In 2001, WWF was so pleased with the progress of the first season of Tough Enough, the reality show where 13 wannabe wrestlers trained and competed for WWF contracts to the sounds of terrible early 2000s music, that they put a second season into production immediately after the conclusion of the first. It seemed like a no-brainer at the time. How appropriate, then, that the producers of the show chose the winners not with their brains, but with another bodily organ altogether.
This season started off like any other (albeit at the site of Wrestlemania IX in Las Vegas), with a gigantic casting call in which future superstars were mixed in with droves of embarrassing dreamers. Some people even fell into both camps.
Case in point: the future Awesome Kong was briefly featured in the casting special twice; once in a montage of failed kip-ups, and once in a montage of delusional applicants, having claimed to be a “diva.” It’s too bad she had to toil away in Japanese dojos instead of getting fast-tracked to being a WWE Diva. She could even have been assigned one of those half-biblical, half-presidential names that are so popular for African-American wrestlers like Abraham Washington or Ezekiel Jackson. I’m thinking “Esther Roosevelt” or “Bathsheba K. Polk.”
Mr. Anderson was also seen very briefly in a scene I at first could only ascribe to time travel. How else could Anderson show up to a 2001 audition in his Double-K Ken Kennedy shirt? As it turns out, he was wrestling at the time as “Kamikaze Ken.”
Also making appearances were John Morrison, Shelly “Ariel” Martinez, and a small contestant whom I could have sworn was a young Justin Roberts with bleach-blonde hair, but wasn’t. Too bad, since he got chewed out by ECW’s own Tazz.
Shad Gaspard was originally selected for the final 13 contestants, but failed his physical. That is, the part of the physical where you had to pee in a cup. It was a shame, as he wanted to defy everyone’s view of him as a stereotypical thug by making it in the WWF. Fortunately, he was able to shed this “thug” image by entering the WWE years later as part of a tag team whose name and gimmick escape me.
As for the final 13, a young and baby-faced Matt Morgan lasted for several weeks of training, but dropped out due to injury.
Also included was Jake, who already looked like a wrestler and, had this season taken place in 1995, would have automatically earned a contract considering that he came with a ready-made firefighter gimmick.
Hawk was another tall guy who made the final 13. He had a goofy personality and unmedicated ADHD, but he left the show late in the game due to “personal demons.” Not the same kind of personal demons that the more famous Hawk of the Road Warriors suffered from (and inhaled, and swallowed, and injected), but the emotional kind. Just be glad he didn’t trash the house, shut down a section of LAX, and stalk WWE events, like that chick from Season 3.
Don’t think it was just giants and muscle-heads getting a spot in the luxury California mansion, as the WWF producers and trainers also selected the two scrawniest girls on the planet. Jessie made the cut for having “heart”…
…while Alicia had the distinction of being genuinely unlikable. She even showed up late to the second day of auditions, the 18-year-old giving the excuse of having gotten really wasted the night before. With that rare combination of physique and work ethic, it was no wonder she got picked!
Both girls, by the way, had to drop out due to health problems as, to everyone’s surprise, their 90-pound frames couldn’t withstand the constant bumps and falls.
Linda was a former college basketball player who insisted on calling herself “Hot Mocha” whenever it came time to cut a promo or get into character.
Kenny Layne, on the other hand, received from Linda the nickname, “King Kenny of Africa” after bedding a woman in South Africa. While it may have seemed unwise to bag a total stranger in a country with the 4th-highest AIDS rate in the world, Kenny has survived to this day, wrestling as Kenny King, which is ironic, given that the nickname Linda gave to herself would take off about as well as South Africa’s native ostrich.
Speaking of flings, the most famous incident of Season 2 was Jackie cheating on her boyfriend with Pete in a drunken hot tub hook-up (On the very same episode, Edge of all people arrived at the house to talk to the contestants).
This was followed by what seemed like at least fifteen minutes of Jackie crying on the phone at various times to her boyfriend (to whom she blatantly lied about giving Pete a “friendly peck”; I think it was Pete who was the friendly pecker, actually. Hey-o!) and to her mom, perhaps the least-supportive parent in the world.
And speaking of support, Jackie had previously auditioned for the first season of Tough Enough, but got cut from the field of 25. This time, she was back with more heart than ever. In fact, it seemed to be constantly trying to pop out of her chest.
Seriously, there is scarcely one shot of Jackie where her breasts aren’t attempting to scramble over their cage like Owen Hart at Summerslam 1994.
Every time she had an interview session with the producers, Jackie showed up in the same top, the fashion equivalent of a retractable-roof stadium. I mean, talk about Sky Domes!
Thanks to the magic of green screen technology, Jackie’s hooters even got to enjoy views of the South African landscape.
You can’t blame Jackie for this one, since WWE’s producers and viewers were mostly male, so why not show off what God gave her the money to pay a plastic surgeon to give her?
So yeah, Jackie had had a sudden growth spurt that arrived just in time for the second season audition, which Pete pointed out when the cast members got to cut promos on each other.
Pete was no prize himself, having gotten an arm tattoo of the Italian flag… backwards. That’s not some mirror effect, either; the dude either inked himself while looking at his reflection or went to a tattoo parlor and told the artist, “I want an Italian flag, only I want to look like a dumbass, too.”
