Torch Flashbacks WWE WRESTLEMANIA COUNTDOWN - 1998 PPV Report (WM 14): Steve Austin wins WWF Title, Undertaker vs. Kane, Mike Tyson, Pete Rose
Mar 17, 2010 - 12:00:52 PM
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Leading up to WrestleMania 26 on March 28 in Arizona, we will be publishing a daily WrestleMania PPV flashback report going back to 1992 at WrestleMania 8. We'll be publishing one PPV flashback report around 12:00 p.m. CST every afternoon until this year's WrestleMania.
-- Thursday, Mar. 11 - WrestleMania 8 (1992): Hogan vs. Sid, Warrior run-in
-- Friday, Mar. 12 - WrestleMania 9 (1993): Hart vs. Yokozuna, Hogan wins title
-- Saturday, Mar. 13 - WrestleMania 10 (1994): Razor vs. HBK, Bret vs. Owen
-- Sunday, Mar. 14 - WrestleMania 11 (1995): LT vs. Bigelow, Diesel vs. HBK
-- Monday, Mar. 15 - WrestleMania 12 (1996): HBK-Hart Iron Man match
-- Tuesday, Mar. 16 - WrestleMania 13 (1997): Hart vs. Austin, Sid vs. Taker
-- Wednesday, Mar. 17 - WrestleMania 14 (1998):
-- Thursday, Mar. 18 - WrestleMania 15 (1999):
-- Friday, Mar. 19 - WrestleMania 16 (2000):
-- Saturday, Mar. 20 - WrestleMania 17 (2001):
-- Sunday, Mar. 21 - WrestleMania 18 (2002):
-- Monday, Mar. 22 - WrestleMania 19 (2003):
-- Tuesday, Mar. 23 - WrestleMania 20 (2004):
-- Wednesday, Mar. 24 - WrestleMania 21 (2005):
-- Thursday, Mar. 25 - WrestleMania 22 (2006):
-- Friday, Mar. 26 - WrestleMania 23 (2007):
-- Saturday, Mar. 27 - WrestleMania 24 (2008):
-- Sunday, Mar. 28 - WrestleMania 25 (2009):
-- Sunday, Mar. 28 - WrestleMania 26 Live Coverage
WrestleMania PPV Flashback Report - WM 14 (1998)
March 29, 1998
Boston, Mass. at the Fleet Center
Report by Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
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TORCH NEWSLETTER COVER STORY
HEADLINE: Austin captures WWF Title from Michaels - Raw beats Nitro in first head-to-head hour and wins five of eight quarters; Michaels taking time off
Steve Austin captured the WWF Title from Shawn Michaels, as expected, at Wrestlemania XIV on Mar. 29 in Boston, Mass. at Fleet Center. Although the 20 minute match was good, it was hampered by Michaels's intense lower back pain which surfaced half way into the bout. Mike Tyson's involvement in the match was a bit anti-climatic, ending when he counted Michaels's shoulders down and raised Austin's hand after the bout. When Michaels confronted Tyson about counting the pinfall, Tyson KO'd him with a punch. The entire event drew rave reviews in the TORCH reader poll even though there arguably wasn't a match above four-stars on the entire card.
The preliminary buyrate estimates for the event are solid, ranging from 1.8 to 2.0, in the same range that Starrcade '97 drew three months earlier for WCW and well above what Wrestlemania drew last year. It was clear from what took place at Wrestlemania and the next day on Raw that there are no immediate plans to use Tyson in the future. Not only that, but Michaels has been entirely written out of the WWF storylines and Degeneration X now that he will take time off to let his lower back to heal, perhaps including having surgery.
The interest level was high enough to probably beat the Wrestlemania X buyrate of 1.7 four years ago, the last WWF pay-per-view to top the 1.5 percent level. The interest level the next day was high enough to almost propel Raw to a win over Nitro for the first time in nearly two years. Raw drew a 3.8 rating while Nitro in the two head-to-head hours drew a 4.0. Had Nitro not drawn a 4.4 and 4.5 during the final two quarters for its PPV caliber main events of Kevin Nash & Randy Savage vs. Sting & Lex Luger and Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper, Raw probably would have won the ratings battle. In fact, Raw outdrew Nitro in five of the eight head-to-head quarter hours.
