October 3, 2008

DVD Review: ECW December to Dismember 2006

Filed under: Stuff You've Seen Before,URBMN 2005-08 — Tags: , , , , , — Cameron Archer @ 9:57 pm
This was originally written for theddt.co.uk back in 2007.  Yeah, it’s relatively current!  Imagine that!

Yeah, I know, I haven’t written for TheDDT on a regular basis since 2005.  For some reason, I still get promo copies of WWE discs sent to me and it’s about time I started upholding the name of WrestlingOpions.com, WrestlingOpinons.com or what site Koch Canada thinks I write for this week.  I thought I’d start by going through one of the worst-regarded WWE pay-per-views ever, since I’ve never done recaps and thought I’d start with some easy comedy fodder.

I know, WWE itself is rife with said comedy fodder.  WWE has some great archival footage, I swear!

The WWE commercials featuring Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper’s DVD sets – geez, at least WWE could make an attempt to shill ECW product on its ECW-branded shit.  Yeah, I expect hardcore ECW fans to care about the AWA and a six-year-old Drowning Pool song that has been used to shorthand ECW ever since it became a WWE entity.  Then again, some hardcore ECW fans (and I must point out SOME) went nuts for Sid and Dusty Rhodes back in the day, so what does that tell you?

Pyro, since that and giant video screens obviously capture the spirit of ECW.  You know what else captures the spirit of ECW?  Carlos Cabrera and Hugo Savinovich!

One Night Only, At Least Until The Next One
The Hardys vs. MNM
I like the LED displays on MNM’s coats.  Sadly, I care about this more than I care about seeing the Hardy Boyz back together.  Tazz goes on about this possibly being the last time the Hardy Boyz would function as a tag team.  Hindsight shit, this is a feud and it looked like a feud since it started.

I remember sites like The Wrestling Blog and Wrestlemag (I follow the IWC every so often to see what the hive mind forces itself to like at the moment) complaining about the pace of this match, saying it was paced more like a Southern tag team match than anything else.  So the Hardy Boyz are actually wrestling instead of them doing gratuitous flippies onto everyone?  HERESY!

By the way, why does the Augusta crowd chant “HOLY SHIT” for wrestlers jumping from the top rope onto one another in succession, aside from this being Augusta?  If that’s all it takes for a crowd to go nuts, seeing La Parka in an ECW match would cause everyone living in Augusta to go apoplectic.  I miss La Parka.

Johnny Nitro accidentally bumps Melina off the ring apron instead of taking out Jeff Hardy as intended.  MNM attempt to snapshot Jeff Hardy from the second rope, but Matt Hardy swings a neckbreaker on both of them.  Hardy does his swanton bomb and the Hardys win.  Decent match, but highly overrated by WWE fanboys.

Balls Mahoney vs. Matt Striker

Isn’t that the greatest way to use Balls Mahoney, having him feud with EXTREEEEEME SCHOOLTEACHER?  I never expected WWECW to be just like the unaffiliated ECW, but isn’t the point of this ECW to take some of the Raw/Smackdown castoffs and give them better gimmicks?  Tazz and Joey Styles spend an unsettling amount of time (well, it would be if Tazz wasn’t well established in his aren’t-I-blue-collar persona) talking about Matt Striker’s putting his face on his ass and Mahoney being greasy as both Tazz and Styles continue their transformation into Michael Cole.

A lot of that homosexual talk can be blamed on Striker’s outfit, though – pink sweater, Rob Conway’s tights, Striker’s hate of all things unrefined.  It’s the standard WWE intellectual gimmick.  We’re supposed to hate him!  He acts like he’s so smart!  Boo!  Hiss!  Them smart guys are homos, too!  I mean, The Genius, am I right?

Balls Mahoney wins after getting in the requisite babyface comeback offense, using the Ballbuster Slam to defeat Striker.  Fans chant “BALLS! BALLS! BALLS!” as mandated by law and because WWE is throwing a bone to the faithful.

Hey, it’s CM Punk rotating his hands!

A segment establishes that Sabu has been “hurt bad.”  It’s bullshit, of course, and the crowd acknowledges this.  Then again, I wouldn’t expect anyone to react favorably to a bait-and-switch tactic.  Hell, I don’t expect the stupidest WWE fan to react favorably to this, and those people tend to actually buy WWE pay-per-views.

Elijah Burke & Sylvester Terkay vs. F.B.I.

Elijah Burke’s gimmick is that he’s black, and he talks in black promo language to establish this.  That seems to be the gimmick of most black characters in WWE.  Sylvester Terkay is there as an appendage to Burke.  At this point, I will stop treating the two like separate entities.

As an aside, is that an outline of the Russo-era WCW logo on FBI’s tights?  Neat, shorthand for “I LOSE REGULARLY.”  You know, since WCW was always shit in WWE parlance.

Burkay wins!  BLACK POWER!


Shots of Sabu being put into an ambulance.  The main-event good guys look concerned, considering how real this injury is.

Tommy Dreamer vs. Daivari

Daivari wins by pulling on Dreamer’s pants during a schoolboy.  The match itself isn’t as important as trying to put over The Great Khali as super-awesome and big and angry and shit.

The Great Khali chokebombs Dreamer!  My god, The Great Khali is super-awesome and big and angry and shit!  Well, without the “super-awesome” part.

Notice how this pay-per-view seems to be centred around pushing the ECW on Sci-Fi TV show?  That isn’t good.  See, the TV show should be used to push the pay-per-view.  I guess I just don’t understand these newfangled marketing strategies WWE is using.

Paul Heyman tries to put over the fact that Sabu is REALLY, REALLY HURT AND THIS IS NOT A WAY TO WRITE HIM OUT OF THE PAY-PER-VIEW.  He places Hardcore Holly in the main event.  Boo!  Hiss!  Generic bad-guy stuff!  Grr!

Mike Knox & Kelly Kelly vs. Kevin Thorn & Ariel

As might be expected from this pay-per-view pushing the television show, Mike Knox turns on Kelly Kelly in timeworn fashion by walking away from his match while Kelly is still in the ring.  The wrestling is better here than in the previous two matches, not that the wrestling isn’t third-tier to begin with.  The Sandman comes out and canes Kevin Thorn, purely to fill “Sandman canes _____ here” quota.

