Posts Tagged ‘Pro-Wrestling’

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: The Strange Tale of Bray Wyatt Pt. 2

August 15, 2022

Possessed By Sister Abigail

Braun Strowman broke free of the cult and Rowan was banished after too many failures. Bray Wyatt found a new member in The Viper Randy Orton. The devious Orton pledged himself to the Wyatt Family leading to success. However, at the first opportunity, Orton betrayed Wyatt after eliminating Luke Harper. Orton went to the Wyatt compound and he burned it down, making special care to violate the grave of Sister Abigail. Sister Abigail had been the source of Wyatt’s power. He went to the compound and smeared its ashes on his body. It was revealed that Sister Abigail was a demon and Wyatt took her completely into his body, becoming possessed. He faced Orton in an otherworldly “House of Horrors” and defeated the snake. Wyatt remained in an unstable state with Sister Abigail within him.

The Wyatt/Abigail amalgam soon picked a fight with the heroic Finn Balor. The feud with the dangerous and violent new Bray Wyatt forced Finn to fight fire with fire. Finn drew on his own demon persona, a choice he was always reluctant to make,  to fight Wyatt. The Demon handily beat Wyatt leaving Wyatt fanatical and bitter. He kept saying that Balor could not possibly beat him without The Demon, playing on Balor’s personal pride. Balor responded that he was an ordinary man who could do extraordinary things and faced Wyatt again without The Demon. Balor was able to defeat Wyatt by himself, sending Wyatt further into his spiral. 

Samael

Bray Wyatt next clashed with Matt Hardy with Wyatt having the upper hand early on in their feud. Wyatt’s defeat of Hardy was so brutal that it re-awakened a version of the Broken Matt personality now known as “Woken” Matt Hardy. Hardy himself was knowledgeable about the supernatural as he was possessed by the soul called ZENITH which had existed since 7 A.D. only recently making Hardy its host, giving him “broken brilliance”. That connection helped Hardy beat Wyatt in a Final Deletion match, meant to eliminate whoever lost. Hardy won and then pushed Wyatt into the Lake of Reincarnation on the Hardy compound. Wyatt vanished.

Wyatt surprisingly returned to assist Matt Hardy instead of harming him. Wyatt’s reincarnation had purged the succubus Sister Abigail from him and left him clean and good for the first time in a long time. At that point, ZENITH and Hardy helped rehabilitate Bray Wyatt who welcomed the ancient spirit of Samael within him. Now a good guy, Bray formed a successful team with Hardy known as the Deleter of Worlds. They won the tag team titles together and everything was great until Broken Matt quietly disappeared.

The Firefly Fun House and the Fiend

Something was very wrong with Bray Wyatt. He had vanished for quite some time when troubling vignettes started to appear on television. Bray reappeared in a red sweater in segments of what could only be described as his version of a children’s show. He was accompanied by several puppet characters a la Pee Wee’s Playhouse or Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. He was constantly smiling and unceasingly positive as he talked about rediscovering himself. It would have all been very pleasant except that there was a dark edge underneath it all. Nobody knew what to think of these strange interruptions  Bray seemed unstable and it became increasingly obvious that the puppet characters were pieces of his past, his very soul. Mercy the Buzzard, Ramblin’ Rabbit, Abby the Witch, and Huskus the Pig were all his past that was still a part of them.

The “good” news according to Bray was that he had found a way to focus his darkness in order to protect his happy new world. This so-called focus seemed to result in a sharp division of Wyatt’s character. Bray Wyatt, the host of the Firefly Fun House, could be happy, weird, and teach kids lessons. His other side, The Fiend soon emerged and it did not seem to be a protector. The Fiend seemed to be a predator, single-mindedly brutalizing whoever it could get its hands on. The grotesque monster seemed set on the domination of the WWE just like the prior incarnations of Bray Wyatt. This time he was unstoppable and he implored the WWE fans to “Let Him In”.

Eventually, the loveable and playful Bray Wyatt also started to wrestle. He did not want to dominate, he was always trying to “help”. The biggest example of this is his match with John Cena at Wrestlemania. The two of them had clashed before but Cena was not prepared for the new Bray Wyatt. The Fiend was something Cena could understand. Cena never backed down from a fight and had slain more than his share of monsters. However, this time Wyatt attacked John’s mind and soul, pulling him into the extradimensional Firefly Fun House and walking through Cena’s psyche blended with his own. The attack and victory were existential and it took quite some time for Cena to recover.

Passing on The Madness

Wyatt then moved on to feud with Braun Strownman, a monster of a man who had once been his follower. Wyatt attempted to get into Strowman’s head, calling the past back up to show their connection and Wyatt’s superiority. He did not pull him into the Fun House but it was very similar. Strowman had grown as a monster among men and he shook off Wyatt’s influence.   When that plan did not work, Wyatt even summoned his Eater of Worlds persona from the past to fight Strowman in a swamp. It was time to unleash The Fiend. The monster attacked Alexa Bliss, somebody Strowman had befriended and shown affection for. The Fiend kept involving Bliss, forcing Strowman to step in. Braun and The Fiend fought tooth and nail with The Fiend winning Strowman’s championship belt.

Following this, The Fiend whisked Alexa Bliss away and she began to take on a more insane appearance and demeanor. She began to appear on the Firefly Fun House alongside Bray, fully part of his world. She also took on elements of The Fiend but her power source seemed to be a mysterious doll named Lilly.

The Fiend and Bray Wyatt reignited their feud with Randy Orton which quickly became extremely violent. Eventually, the two faced each other and Orton set The Fiend on fire, banishing The Fiend. Alexa Bliss haunted Orton in the meantime until a charred version of The Fiend returned to protect her from Orton. However, it was a trap. Alexa used her powers to weaken The Fiend so Orton could finish him off. Bray Wyatt appeared one more time to say how excited he was for a fresh start and then he never showed up again.

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Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: The Strange Tale of Bray Wyatt Pt. 1

August 1, 2022

This is a kayfabe rundown of the character known as Bray Wyatt. Wyatt was portrayed by
Windham Rotunda, son of Mike Rotunda, brother of Bo Dallas, grandson of Blackjack Mulligan, nephew of Kendall and Barry Windham. He is a third-generation pro-wrestler who seems to approach it as much as performance art as an athletic spectacle. His greatest creation to date is the ever-evolving Bray Wyatt, a project that seems to be over as he has left WWE at least for the time being. Sometimes polarizing, Windham never failed to create a reaction. If Bray Wyatt rises again, at least I will have gotten some of the lore down.

