stone Cold Steve Austin in Season 5, Kurt Angle in Season 4, Bill DeMott in Seasons 3 and 5, Hardcore Holly in Season 2 and Tazz in the original season.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: During the MTV era, the audition episodes saw a number of auditionees who failed to make it as a finalist but eventually ended up with WWE contracts such as Melina, Shad Gaspard, Kharma, The Boogeyman, Daivari and Raw ring announcer Justin Roberts.
  • Elimination Houdini: Stone Cold makes a point to defy this trope in the case of both Rima and Ryan. In Rima's case, she would have been in the bottom 3 for the third week in a row so he eliminated her without picking two others for the bottom three. Same case with Ryan in the next episode.
  • Epic Fail: The first three eliminations in Season Five were all cases of the contestants completely destroying themselves
    • In episode 1, Ariane shot herself in the foot in every way possible, and seriously pissed off Austin during the elimination ceremony (see Too Dumb to Live below).
    • Episode 2, Matt is given several opportunities to demonstrate his implied superiority (based on greater experience than most of the others), and bungles every single chance he gets.
    • Episode 3, Mickael not only failed to understand why he was in the bottom three to begin with, but when put in a Promo Duel with his hated archrival Ryan, he choked horribly, while Ryan gave a promo worthy of Monday Night Raw.
      • In Season 1, Darryl Cross was the very first man eliminated in the season (and thus, the entire series) after falling out during aerobic exercises by claiming he caught the flu on the plane ride to the show's location, goofing off after Triple H's very serious speech about commitment to the business, acting very immaturely to the trainers and the other contestants, and complaining under his breath when Al Snow called him out on a botched move, prompting Snow to shout, "I don't take that from my ten-year-old son, and I'm sure as hell not taking it from you!"
  • Five-Token Band: Justified since they come from all over America.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: Five girls but brunette white (Michelle), blonde hispanic (Ivelisse), black (Ariane and Christina) and Middle Eastern (Rima).
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Ivelisse and Martin from TE5, see Real Life Writes the Plot below.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Season 5's Luke and Jeremiah quickly became this, although it'll be interesting to see if the friendship survives, especially if they end up as the final two competitors, as many suspect will happen.
  • Hey, It's That Guy: Without taking into consideration the Early Bird Cameos, there a few familiar faces:
  • Hypocrite: Trish criticizes Ariane for constantly pulling up her pants in the ring (Even saying that it was her biggest pet peeve), while, as many fans have pointed out, she has had her own share of in-ring wardrobe adjustments.
    • It's probably more to do with the fact that Ariane was doing it during the challenge, ie she was more focused on her wardrobe than the challenge. That would be more like adjusting your wardrobe while doing a move in the ring as opposed to just fixing it when the camera is off.
  • Hidden Depths: Most notable was Michelle who eventually quit the show to spend time raising her daughter. Also before the show Ariane worked as a behaviour therapist for autistic children.
  • In-Series Nickname / Embarrassing Nickname : Bill DeMott likes giving them to contestants, the most memorable being "Skidmarks" (aka Ryan Howe).
    • Martin Casaus (Season 5) was initially tagged as "Donny Osmond" by DeMott, but by the fourth episode the trainers made a specific point of no longer calling him that, in recognition of his excellent performances.
    • Others include Tumbleweed (AJ), Miss 11 Years (Michelle), Miss USA (Rima), Cool Hand Luke (Luke) and Evey (Ivelisse). Ariane also got labelled "Powder Puff" before her elimination.
  • Insufferable Genius: Most of the reason that viewers don't like Luke is that he's the most talented of Season 5's contestants, and he knows it. Worse, he's a massive prick about it.
  • Insult Backfire: AJ Kirsch decided to embrace his nickname "Tumbleweed" and his fans now proudly call themselves Team Tumbleweed.
  • Ironic Echo: In possibly one of the most bizarre instances of this trope, Bill De Mott made fun of Christina's supposed ditziness by saying "pretty bird, pretty bird" on the show. A couple of weeks later, Christina herself posted that on her Twitter account.
  • Jerk Jock: Chris Nowinski was presented as this during Season 1, and then made it his explicit gimmick (crossed with Harvard Snob) when he made his WWE debut.
    • Luke is definitely a natural straight example.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite being a hardass, Stone Cold has had some nice conversations with both Michelle, Rima, and even Ryan concerning their eliminations.
    • As does Bill DeMott, who is good enough to even work with Rima one-on-one and talk to her at length on whether this is something she'd really wants to.
  • Joisey: Mickael, the much maligned contestant from Season 5 seemed to embody this trope to 11, even lampshaded by his Arch Rival Ryan.
  • Licensed Game: Subverted with the WWE game, WWE Day of Reckoning. The game has a tutorial mode featuring Al Snow teaching a pair of rookies how to wrestle. As a bonus, the two trainees are clearly modeled after John Hennigan and Matt Cappotelli, the two winners from Season 3.
    • An episode in season 5 shows the contestants visiting THQ, makers of "WWE All-Stars". They're asked to use the game's create-a-wrestler mode to give Austin an idea of what sort of ring attire and gimmick they'd choose for themselves, as a test of their creativity.
  • Name's the Same: Eric Watts is the big, stiff guy who can't wrestle from Tough Enough. Erik Watts is the big, stiff guy who can't wrestle from early '90s WCW. No relation.
  • The Neidermeyer: Kurt Angle played this role in Season 4, in a deliberate heel move, which gave us the now legendary "MTV Sucks!" line to The Miz.
  • The Nicknamer: Bill DeMott in Season 5
  • Older Than You Think: Season 4 (aka the $1,000,000 Tough Enough) was mostly held at Smack Down tapings in front of a live audience where contestants would take part in challenges (some mundane as dressing up and seducing Hardcore Holly) before asking fans to vote for them online. Add the Fleeting Demographic Rule, and you pretty much have NXT. Ironically, both featured Ryan Reeves (aka Skip Sheffield).
    • Even older than that. The $1,000,000 Tough Enough was pretty much a male version of the Diva Search that had been running for two years.
  • One Judge to Rule Them All: Played with in the revival. All four trainers discuss who's in the bottom three, but they have to appeal to Stone Cold when it comes time to choose who's going home.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: With the exception of John Morrison none of the winners ever made it big in the WWE.
  • Reality TV Show Mansion
  • Really Fourty Years Old: Marty "Boogeyman" Wright in Season 4.
  • Retool: The $1,000,000 Tough Enough pretty much stands out as the most dramatic change to the format. The revival pretty much restores the show back to the original format but refines the elimination contest with a weekly "bottom three".
  • Revival
  • Real Life Writes the Plot / What Could Have Been: Matt Cappotelli, who was a heavyweight champion for WWE's then indy brand, OVW, had his career cut short due to him being diagnosed with Astrocytoma, and the surgery and chemo that followed. He had been at OVW from 2004 to 2007 and released from his contract in 2009, never even reaching the WWE again.
    • During a routine kick-out drill, Martin (season 5) fractured his foot, and was ordered by his doctor to withdraw from the show. Up to that point, Martin had won three skill challenges in a row, and was unquestionably one of the favorites to win the show. Now that he's gone, the consensus appears to be that the last two contestants will be Luke and Jeremiah. It's also worth noting that Martin was pointedly never forced to give Austin his belt to signify his elimination, he was instead asked to hang up his belt on his own, with Austin noting that he IS indeed "Tough Enough", save for this unforseen injury. Ivelisse, who was also injured, was not given this distinction when she was eliminated.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rather than just eliminate the contestants, Stone Cold likes to tell everyone who ends up in his bottom three why they suck. Oddly enough the contestants who end up surviving often gets the worst of it as a way of 'lighting a fire under their ass'.
  • Sensei for Scoundrels: Stone Cold.
  • Shocking Elimination: Arguably Matt Cross considering he had nine years of wrestling experience and watching one of his matches will show that he would be a great addition to the roster.
    • Unfortunately, Matt choked when put on the spot to show his experience, and was swiftly eliminated for it. (See Epic Fail above.)
  • Special Guest: Usually once per episode, a noteworthy WWE wrestler will visit the gym, and give advice to the contestants, and perhaps share anecdotes. In Season Five, the guest star usually gives a lecture that's specific to the theme for the week; for example, Big Show visited during "technique" week, and emphasized in his speech that even "big man" wrestlers like himself have to have excellent technique, they can't only rely on their physicality.
  • Smug Snake: Luke (Season Five) is developing into this. Although he won the first two skill challenges, Martin would go on to win the following three. After Martin's second win, he acted graciously while Luke fumed, pouted, and refused to shake Martin's hand. Luke later whined in the confessionals that the trainers had it wrong and that he was clearly superior.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Not explicitly invoked, but only two of the final nine contestants were female, and both were in danger of undermining each other's chances due to injuries from botched spots and accusations of sabotage. Trish Stratus sat both Christina and Ivelisse down and told them to keep their heads on straight if they planned to survive to the end because "this is a man's game" and petty, cattish behavior isn't going to do either of them any favors. Both heed the advice, but Ivelisse's injury forces Stone Cold to remove her, to the point he says that was the sole reason he eliminated her.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Indirectly delivered by Triple H upon hearing that one of the contestants had hung a Goldberg poster in his room, to both Goldberg and the contestants, while lecturing the group on the level of commitment they need to be successful as a wrestler. Segues into the very best parts of Dare to Be Badass.

