WWF Tough Enough, Casting Special Recap: The Lucky 13
by Mike 'Big Fred Machine' DeGeorge
4000 people applied to be on WWF Tough Enough. 230 were invited to try out. 25 made it past the first round. Only 13 were chosen for the show. See who they were, how they made it, and who failed.
Over 4000 people sent video tapes to try out for WWF Tough Enough. 230 were chosen to come to WWF New York for this special audition. Tonight, those 230 will become 25, and ultimately the lucky thirteen.
We start with a montage of WWF wrestlers telling us how wonderful this opportunity is, followed by highlights of some of the 4000 application tapes. They showed some of these audition tapes during WWF programs back when they were soliciting for tryouts. Let me tell you, there are some SCARY people out there.
Our chosen 230 are waiting outside WWF New York restaurant in Times Square. It’s 6:00 AM, and people have come from all over the world just for the chance to be in the WWF. It seems to be everyone’s dream. Doesn’t anyone want to be a fireman anymore?
We are introduced to our panel: Four anonymous MTV judges, Al Snow, Tazz, Jacqueline, WWF Executive Producer Kevin Dunn, and John “Big” Gaburick, WWF Talent Manager. Over the course of the tryouts, we’ll see various personalities join the panel, such as wrestler Mick Foley and announcers Michael Cole and Jonathan Coachman. Contestants stand in the ring, perform various physical tests, and basically endure verbal abuse from the panel.
We have our first ‘confessional’! It’s from Al Snow! He’s looking for determination, dedication, energy, personality, but most of all, physique. As if to prove the point, John asks a series of hopefuls to state their first name and show their physique. I start to wonder if we’ll get a replay of the stripper tryout scene from Showgirls… “C’mon, let’s see ‘em!”
Throughout the show, different folks introduce themselves and interact with the panel, as well as giving interviews after their auditions. Most of these are the ones who make the final 25. We also get reactions from the panel that the contestants don’t see.
Chris, 23, from North Carolina: Jackie compliments him on his nice body and asks how often he works out. I think we’ve made a Love Connection, folks! She also wants to see his legs. Chris drops trou to the obvious dismay of Tazz and Al. Tazz: “Last time I saw legs like that they were hanging out of a nest!” (I should mention at this point that I am watching this with my girlfriend Maria and her 16-year old son, Jon. Let’s just say that Jackie’s not the only one impressed by Chris.)
Nidia, 21, from Texas: She’s so excited to be in the ring, she just wants to roll around in it and have fun. But we’re serious. She jumps rope for 30 seconds and is noticeably winded. Tazz berates her for this, then for not being ready because she didn’t have the proper shoes. Jackie asks “Do you really think you can haaaang with me??” Oh, it’s on, girlfriend.
Greg, 22, from Pennsylvania: He’s the younger brother who’s tired of always being second-best. I’m sure little brothers all over the world can relate.
We get another montage of clips, this one showing contestants running from one side of the ring to the other, touching the bottom rope on each side. Of course, they show the ones who make fools out of themselves. Our favorite was the guy who almost stepped on his beard trying to bend down to touch the rope and run at the same time. Tazz shows his sensitive side by bitching out a fat guy who falls tail over teakettle. I don’t think he’ll be buying any Tazz merchandise during his stay.
Al Snow points out to the camera that there are a lot of dreamers there. Guys who sat on their couch watching the TV shows, dreaming about becoming a star but not working at it. He says they stand out because they haven’t prepared at all, and it shows. To illustrate, we see another group of clips, this time of people attempting to jump rope and failing miserably. The highlight is a girl whose hair extensions fall out and promptly get caught in the rope.
Pauline, 24, from Colorado: She’s 6’3”. She claims there’s not enough women kicking men’s asses in the WWF. Well, can’t really argue there. She’s tired of the big girls always having to play basketball. Right away I predict that she makes the final 13, simply for the “freak factor.”
Daniel, 25, from Texas: On the other end of the spectrum, we have Daniel, who is barely 5’9”. He claims to combine Western strength with Eastern philosophy. He’s Asian, and he says he wants to do his race proud. He looks impressive for a small guy, and he becomes my favorite. As it turns out, not for long…
It’s Tazz’ turn in the confessional, as he relates how tough it was for him, only being 5’9”. People tried to hold him back his whole career for being short, so he’ll be damned if he’s going to tell any one of these guys that they’re too small.
