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April 7, 2011

First impressions of WWE Tough Enough

I’m starting to get back on track after the whirlwind of four-plus days in Atlanta for WrestleMania-related events, and finally watched the season premiere of Tough Enough, which aired Monday night after Raw.

Overall, I was impressed with the show, from the style in which it was shot and edited to the content.

What I was most impressed with was the performance of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. I don’t think WWE could have found a more perfect host for Tough Enough.

Watching the show, I was reminded of just how much of a talent and a larger than life figure he truly is. This was not the “Stone Cold light” character we’ve seen from his occasional appearances in WWE since he ended his active wrestling career. You know, the guy who jokes around, gets the crowd to chant “What?” and then delivers a few Stunners and has a beer bash in the ring.

No, this was the foul-mouthed, tough as nails, dangerous, “Rattlesnake,” the man who turned the wrestling world on its ear in the late ’90s.

While there were some elements of reality TV – a genre that I am definitely not a fan of – on the show that I could have done without, I’ll be tuning in to Tough Enough every week if for no other reason than to watch Austin do his thing.

A few other observations from Monday’s show:

I think Austin definitely made the right in call in making Ariane the first member of the cast to be eliminated. If having a bit of an attitude and constantly pulling up her pants while learning to run the ropes weren’t bad enough, she sealed her fate when Austin asked her what her favorite match of all time was and she answered, “Melina versus Alicia Fox.” A flabbergasted Austin replied, “Who?” When he asked her to name another match that she liked, Ariane was stuck for answer. …

Eighteen minutes into the program we had some of the competitors yelling and throwing things at each other. This is the kind of contrived, annoying reality garbage that just makes me want to turn the channel. …

I have a feeling that Rima Fakih will be on this show until the very end because of the novelty of “Miss USA” pursuing a career as a pro wrestler. Her ghetto chick persona was annoying and seemed forced.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:51 PM | | Comments (36)


I don't know who is picking these Miss USA winners (is it Trump?) but Stone Cold needs to give that girl a stunner to help improve her looks.

I agree with everything you're saying. That Ariane couldn't even be bothered to name a match the man asking the question was in shows that she wasn't even a casual fan. I'm dearly hoping Michelle and Rima are the next two to home.

I'm interested if you have any early picks.

Overall, I was very impressed with the show. Stone Cold was great as host and cut an great promo on Eric Watts. I'd love to see MDogg Matt Cross win it out as he's an awesome wrestler but since they're looking for "entertainers" and not wrestlers, I won't hold my breath. And as for Michelle Deighton saying she has ELEVEN YEARS of experience! Hahahaha. . .

I thought it was a really good show, but the only thing I don't like is that a lot of the guys have some significant experience, while others have none. It seems like they've really stacked the deck to get guys like Luke and the other gymnast guy, can't remember his name, into the final few, while others are basically fodder.

As hot as Miss USA is, as long as Trish is standing there, Rima will only be second best.

The Latina chick isn't bad. And I got to like the big guy Eric. You can keep the rest of the cast, I'll be watching just to see how Stone Cold puts them through the wringer.

" Her ghetto chick persona was annoying and seemed forced." I mean really, wth is that supposed to mean, please clarify because that smells of racism, I hope not because I enjoy your blog.

RESPONSE FROM KE: Did you watch the show? Did you see her cursing and throwing things at the guy who she felt disrespected her? She has also said in interviews that she went to a school "where we would have fights and shootings every day." (really, every day?) Seems to me like she is playing a character -- the beauty pageant winner from the wrong side of the tracks.

I agree with your viewpoints on the show, and I also concur that Miss USA will be kept around a long time for mainstream press. Trish, Booker, and Bill Demott were great also. But if I recall Hardcore Holly used to be a trainer and he was brutal and it was great entertainment. Too bad he is no longer with the company. Personally, I would have liked to see all 3 eliminated. You can tell who has the possibility to be good. I know that's not the format though. Would like to see after the winner is announced, a show where the losers come clean and admit why they wanted to be on the show. Like the broad (I used to love when Kevin Nash used this term) who was eliminated Monday. I just want to hear her say "I'm a publicity skank and I wanted to be seen" or "I wanted to become a wrestler so I could hook up with half the locker room."

I'm not a fan of Stone Cold Steve Austin. He comes off as a bully. Case in point. Why did he get on one of the male contestants about his long hair? After all, Austin wore his hair long in his WCW days. Austin wasn't offering constructive criticism. He seems bitter that his wrestling career came to a premature end and now he is taking his frustration on those who want to get into the business.

His history of domestic abuse doesn't exactly endear me to him either. I know Austin will bring in ratings but given the USA Network's propensity for political correctness I am surprised they would be amenable to having Austin as a host. Because for a moment I thought he was going to assault Ariane after she said her favorite match was Melina vs. Alicia Fox. What was he expecting her to say? Bruno Sammartino vs. Pedro Morales at Shea Stadium? Or perhaps he wanted her to say Austin vs. Hart at WM XIII? Or perhaps Austin vs. Michaels at WM XIV?

