Former WWE Reality Star Tanner Saraceno Believes His Wrestling Experience Can Be ‘advantage’ In MMA


WWE Tough Enough returned to the USA Network on Tuesday night. The show may be familiar, but the format is completely new. Instead of being shot months in advance, contestants are competing at the same time that the show airs.

The 13 contestants are comprised of seven men and six women, with one of each taking home the grand prize when it's all said and done.

Renee Young and Chris Jericho are serving as hosts this time around, with the judging panel consisting of Hulk Hogan, Paige and Daniel Bryan.

This might seem like a random group of wrestlers, but each judge is able to offer insight into different aspects of professional wrestling.

Young laid out a set of rules at the top of the first episode so that everyone knows what to expect over the next 10 weeks:

  • One contestant will be eliminated each week.
  • Each week, the judges will nominate their bottom three contestants.
  • Viewers will vote to keep their favorite of the bottom three in a global vote.
  • Each judge gets one contestant save per season.
  • At the end of the season, viewers will decide which male and female will win the $250,000 WWE contract.

As you can see, the rules borrow heavily from other competition series like The Voice and America's Got Talent, but of course, WWE puts its own spin on everything to make it unique.

After the initial introductions from the hosts and judges, we went right to footage of the contestants meeting the trainers for the first competition at the Citrus Bowl, which is where WrestleMania 24 took place. Here is a quick rundown of the people competing this season:

  • Alexander Frekey
  • Amanda Saccomanno
  • Daria Berenato
  • Dianna Dahlgren
  • Gabi Castrovinci
  • Giorgia Piscina
  • Hank Avery Jr.
  • Joshua Bredl
  • Mada Abdelhamid
  • Patrick Clark Jr.
  • Sara Lee (no, not the baker)
  • Tanner Saraceno
  • Zamariah "ZZ" Loupe

Lita, Booker T and Billy Gunn will serve as the trainers this year, and just like the panel of judges, each trainer is able to offer knowledge about different parts of the business.

First Week's Challenges

Throughout the show, short video interviews introduced each contestant to the viewers. Some of them have MMA and wrestling experience, while others are just athletes looking for a chance to live their dreams.

WWE didn't waste any time putting the participants through their first challenge of strength and endurance. The first challenge made them run the full distance of the field with a small parachute strapped to their waists to create drag and resistance.

On the way back, each person had to pull a bag of sand that weighed as much as he or she did before finally running up to the top of the bleachers.

All of the contestants looked drained when they finished the challenge, with the larger athletes appearing to have more trouble than some of the more slender competitors.

Tanner was the first male to make it to the top of the bleachers, with Amanda leading the way for the women. ZZ was the last person to finish the challenge, but his fellow contestants were there to provide support and cheer him on to the finish. It seemed like Tanner was the person giving him the most encouragement.

After everyone was finished killing themselves on the field, we got to watch them settle into their new home and make plans to go out celebrating their completion of the first day. ZZ and Patrick stayed behind while everyone else went out drinking.

Their digs did not look as glamorous as the mansion that last season's cast stayed in. The beds looked like something out of a military barracks, and the walls were simple brick and mortar.

After the first commercial break, the show brought the contestants onto the stage, where the judges were waiting to meet them. Jericho and Young gave some quick intros before we got to see how they handled their first night out on the town.

Gabi did a little pole dancing at the club, which seemed to rub a few people the wrong way. Tanner was also the subject of some criticism from the other men when they noticed he was getting the most attention from the female competitors.

The next morning, Billy Gunn was there bright and early to wake everyone up with a megaphone. Anyone who might have had a hangover from the night before was in for a rough day of calisthenics.

After some push-ups and running, Booker and Gunn taught the contestants how to run the ropes and properly lift someone onto their shoulders. They then combined the skills into a routine.

Tanner got into a bit of an argument with some fellow competitors when the trainers asked how many times they could do the routine and he responded with, "Twice as many as everyone else."

However, he was able to silence some critics by completing twice as many cycles as the average number that the other men put up with a total of 16. After winning the first few competitions, Tanner seems to be setting himself apart from the rest of the crowd.

Dianna claimed she was injured due to something that happened the previous day, but she was able to do more repetitions than anyone else in the entire competition with 17.

