Smackdown is in Rebuilding Mode

Anyone who watched the WWE Draft two weeks ago could tell you that Raw came away with a stacked roster and SmackDown… well, SmackDown was going to take some work. Sure, the blue brand got the WWE Championship along with John Cena and A.J. Styles, but there was a dearth of established talent on the undercard and a noticeable void of other titles.

When Raw put together one of its best episodes in recent memory, with the spotlight directly on Finn Balor and Sasha Banks, it became even more of a daunting task for SmackDown to stand out on its own. And for the most part, it didn’t. The commentary team lacked chemistry, the women’s division is cluttered and they didn’t feature any of their top NXT draft picks. Sure, American Alpha will be on this week, but you think they would’ve debuted and made an impact like Balor did.

SmackDown obviously isn’t going to find its footing overnight, but in the meantime its turning to the star power of Dolph Ziggler to captivate the WWE Universe and generate ratings on the way to SummerSlam.

Wait, did I just say Dolph Ziggler?

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We’ve All Had 500 Days of Summer

Hey Tom, look, I know you think that she was the one, but I don’t. I think you’re just remembering the good stuff. Next time you look back, I really think you should look again. 

Not many movies have the balls to tell you up front how they’re going to end. Tom and Summer share a romance that winds up going south. We learn that before the opening credits even roll, but how are you supposed to invest in the journey when you know the destination? By conventional Hollywood rules, we shouldn’t find out if the boy gets the girl until the end of a love story. You know, fairy tales and happily ever after and all that jazz. Only 500 Days of Summer isn’t about whether it will work out between the main characters.

Our challenge as the audience is to be comfortable having all that information ahead of time. The reward is a much richer experience than you would have with your typical, sappy romantic comedy, and one that is equal parts poignant and humorous. When you get right down to it, that’s what a relationship brings to your life: a genuine connection with another person that provides joy, laughter, and eventually in most cases, sorrow.

And let’s just say it’s a little easier to be up to the challenge when you see Tom’s plight and can clearly picture yourself.

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Raw Recap: Welcome to the New Era

(Eric Schreiber, who co-wrote the Battleground predictions and results articles with Jesse, will be posting a Raw recap every week, or at least until he gets sick of working for free.) 

The New Era has finally begun, Raw is without a champion, and there are more questions than answers coming into this night. I for one was not expecting a lot of the things that I saw. I expected the same old same with Roman Reigns winning whatever hurdle they put before him and going to Summerslam to face Seth Rollins, especially when they named the two fatal four way matches and their contestants. There were two major points I would love to focus on a bit more: First the fatal four way matches and the main event, second the women’s championship match.

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Broncos’ Focus Should Be on Offensive Line

There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?

No, I’m not talking about the Force or Kylo Ren. This is all about the start of training camp and a merciful end to a very long offseason. The Broncos are going to start playing some actual football and there will be concrete stories worth discussing. We can finally put all of the pointless, high school drama behind us (at least until next year).

Naturally, most of the attention will be geared toward the quarterbacks. Everyone will be anxiously waiting for Mark Sanchez to screw up badly enough so that preseason darling Trevor Siemian or first-round pick Paxton Lynch gets a chance in the spotlight. Quarterbacks are always the top priority for the fans and media, even if they aren’t the most important one for the team.

Regardless of who winds up playing under center, it is imperative that the Broncos correct one of the weaknesses that has plagued them for the past couple of seasons: the offensive line. If they don’t, it’s not really going to matter who the starting quarterback is. They are all dead men walking.

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WWE Battleground: Highs, Lows and Everything Else

When Eric and I made our predictions, I was pretty worried that Battleground would turn out to be bland and insignificant show. It wasn’t perfect and there were certainly aspects of it that we could’ve done without, but overall I’d say it surpassed our expectations.

So what exactly were we so happy about? What aggravated Eric to the point that he sent me several angry text messages when it happened? Hit the jump and find out!

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Clearing the Field for WWE Battleground

WWE is in a very odd place right now. Following the brand split, they had the opportunity to forge ahead with fresh talent in order to create some new stars, but instead they seem content to stick to the status quo and do business as usual. Give Cesaro and Sasha Banks a chance to shine on Smackdown? Nah, lets leave them on Raw with everyone else. Keep the Wyatts and the Club together for a while longer so that they can keep building momentum? Nope, we’re going to split them up, because reasons.

Obviously, it’s a little premature to judge this new era in the WWE because it hasn’t even played out yet. That doesn’t mean that I trust the company to not screw things up, but I’m at least willing to wait and see what happens. For now.

