I was just about to post this in Site Bashing, but it came out in a way that seems better suited to this area instead.
With the recent releases of Maven, Jackie Gayda and Matt Morgan, I've been reading a lot of Internet writers say "The Tough Enough experiment is a failure" lately. I just came across it in Ask 411 Wrestling, but I've seen it all over the place, even before Maven, Jackie and Morgan were let go.
I'm not sure why that bothers me quite so much, but it probably has something to do with the usual: everybody reaching for evidence that Vince can't succeed at anything. Here's the thing: The "Tough Enough experiment" wasn't to find the next world champion. The experiment was to create an entertaining and high-rated reality show, and it succeeded for two seasons plus some pretty well-received segments on Smackdown. The winner got a one-year developmental contract because something exciting had to be the prize and because they thought they could capitalize briefly on the popularity of the show by putting the winners on TV. I'm sure a one-year title reign and millions of dollars in merchandise sales for Maven would have been a nice bonus, but that wasn't the point and they certainly weren't counting on it.
Actually, even if you were to judge it in terms of wrestling, I would count Tough Enough as a success -- you had Maven fill a somewhat thankless but necessary role for years, Nidia did some good work with Jamie Noble, Nitro rules in MNM, I hear Matt Capotelli is doing well in OVW, plus Daniel Puder was quite the sensation for a brief period and, who knows, could be big one day. Jackie was never used well but did what was required of her, and even Linda Miles was briefly entertaining with the Bashams. By the way, all these people did quite the estimable job after receiving, relatively speaking, very little wrestling training. I don't know that Maven ever really got any significant training after the month or so of Tough Enough. Considering that, I'd say he did pretty well for himself, and he can work indies forever if he wants.
Seriously, I don't know why Tough Enough gets such a bad rap. I thought it was great entertainment, and I don't even dig reality TV all that much.
Nowinski had barrels of potential as a classic smarmy heel before he was literally battered out of performing.
I liked the show because I liked the rapport Snow had with each class and the individuals. I still wanna know what happened to the guy from the last season's trials who pulled his bicep, ran the course anyway and was given an OVW deal.
"To be the man, you gotta beat demands." -- The Lovely Mrs. Tracker
I don't know how much of a "Tough Enough failed" sentiment there is out there, but I do agree with you that it worked very well while it was on. I don't know why, but I really, really liked that show, particularly the second season, and I wish it was still running. I think it could only work so many times, but I thought each season on MTV was very good. (Never got into the Smackdown version). I really wish another network would give it a shot in its original format. I think if the show itself is entertaining, you have to consider anything after that as gravy. Yes, it would have been great for Maven to have a Lesnar-like run, but those things are pretty damn rare.
I think it's good for the wrestling business when there is a way to get into the product other than just the weekly wrestling shows and the PPVs.
I loved Tough Enough. I still wonder what happened to that Hawk guy. He just disappeared. My wife won't sit through whole wrestling shows, but was glued to Tough Enough. We we thrilled to bump into Nidia at our hotel a few years back. It wasn't "hey it's Nidia from Smackdown" it was "Hey it was Nidia from Tough Enough". I agree Nowinski had TONS of potential. I can even picture him in Evolution. Too bad they couldn't use him as an announcer or something.
I have heard that, of all people, Bull Buchanan was supposed to have a version of this gimmick before his B-Squared character. The words "Waylon Mercy" weren't used in the tidbit that I read (and I can't remember where it came from)