Yesterday, World Wrestling Entertainment announced that its current heavyweight champion Drew McIntyre tested positive for COVID-19.

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The camaraderie in professional wrestling is unlike that in any other sport.

Men and women from different walks of life share a bond that only the people in their chosen profession will understand. Unlike other professional sports, there isn't an off-season for pro wrestlers. They are traveling 300+ days a year. The time away from home forces them to build relationships with their fellow competitors behind the scenes.

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CULTURE

John Cena and Dwayne Johnson: Why Wrestlers Make the Best Celebrities

They know how to work the crowd like no one else

Muscle-bound action stars are a dime a dozen, but the way people respond to John Cena and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson speaks to another level of celebrity.

There is something about them that people gravitate towards in a way that few hunks of man-meat have achieved. What is it that makes them so magnetic? Is it possible that it all ties back to their origins as professional wrestlers?

In the early 2000s, both of these men were already superstars, but their passionate fan bases were relatively limited. If you weren't familiar with the fact that you can't see John Cena or the questionable smell of The Rock's cooking—along with The Peoples' various body parts—you weren't really a fan. They were the beloved babyfaces of the squared circle, but outside of that realm, they were basically non-entities. That's no longer the case. Both men have since made a name for themselves as actors in both comedic and action roles. And both men are considered to be among our cultures most lovable celebrities—continuing the legacy of Andre the Giant.

Andre the Giant

If the endless memes don't attest to that love, it's worth noting that both men have been floated as potential presidential candidates. Just today, they are both trending in news stories because John Cena revealed that he is a BTS fanboy and Dwayne Johnson's father, Rocky Johnson—a wrestling star in his own right—passed away. One story is light and silly, the other is sad, but in both cases the outpouring of love from the Internet is unequivocal. So what makes these crossover stars so special? Perhaps it's related to the way that stardom works in wrestling.

Despite the common persona of the invincible, ultra-manly behemoth, wrestlers actually have to be pretty approachable and emotionally intelligent. A wrestler's success is closely tied to their interactions with the audience. They cultivate call and response routines with fans in the stands, and they feed off the energy of the crowd. Most performers don't have that kind of relationship with their audiences. Actors generally have a camera and a screen between them and their fans, and even in a theater setting the respectful hush functions as a similar barrier. But wrestlers need the jeers and the cheers. They need the audience to feel a personal connection to their fate in the ring—because the slapstick action and soap-opera storylines wouldn't play otherwise.

the rock smile

It's the personal connection—the charming smile that comes out when they aren't mean-mugging—that sells the image of a burly badass with a soft heart. It's what makes it so fun to watch Dwayne Johnson goofing off with Kevin Hart, and it's why John Cena breaks records with his make-a-wish visits. It's all about those personal connections. They both come across as so genuinely sweet and open, because they both got their starts as wrestlers. They each spent years making stadiums full of screaming fans feel like they had a one-on-one relationship, and now we all get that pleasure when we see them on TV and in movies.

The point is, don't be surprised when A.J. Styles and Becky Lynch end up starring in the next Judd Apatow movie.

CULTURE

The Highest Paid People in Entertainment

These stars are pulling in millions of dollars per Instagram post.

Working in the arts is a tricky business.

While many artists struggle to stay afloat, the entertainment industry is arguably driven by the elusive promise that someday, you too could make it big. Of course, "big breaks" are largely dependent upon luck and connections. Just how much money are folks in the entertainment industry raking in?

According to Forbes, the top 10 highest paid musicians span genres and eras. 2019 saw Taylor Swift remain far and away the wealthiest musician in the world, followed closely by rival Kanye West. It also saw Beyoncé and Jay-Z amass exactly the same number of millions in the same year (some Illuminati sh*t if I've ever seen it).

  1. Taylor Swift: $185 Million
  2. Kanye West: $150 Million
  3. Ed Sheeran: $110 Million
  4. The Eagles: $100 Million
  5. Elton John: $84 Million
  6. Jay-Z: $81 Million
  7. Beyoncé Knowles: $81 Million
  8. Drake: $75 Million
  9. Sean Combs: $70 Million
  10. Metallica: $68 Million

As for actors, the top 10 list includes only men—and their salaries are significantly lower than what the top 10 highest paid musicians are raking in. Most of these stars have been in the entertainment industry for a while, and the majority have starred in at least one major franchise.

