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Tough Enough? They Were: The Top 10 Successes of WWE'S Reailty Show

Anthony RizzutiSenior Analyst IIIMay 25, 2011

Tough Enough? They Were: The Top 10 Successes of WWE'S Reailty Show

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    WWE's revamped reality series Tough Enough is soon coming to an end—seeing Luke Robinson, Jeremiah Riggs and Andy Leavine as the final three. These three competitors will battle it out in the show's final two episodes for a WWE contract. So in light of the show's upcoming finale, I have decided to rank 10 of the most successful contestants in its history. Here are the top 10 contestants that made the best of their Tough Enough experience.

10. Nick Mitchell (Mitch of the Spirit Squad)

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    In one of the most annoying, but interesting stables in WWE history, Nick Mitchell was one of five Spirit Squad members. Mitch was a contestant on $1,000,000 Tough Enough, the fourth installment of the series. This particular season of the show was not regarded as a separate television show, but rather, aired as segments on SmackDown! Mitch was the first to be eliminated.

    Although Mitchell did not win the $1,000,000 guaranteed contract, he found his way into the WWE with the Spirit Squad in 2006. The gig lasted a little over a year and saw Mitch winning a share of the WWE Tag Team Championship. Nick Mitchell was released in March of 2007.

    Since his release, Mitch has opened a a fashion boutique with girlfriend Torrie Wilson (yup, that one) and has begun a career in mixed martial arts.

9. Nidia Guenard

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    Along with Maven (who will be mentioned later in this countdown), Nidia Guenard was the winner of the first Tough Enough season in 2001. But unfortunately for Guenard, this would be her lone accomplishment in the business.

    Nidia made a few television appearances after her Tough Enough stint and transitioned to Ohio Valley Wrestling. She then debuted on SmackDown! on June 6, 2002 on a promo with The Hurricane and Jamie Noble. Guenard worked on the brand for year under the trailer trash gimmick alongside Noble.

    She was later drafted to Raw in March of 2004 and eventually released in November that same year.

8. Chris Nowinski

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    The Harvard man and the season one contestant. It seemed like Nowinski had it all. The brains, the brains, and uh, the brains. He was a pretty good promo guy, though.

    Anyway, Nowinski debuted in the WWE after being one of three finalists on the show. He started in 2002 by aiding William Regal in a European Championship match against Bradshaw and was forced to retire a year later after suffering from post-concussion syndrome. 

    Even though Nowinski hanged it up a bit early, he did earn a few honors while having his cup of tea in the WWE. Chris was the youngest Hardcore Champion in history and was the only Harvard alumnus in the company's history.

7. Jackie Gayda

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    One of two winners in the second go-round of the series, Jackie Gayda worked in the WWE from 2002-2005. There aren't any particular bright spots in Gayda's career, but the fact that she was able to maintain a job for four years was a feat within itself. 

    Jackie's career consisted of poorly worked matches and numerous stables that never really stuck. The most infamous of all, however, was her mixed tag match with Trish Stratus, Bradshaw and Chris Nowinski. The match featured a plethora of botched moves by Gayda, including a remarkably late reaction to a second-rope bulldog by Stratus. The match earned Wrestling Observer Newsletter's "Worst Worked Match of the Year" in 2002.

    Jackie Gayda proceeded to work under Total Nonstop Wrestling in 2005 after her release from the WWE in July. She was named the "Knockout of the Year" by TNA the very same year.

6. Josh Lomberger (Josh Mathews)

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    Hey, I never said wrestlers could only make the list. 

    That's right, Josh Mathews comes roaring in at No. 6 despite never actually being a wrestler. Currently a commentator on Raw, Lomberger poked into the WWE on the first season of Tough Enough. Josh finished as the runner-up to Maven and Nidia and later worked on the independent circuit after the show.

    Unfortunately, he never made it into a WWE ring but did catch a job as an interviewer in 2002. After replacing Michael Cole as the nerdy backstage question guy, Mathews earned commentating gigs on Velocity, ECW, SmackDown! and eventually Raw. 

5. Matt Morgan

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    Season two contestant Matt Morgan kicks off the top five.

    At a jaw-dropping 7'0", 328 pounds, Morgan was by far the most intimidating participant on Tough Enough. But due to an injury, Morgan was forced to leave the show and sign a developmental deal with the WWE in '02. He debuted in October of 2003 when he was picked to be a member of Team Lesnar during the Lesnar-Angle era on SmackDown!. Morgan again sustained another injury in 2004, hurting his shoulder after participating at the Royal Rumble. He returned in 2005 but never reappeared after being attacked by the Mexicools on July 7th.