The Backwoods Cult Leader

Bray Wyatt first appeared on WWE’s training ground Florida Championship Wrestling. He appeared in what would become his signature style of a fedora hat, Hawaiian shirt, and scruffy beard. On paper, he sounds like a beach bum but Wyatt always had a sinister feel to him. From the very start, Bray Wyatt had the same feel to him as the character of Max Cady from the 1991 version of Cape Fear. Wyatt was menacing but charismatic, not somebody to be taken lightly even though he did not have as impressive of a physique as traditional wrestlers. He is deceptively fast and opportunistic in the ring.

After FCW was rebranded as NXT, Bray Wyatt became more powerful even as he was injured and prevented from wrestling for a time. He recruited two men who he referred to as his first and second sons. They were Luke Harper and Erick Rowan and the trio was known as The Wyatt Family in the styling of The Manson Family. Wyatt’s sons were undyingly loyal to him. They seemed to be unhinged with not a lot going on upstairs besides whatever Wyatt willed them to do. The Wyatt family became a dominant force with Wyatt as the crown jewel of this filthy, dangerous cult. 

The trio debuted in vignettes on Monday Night Raw that introduced the wider world to Wyatt’s message.

Eater of Worlds

When the Wyatt Family made their actual debut on Raw, it became clear that Bray Wyatt was more than just some backwoods cult leader. His words became increasingly more violent and cryptic, like an evil Jim Morrison. He began to refer to himself as the Eater of Worlds, a sort of proclamation that felt like he was the face of a new cosmic horror. He would often have one of his sons carry a rocking chair to the ring for him so that he could sit and watch them destroy their enemies. He would delight in the mayhem and then swoop in to provide the finishing blow before reveling in the violence. At this point, it did not seem to matter if Wyatt and his family won or lost matches. Rather than lose, they would often get disqualified and brutalize their victims anyway. His victory seemed inevitable and he was having fun getting there. He also kept mentioning Sister Abigail (it was also the name of his finishing move) which was a mystery. If opponents wanted to find him, Wyatt said that they could “Follow the Buzzards”. We all know what attracts buzzards and vultures.

Their first feud was with Kane. The Family debuted with an attack on Kane. They continued to attack wrestlers at random all while imploring Kane to come and find them. Kane reemerged and the trio obliterated the usually dominant demon and made him look helpless. They even defeated him in a ring of fire match. After defeating him, they beat Kane down, and kidnapped him, leading to his disappearance for a time. They next went after the happy-go-lucky Kofi Kingston who they also destroyed. 

It was here that The Wyatt Family received their first resistance in the face of the united front of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk. The two were recognized as some of the greatest skilled wrestlers ever with Byan claiming to be the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) and CM Punk claiming to be the Best in the World. Unfortunately for Bryan, CM Punk became distracted by his own problems with the WWE Authority and left the company. The Wyatt Family preyed on Bryan and beat him down until he agreed to join them. The four members continued their reign of terror but eventually, Bryan had enough of being picked on by Harper and Rowan and broke free of Wyatt’s programming.

Soon after this, the Wyatt Family briefly clashed with the Authority’s The Shield by disrupting the Authority’s designs against Bryan, John Cena, and Sheamus. This showed that the Family was villainous but not aligned with the totalitarian leaders of the company. In fact, they ended up helping Daniel Bryan but that was an incidental side effect of their true mission.

The Whole World In His Hands

The Wyatt Family had targetted John Cena. He was the wholesome, G-Rated face of the company. Super Cena always overcame the odds and lived by the phrases “Hustle Loyalty Respect”, “Never Give Up”, and “Rise Above Hate”. He was the perfect target for the Wyatt Family. By this time, the WWE fans were solidly divided between those who loved Cena and those who hated him. Wyatt wanted Cena to finally unleash his inner darkness and constantly tried to goad him into giving in to being a monster. When that did not work, Wyatt went after one of Cena’s few weak points. He went after the hearts and minds of the kids. The fans were divided but the kids always loved Cena and Cena took that to heart. For example, John Cena has consistently broken records at the Make A Wish Foundation. Wyatt caused people to cheer for him and to sing for him. A real battle for the hearts and minds of the WWE fans. He seemed to have a hypnotic power over his growing cult. Members of the cult signified their support by raising their cell phone flashlights in the darkness, referred to as “fireflies”.

The New Face of Fear

Wyatt announced that he had let his sons, Harper and Rowan go. He claimed to have fixed them and they were now free to roam. This allowed Wyatt to focus more on fixing others like he did Rowan and Harper. His efforts were not successful but he left his mark on everybody he feuded with. At this point, he also began to taunt the Undertaker leading up to a casket match at Wrestlemania. After a hellish battle, Undertaker prevailed and Wyatt faded away for the moment.

It was not long before Wyatt returned but he did not return alone. Harper and Rowan returned to the Family, having had their own feuds and adventures. The Family was also joined by Braun Strowman which gave the Wyatt Family even more muscle.

His next big feud was with the legendary Brothers of Destruction. The Wyatt Family targeted the demon Kane first, with Wyatt claiming that he was far more powerful than Hell’s Favorite Demon. The Wyatt Family defeated Kane, beat him down, and then carried him off to parts unknown. Kane disappeared which brought out Kane’s brother, The Undertaker. Unlike so many others, Wyatt was not afraid of The Deadman. He was happy to pit his forces against the supernatural dangers of the famous zombie sorcerer. Kane reemerged and the Wyatt Family faced The Brothers of Destruction. When the Wyatt Family defeated Kane and the Undertaker, Wyatt demonstrated that he had stolen their powers. He had Kane’s power of fire generation and Undertaker’s control over thunder and lightning. 

