PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Don Arner proved he was "Tough Enough" for WWE, even if it was for only one day.
"I came home, and my mom's first words were, 'Are your 15 minutes up yet?' I'm like, yeah, but no."
Arner is from New Kensington and was among 40 finalists for "WWE Tough Enough", a reality series that aims to find the next WWE Superstar.
Arner has been a fan of WWE since he was a child. In his audition video, he recalled attending SummerSlam 1995 at the Civic Arena with his great grandmother when he was just 7 years old, and having a chance encounter behind the scenes with some real-life WWE Superstars.
Arner's video was one of more than 11,100 submissions from 113 countries, but something about his stood out.
"I sent it in, and it wasn't even 24 hours later when the casting director got a hold of me."
WATCH: Tough Enough Audition Video: Don Arner
After a phone interview, Arner was invited to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida to attend tryouts. It was a grueling experience that tested the physical, mental and emotional limits of every one of the 40 finalist.
"Physically intense, I'm not even sure that's the word."
Arner recalled a point during one of the drills where he was "trying to peel my soul off the mat." That's when he says he got some much-needed encouragement from WWE Hall of Famer Booker T.
"I look to my left with the last bit of breath in my body and I make eye contact with him, and he's just looking at me yelling 'If you do not get up, you're done. You are out of this competition!'"
Arner didn't quit, but he was exhibiting concussion-like symptoms. He passed a concussion test, but WWE's medical protocols meant he could not continue. Despite surviving the first night of cuts, Don Arner was out of the competition.
"It kinda broke my heart, because I was doing really, really good."
Arner says he got a lot of encouragement from judges and coaches.
"They pulled me to the side a few times, and told me they really liked me."
Arner was also offered a second chance - another tryout at the WWE Performance Center in September. Still, he's disappointed to see his chance at "Tough Enough" slip away.
"You just don't get these chances often - if ever."
Arner says he felt added pressure during the tryout because of his background in professional wrestling. Many of the finalists had no experience in the ring. Arner broke in with the local independent organization Pro Wrestling Express. He made his debut in 2013, performing under the name Cassidy Stone. Things have progressed quickly for him.
LISTEN: Don Arner Talks About His Experience:
"Seeing myself not even a year and a half later standing in a WWE ring, trying out for 'Tough Enough', it's still surreal to me."
13 competitors now remain for the new season of "WWE Tough Enough". One man and one woman will each win a one-year, $250,000 WWE contract.
The show premieres live, tonight at 8 p.m. on USA Network.
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