Not strong enough

The premise of the new show caught my attention immediately and I knew I had to give it a try. This was something I had been fantasizing about my whole life. The company wanted you to audition for three minutes explaining and showing why you should be a professional wrestler. Then you had to submit it with a forty-page application, a photo of you, and a stack of signed waivers.

I made a decent video that captured a variety of my abilities. I did cartwheels, splits, and various gymnastics. I demonstrated some Kung-Fu weapons and broke a stack of five boards with the palm of my hand. I followed with a routine of poses to show my physique and then I addressed the camera with the deepest sincerity. They loved my tape and quickly called me, but … I almost hung up on them.

My wife (at the time), Paula and I were having dinner when the phone rang. Paula answered, but then she handed me the phone. “I think it’s a telemarketer … you should hang it up.” she said.

Normally that’s exactly what I would have done, but as my wife suggested … I decided to take the call instead, and spite served me well this time.

“Hello there?”

“Hello, is this Nathan Daniels?” The voice asked me.

“Yes.” I replied, teasing myself and preparing to explain why I didn’t need whatever it was that the voice was selling.

“Hi Nathan, this is Christina from the World Wrestling Federation. How are you tonight?”

I almost fainted.

The World Wrestling Federation was calling to tell me that they loved my audition tape and that they would send me an official invitation package to go to New York City as a semi-finalist! More than four thousand people sent tapes and fewer than four hundred received invitations. I was one of them and my dream seemed to be hanging within my reach.

When the time came, I hopped on a bus and made the four-hour drive from Rhode Island to the Big Apple. I checked into my hotel room and settled in for a long sleepless night of intense anticipation. In the morning I looked at myself in the mirror and said … “This is it!”

After waiting outside for two hours on a cold New York morning, the other semifinalists and I entered the building designated for the audition process. I was number forty-two and had to wait in a waiting area at the entertainment complex. I nervously waited, with a hundred other applicants for six hours, before it was my turn to continue. Someone from the production staff finally called my number and took me to a waiting room closer to the ring. I was able to see and hear the crowd of over five hundred people enjoying the auditions.

I jumped up and down shaking my limbs and head feverishly. I was trying to understand the fact that I was about to step into a WWF ring, speak into the WWF microphone, and put my fate in the hands of live WWF superstars. It was too much to bear.

Colored light bulbs flickered, crane video cameras floated in midair, and busy crew members babbled insistently into their headphones. I started to wonder if I could really go through with it. I did, but my confidence was rapidly waning, and it wasn’t exactly pretty.

“Are you awake.” Said the staff member at random with the headphones and clipboard. He gestured toward the ring.

I had planned to make a good impression so I jumped over the ropes instead of climbing them like everyone else. It was more difficult than it looks on television. The ropes gave more than I thought, and for a split second, I thought I was going to trip and fall flat on my face. It really scared me, but I made it.

My heart was pounding when I picked up the microphone and introduced myself. I guess my entrance looked better than it felt, a fighter known as Tazz asked me where I had spent my training. I assured him that I had no prior experience, but I was hoping for a chance to win something. Then it got weird, and Tazz started getting mad and calling me a liar. He said that he clearly knew exactly how to grab the ropes and jump into the ring, and he had obviously done it many times before.

I didn’t know what to say and I could feel my heart rate racing even more as I started to feel very self-conscious.

I told him about a visit I made to a wrestling school in my teens, but insisted that I had no formal training. He called me a liar again and said he was done with me, threw his pen on the table and looked away … disgusted. That killed any lingering hopes I had of making my dream come true, but they kept questioning me anyway.

I had provided extensive information about my entire life in the monstrous forty-page application that I had filled out. For whatever reason, another wrestler, on the judging panel, chose my mother’s death as the starting point for my conversation with him. The personal and uncomfortable nature of his question took me by surprise and I stammered with an unintelligible answer. It was becoming painfully clear to me that I lacked the charisma and confidence necessary to live my life in front of the cameras this way.

When the verbal part of my audition ended, I was excited and just wanted to go home, but it was time to get physical. I had to take off my shirt and move around the ring so they could see me.

I jumped rope and did a series of exercises, which I did quite accurately. Unfortunately, I forgot to breathe most of it and by the time I finished I was gasping for air.

Tazz couldn’t resist one more chance to make me feel terrible and proceeded to yell at me for my poor cardiovascular conditioning. To this day, I have no idea what his problem was. I guess something in me just rubbed it the wrong way. I did my best to answer him, but I don’t remember what came out of my mouth, and then it was over.

Once I was free to leave, I returned to my hotel room for another sleepless night of waiting. They would post the results on the door outside the audition complex the next morning. He knew there was no way he was going to be on that list of twenty-five, and he was right.

I returned to Rhode Island the next day in a very different mood than when I arrived. He had a shirt, a story to tell and an unforgettable experience as memories.

Today, I have absolutely no regrets about my audition for Tough Enough. I’m happy that I was good enough to be seen, and I’m proud of the fact that I carried my search to the end, even when there was no more hope of winning. I even remained a huge Tazz fan.

I know there is no way I can handle the lifestyle of a professional wrestler, with all the psychological issues that plague me today. Agoraphobia and severe social anxiety disorders are not the best ingredients for being an artist.

I won’t live that dream, and it’s okay. I tried and in the end that’s all that matters to me. The memory will last a lifetime and I will always have the story to tell.