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Thursday Night Tanders (10/15/15): 1993 Royal Rumble—It Ain’t Over Till the Fat Man Wins


Back in 1993, we didn’t have Twitter or Facebook, but we had Trapper Keepers. Wolfenstein 3D was THE ultimate in PC gaming, not GTA V, and you were cool if your PC had a VGA monitor. Campus Radio LSFM (remember that radio station?) was reinventing itself as a rock-oriented station, milking the grunge revolution by turning obscure Danish rockers Jet Black Joe into local heroes with their power ballad “Rain.” Ah, good times!

Meanwhile, in the wrestling world, Monday Night Raw was in its infancy, promising a new take on televised pro wrestling. Its selling point was that it was shot before a live audience, though it wouldn’t be long before the then-WWF would switch back to taped blocks of shows, which proved to be gold for a certain WCW announcer named Eric Bischoff when the Atlanta-based promotion’s Nitro would debut a couple years later.

Last week on Thursday Night Tanders, we recapped the very first Raw in full.  Now, we’ll be recapping the 1993 Royal Rumble, which took place on January 24, 1993 at the ARCO Arena (now Sleep Train Arena), home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

*****

DARK MATCH – Jim Powers vs Doink the Clown

The 1993 Royal Rumble starts out with a dark match, where Doink the Clown defeated Jim Powers of Young Stallions fame, or lack thereof.  At this point, Doink was expertly played by Matt Borne (RIP), while Powers was at the tail-end of his WWF run, about a rung or two above the pure enhancement talent.

*****

MATCH #1 – The Steiner Brothers vs The Beverly Brothers

The Royal Rumble proper starts out with the two-man announce team of Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and both are stoked to be calling this event. Heenan is more excited about the unveiling of the man he still calls “Narcissus,” but Monsoon’s got no time for that, so we move on to the first official match of the evening.

So The Beverly Brothers (Beau and Blake) are from Shaker Heights, Ohio. You know who also hails from Shaker Heights? How I Met Your Mother’s Ted Mosby. Rather strange hometown for a team who’s working a spoiled brat gimmick, but when I was growing up, I didn’t even get that they were supposed to be spoiled brats. Truly a testament to the blandness of Wayne Bloom (Beau) and Mike Enos (Blake).

At this point, the Beverlys were slipping down the card, while ex-WCW guys Rick and Scott Steiner were relatively new in the WWF, hyped up as legit collegiate wrestling superstars from that “highly-educated” University of Michigan, complete with the Michigan Wolverines’ fight song as their ring music. This match drags at a lot of points, not only due to the bland gimmicks, but also because there’s simply a lot of stalling. It does pick up towards the end, as we see some stiff, STIFF clotheslines from Rick following the ubiquitous hot tag from babyface-in-peril Scott. Man, those Steinerlines, as they were called, looked like they were meant to hurt. Rick's release German suplex on Beau also helps business pick up as the match draws to a close.

Steiners win with Scott landing a Frankensteiner on Beau. MEH. The Steiners had talent, but their gimmick was too white-bread and their opponents too boring.

*****

Next up, Mean Gene Okerlund narrates a video package telling us about the Shawn Michaels-Marty Jannetty feud, highlighted by that infamous moment in January ‘92 where an insecure Shawn sent an unsuspecting Marty through the glass window of Brutus Beefcake’s Barbershop, thus splitting up The Rockers and launching both men’s solo careers. That was a benchmark moment for all tag team breakups to come.

There’s also a scene where Jannetty “returns” to the WWF (in October 1992) and assaults Michaels, thus resuming their feud seven months after Jannetty was fired for legal problems. This would start a long pattern of him getting fired and rehired by the WWF, though we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here. The last thing we see in this package is Jannetty accidentally hitting Michaels’ then-manager Sensational Sherri with Shawn’s heart-shaped mirror, which took her off television for several months.

*****

MATCH #2 – Shawn Michaels (champion) vs Marty Jannetty – WWF Intercontinental Title Match

Sensational Sherri is the first person to enter, and the announcers explain she’ll be in a neutral corner tonight, and will eventually choose whom she’ll be siding with. Then we see the two former Rockers, babyface challenger Jannetty first, followed by the Heartbreak Kid, only 27 at this point and already an excellent heel with his mannerisms.

