I sat down to write about Tough Enough this week but struggled to take the mickey like we have in previous weeks. Although, the scene where the Divas took the contestants to dinner was worth a thousand laffs by itself. Our intense hatred of Luke induced such venom I could easily write a whole post on why he’s so awful, and maybe I will at some point. If he wins we’ll…have a good old grumble about it. You know we’re not going to riot. Also, we absolutely think Eve and Jer-Mah should be a couple. They can talk about MMA stuff and look longingly into each others’ eyes.
But things got ever so serious during this week’s episode and, maybe I’m going soft in my old age, but I just didn’t feel like taking the low road this time. Reality TV is a strange thing. Whichever show it is, it’s infinitely easier to poke fun at the contestants at the beginning of a series when you don’t know them from Adam. When you’re heading towards the end and you’re emotionally invested in their progress, it gets trickier to point the Nelson Muntz finger and say “Ha-ha, you suck.” The Apprentice is the exception to this rule. I rarely warm to any of those cold hearted monsters.
I’m not concerned with the fact that Tough Enough hasn’t done exceptionally well in the American ratings. I can’t stand the American obsession with TV ratings at the best of times. But I am slightly disappointed it’s not been that well received by fans of wrestling. Why not? If nothing else this progamme gives an insight into what it’s like to train as a wrestler and has been a check-point in reminding myself how easy wrestlers make a very difficult job look. Admittedly, the set-up has been heavily manipulated and condensed for TV and the schedule they’re working to, but learning how to execute the moves, keeping going when you’re worn out and having the determination not to get into a negative mindset are all highlighted. Never more so than this week.
In this week’s episode the pressure of professional wrestling was beginning to show. When Christina had a private yoga session with Trish, she became upset discussing the pressure of having to display strength at all times and never taking a break to ‘just be’. She described that feeling as being like a physical strong-suit that she wasn’t allowed to take off. I completely understand that feeling. When you’re trying to achieve something or overcame an obstacle, particularly if it’s physical, there’s always a worry that having a vulnerable day or a rest day is seen as weakness and will put you behind the rest.
Andy became too violent during a training match, bloodying Luke’s nose and throwing him dangerously out of the ring. He said he’d lost focus because he was missing his family. He re-motivated himself by watching a video of his young daughter and speaking with his wife. Yet this is the lifestyle they’re all chasing. This is what they’ll be facing for the next 20+ years…if they’re lucky. Luckiness and serendipity came to the fore further during this episode.
Events took a more serious turn when Martin became injured while leaving the ring. It looked like nothing but a simple twist of the ankle, but a night in hospital revealed that he’d fractured it and had no option but to leave the competition. It was incredibly sad. I had hardly noticed Martin at the beginning of the series but he had become the number one person to beat, consistently winning skills challenges and impressing the trainers throughout. If I’d had to select one contestant to win the contract before this episode, I’d have picked Martin without even thinking about it. His departure was emotional and a shocking reminder that getting ahead isn’t just about being good. It’s also about having luck on your side. I have Rey Mysterio’s “Injuries can happen at any time.” from the ‘don’t try this at home’ video ringing in my ears. Steve Austin, clearly affected by Martin’s injury, let him pin his own belt up before he left. It was especially touching and a mark of just how far Martin had come during the training sessions.
It didn’t end there. After Martin had hobbled away from his dream on crutches and in tears, Christina injured her ankle and had to be rushed to hospital following an awkward collision with AJ. The show ended without an elimination and with Christina’s participation in the show hanging in the balance. It’s definitely true that the drama in Tough Enough is ramped up for television and the show can be a little cartoony in places, but it’s actually a microcosm of all the wrestling issues we discuss so fervently every day. It’s a shame more people aren’t watching it and using it as a springboard for debate. Sometimes I find all that goes into making a product work behind the scenes far more interesting than the final product itself.