UNCC Chris Nifong

UNCC student puts a headlock on MTV

Nifong selected as one of 13 cast members of "Tough Enough"

by Leslie Starnes -

University Times July 23, 2001

You may have seen him in your graphic arts classes, or ardently working out at Gold's Gym. Perhaps he has walked by you on campus, just another face blended in with the crowd. If you didn't know who he was then, then you can surely learn who he is now, simply by looking for him on your T.V. screen.

UNC Charlotte student Chris Nifong, 23, is one of the 13 cast members on MTV's newest reality-based television program, "Tough Enough." The show features seven men and six women who have joined the cast in hopes of winning a contract with the World Wrestling Federation.

According to Kevin King, public relations consultant for WWF, 5,000 people sent in audition tapes to become one of the lucky baker's dozen.

Of the 5,000, 250 were invited to try out in person in New York City. These 250 people were then narrowed down to 25, which led to 13 of those making the final cut.

Nifong was one of the 13.

According to King, all of the cast members are at their respective homes, awaiting word on who has won the grand prize for the show- the chance to become a WWF star. None of the cast members are aware of who has won the coveted contract with WWF. The cast members will be on hand for the live contract announcement that will take place at the conclusion of the last episode. This episode is expected to air the second week of September. "Tough Enough" lasts a total of 13 weeks and July 19 marked the fifth episode.

"It's weird, and kind of hard to explain," said Nifong, when asked how he feels about his prospect for winning. "Let's just say I have hopes for others."

For Nifong, a junior majoring in graphic design at UNCC, wrestling has always been a lifelong passion. So, when he saw an advertisement for "Tough Enough" while watching wrestling last year, he figured he would try out for the show. "I saw the ad, I went to the MTV Web site, and I sent in my tape," said Nifong during a telephone interview with The University Times. Despite being enrolled at UNCC, Nifong withdrew from school when MTV notified him that he was in the final cut.

Nifong then spent March and April in Stamford, Conn., to film the program. While in Connecticut, Nifong admits to learning a lot about himself.

Nifong cannot disclose a lot of information about the program, since it's still airing. He did, however, share plenty about the effect the experience has had on him.

"The most surprising thing is that wrestling just isn't fun anymore," said Nifong. While he still enjoys the sport, and he cherishes the chances he had to "wrestle with his idols," Nifong has other things on his mind now, such as finishing college. In fact, he has already registered for the fall semester.

"I keep a list of goals in my wallet," said Nifong. "The first one is to finish school. It has been such a long summer, and I can't wait to get back."

Nifong said watching the episodes on MTV has been like looking at a different person, someone he calls, "the old me." "It's like, I came through life and got to this point and did the show, and I realized how life was supposed to be. And so I am trying to relive a lot of some of the things I have missed. I feel like I just want to attack life right now."

Besides cameras constantly being in his face, one particular cast member he never wants to see again, and bruises from all of the wrestling moves; Nifong said he would probably relive this experience, if given the opportunity.

His mother surely wouldn't mind if he did just that. She is so proud that her son is a cast member on the show that she tells anyone and everyone she meets about it. "She loves to wear the T-shirt I received from the audition," said Nifong.

"Whenever she goes out anywhere, like to the mall, she asks strangers if they watch MTV because her son is on there."