|WWF Tough Enough: Interview with Daniel
by Mike 'Big Fred Machine' DeGeorge
Daniel made it to the top 25 possible contestants for WWF Tough Enough, but lost out to Josh for making it to those who would actually be on the show. He was one of the few who appeared on the Casting Special and he still keeps in touch with one of the finalists. Find out why Daniel wanted to be a wrestler, what really went on at WWF New York, and what his plans are for Tough Enough 2.
Following is an interview conducted with Daniel, who had reached the Top 25 finalists for WWF Tough Enough, but missed getting into the group that made it onto the show.
Mike: Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself?
Daniel: I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I went to Clear Lake High School and then after graduating I received a degree in Finance from The University of Texas at Austin. I returned to Houston to work as a Tax accountant for Arthur Andersen LLP, one of the "Big 5" accounting firms. I currently work for Koch Industries. Not all accountants are how they are portrayed in movies and TV! You know, bald on the top and pocket protectors. Those are the previous generation of accountants. Of course, you still can find those here and there.
Mike: Are you a fan of reality television?
Daniel: Huge fan of reality television.
Mike: What reality shows do you like?
Daniel: I watch shows such as Survivor, Fear Factor, Temptation Island, Blind Date and of course, Tough Enough. I tried to watch Big Brother, but I couldn't keep watching after the first episode. I didn't bother with Big Brother 2.
Mike: How long have you been a wrestling fan?
Daniel: I started watching wrestling since I was 9. My mom introduced me to it, and soon she regretted that, because she had no idea I would be such a big fan. She also didn't realize how much damage to her bed a 9-year-old could make imitating wrestling moves.
Mike: Who are some of your favorite wrestlers?
Daniel: I've always liked the wrestlers when they played the heel role like The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase, Demolition, Yokozuna, Owen Hart, and more recently The Rock, Kane, and Booker T. I've been a fan of all the Asian wrestlers, such as Tajiri, The Orient Express (remember them? Kato and Tanaka, although Kato was white), Hakushi and Kaientai. Too bad they all lost more than they won. I hope Tajiri will become a big star in the WWF because not only is he fantastic to watch, he can pave the way for more Asian wrestler wannabes such as myself.
Mike: Tajiri is one of my favorites as well. What made you try out for Tough Enough?
Daniel: Being a WWF wrestler has always been more of a fantasy than a dream for me, just like me playing in the NBA. I didn't think it would ever happen. It didn't hit me until I was in the ring that I thought that it was possible for me to wrestle. I was surprised when I saw the announcement for Tough Enough. I thought at first it was some kind of gimmick, like the winner gets to be an "honorary" WWF wrestler for one day. During RAW and Smackdown they showed some of the videos people sent, which didn't look very impressive, and I knew I could make a much better one. Sure enough, they loved my tape.
Mike: What did you do in your audition tape?
Daniel: I'd rather not say. No use in giving the other hopefuls an advantage!
From The Tough Enough Casting Special:
Daniel is shown jumping rope, one of the only successful people they show. "Ever since I've been watching these guys that are about 6'5", 280 pounds. But, uh, since then wrestling has really evolved. They've got a lot of small guys. Guys about my size." Daniel talks to the panel: "I'm a combination of Western Strength and Eastern Philosophy. I'm different. I'm Asian. I'm proud of that. I just want to do my race proud." (Thanks to Dale Sherman for the transcript)
Mike: Were you told ahead of time what you would be doing in the ring? Some of the candidates looked as if they weren't expecting anything physical.
Daniel: We were told that the auditions would involve something physical but we didn't know specifically what we were going to do.
Mike: Did you prepare your promo ahead of time, script it and memorize it, or just wing it?
Daniel: I didn't really have to script it, because what I said was really how I felt inside. I just basically acted as myself with the volume turned up.
Mike: It was hard to tell exactly what was asked of each person in the ring. What was expected of each person?
Daniel: Each person had to either first: run and touch the bottom rope from side to side, jump the bag, or do step-ups for 30 seconds. After that, we had to jump rope. Then we did our promo.
Mike: Were you able to see the other contestants in the ring while you waited?
Daniel: We all were held in the back while the other contestants auditioned in the ring. Contestants were not allowed to watch while we waited.
Mike: Can you expand on what your said in your promo?
Daniel: I said that I am the combination of Western strength and Eastern philosophy. Because I was born and raised in America, so I am an American of Oriental descent. I've learn a lot about Oriental culture and wisdom through my family and through my studies and practices of Asian martial arts. I combine the best the two cultures have to offer.
Mike: Was there anything cut from your in-ring interview that you feel should have been kept in the show?
Daniel: I was hoping they would have shown more of my promo. I said that not all Chinese guys are skinny, nerdy bookworms that wear thick glasses and can't drive straight. I was going to bring honor, respect, and fear back to my people. I gave the judges fair warning to get ready for an Asian Invasion. And they would realize why, there ain't no persuasion like this Asian.
Mike: What was the over-all feeling of the other contestants during the first day of the try-outs?
Daniel: I think the contestants were really excited and nervous at the same time. Everyone was very friendly to each other. Some were cocky, some were scared that they were going to mess up. Most of the guys there were huge. A lot of them looked very intimidating. Somehow, I don't think they were intimidated by me. I'm sure they didn't think I had a chance and were wondering what I was even doing there. But I use that to my advantage. I have the element of surprise on my side.
Mike: Did you feel there were more wrestling fans than probable wrestlers? More MTV fans than wrestling fans? More people just wanting to be on TV than MTV or wrestling fans?