Raw won the first quarter hour handily, 4.3 to 3.8, with the coronation of sorts of Steve Austin and the angle culminating in Austin giving Vince McMahon the Stone Cold Stunner. What's more surprising is that Raw beat Nitro in the next quarter hour also when Raw featured the Legion of Doom vs. Los Boricuas and Kurrgan vs. Chainz while Nitro featured an interview with Roddy Piper and Giant. Nitro won the third quarter hour thanks to a Hogan interview and his confrontation with Nash. Raw, though, won the final quarter of the first hour. Overall, Raw won the first head-to-head hour with a 4.0 compared to a 3.9 for Nitro.
The debut of Sean Waltman (who may end up being called X-Pac, but was simply referred to as "the kid" by Jim Ross) matched the rating Austin drew, a 4.3, beating Nitro by the same 0.5 margin. Raw then dropped to a 3.9, 3.0 and 3.2 in the final 45 minutes, while Nitro grew from a low point of 3.6 to a 4.4 and 4.5 to end the show. Nitro won the second head-to-head hour with a 4.1 compared to Raw's 3.6.
Overall, Nitro's three hours averaged a 4.2 rating and Raw's two hours a 3.8 rating. It's no surprise Raw drew such a strong rating the day after Wrestlemania with so much curiosity over whether Austin won the WWF Title and what Tyson's involvement was. Without a doubt, though, the acquisition of Waltman helped keep the ratings momentum going in the second hour. The gap will likely expand back to usual numbers next week without the intrigue of Wrestlemania, Tyson, and Waltman to boost Raw's ratings. However, WCW can't give much more away than they did on Nitro, featuring arguably the top six stars in the promotion in the two television main event matches.
With Michaels taking an indefinite leave from the WWF, the WWF's list of established main eventers is as low as it's ever been, yet business is at its highest level in ten years. The WWF will now rely on the new Degeneration X (now including Waltman, Road Dog, and Billy Gunn), the Austin-McMahon storyline, and the continuation of the Kane-Undertaker feud as the keys to continuing its momentum beyond Wrestlemania.
Depending on the price the WWF ended up actually paying Tyson (which will probably never be known for sure), the Tyson experiment may or may not have been a financial success. Unquestionably, though, his presence helped draw increased interest in the PPV and Raw.
KELLER'S MATCH REPORT & ANALYSIS
Attendance: 15,681 ($1,029,230)
FREE FOR ALL
Dok Hendrix [Michael Seitz] and Sunny [Tamara Sytch] hosted the "Free For All" pregame show. It's tough enough taking one of their overacting, patronizing personalities, but both at the same time? True torture. Kevin Kelly said that President Bill Clinton would be watching Wrestlemania live during his trip in South Africa. He said the President would be watching because Gennifer Flowers would be on the show. After a series of video features, Cole interviewed Hunter, Mike Tyson, and Chyna outside the locker room. Tyson said Austin would be going down.
MATCH BY MATCH ANALYSIS
The program began with Howard Finkle introducing The Degeneration X Band performing the "alternative version" of America the Beautiful. As is the case with just about any unknown band that plays live at a wrestling event, the DX band got booed out of the arena.
(1) The Legion of Doom [Michael Hegstrand & Joe Laurinaitis] (w/Sunny) eliminated The Midnight Express [William Robert Howard & Mike Plopcheck] to win a tag team battle royal and earn a tag title shot on Apr. 26 at the Unforgiven PPV. Competitors included The Head Bangers [Glen Ruth & Charles Warrington], Faarooq [Ron Simmons] & Kama [Charles Wright], D-Lo Brown [A.C. Connor] & Mark Henry [same], Jesus Castillo [same] & Jose Estrada [same], Savio Vega [Juan Rivera] & Miguel Perez [same], The Godwinns [Mark Canterbury & Dennis Knight], The Quebecers [Carl Oulett & Jacques Rougeau Jr.], Chainz [Brian Harris] & Bradshaw [John Leyfield], Flash Funk [Charles Skaggs] & Steve Blackman [same], The Midnight Express (w/Jim Cornette), The Rock & Roll Express [Rick Morton & Robert Gibson], Brian Christopher [Brian Lawler] & Scott Taylor [same], Skull & 8-Ball [Ron & Don Harris], and The Truth Commission. Savio & Miguel were eliminated at 1:00.
