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WWE kicks off 2016 with a WWE Title match between Roman Reigns and Sheamus with Mr. McMahon as special referee. Plus, more from San Antonio, Texas….
WWE Raw TV Report
January 4, 2016 – Episode #1,180
Live in San Antonio, Tex.
Report by James Caldwell (@JCTorch), PWTorch assistant editor
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- WWE Title match: Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus with Mr. McMahon as special referee
- Big Show vs. Ryback
- Divas champion Charlotte (w/Ric Flair) vs. Becky Lynch in a non-title match
Raw opened with a recap of how tonight’s show arrived at Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus for the WWE Title with Mr. McMahon as special referee.
In the arena, Michael Cole introduced the show before Stephanie McMahon’s music played to a soft reaction. Stephanie bounced out on-stage, but her entrance was suddenly interrupted by The Shield theme to produce WWE World champion Roman Reigns atop the arena. Reigns and Steph continued their respective paths down to ringside, meeting on the floor. Reigns smirked at Stephanie, then walked right past her into the ring. Steph eventually walked into the ring.
In the ring, Reigns told Steph: “I don’t think we need you out here.” He said this is about him and her dad. Reigns growled toward the entrance ramp that he wants to talk to Vince right now. Steph stepped into Reigns’s line of sight, telling him that Vince is not here right now, but he will be here tonight to ref his title match against Sheamus.
Reigns said this is not a joke. He said if he loses the WWE Title, then he doesn’t have a job anymore. And then he cannot provide for his family. The crowd was quiet for what came across like a sob story. Reigns said this title is his life and it is his family. He said no one is taking it away from him. Steph mocked the sob story, then asked the crowd if they think Roman is going to beat Sheamus tonight. The crowd cheered, then broke into some “Yes!” chants.
Steph told the crowd that all they do is hold onto hope and they get through the day-to-day by hoping that something is going to be different. She said “hope” is not a strategy and no one competes and wins against Vince McMahon. Steph told Reigns that Vince is the boss and Reigns is “the help,” something the people here understand.
Steph said when Reigns loses the title to Sheamus tonight, she is going to use Reigns, work him up and down the road, and use up his body until he can’t go anymore when the audience forgets his name. Reigns cut off Steph when she went after Reigns’s father. He told her to worry about his father, but her father. Reigns said she will be picking up his father from the hospital, not jail, if he screws him out of the title tonight. “Believe that,” Reigns said and dropped the mic. Steph sold being stunned that Reigns keeps talking back to her.
Announcers: Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton were shown on-camera to react to the promo and switch gears to the Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens feud.
On cue, Dean Ambrose’s music played. Out came Ambrose, who was not dressed to wrestle. But, close to it. Ambrose walked past Reigns and knocked fists on the way to the ring. Cole said Ambrose will be on commentary for Owens vs. Neville next.
[Q2] [Commercial Break at 8:14]
Next Monday: Brock Lesnar is back. WWE played audio of a crowd chanting “Suplex City” to prepare the way for Lesnar’s return.
In-ring: Kevin Owens was introduced to the ring back from break, followed by Neville, who beat Owens in less-than-a-minute last week, setting up a giant beat down from Owens. To sell the beat down, Neville came to the ring sporting taped ribs.
1 — KEVIN OWENS vs. NEVILLE
As soon as the bell sounded, Neville charged Owens with a dropkick, then nailed a flip dive on the floor. Neville, angry, smashed Owens into the barricade on the way back into the ring. Neville landed another dropkick and Owens rolled to the floor to recover. Neville then measured Owens for a huge Shooting Star Press onto a standing Owens on the floor.
“Neville, Neville” chant as Neville climbed back into the ring, where he was met with a big kick to the injured ribs. The crowd broke into a dueling chant heading to break.
[Commercial Break at 8:21]
Back from break, Neville just barely broke a ten-count back into the ring for the match to continue. Neville, now wrestling without the tape on his ribs, smashed Owens with a kick to the gut. As Owens rested on the outside, Neville balanced himself on the ring apron and nailed a 450 splash right on the floor, wowing Ambrose on commentary.
Back in the ring, Neville put Owens on the top turnbuckle, but Owens slipped underneath him and hung Neville upside down in the corner. Owens delivered a big cannonball splash to Neville’s exposed mid-section, then snapped off a Pop-up Powerbomb. Owens pinned Neville for the win.