It should be said that this match took place when Jannetty and Michaels were at the peak of their drugging and drinking days. I definitely do not condone the former, but you’ve got to give it to Michaels, as he was able to perform at a high level despite often showing up wasted on pills and God knows what else. Jannetty does look to be wasted here—doesn’t show much in his ring work this time around—and in the few times we get to see his face, his eyes look puffy.

Meanwhile, the announcers focus less on the IC title being on the line and more on whom Sherri may end up supporting as manager. Monsoon, at one point, says that this match is for “all the marbles,” which is one of the few times the IC belt gets hinted at.

This is a very intense match, considering that there was no love lost between Michaels and Jannetty when the latter returned to WWF after, er…battling his personal demons. Both men get more than enough chances to launch some brilliant moves, and there are times when you’d think Jannetty really has a chance to win the belt, once with a DDT (back when DDTs could end matches), then again countering a Shawn superkick with one of his own.  As for the Sherri situation, she had earlier feigned concern for Michaels before slapping him right in the face, so it would appear that she’s siding with Marty and turning face.

Now here’s what confuses me about this match. BIG-TIME. After Michaels inadvertently elbows referee Joey Marella (Gorilla Monsoon’s real-life son) in the face, Jannetty holds him up for Sherri to hit with her shoe. But Michaels ducks out of the way, the shoe hits Jannetty in the face, and Michaels is still pissed off at Sherri for the earlier slap as Heenan yells misogynistic insults from the announce table. With Marty getting up, Shawn nails him with the hitherto-unnamed Sweet Chin Music, and he gets the win. HBK keeps the title via this “miscarriage of justice” (vintage Gorilla), and I can’t make heads or tails of that convoluted ending.

*****

Mean Gene is backstage with a hysterical Sherri, who’s being berated by the victorious HBK…as Jannetty comes out of nowhere for the save. Shouldn’t Marty also be pissed that Sherri accidentally cost him the match? I don’t know anymore. My brain is about to explode. I mean, that was already a FANTASTIC match. Why’d they have to fuck with our heads with such a bizarre finish? They could have saved the Sherri face turn/face slap for AFTER the match instead of bothering with all that confusing drama towards the end. But hey, at least it’s better than all that Ziggler/Lana vs Rusev/Summer Rae nonsense, right?

*****

MATCH #3 – Big Boss Man vs Bam Bam Bigelow

The third match features two big midcarders who are no longer with us – Bam Bam Bigelow and Big Boss Man. At this point, Bam Bam had just returned as a heel with slow, ominous “don’t fuck with me” ring music, a sharp contrast to the happy ‘80s trumpet music he entered to during his brief late-’80s run.  Big Boss Man, on the other hand, was an increasingly lukewarm face, putting over larger heels and on his way out of the WWF. And going through the motions in this match.

The crowd is lukewarm for this match, and I can’t blame them. Lots of rudimentary punching, kicking and axe-handling, and little of the unusual athleticism that made Bam Bam such an interesting big man in his first WWF run. This match is unbearably slow, both men have poor chemistry with each other, and it’s a relief when Bam Bam finishes Boss Man with a top-rope diving headbutt. Even Monsoon and Heenan’s entertaining verbal duels can’t save this stinker.

*****

We see yet another clip of Razor Ramon’s brutal backstage assault on “The Rocket” Owen Hart—the Bad Guy (literally a bad guy here) sending a message to Owen’s kuya Bret. It’s Hitman vs Razor for the WWF title up next, but we first see Razor cutting a quick promo on Bret, with interviewer Raymond Rougeau barely able to get a word in.

*****

MATCH #4 – Bret Hart (champion) vs Razor Ramon – WWF Championship Match

As Razor Ramon makes his way to the ring, Bret Hart has a few words for the Bad Guy, telling Mean Gene that yes, the match has gotten personal because of Ramon’s attack on Owen. And Bret’s parents Stu and Helen are in the audience, underscoring the “you mess with my family, you mess with me” vibe of this match.