Throughout the Tough Enough season, the Tough Enough cast did the usual Tough Enough things, like reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pro Wrestling…
…getting hammered at bars and clubs where half of them shouldn’t even have been admitted on account of age…
…losing wacky bets where they had to train in nothing but Aldo Montoya masks…
…getting slapped across the chest by trainer Hardcore Holly…
…watching Bob beat up Frankie Kazarian on Jakked…
…and getting scanned for their own action figures. Here’s Linda Miles about to gag herself after finding out what she’d be doing with the Basham Brothers.
And here’s a plastic Jackie Gayda, seen here holding an action figure.
Ultimately, the show came down to four finalists: Jackie, Jake, Kenny, and Linda. Unfortunately, much like the original season’s finale had to be be postponed due to the events of September 11th, the Season 2 finale had to be altered in a hurry due to the company losing a lawsuit to the World Wildlife Fund. For those of you who don’t see an equivalency between the worst terrorist attack in American history and a costly Vince McMahon legal battle, I’m sorry. For the rest of you, it’s an honor to have you reading my articles, Mrs. McMahon-Levesque.
The finale had an odd mixture of the new and old company names, with post-production team altering text graphics to read, “WWE” but not bothering to censor mentions of “WWF” or displays of the scratched-steel logo.
Everyone had their picks to win the two WWE contracts: Linda was praised for her aggressive attitude, which could parlay nicely into, say, a dominatrix gimmick.
Jackie was praised for being the only contestant to get injured but not drop out; that might have been because her injury was sustained on the last week of training. Aside from that, she had “the build of a diva.” What could that possibly mean?
As for the men, Jake, on the one hand, was extremely marketable, especially with his distinctive haircut. Kenny, on the other hand, was the better wrestler, whom the trainers praised for his ability to make his opponents look good in the ring.
Clearly, what Kenny needed was an unusual haircut, too, like that kid on that one episode of “My Brother and Me” who had “Kenny” shaved into the back of his head. Whatever happened to that kid?
Well, short-lived Nickelodeon sitcoms aside, both male finalists had big upsides, so it’s a shame that only one of them was allowed to win instead of having two male winners. Those were the rules, right?
Stacy Keibler announced Linda Miles as the first winner, driving Jackie to tears while Jake and Kenny held tight and awaited the reading of the male winner.
Then a strange thing happened when it came time to announce the second winner. No, I don’t mean the fact that Jake had suddenly transformed into Nidia. I mean that Jackie was included in the split-screen of the remaining contestants. The female winner had already been announced, so surely Jackie need not be shown onscreen for her reaction.
Things seemed even further amiss when Stacy Keibler opened the envelope and assumed it was some kind of mistake, asking “Big” Gaburick if he was sure about the second winner. She then announced that the winner of the other WWE contract was Jackie.
The split-screen reactions were very telling. For one thing, Jake started to sit up when he first heard Jackie’s name announced. I can just imagine him thinking, “No, Stacy, it’s pronunced ‘Jake,’ not ‘Jackie.’ The ‘e’ is silent.” Then, his facial expression changed to a mix of anger and “WTF” (an abbreviation all the kids on AOL Instant Messenger were using at the time).
Jackie accepted the award with all the grace of a blow-up doll.
Kenny declined to comment much on the outcome, saying that he didn’t want to imply that the contest was based on something other than “athletic talent or skill.” I think you just did, Kenny, but that was pretty sly.
Jake never made it to the WWE, but Kenny Layne has found success as Kenny King in such diverse organizations as Ring of Honor, TNA, and Chippendales.
In the following weeks, WWE and the Tough Enough producers had to do damage control, with all the trainers shamelessly toeing the company line about how there was never any guarantee of one male winner and one female winner. “Big” addressed the fans’ criticism in the most condescending manner possible and claimed that all four trainers were “unanimous” in their decision, despite Chavo admitting that the results were “a shock” to him.
It’s true that technically, WWE never promised that there would be one winner from each sex, although they did structure the show with the same 8 men/5 women cast demographic as Season 1, and although there was only one time (an off-hand remark by Linda on the second episode) in which the possibility of two male or two female winners was even suggested, and although not once during the show did any contestant or trainer mention having to compete with the contestants of the opposite sex. Still, it was a better swerve than Russo ever did in WCW, although it too led to lots of terrible wrestling and pissed-off fans.
Linda and Jackie would wrestle for a few months on TV until “That Jackie Gayda Match.” It was so terrible that not only was Gayda sent down to OVW for training, but Miles was as well, despite not even being in the match. Still proud of your decision, Big?
Linda returned to manage the Basham Brothers and earn a Wrestlecrap induction…
…while Jackie would continue to dance with what brung her, exposing herself both intentionally and unintentionally as Rico’s valet, “Miss Jackie.” Ironically, Adrian Street’s valet was “Miss Linda.”
As you can see, she never quite got the hang of the whole “wrestling” thing.
Remember, these women were the same two people whom the trainers, John Gaburick, and unnamed WWE producers insisted were the best of the field. I think it’s clear who the real boobs here were…
…because they certainly weren’t Jackie’s!