|The new judges!|
I know some folks groan when they see his name, but Chris Jericho really is the perfect guy to host any non-wrestling show from WWE. He has tons of charisma, knows how to keep the narrative moving live or recorded, and has a fanbase outside WWE television. His times at the top make him a strong judge, second only in legacy to Hulk Hogan.
Hulk Hogan as a reality judge show might give some folks flashbacks to this, albeit with less Brian Knobs or Brutus Beefcake. But while Hogan is out of touch with the modern wrestling audience, he does have tons of credibility with his charisma and his insanely natural ring presence. And thankfully the new format doesn’t force him to stand at the edge of the ring and act like he is actually training anyone. (Looking at you, Steve Austin.)
Daniel Bryan is probably the biggest fan favorite in WWE. But like Eddie Guerrero before him, the fandom’s absolute love for him makes him hard to carry a storyline these days. Coupled with his mounting injuries, it might be best for him to more regularly take non-wrestling roles in order to save himself for higher profile matches. Days off the road to work Tough Enough will only elongate his career.
Paige seems an odd choice personally for the final judge, as she is such a young competitor. But on the WWE roster, she also has close to the most experience thanks to her legacy as part of the Knight family. No offense meant to Trish from last season, but I think she also brings a greater understanding of the squared circle than the admittedly great Ms. Stratus.
Booker T is the sole returning trainer this season, although Billy Gunn is a superb back-up. Billy can still go in the ring and has all the skills to help hone a new champion. I am a bit worried about Lita being the third name in the trainers as she hasn’t wrestled in over half a decade, but what she might not have to share in ring can certainly be made up for in helping the young talents find a way to move forward as characters as well as wrestlers.
Overall, the new format complete with promised live segments and fan interaction creates a Tough Enough far more interesting than previous seasons. It will also avoid the blindspots of previous seasons (Matt Cross, anyone?) while opening up the Performance Center in new ways to fans.
Here’s hoping we get a great bunch of young superstars to make the show a true winner.