Match starts fast and furious, with Ramon in control, and the announcers talk about the ersatz Cuban’s quick rise to the top and the time it took for Bret to win the big one. The Hitman’s focusing on Ramon’s knee and he seems to be selling it for some time, and we hear Heenan’s spot-on Stu Hart impersonation, followed by Gorilla’s trademark “will you stop?” rebuttal. Those two had EXCELLENT chemistry, definitely helped by their being best friends in real life.

Oddly, Ramon stops selling his knee injury when he decides to work Bret’s ribcage. Definite psychology lapse on the Bad Guy’s part. But this is actually a pretty good match in that department—Bret does a great job making Ramon look strong, and he expertly plays the plucky underdog, taking a huge beating, selling his aching ribs, and using his technical skills to outsmart his larger, stronger opponent till he wins. And win he does, surprising Ramon with the Sharpshooter to keep the WWF Championship at the ’93 Royal Rumble.

*****

With the main event just minutes away, Bobby Heenan arrives to do as he had been promising for the past four weeks. And here he is—“Narcissus” Lex Luger! Yes, he’s still calling Lex that, and we see Luger remove his cape and start posing in front of a mirror as Heenan man-crushes all over his physique. And gah, Luger even does a bit of that damned pec dance made infamous by Chris Masters about a decade-and-a-half later. Heenan asks the ladies in the audience if they like what they see, but I know who likes what HE sees, and his initials are VKM.  Even with a recent steroids trial to deal with (more on that later), Vince McMahon was an absolute mark for anyone with a Mr. Universe physique, even if their ring and/or promo work was the drizzling shits.

Heenan asks Luger to address the Sacramento crowd, and the Narcissus promises to become the most dominant force in WWF history. He also calls himself the most “mesomorphically magnificent physical specimen beyond perfection” and adds a few threatening words to ex-Heenan client Mr. Perfect before stumbling on his words…and calling himself THE NARCISSIST! Guess they decided to run with that going forward.

*****

“Caesar and Cleopatra” have a brief moment to hype WrestleMania IX, which is to be held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and the most interesting thing in this hokey skit is Louie Spicolli’s cameo as one of Caesar’s soldiers. The late Louis Mucciolo jobbed in WWF and had a midcard run in WCW as Louie Spicolli, but is best known to WWF fans as the “Grunge Rocker” Rad Radford, who was ever-so-briefly aligned with Skip (Chris Candido) and Sunny (Tammy Sytch) as one of the Bodydonnas.

With that nonsense over with, it’s time for tonight’s main event,the 1993 Royal Rumble match! Bear with me, ‘cause this is gonna take a while, what with 30 men and 29 eliminations.

