Over the course of 10 weeks, 13 male and female competitors will train both in and out of the ring and in a series of rigorous competitions for a one-year, $250,000 WWE contract. Competitors will quickly learn the depths of their physical, mental and emotional strength with rivalries and power dynamics emerging at every turn. The intense first challenge proves that boot camp is meant for the toughest contender, and fans will decide who stays and who is sent packing.
After an exhaustive application and tryout process, 13 hopeful Superstars and Divas proved they were worthy of joining the cast of the new season of WWE Tough Enough. But only two of the 13 will walk away from the strenuous, 10-week competition with a $250,000 contract — one for a male competitor and one for a female. And in the season premiere, Hank became the first to see his dream end.
Host Chris Jericho and Renee Young kicked off the show by welcoming the esteemed panel of judges, Daniel Bryan, Paige and Hulk Hogan, to Full Sail University Studios. Each judge outlined that the winners of Tough Enough will need to showcase passion, personality and the ever-elusive “it” factor.
The 13 competitors had their first opportunity to prove they had all three at Orlando, Fla.’s Citrus Bowl, home of WrestleMania XXIV, during the season’s premiere challenge. With coaches Billy Gunn, Booker T and Lita keeping a close eye, the competitors had to run the field twice, first with parachutes, then while carrying a bag of sand matching their own weight. The challenge finished with a sprint to the stadium’s top row.
Mixed martial artist Tanner immediately showcased his speed and strength, finishing first. Former WBFF Pro Bikini World Champion Amanda then pulled in second. But 18-year-old crocodile-wrestler Zamariah, aka “ZZ,” struggled to come in last.
Following a night of celebration — minus youngsters ZZ and Patrick — Gunn woke up the competitors early the next morning with his obscenely loud truck horn for a run in the hot Florida sun. Once again, Tanner finished first; and once again, ZZ finished last. Despite his fun-loving personality, ZZ saw his chances to win the overall competition quickly dwindling. “You’ve got to stop being last,” Gunn yelled to ZZ.
Tensions started to boil over when the group headed to the WWE Performance Center for in-ring drills. When Tanner claimed he could do twice as many reps as the other competitors, 19-year-old Patrick flipped, questioning the MMA fighter's commitment to sports-entertainment. Then at night, Gabi called out Dianna for claiming she injured her groin during the first challenge. And mere hours before the Tough Enough premiere on USA Network, a confident Tanner openly questioned Alex's chances of surviving the vote, before adding, “I’m the best here!”
Following interviews with the competitors, the three judges each selected someone to go into the global vote, with the fewest points-getter heading home. Hogan chose ZZ for not stepping up physically, Bryan picked Hank after his comments about Tanner, and Paige selected Josh for not showing enough; and the votes poured in.
Although every judge is afforded one save — the ability to protect a competitor from the worldwide vote — each season, they chose to forego their saves for another week. Hank came up short with 22 percent of the vote, while Josh and ZZ stayed alive with a close-call of 26 percent and an overwhelming 52 percent, respectively.
Josh and ZZ remain safe for another week, but as Jericho warned them, they both have a lot to do to prove they're Tough Enough.