Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The WBF Presents Tough Enough

Why not LuFisto?
Photo Credit: Gregory Davis/Pro Wrestling Is Art
When WWE opened the upcoming season of Tough Enough to anyone who wanted to submit a 60 second YouTube clip, the floodgates opened with familiar faces. Indie veterans like LuFisto, newer standouts like Fred Yehi, and inspirational stories like Tim Donst and Kris Travis all submitted their videos. Fans who were also aspiring pro wrestlers like @newageamazon submitted clips as well. WWE announced the 40 finalists on the show last night. No one mentioned above made the cut. The only indie wrestler with any sort of renown that made it was The Big O (Adam Ohriner), who may or may not have gotten in because of his connections to Zack Ryder. I know it's absurd to think the most "buried" dude in the company has any stroke left, but at this point, I'm willing to believe Vince McMahon is really a meat puppet controlled by Eris, the Greek Goddess of Discord.

Seriously, I probably have more body fat in my right arm than the combined 40 finalists have in their entire bodies. Were they picked because they said something interesting during their videos? Did they show charisma, or some kind of aptitude that would make someone believe that they had "it" in terms of the wrestling ring? Or did Vince McMahon go for the ones who made him do this:

Look, I understand that in the long run that Tough Enough means absolutely nothing. The show has produced exactly one winner who meant a damn thing to the company (John Morrison), although some runners-up like The Miz, Ryback, Amazing Kong, Kenny King, The Boogeyman, and Cameron all have contributed in some way either to WWE or the biz at large. The NXT/Performance Center model is making anything else WWE does to glom talent obsolete. I would venture to guess that Kevin Owens will headline more WrestleMania events than everyone who's ever been on Tough Enough combined (which means he'll only have to headline two). Getting angry over the selection process here is much ado about nothing.

But while the long term implications mean nothing, in the short term, it would have made someone very happy. Indie wrestlers don't resign themselves to a tenure of working small buildings in front of smaller crowds just to get a ticket to WWE. I tend to believe most of them do it in part because they love wrestling. In turn, while I have no doubts that wrestling fans who are also mega gym rats who eat egg whites and oatmeal and chicken breast for 41 out of 42 meals in a given week, but RAW attracts four million viewers a week. I'm going to guess that a healthy portion of those, including the most hardcore devotees like myself, aren't walking around in constant need of peanut butter or protein shakes because their rippling muscles demand constant fuel.

Yet, that large portion of the base has zero representation in a competition that was supposed to be open to the fans. Maybe everyone should have seen it coming when the Tough Enough promos singled out the old or fat or rail-skinny competitors as the "bad" entrants, but it's still disappointing. Sure, I bet a bunch of those 40 finalists, probably  most of them, had their years made by being accepted, but at the same time, wouldn't it have been cool to have seen Travis or Donst get that shot after beating cancer? Or LuFisto get a chance to prove herself worthy after over a decade of killing herself in the ring for not as much pay as the shitty male midcarder who blew up two minutes into his match? Or for a fan like @newageamazon, who has spent a good portion of her life devoting her free time, which is a precious resource, to being a fan of the company?

The paradigm may be shifting, but as long as McMahon, whom I can totally imagine yelling "I WISH YOU WERE THE CHILD THAT DIED AND THE WBF WAS THE ONE WHO LIVED" at the WWE logo sometimes, is around, he's going to try and cram as many body guys and swimsuit models onto the show as possible whether or not they have talent. Sure, some of those types of wrestlers have turned out pretty good for the company, but how many times has WWE passed on someone polished and ready to entertain the crowd at the expense of pushing someone with muscles who may or may not be able to walk and chew gum at the same time?

I've already wasted enough words on a show that I barely had a chance of watching anyway. But I do like seeing people in whom I am invested see some kind of happiness on their returns. I don't want to begrudge those who have been selected their happiness, but in turn, getting a chance to chase a dream, no matter how minuscule or convoluted that dream is, shouldn't only be available to people whose biggest priorities in life are cultivating a muscly body.