Imagine starting a new job from scratch and having cameras following your every move with viewers dictating whether you stay or go.
This is exactly what the contestants of the WWE Tough Enough reality show competition had to deal with the last 10 weeks. Sara Lee, Amanda Saccomanno, Zamariah “ZZ” Loupe and Josh Bredl survived eliminations, harsh critiques, physically draining challenges and training sessions to emerge the four finalists.
This week it was Sara and Josh who were named Tough Enough with fans voting them as their picks to receive the $250,000 WWE contracts. Paul “Triple H” Levesque, executive vice president, talent, live events & creative, presented the champions with their ultimate prizes live on USA Network.
“It was so awesome,” Sara said.
“I had no idea Triple H was coming to hand it out. I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
“It was big time,” Josh added.
“It felt great. I have been working hard this whole time. For it to pay off and get the contract in hand and get the physical payout, it was awesome. I was also very nervous going into this thing because I know ZZ has a pretty big fan base. The past couple weeks I’ve been picking up steam, and it obviously showed with the percentages. I’m ready to get to work.”
The four competitors put what they learned to the test by developing a character, ring attire, entrance and match. The men faced WWE superstar Cesaro and the girls wrestled Alicia Fox.
“It was kind of crazy pulling it all together,” Sara said.
“You had to trust what you were feeling and go with it. I was really excited to work with Foxy because she is so experienced. She has been such an awesome diva for so long. It was such a rush. My adrenaline was at the point of thinking, ‘Did that hurt? I can’t feel anything.’ It put it all together in that last match and showed everyone what we’ve been working on this entire time.”
“Working with Cesaro was awesome because he is one of the best in the business right now,” Josh said.
“He is one of the staple guys when it comes to wrestling. When it comes to working with someone new, he leads the way. This last week in getting prepared for this thing coach Booker and Billy took the guys aside and had us basically map out a shell of what kind of match we wanted. Then we got to link up with Cesaro and work with him.
“These matches look great and make sense, but we had a short time frame to prepare. We had to freestyle it out and work with each other. It felt real natural. I feel I leveled up the last two days alone. It was a crash course. The progress we’ve had from beginning to end has been awesome. To cap it off with this huge match with Cesaro, believing in what you are doing is what it’s all about. Confidence shows.”
Sara won the fan vote, but the coaches didn’t hide the fact they felt Amanda should have gotten the contract. The diva rookie took it all in stride, looking to fuel her motivation to prove the WWE Universe made the right decision.
“It hasn’t been easy the last few weeks, but they all do want me to succeed,” Sara said of her superstar and diva coaches.
“It was constructive criticism. It was hard, but at the end of day I did win. I just have to work that much harder that I do belong here. The fans saw that in me. I just have to keep working on it.”
Triple H did speak positively about the 22-year-old by mentioning his children adored her. During Tough Talk on WWE Network, he mentioned that she had an innate charisma that even resonated with his children.
“That was pretty awesome for him to do,” Sara said.
“When I met them at SummerSlam I didn’t quite realize those were his kids because they weren’t with him. Then when they ran away and I saw Triple H holding one I was like, ‘Holy cow! That’s his kid.’ The fact Triple H’s kids were so excited to meet me makes it all even more worth it.”
Josh made Tough Enough his own version of the Biggest Loser by dropping weight. The former NFL player’s body transformation impressed.
“When I got here I was about 310 pounds, now I’m 270 or so. That’s about 40 pounds. …Starting in college I did some personal training and online coaching with clients. I definitely know how to do it. I was coming off of an NFL career where I had to be very heavy. Losing weight was crucial here because you have to be light on your feet, have some air in you and look good. Since I’ve been here I took every opportunity to train hard and do my thing in the gym and eat as clean as possible. I think it paid off.
Josh looks at Bill Goldberg, The Rock and Roman Reigns who have successfully transitioned from the gridiron to the ring. He also studies The Undertaker to see how he moves. He plans to make the Yeti persona a lot more successful than the last Yeti.
“That would be a match,” Josh said.