Yay!  Bobby Lashley is being interviewed!  He cuts an unconvincing promo in that lovely Southern lilt of his.  He really needs a manager to talk for him, since this “soft-spoken but kicks ass” shit ain’t cutting it.  As of the time I write this, nothing about his character has changed, and it’s been four months – four months of boring feuds and both McMahon and Trump trying to make Lashley seem interesting.  Lashley has to be the most inconsequential main-eventer in years.

Paul Heyman comes out in heel mode.  At least a few idiots shout “YOU SOLD OUT” and other “witty” smark chants as if Heyman hadn’t sold out five-and-a-half years before December to Dismember 2006 and wasn’t on Vince’s payroll for a decade.  Not even the magic of audio editing can stop the audience from crapping on Heyman’s crapping-on.

More than a few people knew that Heyman had become persona non grata to WWECW just before this pay-per-view aired, but it’s still lame to see Heyman not whip it out and just piss all over his employers.  If you’re dead wood, why the hell not set yourself on fire in the process?  It’s not like WWE was doing right by him.  Instead it’s “I’m Paul ‘Jesus’ Heyman, Sabu can’t be here” etc.

The chamber lowers, pyro blows up and entrance videos appear on the ECWtron.  This is not just any filler.  THIS IS EXTREEEEEME FILLER!

Extreme Elimination Chamber Match for the ECW Championship
“Big” Show (champion) vs. “Soft-Talking, Hard-Hitting™” “Bobby” “Lashley” vs. Rob “Van” Dam vs. Sabu Hardcore “Bob” Holly vs. “Test” vs. CM “Punk”

Hardcore Holly and RVD are out first.  Tazz thinks RVD putting his hands and feet in the spaces between the chains is a feat worthy of Spider-Man.  It’s notable, sure, but I remember when Tazz’s announcing wasn’t painful to listen to.  Yeah, I remember 2003.


Holly works over CM Punk.  Test comes out wielding the amazing power of both crowbar and Test.  RVD uses the amazing power of chair to hit CM Punk’s face.  RVD Five-Star Frog Splashes CM Punk and goes for a three-count.  This match is not going to bode well.

Test eliminates Hardcore Holly.  To add to the greatness of this pay-per-view, the three-count is botched but Holly is still eliminated.  EXTREEEEEME SLOPPINESS!

RVD stands on top of the Big Show’s pod.  RVD is hit by a Test-aided chair repeatedly and is thrown off said pod through the Amazing Power of Test’s Arm.  Test jumps off the pod himself and uses the Amazing Power of Test’s Elbow to eliminate RVD.

Well, that makes sense!  Eliminate the two most popular wrestlers in ECW and leave a minute for Test to stand around!  I felt ripped off watching that, and I’m reviewing a promo.

Bobby Lashley is prevented from escaping thanks to Heyman’s hired goons.  Lashley escapes by using the table to break apart the top of the pod.  Evidently this is supposed to make me give a shit about Lashley.  It fails.  Test is eliminated by Lashley and Lashley pisses about for more than a minute.  How could anybody think that this slapdash match progression is not in any way worthy of ECW?  They suck!

Big Show and Lashley fight.  The two demonstrate the Amazing Power of Plexiglass.  Lashley becomes ECW Champion.  Man, I hate Bobby Lashley.

Extras?  Post-match interviews and the Big Show/Lashley rematch from the ECW on SciFi immediately following this pay-per-view.  Look, wrestling fans know this is a doggy bag of a pay-per-view, so why isn’t WWE Home Video stuffing this to the gills with easter eggs?  Then again, maybe it’s for the best that the PPV discs as of late don’t have any easter eggs.  If December to Dismember 2006 isn’t marked down six months to a year after it’s been out as per WWE tradition, I’ll be amazed.

This wasn’t the worst pay-per-view ever, but $40 to watch Sylvester Terkay wrestle?  I’m amazed WWE makes money.  Never underestimate the power of nostalgia to prop up a bad product’s profits, I guess.


Teach Children To Worship Fakeness: A Review of Feel the Sting

This was originally written for theddt.com.  It appears now on a site that, as of late, has actually been updated.  Since theddt.com has been dead for several years and theddt.co.uk…well, clinically dead, I thought I’d save this article from a fate worse than death.  “Enjoy!”

Anyone who knows what CD title I parodied for this article wins this beautiful jar of air.  I’ll give you a hint: it’s the title of a 2000 album by an overrated black metal band.  The members of this band are evidently DARK and no doubt go to FUNERALs in black-and-white makeup.  Do you know who this DARK, FUNERAListic band are?  Well, I already gave the answer, so you’re S.O.L.  Or S.O.D., same thing.  METAL!

Recently, I went to Campbellford, Ontario for a day of shopping at some of the world’s murphiest discount store chains.  For those who don’t know, i.e., anyone still reading me after all this time, Campbellford is a small town of about 10,000 or so people with at least two competing discount stores (Giant Tiger and Liquidation World), a few dollar stores and a thrift shop.  Somehow, Campbellford manages to contain more quality discount items per capita than most places in Eastern Ontario, and a generic dollar store on the same strip as Liquidation World somehow manages to sell titles like Going Nucular – a book that came out last year and has had some mainstream press lavished on it as of late – for a dollar.  It’s a schizophrenic place, that no-name dollar store.  It will sell cheap dollar DVDs with thirty minutes worth of material on them – honestly, if you love Film! Film! Film!, that dollar store is a godsend to you – for $2.00 because the DVDs are located in the “gift shop” portion of the store, but $24.95 hardcovers retail for a dollar and VHS copies of Timmy the Tooth sell for $4.95.  Uncanny.

Anyway, to show you what a sad sod I am, I bought this book for primary-school kids about Sting.

At first glance, there’s really nothing wrong with what Feel The Sting‘s trying to accomplish.  Kids like wrestling, teaching a six-or-seven-year-old words like “dominated” and “cardiovascular” might make them smarter than some of the people reading TheDDT now and WCW at this point (note the rejigged fat bastard logo circa 2000, when the book was published) needed new fans.  In other words, I might look like an infantile, unfunny hack for making fun of a children’s book, dragging myself down to the level of Wrestlecrap’s “Somebody Bought THIS!” picture with smart-ass remark (I refuse to call it a “column.”)  Some people, of course, think Randy Baer’s right testicle is funnier than me on my absolute best day.  I’m an insensitive clod, but that’s why you secretly admire me, you jealous teases.  You want me.

