Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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Tough Enough Redux: “Who Are You?”

With the third episode Tough Enough in the books, it’s time for another Redux. This week brings us not one, but two departures from the women’s side of the competition, and they may surprise you. Unless, you know, you’re on Twitter or read this website…

We open with the contestants mid-discussion at the Barracks. Sara is lamenting her “forgettable” status, while Dianna is pissed that all of her fellow contestants singled her out as the one who should be cut from the show. She says she wants to go home.

She calls up her fiance and just like that, she’s gone. The way this is edited, you’d have no idea she had an actual, pressing reason for leaving. I guess having a paralyzed friend doesn’t play into their narrative of the show. Not cool, Tough Enough.

The next morning, the slumbering contestants are woken up by Billy Gunn, who storms in with a hand crank siren and rushes them out for an early morning workout. It’s then that they all notice Dianna’s absence. Back at the Barracks, they trash talk Dianna some more, pissed that she dropped out right after the judges cut Alex.

This week’s challenge brings them to a prop house, where coaches Lita, Billy and Booker T welcome Seth Rollins. He expounds on the importance of creating a character fans can latch onto. With that in mind, they’re tasked with crafting a persona based off of prompts they pull out of a hat. Giorgia gets “Boss Bitch”, Daria gets “Fallen Angel”, Amanda gets “Barbie”, Sara gets “Queen of Mean” and Gabi gets “Farmer’s Daughter”.

They’re given an hour to explore the prop house and find what they need to bring their characters to life.

As they do this, we’re brought to the live portion of the show, where judges Paige, Hulk Hogan and Daniel Bryan discuss Dianna’s abrupt departure. Paige says it “sucks to suck” and claims that Dianna wasted everybody’s time. Daniel says “good riddance” and Hogan laments the fact that they never got to vote her off. Ouch.

Back to the competition. Lita volunteers Sara to kick off the character test. The “Queen of Mean” names herself Jayde (guess she doesn’t watch TNA…) and sullenly walks down the ramp toting a crown and wearing a studded bra Allysin Kay and Sassy Stephie would be proud of. The judges aren’t impressed.

Daria is next for the women, and comes out in a blonde wig, furry white coat and halo. She’s named herself Angels Have Horns (??????) and drops to the mat when she enters the ring, literally “falling” and stripping off the props to become a darker character who gyrates against the ropes. Booker says he was just confused.

We then have the “Farmer’s Daughter” Gabi – or Gabi Lynn, as she’s named herself. She comes to the ring looking like Becky the Farmer’s Daughter‘s sister. She doesn’t look like that for long, though, because she’s soon stripping a lot of it off. Billy says she needs to keep in mind the sports entertainment aspect of the show and not turn it into a Victoria‘s Secret fashion show.

The “Barbie” Amanda (AKA Candy Rose) is next, walking to the ring like she raided Veronica Lane‘s closet. Gabi clearly doesn’t dig it, because she goes on a tirade about the “fake” parts of Amanda’s body. Threatened, Gabi? She gets a pretty positive reaction from the judges, though Billy warns her about letting her looks do the work for her.

Lastly, there’s the “Boss Bitch” Gabi. She’s named herself Miss Victoria and struts to the ring confidently, walking on the contestants’ side of the ring apron and forcing them back as she enters the ring. The judges compliment her on that, and Lita eventually names her the women’s winner of the competition.

Back at the Barracks, Gabi tries to align herself with Sara, seeing that she might become the new target following Dianna’s departure. Sara seems to like the idea of taking some personality cues from Gabi (not all of them), while Gabi obviously just wants someone on her side against Amanda and Daria.

Meanwhile, the children with self-confidence issues Patrick and Tanner get into yet another argument, which blows up into an actual fight.

After that messiness, when we cut back to the live show, the judges critique their performances. Paige says Sara sucked.

After some discussion about ZZ‘s package, the judges pick their bottom three: Daniel chooses Daria, calling her entrance a mockery of a real entrance. Paige picks Sara, saying that it’s “scary” if she thinks she really brought it with her entrance. She promises to put her in the bottom three every week if she doesn’t step up. Hogan chooses ZZ.

The bottom three are given a chance to redo their entrance as part of their pleas to stay. I don’t notice much of a difference between the first and second tries, Daria still looking like a mess and Sara like a dead fish.

In her verbal plea, Daria talks about her MMA background and says that brings her legitimacy. Sara says she’s going to learn from her shortcomings and do whatever it takes, no matter how silly she looks.

The fans cast their votes, and after the judges decline to use any of their saves, Daria gets the axe. Renee Young immediately swoops in asks for her reaction. She says she’s shocked that she was cut and that she thinks there were others who should have gone home before her. She promises to still make it to the WWE one day and expresses her gratitude at the support the LGBT community gave her.

In a digital extra, Lita reacted to Daria’s elimination:

She believes that Daria really wanted this and that her tears were real. She thinks Sara, despite continuously being put in the bottom three, may be here to stay, as the WWE Universe likes her.

