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Tough Enough Season Review: How To Fix the Mistakes

It's been two weeks since the Tough Enough season came to a close.  WWE tried a new approach, mixing live in studio segments with pre-taped segments, and it was a bumpy road for the show that did not perform in the ratings like they had hoped.  And while the show had plenty of flaws, it started finding its footing towards the end of the season.  If WWE decides to try again (and if USA will let them), there are plenty of things that need fixing.

So instead of doing a normal review of the season, instead I'm going to mention the major flaws of the show and how WWE can consider changing them.

1)  Focus on Wrestling

This biggest problem with this season is it was a battle between drama and wrestling and drama always seemed to win.  Early on, more time was spent on the drama in the barracks and with challenges that had nothing to do with wrestling.  This is a wrestling show.  Your audience are mainly wrestling fans.  Show wrestling.

They don't need to ditch the non-wrestling challenges all together.  They had their moments, but they took up way too much of the episodes.  Fans don't really want to see these contestants run obstacle courses for a third of the show week after week.

The show needs to focus on wrestling.  The drama will come naturally with that.  Of course, there won't be full wrestling challenges early on because these contestants are mainly starting from scratch.  But let's see some more training and what goes into it.  Let's see more of these people going from learning to run the ropes to wrestling that match in the season finale.

2)  The Voting System

Tough Enough was a show who's goal is to find the person who is the best next WWE male and female Superstar.  So what did they do with the voting?

Turn it into a popularity contest.

The voting system this season was as follows:

Three judges pick three people up for elimination.  Then fans vote who they want to stay.  The person with the lowest amount of fan votes is eliminated.  Each judge can save one person during the season.

This lead to people who were for some reason extremely popular on Twitter but obviously not the most qualified cruising all the way to the final four, while qualified people that the judges and constants enjoyed .  Sara Lee and Zamariah (ZZ) were not the favorites of the coaches nor the judges.  In fact they were far from.  ZZ was out of shape and unmotivated.  He made it to the final four. Sara Lee was a slow learner who lacked the in ring personality.  The trainers and judges felt she was far behind her final four female competitor Amanda.  She won it all handily.

There have been plenty of idea of how to alter voting.  One was to have the fans vote for the bottom three and having the judges pick who is eliminated.  That has merit, but I worry that someone like Sara Lee was too popular to be voted in at all and someone who is good but isn't as likable would be there all the time. If they did it that way, I'd suggest giving each judge a swap that would move someone from the Bottom Three in exchange for someone else.

The other idea I had played with was to let the judges choose the bottom three like this year, but also having the each judge cast a vote for who should go home.  The fans would also vote for who they think should go home and that would count as one vote.  While it could be that each judge would always vote for the person they nominated, I think there were multiple times this season that the judges would not have voted for who they nominated.  I bet in many situations, the person they want to eliminate was already chosen so they nominated someone else.  Plus with last minute pleas or chances to redo a challenge could change the judges mind.

In this system, if the judges/fans tie at 2-2, Chris Jericho would act as tie breaker.  Which brings me to the next point.

3)  The Use of Chris Jericho.

Tough Enough tried to get as many people on TV as possible.  Along with special guests (which we'll get to), they had the three judges, and they had Chris Jericho and Renee Young acting as hosts  Jericho's talents were wasted as a host early in the season.  It was only towards the end of the season when they started to utilize him properly, which was around the time the show found its footing.

Jericho should be in the studio, but he should be more integral in grilling the contestants with questions prior to the voting, as he was late in the season.  They also started using him to help the contestants train and work on other skills in the pre-taped segments.  If Jericho is involved in another season, they should definitely continue like this.  In fact, Jericho should act as the conduit between the pre-taped challenges/training and the live tapings.  In a way, he could act as the voice of the trainers who were not at all represented in the live studio portion.  The show never seemed to connect the live and the taped material well.  Chris Jericho could act as that missing connector.

4)  Utilize the live portion of the show more effectively.

Most of the time, Tough Enough didn't know what to do with itself during the live portion of the show where in fact, it could have been the most exciting parts.  Some of the most tense moments this season was when the contestants actually had to perform live.  Whether it was actually wrestling a match in the finale or just cutting a promo or performing an entrance, those were non-edited "Anything can happen" moments which are a big draw in wrestling.

Featuring intermittent live challenges would be a good way to build a special episode.  Have all the contestants do a live ring entrance challenge or promo challenge.  It'll give the show something to do live asides from letting the judges insult each other or allowing the contestants get catty with each other.

5)  Guest Stars

In order to pop ratings, WWE would advertise multiple guest stars that would have little to no impact on the show at best and detract at worse.  There were some time filler segments that were just pointless and would halt the show's momentum.  There was one where Big Show delivered his chest slap to the men.  There was another that the women contestants took an ugly looking splash from Tamina as Team B.A.D. watched.  Both completely killed the flow of the show.

The guests that showed up on the pre-taped segments fit more but rarely felt like they mattered.  They should continue with guest stars, but the ones in the taped segments should have more an impact.  Let's see them actually relay some wisdom about being WWE wrestlers.  And the ones in studio should be used like Cesaro and Alicia Fox in the season finale.  Have WWE stars in live challenges.  Let's see them cut a promo with Kevin Owens live or perform an in-ring sequence with Dean Ambrose.  Make the guest spots mean something.

6)  The wins should matter

The knock on Tough Enough for it's whole run is the winners have never amounted to much, asides from John Morrison in season 3.  While other contestants have made names from themselves, some even finding their way in WWE such as The Miz and Ryback, it has gotten to the point where the actual win has become meaningless.

This is something they can try to rectify this season.  While I would be surprised to see Sara Lee in a WWE ring any time soon, the men's winner Josh does have a chance to be seen in a ring eventually.  And with their developmental system being televised, fans don't have to wait the years for him to get called up to the big leagues.  They can see him earlier in his development on NXT.  Until then, give us some updates on both him and and Sara every few months to show their progression.

Much of this is out of the control of the WWE.  They don't know how quickly Josh will develop of if he'll work out at all.  He just won a contract.  But it would give the show some needed credibility.


Tough Enough had an overall rocky season that was baffling to watch at times.  They started to right the ship towards the very end, but there were still some flaws built into the fabric of the show.  However, these aren't things that can't be corrected to make this live/taped hybrid Tough Enough work.

It's unsure if there will be another Tough Enough season any time soon.  If they do, hopefully they'll address some of these major issues.

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