Category: Media

WB Top 100: Best & Worst So Far

Diane and I had a little bit of time while awaiting Hurricane Michael to discuss the first 25 movies of the WB Top 100. We decided to each pick our top five and our worse five, along with a lovely soundbite as to why.

My Top 5

#5: Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – “I really dug the music and Cagney was charming. He did dance like an idiot but better than I could ever do.”

#4: Citizen Kane (1941) – “Still good a second time.”

#3: Best Years of Our Lives (1946) – “I found the movie’s ‘Hail Hydra’ moment to be deeply unnerving, especially given its proximity to the end of World War II.”

#2: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – “Incredibly fun and easily one of my favorite versions of the character. I don’t know why Hollywood keeps trying.”

#1: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) – “That captain was the smuggest bastard ever put to film and I absolutely loved him for it.”

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Diane’s Top 5

#5: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) – “Was not sure who to root for by the end – a real testament to the actors.”

#4: Cimarron (1931) – “Fooled me into thinking this movie was about a man when it was really about a racist woman becoming less racist. Also, that opening scene.”

#3:   Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – “Fun and a far cry from the previous role we saw Cagney in [Public Enemy]. No grapefruits were harmed in the making of this film.

#2: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – “Incredibly influential and stands the test of time. Pretty much anyone can enjoy this movie.

#1: Best Years of Our Lives (1946) – “Calling out able-ists since 1946.”

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Our Worst 5 (Combined)

For the most part, we agreed on our least favorite films. Since we had such an easy back-and-forth about our particularly strong feelings, I am combining the two lists for emphasis. Also, I am reversing the order (starting with the worst) since that is where our conversation began.

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#1 – Me: Broadway Melody of 1929 (1929) – “Fuck this movie.”

#1 – Diane: Broadway Melody of 1929 (1929) – “Yeah, fuck that movie.”

#2 – Me: A Night at the Opera (1935) – “Fuck this one too.”

#2 – Diane: The Philadelphia Story (1940) – “No, fuck this one first. A Night at the Opera had that one scene.”

#3 – Me:  The Philadelphia Story (1940) – “It was pretty irredeemable …”

#3 – Diane: A Night at the Opera (1935) – “But also fuck this movie.”

#4 – Me: Wizard of Oz (1939) – “No, I still hate it. I will always hate it. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” can be listened to without watching this terrible movie.”

#4 – Diane: Wizard of Oz (1939) – “Fuck Glenda for withholding information. I never get over that fact.”

#5 – Me: The Maltese Falcon (1941) – “Film noir movies are sports movies for /r/niceguys candidates: The male protagonist is always the nicest, smartest man in the room. Every woman wants to fuck him. Chads all want to be him. Oh and everyone wears a fedora.”

#5 – Diane: The Life of Emile Zola (1937) – “The most that movie did for me was help me answer a crossword puzzle. Just plain boring.”

WB Top 100: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


“The Best Years of Our Lives” returns us to the subject of World War II. This 1946 film follows three returning servicemen who are back home in the United States after the war’s end. Each have difficulties adjusting back to civilian life and reintegrating with their families. Despite being over fifty years, “The Best Years of Our Lives” feels poignantly current and it helped contextualize our current cultural climate in a way that no other film on this list has managed thus far.

The film follows Fred, an Air Force bombardier; Homer, a sailor who lost both his hands and now uses prosthetics; and Al, an infantryman returning to his wife of twenty plus years and his two kids who had to grow up without him. It is a hard movie to describe. At times, it feels almost like a comedy. Laughs are weaved in and out to break up the emotional tension and turmoil. Otherwise, it is a romantic drama.

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To paraphrase, “He lost both his hands and he is okay with that and you are just going to have to get over it.”