In the meantime, WWE Battleground is the last pay-per-view before the brand extension takes full effect, and my buddy Eric Schreiber is here as my tag team partner to help me sort out what will transpire tonight. Everything that we say will happen is definitely going to happen, unless Eric disagrees with me, in which case anything that I predict is the way that things will go. Maybe. Hit the jump and we’ll see.

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Spielberg Introduces “The BFG” to the Next Generation

I remember being in second grade and listening intently as The BFG was read aloud to our class. This was somewhat of a trend, you see, as our teacher had already shared several classic Roald Dahl tales with us: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, you name it. While those readings have faded from my memory, for whatever reason I can clearly picture hearing about Sophie and her Big Friendly Giant for the first time.

To be honest, I’m surprised it took this long for BFG to receive the big screen treatment. Nonetheless, I was admittedly nervous when I heard that it was finally happening, despite the fact that Steven Spielberg was chosen to helm the voyage into giant country. Adapting children’s novels into a feature length film is tricky. There is rarely enough material for a complete screenplay, which usually means that a lot of new scenes have to be added to get us from Point A to Point B. Sometimes this enhances the story and makes for a wonderful experience and other times you wonder why the filmmakers didn’t just leave well enough alone.

So did Spielberg pull it off? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for. Allow me to explain.

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Star Trek Into Darkness: Yeah, They Lied About Khan

(Update: This was a review I did for Into Darkness back when it came out. Yes, I’m just as mortified as you that it’s already been three years. With Star Trek Beyond being released tomorrow, it seemed like a good opportunity to share my thoughts on the first two Trek films in this series. I just didn’t feel like writing a brand new post for it. Plus, it’s always interesting as a writer to revisit old material and see how your style and voice has grown. The original review will now commence)

Depending on where you fall in the whole Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate, you may view the upcoming slate of films to be a period of intense competition or a window of rare opportunity. I’m inclined to side with the latter. After all, it’s not every day that the same promising young filmmaker is chosen to helm the two most iconic science fiction franchises in modern history, much less tackle them back-to-back. Myself, I’ve loved Star Wars since the opening credits crawled across my screen for the first time, while I never quite saw the appeal in Star Trek (go ahead Trekkies, have at me). However, J.J. Abrams won me over with his 2009 reboot and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the sequel ever since. As it turns out, my enthusiasm was well-founded. Darkness is my favorite movie of the year so far and now I’m more eager than ever to see what Abrams can accomplish with Star Wars, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it (only 2 more years!). Minor spoilers below. 

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When J.J. Abrams Made Star Trek Mainstream

Before 2009, Star Trek was about as cool and hip as a pair of men’s jorts or New Balance sneakers. It wasn’t something you admitted to liking if you ever wanted to get lucky with a girl. As a wrestling fan, I can identify with this. And like wrestling, Trek has a massive cult following of fans who may be unlucky in love but damn it, they are passionate about it and that’s never going to change.

Then J.J. Abrams showed up and made Star Trek… cool? A lot of people who normally wouldn’t have given Trek the time of day, including yours truly, found themselves completely immersed in Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the iconic nerd franchise. This accomplished two things: 1) It established Abrams as one of the most reliable blockbuster directors in the game and 2) Forever earned him the ire of hardcore Trekkies who resented him for altering something they loved in order to make it more accessible to general audiences.

To those Trekkies, I’d like to respectfully request that you give Abrams a break. He gifted us an entertaining movie series that is still going strong to this day and you guys still have all the old films and TV episodes to cherish and worship. Don’t you see? This was a win for all of us!

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With Von Back in the Fold, the Real Work Begins

The Super Bowl is the hardest championship to win in professional sports. “Bunk!” you might say. “You have to play 162 games just to make the playoffs in baseball, or have to topple the superteam Warriors or the Lebron-led Cavs in order to win the NBA Finals.” If you said that, I would agree that you made some good points, but I’d stand by my opinion.

Sure, the NFL season is only 16 games long and at most you only have to claim four victories to get that Super Bowl ring, equivalent to a series win in other sports. Those games are hard to pull out though, people, and it only takes one bad day for everything to come crashing down. Stink out the joint in an NFL playoff game and your season is over. No game two. No series to tie or opportunities for redemption. It was this level of failure during the most crucial times that cost John Fox his job here in Denver, and why despite all of their domination over the rest of the league, the Patriots have lifted the Lombardi trophy just one time over the past 11 years.

Resigning Von Miller may have seemed like an arduous task, mostly thanks to all of the silly and media manufactured drama, but it’s a day at the beach compared to what it will take for the Broncos to be back-to-back champions.

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