Josh, 20, from Indiana: He does a front flip into the ring. We cut to Josh’s Mom and Dad. Papa tells the story of when Josh went out and bought his own wrestling ring and put it in their back yard. Mom thinks he won’t make it because he’s too small. She doesn’t think he’s going to be the next “Stone Cold Whatever-his-name-is.” Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence, ma. Love you too. Back at WWFNY, Tazz lays into Josh. He’s got an attitude and Tazz doesn’t like it. Josh tries to argue and Tazz cuts him off. For his part, Josh looks like he can’t decide whether to smack Tazz or cry. Tazz, apparently, just wants to make sure that Josh isn’t a p***y. Yikes. Josh is now my favorite to win the whole thing. Go Josh!
Victoria, 21, from California: She claims to have gone to a stunt workshop where, among other things, she was set on fire. There’s nothing she won’t do and she always wants things her way. Well, yeah, she IS a woman, after all. Anyway, we learn that on her High School water polo team, she kept bottle caps in her bathing suit in order to cut the other girls, since they couldn’t have nails. Al Snow’s reaction is classic: “Hey, why not?” The panel decides they HAVE to take her because she’s so cutthroat.
Tara, 18, from Pennsylvania: She’s known as “Tara Bull.” While waiting, she felt inadequate due to all the, shall we say, enhanced figures of the other women. Al thinks while she’s physically terrible, she’s got a tremendous personality.
William, 25, from Illinois: He’s a bit starstruck. His dad passed away when he was young and he’s had to be a father figure to his little brother, who has not always made the best choices. He’d kick everyone’s ass in the neighborhood if he had to in order to protect his little brother. He wants to prove to himself that he can do something great, and also wants to succeed as a testament to his father.
Again, we have highlights, this time of people jumping side-to-side over a heavy bag on the floor. We miss the entire next interview because we are laughing so hard at the guy whose pants fell down.
Jason, 23, from Maryland: Tazz asks if he has a girlfriend since he’s got to be in the house training for nine weeks. Jason claims that she understands, because it’s his dream. They share an intimate “I love you” with a few million people. Awww. Jason: “I love having emotions.”
Shadrick, 20, from Texas: He doesn’t know if he’s got a girlfriend or not. Okay. Tazz asks what will happen in the house with five women for nine weeks. “I gotta get mine and they gotta get theirs, you know?”
Kristy, 26, from North Carolina: She’s obviously very nervous. She’s reading off a crib sheet and still blowing her lines. They make her do it without the notes and she does a much better job.
They show quick shots of a few other contestants, basically so we can see the panel making fun of them. I often wonder why we don’t get more of this on reality shows.
Al Snow says charisma can’t be learned. You can teach personality and energy, not charisma.
Maven, 24, from Oregon: They tell him to jump over the bag, but as he starts, he winks at Jackie. They stop him. No one can believe he had the guts to do that, and Tazz points out that if he’s selected, he just might get a lot closer to Jackie than he ever wanted. Maven claims Jackie smiled at him first. Ugh.
More shots of people in the waiting room, discussing the age-old dilemma of real or fake. No, not wrestling…the OTHER real or fake. Yeah, those.
Stacy, 27, from Australia: She sold her van to get the money to fly to New York. That’s really… something. She says she’ll be picked because they obviously can’t resist her Aussie charm or her “real puppies.”
Bobbie Jo, 23, from Massachusetts: She’s wearing a matching leopard skin cowboy hat and bikini top, and if she’s not a stripper, I’m Tazz. Her biggest goal in life is to appear in Playboy. Nice to see her priorities are in order. I think we’ve found our Jerri for this show.
Darryl, 25, from Michigan: “The Moose” is 6’7” and 330, and he looks like a big old teddy bear.
Tom, 21, from New York: He’s a cocky one, let me tell you. Actually, let Al Snow tell you: “You like yourself, don’t you?” Tazz can’t wait to get this guy in the ring and break him, and I am rooting like MAD for him to make the show.
The Snowman points out the importance of the promo: it gives the contestants 30 seconds to step out of themselves and connect to their audience. We see highlights of various promos, which consist basically of the contestants getting into their wrestling character.
Kenneth, 28, from Rhode Island: He’s the Evil Custodian. This is unspeakably awesome, as the entire panel is bent over laughing. “Nobody loves the custodian. Those who defy me will be DISINFECTED!!!”
