By Keith Elliot Greenberg
With the halfway point breached, the competition has now become harder for the remaining “Tough Enough” contestants as they compete for the judges, coaches and, ultimately, the fans who’ve been invested with the power to decide which aspirants leave and which really are “tough enough.” Four men and four women remain in a figurative Royal Rumble to determine a new WWE Superstar and Diva.
The special judge this week: The Miz, winner of 13 championships in WWE, and a “Tough Enough” alum himself. Interestingly, The Miz didn’t win the top prize during his season of “Tough Enough,” but his perseverance later propelled him to the top of the industry.
Motivated by the ever-changing events, Zamariah “ZZ” Loupe – who’d previously been critiqued for spending more time on the entertainment aspect of the business than the athletic – was seen at the beginning of Week Six working on his fitness.
It’s an attitude that was reinforced by the week’s Superstar visitor: Cesaro, a former WWE Tag Team and United States Champion proficient in four languages, as well as the fine points of the squared circle. With maneuvers like the Giant Swing and European uppercut, Cesaro has cultivated an international legion of fans who view him as the most talented Superstar in WWE, and a future WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
With Cesaro observing, the competitors entered an obstacle course suspended high in the air from a series of trees. Cesaro explained that WWE Superstars must remain cognizant of many things at once: the physical, as well as the mental – which is why the candidates were asked to memorize the combination to a safe situated high among the treetops.
While coach Billy Gunn shouted a series of confusing questions through a megaphone, Giorgia Piscina made it to the safe, remembered the special combination, and opened it. The prize: “Tough Enough” host Chris Jericho’s latest book.
On the male end, Tanner Saraceno raced through the obstacles, coming in first. A frustrated Mada Abdelhamid was dead last, and the group applauded ZZ for not being the one male contestant left behind.
Back at the barracks, Tanner reveled in his victory, immersing himself in the hot tub with Chelsea Green, who challenged him to cut a promo on her bikini. The desire was there – but the execution was sub-par.
Returning to the theme of focus, the contestants were paired up and encouraged to multi-task in the ring. To make the circumstances more confusing, crowd noise was pumped over the speakers. Contestants appeared to have a difficult time hearing Gunn’s shouted instructions.
Mada complained that his partner ZZ appeared disoriented and threw him off his game. “When you start being out of focus,” Mada warned, “you get in the way of me winning.”
Tanner, on the other hand, once again thrived under pressure. But, according to Gunn, Josh Bredl was the one who took the highest marks for stepping up in a way the coaches hadn’t noticed before.
At the barracks, Sara Lee and Chelsea appeared to form a tag team, fending off gossip from Giorgia and Amanda Saccomano. At this point, though, all four realized that, as challenging as the physical aspect of their training could be, no one would make it to WWE if they couldn’t withstand the psychological pressure.
“I didn’t think it would be like this,” a tearful Giorgia revealed during a phone call with her father. “But I’m here because…I love this…This is my dream.”
In order to motivate the female competitors, Team B.A.D. – the surging combination of Sasha Banks, Tamina Snuka and Naomi – decided to visit the show. Each brings her own skills to the trio. Sasha Banks, the current NXT Champion, is considered a leader of the current Divas revolution in WWE. Tamina, the daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, is one of the most fearful athletes in the game. Like Tamina, Naomi, wife of former WWE Tag Team co-titlist Jay Uso, draws no line between her professional and private lives, and is a perennial contender for the WWE Divas Championship.
All three represent the future of WWE, and share the competitors’ hunger.
“We put our bodies to the max, through the ringer,” said Naomi. “There is no room for weakness.”
To prove this, the rugged Tamina told the nervous candidates that they were about to be splashed in the center of the ring. Frustrated that Sara Lee and Amanda smiled during the drill, Tamina seemed to come down extra hard on Chelsea and Giorgia.
But in the end, every woman took the punishment with the understanding that it came with the territory.
The bottom three this week: Amanda, whose ring work judge Daniel Bryan characterized as “a little sloppy,” Mada, who The Miz accused of losing his focus and blaming it on ZZ, and ZZ himself, who Paige branded “lazy.”
Shockingly, The Miz decided to exercise his save option. Amanda had the right look, he said, and deserved to stay.
Mada was not so lucky. When the viewers’ votes came in, the burly Egyptian was sent home.
Earlier in the show, Mada had spoken about headlining WrestleMania one day, and being voted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Those possibilities still exist. But now, the mountain will be that much harder to climb.
Just four weeks left…onto Week Seven.
Keith Elliot Greenberg was a contributor to WWE's magazines for 22 years, and is co-author of the autobiographies of Ric Flair, Freddie Blassie and Superstar Billy Graham.