*****

MATCH #5 – ROYAL RUMBLE


  • Curiously, the match starts with two of the older wrestlers the WWF had at that time—the soon-to-depart Ric Flair, and the comebacking Bob Backlund. It’s mentioned that Backlund is making a comeback at 43, but then again, Flair's the same age—seems like an eternity ago when he was “only” in his 40s, doesn’t it? The Nature Boy gets his usual boos from the crowd, while Howdy Doody Bob is greeted with apathy. 
  • Looking back, I wasn’t much of a Backlund fan either, despite my dad telling me he was one of the greats of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Thankfully, “Crazy Bob,” er…Mr. Backlund, changed all that in 1994.
  • Papa Shango enters at number three, and Flair eliminates him in less than 30 seconds. Voodoo priestin’ ain’t easy!
  • It’s the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase, at number four, and he and Flair double-team on Backlund. Heenan asks if you can get arrested for beating up the elderly, and Monsoon retorts with his classic “will you stop.” Again, wonderful chemistry between Heenan and Monsoon.
  • Brian Knobbs of the Nasty Boys enters fifth, and now I know why I couldn’t tell Knobbs and (Jerry) Sags from each other as a kid – announcers, in this case Monsoon, often referred to them as “one-half of the Nasty Boys,” no names necessary. Also a bit odd to see the Nasties working as faces, but yes, they were good guys towards the end of their WWF run.
  • As Knobbs beats down on DiBiase, help arrives in the form of…Wrestling Superstar Virgil! It’s everybody’s favorite troll-the-promoter wrestler coming in at number six. 
  • Not long after, Knobbs becomes the second elimination and neither Monsoon nor Heenan identify him by name. Knobbs. Sags. One syllable. Knobbs is the blonde, Sags is the brunet.  How hard can it be?
  • WWF Superstars host Jerry Lawler is number seven, and that makes it three 43-year-olds in the ring. The announcers remind us that Lawler, then a newcomer to the WWF, is feuding with Bret Hart. That early, though? It hadn’t been more than a couple months since The King joined WWF, after all.
  • Straight from Uranus, it’s Max Moon at number eight! And he’s eliminated by Lawler just as guest wrestler Genichiro Tenryu enters at ninth. And I just found out that if the ’93 Rumble was held a couple weeks later, he would have been the FOURTH 43-year-old entrant.
  • Mr. Perfect gets a HUGE POP as he enters tenth, running to the ring at full speed. He immediately goes to work on Flair, building on their ongoing feud. 
  • Monsoon reminds us that Flair and Perfect’s Career Ending Match will be on the next Monday Night Raw. Perfect would go over the Nature Boy in that match, thus allowing an unhappy Flair to return to WCW, where fans were begging for his return. 
  • Skinner is our 11th man in the Rumble, and we’re not talking Bart Simpson’s principal. That’s current NXT trainer Steve Keirn in an alligator hunter gimmick.
  • The crowd goes wild—and Heenan is apoplectic—as Mr. Perfect eliminates Ric Flair!
  • Koko B. Ware is 12th to enter, and about a minute later, Perfect scores his second elimination by dropkicking Skinner out of the ring. Then we’ve got more midcarders—Samu of the Headshrinkers thrown into the ring by Afa to become the 13th entry, and The Berzerker shouting “HUSS!” as he charges in as the 14th man.  
  • After Lawler gets eliminated by Mr. Perfect, there’s a mad scramble to get Perfect out of the ring, and while DiBiase and Koko are credited for the elimination, it was the recently-eliminated King more so than anyone in the ring who sent Curtis Axel’s dad packing after an impressive Rumble performance thus far. Heenan couldn’t be happier.
  • A few seconds later, we learn that Virgil has quietly gotten eliminated by the noisiest man in the ring. HUSS! HUSS! HUSS! HUSS! 
  • Paul Bearer leads The Undertaker to the ring as the 15th man, and he’s described as the favorite to win this thing.  Taker makes quick work of Samu and Tenryu, and Heenan and Monsoon argue about whether Backlund has been eliminated or not. He hasn’t, as he wasn’t thrown over the top rope, but he’s just received a beatdown on the concrete floor courtesy of The Berzerker.
  • Our 16th entry is Terry Taylor, who’s working as a heel in this match. Currently listening for “Rooster” jeers, but as I’m doing that, DiBiase eliminates Koko and the wrestler formerly, but forever known to wrestling fans as The Red Rooster.