There is a modernness to “The Best Years of Our Lives” that makes it feel fresh despite being a movie that neither of us had heard of before. The romantic aspects are pure Hollywood, but they do nothing to distract from the very real subject matter. Al can hardly handle being home for more than a couple of hours before he feels the need to escape from a world and family that have evolved without him. Homer, more or less accepted by his fellow veterans, is stared at by his family. Fred, the film’s romantic lead played by Dana Andrews, can’t even find his wife since she moved out of his parents’ home while he was gone.

Also contributing to its modern feel, much of the film’s subject matter is still relevant today. We both found it off-putting how bluntly some of the civilian characters commented on the veterans. Growing up in the South, here in the US we are taught to respect our troops to the point that the phrase is cliche and meaningless. To see characters openly disrespect veterans was astounding. They used the same language targeted at immigrants in the US today: they are taking our jobs!

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The post-war imagery, including the many, many plans being demolished, was stunning to me.

A modern remake of “The Best Years of Our Lives” might be a good idea; that, or more attention given to the original. As I said, supporting the troops is an eye-rolling cliche these days, but this movie not only presents an era where it wasn’t, but it does so in a way that helped me personally better appreciate the sacrifices of our uniformed men and women. It gives me a context for so many of the bills and laws we have in the USA regarding veterans. For our foreign readers who may have different experiences in their own countries, in the US, when applying for a job, nearly every application asks about your veteran status because we as a society have placed more emphasis, attention, and value into making sure veterans are given equal opportunity. I imagine it is far from perfect, but it is fascinating to see some of the origins of these laws.

Another especially relevant scene revolved around a man at the drugstore. While eating his sandwich, the man notices Homer’s prosthetics and begins to strike up a conversation with him.  The stranger openly states that the US fought on the wrong side and that he sympathizes with the Nazis. Though the man ultimately gets a nasty punch and a fall through a glass display for his trouble, the film plays it straight in a way that, frankly, chilled us. Until recently, the idea of anyone being pro-Nazi seemed like the fringiest of ideas. Nazis, for me, were always historical villains used to great effect in some of my favorite video games (I played a lot of Wolfenstein 3D as a kid). “Nazis are evil” is one of those ideas that comes as naturally as breathing. Hearing a character openly talk about being pro-Nazi after World War II has already been won made us both realize that this is not a new idea nor is it one that ever went away. Like chickenpox, it remains dormant in our system until we all get hate-shingles.

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Homer, scaring away prying kids, does a great job of expressing his vulnerability despite not being the best actor.

Speaking of Homer, it was powerful to see an actual handicapped man play a leading role in a movie. Played by Harold Russell, the real-life man lost both his hands as an Army instructor teaching demolitions work. He is one of two non-professional actors to win an Academy Award (his was for his work in this film as a support actor). Though he had limited screen time and was obviously not a trained actor, the character of Homer was one of the film’s most compelling. His arc primarily concerns his inability to accept how his family treats him and his worry that his long-term fiance will be wasting her life if he lets her marry him. His journey alone could’ve made up its own movie, and I wish it had.

Beyond Homer, the other two characters go through their own trials. Al’s involvement shrinks as the movie continues, but his position as an individual who was already financially well-off returning to an even better job at the bank offered another important point of view. As a loan officer, he is put in the position of turning down veterans who have no collateral yet who also have no way of rebuilding their lives. Despite the “good financial sense” he was hired and rehired for when he returns from the war, he believes that veterans deserve to be gambled on by his bank. The thread gets dropped without an absolute resolution, but I liked that better since it was obviously not a resolved issue culturally and Al vows to keep fighting for what he believes in.

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Fred’s wife was the worst.

Finally, we arrive at Fred and his romance with Al’s daughter Peggy. Teresa Wright, previously seen in “Mrs. Miniver”, returns as yet another patriotic girl next door with eyes for a soldier. Despite their story making up the majority of the film, it wasn’t my personal favorite. I did think it was a good romantic drama plot, especially when compared with some of the others we have seen in this series as of late, but its only real purpose is to entertain while I feel “The Best Years of Our Lives” works best when it does more than simply entertain.

