This year’s Tough Enough finale was a little different than past shows. They aired a taped Tough Enough episode for about 40 minutes and then shot live to the RAW crowd in Richmond, VA. The competition then went live with the elimination process taking place in the ring along with some typical WWE shenanigans.
It got a little campy here. They presented the matches as if you were about to watch the finals of The Ultimate Fighter. Bill DeMott cut promos on the kids as if he was really going to go in there and beat them up. For ten weeks, the program presented pro wrestling as a work, so why insult your viewers in the last episode with this dramatic chicanery?
I think the size difference was really evident when they showed both guys warming up for their match. I was watching the show with my wife who hasn’t watched any other episodes and is not a wrestling fan. However, she took one look at Andy and remarked that he looked like a wrestler. She didn’t say the same about Luke. I agree and I have a feeling that is what came across to the audience.
This is where things got a little weird. After two months of build you would expect to see the final matches to determine the winner, right? Nope. They showed a video montage of highlights from both matches. I thought this was really weak and a big disappointment for anyone (me included) that invested the last two months in the program. That would be like The Ultimate Fighter showing fight highlights for the finals instead of offering fans a real fight.
The only thing I can possibly thing of is that the matches were both terrible. If they were good, why not show the matches? The advantage of post production is that if both or one guy had a bad match, they could splice it together and make it look pretty. Even still, they could have edited any botched spots so that is still not a good excuse.
Back in Virginia, the coaches and the entire cast came out first. Andy and Luke were introduced separately. Andy really came out of his shell here in the finals. He showed a ton of charisma coming out and the fans just absolutely loved him. Luke on the other hand came out with a cocky swagger but nowhere close to the intensity of Andy. The crowd didn’t like him and continued to boo him throughout the ceremony.
I should also point out that Bill introduced the cast (all but Rima) right before the final two came out. Jeremiah Riggs got a huge pop from the crowd. That kid had arguably the best personality of any of the contestants. He really has potential to be a fan favorite. I don’t know what the plans were for him but I think he won himself a developmental contract tonight by the fan reaction. No other contestant received anything close to the reception he got. Not even Luke.
Steve Austin asked the trainers who they thought should win the contest. All three of them picked Andy. That kind of surprised me a bit. I figured they’d give worked answers to create drama but they didn’t. The crowd just ate this up. Austin had them each cut promos at this point which seemed written for them. Austin was about to crown the winner a limousine pulled up and out came Vince McMahon.
Seeing Steve Austin and Vince McMahon in the ring together is always a lot of fun. Vince tried to hug Austin who had other ideas. Vince then proceeded to cut an odd promo about Tough Enough and was about to name a winner before Austin stopped him. Austin said it was his show and he was going to crown the winner. Austin then officially named Andy Leavine the Tough Enough winner to a rousing ovation from the live crowd. Luke looked devastated.
For his accomplishment Andy received a nice big slap to the face from Vince McMahon. Quite the welcome from his new boss wouldn’t you say? Austin then proceeded to kick him in the gut and deliver a Stone Cold Stunner. The ceremony went way over the allotted time and wound bleeding into the first ten minutes of WWE RAW.
Some skeptics may contend that this entire show was a big work to get Andy over and that he was a plant. Andy was reportedly submitted by the WWE to the show (the production company picked the others), and he is a former FCW wrestler. On the other hand, who should have beat him? I don’t think Luke was WWE material and Jeremiah needs more training. Christina (who posted on her Facebook that her and Luke were engaged) also has FCW experience so the argument is rather moot.
Andy certainly has a long road ahead of him. Only one previous Tough Enough winner has been successful and that is John Morrison. At 6’5” and close to 300 pounds, Andy certainly has the size to make an impact in the WWE. He is already a big crowd favorite which is half the battle in itself. There is some serious potential with “Silent Rage.” The only thing I worry about with Andy is the WWE rushing him up to the main roster before he’s ready. He’d get eaten up alive if that is the case.
There is no official word on a second Tough Enough season on the USA Network. Bill DeMott tweeted a few weeks ago about Tough Enough 2 tryouts but nothing has been said since. I hope to see more of Stone Cold and his weekly elimination promos in the near future. The finale was a little different from the other shows with a little more of a goofy WWE feel to it. I didn’t particularly care for it but overall I would say it was a great season.