WWE Tough Enough: The Show's 10 Greatest Graduates
Tomorrow night, Tough Enough crowns the champion of its fifth-ever season and first one since December 2004. Andy Leavine and Luke Robinson have made it to the finals with only one of them getting the guarantee of a WWE contract.
In previous seasons, we have seen those who have not won their seasons pop up in WWE. In some instances, we have even seen some that lost their season but did better than the eventual winner.
Tomorrow night is not the end of the road for one of these two, but it is the beginning of the road back to this position. Some that have been eliminated, like Martin Casaus and Jeremiah Riggs, will likely get their chances down the road for the company.
This list of the ten best contributions to the business from Tough Enough has variations of those who won and those who were eliminated from their seasons. Regardless, all of them turned out to be tough enough.
Before we get to the top ten, there are a lot of honorable mentions to get to. This is the only place where noteworthy people who missed out on being a finalist will be recognized.
While there have been superstars that we know about and never made it through, they were not a benefit to the company directly from Tough Enough. With that said, here are the honorable mentions.
Jessica Kresa, better known by her name in TNA as ODB, was one of the 25 to make it through initial tryouts, but was left off the cast of 13. A little known fact about the first season as well is that Justin Roberts, the current ring announcer for RAW, sent in a tryout video for Tough Enough and had it featured in a promo for the show.
Season two co-winner Linda Miles went onto a career in WWE as a wrestler and manager, known for her gimmick of Shaniqua, a dominatrix-type gimmick that saw her manager The Basham Brothers.
Season two also saw three more notable rejects. Shad Gaspard made the cast, but failed a drug test and was replaced. Shelly Martinez, who made it to WWE with the gimmick of Ariel and appeared in TNA as well, did not make the cut.
As addressed on RAW this past Monday night, Kharma (real name Kia Stevens) was left off the roster as well.
Shawn Daivari, known as a manager for Muhammad Hassan, The Great Khali and Kurt Angle, made it to the top 75 in season three, only to be eliminated.
Also a part of season three was Melina Perez, who made it to the top 25 before being sent packing. Melina would join her real-life boyfriend, John Morrison, who she met at the tryouts, in the WWE.
Marty Wright, pictured above as The Boogeyman, made it to the roster for the $1,000,000 Tough Enough, but was disqualified after he lied about his age. Wright claimed that he was 30, but was actually 40 years old at the time.
Considering that the age limit was 35, that made Wright unable to compete. Also from that season was the winner, Daniel Puder, who did not stay long with WWE before transitioning back to MMA and going to a few other wrestling organizations.
No. 10: Nick Mitchell
With that out of the way, here is the beginning of the top ten, where we begin with Nick Mitchell. Mitchell was a member of the $1,000,000 Tough Enough and was the first man eliminated of the eight.
Mitchell would sign a developmental deal and come up to the main roster as "Mitch" in the Spirit Squad.
Mitchell also began dating Torrie Wilson and was one of the two survivors, along with The Miz, among $1,000,000 Tough Enough contestants after others, like Puder, had been released.
No. 9: Jackie Gayda-Haas
Jackie Gayda was the other co-winner in season two of Tough Enough, but many don't know that Gayda also tried out for the original season and missed out. Gayda would win season two with Linda Miles and her WWE career started out very flawed.
Her match on RAW with Bradshaw against Trish Stratus and Christopher Nowinski is widely considered one of the worst matches in the history of the show.
Gayda went to the developmentals and returned as Miss Jackie, a manager for Rico and Charlie Haas. Gayda would end up getting married to Haas, and the two of them have three kids together.
No. 8: Nidia Guenard
Nidia was the female winner from the original Tough Enough season, but wasn't known much for her in-ring career. Instead, Nidia is remembered for her time as Jamie Noble's manager.
Nidia was a beautiful woman, but they hid it pretty well with a trailer trash gimmick. She even had an interesting storyline with Tajiri.
She was sprayed in the face with green mist and was "blinded". Nidia would wear big sunglasses and covers over her eyes.
Nidia would be drafted to RAW, but would be released before making much of an impact.