Diane and I did have one complaint: it felt long. At nearly three hours, “The Best Years of Our Lives” is packed. There were some parts that could’ve been tightened up, but I personally thought it was shot and cut beautifully. While not my favorite movie-as-entertainment, I can easily this film as being one of the more historically interesting from a cultural point of view. It’s a shame it isn’t shown more in school. The way it handles veterans stands up well and hasn’t lost any of its importance. The only concerning scene for me was where Al gives his son a Japanese sword, but, given the time, perfectly reasonable. If you haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it in a while, we suggest giving “The Best Years of Our Lives” a watch.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: The Big Sleep (1946)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


Another week, another movie, and another Bogart-playing-Bogart role to talk about. 1946’s “The Big Sleep” stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in yet another film noir, hard-boiled detective story. We preferred it to “The Maltese Falcon” but not enough to really love it.

For giggles, we watched the trailer for “The Big Sleep” as one of the bonus features on the DVD. It, along with the movie’s claims to being violent, are very out-of-date. With the amount of censorship involved here, this movie is about as sexy and violent as a high school play.

That’s not a detraction, per say, but after reading some of the changes from the book it is based on, “The Big Sleep” cuts out nudity and a homosexual relationship. Despite hard-boiled detective movies focus on greater grit, realism, and less savory (i.e. realer) people, it is important to still remember what was and wasn’t considered appropriate for films of the time. “The Big Sleep” is non-alcoholic beer: pointless.

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Yes.

The film opens with a great set of legs seen above. It is amazing how chaste older movies are when compared to more modern films. Seeing that much leg was both unexpected and blush-worthy despite being tamer than anything I could see going to the grocery store. It made me better understanding the marketing in the trailer.

Judging the movie on its own, it was okay. As confusing as it could be with the rapid introduction and departure of its characters as they weaved in and out of guilt or suspicion, I was never bored. I would place it second of all the Bogart movies we have watched thus far (behind “Casablanca”).

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I suppose these two have chemistry, or at least a kid’s chemistry set, together.

That said, it is hardly a compliment. As much as I like to hear him speak his peculiar detective jive, Humphrey Bogart’s range has been mostly non-existent so far. He is good at playing the detective, but I am bored of it. In a moment of subterfuge in “The Big Sleep”, he does put on glasses, adopt an accent, and pretends to be interested in non-existent rare books. I enjoyed those scenes far more than anything else he did in the film.

His co-star, Lauren Bacall, was similarly dull. I enjoyed that she didn’t seem helpless or like a damsel, for the most part. She does get captured but she turns it around on her own.  Other than her smolder and dark voice, she doesn’t inspire me to seek out some of her other work like past female leads in this project. Diane and I both preferred the book seller across the street from the film’s first murder victim. She was a sexy woman with glasses who knew how to close a shop in the afternoon when a strange man comes by with whiskey and mystery.

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Here’s bookshop girl after taking off her glasses. Obviously these two are going to bang.

I have heard of Lauren Bacall’s other films with her husband Humphrey Bogart – “To Have and Have Not”, “Dark Passage”, “Key Largo” – but they aren’t in this collection. From our enthusiasm, I bet you can guess if we will seek them out anytime soon.

I am unsure what else to say. “The Big Sleep” is action-packed and doesn’t seem to over stay its welcome. At the same time, Bogart plays it safe, Bacall plays it boring, and the screenplay is a wet rag twisted dry by its plot. I am hoping “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” redeems Bogart for me. It is the movie after next. Otherwise, for us, he’s a product of his time rather than a timeless star of the big screen.

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Every time Bacall’s character gets in a car, she rides like a sleep child. I know these cars didn’t have seat belts but good posture never killed anyone.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

 

WB Top 100: Mildred Pierce (1945)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


After a long hiatus, we pick up again with 1945’s “Mildred Pierce”. Winning Joan Crawford an Academy Award for Best Actress, “Mildred Pierce” follows the titular character after she marries, remarries, and murders her way to her evil daughter’s own self-destruction. It is two hours of whining about status in a story stripped of its Prohibition context when compared to the novel on which its based. As a film noir, it enthralls from the outset and sets a mood counter to its California setting to keep you on edge while you watch strong female characters do what thus far in this series they haven’t been able to do: be the sole focus.

