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Return of Tough Enough officially announced for the night after Wrestlemania 27

After being an open secret for months without the hype and on-screen casting call of the previous seasons in the first half of the aughts, WWE and the USA Network have finally announced the fifth (or fourth if you consider the version on Smackdown to be a separate entity) season of the Tough Enough reality show after the concept was shelved for several years.

From the press release:

USA Network has given a ten episode order to "WWE TOUGH ENOUGH," a non-scripted series in collaboration with World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. and Shed Media US. "WWE TOUGH ENOUGH," slated to debut April 4, 2011, will feature a group of twelve individuals looking for an once-in-a-lifetime shot to become the next WWE Superstar or Diva. The grand prize winner will be awarded a contract with WWE, joining its roster of talent.

"WWE TOUGH ENOUGH" will premiere at 11/10c the day after WrestleMania® XXVII and immediately following USA's ratings juggernaut "WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW®." It will then move to its regularly scheduled slot, Mondays at 8/7c, starting on April 11th.

"We're thrilled to tag team with the WWE in bringing TOUGH ENOUGH back to television," said Chris McCumber, evp marketing, digital and brand strategy, USA Network and Jeff Wachtel, president original programming USA Network & co-head, original content, Universal Cable Productions. "By focusing on both the physical and the performance challenges of becoming a Superstar, the show will shine a new light on what it takes to truly make your mark in the WWE universe."

"For years, the return of `TOUGH ENOUGH has been one of the most talked about and speculated topics amongst reality show fans and television industry insiders," said Kevin Dunn, Executive Vice President, Television Production, WWE. "With the combined promotional muscle of USA Network and WWE, the right time slot and the reality show experience of Shed Media, WWE is looking forward to the successful return of one of television's first reality show hits."

The diverse group of men and women will live and train together in a house in Los Angeles. To see who has what it takes to be the next WWE Superstar or Diva, the contestants will battle it out each week in a series of unique challenges designed to test for such characteristics as showmanship, creativity, athleticism and desire, just to name a few. Each episode will feature a current WWE Superstar, who will introduce the contenders to a quality that they must possess to make it to the top of the sports entertainment world. Along the way, viewers will witness the trials and tribulations of what it takes to be one of the best in the world's greatest sports entertainment organization.

Each episode will conclude with the elimination of one of the hopefuls who is left outside of the ring, while those that remain will move one step closer to their dream. In the final episode, the remaining contestants will battle it out for the grand prize.

To get an idea of how things may go, the winners of the previous seasons were:

Season 1: Maven Huffman of the men and Nidia Guenard of the women.

Huffman was seemingly a "best of both worlds" pick.  The other male finalists were Chris Nowinski and Josh "Josh Matthews" Lomberger.  Nowinski was a big guy who was the best talker of the group.  Matthews was the best in the ring by leaps and bounds.  Huffman was a good speaker who had come along pretty well with the limited training, so he got the nod.  Nowinski was quickly hired as well, while Matthews floated around the indies a little bit before joining the company as an announcer.  While he was green, Maven was decent enough that the company dropped the ball in not giving him a serious push as soon as he debuted.  He eventually turned heel after putting on a suspicious amount of muscle and deteriorating as a wrestler before being released from his contract.

On the female side, Guenard beat out Taylor Matheny.  In the ring, they were pretty even, with maybe a slight edge to Matheny.  Neither was much of a promo.  Guenard's win was a surprise, as Matheny was universally considered the prettier one and thus the shoe-in to win.  The only explanation was that Nidia had big breast implants while Taylor didn't.  Matheny stayed in the business for a little while, doing some independent shows before going to Japan to wrestle for the Arsion promotion while training in their dojo.  While in Japan, she met Brian Kendrick, who she later married after quitting the business.  Nidia eventually found her niche as Jamie Noble's valet, but in spite of getting new, more ridiculous implants at one point, the fact that she didn't have the ridiculous bikini body of the other women hurt her standing and she was eventually released.

Season 2: The rules were changed to allow any 2 of the trainees to win.  Female contestants Linda Miles and Jackie Gayda won in a surprise decision that was questioned by many.  Kenny Layne, who kept wrestling and is now Kenny King in ROH, was clearly the best performer of the group both in and out of the ring, but was apparently dropped because he slept with a wrestling fan when the group went on a trip to South Africa.  I guess there's no room for that in the wrestling business.

Miles and Gayda were both terrible wrestlers, eventually becoming valets.  Gayda did a pretty good job as Rico Costantino's second and had a great look, but she was released on the same day as fiancee (now husband) Charlie Haas in 2005.  She went to TNA before pretty much leaving the business when she got pregnant.  She's done a couple matches since, but is basically done.  Miles wasn't very good as a valet and was released in 2005.  The highlight of her run was not knowing who Lou Thesz was, annoying Jim Cornette to the point that he made the developmental wrestlers in OVW take an open book test about various historic names in pro wrestling.  A ridiculously high amount failed in spite of being told they could look up whatever they needed to online.

Season 3: John "John Morrison" Hennigan and Matt Cappotelli were the winners, this time also being the two best trainees.  The season itself was notable for an incident where Bob Holly beat the hell out of Cappotelli (the "pretty boy" and favorite) during a match even though they had all been told to trust the other wrestlers with their bodies.  This wasn't a relatively safe initiation with stuff like chops or hard shots to the back: Among other unnecessary shots, Holly kicked him in the eyeball.  Cappotelli did great in developmental before retiring due to brain cancer (diagnosed after he went to the hospital to treat a concussion from a chairshot to the head), which he's since recovered from.  He was released by WWE after a few years of inactivity.

After floundering for a few years, Hennigan (as Johnny Nitro) formed MNM with partner Adam "Joey Matthews/Mercury" Birch and girlfriend Melina, a great act that brought them to the main roster and quickly netted them the tag titles.  They split when Matthews' addictions spiraled out of control, starting his singles run where he improved rapidly.  After completing rehab, Birch came back to reform the team, but he relapsed after a severe facial injury and was released (after getting clean, he eventually came back to WWE in 2010 as a member of the Straight Edge Society before getting injured and moving to Florida with a new job as a trainer in the developmental program).  Morrison continued to be pushed, winning the ECW title when he replaced the then unknown to be deceased Chris Benoit against CM Punk, who he feuded with and lost the title to.  He's continued to do well for himself as the most successful alumnus of the original version of the show.

Million Dollar Tough Enough: Consisting of goofy challenges on Smackdown, the finalists were rookie MMA fighter Daniel Puder and Real World alumnus Mike "The Miz" Mizanin.  Puder won, but The Miz made a strong showing and...well, you know the rest.  The "million dollar" prize was actually a 4 year contract at $250,000 per year that Puder could be released from after one year.  Guess what happened.  Anyway, besides Miz's involvement, the most notable thing about the competition was a shoot challenge where Puder keylocked Kurt Angle as the referees were ordered to count a pin on Puder, whose shoulders weren't down.  Angle screamed at Puder that it was supposed to be amateur wrestling even though Angle had won a previous match via submission.

It looks like this season's contestants may have more indy wrestlers than before, so who knows what'll happen?

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