When WWE Tough Enough returns to the airwaves in June, it will be reshaped.
Expect the reality show to welcome more influence from social media, overlap with NXT and feature a host of new faces in leadership positions. The reboot arrives after a four-year hiatus, part of a WWE landscape that has morphed in the show's absence.
When Tough Enough last aired, WWE's developmental system was not nearly as sleek and engrossing as it is today. Florida Championship Wrestling has since burst from its chrysalis and spread its wings as the increasingly popular NXT.
The WWE Network was but a pipe dream back in 2011; today, it's the heart of the company's business model. And social media is even more prevalent in society as a whole and as a part of WWE programming.
All these factors are poised to influence what the newest season of Tough Enough will look like.
The contests on the fifth season of Tough Enough visited FCW, but it wasn't a key element of the show. In 2015, the WWE Performance Center and the NXT machine are the cornerstones of talent development.
Count on that changing Tough Enough.
WWE now has a state-of-the-art facility for these wanna-be Superstars to train. The Performance Center will surely be the show's hub.
In addition, the NXT brand helped drive up the WWE Network's popularity. That will translate to more cross-promotion. Contestants will surely talk with top prospects, attend NXT house shows and have challenges in front of the Full Sail University audience, for example.
Contestants will likely find themselves performing promos at NXT house shows or, in later episodes, taking on an NXT star with the Tough Enough staff watching.
More Star Power, but with Different Stars
Steve Austin is not returning as the show's host. As he told fans on his podcast, he turned down doing Tough Enough again due to a scheduling conflict.
That leaves a huge void at the top of the show. WWE has yet to announce who will take his place, but whoever does so will bring a much different energy. There is only one "Stone Cold."
Top potential candidates for a new host include Booker T (who played a major role last time around), Dustin Rhodes, Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels. Both Michaels and Foley have quite a number of other gigs on their plates but would bring star power and charisma to the position.
The head trainer spot will be different as well. Former NXT head man Bill DeMott is no longer with the company after leaving in a firestorm of controversy earlier this year.
Either WWE will simply let new NXT head trainer Jason Albert take over for him or create a separate position for the Tough Enough drill sergeant. Here's hoping WWE gives Taz a call for the latter option.
In past seasons, Tough Enough was flush with big names coming in to interact with the contestants. Big Show, The Rock and Rey Mysterio have all appeared on the show. That trend is sure to continue.
Fans will get to know the men and women vying for victory on the program, but welcoming back Chris Jericho, for example, to make a guest appearance is a ratings boost waiting to happen. Former contestants Cameron, The Miz and Ryback will surely show up at some point.
The infrastructure of the show is set to shift. Executives have promised as much.
Chris McCumber announced during the Television Critics Association winter press tour (via WWE.com), "The show will have a completely new format, with live elements that will truly make this event television." WWE later added that Tough Enough will include "more fan participation than ever before."
That's not surprising in the least. WWE has gone in this direction with its other shows as well. Few weeks go by without the fans voting on who will battle who on Raw.
Count on more voting during Tough Enough, too. Previously, Austin and his crew would decide who was safe and who would leave the show. To make the experience more fan-centric, there will surely be more say from the audience.
The host will likely present the bottom three contestants that week, and viewers will get a chance to oust one of them.
Look for Twitter to play a big role on top of that. The show's participants may be asked to see if they can get a catchphrase trending.
Asking contestants to read negative feedback on Twitter is a strong possibility as well. Dealing with that side of things is increasingly important for WWE Superstars. Developing a thick skin when it comes to trolls is another skill a pro wrestler has to learn.
Overall, bet on Tough Enough to infuse a bit more American Idol into itself. Connecting with the crowd is key for wrestlers, and welcoming opinions and votes from social media is a way to incorporate that and also decide the show's winner.
At its heart, Tough Enough will be the same. Unknown WWE hopefuls taking back bumps will be ever-present, as usual.
The show, however, will be dressed in snazzy new clothes.