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WWF enters reality TV with 'Tough Enough'
By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Wrestling

They won't be eating any barbecued rats, cleaning out latrines, trying to figure out which one of them is a saboteur or watching from afar as the love of their life cavorts with members of the opposite sex on a secluded tropical island. That's sissy stuff. The thirteen contestants taking part in the new 'Tough Enough' reality show debuting this Thursday at 10:00 p.m. on MTV will be literally risking life and limb to pursue a dream.

 A joint venture by MTV Productions -- the makers of 'Real World' and 'Road Rules' -- and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc., 'Tough Enough' chronicles the daily lives of thirteen pro-wrestler wannabes as they live, train and compete together. One by one over thirteen episodes the contestants are either dismissed by the producers or leave the game on their own accord due to injury, stress or personal reasons. The winners (one female and one male) will be announced on the live series finale. At that time they will receive developmental contracts with the Federation as their reward guaranteeing them a spot on WWF programming.

 For those who are unfamiliar with the personal and physical toll the pro-wrestling business takes on its performers the series promises to be a real eye-opener.

 "Let's face it. The public perception of wrestling as a whole is that it is just a fake B.S. business and I think that when people watch the show they are going to find out just -- and I am not saying this because I am a sports entertainer, professional wrestler or whatever you want to call it -- how truly real this business can be and just how much athleticism it truly takes to perform in the ring," said 'Tough Enough' trainer and WWF superstar Al Snow in a media conference call promoting the show.

 Snow, an unabashed fan of reality programming, jumped at the chance to partake in 'Tough Enough', though he is quick to point out that there is a difference between this series and others that have come before it.

 "You know, it's not 'Boot Camp'. I mean it is definitely not one of those shows. That show sucked!," said Snow. "It is not 'Survivor'...and don't get me wrong I am a big fan of 'Survivor'. I never missed an episode...but it is not about watching to see how much people can degrade themselves for a million bucks. For wrestling fans, this is an opportunity for them to actually see behind the curtain because everything is real."

 As part of Tough Enough's team of trainers, Snow is joined by WWF veterans Tazz, Tori and Jacqueline. It was their job to put the contestants through a demanding training schedule which taught the players how to work a match, how to minimize injury to themselves and others while wrestling, how to safely execute the various intricate maneuvers and an overall appreciation for the business they want to participate in.

 Known as a legitimate tough guy, WWF wrestler and commentator Tazz has been down this road before which is one of the main reasons why MTV and the WWF chose him to be a part of the series. While employed by the now defunct Extreme Championship Wrestling Tazz not only wrestled in the ring but also trained potential grapplers behind the scenes. As viewers will see for themselves, Tazz does not take his role in the show lightly. He is a demanding taskmaster who accepts nothing but the best from his students.

 "My first priority was not to make it easy on anyone because I didn't want to have to answer to my peers. I didn't want my peers to think that I gave someone an easy road to get into our wrestling federation," remarked Tazz who toiled in the business for ten years before joining the World Wrestling Federation. "It kinda got me a little mad when I heard about the type of show we were going to do but I knew it was a good opportunity for myself and I also knew it would be a cool television show. I was mad because I am a firm believer in people coming up through the ranks. I know how long a road it was for me and I tried to condense that into a kind of intensity you don't see in Tazz on WWF television."
WWF superstars and Tough Enough trainers (from left to right) Tazz, Tori, Jacqueline and Al Snow

 The competition and training is so fierce that 'Tough Enough' executive producer Ken Mok, the brains behind 'Making The Band', was genuinely concerned that they wouldn't have enough people left to complete the series.

 "As you will see in the show people get injured, people are really stressed out, people quit because they can't take it, because they are literally not 'tough enough' and we had people dropping like flies. This was not an easy camp to go through by any stretch of the imagination," said Mok who was assisted in putting 'Tough Enough' together by a seasoned reality show crew who had worked on both of MTV's 'Road Rules' and 'Real World' shows.

 In the hour-long series opener premiering Thursday, 230 semi-finalists are narrowed down to just 13 contestants during live auditions which were held at the WWF Restaurant in New York City earlier this year. Answering the casting call are a group of misfits that have to be seen to be believed. It that makes for amusing viewing but also serves to underscore the misconceptions people have of the wrestling industry as a whole.

 "We got all sorts of sloths and animals coming in. I mean, people who shouldn't even be in society. All sorts of horrible human beings," said a disgusted Tazz of the process. "There's wrestlers out there on the independent circuit who have wrestled for years and years who would die for an opportunity like that and they (the possible contestants) come unprepared, out of condition, they don't look right, they look sloppy and they look so unprofessional that it just made me hot."

 Al Snow felt very much the same way, though he took it all in stride.

 "It was pretty obvious the absolute contempt that people have public opinion wise of the wrestling business to show up that way. I mean, guys who should be wearing bras for God's sake and have the nerve to take their shirts off in public? It was ridiculous at times but you expect it and you take it as it comes," he said. "I took into account that there were a lot of dreamers and a lot of wannabes and a lot of couch moisteners that showed up that day thinking that the wrestling business is fake. It didn't bother me because I've dealt with that disrespect towards what I do for a living for the last 19 years so it came as no surprise."

 After the debut episode, the rest of the series will be made up of half-hour shows. Fans can look forward to guest-appearances by other WWF superstars like Mick Foley, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon amongst others. Predicting that the show will be a runaway success, the producers are already hard at work on a video release which will contain unseen footage and segments which could not be aired on television.

  At press time the series has not been picked up by a Canadian network though negotiations by the WWF and interested broadcasters are still on-going in hopes of bringing the series to Canada by the fall.

More on Tough Enough

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