Saturday, 22 March 2014

PPV REVIEW: WWF Wrestlemania 9

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: event poster
April 4, 1993
Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada


No discussion about the worst WWE PPV events of all time is complete without Wrestlemania IX cropping up, rearing its toga-covered head and reminding us of its absolute worst moments.

But was the show really that bad?

This reviewer does not think so.

Sure, there was plenty to lambaste (and I will, at length), but in between all that, there were many moments of pretty enjoyable wrestling, too.

Not convinced? Let's take a look at the show, shall we?

Welcome to Caesers Palace!
No early-90s pay per view offering would be quite complete without Vince McMahon growling like the proverbial man possessed over an opening graphic. This year, McMahon kept it short. In just twenty odd seconds, he revealed himself to be far more excited about the location of this year's spectacular than he was about any of the matches involved.


Unfortunately for all concerned, that pretty much set the tone for the whole affair as the pomp and ceremony -tacky as it may have been- took far greater precedent than the action.

Having made his mark, Vince passed over to Gorilla Monsoon, whose role as Host of Wrestlemania IX involved nothing more than appearing on camera twice for a total of about thirty seconds on a show spanning multiple hours.

Still, Monsoon, dressed in a black, green and gold toga and flanked by two clearly bored actors dressed as Roman guards, did the best job he could by saying hello and immediately handing over to former WCW announcer, Jim Ross.

Opening ceremony
Wearing a toga of his own and surrounded by more actors, Ross made his World Wrestling Federation debut by beaming happily at the camera and running down tonight's card.

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: Jim Ross made his World Wrestling Federation debut
Ross then introduced us to Finkus Maximus (better known to you and I as veteran ring announcer, Howard Finkle) before proceeding doing his best to make the Wrestlemania opening ceremony sound like a legtimate huge deal.

As two actors dressed as Julius Caesar and Cleopatra arrived on an elephant, Ross really did try hard to make us care.

'Oh my, isn't that tremendous,' he said without a flash of sarcasm as the elephant reared up on its hind legs before returning to a more natural position on all fours.

Caesar and Cleopatra (who may or may not have been the same actors from the 1993 Royal Rumble) walked around the ring before commentator Macho Man Randy Savage was carried to the ring on a sedan, surrounded by muscular hunks and cheap hookers masquerading as 'celestial virgins.'

'The Macho Man, [with] a little grape action there,' Ross informed as Savage popped the fruit in his mouth, giving you just some idea of how badly the Oklahoma native wanted us to care.

Finally greeting Ross, Savage told us that we had a 'lock and load' situation going on and that the 'grapes were great,' before, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan arrived, riding backwards on a camel.

After falling off the camel, Heenan engaged in banter with Ross and Savage, the latter of whom made his first utterance of a phrase he would use repeatedly throughout the show. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it was time to Do The Thing.

At last.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship match:
WWF Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels (w/ Luna Vachon) vs. Tatanka (w/ Sensational Sherri)
WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: Luna Vachon was in the company of Intercontinental Champion, Shawn Michaels
As an eight year-old, I thought that the pairing of arrogant pretty boy Shawn Michaels with the deranged and freaky-looking Luna Vachon was an odd one to say the least.

Now approaching thirty, I still do (especially as Michaels ignored his valet from the moment he walked through the curtain), though I can at least appreciate the logic in such a partnership. Why wouldn't the Intercontinental Champion hire the services of the reputably dangerous Vachon to counter any attempt at shenanigans by his former squeeze Sensational Sherri, now in the corner of his Native American challenger.

Over twelve minutes after Wrestlemania IX began, the bell finally sounded and our opening contest was underway.

Despite both champ and challenger having zero chemistry with their respective seconds, this turned out to be a fine match.

Sure, Michaels would have, and already had, better matches in his career, the champion performed to his usual high standards. Tatanka was no slouch either. Indeed, both men worked hard to deliver an entertaining opener which was spoiled only by the finish.

As Heenan bickered with Savage and Savage continued to rant about doing the thing, Jim Ross called eighteen minutes of solid action until Michaels, in danger of being counted out, dragged the referee out of the ring.