Daniel: Everyone seemed to be big wrestling fans. However, you could tell some girls were there auditioning just to be on TV. Some probably never even watched an entire episode of RAW before. A good example would have been Bobbie Jo. A lot of contestants were indy wrestlers and knew and have wrestled against each other.
Mike: Who did you hang out with that first day? What did you talk about?
Daniel: I met several people from Houston that first day, including Nidia. I also hung out with a couple guys I met that were standing in line with me. We actually became friends and basically only talked about wrestling while we stood in line. One of the guys, Ted, was shown saying his name in the ring. He is 6'9" and looks just like Kevin Nash. We went to TGI Friday's afterwards, and there was a person sitting at a table behind us that said, "Look, it's Kevin Nash."
Mike: What did the editing miss that you think we should know about from that first day?
Daniel: They didn't tell the audience how cold it was! I have lived in Houston all my life and because of that, I didn't have any winter clothes. I just wore jeans and several layers of t-shirts and a leather jacket. It was about 26 degrees that morning and I nearly froze. I had a cup of coffee in my hand but that didn't do anything to keep me warm. The coffee went cold after a few minutes. I started jumping up and down to get my circulation going because I really thought I was going to faint. The guy in front of me was from Chicago, and weighed 340 pounds, and the guy behind me was nearly 400 pounds, so they both felt just fine. Me, weighing in at a whopping 165 from Houston, Texas, I didn't feel so fine.
Mike: How accurate was what we saw on the show compared to what you saw, being there live?
Daniel: MTV/WWF did a great job in editing the show and capturing the overall feel and excitement of the auditions.
Daniel made it to the round of 25, from whom the final 13 contestants were chosen after interviews and a battery of medical tests.
Mike: What was the general mood among the 25?
Daniel: Everyone really bonded. We were all congratulated each other and got to know one another. We were all very hungry and tired as well. I didn't eat breakfast that day, and I don't think anyone else did either. Before we were served lunch, we had our physical, which included drawing blood. It was after 3:00 p.m. before we had anything to eat that day, so by that time most of us were dead tired. The day before, I bought a knit cap to wear to keep my ears from freezing. I was wearing it while I waited in line to see the list of 25. I didn't realize the interviews would be that same day, so when I took of my cap, I had the worst hat hair. So the hair you saw during my interview was styled by my cap.
Mike: What were your thoughts upon hearing you didn't make it?
Daniel: Once Josh's name was called, I knew I wasn't going to get picked. Since his name was called first, there wasn't much suspense left for me after that. I even told Josh before Stephanie McMahon came out that it was between him and me. The casting special seemed to confirm that, making a side-by-side comparison of the two of us. It didn't really sink in until I got back to Houston on a Sunday, and I realized that I had to get up at 6:30 the next morning to go to work instead of preparing myself to go back to New York with the rest of them.
Mike: Did they tell you why you weren't chosen?
Daniel: Basically what you saw on MTV was what happened. Once the final 13 were chosen, we just went back to get our things and left. Kinda depressing, eh?
Mike: What do you think of the criticism that the contestants are getting too many perks, like the trip to the Bahamas?
Daniel: Given the opportunity, I'm sure the critics would jump at it as well. After all, who wouldn't want a free trip to the Bahamas, limo rides, etc.?
Mike: What did you think about Darryl's "Bread Incident"?
Daniel: If the MTV cameras weren't present, someone from the store would have called the police.
Looking Back: Mike: After having seen most of the show, how do you think you would have done?
Daniel: I think I would have lasted till the end. Of course, I don't know that for sure, and I'd like the chance to prove it to myself.
Mike: Do you still keep in touch with any of the fellow contestants?
Daniel: I keep in touch with Nidia. In fact, she lives only 15 minutes from my house. I got her number while in NYC, but I didn't see her until she got back from the TE tapings. From then on, we hung out a lot. People would recognize us when we went out and even sent drinks to our table. I talked to Josh over the phone after watching the casting special. I told him that I didn't mind "jobbing" to him.
Mike: Do you have anything to say in light of Nidia's victory?
Daniel: I am so happy for her that she won. Not only is she a great wrestler, as we saw on the show, but she truly is a wonderful and generous girl. Nidia will really be one of a kind in the WWF, after all, no other female wrestler has her look. Well, Chuck Palumbo and her might share similar looking hair, but I believe that she is the first Latina to be in the WWF. I know she won't disappoint us fans, and I am proud to call her my friend.
Mike: Are you trying out for TE2?
Daniel: Definitely. In the ten years of MTV reality shows such as Real World and Road Rules, there has not been an Asian-American guy in the cast. There really isn't anyone on TV that Asian American guys can relate to. I will be that person. Sure, there is Jackie Chan and Jet Li, but they are not American born and not all of us are kung fu masters that speak English with an accent. I want to help end the stereotype that Asians are either bookworms or gangsters. I know I won't be able to do it myself, but it would be a good start. Also, the WWF does not have any Asian wrestlers that can speak English. Mr. Fuji was the last one, and he was as stereotypical as it gets. It was very encouraging to me that a lot of Asian guys recognized me from the show and told me how excited they were because it is very rare to see an Asian guy on a MTV/WWF show, or any TV show for that matter. They were really hoping that I would make it, and in a way, I was happy that they liked seeing me on the show, but at the same time, I felt like I let them down by not making it. I am actually surprised at how many people recognized me from the show. I probably had about 2 minutes of screen time, yet as early as last week people still come up to me and ask if I was "that guy from Tough Enough." I guess I just have a unique or recognizable face? This time around, it will be different. I am determined to make it on TE2. I think the WWF liked me. I was the only person to have a solo picture featured in an article in the July 2001 issue of WWF Raw Magazine.
Mike: Thank you very much for your time, and good luck in making Tough Enough 2!