  • Taker eliminates DiBiase, which leaves just him and The Berzerker in the ring, with Backlund recuperating outside. But wait a minute…we see Harvey Wippleman barking instructions to someone whom we haven’t seen before at this point in WWF history. Why, it’s the greatest technical wrestler in WWF/E history, at least until The Great Khali came along. It’s Giant Gonzalez!
  • Taker eliminates The Berzerker, which leaves the Deadman and the former Atlanta Hawks draft pick, who, might we add, is not officially entered in the Rumble. The yet-unidentified Gonzalez eliminates, then viciously assaults Taker, and that’s all that is focused on as Damien Demento (17th) and Irwin R. Schyster (18th) make their entrances with almost no fanfare.
  • They’re still talking about Taker’s beatdown at the hands of Giant Gonzalez when Tatanka enters at 19th and targets his future Money Inc. stablemate, IRS.  Going back to Taker, Paul Bearer is somehow able to use the power of the urn to get him back on his feet. 
  • In all seriousness, I really wish I could go back in time and tell WWF Creative circa 1993 that Gonzalez is not worth the push.  And not worth the horrible-looking bodysuit.  Gorilla calls the ambush on Taker a “miscarriage of justice,” while Heenan speculates that Gonzalez might not even be human.
  • And it’s “the other half of the Nasty Boys” at number 20! Monsoon is, of course, referring to Jerry Sags. Another Hulk Hogan buddy, Typhoon, enters at 21st, and luckily he doesn’t trip on his way to the ring.
  • Once again, Afa introduces one of his Headshrinkers to the ring by grabbing him by his hair and tossing him into the ring. Fatu’s 22nd to enter, looking closer in physique to his sons (the Usos) in present-day WWE than he would be in the Attitude Era as Rikishi.
  • WrestleCrap patron saint Earthquake is in at 23rd, and he quickly goes to work on…Typhoon? And eliminates him! As it turned out, the Natural Disasters were supposed to break up and feud against each other, but Earthquake left the WWF before the feud could be realized.
  • Our 24th entrant is another guest participant, Carlos Colon, whom you may know as the father of Carlito…and that Puerto Rican bullfighter Diego. Back when WWE was still WWF and didn’t have a plethora of retired, homegrown legends with name recall, they imported stars from other countries and/or other promotions. Hence Tenryu and Colon being in the Rumble.
  • Gorilla Monsoon mentions that Backlund has been in the match for 46 minutes, making him this match’s Iron Man by a longshot. A few seconds later, “El Matador” Tito Santana enters at #25!
  • We also learn that Fatu has just gotten eliminated…by Bob Backlund, and the announcers don’t seem to acknowledge Damien Demento getting eliminated by Colon shortly before that.
  • Ironically, Santana’s former tag partner "The Model" Rick Martel is the 26th entry, and he immediately goes for El Matador. And there goes Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas’ taxman father! IRS is eliminated after a very quiet 20 minutes in the ring.
  • Yokozuna hits the ring at #27, accompanied by Mr. Fuji, and everyone in the ring is an elimination waiting to happen. Tatanka and Colon are dispatched of in rapid succession. 
  • Owen Hart enters at #28 as real-life ex-sumo wrestler Earthquake tries in vain to hurt Yoko, but ends up becoming the kayfabe sumo guy’s third elimination.
  • Here comes the Ax, here comes the…Repo Man at #29! Barry Darsow, a.k.a. Demolition Smash, plays The Repo Man, and shortly after his inconsequential entry, we see everyone in the ring try to get Yokozuna out of there. Heenan says it looks like “twelve puppies at feeding time,” and the end result, of course, is that Yoko is an immovable object.
  •  Our 30th and last entry is Randy “Macho Man” Savage, who’s making his first wrestling appearance in several months. OOOOHHHH YEAHHHHHH! El Matador becomes Yoko’s fourth elimination, and Owen hits a running dropkick to eliminate Sags, whom Monsoon finally refers to by name.
  • Two quick eliminations—Owen by Yoko and Repo Man by Macho Man—leave us with a Final Four of Yoko, Macho, Martel, and Backlund. Two of those men are former WWF title holders, but one is back after many years gone, and the other is mainly a Raw color commentator.
  • Backlund eliminates Martel as he reaches his 61st minute in the match, while Yoko works on a fallen Savage. Two Backlund dropkicks to Yoko don’t faze the 600-pounder, and after 61-plus minutes, Yoko finally ends Howdy Doody Bob’s remarkable Royal Rumble.
  • Yokozuna and Savage are the last two men in the ring, and to be fair, Macho Man is showing a lot of fight. Yes, it does look like this is going to be an even two-man battle for a while, and Savage does have a couple nice babyface comebacks, with the second one featuring his flying elbow drop finisher.
  • Was this a legit botch, or was Macho Man really supposed to pull off such a bonehead move? So he’s landed the flying elbow drop, and he’s going for the cover. IN A ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH. Yoko kicks out—or probably uses the power of his enormous gut—to toss Macho Man out of the ring and become your 1993 Royal Rumble winner, the first-ever RR winner to get a main event world title shot at WrestleMania.


*****

I did say in the first-ever Thursday Night Tanders that the 1993 Royal Rumble led up to what would be a huge backstage controversy, arguably one of the biggest pre-Montreal Screwjob. Again, that controversy involved Bret Hart, who, as to the best of his knowledge, was supposed to defeat Rumble winner Yokozuna and retain the World title at WrestleMania IX. Hart said in his biography Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling that it was a last-minute decision on Vince McMahon’s part to have him do the job instead, thereby making Yoko a first-time World Champion at WM IX. Fair enough—Yoko was an effective monster heel at this point, and he wasn’t that out-of-shape yet. But as they say on home TV shopping programs…wait, there’s more!