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: Tatanka helps Sensational Sherri to the back following his count-out win over Intercontinental Champion, Shawn Michaels
The champion made his way back between the ropes and straight into a samoan drop from Tatanka. The challenger made the cover, but the referee returned to the ring and, rather than count the fall, awarded Tatanka the match via count-out.
Your winner via count-out: Tatanka (Shawn Michaels retains the title)

In the post-match, Luna Vachon waylaid rival Sensational Sherri then ran off at speed as Tatanka came to the rescue.

Things then moved to the back, where Mean Gene Okerlund proclaimed that 'Julius Caesar himself would have been proud to be involved in this Wrestlemania.'  Maybe Gene was busy at the craps table when Caeser himself made his grand entrance earlier in the show.

Okerlund lavished praise on The Steiner Brothers, who arrived on the scene to talk about their first Wrestlemania match in which they vowed to overthrow The Headshrinkers.

The Headshrinkers (Samu and Fatu w/ Afa) vs. The Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott)
As Rick and Scott made their way to the ring, a fan held up a sign which read 'New York loves The Steiner Brothers and The "Under"taker. I'd say something about that, but I'm still kind of irked at the lack of apostrophe in Caesar's Palace.

That aside, this was another solid encounter.

Arguably even more enjoyable than the opening clash, The Steiners and The Headshrinkers engaged in a hard-hitting, smash-mouth tag team match.

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: The Steiner Brothers speak to Mean Gene before facing The Headshrinkers
In the early going, Jim Ross informed us that Luna Vachon had assaulted Sensational Sherri back in the First Aid area. Otherwise, the focus was purely on the two teams in the ring as they fought a memorable battle with a number of highlights, including a key moment where The Headshrinkers dumped Scotty head first over the top rope, where Afa added to Steiner's woes with a cane shot across the spine.

After just just shy of fifteen minutes, this entertaining match saw The Steiners pick up the three count thanks to a Frankensteiner from Scott.
Your Winners: The Steiner Brothers

Backstage, Mean Gene claimed to have just seen Doink The Clown deface a statue, but did nothing about it. Okerlund reminded Doink of the Clown's biggest sins, including throwing pies in the face of little children and, worst of all, beating up Crush with a fake arm.

In response, Doink insisted he was bringing the fun to Wrestlemania and, with a nod and wink in the direction of things to come, joked that Crush might 'see double vision' in their upcoming clash.

Crush vs. Doink The Clown
This is the point where eight year-old Chris would be hiding behind the sofa. OK, so Doink was awful as a babyface, but as a sinister heel with a split personality, he was genuinely terrifying, especially to a pre-pubescent boy.

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: Doink The Clown talks to Mean Gene about facing CrushThe bulk of this eight-plus minute match was nothing to write home about. The mighty Crush beat up on his sneaky adversary around and outside the ring, battering down with a series of exaggerated fists and boots and occasionally shaking things up with the odd snap mare or neckbreaker.

Doink mounted a comeback, diving off the ropes to wear down his foe and ramming Crush's head into the ring post to a faint smattering of applause.

'Everybody here is psyched to the max!' enthused Savage as the Las Vegas crowd sat on and watched in near silence.

Doink made several attempts to hide under the ring, only to be pulled back by Crush and thrown about the ring some more. Eventually, with the referee down, a second Doink emerged from under the ring, saving his doppleganger from Crush's Cranium Crush by hitting the big Hawaiian with the deadly Fake Arm of Doom.

As the announcers raved about a Double Doink (beating Paul Vasquez by some seventeen years), the original Doink made the cover, the referee woke up long enough to hit the three count, and this one was thankfully over.
Your winner: Doink The Clown

Next, we went to a man equally loved and loathed by wrestling fans, the one and only Todd Pettengill. Situated up in the cheap seats, with a pair of sunglasses and a backwards baseball cap complimenting his toga outfit, Pettengill moved around a sea of drunk and rowdy fans trying to conduct a survey into whether there really had been two Doinks or whether it was all just an illusion.

