Pro Wrestling

The 10 Most Successful Tough Enough Contestants Source:

In case you didn’t know, WWE has resurrected their Tough Enough reality series for a sixth edition on USA Network. The competition to turn ordinary people into future WWE Superstars through an intense and compressed training program has had a rocky history, with seemingly more failures than success stories, especially among those chosen as winners of their respective seasons. However, a surprising number of Tough Enough alumni who didn’t necessarily make it all the way to the winner’s circle have still gone on to have at least moderately successful careers related to professional wrestling. But who has truly made the most of their Tough Enough experience? Keep reading to find out!

10. Ivelisse Velez

Ivelisse came into the fifth season of Tough Enough as a strong contender, but was forced out of the competition once an injury prevented her from performing. WWE signed her to a contract with their developmental league, and she spent several years as a featured performer, at one point managing current WWE Diva Paige. Unfortunately, she was released from her contract in 2012 amidst rumblings of issues with (recently released) head trainer Bill DeMott. After becoming a free agent, Ivelisse made several appearances for TNA and other independent promotions before settling with Lucha Underground. In a promotion where inter-gender matches are possible, Ivelisse has shown her skills against both men and women, while teaming with Son of Havoc (himself a former Tough Enough competitor) and Angelico, eventually becoming the inaugural Lucha Underground Trios Champions. Source: YouTube

9. Kenny King

King was a part of the second season of Tough Enough, where he finished as runner-up to eventual winners Jackie Gayda and Linda Miles. In retrospect, King probably should have won the competition, as neither woman went on to become anything of real importance in WWE or pro wrestling. Though he has not, as yet, worked for WWE again, King has forged a long career on the independent scene, most notably in the small but extremely popular Ring of Honor organization, where he held the Tag Team titles. King has also had two stints with TNA Wrestling, a shorter one early in his career, and his current run, where he has become a multiple-time X Division champion, and most recently a member of Beat Down Clan, a heel faction fighting for control of TNA (admittedly, one of many to do so over the years of TNA’s existence). Source: YouTube

8. Matt Morgan

Morgan rode his near 7′ height to a spot on the second season of Tough Enough, but a broken leg took him out of the competition. WWE would not let him get away that easily, however, and he quickly signed a developmental contract. Morgan debuted on the main roster in late 2003, but was quickly exposed as not being quite ready for the big time, and returned to the minor leagues. Morgan never really reached his potential in WWE, as a second stint as Carlito’s stuttering bodyguard was short-lived and ended with his release. However, Morgan caught on in TNA and became “The Blueprint,” combining his gigantic size with an impressive physique. He received many chances in TNA, but never seemed to quite get over the hump, mostly due to poor booking decisions by TNA’s management. He also spent a season as “Beast” on the short-lived American Gladiators revival, and had his DNA shot into space as part of “Operation Immortality.” Morgan is now essentially retired from wrestling, though he did recently appear in TNA as part of a one-shot return for their Slammiversary PPV. Source:

7. The Boogeyman

In a series that has created a lot of interesting stories, Marty Wright’s brief wrestling career is possibly the top of the heap. Wright applied for the third season of Tough Enough, and was impressive during the early try-outs. Unfortunately, despite being in fantastic physical shape and possessing inhuman charisma, he was disqualified from the competition for lying about his age (the cut-off was 35, Wright, shockingly, was 40). However, all was not lost for Wright’s dream, and he soon re-emerged in WWE as The Boogeyman, a face-painted nightmare who hailed from The Bottomless Pit, smashed clocks over his head, and ate live earthworms in order to psyche out his opponents. Unfortunately, Wright’s limited wrestling skills, combined with several ill-timed injuries, brought a quick end to his incredibly memorable WWE career. Source:

6. Cameron

Cameron was a part of the fifth season of Tough Enough, and made headlines for a couple of unflattering reasons. Right out of the gate, it was clear that she had minimal wrestling skills, and it was not a huge surprise when she was one of the first three nominated for elimination. Immediately, her dedication to pro wrestling was questioned, and she did little to help her cause when her choice for best match of all time was Melina vs Alicia Fox, which was a forgettable match on a minor PPV that nobody (except, clearly, Cameron) even remembered. She became the very first eliminated contestant of the season shortly afterwards. Shockingly, she was also signed to a developmental contract almost immediately, and eventually debuted as one of Brodus Clay’s dance partners, The Funkadactyls. She also landed a featured role on Total Divas, a reality show following female WWE Superstars on E! Network. Source:

