AUBURN — Life as a wrestling superstar is turning out exactly like Luke Robinson thought it would.
"It's insane," Robinson, a 2003 Edward Little High School grad, said. "We were in Tampa last week, and when we got off the plane, a couple of security guards wanted photographs. It's been wild, everything I've always wanted."
Robinson, 26, is one of two finalists in the USA Network's reality TV series "WWE Tough Enough."
The show's finale on Monday night brings back the entire cast. They'll gather at a World Wrestling Entertainment event in Richmond, Va., watch a segment taped last week in Tampa and the final winner will be announced. The prize is a contract with the WWE.
Win or lose Monday night, Robinson figures his future is in the WWE. It'll just be a lot better if he comes out on top.
"There's a lot of pressure that comes with being the winner, and I think nobody has really been able to deal with that pressure," Robinson said. "They've won the contest, burned out later on. But I think I can be the first to put it all together. I think I can really handle that pressure."
The show follows a familiar reality show formula: 14 contestants, nine men and five women, all competing for the chance to be the newest WWE superstar and getting eliminated one at a time.
Some were not in good enough shape to cope with the physical demands, others didn't have the wrestling experience.
"Some didn't realize how tough it could be getting slammed on the ground, or how tough bouncing off the ropes could be on you," Robinson said.
The man from Auburn was ready. At Edward Little, he was a captain of the varsity soccer, hockey and baseball teams. He graduated in 2008 from the University of Southern Maine with a degree in business administration-marketing but wrestled independently on the East Coast circuit, from Kentucky to Canada.
The show taped earlier this spring, with all but the last two episodes finished before the April debut. Robinson said he's been watching the show each week with family and friends at Center Street's Club Texas, reliving each moment.
"When I watch it, I remembered exactly how I felt in that moment," he said. "Even when I knew I was going to be OK, when I made the final three, it was very intense."
The contestants lived together in a Simi Valley mansion, forming friendships and rivalries. Robinson quickly befriended 28-year-old Jeremiah Riggs but ran afoul of rival Andy Leavine, 23.
"He just had a different way of dealing with things," he said. "He would go to bed at eight o'clock every night. I kind of played the rogue-bad boy."
That trio were the finalists, and last week Riggs, Robinson's buddy, got cut.
"I'm an adult, so Jeremiah and I definitely had our share of adult beverages," Robinson said. "But we said, look, we get to live in a mansion for two months. We knew our limits, and we were able to be rock stars all night and then come out and perform like professional athletes in the morning. In a way, I think it was kind of intimidating for the other competitors."
Robinson faces the straight-edge Leavine in Monday's show for the final prize, a contract with the WWE. Robinson has been one of the top contenders the entire time.
"There's been a theme of having a top dog every week, for every show," he said. "You're not granted top dog by just winning. It's something that people just know about you. It's a natural order."