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: Doink The Clown, unmasked after his match with Crush
The Toddster had little luck with that one, though he did manage to give us the obligatory 'LOL! Foreigners can't speak English good' joke by interviewing two Japanese fans who only understood the word Yokozuna.

Razor Ramon vs. Bob Backlund
After an outstanding performance at that year's Royal Rumble, Bob Backlund was relegated back to the jobber status he would endure until his memorable metamorphosis into the psychotic Mr. Backlund in the summer of 1994.

Here, he was overthrown by Razor Ramon in an entertaining, if instantly forgettable encounter.

Despite a valiant effort against a much larger opponent, Backlund's efforts were thwarted when Ramon pulled out an inside cradle for the win.
Your winner: Razor Ramon

Backstage, Mean Gene Okerlund caught up with WWF Tag Team Champions, Money Incorporated.

Okerlund reminded Ted Dibiase and I.R.S of how their feud with the Mega Manics began, namely with a briefcase to the injured face of Brutus Beefcake.

Dibiase responded by saying it was time Beefcake and his partner Hulk Hogan put up, or shut up. Dibiase claimed that Vegas, The City of Money, was Money Inc.'s backyard, and that their opponents had no chance of winning.

For his part, I.R.S said they would 'beat [Beefcake's] face into oblivion' and also told Gene that, if they thought Beefcake's face was bad, he should see Hogan's.

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: The Mega Maniacs faced Money Incorporated for the WWF Tag Team Titles


World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship match
WWF Tag Team Champions Money Incorporated ('Million Dollar Man' Ted Dibiase & I.R.S) vs. The Mega Maniacs (Hulk Hogan and Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake w/ Jimmy Hart)

Emerging through a cloud of red smoke, Brutus Beefcake wore a protective face mask, playing up to the legitimate injury he suffered which had kept him away from WWF pay per view since Wrestlemania 6).

For his part, The Hulkster, besides appearing much slimmer, sported a shiner and several stitches. The company covered this with the story that Money Inc. had hired goons to beat up Hogan at the gym the night before.

The truth, depending on who you believe, is either that Randy Savage punched him out after finding out Hogan had an affair with Elizabeth, or that The Immortal One was involved in a jet ski accident.

Their look was a far cry from that of the last time they had teamed up on pay per view to face Macho Man and Zeus at Summerslam 1989.

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: Money Inc. find out they'll lose the belts if they walk out of their match with Hogan and Beefcake
The match itself was good (if not a little long) for what it was, though despite the best efforts of all four men, it lacked that all-important Big Match Feel you have to believe they were going for.

After threatening to walk out (only to be told they would thus forfeit their titles if they did so), Dibiase and I.R.S returned to the ring and took control, cutting off Hogan from his partner by choking him out with a tag rope.

Hogan did the whole babyface-in-peril thing well, and the crowd lit up when Beefcake finally took the inevitable hot tag to a huge pop from the Vegas faithful or, as Savage put it 'the fans are hanging from the rafters...except Caesar's Palace doesn't have rafters, but it has columns and they're hanging from the columns.'

Nice save, Macho.

Beefcake eventually came up short against the champions, losing his mask in the process.

The match then reached it's thrilling climax when Hogan drilled both opponents with the mask. The referee was down so, as Hogan and Beefcake covered their opponents, manager Jimmy Hart turned his jacket inside out to reveal zebra stripes, and made the three count.

The Mega Maniacs celebrated with the titles, but alas their triumph was short lived. A second referee rushed to ringside and decreed that not only could a match not end by 'Manager Changing His Jacket,' but that Hogan had been disqualified.
Your winner via disqualification: Money Inc.

The champions may have escaped with their gold intact, but they certainly didn't look too much like winners. Hogan and Beefcake disposed of them before Jimmy Hart threw former charge turned referee Danny Davis from the ring.

'The Mega Maniacs are The Mega Maniacs,' said Savage, keeping up his outstanding work at the announce table.

Hogan, Beefcake and Hart went through the usual post-match posedown celebration for what felt like the hour, eventually opening up Money Inc.'s gold-plated briefcase, removing a brick from it, and tossing money out into the audience.