Kurrgan [Robert Mallay], who wasn't in the match, came to the ring and caused The Truth Commission to be eliminated next. Barry Windham [same], who wasn't officially in the battle royal, then ran to the ring and threw Chainz over the top rope. In nondescript fashion, a number of other teams were eliminated in rapid fashion. The entire match was built around re-establishing the LOD. They were growing their hair out. Animal wore short tights. Their shoulder pads were futuristic looking. To win the match, the LOD eliminated The Godwinns and Midnight Express. The fans "oohed and ahhed" for the LOD's power moves at the end. They chanted "LOD" after their win. (1/2*)
Kevin Kelly interviewed Honky Tonk Man [Roy Wayne Ferris] about hosting the WWF 900 line during the event. Highlights aired of the DX public workout the previous Thursday. They showed Michaels and Tyson kissing Austin on the forehead as he was tied up in the ropes. They showed Austin appearing on Regis & Kathy Lee on Friday. Footage aired of a few other WWF functions over the weekend. Ross talked about the 100 different reporters in attendance, including seven different London newspapers, the A.P. New York Times, Boston Herald, Philadelphia Daily News, and Sports Illustrated.
(2) Taka Michinoku [Takao Yoshida] beat Aguila at 5:58 to retain the WWF Light-Heavyweight Title. Aguila and Taka exchanged flying moves off the top rope to the floor in the opening two minutes. Fans applauded some of Aguila's acrobatic highspots and "oohed and ahhed" at other times. Fun to watch for the highspots,but not much of a storyline and no long term selling. They hit a few near falls in the final minute leading to Taka catching Aguila with a dropkick as Aguila came at him off the top rope, then hit the Michinoku Driver for the pin. It was good the WWF showed off some '90s cruiserweight athleticism to the expansive PPV audience, but not an outstanding match for its genre. (*3/4)
They went to a pre-taped segment with Gennifer Flowers interviewing Rocky Maivia. Rocky referred to himself in the third person as "The Rock" throughout the interview. Regarding the homeless problem in wrestling, Rocky said: "As long as The Rock still has his palatial palace on the South Beach in Miami, Florida, The Rock really couldn't give a damn whether they live in a Frigidare box or a Kenmore box as long as those homeless pieces of trash keep their homes off The Rock's freshly mowed grass."
Regarding the judicial system, The Rock said: "As long as all The Rock's fans across the country realize The Rock is the judge and the jury, everything should be fine. If The Rock were a jury, nine times out of ten, he'd be a hung jury (wink), if you smell what I'm cooking." He said if he ran the White House, as long as his interns didn't do anything "orally wrong," things would be just fine.
(3) Hunter Hearst Helmsley [Paul Levesque] (w/Chyna) beat Owen Hart [same] at 11:28 to retain the European Hvt. Title. The DX band played the DX theme song live as Hunter and Chyna came to the ring. It was surprising to see Hunter on so early in the card considering the next day he would become the new leader of DX. Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter handcuffed himself to Chyna at ringside to keep her from interfering. Owen limped to the ring. His severe ankle sprain had not healed completely and he had his cast taken off earlier that day. Chyna tried to hit Owen at ringside, but Slaughter yanked her away. Hunter leaped off the apron toward Owen, but Owen shoved him into the railing. At 1:45 Owen went for an early sharpshooter, but Hunter raked his eyes to escape. Owen suffered a cut over the bridge of his nose.