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Wally Fay (played by Jack Carson) acts as some kind of family friend, but he really just wants to sleep with Mildred. It is hard to read him as charming with a modern ear, as he frequently seems one roofy away from rape despite also having kinder moments.

Our largest critique of the film was its use of class in a less than convincing way. In the chronological beginning of the movie when Mildred begins to tell the police her story, we learn that her husband Bert was financially well-off but they had since fallen on hard times. What hard times, dare you ask? How about a nice suburban California home, a car, and piano and dance lessons for the kids. Starving! Bert walks out after Mildred let’s him know the children will always come before his jobless, deadbeat ass.

That is where Mildred ultimately sets herself up for her own failure. As soon as she tells Bert who comes first and he leaves, we are introduced to their oldest daughter, Veda, who is an insufferable brat who seems to have delusions of having a Nigerian prince send her millions of dollars. (Please excuse the anachronism – this is the 40’s and the African American characters are still just the help, not princes or princesses.) Her mother sold cakes and pies to buy her a dress, but Veda calls it cheap just by its smell and has zero appreciation or respect.

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Veda, seen here with the love of her life, money.

Veda is equally the best and worst thing about this movie. She’s the prime cause of most of its melodrama. Joan Crawford’s Mildred is a mother, conflicted by a justified loathing of her own daughter, who repeatedly fails to break her of her spoiled habits of insubordination. For all her trouble, Veda is a spoiled heiress despite being heir to nothing, and chews on scenes like a villain twice her age and experience. Early on, she says her younger sister looks like a peasant and she puts on other airs throughout the rest of the film.

If Veda made sense, then her turn as the movies antagonist and chief cause of mischief would be a worthwhile reason to return to this film. Instead, the movie does little to explain why she is such a bitch all the time to everyone or how her nose got stuck up quite so high. As her counterpoint, her mother is a woman who makes it in a man’s world by starting a business where there was none, all while she bats off suitor after suitor who cannot take no for an answer until they themselves tire of the chase.

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Eve Arden’s character, Ida, was a standout due to her spunk. She plays the spurned tomboy best friend role but that only makes her more endearing.

I absolutely loved that women were front-and-center in this film even if there’s little worth celebrating of either character. They both, for me, represent the toxic extreme of mother and daughter taken to an illogical conclusion. Despite her daughter’s horrible, borderline psychopathic behavior, Mildred continues to baby, spoil, and ruin any hope of Veda becoming a capable, independent adult. At the same time, Veda expects the world to be handed to her for zero effort and isn’t afraid of doing whatever it takes to support her own self-interest and ego, including lying about a pregnancy to a dullard with money stupid enough to marry her in secret.

“Mildred Pierce” remains immensely watchable due to its acting and some solid cinematography. The writing is a product of its time, but the whole affair moves at a brisk pace, never lingering long enough to overstay any welcome. Yet, upon further reflection, the film feels more like a daytime television soap opera condensed to a rapid-fire two hour format. There’s murder, lying, divorce, poor rich people, rich poor people, and a suspension of disbelief that let’s it all happen. The film noir overtones maximize the intrigue and help fill in the gaps in what is otherwise a straightforward melodrama.

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Zachary Scott’s character, and the film’s murder victim, plays creepy far too well. Several times his attractiveness is mentioned but no.

With all that in mind, I still feel a little trashy having watched this movie. It isn’t risque or disturbing, mind you, but it is sleezy all the same. A soap opera with great acting, “Mildred Pierce” is what happens when white people fret over how high up the middle class ladder they are standing while nothing else in the world is important enough to even register. The film has a timelessness to it since it feels so far removed from its context but more emphasis on the Great Depression and its direct impact on these characters might have shored up the only real flaws I found in the movie.