Bray Wyatt and his Family continued to feud with other groups. This included facing off with The New Day. It was the power of positivity coming into conflict with the sinister Wyatt Family. The two factions were opposites of each other but neither side was willing to back down. It culminated in a horror movie of a match at the Wyatt compound.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Jerks

May 30, 2022

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“Hot Mess” Chelsea Green

Chelsea Green has played a hero before but I feel that she is at her best when she is an unbalanced and arrogant hot mess of a human being. Green excels at playing a character who is obsessed with both victory and love. She is unpredictable but often gets caught up in her own head which causes her downfall. I first became aware of Green when she left WWE last year and returned to Impact Wrestling. However, I realized that I had seen her before at the legendary All In pay per view. I was intrigued and I have gone back and watched a lot of her matches which led to making the above video. She recently married fellow wrestler Matt Cardona and is currently part of the Cardona Family’s reign of terror on NWA television. She is currently feuding with Mickie James after pretending to be Mickie’s friend. It was all a ploy to take Mickie’s belt and Mickie’s husband’s (Nick Aldis) belt. 

Maxwell Jacob Friedman aka MJF

As I write this, there is a lot going on with Max who is in the midst of contract negotiations with All Elite Wrestling. He no-showed a fan event but did show up for his advertised match yesterday. This is not about Max in real life, this is about the character. I first became aware of MJF when watching him in Major League Wrestling on YouTube. He was the leader of a faction called The Dynasty which was really just him and his rich friends (Richard Holliday and Alex Hammerstone). The group lorded their wealth over everyone and hid behind their lawyer (Holliday’s father). It was during this time that he came up with his signatures. He wore a Burberry scarf to the ring, he gave a knowing smirk, and he had the catchphrase “I’m better than you and you know it”. He moved to AEW and ramped up the character who has been a weasel from day one all while claiming to be “salt of the earth”. The biggest thing is that he is actually a good wrestler but he still stacks the deck against his opponents.

Britt Baker DMD

When All Elite Wrestling started (which basically happened at the All In pay per view), they needed somebody to build the women’s division around. They had plenty of talent but they needed a villain who could really rile up the fans. They decided on relative unknown Britt Baker who had some miles in the independent scene but had yet to really get her moment in the national spotlight. Like a lot of good wrestling gimmicks, they grabbed on to parts of her real life story. Baker legitimately works as a dentist. She performs in the ring and then flies back to operate her practice. In the ring, she is a legit badass and has been through many bloody matches proving her prowess and skill. However, as she stood in the spotlight, she became far too enamored with herself and arrogant. She recruited Rebel (who she keeps calling Reba) and Jamie Hayter as minions to keep challengers away from her. She is haughty and a little delusional in a comic sort of way.

Emi Sakura

Emi Sakura came to my attention through the excellent YouTube shows for All Elite Wrestling. However, I wish I had known of her long before because she is great. She has had a career for nearly thirty years but mostly in Japan. The bulk of her career has been spent in Japanese Joshi wrestling which is a particular style of women’s wrestling. Her long career has served her well as she has been honed into a finely tuned villainous wrestler. I mean, for starters, she comes to the ring in a crown and a cape often with an assistant (Lulu Pencil) who she constantly abuses. She acts like a stereotypical anime villain complete with the laugh, the comic fear reactions, and grandiose gestures. She is also yet another example of a villain who can back it up. Her strength and control continue to amaze me. Her double underhook backbreaker in particular is breathtaking. 

nZo FKA Enzo Amore

Now this one is controversial. Eric Arndt was accused of sexual assault. He was fired from his WWE job and kicked to the curb. However, the case was later dismissed for lack of evidence. Now, if Arndt did it then I would never defend him and I am not defending him here. Again, this is about his character. As Enzo Amore, he played a goofball villain (later turned hero) playing up the image of an Italian party boy turned wrestler. He certainly had the gift of gab as he constantly came up with lines that were both original and memorable. After his firing, he eventually reappeared in Major League Wrestling (who did their research, I’m sure). He seems to have lost a bit of that goofy nature and replaced it with real-life bitterness over his fall from grace. Now he still knows how to talk but he is also vicious in and out of the ring.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: “Hangman” Adam Page

December 6, 2021

When All Elite Wrestling started, a curious duo showed up at the very first payperview. They were Evil Uno and Stu Grayson and they claimed to be from The Dark Order. The two traveled with a gaggle of masked men known as The Creepers. They overwhelmed people with numbers with a vaguely goth luchador vibe. They acted like supervillains and established themselves as a major force right away. However, a group of losses caused them to fade into the background a bit. It was at this point that they started to act more like a cult. They put out commercials telling people that if they felt powerless or lost that they would be welcomed into The Dark Order. They quickly snapped up newcomers John Silver, Alex Reynolds, Alan Angels, and Preston Vance. They were reborn as 3, 4, 5, and 10 respectively and the Dark Order was to be feared again.

Around this time, the Dark Order started crowing about the coming of their Exalted One, their leader. They hinted for so long that their opponents were not sure if anybody was actually coming. Finally, Brodie Lee arrived and immediately devastated Cody Rhodes, a longtime member of the Elite and a fan favorite. He took the TNT Title from Cody and started to recruit again. He made entreaties to Anna Jay who was frustrated by a losing streak and The Dark Order gained its first female member (99). He sought out happy-go-lucky Colt Cabana and convinced him to join (8). The Dark Order was now nine-strong and cohesive. It was at this point that Brodie Lee turned his gaze to Adam Page.

When we last left Page, he was feeling lost and disconnected from his friends and therefore his own life. He had failed to win a singles title and he was on the outs with the one guy he won tag titles with. In fact, the Dark Order had tried to court Adam Page since almost the beginning. They let their intentions of recruiting him known in the first months of the company but it just never clicked. Either things were going well enough for Page to turn them down or they just did not connect somehow. However, Mr. Brodie Lee focused on Page, seeing him as a powerful ally that could be shaped to make the Dark Order even stronger. He poured on the charm and the force of his will on Hangman even while he was still tagging with Kenny.

Meanwhile, thanks in part to the Dark Order and FTR, Page and Kenny had their falling out and Page was finally completely severed from The Elite. FTR abandoned him as a drinking buddy now that they had won the tag titles off of him and Kenny. Kenny had then defeated him to become the number one contender for the Heavyweight Title. Meanwhile, the Dark Order had suffered some setbacks of their own. The Day after Christmas in 2020, Brodie Lee (real name Jon Huber) died in real life from a lung disorder caused by being suddenly immunocompromised. In the real world and in storyline, the Dark Order was devastated and struggled to rally in Brodie’s name. They returned to their efforts to recruit Page but this time, it came from a place of love and friendship. The cult was broken and they were now just a group of misfits and friends. Their unofficial and symbolic leader was Brodie’s eldest son who went by Negative 1.