Shabel, 28, from Illinois: He’s Vince’s long lost son. Oof. Well, he’s better than the guy who calls himself the Wolfman and howls. Maybe he should become a disk jockey instead.
We then see a promo which consists of a guy complaining, in character, about having to wait for hours with 200 other people in a restaurant. Wow, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, pal. Tazz stomps into a waiting room and begins to scream at some of the contestants. He understands that there has been a lot of complaining about the long wait. If they don’t like it they can get their (stuff) and get the (fudge) out.
Tazz in the confessional: He never got an opportunity like this. These guys have the chance to become a star. It took him 10 years to get to the WWF. Yeah, he’s hostile, and if you think he’s going to break them down and exploit them physically, mentally, and emotionally, you’re damn right. I think we see now what Tazz meant when he said if we didn’t like him before, we’d hate him after this show.
Taylor, 21, from Washington: She’s doing this without any support from her parents. They don’t think wrestling has any redeeming qualities. She wants to prove them wrong. Wonder how they feel about her tongue being pierced.
Chris, 22, from Massachusetts: He’s a graduate of Harvard and he’s played pro football, which I’m assuming wasn’t the XFL. He doesn’t think there is anything particularly special about graduating from Harvard with honors, but everybody else seems to, so he plans to use it to his advantage. We learn that Chris has been trained by Killer Kowalski, the legendary wrestler who trained current WWF stars Chyna and Triple H. Tazz asks if he has a problem “unlearning what he learned” from Kowalski. Chris doesn’t have a problem with this, since these guys are the best. Snow points out the benefits of brown-nosing.
Finally, they show some of the more ridiculous gimmicks presented by the contestants, including a ‘pregnant hillbilly’ type, complete with bad teeth. All the panel (and the home audience) can do is shake their heads in amazement.
It’s all over. The panel meets in a back office. Al Snow is laying on the floor: “We’ve seen the future of the business. Was it excruciating? NO! It was absolutely SHEER ORGASMIC JOY” and bangs his head on the floor. His head, not his mannequin, Head.
The next day, 230 become 25. Outside, everyone seems excited. It’s still everyone’s dream, and everyone KNOWS they’ll make it.
Inside, the panel have apparently chosen the 25 last night, but they want to double check after having slept on it. They decide that leaving Darryl out would be a big mistake, so they place him into the 25. We never did see whose place Darryl took. I’d be curious to find out. They post the list of 25 in the front door. As I said, most of these 25 are the ones we met earlier.
We get some reaction from the lucky 25 and the unlucky 205. Tara is like “OhmiGAWD.” Most of those outside are in tears. Others just want to get the hell out of there. Greg is glad he’s getting to give it a shot. He doesn’t want to let this chance pass him by, and hopes this can be his 15 minutes of fame. Stacy, our Australian friend, is devastated that she didn’t make it, which is understandable seeing as she sold her van just to try out. An MTV staffer tries to console her, but all she can think about is how unfair it is that she doesn’t make it while Bobbie Jo, who only wants to pose for Playboy, gets her chance.
The 25 meet each other and bond. The general feeling is that it’s incredible that they got this far. I think Josh is about to faint from shock. John comes in and congratulates them. He tells them today, they’ll choose the final 13 after two phases. The first is a comprehensive physical, drug test, bloodwork, and EKG. I watch the contestants at the words “drug test,” but none of them seem overly concerned. The second phase is a series of sit-down interviews with the production staff. John’s best advice is to “be yourself.”
William confides to us that he found out last night that his brother has gotten into some trouble back home. He feels guilty and is unsure whether or not he should just leave and help out, or stay and try to live out his dream. He ends up staying, but doesn’t elaborate any further.
Some quick, MTV-style (yeah, well duh…) excerpts from the interviews. Nidia talks about lap dancing for one person as opposed to performing for thousands. I’m withholding comment here. Victoria went to clown school and hated it. Daniel is an accountant; I knew I liked him. Taylor pierced her own nipples. Okay, OUCH. Chris uses his size to intimidate people. Josh isn’t sure how often he masturbates. Tom hates stupid people, ugly people, fat people. I just hate Tom.
