Sunday, March 3, 2024

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Tough Enough Redux: “There’s No I in Team”

With the eighth episode Tough Enough in the books, it’s time for another Redux.

This week, we bid goodbye to another female competitor. Yet again, the format of the show, with its voting method and arbitrary judging decisions, resulted in an undeserved elimination. Boo hiss. On the bright side, there’s only two weeks left! Yes, that’s light you see at the end of the tunnel.

Things kicked off with the competitors being greeted by Chris Jericho at the Barracks. He bonded with them, talking up the importance of storytelling and discussing their favorite matches (GiGi‘s is Lita and Trish Stratus‘s main event Women’s Title match; Sara‘s is Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30).

The next day, they took the storytelling theme to the ring, where they were paired off and given an hour to construct a story for their very first matches. Sara was paired with Amanda, their story being the age old “mean girl vs. nice girl” tale. Giorgia faced off with Tanner, their “feud” being the result of a breakup.

The NXT Superstars and Divas surrounded the ring to watch the matches, adding to the pressure. The trainers sat at a table much like the judges’s table at Full Sail and critiqued the matches.

Sara and Amanda did well, Amanda getting the majority of the praise from the trainers. Billy Gunn even said she looked like she belonged there. Booker T, however, had a big bone to pick with Sara over her perma-grin.

GiGi and Tanner faced off, the crowd really responding to their antics. Giorgia looked good, her only noticeable screw-up coming when she fell on the butt after an arm drag.

The trainers complimented GiGi’s performance, but were confused about her character change. She was booked as the babyface, but played up a heel persona for a lot of the match, which made her look like a wrestling newbie, unaware of how clear cut the lines usually are (cue Vince McMahon screaming, “THERE ARE NO HEELS OR FACES IN THE DIVAS DIVISION!!!”). While I don’t think it’s an elimination-worthy mistake, she shouldn’t be doing that at this stage in the game.

Honestly, this was the most intrigued I’ve been by the show so far: no gimmicky challenges, just wrestling. But judging by how little in-ring training we’ve seen over the past few weeks, who knew they were advanced enough to piece together matches? We should have been following the wrestling so much more closely from the beginning. If we were given a peek at their actual progress, maybe at this point we wouldn’t be held hostage by the whims of the WWE Universe, who seem to be treating this like the wrestling version of Miss America.

Back at the Barracks, Amanda and GiGi bond over hate tweets. Amanda reads aloud some foul stuff, but she’s surprisingly not too phased by it. That’s a good sign for her possible future as a Diva, since we all know their Twitter mentions are a shit storm of hostility and crazy.

When we go to the live portion of the show, John Cena makes a short appearance, looking to be heavily medicated after his nose surgery. Let the poor man rest, WWE. Jesus.

The judges pick their bottom three, Miz choosing Tanner, Paige picking Sara and Daniel selecting GiGi.

From that point, it’s all over for Giorgia. The WWE Universe votes, and unsurprisingly, she’s smoked by the competition. She’s eliminated.

Despite the disappointment, GiGi is very gracious in her post-elimination interview, telling Renee Young that she’s been bitten by the wrestling bug. See you down the road, GiGi!

Lastly, watch the Tough Talk post-show below:


Gut Reactions

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

Amanda: I never thought I’d be rooting for Amanda, but here we are! Don’t get me wrong: I don’t hate her or anything, but Amanda never really stood out in the competition. She was always getting overshadowed by GiGi. She seems to have a huge ego (thanks in part, I’m sure, to The Miz‘s fuckery), so I have a hard time liking her, but when paired up with Sara, she looked pretty competent in the ring. Well, from what we saw of it, anyways. The trainers had nice things to say about her, and I’ll take their word for it. I don’t think she has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the whole thing, but second place is a hell of a lot better than I thought she’d accomplish.

Giorgia: She was my pick to win after Chelsea‘s elimination, and if we’re going by sheer performance, GiGi wiped the floor with everyone from day one. She was winning competitions left and right. So why in God’s name is she not at least in the final two? It all comes down to the shitty formatting of the show. Daniel had no business putting her in the bottom three either, even if her ignorance of the heel/face distinction exposes her lack of wrestling knowledge. Since we’re getting down to the nitty gritty, though, I suppose it was more of a “I don’t want to risk anyone else’s elimination” type of thing. The moment she was placed in there alongside Tanner and Sara, I knew she was a goner. I appreciate the enthusiasm she showed post-elimination though. If she truly has a passion for wrestling, she’ll get a contract. I’m sure of it.

Sara: So apparently Sara is afflicted with the anti-resting bitch face? I know it’s hard to control your face sometimes, but it’s maddening to see her not making adjustments based her trainers’/judges’ biggest criticisms. You just want to scream at her through the screen or jump into her body and do it for her. It just makes her look like she’s dense. We’ve seen her botch in the ring during training, only apologize for scaring her partner when pressed to, fail to demonstrate an engaging personality and write off her foes as “fake bikini models”. Why is she the likable one again? Does it really come down to people sympathizing with her or feeling sorry for her? Shit, I understand people wanting to like the Divas that perform on their TV screens, but she has failed to demonstrate any of the qualities that makes a good female wrestler, namely athleticism, personality and humility. Knowing that she is 100% going to win this sucks, but I wasn’t particularly invested in this season in the first place, so it’s more of a mild annoyance than anything. I’m sure the WWE will eventually sign the likes of GiGi and Chelsea, and if Sara fails to impress, she’ll disappear soon enough. Remember the winner of the last season of Tough Enough? Exactly. Unless, you know, the WWE pulls an Eva Marie and decides to make good on their investment no matter what. In that case, we’ll be stuck with her for a while. Let’s hope she makes some strides post-competition.



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

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Amanda. To be honest, if GiGi hadn’t been eliminated, she would have been my pick for this. She performed well in her match with Tanner, and that couldn’t have been easy, having to perform all of these new moves with a man instead of one of her fellow women. But this isn’t about her. Amanda received a lot of praise from the trainers for her in-ring performance, and I could easily picture her in a NXT ring. She’ll probably get there, but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that it’s not going to be by winning Tough Enough. Unless Sara spontaneously combusts within the next two weeks, she’s winning this. My only hope is that we get this over quickly. Have Amanda get eliminated next week so all I have to do for the finals is sit back and watch the men duke it out. At least that side of the story isn’t already written.

Who’s your MVP for this episode?

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