The Announce Table

TAT: Is Dan Puder Tough Enough?

Hey there tatfans and welcome to The Announce Table. I had a different column theme lined up for today but after just watching Smackdown! this week I feel I can only talk about the hottest topic doing the rounds in the wrestling world…

Hey there tatfans and welcome to The Announce Table. I had a different column theme lined up for today but after just watching Smackdown! this week I feel I can only talk about the hottest topic doing the rounds in the wrestling world…

Dan Puder.

For anyone who doesn’t know or didn’t see it; Dan Puder is one of the seven finalists hoping to win a $1m contract in the WWE by winning Tough Enough. He is 23 years old, looks a bit like Hardcore Holly, and has a background in Ultimate Fighting and Mixed Martial Arts. He has a decent amount of natural charisma and the partisan WWE crowds have already warmed to him.

So what did he do?

On Smackdown last week, Kurt Angle came down to the ring in order to trash-talk and intimidate the seven finalists, who were all lined up like lambs to the slaughter. Angle explained that they would have a competition; whoever lasts the longest doing Jumping Jack Press-ups would be awarded a special prize.

The final two were Chris Narocki and Dan Puder; Narocki has a decent look but is clearly more of a regular Joe. Al Snow had counted to about 30 of these press-ups, Narocki was dead on his feet, done for, and Puder was still fresh, but the referee eliminated Puder and Narocki got his chance to fight Kurt Angle.

In a 30 seconds long shoot, Angle quite easily pinned Narocki using an old fashioned headlock chokehold. Angle then proceeded to ask who else wanted a go?

Cue Dan Puder. Cue TV Gold.

Angle immediately went for the same chokehold on Puder but to the crowds’ merriment, Puder blocked it and held his own against the Olympic Champion! This got the crowd rallying an “UFC!” chant. In what was a good 60 seconds shoot, Puder had Angle contained before he went in for the kill.

Puder dragged Angle to the canvas and applied a Key-Hold. This is where my knowledge of Mixed Martial Arts fails me, but I know what a Key-Hold entails. It’s pretty simple. Using your legs to push the victim’s torso away from you, you grab a wrist, and twist and pull, using your legs to lever the victim’s shoulder as well. Very, very painful; especially with Angle’s bad neck.

As has been reported by much more knowledgeable sources then myself, if that hold had been applied for 4 seconds longer then Angle would have spent a night in a medical facility. So it was a good thing that the referee counted “1-2-3” in record time when Puder’s shoulders were suspiciously close to the canvas.

So why the furore? Why the hub-bub? So some kid got the better of Angle one time; big whiz! I think it’s a big deal for one of two reasons; Dan Puder’s awesome display left the WWE bosses with a very tricky dilemma, and their next decision could see the birth of the next great WWE superstar, or could drive away the last vestiges of the smarter fans.

If the WWE decide to keep Dan Puder, then Dan Puder will win Tough Enough. That is, of course, IF they decide to keep him.

If they get rid of Puder the fans will accuse Angle of having too much sway backstage. They will not be impressed that this great Olympian, this moral icon of fair play, could resort to ending a kid’s career just to save his own pride. Fans barely tolerate Triple H’s backstage pomp, and they are getting pretty tired with the obvious pull that the Undertaker has got. So if Angle plays this as he well might, then perhaps this will be one move too far?

But I think they will keep him, and I think that with the right grooming, that Dan Puder could be the person who fills that void that was left by Brock Lesnar. The young, gifted, terrifyingly dangerous submissions wrestler who bested Kurt Angle in his first minute of pro-wrestling action.

I’ve only seen a few minutes of Dan Puder but he has the intense look, the submissions style, is handy on the mic, has a credible background, and of course – he just beat Kurt Angle in a shoot. Puder could be the next Chris Benoit, the next Bret Hart, the next big thing.

Some wrestlers just appear out of nowhere and capture the imagination of an audience. And I’m not talking about the force-fed Randy Orton. I’m talking about the abrupt immediacy John “The Rookie” Cena made when he slapped the face of anyone who confronted him. Of the massive swerve when Shawn Michaels super-kicked his Rockers teammate Marty Jannetty through the barber shop window, of when Brock Lesnar bathed in Hogan’s blood.

The Tough Enough voting starts now, and although I feel Puder has done enough to get through this round, perhaps he’s done too much in the eyes of the WWE?

Watch this space