After glancing through the book more than once, though, I realized what the book’s intentions really are: to indoctrinate children into believing the “official” history of WCW, a history of course fraught with inaccuracies and seven shades of “realness.”  Not that it did a good job, of course, if the book dissipated into dollar-store tedium alongside hundreds of copies of the same issue of some crappy Image miniseries and Muppet Babies’ I Can Go Potty.  Well, that and Feel The Sting is rather sloppily put together.  This is WCW 2000, where things go into a black hole of quality quite easily.  Let us traipse through this book now and discover the joys of typos and irrelevancy!  WHEEE!

MORE LIKE NUDIE BOARD GAMES!  Sorry, I know Young Ones references are dated by this point, but are kids really interested in knowing that Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Sting like to play Crazy Eights before Duggan’s inevitable loss to Meng?  More to the point, why would kids give a shit about Hacksaw Jim Duggan in the first place?  I know his “big dumb patriot with lumber” gimmick has its appeal, but seven-year-olds don’t as a rule don’t stay up to watch B-shows like WCW Saturday Night just to watch Duggan eke out a half-star classic against Air Paris.  If they did, I’d send them to a remedial English class just out of spite – even if I wasn’t a teacher.

Not that I’m intelligent myself, since I admitted earlier to having listened to Dark Funeral at one point in time.  I shouldn’t talk.

Gene Okerlund is a “journalist” like pro wrestling is “a real sport.”  Gene Okerlund is a “journalist” like Simple Plan “aren’t annoying.”  Gene Okerlund is a “journalist” like calling a wrestling fan a smark “isn’t retarded.”  How long can I stretch this extended simile out?  PRETTY DAMN FAR, LET ME TELL YOU…BROTHER!

Honestly, kids aren’t that stupid.  I know wrestling has always blurred the line between fantasy and reality, but how an interviewer and longtime company man like Gene Okerlund could ever be a “journalist” strains credulity.  Even in the world of “kayfabe,” it’s a stretch to call Mene Gene a journalist as he’s not going to do anything other than promote WCW and pretend Billy Kidman has said something profound.  Even at a young age, it’s pretty obvious that interviewing men with gimmicks like “angry Polynesian with afro” and “man everyone knows is Ed Leslie with a bondage mask on” exclude company announcers from calling themselves journalists.  Not that Dave Scherer is any more legitimate a journalist by comparison, of course, but I heard he can bench two cruiserweights!  NOW THAT’S BELIEVABLE!

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?  To seven-year-old kids unfamiliar with the fixed nature of wrestling, it does.  Well, maybe not, as it’s Sid Vicious the book is talking about here.  Anyone booked to win more than fifty consecutive matches (forty-five of them against The Renegade, Pat Tanaka and Jim Powers alone) is going to look impressive even if Disco Inferno is the one with the incredible winning streak.  Still…it’s Sid.

Look at the picture up there!  He can’t even look convincingly angry, for God’s sake!  He looks constipated, but his name isn’t Sid Bollocks.  THOUGH HE WRESTLES LIKE THAT!  HYOOO!

What all this has to do with Sting, of course, is up for debate.  Not like the company was ever going to exist past 2001 anyway.

We come now to the section about Sting’s title defenses.  Right away, you can tell the book is professional as the picture of Sting holding a recently claimed title is shown backwards.  How can I tell?  Well, RIALF CIR isn’t exactly a household name in wrestling, is he?  Maybe he’s one of those one-day not-really-champions, I don’t know.  Perhaps he’s Irish?

Solid gold, eh?  If it was really solid gold the belt wouldn’t have a leather backing.  I just quashed a rumour, isn’t that amazing?

What I love about Feel The Sting is the fact that it merges Sting’s runs with the WCW World Title and the “WCW International World Title.”  I know the two belts were supposed to be equal to each other in terms of importance, but the fact remains that having two world champions in one company without two contrived divisions was a terrible idea in the first place.  If the NWA didn’t want to have anything to do with WCW anymore, WCW should have just came clean and slagged off the NWA as beneath them.  WCW didn’t, so it had two world titles at one point.  It’s great to teach the kids that the two world titles were actually one and the same.  That isn’t lying to them by any means.

Imagine some seven-year-old reading this, announcing Rick Rude as a World Champion and being beaten up by all and sundry because, after all, Rick Rude fans are gay.  It’s much more heterosexual to follow some guy who’d painted his face since 1985 and acted like a goth for five years.  STING WOULD BEAT YOU OFF WITH A BASEBALL BAT, HE WOULD!

Aren’t segues neat?

Honestly, how does having a baseball bat add to the character’s mystery in any way?  OOOH, I’M NOT GOING TO PUNCH YOU!  I’LL JUST SWING A BAT LIKE A COWARD BUT IT’S OKAY BECAUSE I’M A GOOD GUY!  I’M COMPLEX!  What the hell is “dark mystery,” anyway?  What other moods could mystery invoke?  This is a horribly written factoid, never mind that it’s written for children.  Anyway, at this point in his career Sting was regularly facing Vampiro because…um…they both had black-and-white facepaint.  What good was his mysterious brooding nature doing him then?  How much more mystery and brooding could you put into that feud when the only reason for the feud was due to Sting not being much more than midcard bait at this point?  Of course, if his career is languishing the time is OBVIOUSLY ripe for a book promoting Sting as one of the greatest superstars in WCW history.  I’m surprised WCW lost $80 million in 2000, I really am.

Finally, note how Feel The Sting switches from “old Sting” to “new Sting” quite frequently.  In one picture, Sting’s wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt.  The next page, Sting has switched allegiances to this unknown company called Yelrah.

Oh, wait, the sodding publisher didn’t notice a reversed picture before going to press with this book.  It’s one thing to call Japanese pro wrestling “puroesu,” but is it that hard to launch Photoshop and go through the Image and Rotate Canvas menus before clicking on Flip Horizontal?  Then again, anyone expecting quality control from a company with a “Publishimg Manager” should not claim to feel ripped off when Dorling Kindersley breaks your heart for the fifteenth time.

What did the book manage to teach us, then, in the end?  Well, it taught me that no matter how run-down the license, there will be someone who will take a chance on it no matter how terrible the product.  It also taught me that Sting very rarely enjoys cookies, pizza, or pralines-and-cream ice cream.  I hope this rundown of Feel The Sting has all helped us, in some way, to grow.  I guess this article has a happy ending after all.

