Courtesy of MercuryNews.com
Valley wrestler wins TV contest
CUPERTINO ATHLETE PICKED FOR PRO CIRCUIT
By Mark Whittington
Cupertino wrestler Daniel Puder has a million reasons to smile -- and four years to prove he deserves to be the people's champion.
By an online vote of fans, Puder won the Tough Enough title and a $1 million, four-year contract to join the fold of 60 athletes in the World Wrestling Entertainment. The official announcement can be seen at 8 tonight on ``WWE SmackDown!'' on Ch. 44, the local UPN affiliate.
This is the biggest thing that's every happened to me,'' said the 23-year-old Menlo College student.It hasn't really sunk in.''
Over the past two months of eliminations on the weekly ``SmackDown!'' broadcasts, Puder got a taste of the crowds and travel of a wrestler's life. After Tuesday's show was taped in Nashville, Puder was in Minneapolis on his way back to San Jose when WWE officials called and told him to divert to New York City to do some publicity.
I'm ready to live out of a suitcase for the next four years,'' he said.Travel. Do a lot of wrestling. Train a lot.''
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Puder won six of the eight competitions during the show, beating the other seven contenders at arm wrestling and the ``sex test,'' when he dipped and kissed hall of fame wrestler Mae Young, 81.
The finale came during Sunday's Armageddon pay-per-view event. Puder beat out his last rival, Mike Mizanin, in a boxing match called the Dixie Dog Fight. Mizanin's southpaw style befuddled Puder for a round until his athleticism left Mizanin hanging on.
I absolutely choked,'' said Puder, who had predicted an easy victory.I was very impressed with how well he did. He had a great day; I had a horrible day.''
Puder was worried the fans still might favor Mizanin, a veteran of MTV's ``Real World: Return to New York,'' in the final voting, which ended at midnight Monday.
He has the MTV popularity, but I'd done better in the competitions,'' Puder said.I think I had more popularity among the wrestling fans.''
Al Snow, the professional wrestler who trained the Tough Enough competitors, was impressed by Puder's focus, drive, dedication and passion.
I expect to see Daniel become a major superstar,'' Snow said.He's got a life-changing opportunity based on how much he wants it and how hard he wants to push himself.''
Right now, he's on the bottom of the pile of 60 WWE performers with all the pressure of being picked by the fans.
He's got a million dollars worth of expectations. There's going to be a higher bar and tougher expectations out of the audience, out of his fellow competitors and out of the WWE,'' Snow said.That's the downside to winning.''
Puder thinks he can handle it.