Vince would also tell Bret that he’d be putting Yoko over in controversial fashion, with Yoko’s manager Mr. Fuji throwing salt in Bret’s face and helping his charge pull off the unclean victory. And who else but Hulk Hogan would come to Bret’s aid, and accept a World title challenge against the new champ right then and there? And win the impromptu match because, you know, #HoganWinsLOL?

There’s even more to that story, but we’ll fill you in on that in a couple weeks as we cover WrestleMania IX. You still get the idea, right? It all boiled down to an elaborate setup allowing the returning Hulk Hogan, who had been on hiatus for months due to a major WWF steroids scandal, another run as champion now that the controversy was dying down.

As for the 1993 Royal Rumble in general, it was a pretty average offering. HBK vs Jannetty was a very strong match despite the weird finish, and so was Bret Hart vs Razor Ramon. The Steiners' talent was wasted against the Beverlys, Bam Bam and Boss Man were terrible, and the Rumble itself didn’t impress me either. That’s not saying it was bad—there were some good moments, such as Bob Backlund proving the doubters wrong and staying in the Rumble for a good 61 minutes. The hints at an Earthquake versus Typhoon feud were interesting, though as mentioned above, it never came to be as John Tenta, the man who played Earthquake, was on his way out of WWF. And in all fairness, they did book Yokozuna properly and convincingly if the idea was to give him the win.

However, there was just too much fodder in the Rumble, too many entries that can be compared to all those nuisance candidates for our 2016 presidential elections. Notice how there were too many tag team specialists in the Rumble, guys like The Headshrinkers, The Nasty Boys, The Natural Disasters, and even High Energy (Koko B. Ware and Owen Hart). These days, there are far less tag team mainstays in the Rumble. Tenryu and Colon started a brief tradition of the WWF “importing” guest wrestlers for the Rumble, may they be foreign stars like Mil Mascaras, or American standouts from other promotions like Dick Murdoch and Doug Gilbert. And the midcarders—oh, those hopeless nuisance midcarders, your Berzerkers, your Skinners, your Red Roosters, er…Terry Taylors.

When Yokozuna entered the Rumble at #27, all bets were off. Flair was gone, Perfect was gone, Taker was gone, DiBiase was gone. And although two of Yoko’s seven eliminations had main event credentials, neither was realistically expected to win, not Backlund as a comebacking 43-year-old, not Savage as an ostensibly semi-retired color commentator for Raw. It was too predictable when Yoko arrived, and it can be argued that Taker lasting a lot longer could have spiced things up, and given him an instant feud with a semi-decent (at that time) big man.  (That would come a bit later, though.)

But nooooo, the WWF had different plans for The Undertaker’s next big feud, and that was to have him up against Giant Gonzalez, formerly El Gigante in WCW. With his ludicrous, cannot-unsee costume and his utter lack of wrestling skills, the supposedly eight-foot tall (actually 7’6”) Gonzalez did not look the least bit convincing as he beat down on Taker. Gonzalez’s surprise appearance in the Rumble match was focused on WAY too much and for too long—we weren’t even aware a couple of guys had entered, until after the fact—and when it came to the actual Taker vs Gonzalez feud, it goes without saying that it regularly makes “Worst Feuds” lists even up to this day. Not even a brilliant wrestler like The Undertaker could squeeze a one-star match out of Giant Gonzalez.

So with that all said, the 1993 Royal Rumble is an underwhelming 5.5/10 in my book. But before we move on to WrestleMania IX, which I'm sure would score worse, I've got a special Thursday Night Tanders or two in store for you kiddies.  Till next time, this has been your Throwback Tito, and no, I’m not old enough to file a COC for President.

*****

The Throwback Tito is Enzo Tanos, a freelance writer and the drummer/manager for garage rock band The Myopics, where he hopes to debut his masked lucha drummer persona “Sin Verguenza” in future gigs. A wrestling fan since childhood, he’s old enough to remember watching Outback Jack’s pointless vignettes, and One Man Gang’s transformation to Akeem.



PHOTO CREDITS - Yokozuna and Randy Savage c/o 411Mania, Giant Gonzalez w/Harvey Wippleman c/o Den of Geek

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