Whenever Page was outnumbered and needed a hand, the Dark Order was there to defend him. He turned every offer to join up down as he felt like he was not ready to join up with anybody after the pain of losing The Elite. After a painful breakup, he was tentative to open his heart again. He knew the Dark Order was hurting too but he just could not bring himself to team up again. Slowly, they started to win the cowboy over and he began to be a little more accepting of their help against the overwhelming numbers of the Hardy Family Office. It seemed that both parties had warmed to each other. Page could not help but be charmed by the loveable antics of the former cult members and the Order was earnest about accepting another lost soul into their ranks. The friendship was pure and the Hangman became an associate but not a member of The Dark Order.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Love That Danhausen

September 13, 2021

Since I have been getting back into the world of pro-wrestling, I have been once again scouring YouTube for my beloved weirdos. I love good technical skill but I am a sucker for a strange gimmick. These are the performers who are often polarizing like Orange Cassidy, Abadon, Alexa Bliss, and more. One of the names that has gained a cult following online is Danhausen and for good reason. The performer (named Donovan Danhausen) has created a compelling little weirdo and the gimmick is really going places.

Not much is known about Danhausen because he is shrouded in mystery and his answers in interviews are either evasive or made up on the spot. What we do know is that he comes to the ring with his face painted like a death metal musician, spooky leather pants, and extensive tattoos. He does not have the best physique but he is definitely pretty fit. He comes off as nerdy and awkward through his movements but is definitely capable of technical wrestling. Like other comedy wrestlers, if he was not good at wrestling, he would not be as popular. People buy into the weirdness but at the end of the day, he gets things done.

Danhausen speaks in the third person and often adds ‘hausen’ at the end of words in his sentences. He speaks with an odd, high-pitched voice that his performer describes as “a mix between Conan O’Brien and Mark Hammill’s Joker”. Danhausen is entirely focused on wrestling supremacy as a means to dominate the world and get sacks of cash. Everything he does is focused on that goal. As part of that, he does not care much for other pro-wrestlers. He often gets their name wrong either through apathy or as a psychological tactic. Either way, it definitely throws people off of their game. The only wrestlers that he manages to befriend are ones that he feels will get him closer to his goals.

For example, he has recently teamed up with the French-Canadian Frankenstein PCO. The two work well together. PCO is not the brightest barbarian but he can take a lot of damage and deal just as much to opponents. Danhausen is more wily and quick and the combination is really starting to turn some heads in the Ring of Honor tag division. Teaming these two popular misfits together seems odd at first but makes a lot of sense. PCO is not much of a talker, Danhausen cannot stop talking even during matches. Danhausen sees himself as an evil mastermind and PCO does not care as long as he gets to hurt people.

Let’s run through some other parts of Danhausen’s gimmick.

NO SWEARING!

Danhausen hates it when anybody on camera with him swears. It is not that he objects to swear words but he objects to what swear words do. If somebody swears in a YouTube video or on Ring of Honor episodes, that segment might be censored or cut. That means less money for Danhausen. Danhausen may be very evil but he is also very practical. He recognizes that demonetization has become a big thing on YouTube and other platforms and he wants to prevent it from interfering with him receiving huge sacks of cash (which he strangely calls “human money”).

Teeth

Danhausen carries a jar of human teeth to the ring. Nobody is sure where Danhausen obtains these teeth but he promises that they are ethically sourced. He has claimed that some were sent to him by actor/wrestler David Arquette. He may have stolen some from other people. The teeth understandably confuse his opponents who are not expecting people to bring teeth down to the ring. When he has his opponent down, he will often pour the teeth into their mouth and then hit them so that he has effectively knocked their teeth out.

Tequila!

Danhausen admires Pee Wee Herman. Herman is a great warrior in Danhausen’s eyes because he faced down a whole bar full of bikers once by performing a dance to the song Tequila by The Champs. Danhausen has adopted this warrior song for his own use. In the middle of a match, the music may start up which prompts Danhausen to dance like Pee Wee did. However, he adds in a few kicks to his opponent as he dances.

Adaptation to Weirdness

Danhausen is able to mesh with other strange wrestlers. He has fought the eternally lazy Orange Cassidy in the past. He has the aforementioned tag team with PCO. However, on the indy scene, he had two tag teams that really showed off his strangeness. The first was with WARHORSE whose name is capitalized for good reason because he is loud and forceful. The other tag team was with queer wrestler Effy who formed the tag team Gaytanic Panic with Danhausen. Danhausen adapts really well to the gimmick of whoever he is facing and alters his gimmicks to work with the match. Here are some examples:

WILPW: Another Summer of Punk

August 23, 2021

Almost seven years ago, I wrote about CM Punk. I was going through a difficult time as a fan. My emotions were still raw from Phil Brooks walking out on pro-wrestling as I wrote that blog post a mere ten months after Punk left. I had struggled because Punk had been my favorite at the time and I felt like I resonated on a similar wavelength with the guy. He was a comic book geek, a pro-wrestling geek, and just seemed to be very creative. As I wrote before, a lot of things came to light when Brooks was ready to talk about it. It was clear to me that he had suffered from burnout and physical ailments that caused his love of pro-wrestling to die. I did not realize how hard I took that.

Shortly after I last posted on the subject, I found more out from Punk’s own words. He walked out for a lot of reasons. The first and foremost reason was his health. He was suffering from broken ribs, injured knees, and multiple concussions. This was before the WWE’s current concussion protocol which is allegedly better at protecting against this. Looking back you could definitely tell a lot of this from his performance near the end of his WWE run. He looked tired and broken down at the time. He was also feeling frustrated by the way his career was going. He felt like WWE was holding him back. He was having a crisis of faith caused by all of his frustrations with creative control of his character and not being compensated for his sacrifices.

Punk and his friend Colt Cabana were sued for Punk’s statements against the WWE on Colt’s podcast. They were cleared of all liability. The lawsuit caused a falling out between the two friends. At the same time, I felt like I was struggling to find my own love of pro-wrestling again. I discovered NXT, a breath of fresh air in the WWE product. I began to search for content from other companies. In 2015, I started watching Lucha Underground and I was in love again. I began to see clips from Mexico and Japan and the indies in the United States. Slowly, my love for the product came back.