The show then went back to Todd Pettengill and his gang of rowdy drunks. Pettengill spoke with singer Natalie Cole, who couldn't believe The Mega Maniacs had given away real money. He then spoke with the C.E.O of Caesar's Palace, who took the opportunity to shill his area and said that the wrestlers 'really appreciated themselves to the local community.'

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: Mean Gene interviews Mr. Perfect about the latter's match with Lex Luger
Twenty one years later, I still have no idea what that means.

Backstage, Mean Gene spoke with Mr. Perfect. Okerlund told Perfect that, earlier in the day, Lex Luger had knocked out WWF Champion Bret Hart with his steel elbow thing. Perfect said he didn't know who Luger thought he was, raved about his own perfect week, then messed up trying to say 'The Narcissist Lex Luger' and instead made for the ring.

The Narcissist Lex Luger (w/ a gang of thong-wearing ladies) vs. Mr. Perfect
The cameraman spent much of Luger's entrance filming the rear ends of his female flunkies. Not that this writer is complaining.

Luger then spent some time posing in front of mirrors which shot fireworks before Perfect arrived on the scene to an enormous ovation.

This was another decent match which saw both men trading the advantage. With the crowd firmly on his side, Mr. Perfect using technical wrestling to combat The Narcissist's power-based offense.

Alas, as was fast becoming a trend with Wrestlemania 9, another good match reached failed to reach a clean finish. This time round, Perfect got his foot on the ropes to counter a Luger pin attempt. Unfortunately for the former Intercontinental Champion, the referee didn't see it, and thus awarded the match to Luger.
Your winner: Lex Luger


WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: The best thing Lex Luger ever brought to the ring?
Afterwards, Perfect argued with the referee, only to receive a metal-plated elbow to the head from Luger.

Perfect recovered quickly and ran backstage, where he found Luger chatting to Shawn Michaels. Somehow, Perfect wound up brawling, and then getting beaten up by, the Intercontinental Champion.

Back in the arena, Savage and Bobby Heenan got into a heated argument before Jim Ross difused the situation by sending over to Gorilla Monsoon for his second cameo of the evening.

Monsoon hyped up the remaining two scheduled matches before going back to How..I mean, Finkus Maximus.

Giant Gonzales (w/ Harvey Wippleman) vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)
And so we have it, folks: One of the most notoriously bad matches in WWE history. Giant Gonzales, wearing That Infamous Suit, made his way to the ring first, followed by The Undertaker.

The Deadman, along with his pet vulture, came to the ring on a kind of hearse carried by four musclemen and flanked by a druid who didn't seem to quite get the whole gimmick, slapping hands with fans en route to the ring.

The bell rang, and fans were subjected to a match so terrible not even your usually-optimistic reviewer can excuse.

To his credit, The Undertaker did what he could to make the slow, immobile Gonzales look like a credible threat, though his efforts were continually diminished whenever the former El Gigante lumbered around the ring throwing awkward-looking offense.

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: An iconic shot of The Undertaker at Wrestlemania
Things, whatever they were, fell apart at the end when Harvey Wippleman got involved and was taken out by The Undertaker, and Paul Bearer stuck his nose in, only to receive the same treatment courtesy of Gonzales.

The Giant then pulled out a chloroform-soaked rag, using it to knock out his opponent and thus lose the match via disqualification.
Your winner via disqualification: The Undertaker

Post match, a slew of officials rushed to Undertaker's aid. Gonzales beat up most of them, but Earl Hebner, Jack Doan and Paul Bearer managed to get Undertaker on a stretcher.

As Gonzales soaked up the jeers from the crowd (and a brief chant for Hulk Hogan), The Undertaker walked back to the ring, his face like a zombie, and took out his rival, leading to their ill-fated rematch at Summerslam 1993.

Despite a horrible match in which he got knocked out, The Undertaker stood 3-0 at Wrestlemania.

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: Hulk Hogan challenges the winner between Bret 'Hitman' Hart and Yokozuna
It was almost time for our main event world title match between Bret Hart and Yokozuna, a match which had largely been ignored by the announcers until now.