I’m sorry.  I couldn’t think of a non-crap ending.  Uhh…trousers.


May 29, 2008

It Came From the Thrift Store: International Wrestling 1986

Filed under: It Came From...,URBMN 2005-08 — Tags: , , , — Cameron Archer @ 12:48 am
Here’s a day (or two weeks, I don’t know how badly this tape was edited) in the life of Lutte Internationale, better known to English-speaking people as International Wrestling. Located in Montreal, one of the traditional hotbeds of Canadian wrestling, International Wrestling was strong enough in Canada to be syndicated on a semi-national basis.

In 1986, International Wrestling was just winding down – it had briefly aligned itself with the WWF a year earlier and was being gouged for talent by that promotion. Things hadn’t become so desperate yet that Abdullah the Butcher and assorted talents from Puerto Rico’s World Wrestling Council would literally bleed International Wrestling to death. Even from watching this tape, I could tell that the lights were being turned off on the promotion. “New” talents I didn’t recognize were more prevalent than wrestlers I’d actually heard of. It’s not hard to spot when the talent pool is being drained.

Dino Bravo was perpetually the golden boy of International Wrestling. It’s impossible to talk about wrestling in Montreal without mentioning Bravo – during the time International Wrestling was subsumed by the WWF, his title became the WWF Canadian Championship. Bravo was co-promoter of International Wrestling with Gino Brito Sr. and Rick Martel, so he had a steady gig.

That still doesn’t excuse him from delivering this shitty promo hyping his match against The Great Samu. He stumbles through his promo points and makes many malapropisms. The VHS recording cuts out before Bravo finishes his promo, which is a blessing. I’m not sure how good Bravo matches of this era are, but if all his promos were like this I’m not surprised his face run in the WWF was a failure. It should be noted that this is before Bravo dyed his hair and hit the steroids heavily, so he still had some wrestling skill back in 1986.

You might not be familiar with Alofa the Polynesian Prince, but wrestling fans have seen him before. That’s right, this was Solofa Fatu, Jr. (d/b/a Kishi, formerly Rikishi) before he got fat and burned his Stinkface into the minds of unwilling wrestling fans everywhere. Eventually he became one half of the Samoan Swat Team. Some of you might have tried to forget him as The Sultan and/or Making a Difference Fatu. Here Alofa stumbles through his promo as seems to be the norm for International Wrestling, but at least he shows enthusiasm. He has a squash match on the tape I fast-forwarded through watched.

Eddie “The Brain” Creatchman isn’t too bad as heel managers go. In fact, he’s considered one of Canada’s greats. He did manage The Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher, so he had to be doing something right. Here he’s managing Sheik Ali, a white person (in this case, New Brunswick’s “Big” Stephen Petitpas) magically turned Arab via Middle Eastern garb and some facial hair. He’s no Makhan Singh, but few people are.

According to Slam! Wrestling Petitpas’ wrestling wasn’t bad. Why Creatchman speaks for him here is beyond me, unless the audience is supposed to believe Sheik Ali is really Arab and can’t speak English. Wrestling expects you to disbelieve 95% of the time, but I have to wonder how many people were fooled. Sheik Ali’s squash match just flew by me via the magic of fast-forwarding.

Bill and Scott Irwin crap on Tom Zenk and Dan Kroffat (Bill Irwin pronounces Kroffat’s last name Crawford for some reason), while Steve Strong puts down Rick Martel. Strong is surprisingly good on the mic, which makes me wonder why he didn’t become more well-known than he is. Creatchman promoted the Irwin brothers, since International Wrestling needed at least one manager to lean its heel wrestlers on.

Bill and Scott Irwin both had successful careers, especially in World Class Championship Wrestling. Bill would gain infamy in the WWF as The Goon, while Scott Irwin died of a brain tumour in 1987. Scott was a one-time NWA National Heavyweight Champion and once held one half of the WWWF Tag Team Championships, while Bill had his share of upper-card titles.

The match I saw on the tape was for the Canadian International Tag Team Championships against Zenk and Kroffat. It was actually decent, but seeing it twice was somewhat redundant. For those interested, the match ends when a masked Scott Irwin beats on Zenk in the middle of the Z-Man’s sleeper hold on Bill Irwin. The ensuing post-match run-ins are inevitable, but a feud is advanced and money is made. It’s hard to demand much more than that.

Here’s a not-very-good promo by Ron Ritchie. The announcer tries to set up Ron Ritchie as an up-and-comer, although he had been wrestling since 1978 and was only now starting to get career pushes. In fact, Ritchie was biding his time in 1986 between International Wrestling and Stampede Wrestling. Here Ritchie bigs up the importance of the Canadian International Heavyweight Championship, establishing his credentials in hopes of a good run in International Wrestling.

Ritchie’s greatest achievement was winning Stampede Wrestling’s North American Heavyweight Title, a feat only accomplished by five wrestlers that year. This isn’t a joke meant to denigrate Ritchie. In fact, this isn’t a joke; Stampede Wrestling was quite fond of short title runs. Steve Strong, under his real name of Steve DiSalvo, even beat Ritchie for the North American belt before flipping it to Bad News Allen a week later. Later DiSalvo became The Minotaur in WCW. *cough*

Samula Anoa’i was the other half of the Samoan Swat Team, but at this point in his career – I assume the tape is from June 1986 – he was challenging for the Canadian International Heavyweight Championship as The Great Samu. Here, the announcer is trying to fight Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” and failing. I know International Wrestling didn’t have the professionalism of WWF programming, and I don’t expect that from independent promotions of the 1980s. All the same, how hard is it to operate a mixing board? I also doubt International Wrestling cleared that sample, but at least the promotion is consistent with 1980s trends.

I don’t know if segments from two shows were spliced together on my tape or not, but it cuts to a backstage celebration. The Great Samu has won the Canadian International Heavyweight Championship. More of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” is cued, since when I think Janet Jackson I think a relatively obscure Samoan wrestler. I imagine this is Samula Anoa’i’s most significant heavyweight title win. As a special bonus, here’s a Samu/Bravo match where Samu is defending his title against Bravo. From the little I saw of Samu, he looked fairly good.