Nattie @NatbyNature

Really curious to see who actually likes Wrestling in this cast. I repeat WRESTLING. W-R-E-S-T-L-I-N-G. #ToughEnough @wwe

Triple H @TripleH

Last minute preparations before the @WWEToughEnough premiere tonight at 8pm on @USA_Network. #ToughEnough

Even with an impressive performance, she seemed like she was close to calling it quits after a visit from her fiance caused her to feel homesick. It didn't help that Gabi encouraged her to go home and caused a huge argument.

Tanner also seemed to be at the center of some controversy when some of the other men took offense to how he was touting his wins in all the previous challenges. While reality television always features some disagreements to add to the drama, it seemed like both of these confrontations were legitimate.

We then went back to the studio, where each of the judges had the chance to ask the contestants some questions before they all had to name their bottom three.

Hogan chose ZZ, Bryan chose Hank and Paige picked Josh. Each person had 30 seconds to make his case as to why he should stay before Jericho revealed the results of the live voting.

First-Week Elimination: Hank

Unfortunately, Hank will not be living his dream of becoming a WWE Superstar by winning Tough Enough, as he was the first person eliminated from the competition.

The problem with the live voting and having only an hour of the show is that not all the contestants had enough time to show what they can do. Tanner was given the most exposure, so it should come as no surprise that he avoided the bottom three.

The other issue is that the eliminations happen live, which means the time between choosing the bottom three and eliminating someone is about only 10 minutes.

It wasn't surprising that none of the women was nominated for elimination, since nobody was portrayed as being significantly better or worse than any of her fellow female contestants.

All in all, it was probably the toughest week we will see for eliminations, as there was little to base the voting on.

Tough Talk

Following the main show, the WWE Network aired an aftershow called Tough Talk, which featured former Tough Enough contestant The Miz conducting interviews immediately following the elimination.

Hank ate a big slice of humble pie and said that he respects everyone on the show and will continue to chase his dream of becoming a WWE Superstar.

The Miz conducted interviews with some of the remaining contestants, even going as far as forcing them to address any personal issues they may have with one another right there on the stage.

Always one to stir the pot, The Miz questioned Gabi's husband in the crowd about her pole-dancing exploits and Dianna about whether she was faking her injury.

When it comes to the talk-show format, WWE couldn't have picked a better host. The Miz has the sense of humor and personality to keep things light while also asking questions we all want the answers to.

He is one of the few people who knows what these competitors are going through, since he was part of a previous season, but he also has the ability to keep things moving at a good pace to keep it entertaining.

The best part of Tough Talk was how some of the contestants called out the producers for cutting certain things from the show. Bryan responded with, "Are you saying reality television isn't exactly real?" and The Miz jokingly took offense to it because of all his reality-TV experience.

Interesting Tidbits

A lot of interesting things happened during the main show and the aftershow on the WWE Network:

  • ZZ likes to get naked in hot tubs, but nobody else seems to enjoy it when he does.
  • Gabi has a farting problem, according to Dianna.
  • It was Gabi's husband who had the idea for her to take pole-dancing classes.
  • Bryan and Paige think Dianna is forcing her fiance to wear his wedding ring before they are actually married.
  • Josh called The Miz "Babe," and Daniel Bryan found it hilarious.
  • The Miz and Bryan are buddies in real life.
  • The Miz thinks Paige could kick his butt.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the first week showed a lot of promise for the future of the show. The format is going to give some people the advantage, but it is also better than previous seasons because the viewers will have an impact on the results every week.

Tanner emerged as the front-runner early, but his cocky personality might not help him in the end. Gabi also showed that she is not one to shy away from controversy, especially when it comes to the other women on the show.

The group of trainers and judges will make for some entertaining moments throughout the season, and the team of Jericho and Young can handle the hosting duties with ease.

The first show did a good job of mixing training and contests with what was going on in the studio and during the downtime in between the various competitions.

A few people stood out as the biggest personalities, but it seems like the most liked among the group was ZZ. He had a humble humor to him that would make it hard to hate the guy, but his conditioning needs to improve if he hopes to stay out of the bottom three next week.

What did you think of the first episode of the new and improved Tough Enough?

Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.

Source :

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