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“You’re also to blame for me killing someone, mom. Help me hide the body.” – Worst Child Ever

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

Final Thoughts on Sharp Objects

Tonight we decided to finish the last two objects of Sharp Objects on HBO. If you are unfamiliar, the miniseries was an adaptation of “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn, the same writer who wrote “Gone Girl”. It starred Amy Adams.

Sharp Objects follows Camille (Amy Adams) as she goes home to the small Missouri city of Wind Gap. She returns as an investigative journalist sent there by her paternal editor-in-chief to investigate the murder of two young girls.

Its a brutal show. The imagery is rich but disturbing. The subject matter ranges from murder to rape to self-harm. It isn’t an easy or light plot by any stretch. In many ways, it reminded me of the first season of True Detective where the mystery at the heart of the narrative pulls you along but its the horrors and inhumanity of every day folks that keep you invested.

I have to say, I never thought of Missouri as the south. I’ve had the autocorrect the state name two times already writing this, so I don’t think of Missouri much at all, to be frank. Still, Wind Gap, its citizens, and setting of Sharp Objects feels southern in much the same way that Flannery O’Conner captured it in her Southern Gothic short stories.

I eat these kinds of stories up. Now, I didn’t grow up in a small town with a murder mystery or other dark secrets at its core, but I get it. I get the old money/new money dichotomy. I get the rundown hopelessness. I get the ignorant and the racist and other so-called “good folk” ruining and tarnishing the lives of those less inclined to hatred or bigotry. I can’t say Wind Gap exists, but the place Sharp Objects shows it is at least a reflection of far too many places, a reflection that ignores the surface level for a truer horror underneath.

Back to the show: I liked it overall. At times its dreamy-horror-wonder routine wavered into the realm of artsy nonsense, but the same worked for True Detective and it mostly worked here. The performances were all fantastic. Australian actress Eliza Scanlen was a clear standout as the creepy younger sister of Camille.

I loved the show’s overall focus on femininity. Rather than taking any sort of stand, it showcased the myriad of ways it can go wrong while also providing a few avenues for hope and overcoming those wrongs in the end. It is a very pessimistic view of humanity and femininity more specifically, but we need more stories like this to round out the cannon of our culture to show all of mankind’s rough edges, whether male or female or something else.

Without spoiling it, I thought the final act was a bit of a drag. I think with more editing, the bumps could’ve been smoothed out to make for slower, more gradual realization of what truly was happening. The final reveals felt too clean for a show that always left me feeling dirty.

I think as a Southern Gothic show, this is an outstanding example. I am grateful it didn’t have the mysticism of True Detective though an element of magical realism is always appreciated in these kinds of stories. I am also happy that this was a one-and-done. Despite the ending leaving room for more, I have had plenty.


This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.

Watch List

I don’t write about the television shows I am enjoying as much as I would like. Here’s a brief rundown of everything I am bouncing between right now:

Sharp Objects

Thus far, Sharp Objects has been fantastic. It reminds me of the first season of True Detective though far less driven by a male point-of-view. Amy Adams and everyone surrounding her do a great job portraying small town damaged people

My only complaint is that it can be a difficult show to watch. I may look forward to seeing it every week, but unlike other shows, I don’t jump for joy at the thought of seeing it. The subject matter is not for the feint of heart and some days I need a downbeat far less than I need an upbeat.

Deadwood

I love Timothy Olyphant, especially when I was watching Justified most every week. He has a great look and charm, but also a quiet intensity. For one reason or another, I never watched Deadwood when it was on or in the decade plus since it went off the air.

Diane and I are only a few episodes in but so far so good. I enjoy hearing “cocksucker” or some variation every other sentence.

Better Call Saul

I “met” Bob Odenkirk once. When I was living in Illinois, I was a teller at the bank his mom uses. One day, she brought in her son Bob and I couldn’t find the will to say anything to him. I regret it but knowing someone as famous as Bob Odenkirk still finds time to go with his mom to the bank is more than enough to make me a fan for life.