  1. Dwayne the Rock Johnson: $65 Million
  2. Robert Downey Jr.: $62 Million
  3. Jackie Chan: $55 Million
  4. Matt Damon: $55 Million
  5. Johnny Depp: $48 Million
  6. Vin Diesel: $47 Million
  7. Tom Cruise: $40 Million
  8. Leonardo DiCaprio: $39 Million
  9. Amitabh Bachchan: $33.5 Million
  10. Shahrukh Khan: $33 Million

Not all of the highest-paid entertainers are actors or musicians. Here are a few more miscellaneous super-rich stars:

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo, $109 Million
  2. Neymar, $105 Million
  3. Dr. Phil, $95 Million
  4. Canelo Alvarez, $94 Million
  5. Roger Federer, $93.4 Million
  6. J. K. Rowling, $92 Million
  7. Ellen DeGeneres, $80.5 Million
  8. Tiger Woods, $63.9 Million
  9. Gordon Ramsay, $63 Million

When we start talking about influencers and social media stars, things get a bit more complex, because social media stars make their living in a variety of (often unreported) manners. Still, if you're looking to make a killing on social media, becoming a YouTube gaming maestro or fitness blogger (or marrying into the Kardashian clan) might be the way to go. In no particular order, here are some of the Internet's highest paid influencers:

  1. Kylie Jenner: $170 million, reportedly takes home one million dollars per sponsored post
  2. Evan Fong, aka VanossGaming: $18 Million
  3. Kayla Itsines: $17 Million
  4. DanTDM, YouTube gaming star: $16.5 Million
  5. PewDiePie: $12.5 Million
  6. Mark Fischbach: $12.5 Million
  7. Jake Paul: $12 million
  8. Kim Kardashian: $720,000 per sponsored post
  9. Selena Gomez: $550,000 per sponsored post
  10. Lily Singh: $10.5 Million

Does this fill you with an irrational rage? Are you thinking right now that a lot of these people aren't that talented—or maybe they are talented, but you know so many people who are just as talented and hard-working as these folks and yet struggle to find their next meal or pay their rent? Does it bother you to think about how much just a fraction of these stars' wealth could do for your family, or any humanitarian cause? How, if we glorified kindness and equality rather than ostentatious wealth-hoarding, the world could be a totally different place?

The answer, my friend, is to become a democratic socialist and preferably vote Bernie in 2020, or at least support policies and organizations that tax the rich and prevent some people from literally bathing in wealth while others struggle to make it day to day. What, where did you think this was going?

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FILM

What I Learned about Toxic Masculinity from "Hobbs and Shaw"

How a two-hour d*ck-measuring contest became a beacon for my masculine enlightenment.

We know the Fast and the Furious franchise.

It would be silly to try to pretend this series was going to offer anything even remotely resembling character depth or a logical story. That's not why people pay money to see these films. We pay for the stunts, we pay for the fights, and we pay for the explosions. But as a spinoff from the billion-dollar franchise, Hobbs and Shaw seems a little leaner than the films before it, a little more stream-lined, and weaker for it. The original Fast and the Furious franchise beat us over the head with a general theme of "family is important." Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) have no allegiance to this theme—or any theme, really. They're here to do one thing: be the manliest f**king men that were ever men on the goddamn planet.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw - Official Trailer #2 [HD] www.youtube.com

This wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if the film were to explore these elements in a constructive way—if they were to leverage the greasy, muscle-bound macho men to make a statement about… anything: our fear of automation taking over the world; our paranoia around secret, all-powerful organizations; the very real prospect that eugenics is inevitable, and we should all start freezing our reproductive material. Plus, that might explain some of the stuff the bad guy (played Idris Elba) was trying to do. Instead, director David Leitch, who previously directed Deadpool 2 and John Wick 1, continues his reputation for delivering spectacular stunts and gritty fight scenes. But when it comes to this film's dramatic, emotional beats, the opportunities escape him. This may not be entirely Leitch's fault. The script, written by Chris Morgan, only vaguely alludes to themes instead of actually exploring them.