“I heard that a lot about the Yeti in WCW. He was a mockery in a way. He came out looking like a mummy and gave this big hug. It was embarrassing. I am definitely taking my Yeti in a different direction… I told the coaches that first day of minicamp that I’m here as this piece of clay. That they have to mold me into something, and I wanted coaches to take me places I couldn’t take myself. I was here to learn and check my ego at the door. When it comes down to it, I hope within a year I could be seen as a guy with potential to be on the main roster. I want to progress and see where it takes you.”
Sara has similar aspirations.
“With the ‘Diva Revolution’ going on, it would be pretty awesome to find my own team down the line,” she said.
“Then we can work against Team BAD or a group like that. The divas are on an awesome streak right now. I want to break the mold and be myself like I have been.”
Amanda and ZZ remains in good spirits after the Tough Enough finale. They are proud of their last performances.
“It was disappointing not to win, but honestly I held my own,” Amanda said.
“I’m not discouraged because I gave my all in this competition. After hearing the coaches and judges and the support thinking I should have won, for me that was more than anything. At the end of the day it’s a popularity contest, but hearing it from the people that I’ve been training within the past almost three months. That was more rewarding than everything. So I wasn’t discouraged, but grateful to get where I was.”
“To get news like that is never a good thing, but to make it that far and go through everything we went through is an honor by itself,” ZZ said.
“When you are that far in the game, no matter the outcome, you do your best and know you’re going to leave an impression. So the best thing you can do is put it in God’s hands.”
Amanda received support on social media from many fans, which included WWE Hall of Famer and trailblazer Trish Stratus. The tweet of confidence from the multi-time women’s champion meant the world to the fellow blonde bombshell.
“It gave me such positive reinforcement to give it my all,” she said.
“Trish Stratus has always been a huge inspiration of mine. Ever since I started this whole thing, people said that I reminded them of her. That was such nice thing to hear because she is such a nice role model. I related to her because when she first came in as a fitness model people didn’t take her seriously. They just thought she is just a model and not going to be able to do anything. Her whole thing was proving people wrong. So I really look up to her and hope one day I could fill her shoes so to speak.”
ZZ stepped up with in his match with Cesaro. The gator grappler was excited to see the “King of the Bayou” square off against the “King of Swing.”
“You don’t see it that often with a person at my level coming up to ever get in the ring with Cesaro,” he said.
“He is one of the best. It was something I will never forget…You either sink or swim. I had to swim across the ocean to drown on the beach, but it doesn’t matter because I made it to the island.”
Amanda reflects fondly of her match.
“It was awesome,” she said.
“Being in there and not being as experienced, we just learned everything. Maybe two hours we got to practice and be in the ring with Cesaro and Alicia Fox to practice. It was an overall great experience. I think we gave our all….The first match I had to partake in I got beat. I got pretty beat up. She didn’t go easy on me at all. When she did the clothesline, she got closer to my jaw. It was good for me to experience that. It shows this is what it was all about. You are getting hit and tossed around. It’s real. So to experience it hands-on like that is awesome.”
Despite coming up short, ZZ takes with him fond memories and new friendships. He will never forget his time in Orlando.
“The one thing I will remember is how awesome a coach Billy Gunn was,” he said.
“That was one hell of a person. Every day I had to overcome some adversity. That’s just the fun part about it. I’ll never forget all the people. This was an experience of a lifetime. When you get to stand straight-up with the best like Daniel Bryan and Triple H, who is someone you looked up to your entire life. He is there in person. It’s crazy.
“…I’m going to go home for a couple of days to see my family and remember what caused me to come here. I’m going to recharge and return to my roots. I’m going to do anything it takes to get back here. I’m going to find a school near me or move to Orlando if the school isn’t good enough. I am going to keep going.”
Amanda isn’t throwing in the towel just yet either.
“I’m going to go home to see my family and everyone I haven’t seen for a while,” she said.
“Then I’m going to come back and pursue getting into NXT and getting a developmental contract because this is what I want to do. I’m not going to give up on this. I already have my foot in the door. I’m just going to keep going.
“…It was one of the best experiences of my life. Coming into this and not knowing what it was all about, getting thrown into a Barracks with 12 other people you don’t know anything about. You’re pushing yourself to the absolute limit, being independent, sacrificing and being away from your families. Now I can pretty much do anything after going through this.”
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Photos Courtesy: WWE