As for Rima Fakih, I do sincerely hope her "ghetto chick persona" (as you put it) is an act. Because if it isn't she diminishes the Miss USA pageant. At the very minimum, she's no Miss Congeniality. Then again, the Miss USA Pageant is owned by Donald Trump and Miss Fakih can certainly not sink any lower than Trump has in the past few weeks.

Some of the nicknames are great. Skidmark, Donny Osmond, etc.

I read on a websit that Michelle is 25 years old. She's the one with 11 years of experience (well, not really, but that's another arguement). Does it make sense that she started wrestling around 14? Or is she actually older than that?

I couldnt agree more, literally, i watched the show, i was tired, up late for me, i loved Austin, seemed good, but when the reality crap started, meaning the cursing and fake attitudes, i did say time for bed!! i watched about 20 minutes.

There's no way Miss USA isn't going to FCW at the very least. It's actually insulting to a fan's intelligence to act like they would cut someone with her mainstream credibility.

The show was stated in prior posts... the reality-tv aspect should be canned... I hate it. Just let the training and purity of a desire to be a pro-wrestler be the ultimate drive in the show. @Eric... Don't get so hung up on what Steve does in his "personal" life.. It's all just entertainment.. His persona is the tough as nails, don't give an f about you or your establishment or the folks in it, redneck from Texas, who just kicks ass. That's where it should be left. What he does in his own life outside of TV (just like any other athlete, movie star, etc) even tho TMZ and other low-life gotta get a story, gossip, and trash tabloids make it our business "to know"...It's really not.... Just enjoy the show... It is really good... A little stacked, but The training is something to see!

Kev, the idea that Rima went to that kind of school isn't that far fetched, he's from Dearborn, just a stones throw from Detroit.

I go to school in Dearborn and people don't act that way, which means she's probably originally from Detroit and having grown up there myself, it really is like that in some areas.

I truly dislike reaqlity shows, but I can watch this one probably because of me being a fan of the business. I agree that as soon as she said Alicia Fox and Melina was the most memorable match, I knew she was gone. I know people who don't watch wrestling who cauld have gave a more viable answer to that question. The only thing about this show is, to me it doesn't matter who the winner is. The Miz lost and is now WWE Champion. Mayven won and, well you know the rest. I guess I'm just looking to see who has potential. If Miss USA truly wants to be a diva, I don't think it will matter if she win or not. She will be a diva to at least escort someone to the ring.

Kevin, while I agree 100 percent with your assessment that WWE could not have found a better host in—or iteration of—Stone Cold, I think you're missing a key point here. You may not be a fan of reality television, but the format will reign for the foreseeable future and viewers outside the “WWE Universe” will tune in and mark out for all its tropes and traps.

WWE has suffered mightily at the hands of UFC and UFC has made tremendous strides in marketing its product through The Ultimate Fighter. Showing viewers outside its normal sphere just how physically demanding wrestling is and how hard its superstars and divas really work is likely to attract—at least a few—new viewers to “the universe”.

As for Michelle Deighton, she may not be able to run the ropes, but she was certainly cutting a promo and a half to save her hide at the end of the show.

RESPONSE FROM KE: Let me clarify my remark about reality TV. I love the fact that the training and the competition are real. What I don't like are the obviously contrived arguments and bickering.

So you don't think a pageant contestant can come "from the wrong side of the tracks"? I'm sorry but that's just rubbish. As someone who has lived with and worked with pageant contestants for years (I'm a photographer), I can tell you that not all those girls come from a picture perfect white picket fence background. It seems fairly obvious to me that Rima Fakih is really a "bad girl" at heart but you clearly know nothing about her other than her Miss USA title. For your information, she is a Muslim - and yet she has now appeared on television drinking beer, wearing bikinis and has even won a stripping pole dancing contest. Considering her religious/cultural background, those actions indicate that she's not only brave but she's also far more of a real rebel than Steve Austin.

RESPONSE FROM KE: Did I ever say that a pageant contestant couldn't come from the wrong side of the tracks? As for her background, I know her story very well. What I am saying is that she is embellishing and playing a stereotype for TV purposes. I have no doubt that she grew up in a rough neighborhood, but shootings at her school EVERY DAY? Come one. Think about that for a second.