5. Josh Mathews

Mathews was a runner-up on the first season of Tough Enough, but showed that he was undoubtedly one of the most passionate wrestling fans in the competition. Mathews took that passion and channelled it in a new direction, working his way into a backstage announcer position with WWE. Through hard work and dedication, Mathews eventually became a play-by-play announcer on WWE’s syndicated “B” show, where he brought a vast amount of wrestling knowledge and a youthful charisma to the role. Mathews soon ended up as the main commentator on WWE Smackdown, a position he held for several years. Josh left WWE during a series of budget cuts, but soon caught on with TNA, where he is currently the lead play-by-play announcer for the promotion. Source:

4. Ryback

The man who feeds on adversity, Ryan Reeves, was a part of the much-maligned fourth season of Tough Enough, which aired exclusively on Smackdown and featured very little actual wrestling. Reeves set himself apart with his “Silverback” persona, and despite not winning the competition, he was soon a part of the WWE developmental system, and worked his way onto the first season of NXT under the name Skip Sheffield. Sheffield became a big part of The Nexus group, which formed in the aftermath of that season, but was sidelined for over a year due to a freak injury that refused to heal. Eventually, Reeves returned under a new name: Ryback (a portmanteau of “Ryan” and “Silverback”). After several years of destroying opponents, Ryback finally won his first major title, becoming Intercontinental Champion. He has since left the company and is quite bitter about it. Source:

3. Christopher Nowinski

Nowinski was a runner-up in the first season of Tough Enough, and parlayed that into a WWE contract, becoming the first Harvard-educated pro wrestler in WWE history. However, it was a series of concussions suffered while wrestling that forced Nowinski out of the ring and into his true calling. After retiring, Nowinski helped to found the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI), and became a pioneering force in concussion-based research, especially as it related to professional sports and wrestling. The extensive work of SLI has drastically increased knowledge about the threat of brain injuries, and forever changed the way in which concussions are diagnosed and treated. Armed with this knowledge, SLI has worked to create health reforms in all sports, including pro wrestling, with the goal of potentially prolonging and improving the lives of countless professional athletes, both during their careers, and afterwards. Source:

2. John Morrison

Morrison, surprisingly, is the only entrant on this list who actually won his season of Tough Enough. After being cut in try-outs for the second season, Morrison tried again the next year, and used an impressive array of aerial skills to get noticed and ultimately win a WWE contract. Morrison continued to use his background in parkour to develop an arsenal of high-flying moves, and quickly became known as one of the most unique wrestlers in WWE. Morrison had multiple Tag Team title reigns, most notably teaming with J&J Security’s Joey Mercury and another Tough Enough alum in The Miz, and eventually spun off into a fairly successful singles career, holding the Intercontinental title on several occasions. He often earned comparisons to Shawn Michaels, but his promo skills seemed to hold him back from becoming a major star, and eventually he left WWE to seek other opportunities. Currently, Morrison wrestles for the popular independent promotion Lucha Underground under the name Johnny Mundo. Source:

1. The Miz

Whether you love him or you hate him (most people choose the latter), there is no denying that The Miz has been the most successful Tough Enough alumni of all time. The former Real World star lived out his dream by participating in the fourth season, finishing second but still managing to snag a contract with WWE. On top of multiple Tag Team, Intercontinental, and United States title reigns, The Miz is the only graduate of Tough Enough to win the WWE Heavyweight Championship, main event WrestleMania, and successfully defend the title against none other than John Cena.

Along the way, The Miz has also managed to star in several movies. Admittedly, they were terrible, but those movies still allowed him to rub elbows with Hollywood stars and cross over to the mainstream, making multiple appearances on talk shows, where he used his unique charisma to promote himself and the WWE brand worldwide. Source:

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.