At 5:00 Hunter began to work over Owen's injured ankle, going for a few submission holds. At 7:20 Owen hit a top rope dropkick and scored a two count. At 10:00 Owen backdropped out of a Pedigree attempt by Hunter, then reversed it into a sharpshooter. Chyna helped Hunter reach the ropes to break the hold. Chyna threw powder in Slaughter's eyes. Hunter kneed Owen from behind. Chyna then gave Owen a low-blow. Hunter hit the Pedigree for the three count. Okay, especially considering Owen's tender ankle, but nothing special. (**)
(4) Marc Mero [same] & Sable [Rena Mero] beat Goldust [Dustin Runnels] & Luna [Luna Vachon] at 9:09 of a mixed tag match when Sable pinned Luna. In the first minute, the men tagged in the women. Sable chased Luna around the ring. Luna then tagged in Goldust before Sable could make contact with her. At 1:30 Sable tagged in, but Luna refused to tag in, too. At 3:45 Sable finally got her hands on Luna and took her hard to the mat and began slapping at her. The crowd popped huge. Sable threw some nice roundkicks at Luna in the corner to Luna's ribs and head. Sable gave Goldust a shot, then clotheslined Luna over the top rope. Already Sable showed more coordination than most recent American women wrestlers.
At 5:40 Goldust set up the Curtain Call, but Mero escaped and kneelifted Goldust. Mero hit a moonsault bodyblock and scored a near fall. Mero hit a top rope huracanrana for another near fall. Goldust bumped Luna off the ring apron accidentally, then Mero rolled him up for a near fall. Mero gave Goldust his TKO finisher at 7:25 and got absolutely no pop. Luna interrupted the pinfall attempt by raking Mero's back. Mero tagged in Sable who covered the KO'd Goldust, but the ref was late getting in position to make the count. Luna then jumped off the top rope, but Sable moved and Luna hit Goldust. Sable then powerbombed Luna for a near fall. Fans chanted "Sable, Sable." Sable reversed Luna into a TKO and scored the clean three count. Good match. Mero celebrated as if he won the match himself. Sable looked upset at Mero. (**1/2)
Tennessee Lee introduced Jeff Jarrett and Gennifer Flowers, who walked to the ring together. Ross wondered if Double J and Flowers had spent the weekend together "socializing." Jarrett asked if he was great and Gennifer said he is. She then did ring announcing for the next match.
(5) Rocky Maivia [Duane Johnson] (w/Faarooq, Kama Mustafa, D-Lo Brown, Mark Henry) beat Ken Shamrock [same] via reversed decision to retain the Intercontinental Title at 4:49. Shamrock charged the aisleway to the ring to start the match and agressively attacked Rocky. Rocky began retreating to the locker room, but Shamrock caught up with him. Rocky took over offense at 2:00. At 3:45 Shamrock brought a chair into the ring for no apparent reason.
When the ref tried to stop him, he shoved the ref. When he turned around, Rocky nailed him with a stiff chairshot. When Rocky went for the pin, Shamrock kicked out with authority. Shamrock snapped and hit a powerslam and a belly-to-belly, then applied his anklelock submission for a clean tapout win. After the match the NOD attacked him, so he gave them belly-to-belly suplexes. Then he reapplied an anklelock. At that point, the referee reversed his decision and gave Rocky the win via DQ.
Mark Henry entered the ring and Shamrock gave him a belly-to-belly which popped the crowd. Shamrock reapplied the anklelock. Faarooq then ran to the ring, but as he was about to save Rocky, he stopped short and left. Rocky, bleeding from the mouth, screamed for help. WWF referees and officials stepped into the ring to calm Shamrock, but he snapped and suplexed four of them.
Shamrock charged after the "uncessarily slow moving stretcher" and attacked Rocky again. He held up the IC belt and the crowd popped. I like Shamrock's out-of-control, can-snap-anytime gimmick. Shamrock is coming along very quickly as a good worker. Rocky has a ways to go (especially his punches), but he sold well and is refining his persona. Why was the match so short? (**1/4)
Ross announced the attendance and box office receipt total and said it was the largest in the history of Boston.
