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WWE Tough Enough 2011 Season Premiere Thoughts

Stone Cold Steve Austin will be at WrestleMania 27If I could see these kinds of Stone Cold Steve Austin promos on RAW every week I’d never tune out. Steve Austin delivered one of the greatest promos in years and Melina continues to get no respect from her WWE peers. Welcome back Tough Enough!

The first episode of WWE Tough Enough in over six years aired Monday on the USA Network. The show is back with a new format. While the show is still about contestants competing to win a WWE contract, in my eyes this show was all about one person and that was Stone Cold Steve Austin.

I give the first episode of Tough Enough a huge thumbs up and that is all a result of Steve Austin. If you missed the Attitude Era of the WWE or are new to pro wrestling, chances are that you have never seen or heard anyone like Stone Cold Steve Austin. By the end of the hour I was reminded not only how great Steve Austin is but just how low the bar has been set for promos in the 2011 version of the WWE.

Let’s start with a quick breakdown of the episode. The cast is mixed with former independent pro wrestlers, beauty queens, reality television personalities, and an MMA fighter. Former WWE superstars Booker T, Trish Stratus, and Bill DeMott run the drills and the training. WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Steve Austin oversees everything and acts as the Dana White of the show but in a much bigger a#$hole way. The coaches and Austin meet at the end of the show to evaluate the talent and pick three to go on the chopping block. The three then get a chance to plead their case to Judge Austin who has zero sympathy or empathy for any of their typical “hard luck” stories and makes the final call as to who leaves the show.

The 2011 Tough Enough cast is mixed up with some very strong and mild personalities. The first bit of conflict occurred when the kids moved into the house (more on that later). Rima told the house she is the current Miss USA. Nobody seemed to believe her and honestly I wouldn’t either. Are there really no prettier women in America? Anyway, Mickael Zaki started poking fun of her and making the usual sexist comments. The other girls rallied behind Rima and the dignified Miss USA started throwing stuff at Zaki (couldn’t that be grounds for termination?). Nothing much came out of this other than Miss USA going from sweet to feisty in seconds.

The front runner of the show appears to be Luke. Amazing that a guy who looks like every WWE wrestler out of FCW is the front runner right? Luke also happened to be the biggest partier in the house. That is going to come back to bite him, I can practically guarantee that.

The kids all live in a gorgeous house that makes the house on The Ultimate Fighter look like something out of Section 8. In the house you have your typical reality show partiers. Apparently they weren’t given the memo that most WWE superstars are supposed to go back to their hotel between matches to play video games, not drink. It didn’t appear that there were many gamers in the house. Luke and Jeremiah seem to be the instigators here. Have these kids ever watched an episode of The Ultimate Fighter? Well some of them did because a few including my old CZW colleague Matt Cross passed on the drinking and instead relaxed or worked out.

The first episode saw them put the kids through a lot of basic drills. Most did well except for a handful including “11 year veteran” Michelle Deighton. Michelle at one point told the coaches she had 11 years of experience. Bad move! Inside the ring she couldn’t even perform a basic bump. Ariane also had a real difficult time bumping.

Michelle’s 11 year comment reminded me of something I heard Raven say a few years back. Raven mentioned in an interview that he was surprised at the lack of experience and skill on the independent wrestling scene. He mentioned that a lot of kids will say they have 5-10 years of experience but in reality those years mean nothing when they only work a few matches a year, never against anyone of experience. Michelle may have 11 years of experience, but the fact she couldn’t take a simple bump is disturbing because there is some promoter out there that has used her and quite frankly, she could have hurt someone badly.

I hate to admit it but I did watch one season of America’s Top Model and that was the episode that featured Michelle. If she is anything like she was back in that season she is going to be a fun character to watch. She has the potential to be a real trouble maker in the house and stir it up. With that kind of personality I’d be surprised to see her leave early.

Steve Austin was just simply awesome throughout the entire episode. He ripped apart the kids during drills. He was in Stone Cold persona the entire show. The highlight of this show and arguably any other WWE programming in the last few years came at the end of the show. The coaches all pick three contestants that they feel aren’t “tough enough.” It is up to Austin to ask them why they should be there and make the final decision based on their answer, just like Gordon Ramsey does at the end of every Hell’s Kitchen episode. I was hoping to see him deliver a stunner to the exiled contestant but no luck.

Austin first asks Ariane who is the least experienced wrestler why she should stay? Ariane gives the typical reality TV canned answer about giving up everything she had to be there. Austin is not impressed and this is awesome. He just rolls his eyes and has zero compassion. He then asks Michelle the same question who responds with another canned answer about wanting to support her daughter, etc. Once again Austin is not impressed and delivers an awesome line, “Do you know how many times I got father of the year?” Eric is last but certainly not least and this is where the fun begins.

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If you are a wrestling fan that isn’t even the least bit interested in this show you owe it to yourself to watch these select few minutes. Austin asks Eric why he should stay and Eric gives a very static answer without any passion which sends Austin into a rage. Austin asks him to reverse roles and ask him why he should be there. Eric asks and Steve Austin cuts arguably one of the greatest promos of his career on this kid. It really is unbelievable to think that Austin wasn’t used to cut one promo before WrestleMania 27 to build up his role after seeing this. As great as this was the fun isn’t over yet.

Austin delivers the second great television moment of the night when he questions Ariane’s passion. Ariane says wrestling is new for her which angers Stone Cold. Stone Cold then asks her what her favorite wrestling match is. She answers, “Melina vs. Alicia Fox.” The look on Austin’s face when she delivers that answer to him is freaking priceless and simply awesome. I actually burst out in laughter with his reaction. Poor Melina! What a slap in the face to the current WWE diva. Hey, at least she didn’t say Marc Mero vs. Jeff Jarrett. That would have sent Austin into a rage! This was just a fantastic television moment.

While it really isn’t fair to compare Tough Enough 2011 to The Ultimate Fighter 13 it is kind of inevitable. The show was a million times more entertaining. The coaches, specifically Austin are worlds more entertaining than Brock Lesnar, Junior Dos Santos, or even Dana White. The show moves a lot faster and has a lot more going on than a typical TUF episode. On the negative, the coaches and Austin are a lot harder on the kids which is kind of ironic in that the fake entertainment coaches would be more difficult than the actual professional athletes.

At one point during a training session Steve Austin comes in on a motorcycle with the Stone Cold music piped in over the footage. That came off really cheesy, otherwise I thought the show came off pretty serious which is a huge improvement over the last Tough Enough competition.

Overall I thought it was a great show. Take Steve Austin out of there and I don’t know if I would go out of my way to see another episode. Austin is beyond great and so good that in fact I think he has given this entire series legs and would be shocked not to see another season. The only negative I came away from the show was thinking to myself just how in the world the WWE could let Steve Austin sit on the sidelines for as long as they did.

MTV’s Behind WWF Tough Enough DVD

WWE – ‘Cause Stone Cold Said So DVD

WWE – Austin vs. McMahon – The Whole True Story DVD

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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