Though rather than give a final few words to either the champion or the challenger, Mean Gene Okerlund showed us a recap of Yoko killing both Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Bret Hart (in separate instances) then spoke to Hulk Hogan, a man who, as far as everybody was concerned at the time, had nothing to do with the final match of the evening.

Hogan played up the idea that Money Inc. were responsible for his black eye, before telling Bret Hart that Hogan, and all his Hulkamaniacs were on his side. Hogan claimed that he had looked into The Hitman's eyes and questioned the greatness of Hulkamania, which is why he was issuing a challenge to either Hart or -and I quote- 'The Jap, brother,' depending on which man won the upcoming match.

Todd Pettengill was back out in the audience, interviewing a mute kid and a couple of drunk dudes in togas who started brawling.

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: Yokozuna challenged Bret 'The Hitman' Hart for the WWF title


World Wrestling Federation Championship match
WWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. Yokozuna (w/ Mr. Fuji)
If you were watching this show, you'd be forgiven for forgetting this match was schedule to take place, that's how much attention it got throughout the broadcast.

Still, it was here, and the fans in Caesar's Palace were excited.

Yoko made his way to the ring first, greeted by a couple of geishas and a chorus of boos. The Hitman, decked in all-pink attire, arrived next, greeted by a huge symphony of applause fro the Las Vegas faithful.

WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: WWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart prepares for battle
The bell rang, the match was on.

Everything was going well. Both men worked to deliver everything you'd want in a big-man vs. little man clash on a main event scale. The nimble, technically-sound Hitman used everything from legitimate wrestling to down and dirty tactics to get the better of his larger opponent, but 'The Man from the Orient' continued to fight back using a winning combination of surprising speed and raw power.

The challenger's offense was certainly impressive, but it seemed that it would be no match for the champion, who wrapped up Yoko's expansive thighs into the sharpshooter.

Behind the referees back, Mr. Fuji threw salt into the eyes of the champion. The move seemed to practically cripple Hart, who fell back and was promptly put away for a three count, ending what had otherwise been a thrilling, if short, main event.
Your winner and NEW World Wrestling Federation Champion: Yokozuna

As your writer sat trying to figure out how salt in the eyes could take a man off his feat, Yoko grabbed the world title belt and celebrated, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Hulk Hogan.

Playing the good guy, Hogan went immediately to check on the defeated Hitman. Somewhat foolishly, Mr. Fuji took to the microphone and challenged Hogan to fight Yokozuna there and then. Recieving Bret Hart's blessing, Hogan accepted.

World Wrestling Federation Championship match
WWF Champion Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan


WWE / WWF WRESTLEMANIA 9: Yokozuna enjoys his brief reign as WWF Champion
Yokozuna grabbed Hogan. Fuji threw salt. Hogan ducked. Yoko took the salt to the eyes (but didn't fall down like a wimp).  A punch to Fuji, a clothesline to the champion and a Leg Drop of Doom Later, the new WWF Champion Yokozuna was now the former WWF Champion Yokozuna.
Your winner and new WWF Champion: Hulk Hogan

As per the norm, Hogan celebrated with the title to end the show.

An anti-climatic end then to a disappointing show. Though Wrestlemania 9 was never going to stand out as The Greatest of All Time, your reviewer truly believes it would have stood out as being at least a decent effort were it for all the random cheap finishes and that Gonzales/Taker match.
Michaels/Tatanka, Steiners/Headshrinkers and even Mega Maniacs/Money Inc. stood out as being worth watching, whilst others, namely Hart/Yoko, Luger/Perfect and Ramon/Backlund all held their own until their respective endings.
Yet thanks to the poor finishers, Giant Gonzales, the tacky toga shtick and the Hogan/Yokozuna non-match, the 1993 edition of the WWF flagship even is widely regarded as one of the Worst Ever.
A shame really, as at least seventy percent of the in-ring action was actually pretty good, even it was marred with Randy Savage's awful commentary. Do The Thing, Oh yeah, brother!

2 comments:

Seven things to point out:

1.Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Kamala was scheduled for this PPV, but was cut due to time constraints.