When All Elite Wrestling premiered, I was excited. I was well-studied on the independents that birthed the company. I finally gave up on watching WWE when they failed to sever ties with Saudi Arabia, sheltered sexual abusers, and kept killing the careers of performers I loved. Meanwhile, AEW had its problems (mostly Chris Jericho for me) but it was creatively fulfilling for performers. The company truly embraced the three-ring circus element of good pro-wrestling. There is something for everyone. I am a big fan of the goofy weirdos but also the amazing technical skill. As my love of the business reignites, I need to write about this company (and MLW).

On Friday, August 20, 2021, a hole in my fandom heart was repaired when CM Punk returned to pro-wrestling in the middle of an All Elite Wrestling ring. They teased it for weeks, they hyped up their audience, and I tuned in to watch live for the first time in a long while. They wasted no time and Punk came out right away. There were tears in his eyes as he looked out and smiled and my own heart swelled watching him be happy. He had found his love again. I am excited to see where it goes but that moment was worth it. Pro-wrestling is a strange business and it has its ups and downs but sometimes there are very pure moments worth getting happy over.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Local Indy Show

February 24, 2020

WILPW

So almost two weeks ago, I was invited by my mother to a local indy pro-wrestling show out in West Virginia where she lives. It turns out that an acquaintance of my mom and stepfather was involved in a promotion. They knew I might enjoy it and they needed a guide in their first foray into going to a live wrasslin’ show. I was immediately excited. I had been to a few live shows but Ring of Honor’s Best in the World 2012 was the smallest show I had been to. That was still national television. The show was this past Saturday so let’s run it down.

We traveled to Inwood, WV and got there well before bell time so that we could settle and take it all in. We got ringside seats (second row out of three) and we watched the ring ropes go up. We were at a National Wrestling League show at the Randy Smith Rec Center. I went in with pretty much no foreknowledge of any characters or storylines. The only performer I kind of knew was The Patriot from his brief 1998 run in the WWF.

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Show Open

The show opened with a young lady whose name I did not catch who was singing the national anthem. She briefly mentioned an attack she had suffered previously which had injured her eyes. This brought out a villainous British manager (the KR Superstar) who threatened to have the girl injured again. He was accompanied by his Tongan client Asaafi. The two villains were headed off by the appearance of The Patriot who sent the two heels retreating to the back.

First Match – Reggie Collins (face) vs. Sean Denny w/KR Superstar (heels)

Apparently, Sean Denny (one half of the Geordie Bulldogs) is the guy who injured the young lady in the first segment by spraying green mist in her eyes. He is a stocky guy working a British Hooligan gimmick. He was tough and great at working with his manager (KR Superstar again) to cheat. He was facing the tall and skinny Reggie Collins. Reggie was out of his element as the scrappy underdog unable to really get much going against the tougher man. In the end, Denny sprayed mist into Reggie’s eyes behind the ref’s back and Reggie had to get helped to the back by his tag partner Wes Rogers.

Second Match – “Safety First” Wes Rogers (face) vs. “Chesapeake” (I didn’t catch his name) (heel)

I was immediately struck by the heel being booed as he walked to the ring with the Maryland flag draped across his back. The West Virginia crowd was ready to let him have it. He hailed from Ocean City, MD and was working a lifeguard gimmick. He was up against Wes Rogers who was very focused on safety, a tall nerdy looking dude who looked kind of like Danny Sexbang. These two worked so well together. They were both working comedy gimmicks which led to a lot of great moments. The best was when <> went for his lifeguard whistle and Wes started beating the crap out of him with the whistle still in his opponent’s mouth. With each blow, the whistle sounded over and over. So great. Wes was able to put away his opponent after a competitive match.

Third Match – LA Starr (face?) vs. Willie Radical (heel)

This was the first match without obvious alignments. I figured out at some point during this match that these two are cousins. Apparently, they were tag team champions together until Radical betrayed his cousin/partner. This was a pretty heated match that went back and forth and Radical attacked before the bell. Starr seemed to regret having to hurt his cousin but Radical was not as hesitant. Sadly, I cannot remember who won but really nobody wins in these sorts of grudge matches. I liked both of these guys’ styles and enjoyed the match immensely.

Fourth Match – The Patriot (face) vs. Asaafi (w/ KR Superstar) (heels)

This was when I learned that The Patriot is a native of Inwood, WV the very place we were at. They did this bit at the beginning where The Patriot stole the Tongan flag. I never really bought into the nationalist stuff. At first, I thought Patriot was going to subvert expectations because he got the ref to help him fold the flag up neatly and respectfully. Then he rubbed the flag against his taint. He’s supposed to be the good guy. Once we got past that, The Patriot showed that he still has it and he is in phenomenal shape even in semi-retirement. Asaafi played the cowardly yet sadistic heel well and worked well with the KR Superstar to cheat at every opportunity. The match ended weirdly with The Patriot accidentally hitting the ref with a Stinger Splash in the corner which caused a disqualification … in favor of the Patriot? Wes Rogers came back out and helped The Patriot fight the KR Superstar’s two present clients.

Intermission

There was a raffle in support of pro-wrestler Andrew Staley, a young kid who is fighting cancer. We bought several tickets (it’s a good cause) and I ended up winning the drawing! I won an NWL t-shirt (my size!), a Jon Moxley/Tyler Black DVD, an AJ Styles DVD, a mug, signed photos of Kylie Rae (with AEW logo) and ACH. It’s funny that I got pictures of two wrestlers who famously left companies with globally televised shows who quit under mysterious/shady circumstances. I also won four ringside tickets. I can’t wait! I hope Andrew Staley gets all the help he needs fighting this thing and that he recovers.

D.A.D. Rules

Daniel Allen Dabrowski came out to the Family Matters theme song and chose to lecture the audience on their fitness. He recommended we drink Diet Coke and do about six assisted pushups a day. During his hilarious promo, he mixed up the names of social media terms and grounded his daughter who was ringside. Good stuff.