 "Who are your idols? Who do you look at and say 'that's what I want to do'? Not 'that's the money I want to make', not 'that's the other TV show I want to be in', not 'that's the spot I want to be in on Jay Leno'. That's the yard. That's the business. That's what I want to do. That's the story I want to tell. You can tell a lot about a guy in this business (from) who he looked up to in this business. (Beat) Then somebody tells me... one of these guys had a Goldberg poster on his wall that had to be torn off. No big deal to me. I think, 'You know, Goldberg. He's in our business. Hell of an athlete'. The question I ask is: If your biggest idol in this business is a guy that's been in this business for about a year, got everything handed to him, can't have a match longer than four minutes, has not wrestled for probably for more than three months straight because every three months he's got a hangnail, he's got a toothache, he's got a tummyache, and he's got to take time off, and I wonder where does that mentally put that person? What does that person think about this business? Is it about what we do? Is it about telling a story? Or is it about being a big jacked-up guy that stands in the ring, is fed a bunch of guys who really don't know what they're doing to mow over? He abuses that. What does that say about someone that has no heart for what we do? No guts, no heart. You get injured, you keep going. You get hurt, you keep going. I've had to be carried to the top of the ramp to go to the ring! I've had to be helped up the stairs because I couldn't walk myself to 'em! And I've walked to that ring and I've wrestled for 45 minutes against Vince McMahon. After he fell thirty-five feet on my leg, his big fat ass almost busted it, and I still went to the ring. I'm not bragging.