I should note that “Pretty Boy” Floyd Creatchman, Eddie Creatchman’s son and a fairly good manager in his own right, is speaking with Samu during the backstage segment. Unlike with “The Brain” and Sheik Ali, Samu is allowed to speak – not that he needs to say much with “Pretty Boy” Floyd speaking for him.

This clip marks a turning point in International Wrestling history. Bravo would not win the title back from Samu, and Samu dropped the belt in a few months’ time to “Dr. D” David Schults. By 1987 another regional promotion fell victim to the WWF’s North American expansion, as most of them did. Standard reasons are given for International Wrestling’s demise – not enough money made, not enough talent, the WWF stole everyone worth a damn – but I guess International Wrestling left with a bit more dignity than, say, the AWA or Stampede Wrestling.

This tape hasn’t made me want to seek out more International Wrestling right away, but it hasn’t turned me completely off the promotion. I will say this – if I have to watch another bad Dino Bravo promo within the next five years, it’ll be too soon.


May 25, 2008

It Came From the Thrift Store: WWF Wrestling 1986

Filed under: It Came From...,URBMN 2005-08 — Tags: , , , — Cameron Archer @ 11:08 pm
One of the things I’ve become more into now when I hit thrift stores is buying random VHS tapes to see what is on them. Mind you, I don’t buy a lot of tapes – there are hundreds of TV rebroadcasts of films like Iron Eagle III and The Money Pit out there, and who’s that desperate for Iron Eagle III? I tend to go for mystery tapes with vague labelling in hopes of finding pro wrestling and/or random broadcasts from the 1980s.

On one of these tapes, I was successful in finding 1986 broadcasts of both WWF Wrestling and International Wrestling. The WWF Wrestling show came from Hamilton’s CHCH, at that time one of Canada’s most well-known independent stations. International Wrestling could be seen on another well-known independent, Toronto’s CityTV.

CHCH doesn’t exist in its original form anymore. CityTV is still around, but its glory days have long since passed. International Wrestling (a/k/a Lutte Internationale – it did emanate from Montreal) died in 1987. The WWE, however, still airs jobber matches and continues to employ the Iron Sheik in some capacity. Some things never change, even when they need to.

The first match features everyone’s favourite 1980s jobbers José Luis Rivera and Leaping Lanny Poffo against…King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd. Rivera and Poffo are fucked.

Poffo reads one of his famous poems. He hopes that Andre the Giant slams Bundy and Studd like a feather. Only Hulk Hogan and Andre were allowed to slam the “unslammable” main-eventers back in 1986, so you can guess the outcome of this match without using one brain cell.

What’s to say about the match itself? Bundy and Studd beat the crap out of their opponents – this is WWF TV formula, after all. At least the audience gets to hear great Gorilla Monsoon/Bobby Heenan banter. There are Hulk Hogan chants for some reason, even though Poffo and Rivera have been established as jobbers and thus not important enough to rate a run-in by ol’ Fu Manchu.

Here’s the Junkyard Dog promoting a match at Maple Leaf Gardens. Sylvester Ritter goes through the gotta-keep-fighting spiel, puts over a match between “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and bigs up a Dan Spivey/Mike Rotunda tag team. Savage and Steamboat would go on to make lots of money, Spivey and Rotunda would not and JYD would continue midcarding for a few more years. That’s not a slight on JYD – it’s hard not to like the man who grabbed them cakes, but Hogan was Vince McMahon’s cash cow for almost a decade.

The Macho Man puts over a King of the Ring tournament – crucially, not the official one – as he sells himself to Hamilton fans watching him on CHCH. Savage ohhh yeahs through his promo as he talks about some of the people in the tournament – Tony Atlas, the Rougeau Brothers, Mike Rotunda, Dan Spivey and himself, among others. You may notice a few seconds of silence during his promo, probably caused by someone being fired from or leaving the WWF. I’m not a good lip reader, so I don’t know who left. This is a standard Macho Man promo, but Macho Man promos are always entertaining.

Nikolai Volkoff (singing the Russian national anthem) and The Iron Sheik face off against the Marcus Brothers in another squash match, not that you couldn’t see this coming from a mile away. Are these matches entertaining to watch? Of course not – one of the teams is local, so obviously they have no chance of winning against the former WWF Tag Team Champions. Frankly, I just fast-forward through this match like I do all the other squash matches on the tape.

BONUS! This commercial for Fruit Fantasy is a bit homoerotic. It’s not meant to be, but what to make of lyrics like “whipping up the nectar” and “chomping the strawberry/nibbling the kiwi/munching the mango/biting the berries” sung in a breathy Caribbean style? Yeah, nothing suggestive in those descriptions.

For those ignoring the possible double entendres, there’s the black waiter in a white suit serving up this Fruit Fantasy while the Caribbean singer exhorts us to “taste the reality.” Fruit Fantasy, it should be noted, is a generic-looking frozen treat. Reading too much into twenty-two-year-old commercials is fun.

Stay tuned for International Wrestling action in my next post! Dino Bravo! A skinny Rikishi! Uhh…more jobber matches! All this and The Great Samu are coming your way! Don’t miss it!


January 18, 2008

It Came From the Delete Bin: Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (Part 2)

Chinese Samurai Midget PartyPreviously on Fist of Fear, Touch of Death, “Bruce Lee” was having trouble dealing with his film family. His film brother and film parents could not come to terms with “Lee” being karate crazy. Meanwhile, a barely related series of flashbacks saw one of “Lee’s” ancestors plying his trade as a Chinese samurai. Great-grandfather “Lee’s” flashbacks are in colour because people had more exciting lives in those days. They flew through the air and shit!

Bruce Lee’s “father” is one of many reasons to see Fist of Fear… He never fails to be entertaining, whether he’s outing a teenaged girl as a slut or being insulting to his wife. Lee’s “father” also doesn’t do what his woman wants him to, acting like a Chinese Archie Bunker. In reality, Lee’s father was a Cantonese opera star and introduced Bruce Lee to both martial arts and acting, but facts have no place in a Bruceploitation picture. Eventually, “Bruce” runs away and manifest destiny reveals itself.