Hey, I'm not twisting your words. I asked you a question. As an assistant editor, you should know the difference between a question and a statement. You are the one who's actually twisting other people's words. Rima Fakih did not say there was shootings at her school every day. She said there was fights AND shooting every day. There's a difference and once again, as an assistant editor, you should know that. Furthermore, her statement is actually unclear as to whether she meant the fights and shooting were occuring specifically at her high school or whether she meant the fights and shootings were occuring around Flushing Meadows, the borough where the school is located at: Her exact words were "I was in and out of different high schools -- Martin Luther King, where 50 Cent got kicked out of, and Flushing Meadow, where we would have fights and shootings every day. Over there, you have to be tough morning to night. Someone can just stab you because they like your sneakers. I had a few incidents walking home from school. Someone wanted my book bag one time and pulled out a knife." Did you noticed that the fights and shooting remarks came after the name of the borough? Did you noticed that the only specific example she provided actually took place outside her high school? You are just assuming that she said something incredulous and you are doing so out of bad faith. You know that she comes from a rough neighborhood. You know her background. Yet you think she's playing a character. That's just ridiculous. She's not that good an actress and you really should try to be less judgmental on people you hardly know.

And hey, in case you want to argue that your interpretation of her words is the only valid one (which it is not), you should know full well that people can say the wrong thing. It's human nature to make mistakes. After all, you yourself have typed a wrong thing often enough on your blog, only to make a correction after a reader points out your mistake. Another reader here has already wondered whether your comments on Rima Fakih is tainted with racism and while I don't think you are that sort of person, you should really think twice before rushing to conclusions and condemning a person you hardly know as playing a character when you have nothing but your own subjective inference of her words to back up your view. Have a little good faith. The same sort of good faith that you would expect your readers to have instead of jumping to the conclusion that you are bias against TNA or some other stupid nonsense.

Aaron, don't fall when you get off your soapbox. You thought Austin was going to attack the girl who couldn't name a match? What a stupid thing to say.

Eck, the difference between "every day" and "all the time" isn't that big. Rima embellishing that detail doesn't mean she's playing a character. And school shootings do happen all the time, nearly every day, in the slums of America. Rima is my favorite so far, I hope she does well.

I hate to start this comment on a negative note, but I hated Ariane. She was there for the wrong reasons and to gain her "15 minutes of fame." After the show aired, I really had hoped they would have given her spot to someone who actually enjoyed the sport and was at a loss for words when asked questions about the WWE. If she wants to see a great wrestling match, she should YouTube the Austin/Hart match from Wrestlemania 13. That match remains my favorite WWE match of all-time.

In defense of Michelle, when she auditioned for America's Next Top Model a few years ago, the show aired footage of her in the ring. While it didn't show much, she did have experience and it showed. She had a baby a year or two ago with Survivor's Johnny Fairplay who - apparently - big on the wrestling independent scene, so many she's adding those years with him on her "resume." I don't expect her to do well, I honestly think Ivelisse Velez will go the farthest, if not win the contest. I see a lot of potential in her from the women's side.

tell Tim, sensitive dont fly on this blog!! waaaaa

"So you don't think a pageant contestant can come "from the wrong side of the tracks"? I'm sorry but that's just rubbish. As someone who has lived with and worked with pageant contestants for years (I'm a photographer), I can tell you that not all those girls come from a picture perfect white picket fence background. It seems fairly obvious to me that Rima Fakih is really a "bad girl" at heart but you clearly know nothing about her other than her Miss USA title. For your information, she is a Muslim - and yet she has now appeared on television drinking beer, wearing bikinis and has even won a stripping pole dancing contest. Considering her religious/cultural background, those actions indicate that she's not only brave but she's also far more of a real rebel than Steve Austin. "

I didn't know Mrs. Fakih read your blog, Eck.

Who are you rooting for to win this thing so far. Any good first impressions?

RESPONSE FROM KE; Going to need to see more to form any strong opinions.

I was both elated and appalled when I heard that ultimate wannabe say "Well-behaved (people) seldom make history."

I wonder whether Laurel Thatcher Ulrich got to hear that douchebag paraphrase her famous quote.

On the one hand, it misses the entire point. On the other hand, feminism is about equality so maybe it's a natural evolution of the message.

Either way, I'd have been happier if it were stated in a more respectable atmosphere.

What’s wrong with you ANONYMOUS? Have you ever seen daylight? Where your going with that conversation seems to me that you haven’t been around people much…

And this is why this country is going to pot because of clowns like ANONYMOUS who critique each and every last word someone speaks and cries racism at the drop of a hat.

I’m a down home, backwoods redneck. I could be crying foul every day with who I am. Now get over it ANONYMOUS! Your crap is what's making this country go down the tubes.

I'm tired of people like you who get their panties in a bunch because of a simple comment.

Did "Jiffy Lube" give you some time off to write today ANONYMOUS? BTW Slappy, your aspirations of climbing the corporate ladder at “Jiffy Lube” is not as bad as people would think. It’s like what? Only three people at each “Jiffy Lube” shop… You don’t have a far climb, so go get em Dingo!

