AUBURN, Maine — The suspense in Club Texas was palpable Monday evening, as friends and family of Edward Little graduate Luke Robinson gathered to watch the finale of the wrestling reality TV show “Tough Enough.”
If Robinson won, he was promised a WWE contract and professional wrestling super-stardom. It was down to the final two pro-wrestler wannabes from a class of 14, and if Robinson lost, it simply meant he wasn’t tough enough.
As the hour-long show dragged on, Robinson’s friends shouted and cheered when he came on the screen, especially when he shared a tearful goodbye with his mother, his biggest supporter, before returning to training camp, and when he pulled a hard-hitting move in a match against one of the show’s trainers, former pro wrestler Bill Demott.
They booed and shouted when his rival, the strait-laced, straight-edge Andy Leavine of Tampa, Fla., arrived onscreen.
Robinson had played up a caricature of himself during the show’s two-month run on the USA Network, portraying a hard-partying, strong-arming fighter oozing with confidence. His critics called him a pretty boy, and arrogant. In the beginning of the finale, Robinson boasted, “I bring the steak, and I bring the sizzle.”
But his trainers were more impressed by the strong and steady Leavine, a family man with a passion that was understated, yet intense. The crowd grew more tense as each of the show’s three trainers vocalized their preference for “Silent Rage,” the name Leavine adopted for his wrestling persona.
Finally, after an intentionally drawn-out ring-side discussion with a WWE announcer, wrestling legend Steve Austin announced his choice of the competition’s ultimate winner, the contract recipient, and the wrestling league’s next star: Leavine.
At Club Texas, there were sighs and cries and grumblings, and even a few tears.
But like Robinson himself, who exited the ring in an uncharacteristically low-key fashion, his friends and fans held themselves together. Few thought Robinson would leave his dreams of wrestling success at the WWE event in Richmond, Va., where the finale was filmed live.
“Honestly, he got this far. This is not the end for him, especially with his ambition,” said Bridgette Goulet of Lewiston, a friend of Robinson’s for several years. “He’s just going to keep going and pursue his dream. His friends and family support him completely.”
Another friend, Roland Hamann, 24, of Auburn, expressed disappointment, but agreed that Robinson’s career has yet to be stopped.
“Despite all that happened, everyone knew he’s the real winner,” Hamann said, adding that he thought Robinson would continue to train after returning to his mother’s house along the Androscoggin River in Auburn for the summer. “The fact is, he’s living it. And we’re watching it: we’re watching someone do something they’ve wanted to do since he was six-years-old.”