Get Off the Damn RoofThe train derails completely when “Bruce Lee” goes to Hollywood to try his luck as an actor. Even if Fist of Fear… is a complete pisstake of “documentaries” like The Real Bruce Lee, the humour is firmly in Bizarro World territory. Don’t believe me? “Bruce Lee” had no luck finding an acting job before a Hollywood producer placed him in a low-budget Chinese film, or something. I don’t know, Fist of Fear… stopped making sense long before this point. Lee actually spent a few years in the American entertainment system before going back to Hong Kong to work for Golden Harvest. Either Matthew Mallinson and Ron Harvey did absolutely no research on this film or they were purposely trying to get everything wrong to amuse themselves.

Back to “Bruce Lee’s film debut,” a clip of a guy jumping off a roof. That one image – which has become the URBMN masthead, it’s so etched in my mind – underlines the bizarre nature of the film. Is that supposed to be a joke? Were viewers set up by an overlong splicing of two Asian films for a three-second punchline? Fist of Fear… is full of these non sequiturs.

Bill Louie as KatoWe’re now at the Green Hornet/Bill Louie segment of the film, where Louie wears the Kato outfit but forgets to shave that moustache of his. Fake Kato’s enemies are gangbangers and they round up their intended victims, two girls jogging. What follows is the least convincing rape scene ever – both a gangbanger and a victim have their clothes on – and Bill Louie beats the gangbangers up for their troubles. Naturally, the gangbangers are shitting bricks over Louie cosplaying Kato, regrouping with weapons but without success. Louie winds up saving the day, which should be obvious to anyone with or without a pulse.

AARON BANKSAaron Banks introduced Fist of Fear… by intimating that the winner of a fight between Louis Neglia and John “Cyclone” Flood would become the next Bruce Lee. He also says during the film that Bruce Lee was murdered by the Touch of Death, since cerebral edema isn’t as fun to exploit. Banks is known in New York for his karate school and has quite a history behind him. Banks still seems like a shameless promoter as “Bruce Lee” extols the virtues of his promotional skills.

Speaking of shilling, Fist of Fear… is a long-form commercial for Banks’ “Oriental World of Self-Defense” show, as that’s what Mallinson is actually filming. Teruyuki Higa and Richard Barathy do some demonstrations. Louis Neglia and “Cyclone” Flood fight an uneventful kickboxing match, with Neglia winning in the second round via a kick to Flood’s head. No matter how good Neglia or Flood were back then, Fist of Fear… cheapens both them and Banks’ show by using Bruce Lee to bait-and-switch casual martial arts fans. Way to go, Banks – you’ve undercut your own promotional strategy! Good job!

The film ends as Adolph Caesar prefigures the Ric Flair “to be the man you gotta beat the man” speech. See, you can never be Bruce Lee since he’s dead and never lost an official fight. Rarely does a film outright tell you you’ve wasted your time watching it, but that’s what Fist of Fear… does here. The only person exiting Fist of Fear… with any dignity is Ron Van Clief, whose appearances are limited to chasing off a street gang and pointing out that Bruce Lee should never be imitated. Adolph Caesar quotes Clief and exits the now-empty arena as Fist of Fear, Touch of Death passes into budget-DVD limbo, still holding a place in the bowels of all who watch it.


January 14, 2008

It Came From the Delete Bin: Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (Part 1)

This is the first of a series of articles (I hope) to point out the fact that I’m still alive. To put it mildly, URBMN has become a ghost town of articles for a year or so. Something needs to be done about my lack of interest in updating my own site. To that end, I’m posting a few multimedia-intensive articles based on films I have on DVD and VHS. I own a lot of crap, and I want to share that crap with you – anything to resuscitate this corpse.

Fred Williamson vs. Jasper MilktoastFist of Fear, Touch of Death (1980) is not like any other Bruce Lee documentary out there. In fact, it’s not much of a documentary, or even that coherent a film. The presence of bad comedy, what-the-hell moments and Fred Williamson playing comic relief makes me wonder how serious this “documentary” really was. Sure, Fist of Fear… shits on the memory of Bruce Lee, but a running joke about Williamson looking like Harry Belafonte? The only thing Fist of Fear… used the touch of death on is competent filmmaking, and that’s why I like the film so much.

The film is supposed to be set at Madison Square Garden during the “1979 World Karate Championships.” The film is actually set at the Felt Forum (now the WaMu Theater) at Madison Square Garden, so that’s technically true. Adolph Caesar, a few years before his Oscar nomination for A Soldier’s Story, reads stiffly from a cue card while pretending to be a TV sports anchorman. Caesar still turns in the film’s strongest performance.

Kick of Steel, Balls of DeathAdolph Caesar introduces footage of “last year’s competition” as Bill Louie comically kicks some guy in the nuts. Without warning, he pulls the guy’s eyes out of their sockets and throws them to the audience. This out-of-left-field joke surprised the hell out of me when I first saw it. Fist of Fear… is Matthew Mallinson and Ron Harvey’s only writing credits according to IMDb, and I can’t say I’m surprised due to their rather esoteric ideas about “humour.”

Bruce LeeWe’re back to the smooth tones of Adolph Caesar’s voice as he interviews “Bruce Lee.” “Lee” sounds a lot like Brent Spiner as sepia-toned footage of Lee is poorly mixed with sepia-toned footage of Caesar. Wikipedia claims that the footage of Lee is actually from the 1971-72 ABC show Longstreet. You can hear the awkward pauses as Caesar dryly phones it in for a paycheque. Caesar deserved better roles than this, but at least he isn’t playing a slave or a butler.

More comedic martial arts footage is played, this time a petite woman tossing a fat black man over her head. Poor dubbing is used to point out that the obese man is just that, since calling him Fred the Flying Fat Man and showing that he’s fat isn’t obvious enough.

Here’s a rare sight – Fred “the Hammer” Williamson in a comedy routine! Granted, The Fucking Hammer (you have to say it like that, The Fucking Hammer) plays things straight as he should, since he is blaxploitation’s Lazarus. In the film, The Fucking Hammer has allegedly had sex five times with a white woman the night before the Karate Championships. Never satisfied, the woman expresses her displeasure for his not putting out enough while Williamson worries about “a Bruce Lee title that doesn’t even exist.” Naturally, sex wins.

More fun is had when a guy named Jasper Milktoast picks a fight with The Fucking Hammer over entering a taxi! Jokes about Williamson looking like Harry Belafonte abound, since a film about Bruce Lee needs those purposeful Belafonte references.