You ANONYMOUS, are the loner we’ll see on the evening news holding a Marching Band hostage with a Samurai Sword...

You don't like it? Don't read it!!! And since you'll have free time from not reading, GROW UP!

Hey, Tom - grow up. I'm a wrestling fan but as someone who has worked with pageant contestants for years, I simply hate ignorant idiots who stereotype them the same way other people stereotype wrestlers and wrestling fans. If you think that Rima Fakih cannot possibly have any supporters other than herself, then you are an idiot. I hope she wins the contest just to upset people like you and Kevin here.

RESPONSE FROM KE: Just to be clear -- I would not be upset if she won. I think this is getting blown out of proportion. I simply made an observation that it seemed to me that she was playing a character for the cameras. And I still believe that.

As a graduate student at Washington State University, I study racism and understand the problems of Ms. USA using a "ghetto chick" persona. I won't accuse you of racism like others, I blame the entire reality TV genre, and pop culture as a whole, for making women of color as ultra-aggressive, attitude having. The woman eliminated first had to act "ghetto fabulous," not working hard, caring more about her outfit and clothing. This connects to systemic racism and how all reality shows portray all women, especially women of color as aggressive or prissy (Omarosa, Real Housewives of Atlanta, Flavor of Love, etc). You are right Eck, it is an act, reinforced by stereotypes much older than any of us, but kept alive through these types of shows.

Hey, "Big Poppa" - try to follow your own advice instead of being a hypocrite. If you don't like my comments, don't read it. Kevin Eck is not so insecure as to expect that everyone will agree with everything he says. He doesn't worry about receiving criticism from readers like me - and neither should you.

Eck, standing by your opinion in the face of overwhelming contention can be a good trait. In this case, it's making you look bad. For you to judge someone you've never met so harshly based on one episode of Tough Enough is kinda making you look like an a-hole.

Haha wow, I always figured "pageant people" were deranged and this ****-storm over nothing proves it.

"Bubba Army" was nothing compared to the wrath of the outraged pageant freaks!

Anyway for me, Stone Cold is the only reason to watch this show, but he proved in episode 1 that he's more than enough reason.

The philosophies, stories and schooling he gives these kids is so valuable... Stone Cold gave his life and his health to this business and changed it forever.

Anon is Rima Fakih right?

I laughed so hard when Stone Cold said he crapped his pants in the ring and the model chick said "I'd do it!".

Well, you know what ANONYMOUS, its hard not to read an idiots comments like yours.

People come on to read some good natured writing and comments but then there are insecure people like you that read into each word who want to create something thats not there.

Its a wonder you haven't called in Al Sharpton to look into Eck's comments. Your right, Eck doesn't worry about your criticism, but you didn't provide criticism. You spewed some racism crap. Typical for someone who is insecure.

Maybe one day you'll wake up and realize that not everyone who makes a comment is stereo-typing... If someone called me an oversized muscle freak I wouldn't start blabbing away at them saying they called me a "roids" eater and are stereo-typing me because I work out.

Its clowns like you that will never allow this country to move forward.

ECK - thanks for the commentary over the years. I like what you write no matter if I agree or not and I know some of it is tongue in cheek. Keep writing the way you do and just let the insecure comments roll off your back. Some people just have issues.

Now read my words correctly ANONYMOUS so as you don't read anything else in them... Grow up.

Eck was making an observation that it seemed like Rima's interactions (arguments) with the other contestants seemed "forced". I made the same observation and thought she would be one of the last to be booted because reality TV thrives on drama. She will not make it far on talent so it is a smart move on her part "play up" her drama filled out of ring TV time.

Maybe this is what the reality show junkies want, but as a wrestling fan it was annoying. She did come off as a "ghetto chick" and that is not racist. It may be a stereotype, but that is the side of her personality she chooses to show. I think she would be much better off acting like a well behaved Miss USA out of the ring and actually try to make it on in ring skills.

Wow, Big Poppa, you are really coming across as a fool here. Asking me to read your comments carefully when I did not even bothered to respond to them? Why don't you once again stop being a hypocrite and follow your own advice? You clearly did not read my comments carefully. I did not accused Kevin Eck of being a racist. In fact, I explicitly stated that I don't think Kevin Eck is a racist. The only insecure person on this comment section is you, needlessly suggesting that "clowns" like me will never "allow this country to move forward." What makes you think I am even in the same country as you are? I guess you are as much of a dumbass as your namesake.

@ Anonymous
Rama Fakih is not black. You do realize that correct? That being said, maybe the girls should be grouped separately from the guys and trained by female trainers. It's uncomforting to see 500 pound man run down a female with full-force, especially a white man running down a black woman. Puts nasty images in my head like I'm watching something from the Jim Crow era. I think it was normal for a sista looking up to another sista making it as opposed to Stone Cold Steve Austin

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
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