But the ultimate problem is that Hobbs and Shaw is so damn tone-deaf about its own messaging that The Rock and Statham's characters are distractingly oblivious to how destructive and inappropriate their behavior is. As protagonists, their actions are framed as admirable displays of power, strength, and manhood. I'm here to be the buzzkill and call out that it's not cool—especially these days.

hobbs and shaw toxic masculinity Source: Hollywood Reporter

Obviously, talking about toxic masculinity in media isn't new, and it's controversial by nature. It always pisses someone off, namely men; and as a man, I admit I have to readily check myself when someone writes something on the Internet that hurts my male ego. But you know what? Screw my male ego—watching Hobbs and Shaw is both a palate cleanser and a wake up call: It is pure male fantasy wrapped in childish wish-fulfillment, so much so that it makes an unwitting mockery of machismo in general. From the cinematography to the dialogue, you could teach a college course on toxic masculinity using just this film as a text. In short, toxic masculinity is the driving force behind every motivation of the film. The toxic elements in the film are easy to spot when you think about how all of the obstacles in the story get resolved. Inevitably, problems are solved in one of the following ways:

  • Being the strongest
  • Being hyper-competitive
  • Objectifying female characters

Being the Strongest (and inevitably the most violent):

While the old Fast and Furious gang drives cars, Hobbs and Shaw punch things. The Rock is a 6-foot-3-inch, 236 lb mound of muscle that is objectively the biggest and strongest "natural" human in the universe. He spends the entire runtime throwing furniture, smashing barriers, and bashing in bad guys. Statham's character is the same, except he replaces big, hulking brawn with slick, fast martial arts.

Is this awesome to watch? Absolutely. Does it get boring after the first hour? Yes, it does. These are two invincible, superhuman men, careening through piles of faceless baddies. The Rock runs down the side of a goddamn building holding a steel grappling hook with his bare hands. They will always win. Similarly, there's no substance to their characters other than being really strong. Apparently, that's all you need to be a hero.

Hobbs Vs Shaw - Elevator Fight Scene - FAST AND FURIOUS 9 Hobbs And Shaw (2019) Movie CLIP 4K www.youtube.com

Being Hyper-competitive:

Hobbs and Shaw do not like each other. From their very first moment on-screen together, they exude nothing but contempt for each other's existence. Their relationship is a back and forth tit-for-tat that never ends. The Rock and Statham have fantastic chemistry, but they're subjugated to such childish dialogue that I couldn't tell if the jokes were written or just spit-balled on set. Although that's not to say that some weren't funny.

Their competitive behavior did bring out the funniest scene in the whole movie.

Pick A Door Fight Scene - FAST & FURIOUS: HOBBS AND SHAW (2019) Movie Clip www.youtube.com

Objectifying Female Characters:

As the worst action-movie trope goes, any female character with value in the story must be either sexy or ass-kicking––two traits men find desirable and all-too-often mutually exclusive. Hobbs and Shaw leans into this trope hard. There are a total of four female characters with speaking roles in the film, and two of them are the main characters' mothers. As for the remaining two: One's reduced to being simply "sexy," and the other "violent." Admittedly, I don't even remember the "sexy" one's name. She's barely even introduced as a person; instead, the first time she appears on-screen, she blankly walks into the room, waits patiently for Shaw to approach her, and then they make out. That's basically all she does.

Vanessa Kirby plays the second female character with a speaking role, and she at least has a modicum of development. She starts off being a badass MI6 agent who is just as physically capable as all the men. She even has some emotional depth through her relationship with her brother, Shaw. But once she's infected with the super-dangerous virus (that the film tries to pass off as a plot), she loses most of her agency. She completely relies on the boys to get her out of a jam, which they are both more than happy to do.

Hobbs & Shaw's Sister Fight Trailer (NEW, 2019) Dwayne Johnson Movie HD www.youtube.com


Therein lies the problem with having violence dictate the progression of the story. There's no room for characters to make any meaningful choices that reflect who they are as people. We can't have anyone figure anything out without punching, because that's all the characters are shown to be capable of.

With all that being said, America seems to like this movie (enough for it to earn $181 million at its opening). I enjoyed it, too, in spite of myself. The Rock is limitlessly charming, and Jason Statham has incredible charisma and great comedic timing. They both kick-ass and are really fun to watch. But I'm going to argue that a $200 million action-blockbuster can be successful with more than just brute, gratuitous, man-child pandering. We can reach deeper into ourselves and find a story that goes further than punches and sexy ladies. I don't know what that looks like yet, and I'm not sure 2020 will have anything new to show us, either.