At this point in the film, a redubbed/sepia-toned Lei yu (a/k/a The Thunderstorm) is intercut with Tian zhan/Invincible Super Chan to comprise “The Bruce Lee Story.” This is where the film gets amazingly stupid, either purposely or otherwise. The in-joke with regards to “The Bruce Lee Story” is that Lei yu stars a young Bruce Lee. Were Mallinson and Harvey trying to comically redub Lei yu for a few laughs? Perhaps, but it seems more like Aquarius Promotions was trying to knock out a grindhouse title and needed a lot of filler. After all, characters are talking about Bruce Lee being karate crazy. Apparently, all martial arts are interchangeable to the slant-eyes. Lee was born to a lineage of Chinese samurai warriors, too! Truly, Fist of Fear… caters to the true martial arts fans and not utter morons.

The first act of this article ends with the award-winning dialogue that has made Fist of Fear, Touch of Death a martial arts classic. A cliffhanger has scarcely been as nail-biting, at least not since…uh…Cliffhanger. Here’s a severed head as a bonus you’ll mildly appreciate.


July 23, 2007

Interview with Matt Watts of Canadia: 2056

Filed under: Stuff You've Seen Before,URBMN 2005-08 — Tags: , , , — Cameron Archer @ 8:53 pm
Matt Watts has been responsible for some of the better CBC Radio comedy programs of recent years.  Steve the First and its sequel Steve the Second used the concept of random schlubs surviving standard-issue Mad Max-like dystopias to some degree of success.  While the two Steve series were uneven in spots, Watts has at least proven that he can do satirical science fiction.  Canadia: 2056 is his most consistent effort to date and has already been renewed for a fifteen-episode second season.

The two Steve series will be given a second airing on CBC Radio One starting July 23.  Both Steve the First and Steve the Second are being rerun weirdly – Monday through Friday at 11:30 AM until August 1, which is of course the best way to air limited-run niche series.  That’s still better than the fate of The Adventures of Apocalypse Al, which is sitting in CBC Radio archives despite J. Michael Straczynski’s involvement.

This email has been in my archives since July 4, 2007.  At least you get to read this interview before everyone involved with it is dead.

How well has CBC Radio promoted Canadia: 2056 and the two Steve series?  Should there be more promotion for CBC radio dramas overall or is it worth it considering the smaller audience for radio when compared to television?  How could podcasting/”the INTERNET®” help, since the MP3 player is not going away any time soon?

No comment (read into that however you like.)

Why have you picked sci-fi themes and parodies as fodder for your radio dramas?  Such a thing is atypical for CBC Radio considering shows like Monsoon House, Man, Woman & Child and Madly Off in All Directions tend to be more typical of CBC Radio’s comedic output.  I know you’re influenced by science fiction and “zany madcap humour” but it’s almost out of place compared to giving established Canadian stand-ups a half hour to play with.  Not that I hate Man, Woman & Child, but I’ve been familiar with John Wing Jr. since the early 1990s and it’s sort of sad that I’ve been aware of his work since I was twelve.

I picked science fiction as a genre for radio because I figured that I might as well make the most of the medium.  You can take the audience anywhere with radio.  Why not do something you couldn’t do on television?  With that in mind, I’ve tried to keep things fairly simple in terms of the storylines.  To me it’s about the relationships, not about the “flash” of science fiction.  When it came to Canadia, I really wanted to do something about US/Canadian relations and I wanted to use a war as a backdrop.  I wanted to explore more general themes of how these two countries interact without getting into a political debate about the current (or recent) war, so that meant I could set it in the past or the future.  I get really bored with historical dramas.

You think my stuff is “zany madcap?”  Huh…I never looked at it like that.  I guess Canadia has a farcical quality to it, and Steve was definitely absurd.  Zany Madcap it is!

[NOTE: That “zany madcap” bit was referring to the fact that Matt Watts was influenced by radio comedies like The Goon Show.  You can tell I was having a Ron Obvious moment there.]

How do you feel about science fiction, arts-wise (film, television, softcore porn etc.) and/or as a literary genre?  How popular a niche is science fiction in Canada, in your opinion?  You don’t think CBC wasted its money helping bankroll Doctor Who and Torchwood and thereby indulging Russell T. Davies’ wildest fantasies, do you?

I love science fiction but I think it can be alienating when it puts the emphasis on the “science” and not on the “fiction.”  The story always has to be engaging, regardless of the genre.

I think its popularity as a genre is fairly consistent throughout the world.  Canada hasn’t produced a lot of science fiction television or films, but we’ve produced a lot of written sci-fi.  I honestly don’t know if there’d be an audience for my kind of sci-fi in Canadian television.  If Canadia was a television show, would it have a big audience?  I’m sure it would have a loyal audience; I just don’t know if that’s enough.  Look at the nightmare the Red Dwarf guys are having trying to get funding for their film.

As for Doctor Who, I’m biased.  Sci-fi or not, it’s my favorite show, and it has been since I was about four years old.  I can’t even give you an honest criticism of the new show, because I cry every time the credits start and don’t stop until about half an hour after it’s over.  It strikes some kind of weird nerve with me (no one hugged me as a child, all I had was TV.)  I love the show.  I’m glad CBC is putting money into it.  I wish they had some kind of say in the production.

I wish they could get me over there.  I think writing on that series would be the greatest job ever.  It’s my dream.  It’ll never happen but it’s nice to dream.

Embarrassing child-like reaction aside, I think the CBC should be doing a lot more co-productions with the BBC.  Less American influence, more UK, I say.  Team up with Auntie Beeb!  Let’s face it, our tastes are more in line with the UK’s, aren’t they?

How do you compare your CBC radio dramas to your other work?  Your most well-known roles outside of CBC Radio are for your involvement in Ken Finkleman’s sitcom The Newsroom and Don McKellar’s film Childstar.  How important is “know someone in the business” in comparison to “make sure what I’m writing doesn’t suck shit?”

The Newsroom was great.  Although I was a creative consultant the third year, I was really just an actor for the two years I was on the show.  Those two years were probably the most fun I’ve had in my life.  With my radio stuff I have a lot more control and a lot more pressure.  I write the episodes, then go in and record them.  It’s totally different.  I’m a lot more concerned with the final product than I was on The Newsroom.

As for knowing people in the industry?  Someone can open a door for you, but once you’re in there you’d better have a fucking great script.  The most important thing is always the writing.  Otherwise, you’re just going to look unprepared and foolish, and that “friend” in the industry is likely to never help you out again.