No. 7: Christopher Nowinski
I really liked Christopher Nowinski during the first season of Tough Enough. He really impressed me and I was happy to see him come up to the main roster.
They used the gimmick of Nowinski graduating from Harvard, which he really did. Nowinski had some great in-ring skills, but that all ended after suffering a concussion.
Nowinski was forced to retire, but still used his great brain to benefit the business. Nowinski now studies concussions with his own organization and helped to determine Chris Benoit's depleted brain power, which likely provoked Benoit to commit his double murder-suicide.
No. 6: Maven Huffman
Maven was the original Tough Enough male winner. His greatest moment in WWE was eliminating The Undertaker in a Royal Rumble match.
Maven also had some interesting storylines, like when he had a few world title matches, never winning any of those matches.
Eventually, Maven's push would fizzle out and he would align himself with Simon Dean toward the end of his WWE career. Maven would be almost a salesman for the Simon System.
Maven would use these skills when he got his current job as an expert at the Home Shopping Network. Now, the original Tough Enough winner sells kitty litter boxes... I'm not kidding.
No. 5: Ryan Reeves
You may know him better as Skip Sheffield, but Ryan Reeves was one of the finalists in the $1,000,000 Tough Enough.
Giving himself the nickname of "Silverback," Reeves did not last long and floated around in the minors and developmental leagues for a few years before popping up as Skip Sheffield last year on the first season of NXT.
Sheffield would be the third person eliminated, but seemed ready for a push with Nexus.
Unfortunately, Sheffield got injured and hasn't been seen since. Hopefully, this is not the end for Ryan Reeves.
No. 4: Matt Morgan
Matt Morgan is known by those who watch TNA, but he had his big break from Tough Enough season two. Morgan left only because of an injury forcing him to quit.
Morgan would get called up to the WWE roster in 2003 as a part of Team Lesnar. Morgan would team with Nathan Jones until Jones left the company. Morgan would return to development and return with a stuttering gimmick, which he still hates to this day.
Needless to say, Morgan was more than happy to leave and keep his developmental nickname of "The Blueprint."
No. 3: Josh Lomberger
Josh Lomburger, otherwise known to us as Josh Mathews, was a small guy with a lot of guts in the first Tough Enough season. He would lose out in the finale to Maven, but pop up as a backstage interviewer and commentator.
Mathews has made a nice career of this, becoming one of the better play-by-play commentators in recent memory and has a potential on being a future staple of WWE.
No. 2: John Hennigan
John Hennigan was nearly a member of the first season of Tough Enough as well, but his attitude problems prevented that. Needless to say, Morrison's attitude has hurt him on a few instances.
Hennigan still ended up winning Tough Enough III, along with Matt Cappotelli. The duo looked great, but Cappotelli was diagnosed with a brain tumor in development and Hennigan moved on without him.
Hennigan would go through the names of Johnny Blaze and Johnny Spade before Johnny Nitro was decided upon. He would go from Eric Bischoff's assistant to a tag team with Joey Mercury and girlfriend Melina. MNM would be one of the best tag teams in WWE at the time.
Nitro would break off from Mercury with pretty good mid-card success and be a last-minute addition to an ECW title match, winning the vacant belt over CM Punk.
Nitro became Morrison from that and has fascinated WWE fans ever since. People were certain that John Morrison would be the first Tough Enough contestant to win a world title in WWE.
No. 1: Mike Mizanin
This is a no-brainer. It's hard not to love The Miz's story. From Real World: Back to New York to $1,000,000 Tough Enough, people weren't sure if Mizanin was a serious contender. He stayed in as the runner-up to Daniel Puder, which some thought was because of his reality TV fame.
After developmental stops, The Miz would be the host of Smackdown. It didn't seem like The Miz would stick around much longer, but he began to wrestle and would end up on ECW.
The extreme brand was a glorified developmental league at the time, but it helped The Miz come into his own and link himself with Morrison. The two former Tough Enough guys would form a memorable tag team before The Miz broke on his own.
Now, The Miz is a top heel in the company and became a world champion last year. The Miz was the WWE Champion going into WrestleMania 27 and left with his belt, pinning John Cena to end the show.
I think we can all say that he has made it.