Time to pick the final 13. Someone asks Josh how he feels: “short.” Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley (the real life daughter of WWF chairman Vince McMahon and storyline wife of Triple H) comes out to announce the lucky finalists.
Josh – the little guy that could. Take that, Mom! He’s still my favorite and I’ll be rooting for him to win. The look on his face when he was announced was one of utter shock. Classic.
Jason – Mister Romantic. He plans to teach if this doesn’t work out. Two fairly diverse career paths, one would imagine.
Victoria – she of the bottlecaps. She’ll be interesting, that’s for sure.
Maven – Jackie’s loverboy. Everyone is impressed by his charisma, but I find him rather bland.
Taylor – Well, we know she can take pain. My personal favorite of the women. I’m not sure why, she just seems to have that ‘something.’
Chris – Jackie and my girlfriend should be happy.
Shadrick – Should be interesting to see how much he “gets” in the next nine weeks. Another bland one who I don’t think will be around too long.
Bobbie Jo – Our leopard-skin clad friend. I REALLY don’t like her. She made a comment earlier about how she likes to stand out. Truthfully, I don’t see anything special about her. I understand she’s a beauty queen. Hey, I may be wrong about her, but we’ll see.
Chris – the other one, from Harvard. He seems to have everything together; brains, body, charisma. If I had to make a bet, he’d be my horse.
Paulina – the gentle giant. There’s something about her that I like. I truly hope there’s more to her than just the height.
Nidia – the exotic dancer. She’s got a strong personality, I can see her getting into it with a LOT of people. She will be the breakout star of the show.
Darryl – he almost didn’t make it into the 25, now he’s a finalist. They’ve focused on his size so far. I see Tazz taking out a lot of aggression on him.
Tom – the cocky ass. Oh joy. Over/under for him getting bitch-slapped: five days.
The twelve that didn’t get selected seem (to the camera, at least) somewhat philosophical about it. William is proud to have made it to the 25, and feels he did himself and his father proud. Greg gave it his best shot, but what can you do? Of all the ones we saw, I’m most disappointed that William, Daniel, and Tara didn’t make it. And what’s up with slighting the Evil Custodian? Man, he was right, those guys get no respect.
Cut to shots of the thirteen doing laundry, packing, and kissing loved ones good-bye. They’re off to Stamford, Connecticut, where they’ll stay in a HUGE house together, complete with carpeted walls, foosball table, and hot tub. There’s a note on the door to wait for John, who has the key and will be joining them shortly. As they get re-acquainted, they realize that Tom hasn’t made it yet. Oh, darn.
John shows up and announces that when it came to signing on the dotted line, Tom got cold feet and backed out. I don’t believe that for a second just based on what we’d seen on him so far. Anyway, John introduces us to Tom’s replacement:
Greg – the younger brother. I guess he’ll get his fifteen minutes after all. Greg went from being in the clouds to the lowest of lows, now he’s back in the clouds again, and he couldn’t have scripted it any better. Of all the contestants, he knows for sure how bad he really wanted it because he had his dream taken from him only to get it back.
John lectures the finalists on the house, and points out that the next nine weeks will be the toughest of their lives. They’ll be judged on their performance in the ring, and the physical and mental tests he has lined up for them. They will have 24 hours notice before every cutback.
With that, the contestants find their assigned rooms (and assigned roommates) and settle in. We get shots of the happy thirteen enjoying their new home, as John faces the camera ominously states “They have NO IDEA what they’re in for.”
I was really looking forward to watching Tough Enough, and I wasn’t disappointed this week. We’ve got some fascinating personalities in the final thirteen, and a good six or seven of them look to have what it takes to be a star. I’ve also been hearing a lot of praise from television critics about the show so far, and I’m nothing short of ecstatic. Hopefully, people will start to realize that although wrestling IS fake, it takes a high level of professionalism and athleticism. Wrestling isn’t the joke it used to be, folks.
NEXT TIME: Thirteen people live together in a house. See what happens when they stop being friendly, and start GETTING THE CRAP BEATEN OUT OF THEM. See you next week.
(Special thanks to Eric Szulczewski of The Smarks Wrestling for the plug in his Tuesday News Update. I can’t recommend that site highly enough for some of the best wrestling news and opinion on the internet.)
I appreciate feedback. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments and I’ll do my best to answer them in future installments.
WWF Tough Enough airs on MTV Thursdays at 10PM Eastern.
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