How does it feel getting people like Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall; Saturday Night Live) and Peter Wildman (The Frantics) to be involved with your radio dramas?  How does the “marquee name” – well, as much as CBC budgets will allow for radio drama – attract casual interest for the dramas, or are listeners there because CBC Radio isn’t just rebroadcasting routines from the Winnipeg Comedy Festival?

I don’t know what the listener numbers are, or if having marquee names actually increases listenership.  Having Mark on the Steve series came about because we’d been looking for a project to work together on for years, and he really liked this idea.  It was never about landing a name – he was involved in the project since pretty early on.

I love Peter Wildman.  My producer actually brought him in for the part [of Captain of the USS Pickens] not because of his name, but because he thought he’d be good in the role.

I was pretty excited to have Peter on because I was a fan of his as a kid.  Mark I’ve known for years, so it was nice having a friend around who had a better idea of what was going on than I did.

I’m against trying to get marquee names in general, only because it’s distracting.  Why bother?  Just make it good.

I got pretty excited when Donnelly Rhodes [Battlestar Galactica‘s Doctor Cottle] agreed to be in Canadia – he plays the president in the opening credits.  I didn’t try to get him because I thought it would help gain listenership – I’m just a fan.  His voice was perfect.

What’s next for Matt Watts?  What sort of subjects do you feel you’ll go to once (or if) you ever exhaust making fun of Canadian cultural mores through a sci-fi based comedy radio program?  Does the idea of making veiled jabs at CBC programming decisions through the sci-fi conceit seem subversive to you, or do you not believe in that “subversive” crap and need the money?

Yeah, I do love poking fun at the CBC.  I really love the place, so it’s never done out of malice (just to be clear.)  I assume that the jokes are relevant to anyone that works in any kind of large corporation.  If Canadia continues there’ll be plenty more of that kind of stuff.

I don’t know if I feel the need to comment on Canadian culture so much.  I feel like Canadia has been that outlet for me.

I loved writing Steve the First because its premise was simple: a bum like me saving the world after an apocalypse.  I knew exactly how this one character would react to all the absurdities and hell that he’d encounter.

I’m working on a feature that will hopefully move beyond my computer.  It’s in keeping with the tradition of most of my stuff in that it’s about a boy and a girl (I know it’s not always clear, but ultimately everything I write is about a boy and a girl.)  Unlike everything else, it’s set on Earth and there are no apocalypses or aliens.  It’s not science fiction at all.  It’s the least sci-fi thing I’ve written.  It’s 100% sci-fi free!

Joe Mahoney [producer, Steve the First and Steve the Second; story editor on all Matt Watts’ radio dramas] has been pushing me to novelize the first Steve series, and I’ve been tinkering with that over the last few years.  Maybe that’s what will be next, although it’s the scariest and most daunting thing I’ve ever tackled.

I just keep writing and hope that someone will be interested in it.

Matt Watts’ page
CBC Radio Canadia page (or at least a vague simulation)


April 22, 2007

Radio Review: Q

Filed under: Stuff You've Seen Before,URBMN 2005-08 — Tags: , , , — Cameron Archer @ 9:18 pm
Q, meant as a general and wide-ranging arts and culture show, has displaced shows like Freestyle and The Arts Tonight on CBC Radio One schedules.  This is part of a general restructuring of CBC Radio to assess the fact that the average listener is over the age of 65.  CBC Radio as an organization is correctly assessing that some things about its networks have run their course – too much of a classical music focus on CBC Radio Two, for instance.

At the same time, the new shows often come at the expense of shows that didn’t need to be sacrificed, Brave New Waves being the most notable of the shows that recently went defunct.  The questions are: is Q a good show period, and is it better than the shows it replaced, most notably Freestyle and The Arts Tonight?

The second question, at least for me, is answerable.  Q is better than Freestyle, the show it’s directly replacing.  What annoyed me about Freestyle was the format of two hosts making idle chatter and then playing music being flimsy at best.  None of the hosts were able to transcend such a bad format.  Q has some structure to it – its promise to cover the whole of culture is already being met.  Lame title aside, Q knows why it’s on the schedules.

As for the first question, the show’s a little too uneven to properly gauge at this point.  Q is a mixed bag.  Pieces have already ranged from the essentially meaningless (an interview with Harry Connick Jr. where Connick shilled his New Orleans tribute CD) to the truly interesting (a piece about the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Once upon a Time Walt Disney exhibition.)

A few pieces came across as spillovers from Definitely Not the Opera – the deconstruction of Beyoncé songs from an “armchair therapist” being one piece best left untouched.  Shows like DNTO and Go! are sometimes hard to take due to that sense of humour, and I’d hate to see Q fall into that trap.

Thursday’s opening, where host Jian Ghomeshi actually addressed Q‘s perceived Toronto-centric bias (that’s where the show is located, so of course it’s going to reflect Toronto culture to a certain extent), gives me hope that bad pieces will be the exception for the show.  I love that a CBC Radio show addresses its shortcomings instead of ignores them.  It’s about damn time!

Speaking of Ghomeshi’s hosting style, it’s at least credible.  As CBC Radio personalities go, he’s professional enough – he genuinely seems to enjoy his job and doesn’t come across as forcing the pace or being obnoxious like other CBC Radio personalities (Sook-Yin Lee, I’m looking in your direction.)  This being CBC Radio One, there’s not much deviation from the standard CBC arts show template – contributor’s pieces, interviews with Canadian artists, music.  It’s the format most shows on CBC Radio use.  Hopefully Q will become more diverse in the weeks to come, because two pieces on Loreena McKennitt in five days really isn’t that adventurous.

Overall, Q is what I expected it to be – a few mistakes here and there, rough around the edges, not without dodgy interview subjects (Suzie McNeil from Rock Star: INXS and the Toronto performance of Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You, although that interview had good insight into how reality shows actually work.)  Still, as debuts go Q shows some promise.  It doesn’t stray far from the CBC/public radio mandate, but I like that the show has potential to cover territory unfamiliar to CBC Radio and I hope Q exploits that in the near future.

If only Q didn’t tell me how many letters are in its name, it’d be set.  That tagline is aging faster than Ra’s Al Ghul when he stops feeling the effects of the Lazarus Pit.

Q, CBC Radio One
Friday, 11:30 AM-12:00 NOON (limited run)

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