Fifth Match – “The Steel City Sex Pistol” Shane Malice (heel) vs. “The Red Prince” Tiberius Sykes (heel)

Getting me to boo a heel from Pittsburgh is a no brainer. Also, Malice reminded me of a young AJ Styles (before he was flat earther and a homophobe?). Seeing Sykes was great because it was the first person of color I saw at the event. He hailed from Baltimore and had the best gear of the night. The two were pretty much at the top of their game but Shane had an answer for pretty much anything Sykes had. Sykes posed too much and paid for it. In the end, Shane got a pair of brass knuckles confiscated only for Sykes to pull out a pair of his own. In the chaos, Shane hit Sykes with his own brass knuckles to end the fight.

Sixth Match – Antony Atom (face) vs. Doug Delicious (heel) – NWL Heavyweight Title Match

This was a really good match and obviously, these two guys are experienced. Delicious had a really, really good look as an arrogant and gruff pretty boy heel. He played a cowardly and devious heel who got so much reaction for very little work. Antony Atom is the current heavyweight champion working sort of a Spartan gimmick. He ran up against the muscular and intelligent Doug Delicious but refused to quit. He pulled out the victory and also fought off the post-match attack by Shane Malice who might be his next challenger. There was a really great story to this match that was so easy to follow and the crowd was hot for Atom and absolutely hated Delicious.

Seventh Match – Deuce Donatelli, Shorty Smalls, and Jimmy Cicero (faces) vs. Ethan Cross, El Maton Cizzko, and Cory Bush (w/ Humphrey J. Dupont IV) (heels)

Apparently, there was a gag where the faces replaced the heels’ entrance song with Baby Shark which led to the heels being furious and getting taunted. The Dupont Family obviously represented money and privilege and at the last minute, Humphrey substituted hired gun Cory Bush in for himself in the match. The blue-collar faces tried their best to fight against blatant cheating at every turn. I was impressed with how good Jimmy Cicero looked and he was obviously the faces’ top dog. In the end, the match broke down into chaos and Deuce was knocked out by a blow from Humphrey’s briefcase and then pinned. This set up a match between Cory Bush and Deuce Donatelli for the NWL Vista Championship.

Overall, I loved the show and our whole group definitely went home happy. I will be going back since I won those tickets but honestly, I would probably go back at some point anyway. The company has a lot of heart and apparently a lot of it is on YouTube.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 5

February 18, 2019

WILPW

14 – Favorite Promo


Cactus Jack is Going Away for a While – Mick Foley

Mick Foley will always be one of my favorites. He has proven himself to be a very thoughtful and intellectual performer, one of the best thinkers in the business. His autobiographies show a wealth of knowledge and an aptitude for ring psychology. In 1998, Foley was in the midst of The Three Faces of Foley. He was cycling between three personas Mankind, Dude Love, and Cactus Jack. He had just had a run as Cactus Jack, battling for, winning, and losing the tag titles with Terry Funk. This promo was about how he felt betrayed by the fans. Cactus Jack was Foley’s most resilient persona, capable of taking the most physical abuse. However, the point of the promo was that the fans had turned their back on Cactus by ignoring the effort he and Funk had put in, in favor of flashier stars like Steve Austin and Degeneration X. It was part of Foley’s turn toward darkness and his eventual alliance with Vince McMahon. Foley delivered his promos with the gravitas he had learned from studying greats like Jake the Snake, Robert Fuller, and so many others. Foley had a natural ability to embody the character he was playing, practically believing that it was real. This is the style of acting taught at the college I went to, first popularized by Sanford Meisner. “To live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances.” The promo was delivered with appropriate gravitas and mentioned a lot of the roster which opened up a lot of possibilities going forward. It also blurred that line between reality and fantasy as Mick dropped a lot of his real life once again into one of his promos. It was sad and furious at the same time and it showed that the character meant business while others were just playing around. It hit hard and told a great story.


No More Divas – AJ Lee

Recently, Women’s wrestling in the WWE has been getting better and better thanks to an influx of new talent and a general change in philosophy. Stars like Moolah and other women put the brakes on talent in the division in exchange for flash and comedy. That was carried into the 2000s where the women’s division became the “Diva” division, further shifting away from athleticism and skill. Meanwhile, in Japan and in the independents, women were wrestling the same style as the guys and people loved it. Something had to be done. AJ Lee was a breath of fresh air. She had grown up as a huge fan of the business and she knew in her heart that she could do everything the guys did. When she finally got her chance, she was not that great but she worked at it and she got better and better until she was awesome. While others were fine with stagnation and mediocrity, AJ called for equality. The current WWE women’s division is called the “Women’s Revolution” then this promo was the equivalent of the Boston Massacre. This was the first event on the main roster that made people sit up and realize that they deserved better. It made people realize that women’s division matches did not have to be bathroom breaks where plastic little princesses pulled each other’s hair and slapped each other’s faces. The reaction to this promo would eventually be a call to arms for the NXT superstars who would revitalize the division and raise the bar.

15 – Favorite Feud/Rivalry


Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart

A lot of WWE fans of my generation fall into one of two camps: Bret Hart fans and Shawn Michaels fans. I was part of the latter group as I liked the younger, flashier star who was small like I was and he was funny too. When Stone Cold Steve Austin came onto the scene, everybody sat up and took notice. He was a cold-blooded sociopath who spoke his mind and stood up to everybody and anything in his way. He was billed as a good guy but he was plowing through people I had no passion for. At the same time, Bret was whining about being screwed by Austin at the 1997 Royal Rumble. Austin had been eliminated from the match but the referees had not seen it so Austin took advantage and won the match. Bret had a point, he had been screwed but instead of doing something about it, he just whined and threatened to walk out. This eventually set up the perfect feud between the two. On one side was Stone Cold Steve Austin who was a sociopath but he was proactive and always did exactly what he promised. He was vicious but America was ready to get behind that aggression. On the other side was Bret “The Hitman” Hart, who was good but had failed to back up his boasting for too long at the time. He was finally ready to actually do something about his complaints and vent his frustration in a big Wrestlemania match against Austin. The two were set for a submission match which was Bret’s specialty but Austin had that never-say-die spirit. In the end, Austin did not give up and passed out from pain and blood loss, allowing for Bret Hart to become a villain and Austin to become a hero of the people.


