WWE Tough Enough in layman's terms is the WWE's version of Big Brother fused with Total Wipeout. The show encompasses tests of will, fitness & mental capacity in order to find the contestant most suited to WWE life. To the casual viewer, the show provides great insight into the formation of a WWE Superstar.
For those who are unsure of the format, the process starts with thousands of general applications, from those applications 13 contestants are selected and from those thirteen, two (one female, one male) are picked as the eventual season's winners. The 4th season was the only season to have one sole winner. Despite evolving over the years in format, the sense of achievement is still the same for the chosen participants. The lure of a contract of a lifetime and international fame hung in front of the contestants like a carrot to a donkey. Some were willing to go the extra mile for the carrot while others were just looking for that little nibble of fame. The few chosen ones had to embark on quests that would ultimately alter their life paths.
With persistent rumors circulating around Tough Enough becoming a WWE Network special in the near future, here's a trip down memory lane of the worst ever contestants to appear on the show, and a little insight into what they're doing now.
15 Justice Smith
In 2005, the world was introduced to Jesse Justice Smith, Jr. Despite his failure to make an impact on the WWE Universe, excuses can be made on his behalf because of the company he was surrounded by. Being amongst competitors like Ryan Reeves (now known as Ryback) and Mike Mizanin (the greatest IC Champion ever, the Miz) was always going to be difficult. After a low-key exit from Tough Enough, the WWE didn't deem Justice as suitable for the company so they opted against offering him a contract. The 230-pounder then decided to wrestle at indy promotions in an attempt to revive his wrestling career but to little avail.
But someone with his physique was never going to escape work forever. In 2008 he decided to try his luck at a different type of sports entertainment, on the show 'American Gladiators'. Amidst all this jumping of ships, Justice has always had a pretty prevalent acting career starring in hit shows like Gilmore Girls & NCIS. For someone who failed so miserably at Tough Enough, the actor/wrestler has done incredibly well for himself.
14 Paulina Thomas
Her physique was stunning, her looks were breathtaking and she stood head & shoulders above her fellow female contestants, literally. With a height of 6-foot-3, Paulina was a physical specimen. It's just a pity that her domineering presence wasn't reflected in her personality. Many failed to understand why Paulina didn't have the confidence to be a sports entertainer. She may have had the looks but she certainly didn't have the mental capacity to compete. However, despite all her shortcomings, it was a knee injury that forced her to quit the show rather than the inevitable embarrassment of being eliminated.
So where did the 6-foot-3 giant go after Tough Enough? Legend has it that Thomas desperately tried to pursue her wrestling career through a number of indy organizations. But it was eventually TNA that gave her her first breakthrough, as she became the first Tough Enough contestant ever to appear on the rival wrestling program. Things just weren't meant to be and Paulina now works as a Product Marketing Manager at a medical technology firm. It's alright for some.
13 Matt Cross
Matt Cross, whose real name is Matthew Capiccioni, debuted on WWE television in 2011 on Season 5 of Tough Enough. In spite of his extensive wrestling background, Cross was shockingly eliminated from the show on WEEK TWO, yes, WEEK TWO. The same man who had wrestled for several Independent promotions including Ring of Honor in various countries like San Marino & Ireland, was deemed not up to WWE standard. Matt in his previous life had also competed for 10 years in various gymnastic competitions. He had all the tools to succeed and was heavily backed as one of the favorites to sail seamlessly through the competition.
But like all talented wrestlers, Matt has found employment at wrestling promotion Lucha Underground, where he's worked since 2014 under the name 'Son of Havoc'. In February last year he and his two partners became the first ever Lucha Underground Trios Champions. At the tender age of 35, Capiccioni still has many years left in the tank, and a WWE opportunity could still be in the cards....
12 Shadrick McGee
One of the originals and first to grace us with his presence, Shadrick McGee made his name on the inaugural season of Tough Enough way back in 2001. McGee who started off decently, ended his time on the show in disaster. Judges initially thought he had the physique and charisma to make it, but his poor wrestling ability shone through more than anything else over the following weeks. He was embarrassingly removed from the show on episode 5 due to sub-par performances in the ring. McGee failed woefully at the taking bumps task and wasn't deemed fit enough to be in a WWE ring.
After his brief stint on Tough Enough, Shadrick seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. However, despite his disappearing act it was reported that he was seen working a couple of shows for an independent wrestling promotion in Texas back in 2007. Some just aren't cut out for the pro wrestling lifestyle and it's clear that Shadrick has moved on to greener pastures beyond the world of Wrestling.