    Morgan went on to Japanese and European promotions and eventually signed with TNA in 2007. Matt has won the TNA World Tag Team Titles (yes, both as a lone champion) and seems to be on the way up in the promotion.

4. Maven Huffman

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    Everyone remembers Maven, right? The first winner of Tough Enough and the company's lovable loser. 

    Huffman burst onto the WWE scene by eliminating the Undertaker in the 2002 Royal Rumble match. Maven drop-kicked Taker out of the ring and received a tremendous pop from the Atlanta crowd. And although Big Evil proceeded to destroy Maven after the elimination, it was evident that big things were ahead for the show's first winner.

    But they weren't.

    After the Rumble, Maven flew under the radar in the WWE. He did, however, win the Hardcore title on three occasions and defeated Batista in 2004. His efforts in the '04 Survivor Series match earned him a World Heavyweight Title shot, but lost to then champion Triple H via disqualification. 

    Maven Huffman was released in 2005 after five years as a wrestler in the WWE. Huffman has gone on to a television career, making appearances in VH1's Surreal Life, BET and HSN. He also continues to work the independent circuit for United Wrestling Federation.

3. Melina Perez

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    Melina Perez, owner of the WWE's best in-ring entrance, takes the three spot.

    Perez, a top 25 finalist on the third season, has become a staple in the Divas division. Although Melina was cut from the show very early, she found herself in the WWE in 2004. She made her debut as the manager of the tag team MNM, consisting of Johnny Nitro and Joey Mercury. Under her management, the duo won Tag Team gold three times from 2005-2007.

    Melina also went on to win some gold for herself. On February 19, 2007, Melina defeated Mickie James to become the Women's Champion. This made her the first female Tough Enough contestant to ever win a title. Perez has gone on to win the Women's title two more times and the Divas title two times. 

2. John Hennigan (John Morrison)

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    John Hennigan, now known as John Morrison, was the victor of the show's third season. Along with Matt Cappotelli, Hennigan locked up a WWE contract after his impressive performance on the series. And he hasn't looked back since.

    He debuted as Johnny Blaze, assistant to Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff. However, Hennigan dropped the " Johnny Blaze" and eventually the "Johnny Spade" monikers and became Johnny Nitro in the MNM stable with girlfriend and fellow Tough Enough contestant Melina and Joey Mercury. With Mercury, John captured the WWE Tag Team titles three times in three years. He also won the WWE Tag Team and World Tag Team titles with Mike "The Miz" Mizanin after his run with MNM. 

    In 2007, Morrison picked up his biggest win to date as he defeated CM Punk for the ECW Heavyweight Championship. This made him the first Tough Enough contestant to win a major title. In addition, Morrison has picked up three reigns as the company's Intercontinental Champion. 

    With his captivating moves and high-flying ability, Morrison has nowhere to go but up. There is definitely a great career ready for the season-three winner.

1. Mike Mizanin (The Miz)

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    Obvious choice here. Why? Because he's awesome.

    The Miz, a former MTV reality star, began his WWE career in the fourth installment of the show. He made it to the final round where he lost a "Dixie Digfight" to eventual winner Daniel Puder. Despite dropping the competition, Mizanin continued his career under Ohio Valley Wrestling and working numerous dark matches in 2006. The Miz made his debut on May 31, 2006 as the "host" of SmackDown!.

    In 2007, he was drafted to ECW and picked up some momentum as a heel. The Miz went on to grab Tag Team gold with John Morrison that year, giving him his very first WWE title. (He won Tag Team honors four more times—two with Morrison, one with Big Show and one with John Cena.)

    Miz continued his success by winning the United States Championship in 2009 and winning a guaranteed title shot at the Money In The Bank pay-per-view. On the November 22, 2010 edition of Raw, The Miz cashed in his contract and defeated Randy Orton to become the WWE Champion. This would mark the first time a Tough Enough contestant won the WWE title.

    The Miz made further history by becoming the first participant of Tough Enough to headline WrestleMania, that one being Wrestlemania XXVII. At the sports entertainment spectacle, The Miz successfully retained his WWE Championship against challenger John Cena. 

    Although he has recently lost the title to Cena, The Miz looks to be the company's top heel, easily making him Tough Enough's most successful participant. 

Honorable Mention

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    - Ryan Reeves a.k.a. Skip Sheffield (Season Four)

    - Daniel Rodimer a.k.a. Daniel Puder (Season Four)

    - Shawn Daivari (Season Three)

    - Linda Miles (Season Two)

    - Kenny Layne (Season Two)

    - Shad Gaspard (Season Two)

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