Annnnnd, lastly, watch the Tough Talk post-show below to see the aftermath of Daria’s elimination:


Gut Reactions

Here, I’ll break down my impressions of each of the female competitors, based on their performance in the episode. Lita and Paige get some love too.

Amanda: I wasn’t too crazy about her character. Sure, she was boxed in with the Barbie label (convenient, too, given that she’s the only blonde left), but she relied on some very basic concepts, even veering into the cliche “beauty queen” tropes. Sexiness is a big part of women’s wrestling, but it worries me when she makes it the entire crux of her character. She could have used that opportunity to flip the script a bit and play on the idea of perception and breaking out of the box she’s been placed in.

Daria: The “Angels Have Horns” name makes me wonder if she’s watched wrestling ever. That’s a t-shirt slogan, not a name. Her entrance was just embarrassing, playing like something out of WOW. She tried to stand out and instead gave off the impression that her only exposure to wrestling was the over-the-top 80s stuff. I’m not too sad to see her go, which is strange when she was my favorite going into the competition. She, unfortunately, proved herself to be a little blinded by her own ego. I don’t think she deserved to get the axe out of everyone, but I won’t miss her arrogant quips. Now, if only Tanner could leave…

Dianna: She’s another one I won’t miss, but I’m surprised she left. Granted, there was more to her leaving than the show presented, but I’m going to be the asshole here and speculate that even if she didn’t have a paralyzed friend to tend to, she’d be dropping out soon enough anyways. She just didn’t have the heart to stick it out, and I doubt she’ll give wrestling another thought, despite her promise to continue to pursue it as a career. At least we won’t have to watch the rest of the contestants bully her anymore.

Gabi: It was funny to see Gabi show no sadness towards her enemy-turned-friend Dianna’s departure, but given how quickly she went from screaming at her to aligning with her, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It wasn’t a good look for her to rip into Amanda the way she did. For someone who wants to look like she’s above everyone else, she looked pretty threatened by Amanda’s looks there, pointing out her “fake” bits like a lot of women in wrestling don’t sport the same thing. I really have no warmness towards her, especially with how she’s playing into every reality show trope, even down to building an alliance. This isn’t Survivor or Big Brother, Gabi. Friends can’t save you, but the audience can, and they can see every bit of connivance you put out there. That’s what those cameras are for…

Giorgia: I wasn’t spellbound by her character work, but I guess when I’m familiar with Stephanie McMahon and Sasha Banks – two women who have turned the word “boss” into something special – it’s hard for a newbie to live up to the “Boss Bitch” label. Still, she impressed the most out of the women, and as this is the second week in a row she’s won a competition, she seems to be the frontrunner. I’m really interested in seeing her get in the ring some more.

Sara: She’s trying to break out of the “boring” label, but won’t feed into the bitchiness, as shown by her conversation with Gabi. Gabi was practically inviting her to get catty and tear into her fellow competitors, but Sara didn’t bite. I admire that – it shows that she has integrity and self-awareness, since she knows the audience will be the ones determining her fate. She, unlike Gabi, probably realizes that she needs to be likable to be saved. Well, that or she really just doesn’t want to talk shit. Her entrance was embarrassing, but I’m sure most NXT trainees early on would put on a similarly flat performance. She’s not hopeless, no matter how much Paige wants to rip into her.

Lita: The trainers seem to be getting the short end of the stick here, responsible for training these people but having zero say in who stays or goes home. The judges get the cushy job of showing up on Tuesday night and calling all the shots. It just seems poorly planned, since I’m sure Lita, for instance, has a better idea of who should stay than Paige does, since she spends the better part of the week with them.

Paige: I appreciate that she pulls no punches, but at times it feels like she’s trying too hard at it, like she wants to be the Simon Cowell of the group. She’s got a lot of wrestling experience under her belt, but she’s only been on the main roster for a year, so it’s a little off-putting for her to be the “harsh one” next to a WWE Hall of Famer and a former World Heavyweight Champion. I’m sure she’s picking on Sara just to push her to improve and light a fire under her ass, but it still seems harsh. Surely there are worse things in a wrestling competition than being too nice. She’s not auditioning for Total Divas, for God’s sake.



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…

[media-credit name=”Photo: WWEToughEnough.com” align=”aligncenter” width=”480″][/media-credit]

Giorgia. Again, she’s at the front of female pack. She ran with it in the competition and keeps succeeding. I’m definitely impressed, but I want to get a better idea of how comfortable she – and the rest of the women – are in the ring, because that’s my number one concern. Hopefully we start to focus more on that moving forward, because there’s only so many outside shenanigans I can take and hell, they have to become wrestlers somehow.

I’m interested to see what Chelsea – the women brought in post-show to replace Dianna – brings to the competition, since she has experience in front of a WWE audience (albeit the humiliating kind). I have the sneaking suspicion that Tough Enough has found a new female villain.

Who’s your MVP for this episode?

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