Four remain on Tough Enough with two receiving $250,000 WWE contracts live 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25.
The fan favorites have survived because they have resonated with audiences. Their groundswell of support has grown, despite not progressing as quickly as the rest of the field. Where they lack in physical areas they have made up for in personality.
Sara and ZZ joined their fellow remaining cast members Josh Bredl and Amanda Saccomanno in New York City for the SummerSlam week festivities. Among the activities was interacting with Make-A-Wish kids and their families during a special party at Dave and Busters to celebrate John Cena granting his landmark 500th wish.
“It’s actually my first time to New York and doing something with Make-A-Wish,” Lee said.
“It’s so fun. I’m overwhelmed. There is so much happening with all these people. It’s really cool to be a part of it. The NXT [TakeOver: Brooklyn] show, SummerSlam and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. There is more to it than getting in the ring. All of the kids and everything, being able to make them happy is really cool.”
Lee is doing all this while thinking about her big test against Alicia Fox. She will face her on the finale.
“It’s been nerve-racking because the show will be our first live match,” she said.
“There is a lot to do because we are so busy this weekend, too. You have to think about what you’re going to do then. I’m really excited to work with Alicia Fox. She is super cool…You can see the bruise on my back. We’ve been in the ring more, practicing what we are going to do in the match and our entrances. It’s stressful. I’m very beat-up right now, but it’s extremely fun. It’s great to get more time in there and learn new stuff.”
Lee is grateful for her fans, who have kept her in the game each week. She feels the love from everyone back home. Before Tough Enough, she was a student looking to be an ultrasound technician. who also worked 30-40 hours a week to pay the bills. Lee’s interesting background includes competitive power lifting, as well as team sports.
“I don’t know if it’s because I’m a goofball,” she said.
“Maybe they can relate to that. They have kind of been on my journey with me. I came from being a student working all the time to coming here to be a WWE diva. Maybe they can relate to me and follow me on my journey. Whatever reason, I love it and hope they keep voting and supporting me.”
The positive messages can come in handy to boast spirits when you get bad critiques from the judges or coaches. Lee takes it all in stride.
“It’s hard sometimes having one of your favorite divas, Paige yelling at you in front of everybody and everyone at home watching. I just take it as constructive criticism. It’s tough love. Paige wants me to do better at this. So whatever advice she has I’m going to take it and listen to it. Not just cry because she is yelling at me. It has definitely been an interesting experience, but I wouldn’t change anything about it.”
ZZ often gets similar feedback for his judges. They wonder if he is taking the competition seriously or just trying to coast on his personality. There have also been a crop of fans against ZZ and perceive him as lazy.
“Somebody told me you’re not a wrestler if you don’t have haters,” he said.
“You’re not successful in life if people don’t hate you. To have the support from my hometown and all over the world, it means a lot to me. At the same time you can’t appreciate a sunny day until you have a cloudy day. All the haters make my supporters that much greater to me.”
In recent weeks the alligator wrestler has been questioned about his training regimen and if he is really putting the time in the gym. His cardio was a concern. When Daniel Bryan and The Miz’s line of questioning led them and viewers to believe ZZ wasn’t telling the truth and skirting around the issues.
“I come from a very honest life,” ZZ said.
“To be called a liar, especially on national television in front of the world. My whole life I strive to make my reputation not a liar. I just got to roll with the punches. I’m going to get a lot of it in this business. So I guess that was my first taste of it. I’m not a liar. Look at me. Does it look like I am losing weight or eating donuts?”
ZZ must focus if he wants to impress during his live match with WWE superstar Cesaro. It’s the ultimate opportunity for him to show everyone he is up for the challenge.
“The last couple of days have been very stressful,” ZZ said.
“…My nerves are shot. Every night and morning I’m thinking about what Cesaro does and what I can do. If you’re going against a football team, you are going to watch their plays over and over again just have an arsenal to counteract them. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve also been thinking about my exit and my entrance. If I do everything I possibly can with enough passion and energy, it’s going to be all out.”
The gator and people lover has a history being on reality shows. However, ZZ believes he has been genuine on this one and was not trying to work him. For him, it’s no character. We are seeing the real ZZ in his eyes.
“I did two reality shows in the past,” he said.
“One was hunting alligators. That was real life, so it wasn’t a reality show to me. Then I did one when I was eight years old. So as far as people saying I am a reality star who knows how to manipulate people on TV because I have been on reality TV, no I don’t. I just speak from my heart. Everyone thinks it’s too good to be true so they are trying to come up with everything in the book to make me seem like a false character. I am who I am, and I want the world to see that.”
Win or lose, ZZ is not giving up on his WWE aspirations.
“Back home I was born into a great little business,” he said.
“Every day I wake up and prepare myself to make people feel good about themselves. So doing that my entire life, I wanted to do it on a bigger scale, which was WWE. I want to make people feel good throughout the world through my actions and what I’m saying. Even if I don’t win this show, this is something I’m going to pursue. It’s not like I’m just going to give up. If you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
- Watch the finals of WWE Tough Enough 8/7C Tuesday Aug. 25 on USA Network.
- Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.
Photos Courtesy: WWE