FILM

"Hobbs & Shaw" Director David Leitch Talks Fight Scenes, Special Effects, and Spin-offs

The "John Wick" co-creator brings his action style to "The Fast and the Furious" franchise.

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) reunite after The Fate of the Furious

Universal

By the time Vin Diesel returned to the Fast and Furious franchise, the family had expanded with more dynamic, colorful characters.

After Dwayne Johnson joined the family in Fast Five and Jason Statham was revealed as the villain in Furious 7, Deckard Shaw (Statham) and Luke Hobbs (Johnson) reluctantly teamed up in a subplot in The Fate of the Furious. Now they're starring in their own movie: The Fast and the Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

Hobbs and Shaw are forced to team up to find Shaw's sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). Hattie went missing after an attempt to secure a virus went south. She's now on the run from the CIA, MI-6, and Princeton (Idris Elba), who wants the virus for himself; fist fights, car chases, and insulting one-liners fly.

The movie's director, David Leitch, co-founded 87eleven Action Design and co-created and co-directed the first John Wick movie with Chad Stahelski. After that, he directed Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. Leitch spoke with Popdust about bringing his unique action style to Hobbs & Shaw, which hits theaters Friday, August 2.

Hobbs & Shaw Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) ready for actionUniversal

In preparation for the movie, did you watch Dwayne and Jason's fights in all their movies, studying what they've done and thinking about what they might be able to do going forward?

David Leitch: Well, it was funny. I didn't need to study Jason necessarily, because I've worked with him so many times. He works out at 83eleven's stunt training facility that Chad Stahelski and I have. So he's always there preparing, whether it's for a movie that we're doing with him as action directors or even if he's just preparing with the stunt team; he always comes to our place. Dwayne's a little different. I did go back and watch the stuff he did in the Fast movies. I watched this old movie of his called The Rundown, which I remember had a really cool fight scene in the bar where he throws the record player. It was a really creative use of props and things. I just wanted to see where he'd been in terms of his action life in terms of fighting and then where we could take him.

When you intercut Hobbs and Shaw's separate fight scenes, do you actually have to choreograph those scenes together so they intercut well?

DL: You normally would. That was something that actually I got inspired with in post, the intercutting of it all. We were choreographing and adding some moves to be reflective of Shaw moves. So it would reveal brother and sister, chip off the old block kind of thing, like brother, like sister. So we were really specific that way, but in terms of editing and transitions and things, we really discovered that in editorial with Christopher Rouse (the editor).

I love how those intros imply that Hobbs works out constantly and Shaw just rolls out of bed looking like that, as if Jason Statham doesn't work out to maintain his physique.

DL: [Laughs] I think we just wanted to make sure that we can clearly define these guys. If they're both training and they're both working out, then what's the fun in that? I think seeing him go to the pub and seeing him be a little bit more James Bond-y in a way was a little more interesting than seeing Jason kick a heavy bag or do martial arts. That would've been the easy way, but I think we were really trying to define the character and not make them so alike at that moment.

Hobbs & Shaw Guns aren't going to work against this villainUniversal

You've done a lot of gunfights before. Did it add an element that Princeton can actually deflect bullets?

DL: It did, and again, we were building this movie for a four quadrant PG-13 model. The gun scenes that I've done in the past with John Wick or Atomic Blonde or Deadpool, obviously that's rated R and you can have a different sort of consequential action. Here, I wanted to make sure that we could have action that told the story but was also frenetic but also allowed us to live in the PG-13 space. So we created our confines and constructs to allow us to do that.

Was editing the comedy banter similar to finding the rhythm of an action scene?

DL: It is. It's honestly very similar. I think there's a pace and kind of flow to performance, whether it's action or it's drama or it's comedy. So that's why editorial is so important, and that's why having a good editor who understands pace in all those ways, like Christopher Rouse. It's really important for a filmmaker to have that collaborator.

PD: The movie features a truck convoy vs. a helicopter, were you flying a real helicopter and driving real trucks?

