Saturday, July 20, 2024

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Tough Enough Redux: “Boot Camp or Bust”

Welcome to the first Tough Enough Redux of the new season! I’m still feeling out the format for these, so bear with me. My instinct says that these Reduxes will be much more useful if they break my impressions of each competitor individually rather than exhaustively recapping the entire show. But we’ll see how it goes!

For those who need a reminder, the six women competing to become the newest WWE Diva are fitness entrepreneur Amanda Saccomanno, MMA fighter Daria Berenato, fitness model Dianna Dahlgren, Brazilian athlete Gabi Castrovinci, Australian fitness model Giorgia Piscina and power lifter Sara Lee.

Let’s do a general recap of the events, with the aid of some WWE-published clips.

The field of 13 kicked off the competition by meeting coaches Lita, Billy Gunn and Booker T at the Citrus Bowl, the site of WrestleMania 24.

After a pep talk, the competitors are tasked with their first competition: running the length of the football field twice (once while tied to a parachute, another while toting a sand-filled sack equal to their body weight) and then scaling the steps to the top of the stadium.

Amanda is the first of the women to make it to the top, a feat even she is surprised by. She says she was just “in the zone”.

That night, most of the competitors go out to celebrate making it through their first day. They do some pole dancing and fail at attempting wrestling moves. Later, Sara and Daria, stay home, opting to hang out in the hot tub:

On day two, the second competition calls for the hopefuls to complete a drill as many times as they can stand, running the ropes and bodyslamming a weighted bag.

Dianna, despite her claims of soreness from day one, wins the women’s side of the competition, completing the drill 17 times. Giorgia completes it 11 times.

That night, the sparks fly when Dianna meets up with her fiance and cries when he leaves, showing weakness that Gabi pounces on. After the girls gossip about Dianna behind her back, Gabi launches into an argument with her face-to-face, drawing an audience of the rest of the competitors. Not a great first impression, ladies.

They weren’t alone in their cattiness, though, as their argument was soon followed by one between Tanner and Patrick that almost comes to blows. Looks like everyone needs a lesson in maturity. Which special guest can the WWE invite for that?

At the end of the night, judges Paige, Daniel Bryan and Hulk Hogan each pick one competitor to make up the bottom three. Paige selects Hank who made a sexist comment when talking about ZZ‘s performance in the competition, claiming that he’s the least fit of all the competitors…. even the women. Piss off, Hank. Paige rightfully calls him out on that, and he predictably walks back the comment. He’s joined in the bottom three by ZZ and Josh.

The fans, in a five minute mad dash vote, elect to not save Hank, and he’s the first elimination of the competition. Bye!

On the post-show Tough Talk, Daniel Bryan had some big praise for Daria:

Daniel says she stole his and Brie Bella‘s hearts on the Competition Special when she came out on national television. He jokes that he was lobbing Daria a home run ball when he asked her about the riskiest thing she’d ever done, and she admits she was kicking herself for forgetting to mention that.

But that’s not all: in bonus clips released by the WWE, we see the competitors getting hyped before the first competition, as well as a tour of the Barracks by Paige that turns into a teachable moment for some dishonest tweeters:

If they were actually skipping out on the gym (which we don’t really get clarity on), it takes a lot of balls (or stupidity) to lie so boldly on social media, but I can’t hate them completely – the Florida Mall does kick ass. Although, upon closer inspection, that doesn’t really look like the Florida Mall. Maybe it was the Mall at Millenia. Gotta love Paige’s pronunciation of “mall” too.


Gut Reactions

Here, I’ll break down my impressions of each of the female competitors, based on their performance in the episode.

Amanda: She was the first of the women to complete the stadium challenge. Though she didn’t get a ton of screen time, that accomplishment made her stand out to me amongst the arguing and general cattiness from both men and women.

Daria: She didn’t show much here. Most of what intrigues me about her was already revealed in last week’s competition special: her MMA background and sexual orientation. By no means do I think her being a lesbian should overshadow everything else, but it would definitely be cool for the WWE to sign its first out lesbian. As far as overall favorites to win go, she’s my pick so far.

Dianna: It looks like the producers have certainly found their angle for Dianna: the forlorn fiance. I hope they don’t harp on it too much, because I’m already sick of the weepiness. Her “injury” felt odd too, since she was able to overcome it and complete the most reps in the in-ring competition. That leads me to wonder if she was overselling it, which might indicate a lack of toughness in itself. Still, she won that competition, so she’s obviously no slouch. Of all the women, she came off the most reality TV-esque, which is not going to endear me to her, since I hate most reality TV. The dramatics just make me impatient.

Gabi: A lot of Dianna’s reality TV vibes came from her argument with Gabi, which frankly made me dislike both women. Dianna’s aforementioned weepiness sparked the argument, but Gabi came out looking the worst from it, in my opinion. You can think someone’s being weak, but there’s no need to call them out on it in the first week. Let the competition weed them out if they’re not cut out for it. All this did was set Gabi up to be the season’s uber bitch, which she seems to embrace anyways. Sure, she’ll love the attention, as her pole dancing at the club demonstrated, but she’ll get eaten alive in the Divas locker room if she ever steps near it. Given how political the WWE is behind the scenes, her having a “reputation” this early on could kill her hopes for a Diva career very quickly.

Giorgia: She didn’t stand out much here. The only moment of note for me was her joining in on the Dianna hate. I’m sure they’ll find a way to delve into her Australian roots soon. Have her bond with Emma, Jessie McKay or Cassie!

Sara Lee: She, too, didn’t do much in this episode. Appropriately, she expresses fear that she’d be eliminated for being forgettable. Do something about that! Simply being the “small town girl” isn’t going to cut it.

And hell, why not let Lita and Paige join in on the fun?

Lita: This episode suffered from a distinct lack of Lita due to her previous commitments to the Team Bestie tour, which took her to the UK for much of last week. I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more from her going forward, and I’m excited to see what she brings to the table.

Paige: I was so happy (and frankly, surprised) to see someone call out Hank for his sexist comments about the first competition. They made me flip off my TV when I heard them, but I didn’t expect someone to actually bring it up. Kudos to Paige for doing that and sticking up for the women. She made a big statement to the men in the competition: you’re not going to get away with being a sexist asshole. Only the main roster writers can do that. Good riddance, Hank!



Lastly, I’ll name an MVP for each episode, just to highlight who made the biggest positive impression on me. And the first honor goes to…

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Amanda. She was the first woman to finish the opening challenge and stayed drama-free. As far as this competition goes, that’s the way to my heart: showing your toughness and displaying maturity. Her resemblance to Trish Stratus doesn’t hurt, either, because it lends her the vibe of a woman who’s tougher than one would assume on first sight. We’ll soon see if the comparison extends beyonds looks, but for now, I like her.

That wraps up the first Redux of the Tough Enough season! I’m not crazy about the format of the show so far, but I’m sure they’ll tinker with it as we go along. The live aspect definitely adds a sense of importance, but the less time spent on the reality TV tropes, the better. Sure, you have to expect drama~ in a reality show, but this is called Tough Enough, after all. I’d much rather see them walk the walk instead of talk the talk.

Who’s your MVP for this episode?

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