11 Jason Dayberry
Here's another season 1 veteran, a man who on the surface possessed all the tools to make it in the business. But like we've seen before, it's not all about your athletic ability or physical appearance. Wrestling takes a toll on your mind just as much as it does on your body. Dayberry quit the show over worries about the potential road life he'd have to endure as a professional wrestler. The 240-pounder was unaware how deep the depths of wrestling were and what it truly entailed outside of the ring. In a recent interview, the now-turned pro bodybuilder claimed he couldn't continue with the experience as he had just met his partner and was thinking about starting a family.
As previously mentioned, Dayberry has always been a bodybuilder, even when he tried out for Tough Enough, he had come from a bodybuilding background. Ever since Tough Enough, Jason has gone on to compete in various bodybuilding competitions across the states.
10 Rima Fakih
Stunning & multi-disciplined, but inept in the ring, Rima Fakih first got to properly meet the WWE Universe on Season 5 of Tough Enough, where she only lasted three rounds before she was booted out the door. The beauty model had appeared on WWE TV before through short cameos. The Lebanese-American had competed in several beauty pageants before being officially approached by WWE. It was her win at the Miss USA pageant in 2010 that really got Vince's attention. Vince has always had an eye for talent, or looks & publicity in this case.
She made history by becoming the first Muslim woman to win the Miss USA pageant and the WWE snapped her up instantly. Rima Fakih herself admitted she only accepted the Tough Enough role to show the world that models could also be tough. She also admitted to being a wrestling fan as a child. Regardless of her accomplishments, her looks weren't enough to save her from being a relatively forgettable Tough Enough contestant.
She's since done some acting work and a few years ago, she had said she still planned on pursuing a wrestling career. At 31 now, it doesn't seem that dream will happen. She recently got married in Lebanon and her focus now seems to be on marriage and starting a family.
9 Sara Lee
Didn't you think you'd see a series winner on the list did you. I'm sorry, but winner or no winner, Sara Lee was a chore to watch on Season 6 of Tough Enough. Never has a competitor lacked charisma, personality, physical ability & brain power in vast amounts, all at the same time like Sara Lee. Out of all the contestants, she took the longest to learn every single wrestling move. It was perhaps this average nature that made her so relatable to the audience at home, but regardless, as a contestant she paled in comparison to her peers. As the weeks went on, you could have literally bet your entire life savings on Sara Lee being in the bottom three. But somehow by the skin of her teeth the 24-year old managed to survive each week, thus creating a compelling story for the viewers at home.
Despite going on to win the series, things haven't panned out too well for the Michigan-born performer, she did make her debut at an NXT live event in January but by October she had already been released by the company. I guess Lita was right.
8 Ariane Andrew
Best known for her awful wrestling and wannabe music career, many seem to forget that Ariane first appeared on WWE television in 2011 on Season 5 of Tough Enough. Do you know why you don't remember her being on Tough Enough? Because she was eliminated in the first round, she was the first out of all 14 contestants to be sent home. Despite being one of the first to be sent home she was also one of the first to receive a contract offer to work in FCW. A couple months later she made her in-ring debut in a match amongst known divas like Kaitlyn & Aksana. She made her RAW debut in January 2012 as a Funkadactyl alongside Brodus Clay, and we all know how that panned out.
Despite failing in all she's done, the performer was still given another shot at fame through being casted in Total Divas, in which she built her own unique fan base. Her peculiar personality drew much resentment from fans and those working within the company, and in May this year she was inevitably released by the WWE.
Since then her focuses have been on her anti-bullying campaign called "Wrong #". She's said that the infamous remark she on Tough Enough about Melina vs. Alicia Fox being her favorite wrestling match ever resulted in relentless online bullying. She's referred to a branch of wrestling fans as "cyber bullies".
7 Hank Avery
This will be an elimination much fresher in the minds of the WWE Universe, or perhaps not. Hank Avery was the very first to be eliminated in the most recent edition of Tough Enough. Despite being confident, Avery failed woefully in connecting with the WWE Universe. It was his close-minded mentality on size that would ultimately be his downfall. He would berate fellow competitor Tanner Saraceno for being the 'smallest' out of the males. That comment didn't sit well with Daniel Bryan and clearly the American audience. Before the show started, Avery was tipped as one of the favorites to win. He was the most popular player on the Mercer University football team in 2012, but many always saw him as destined for the bigger things.
The WWE provided him with that platform, but the former American footballer fell flat on his face. Avery surprisingly didn't let the failure hold him back in life, he now works as a Technology Consultant.
6 Alex Frekey
Alex Frekey really gave us a lesson in how not to win over wrestling fans. After Hank Avery, Frekey became the next contestant to become a distant memory. Once again, a contestant let himself down over something he said in the heat of the moment. In a verbal dispute with internet darling Patrick Clark, Frekey admitted to not knowing much about the wrestling industry and claimed it had no effect on performances in the ring. This ignorance did not impress the judges. On perhaps a more sympathetic note the former bodybuilder actually lost his job due to his decision to go on the show, only to get booted off two weeks later. Frekey who comes from a bodybuilding background fared well in the physical challenges that didn't include cardio or swimming but his ignorance overshadowed his performances.