DL: We were flying a real helicopter and driving real trucks. That's what I think people will not always understand or believe. This integration of visual effects and practical stunts was pretty amazing. I worked with a great visual effects supervisor named Dan Glass. It's always a challenge to me to get as much in camera as possible. So that Black Hawk in 90% of those shots is real. The backgrounds are real, and the trucks on the ground when they're driving are real. Then we're getting enhancements where you see they're being lifted off the ground and things like that. There are things that just couldn't be done safely in the time we had, so then you add visual effects to do it. It was a really great collaboration.

Hobbs & Shaw Don't try this at home!Universal

So I'm assuming the chain between the helicopter and the trucks was CGI?

DL: The chain, yes, was CGI and in that respect, when the Peterbilt is towing the helicopter, it's all just great choreography between the helicopter pilot of the Black Hawk with my driver of the Peterbilt, Jeremy Fry. And then Fred North is the guy in the helicopter. He's an incredible, prolific helicopter pilot who was also our aerial coordinator. He did all the stuff between the Black Hawk and the cars.

Did I hear a Transformers sound effect in that scene?

DL: Everybody asks me that. No, not to my knowledge. It certainly wasn't trying to be in homage or anything. I think there might be some crossover in terms of the scale of those movies and what we were trying to achieve so the sounds can end up similar.

That might just be what a Black Hawk really sounds like.

DL: The sound team was exhaustive in trying to get real sounds. So Mark Stoeckinger, who's done all the sound for me since John Wick, he's an Academy Award-winning sound designer. They recorded the Black Hawk. They're real pros, getting their hands dirty and getting that sound.

Hobbs & Shaw You see, they are not only furious. They are also fast.Universal

Which scenes in Hobbs & Shaw pushed you the most?

DL: I think the vehicular action was most challenging. Generally, it's more logistically challenging. Locking down 10 blocks of a London street is really impossible. You have to be more creative in the stunt logistics. You ask, "How do I tell this story?" We're shooting some of the London chase in Glasgow, so we can have more control. Maybe you have more elements on blue screen to keep you in rigs with your actors and do dynamic movements that you couldn't really do with them on the street. It's just a bigger puzzle and a lot more departments who need a lot more resources.

This is the first Fast and Furious Presents spinoff. Did you have the freedom to give it its own style?

DL: Yeah, there were no mandates on me. In fact, I was encouraged by the studio to make sure that it was my own. They were like, "We're hiring you because we want you as a filmmaker. We want you to set the palette of this spinoff moving forward. They were incredibly supportive. Donna Langley and Peter Cramer at the studio were like, "We want a David Leitch movie. We appreciate you as a filmmaker." It was great.

You definitely made it your own. Were there any things from the Fast movies that did appeal to you that you did want to include?

DL: Oh, I think there were two really important things from the Fast movies that I wanted. Well, three things actually. Number one was characters. Chris Morgan has done such a great job of telling a family narrative that's lasted through the whole season. We wanted to make sure we were true to that and we had our own version of that. And then I wanted the big spectacle set pieces that everybody knows and loves that push the boundaries of physics, but we don't care because we're kind of in this wish fulfillment universe. I wanted to do all those things.

Hobbs & Shaw Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) only walk in slow motion.Universal

You, Chad, and Keanu are developing a John Wick TV series for Starz, but now there's already John Wick 4 on the books for 2021. Is the TV series taking longer than you expected?

DL: I think it has and, quite frankly, I haven't been as hands on with it as Chad has. So we're both involved in it as executive producers. He's been sort of shepherding the whole John Wick world. I think we just want to get it right, and it's hard when you're making a movie and you're so in it; there are so many moving pieces. But everyone's really excited about it, and it's such a rich world. I have no doubt that we're going to make it happen.

How different will an LA branch of The Continental be than what we've seen in New York in the films?

DL: Well, in terms of building out that world, it's so fun because L.A. obviously has many different aspects. The Hollywood angle is obviously the most obvious one. I'm looking forward to what the showrunners and Chad come up with and helping in any way I can.

Have you watched the John Wick series go on as a proud father?

DL: Yeah, and a proud brother. I think Chad has taken it and brought it to places that I wouldn't have. I think when we made the decision to do other things and I wanted to do Atomic Blonde and he stayed in the John Wick world, that franchise became more him and that's great. I get to put my imprints on other things like Atomic Blonde and the Deadpool world. For us, it's been a really great experience and we'll continue to collaborate on our platforms and even our projects.