At one time, The Ultimate Fighter was a fresh, innovative show that lured a whole new generation of fans to the sport. I got hooked on the sport thanks to the exploits of Chris Leben, Josh Koscheck and Bobby Southworth back in early 2005 and haven't looked back. We now sit here six years later and it's just not the same. Even though Brock Lesnar is a coach, the show is boring and incredibly stale, not a huge surprise considering it is in its 13th season.
That's why I've been so enthralled by WWE's newest television venture, Tough Enough. Featuring "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Booker T, Trish Stratus and a cast and crew that includes Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih and TUF 7 contestant Jeremiah Riggs, the show is recapturing the magic the early seasons of TUF had, much because it has many of the qualities that show did.
One of the main reasons for this is Austin himself. As someone who grew up watching during the peak of the "Austin Era," he has been and always will be one of my favorites. Maybe that has something to do with my love for Tough Enough. At the same time, though, I'm also a big fan of Lesnar's antics and it just hasn't translated like I thought it would. One of the best things about Tough Enough is the final 10 minutes of each show where Austin corrals the bottom three contestants in the ring and eliminates one of them, but not before grilling them with questions. So far, this has produced the show's most memorable moment, when Ariane said her favorite match of all time was Melina against Alicia Fox. You could just see Austin about to blow his stack. It was tremendous television and had me rolling, wondering exactly what Austin was going to do in response.
There's no moments like that on TUF anymore. Remember this? Obviously you can't recapture that exact moment time after time, but there's just nothing like it anymore. I try and I try to give TUF a chance, but it's just not happening. Since Season 8, the only season I've watched (like most of the rest of the world) was Season 10. I tried to watch 11 and 12 but gave up and the same is happening with 13. I am stunned that not even Brock Lesnar, a guy I love to watch, can make me care about this show.
Tough Enough also has a big advantage because, for the most part, it doesn't matter if the contestants can really wrestle. In fact, it actually helps the show if they're inexperienced. The show isn't hampered or brought down by having to have what surely would be a crappy wrestling match at the end of each episode. Instead, it's Austin stomping a verbal mud hole into three dorks and telling one of them to hit the bricks. For better or worse, at the end of each episode of TUF, there's a fight. That's what the show is predicated on. In the past few seasons, the fights just haven't been very good. Often times, we'd get a decent episode that ended with a horrible fight. It just drags the whole thing down.
On Tough Enough, we get to see a mixed bag of experience levels going through all the same things. Taking body slams, running the ropes, being avalanched in the corner by 350-pound Bill DeMott. It's fun times. And through all that, we get to hear Austin providing his running commentary. "Your hair is pissing me off!" or "Get your teeth out of my ring!" Even the challenge on this week's show was fun. We got to see everyone put on the attack suits and get run down by attack dogs. Some made it to the finish line and some fell down like a ton of bricks.
I wish there was, but there's no magic left with The Ultimate Fighter. None at all. The way I was invested and the way I felt watching Seasons 1, 3 and 5 is gone. There's absolutely no reason to watch this show. Before, I was in all. I'd never miss an episode. Now the show I'm never missing an episode of is Tough Enough.