After being eliminated Frekey still had aspirations of being a pro wrestler but said he would only settle for a job in the big leagues, he had no interest in working indie shows. With no WWE contract offer in sight, Alex has his eyes set on getting back into the nutriceutical industry.
5 Aaron Lewis
Season Two's failure was Aaron Lewis. Lewis only lasted through to the third episode where he physically embarrassed himself in front of the world. As the whole group were going through a series of exercise routines, Aaron responded by passing out. In a tragic turn of events, the contestant was taken to hospital as a safety precaution. In the next episode Aaron returned, but despite being gifted a second chance, Aaron couldn't keep up physically with the rest of the group, and subsequently he and a fellow contestant were sent packing.
You can't say the kid didn't try, to get to the point where you physically pass out is no mean feat. But it just typifies how far away the average person is from having the ability to perform in a WWE ring. And to no surprise, Lewis wasn't offered a contract with the company and did not pursue a career in the wrestling industry.
4 Robert Savhalet
Here's another one that couldn't meet the physical demands of sports entertainment, Robert Savhalet literally left no lasting impression whatsoever on the WWE universe. Meet Aaron Lewis's partner in crime, the man who was nearly but not as unfit as Aaron, Robert Savlahet. The duo were sent home on the same night due to their tendency to slow down their fellow contestants in exercise. Robert & Aaron were, no exaggeration, light years behind their peers in endurance & fitness, so they were removed early in the process. At least Aaron pushed himself to the limits, Robert didn't even look like he wanted to try. The show's producers clearly weren't in the mood for any underdog stories and cut the deadwood off the show early. L
ike his buddy Lewis, Savhalet was not offered a spot on the developmental roster. After Season 2, Robert was never to be seen again on television or any of the independent wrestling promotions.
3 Darryl Cross
Some choose to revive their wrestling career after being booted off of Tough Enough, while others completely change direction. Darryl Cross was a big and dominant man in appearance but not in practice. His self-proclaimed nickname 'The Moose' rubbed his peers up the wrong way and his demeanour made him extremely dislikeable. Fans will remember Cross as being the guy Triple H embarrassed live on air. In front of everyone, Triple H outed the fact that one of Cross's testicles were hanging out of his shorts. It's fair to say the 6 footer never recovered from that moment onwards. His poor attitude and limited ability in the ring were cited for being the reasons he never progressed further in the competition.
WWE didn't see any potential in him to offer him a knock-on contract like many others. Cross has since gone on to embark on a different career path completely, he is now a Website Graphic Designer that resides in Iowa.
2 Gabi Castrovinci
Sometimes contestants are so bad that you literally don't even remember their faces, they become forgettable. When a contestant expresses 'joy' at being able to leave the competition, then you know it was a diabolical experience for all parties involved. Gabi was one of the more forgettable contestants of Season 6, contributing little besides a few arguments. She eventually ended up finishing 10th on the show and was not offered a contract by the company. After being eliminated, the Brazilian fitness model pursued her dream of a wrestling career enrolling at a wrestling school in Florida.
Her persistence was rewarded as she landed a contract with TNA in January this year. She now performs under the name of 'Raquel'. However, since then her most notable feud has been with Wrestling Observer writer Dave Meltzer on Twitter. I think it's safe to say the WWE won't be having any sleepless nights over not offering her a developmental contract.
1 ZZ Loupe
Here he is, the worst Tough Enough contestant in WWE history. If there was ever an underdog story that you wished you'd never seen, it was this one. ZZ Loupe a man defined by his cheesy grin and soulless jokes, horrifically outstayed his welcome on Season 6 of Tough Enough. The New Zealand-born youngster repeatedly refused to conform to the WWE's image of a wrestler, instead he chose not to put the effort in and eat incredibly unhealthily. Some way, somehow ZZ made it to the final of Season 6 where he became runner-up to Josh Bredl. In a strange turn of events, perhaps due to his underdog complex, he was offered a developmental contract, and began to work in the Performance Center early this year.
That's not even the worst bit, in contrast to many greats of the business, he actually won his first ever live event match, yes he won a match. Who was the unfortunate soul? Oney Lorcan, who? Exactly. Thankfully, all unbearable underdog stories must come to an end, and ZZ was relieved of his duties by the WWE in July this year. Hopefully the next time WWE try to revive this reality series, they'll pick contestants who actually desire to have a future in the business as opposed to comedic aspirations.