Becky vs. Charlotte

As I mentioned above, the women’s division has been great lately, delivering more good content than bad. As I type this, Becky Lynch has become one of the hottest and brightest stars in the WWE. She has even eclipsed many in the men’s division which has led to her labeling herself “The Man”. Leading up to Summerslam 2018, she had decided that enough was enough. She was through being nice and letting people pass her by. She had been the first Smackdown Women’s champion and she vowed to win it back by any means necessary. This led to a confrontation with her former best friend Charlotte Flair. Charlotte is a second generation pro-wrestler and therefore is wrestling royalty. She had previously lorded this over the division, letting her success and fame darken her soul as she held onto her belt. She seemingly left that all behind and turned over a new leaf but everybody knew that it was still inside of her. Becky had enough of the facade and obliterated her so-called best friend, choosing the championship over friendship. Becky stood victorious, finally beating her friend and earning her place in the sun. Then Becky was briefly injured, putting her career on hold for a little bit. In the meantime, Ronda Rousey had a match with Charlotte and finally beat the facade away, revealing the old Charlotte once again. Now, Becky and Charlotte are set to face each other once again, both of them have embraced their dark side in order to be at the top of their game. The crowd is behind Becky but Charlotte has a great big match record. It will be really fun to see what happens next.

16 – Favorite Manager


Paul Heyman

Paul Heyman has been in the professional wrestling bit for a long time. He first snuck into the nightclub business in New York City, becoming a publicity photographer. He then got into the wrestling business by once again leveraging his photography skills. But more than that, he always had the gift of gab. He has apparently always had great skill in running his mouth both inside and outside of the business. In World Championship Wrestling he turned himself into an obnoxious “Hollywood agent”-type manager who formed The Dangerous Alliance. He then helped created Extreme Championship Wrestling and became basically a cult leader of this underground company, a sort of CBGB for pro-wrestling. In these latter days, he has often acted as a mouthpiece or stand-in for his clients in the WWE. Instead of calling himself a “manager” he calls himself an “advocate”. He finds loopholes and argues for clients like CM Punk, Cesaro, The Shield, and Brock Lesnar. He gives spellbinding promos which are especially good to have when other people in a feud are not as good at talking. Brock Lesnar has especially benefitted as he has never been the greatest on the microphone. Also, Heyman has some of the best skills at getting fans to want to punch his face while still cheering his appearances.


Vickie Guerrero

Vickie was the wife of Eddie Guerrero, a guy that delighted fans for decades. When Eddie died at a fairly young age, Vickie showed up once again on television and she gained a bit of a following. It is a testament to her skills as an actress that she was able to get fans to hate her. If somebody had told me that fans would boo the widow of one of professional wrestling’s greatest, I would have questioned it. She made herself into a vain and shrill character who basically did everything wrong. She threw tantrums, she ogled younger men, she interrupted everyone’s good time, she disrespected the legacy of her own husband and cheated liberally. When the spotlight was not on her, she used sheer personality to put it back on her. The only mistake they made with her was that they had good guys start bullying her based on her appearance instead of her personality but there was a lot of that going on during that time period. Even today, fans recognize her catchphrase of “Excuse Me!” and it still puts a shiver in my spine. I am so glad that she could help to carry on the Guerrero legacy.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 5

December 1, 2018

14 – Favorite Promo


Cactus Jack is Going Away for a While – Mick Foley

Mick Foley will always be one of my favorites. He has proven himself to be a very thoughtful and intellectual performer, one of the best thinkers in the business. His autobiographies show a wealth of knowledge and an aptitude for ring psychology. In 1998, Foley was in the midst of The Three Faces of Foley. He was cycling between three personas Mankind, Dude Love, and Cactus Jack. He had just had a run as Cactus Jack, battling for, winning, and losing the tag titles with Terry Funk. This promo was about how he felt betrayed by the fans. Cactus Jack was Foley’s most resilient persona, capable of taking the most physical abuse. However, the point of the promo was that the fans had turned their back on Cactus by ignoring the effort he and Funk had put in, in favor of flashier stars like Steve Austin and Degeneration X. It was part of Foley’s turn toward darkness and his eventual alliance with Vince McMahon. Foley delivered his promos with the gravitas he had learned from studying greats like Jake the Snake, Robert Fuller, and so many others. Foley had a natural ability to embody the character he was playing, practically believing that it was real. This is the style of acting taught at the college I went to, first popularized by Sanford Meisner. “To live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances.” The promo was delivered with appropriate gravitas and mentioned a lot of the roster which opened up a lot of possibilities going forward. It also blurred that line between reality and fantasy as Mick dropped a lot of his real life once again into one of his promos. It was sad and furious at the same time and it showed that the character meant business while others were just playing around. It hit hard and told a great story.


No More Divas – AJ Lee

Recently, Women’s wrestling in the WWE has been getting better and better thanks to an influx of new talent and a general change in philosophy. Stars like Moolah and other women put the brakes on talent in the division in exchange for flash and comedy. That was carried into the 2000s where the women’s division became the “Diva” division, further shifting away from athleticism and skill. Meanwhile, in Japan and in the independents, women were wrestling the same style as the guys and people loved it. Something had to be done. AJ Lee was a breath of fresh air. She had grown up as a huge fan of the business and she knew in her heart that she could do everything the guys did. When she finally got her chance, she was not that great but she worked at it and she got better and better until she was awesome. While others were fine with stagnation and mediocrity, AJ called for equality. The current WWE women’s division is called the “Women’s Revolution” then this promo was the equivalent of the Boston Massacre. This was the first event on the main roster that made people sit up and realize that they deserved better. It made people realize that women’s division matches did not have to be bathroom breaks where plastic little princesses pulled each other’s hair and slapped each other’s faces. The reaction to this promo would eventually be a call to arms for the NXT superstars who would revitalize the division and raise the bar.