(6) Cactus Jack [Mick Foley] & Terry Funk [same] beat The New Age Outlaws [Brian James & Monte Sopp] in a dumpster match to capture the WWF Tag Team Titles at 9:45. Road Dogg had "Dogg 4:20" painted on the back of his t-shirt. The only way to win the match was to dump your opponents into the dumpster. At 1:40 Cactus flipped off the apron and when Dogg moved, he hit the side of the dumpster and took a nasty bump. Gunn backdropped Funk into the steel dumpster. Dogg gave Cactus a Russian legsweep into the wall of the dumpster. Cool move. To continue the streak of apparent hardway bleeding, Bad Ass bled from his nose. Cactus put the Mandible Claw on both Dogg and Gunn as he crawled out of the dumpster.
Funk nailed the Outlaws with a cookie sheet. At 6:00 Cactus brought a ladder into the ring. Cactus and Bad Ass climbed the ladder. Road Dogg knocked Funk into the ladder; the ladder tipped over and dropped Cactus and Bad Ass into the dumpster. The Outlaws powerbombed Funk into the dumpster (where Funk suffered his back injury). The Outlaws fought Cactus all the way backstage. Cactus held his own and DDT'd Bad Ass onto a forklift. He threw Road Dogg onto Bad Ass. Funk drove the forklift and dropped the wrestlers into the dumpster and closed the lids for the win. Fun brawl that wasn't so campy that it diminished the legitimate violence. (***)
(7) Undertaker [Mark Calaway] pinned Kane [Glen Jacobs] (w/Paul Bearer) at 16:57. Pete Rose was guest ring announcer. He turned heel on the Boston fans, talking about how the Red Sox can't win a World Series. Fans booed. When Kane entered the ring, he piledrove Rose and the crowd popped. Although the move will get Kane some mainstream publicity, it was bizarre taking a hardcore heel like Kane and turning him babyface for the fans before his match. Undertaker's ring entrance was spectacular with a dozen or so torches being held over him as he made his way to the ring. They began with a staredown. They exchanged punches, and Undertaker got the early advantage. At 1:00 Undertaker no-sold a Kane clothesline.
Kane dominated offense from there, including bashing Undertaker with the ring stairs and chokeslamming him in the ring. He covered Undertaker at 7:30, but at the count of two he lifted him by the hair and went to a chinlock. After Undertaker escaped, Kane put on a headlock. At 10:50 Undertaker finally escaped the headlockAt 11:15, in a spectacular spot, Undertaker flew over the top rope and aimed for Kane, but instead crashed through the Spanish broadcasting table. Back in the ring Kane hit Undertaker with a flying clothesline.
At 15:00 Undertaker chokeslammed and piledrove Kane, but Kane kicked out. Undertaker followed up with a legdrop, but Kane sat up. Undertaker hit another tombstone for a two count, but Kane again kicked out. Ross sold it as being unprecedented. Undertaker hit a top rope clothesline, then hit a third tombstone and scored a three count. Kane attacked Undertaker with a chair afterward and tombstoned him on the chair. Undertaker eventually sat up and walked to the back. The long chinlock mid-match killed any momentum, and the pace was too slow as it was. There were some nice spots and a nice finishing sequence, though, and the storyline overall was sound. (*1/4)
(8) Steve Austin [Steve Williams] pinned Shawn Michaels [Michael Hickebottom] (w/Hunter, Chyna) to capture the WWF Hvt. Title at 20:01. A well-produced video aired before the match. Mike Tyson came to the ring first wearing a DX t-shirt and doing the X-chop. They showed Marvin Hagler at ringside. They did the backstage camera shot of each wrestler before they made their entrance, which is always a welcome production touch. Tyson got in Austin's face as soon as he entered the ring. Michaels dedicated the match to "Earl" (Hebner) before the match. The crowd chants of "Austin" were thunderous. Tyson swiped at Austin's legs as Austin circled the ring at the start of the match. Ross did a great job setting up the prestige of the match.