Also, Better Call Saul is fantastic and far better than Breaking Bad which was already perfect.

Megaloboxing

I am just starting this anime. It is weird but I love the feel of it so far. Anime and boxing are also like a drug for me. Hajime No Ippo proved it is a winning formula and I am always open to “more of that”.

The Golden Girls

This isn’t some ironic watch. I am a huge fan. I have two Golden Girls t-shirts that I sleep in. Sometimes when I am lazy I wear it out for errands and I get compliments from people even younger than me. I think nostalgia must extend to people with no familiarity with something other than other people being nostalgic for it. It’s like hipster hive mind.

My love for the Golden Girls is sincere. My mother would tape her soaps (soap operas) and watch them at night while knitting. I would sometimes wander out of bed and fall asleep in her lap. She didn’t want to be distracted from her tapes, so she’d turn it off and usually it would be time for Golden Girls reruns on Lifetime.

I dunno how she would feel about me admitting she let me watch it at such a young age. But the Golden Girls is a reminder of a time when I was still able to curl up in my mother’s lap and fall back asleep. I miss her dearly some days more than others but I still have Golden Girls to watch when I want to slip back into the past. The fact that I learned that Blanche is a slut and how funny that is at age 7 never stopped me from being a productive, functioning human being either.


This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.

(No Spoilers) NXT Takeover, Not SummerSlam

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


I am currently avoiding all spoilers for tonight’s NXT Takeover. Up until earlier this week, I would’ve watched it tonight and WWE’s second biggest pay-per-view of the year, but I finally decided that my disgust with WWE’s current stories was too much to waste any more money on the WWE Network.

Thankfully NXT gets uploaded to Hulu!

Not that I have followed NXT any closer. The transition for some of my favorite wrestlers to the main roster has soured me on paying too much attention to what develops in “developmental”. Still, it is the better wrestling show and that more than makes up for the main show wasting my time. Every NXT Takeover I have ever watched has been fantastic and I am excited to have folks over to see it tomorrow rather than SummerSlam.

Here are a few reasons why I decided to skip SummerSlam this year:

Whether Roman Wins or Lose, I Lose

This whole Brock Lesnar story is tired. For a brief, fleeting moment they had my interest when they teased taking Paul Heyman from him. Then they threw that away for no reason at all.

Maybe it will payoff with something, but I am ready for Roman to win the title so we can move on entirely from the Brock Lesnar era. I am still in an “anyone but Roman” mood but even more than that I am in a “Less Lesnar, please” mood. The two of them are the weakest part of the weekly recaps I read for RAW and Smackdown.

Dean Too Soon

Similar to walking back the Lesnar/Heyman split, I thought having Dean Ambrose come back on the RAW before SummerSlam was a waste. I miss the surprises and unless he turns on Seth after helping him beat Dolph, then it looks like “more of the same” to me.

No Asuka

Asuka has been a household favorite of ours ever since she debuted on NXT. Having a bad ass hot Asian woman wrestling was a dream come true for all of us. She has been wasted in WWE though and nothing proves that more than leaving her off the SummerSlam card altogether.

Rusev On the Pre-Show

Rusev is perfect. He is also on the pre-show which costs nothing. Why waste money on SummerSlam when I can get someone like Rusev for free?

Why NXT instead if you don’t watch it?

The card is stacked with some incredibly entertaining wrestlers. While I may not be up to speed on the story, story in general matters less on NXT. Unlike the main roster, matches are rarely filler and are often the first time wrestlers get to really face one another. That makes everything feel fresh. It isn’t a month’s worth of tag matches and weak singles matches. It’s one really good match on the biggest show of the quarter.

Also, there’s a hot Asian pirate and a couple of follicly-enhanced handsome manbeasts. I can’t get that on SummerSlam, that’s for sure!

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