15 – Favorite Feud/Rivalry


Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart

A lot of WWE fans of my generation fall into one of two camps: Bret Hart fans and Shawn Michaels fans. I was part of the latter group as I liked the younger, flashier star who was small like I was and he was funny too. When Stone Cold Steve Austin came onto the scene, everybody sat up and took notice. He was a cold-blooded sociopath who spoke his mind and stood up to everybody and anything in his way. He was billed as a good guy but he was plowing through people I had no passion for. At the same time, Bret was whining about being screwed by Austin at the 1997 Royal Rumble. Austin had been eliminated from the match but the referees had not seen it so Austin took advantage and won the match. Bret had a point, he had been screwed but instead of doing something about it, he just whined and threatened to walk out. This eventually set up the perfect feud between the two. On one side was Stone Cold Steve Austin who was a sociopath but he was proactive and always did exactly what he promised. He was vicious but America was ready to get behind that aggression. On the other side was Bret “The Hitman” Hart, who was good but had failed to back up his boasting for too long at the time. He was finally ready to actually do something about his complaints and vent his frustration in a big Wrestlemania match against Austin. The two were set for a submission match which was Bret’s specialty but Austin had that never-say-die spirit. In the end, Austin did not give up and passed out from pain and blood loss, allowing for Bret Hart to become a villain and Austin to become a hero of the people.


Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair

As I mentioned above, the women’s division has been great lately, delivering more good content than bad. As I type this, Becky Lynch has become one of the hottest and brightest stars in the WWE. She has even eclipsed many in the men’s division which has led to her labeling herself “The Man”. Leading up to Summerslam 2018, she had decided that enough was enough. She was through being nice and letting people pass her by. She had been the first Smackdown Women’s champion and she vowed to win it back by any means necessary. This led to a confrontation with her former best friend Charlotte Flair. Charlotte is a second generation pro-wrestler and therefore is wrestling royalty. She had previously lorded this over the division, letting her success and fame darken her soul as she held onto her belt. She seemingly left that all behind and turned over a new leaf but everybody knew that it was still inside of her. Becky had enough of the facade and obliterated her so-called best friend, choosing the championship over friendship. Becky stood victorious, finally beating her friend and earning her place in the sun. Then Becky was briefly injured, putting her career on hold for a little bit. In the meantime, Ronda Rousey had a match with Charlotte and finally beat the facade away, revealing the old Charlotte once again. Now, Becky and Charlotte are set to face each other once again.  Both of them have embraced their dark side in order to be at the top of their game. The crowd is behind Becky but Charlotte has a great big match record. It will be really fun to see what happens next.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 4

September 24, 2018

WILPW

12 – Favorite PPV or Event of All Time


Wrestlemania XXX

This pay per view happened as I was kind of getting back into WWE and pro-wrestling in general. I had watched the occasional Raw but I had never really bought any pay per views in the past. When I was little, I watched them at my friend’s house or I watched them on VHS later. This was the first pay per view after the dawn of the WWE Network The main centerpiece was the story that had drawn me back into the game. Daniel Bryan has always been one of my favorite performers. His in-ring skills are amazing and he has such heart and fire that it is difficult for anybody to deny him. And yet, WWE seemed to hold him down until the build-up of this pay per view where they could not hold him back anymore. In this event, he beat Triple H in a one on one bout that earned him a ticket to a triple threat for the heavyweight title against Batista and Randy Orton. Defying all odds, Bryan defeated everyone and I was buzzing about that story for months afterward. It also had a six-man tag featuring the Shield who turned face for the first time, allowing us to cheer them. The Undertaker’s legendary 21 – 0 Wrestlemania streak was finally broken by Brock Lesnar in a move that eventually helped both of their stories. Bray Wyatt and John Cena had a solid match with plenty of fun signature moments from both of them. Finally, AJ Lee won a Diva’s battle royal in what was probably the first death knell of the Diva’s division.


Survivor Series 2001

Alright hold on, this is a very underrated event in my opinion and it is my runner-up. This was the (merciful) end to the Invasion angle where the Alliance finally fell to the WWF. The pay per view settled or unified every title (except for the Hardcore title). While the story was kind of lame throughout the angle, I felt they were able to distill the best elements that were left to them in this pay per view. Also, it has some of the most solid actual wrestling of the era. The main match is Team WWF (Chris Jericho, Big Show, Kane, The Rock and The Undertaker) vs. The Alliance (Booker T, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Shane McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin). That match is chock full of great talent and they all worked so well with each other. Also, I love the drama of that match type. Two of the best tag teams in the game (The Dudley Boyz and The Hardy Boyz) had a great match in a steel cage. At the time, I thought that Trish Stratus was the pinnacle of women’s wrestling. Two old friends, Edge and Test, faced off. William Regal is so underrated and he had a great match against Tajiri. It was also past the criminally short matches of the Attitude era.

13 – Favorite Finisher


Yes! Lock (Daniel Bryan)

In the past, it felt like submission holds were often used to ratchet up the tension in a match instead of ending the match. With the rising popularity of MMA and the concept of ‘tapping out’, submissions became more of a thing. Nobody makes submissions as exciting as Daniel Bryan. The move has caused competitors of all sizes to submit and has won him the WWE Heavyweight title. It was previously called the LeBell Lock named after Gene LeBell and it is a legitimately painful submission. Eventually, it was renamed a couple of times to reflect the leader of Yes! movement. Bryan looks vicious while he has an opponent locked up and his transitions into are beautiful. It is much better than his previous submission Cattle Mutilation which was harder to get into. The best and most exciting finishers can be hit at any time, causing a surprise in the match that leads to a satisfying conclusion. On top of that, you get the imagery of the opponent in anguish as Bryan vigorously nods his head as if telling them to go ahead and tap.


Sweet Chin Music (Shawn Michaels)

My runner-up comes from back before a time when half of the WWE roster started to use a superkick as a signature move. Shawn Michaels had two variations of the move. The most famous is that Shawn would knock the opponent down and then he would stomp the mat as he ‘tuned up the band’ and, as his opponent got to their feet, he would kick them in the face. The other version was the ‘outta nowhere’ version where he would just kick his opponent in the face. The move worked whether Shawn was a face or a heel and it never failed to get me excited. As a heel, Shawn would use the move as a vicious knockout blow while his opponents were already defeated. As a face, it was a move that he would struggle to hit that would win the match at the last moment against a tougher opponent. The unpredictable nature of the move made it great for creating dramatic moments either on purpose or by mistake. One of the most notable uses is his famous “I Love You” moment with Ric Flair which made him look like an executioner.

Also, off the top of my head, I love the Helluva Kick, The Stomp, Kinshasa, The Rock Bottom, The Stone Cold Stunner, and Bed of Roses.


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