Austin took early advantage. When Michaels tried to escape, Austin yanked on his tights, mooning the crowd. Austin backdropped Michaels over the top rope onto Hunter at ringside. Hunter nailed Austin from behind and rammed him into the railing. The referee ordered Hunter and Chyna to leave the ringside area. Tyson almost came to blows with Hunter when they bumped into each other. The crowd popped. At 3:15 Austin threw Hunter onto the DX band set. Michaels used cymbals against Austin as a weapon and whipped him into the dumpster.
At 4:45 Michaels took a hard flip bump into the corner turnbuckle. Michaels escaped an attempted Stone Cold Stunner at 6:00. Austin knocked Michaels off the ring apron and Michaels bumped head-first into the ringside desk. At 8:25 Michaels backdropped Austin over the railing into the crowd, but may have agravated his back in the process. He hit Austin with the ring bell. Back in the ring Michaels began favoring his back and wincing in pain. He showed frustration with his lack of physical ability to perform at 100 percent. From this point on, Michaels's performance was an incredible display of guts.
At 10:15 fans began taunting Tyson with a chant of "Holyfield," which didn't seem to please Michaels as he gave the crowd a double finger in reponse and spit at them. That gave Austin a chance to tackle and punch away at Michaels, which popped the crowd. Austin threw Michaels over the top rope to the floor. An amazing bump for someone with incredible lower back pain. Michaels rammed Austin's leg into the ringpost. Michaels could barely crawl through the ropes at 12:00 to reenter the ring. He had to pause and lean on the ropes to rest his back spasms. Michaels yelled at Ross at ringside and it didn't seem to be friendly words. They turned down the ringside mic so he couldn't be heard.
At 13:00 Michaels was almost in tears as he worked over Austin's legs. Michaels slidekicked Austin into the announcing desk. Tyson threw Austin back into the ring. When Austin looked at Tyson, Michaels clipped his legs from behind. Michaels then applied a figure-four. Michaels pulled on the ropes for leverage. At 16:15 Austin reversed the hold. Austin catapulted Michaels into the top turnbuckle and scored a near fall. Michaels came back with a sleeper right away.
Austin backed Michaels into the corner to escape, but sandwiched the referee in the process. Austin took over offense, but after a duck-under, Michaels nailed him with a flying forearm. Michaels couldn't elevate on the move because of his back. Michaels crawled to the top rope and hit a top rope elbow, then signalled for Chin Music. He stomped in the corner and went for the kick, but Austin ducked. Austin went for a quick stunner, but Michaels shoved him into the ropes.
On the rebound, Michaels went for a superkick, but Austin blocked it and gave Michaels the stunner. Tyson quickly entered the ring and made the three count. Tyson held Austin's arm in the air immediately. A minute later Tyson held up an Austin 3:16 t-shirt. Michaels stood up and shook his head in anger at Tyson. Michaels trash talked Tyson, then poked his chest. When he took a swing, Tyson floored Michaels with a right.
The crowd popped. Neither of the two slo-mo camera angles showed whether Tyson actually missed or hit Michaels. Most of the match was great, but Michaels's back hampered the pacing in the last half. This match showed that Austin is a virtually fully functioning wrestler again, which is amazing considering that he was close to retiring six months ago due to his severe neck injury. It's also still scary beause he could take a "wrong" bump at any time, but he seems to be effectively avoiding the most high-risk neck-compression bumps that doctors told him are most dangerous. The finishing sequence was well conceived and well executed. The Tyson factor at the end was a bit underexplained, but it made sense they'd "turn him babyface" before he left for boxing again.
The clean pinfall counts for something, too. Both wrestlers showed they have pride in not just fan pops, gate receipts, buyrate levels, and merchandise sales, but actually delivering in the ring and taking chances to put on a great performance. They clearly wanted to show the low expecations were unwarranted. What could this match have been if the wrestlers were both 100 percent? Ross came through with his traditional untouchable big match performance, elevating the match a level higher than it was. (***3/4)
Overall, a strong event with nothing especially bad and quite a bit that was good. The variety of match styles, the celebrity presense, and the big show atmosphere all added to the overall event.
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PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. PWTorch.com launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.
He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.
He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).
He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
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