2.Strange that there's no mention of Savage's history with Sherri during the Shawn/Tatanka match.

3.Speaking of which, that's what the Intercontinental Title match was -- a backdrop to set up a feud between Sherri and Luna, which would've culminated with a mixed tag match pitting Tatanka & Sherri against Bam Bam & Luna at SummerSlam 1993, but Sherri was out the door in July and off to WCW the next year.

4.The referee for the Steiners/Headshrinkers match was Bill Alfonso, the future whistle-blowing manager of Taz, Sabu, and Rob Van Dam in ECW.

5.In the first Coliseum Video-exclusive segment, right after the Steiners/Headshrinkers match, we actually do get to see Luna attacking Sherri in the medical room.

6.The second Doink was played by Steve Keirn, aka Skinner.

7.The original finish for the Crush/Doink match was for Crush to do his finisher on Doink, who would then activate a device around his wrist which would trigger tubes hidden inside a false compartment attached to his head. Multi-coloured matter would then explode ten feet out in different directions from the top of Doink's head, thus blinding Crush and costing him the match. But unfortunately, this idea was canned when Dave Meltzer got word on the stunt.

Seven more things to point out:

8.The Tag-Team Title match was originally booked to be the blow-off to the feud between Money Inc and the Nasty Boys, but Knobbs and Sags were taken off the card and replaced by Hogan and Beefcake.

9.It's odd to hear Savage being so pro-Hogan considering their huge Mega Powers breakup four years earlier.

10.The Money Inc/Mega Maniacs match was the final TV match for Beefcake in the WWF, as he would leave right after King of the Ring and join Hogan in WCW in March 1994.

11.In the second Coliseum Video-exclusive segment, just before the Perfect/Luger match, Raymond Rougeau (wearing a spiffy roguish toga) interviewed Bret Hart, as they do actually show the clip of Luger knocking out Bret at the WrestleMania Brunch earlier that day. Bret said that he'll be OK to defend the World Title against Yoko, and that Hogan gave him a serious pep talk.

12.In the third and final Coliseum Video-exclusive segment, just before the Taker/Gonzales match, Mean Gene knocks on Doink's door and asks him if there really was a second Doink who helped the original Doink defeat Crush earlier. Doink refuses to answer and shuts the door. Gene starts thumping on the door demanding an answer, until the second Doink walks past him and into the dressing room, leaving Gene stunned.

13.Bret has claimed his match with Yoko was the best match that Yoko ever had in the WWF. Bret also stated in his book that he was disappointed at Yoko for getting tired and deciding to end the match prematurely, dropping five minutes of action they had rehearsed, leading up to the finish.

14.Savage not wrestling at this PPV is a total sin. We all know that Vince was trying to focus on younger stars and thought of Savage as getting too old to draw and headline as a main eventer, despite stealing the show at WrestleMania's 7 and 8, as well as SummerSlam 1992. But still, Savage's commentary was just plain awful, because he just kept talking and talking in a way that he thought commentators talked, and even tried to engage Heenan, which left poor J.R. doing nothing. However, to be fair, Savage is great if you're going through this PPV looking for stupid things that he says. As a matter of fact, Savage had offered to wrestle Shawn and Bret in early 1993, putting both of them over as huge stars, but Vince shot down both ideas because he's a Hulkamaniac, him and Beefcake. *sigh* No wonder Savage left the WWF for WCW in late 1994.

15.Before Hogan came back, the orignal plan for the World Title match was for Bret to defeat Yoko and then move on to feud with Luger. But, once Hogan did come back, the new plan was now changed to Bret dropping the title to Yoko, who then drops it to Hogan at King of the Ring, which would set up Hogan vs. Bret at SummerSlam, which ends with Bret winning and Hogan passing the torch. But, thanks to Hogan's politicking, Bret loses to Yoko, who then gets destroyed by Hogan right after he just won the title, so Hogan is supposed to drop the belt to Bret at KOTR, but Hogan refuses, so he drops it back to Yoko instead, thus never wrestling and putting over the WWF's top babyface and future of the company.

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Retro Pro Wrestling

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