By Mike Mooneyham

June 24, 2001

It’s “Real World” meets professional wrestling, with some “Survivors” mixed in. But MTV’s “WWF Tough Enough,” a reality-based series that debuted Thursday night, is a show worthy of every wrestling fan’s consideration.

[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]The show, which has drawn rave reviews in most circles, provides an up-close look at the training process aspiring wrestlers go through, chronicling the joy and pain of the participants in search of wrestling fame. In the end, one male and one female winner will earn a chance to enter the WWF ring as a pro wrestler.

Starting from more than 4,000 video applications that were cut down to 230 during a couple of marathon 16-hour days, the group was finally whittled down from 25 to 13. The opening episode featured the tryouts that took place at WWF New York to determine the final 13 contestants.

Look for WWF trainers Al Snow, Tazz and Jackie to emerge as the real breakout stars of the show.

“I could become the Ray Bourque of the WWF,” Snow joked Friday. “It only took him 20 years to win the Stanley Cup. Maybe I’ll win the World Wrestling Federation title in 19.”

Production for the show wrapped up on June 11. Snow, who spent last week training Shane McMahon for his match with Kurt Angle at tonight’s King of the Ring pay-per-view, said the show was one of the most satisfying things he’s done in his career.

“It was a very enjoyable project. Everybody put their heart and soul into this thing. It’s a very interesting show. It’s very interesting watching how they relate to one another in the house, and how they react to the reality as opposed to the dream. There’s a lot of real emotion on the show – grown men standing there, balling their eyes out, because this is their dream and things didn’t go quite the way they thought they would.”

Snow said as the series progresses, the trainers form emotional attachments with some of the participants.

“Jackie tried to be hard, but she starts warming up at the end. When one guy leaves, she breaks down in tears.” Snow said the show will not only help the WWF, but the wrestling business in general.

“I think it will help eliminate some of the stigma attached to the wrestling business,” said Snow. “It will show just how `real’ this supposed `fake’ business is. I think it will help people relate to wrestling.”

While there are strong similarities to other reality-based shows, Snow said “Tough Enough” was unique because the participants were chasing a dream that didn’t necessarily revolve around a monetary award.

“Unlike `Survivors’ and `Real World’ and `Boot Camp’ and `Chains of Love’ and these other ridiculous shows, kids honestly did not show up and did not go on this show to basically degrade or subject themselves to some sort of physical or emotional torture for either a chance to have 15 minutes of fame on TV or some kind of cash prize. These kids actually had a passion and a dream to be WWF superstars.”[ad#MikeMooneyham-468×15]

Snow said one of the more interesting parts of the show for him as a trainer was watching the participants come in with their preconceived notions and fantasies, and then watching them deal with the reality.

Snow said the only applicant who had any prior in-ring experience was “Chris from Harvard,” who had trained for only a few weeks at Killer Kowalski’s wrestling school.

“I was very emphatic to the MTV producers that since it was a contest and we were going to be evaluating new people, that one should not have any true experience,” said Snow. “We initially had people show up with years of experience, and that wouldn’t have been fair. It was far more interesting to watch people come in who had no idea what they were getting into and watch their reactions. I thought that was a lot more entertaining than having some guy who had already wrestled for eight years. Of course that guy would outshine everybody else in the class.”