  I'm not that tough. I'm not tougher than anyone else in our business. But I respect our business. I love our business. I put my life on the line every day for our business and I gladly do it, and I'll continue to do it until I can do it no longer. Not for the fame. Not for the glory of it. Not so I can get laid. No other reason than the love of the business (...) But I question the fact that when somebody has a poster of a guy on their wall that can't suck it up enough to continue when he's on top of the business, when he's on top of the company, and they ask him to go, and he says, 'I'm sorry. I can't. I have to sit home for three months. I can't even make it to TV. I'm sorry, I don't like where the storyline's going, so I can't come in.' I have to question that guy's heart! I've got to question that guy's desire! If got to question whether he just thinks, 'Hell, I'm pretty jacked up. I'm just as big as these guys, so I can stand in the ring with them. As long as they put me over, it don't matter, I'll be a big star. I'll make a lot of money, I'll be famous'. You gotta ask yourself inside where to draw the line. When do you take time off? Do you tape it up and you keep going? Or do you call in sick? (...) You guys have the greatest opportunity in the world, in my opinion, to be in the greatest business in the world. Do not fuck it up. Do not throw it away, 'cuz if you do, you piss on every single person that's come before you. Every single person that's paid their dues, every person that's busted their ass, every single old timer that's busted up and can barely walk, you piss on them.

  • The Runner Up Takes It All: The Most Triumphant Example for the show would be The Miz, who between the fourth and fifth seasons managed to become the only Tough Enough graduate to become WWE Champion.
    • Taken to an extreme with the fifth season where the first contestant eliminated was the first to debut on WWE TV in an active role. Ariane is currently one of Brodus Clay's dancers using the name "Cameron Lynn".
  • Title Drop: In season five's episodes.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In season five, when Ariane was asked by Austin what her all-time favorite match was, she replied with Melina versus Alicia Fox.

 Austin: (trying to hold himself from strangling her) "Out of all the matches in the history of this business, that was your favorite?!"

  • Token Trio: The trainers for the new season - Bill (white guy), Booker T (black guy) and Trish (white girl but Polish and Greek if you want to be specific).
  • Voted Off the Island: Depending on the season, the eliminations are done by the trainers and/or public vote. However ...
    • Non Gameplay Elimination: Many of the contestants have quit the show for not wanting the job as much as they originally expected. The original first season had more quitters than actual cuts by the trainers. Word of God gave this as the reason why the revival has a lot more experienced indy wrestlers than the original series.
      • Ironically, two of the most experienced veterans in the Season 5 roster were some of the first to go. Matt was a nine year indy veteran and considered a potential winner early on, but was eliminated in episode 2 for utterly failing when given a chance to show off his veteran skills. Michelle claimed eleven years of indy experience, but was so out of practice that she performed worse than many of the total beginners, and ended up eliminating herself in episode 3, when she decided that being home with her daughter was more important than a WWE career.
  • What Could Have Been: Chris Jericho was at one point in talks to host the revival, but eventually turned it down to appear on Dancing With the Stars. Jericho admitted that he wouldn't have been Drill Sergeant Nasty as Austin had he hosted.
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