In the massive world we live in, television shows have expanded our universe to understand real-world concepts with scripted twists. When Tough Enough first made its debut in 2001, wrestling fans were stunned to see a reality show where it wasn't about the scripts, but instead about how competitors around the world had to cement their success in uphill challenges to receive a contract with WWE. The inaugural winner, Maven Huffman, found himself with the first golden opportunity to prove why Tough Enough was in a league of its own as a training facility and a reality show.
In his interview on WWE's The Bump, Maven recalls how significant it was to be on the first-ever Tough Enough and why this show created as much buzz as it did.
"Well it's good to know that we did that show back before, almost in the emphasis infancy of what reality shows have become, you know?" Maven commented. "You know, they have reality shows about everything. If you do reality shows nowadays, you're going to get a pretty hefty payday. Whereas, when we were doing Tough Enough, what we were there for wasn't money, it was an opportunity, and I'm glad I did it.
"You know, the opportunity obviously worked out for me, but it was one of those situations where if it didn't work out, I would have had to figure out what was next for me. I would like to think that Tough Enough is as successful as it was because it led to other genres and other networks of shows and gave ideas for reality shows, and 20 years later, it might not [have] laid the whole foundation, but man, it might've laid a brick or two."
Maven admits having Triple H guide him on how to take bumps while on Tough Enough was a starstruck experience for him.
"Here's what I remember - that was a horrible bump," he chuckled. "Looking back to that, it's crazy because you don't know at that point in your career what you don't know. Yeah, technically, that probably was a decent bump I just took, but it's completely impassable in the world that we live in.
"Everything, like Hunter was saying, it has to be reactionary. It's just funny to look back 20 years and to know all I didn't know right then and there. It was cool. The day he walked in, it was like, imagine seeing your hero walking in some place [and have him] beat the hell out of you at any moment? The unknown was what I loved about it."
Any Superstar past or present can tell you it's an intimidating experience to meet Vince McMahon. For Maven, he recalls the first moment he met the Chairman, himself.
"Listen, if I was confident, then I was a better actor than I know. Anyone trying to break into the business that isn't intimidated by Vince McMahon, [then] they're lying to you," he uttered. "People ask me all the time what Vince is like, and I tell them he's the ultimate businessman. He signs the front of the checks and I sign the back.
"Vince is the kind of guy that sees something in you before you see it in you, and I'm hoping that's what got me in WWE. I hope that he saw what I could be in the business."
Maven claims his credibility and work ethic was passed down to him for the likes of his mentors/father figures, Al Snow and Taz. In fact, he mentions that they both saved him numerous times from making rookie mistakes that could've cost him his career.
"Oh my God, I made the dumbest mistake ever," he began. "So I was going out to my first match, and it was my first RAW taping. They flew me out - WWE flew me out and got me a limo. I took the limo to the arena thinking, wow, they got it for me? Of course I'll take it.
"Taz jumped my ass like you'd never believe. He's like, 'Don't you ever take the limo again. If they were here, they'd be riding you now.' So they helped, I mean, in every way possible. They not only have my respect for what they do in the ring but how they conduct and carry themselves out of the ring."
"I never say no to anything," he replied. "I still like to run my mouth. I still like to get a little physical, so I'm taking nothing off the table."
You can watch Maven Huffman's full interview above. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WWE's The Bump with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.