WINNER: Owens at 9:15. Stand-out effort from Neville going all-out before taking the loss. Good work from everyone, including Dean on commentary.
Post-match, Ambrose called out to Owens on commentary, telling him he knows where to find the IC champion. Owens left ringside, then turned around and walked back to Neville, looking to punish him some more. That brought Ambrose through the ropes with a flying suicide dive to Owens.
[Q3] But, Owens blasted Ambrose toward the other side of the ringside area toward the announce table. Owens cleared the announce table looking to put Ambrose through the table like last week, but Ambrose reversed momentum and slammed Owens onto the table. Ambrose then flew off the guardrail with a big splash sending Owens through the table. Ambrose shouted in Owens’s ear that if he wants a title shot, he knows where to find him. “Ambrose, Ambrose!” chant as Dean held up the IC Title belt to celebrate with the front-row fans.
Parking Garage: A limo pulled up in the parking garage to produce Mr. McMahon. JoJo asked McMahon for comment on what happened last week when he was arrested. McMahon said it’s a new year, so why live in the past? Plus, he can afford a really good attorney. He said that’s funny because tonight, he is the law in the WWE Title match. McMahon smirked and stomped off.
[Commercial Break at 8:34]
Back from break, the Prime Time Players theme was playing. “Stardust” Cody Rhodes was in the ring resting on the mat while Titus O’Neil prepared to fight.
2 — TITUS O’NEIL vs. STARDUST
O’Neil beat up Stardust, having a good time doing it. Stardust dropped his pre-match casual attitude and angrily fought back, driving Titus to the mat. Stardust maintained control by targeting Titus’s knee, but he lost focus when the crowd taunted him with “Cody, Cody” chants. Titus then clotheslined Stardust and followed with a big boot. Clash of the Titus followed for the pin and the win. Jovial Titus celebrated the win.
WINNER: Titus O’Neil at 4:16.
Announcers: Cole and Co. pitched WWE Network, including a trial month for new subscribers, making the Royal Rumble available for free.
Backstage: Becky Lynch was warming up backstage when Divas champion Charlotte walked up to her. Charlotte asked Becky if she asked for their match tonight. Becky said no, but she likes the idea of a re-match to see if she can beat Charlotte. Charlotte wasn’t so convinced since she already beat her a few weeks ago. Ric Flair walked in and wooo’ed right in Becky’s ear. The spirit of competition … or dirty heel tactics tonight on Raw.
[Q4] [Commercial Break at 8:45]
In-ring: Divas champion Charlotte was introduced to the ring flanked by papa Ric Flair. Meanwhile, Cole hyped Smackdown to USA Network this week. Cole said Byron Saxton will be part of the announce table, which will replace Booker T, who returned to the Raw pre-show on WWE Network today. Becky Lynch was out next to face Charlotte.
3 — Divas champion CHARLOTTE (w/Ric Flair) vs. BECKY LYNCH — non-title match
The friends and former stablemates played it straight-up early on with back-and-forth exchanges. Flair did a strut down at ringside to get into the match, then Becky knocked down Charlotte with some aggression. Becky helped her up to keep everything cool, but Charlotte exploded on her with forearms until the ref broke it up. Becky angrily fought back as Raw cut to break.
[Commercial Break at 8:55]
[Q5 — second hour] At the top of the hour, Becky found herself trapped on Charlotte’s shoulders for a potentially devastating move, but Becky wiggled free and got a two count on a roll-up. Becky landed near the ropes, where Ric Flair grabbed Becky’s foot. Charlotte tried to capitalize by rolling up Becky, but Becky reversed and used Flair’s tactics hooking the tights for a three count on Charlotte.
Post-match, Becky celebrated as Flair wildly threw his jacket around out of frustration seeing the tables turned. Charlotte stood up in the background and angrily charged Becky with a knee to the back. Charlotte followed with a beat down as Flair encouraged her to keep it up. The Flairs left the ring as Becky recovered from her bittersweet win.
WINNER: Becky at 10:46. Apparently this is a complete heel turn for Charlotte, as WWE keeps Paige out of the picture. The story is more about Charlotte than Becky, so there’s a 50/50 shot of this turning out with the babyface, Becky, realizing she doesn’t need to use the Flairs’s own dirty heel tactics to overcome them.
Authority Office: Mr. McMahon yelled at a backstage worker to just do his job. Sheamus walked in to talk with McMahon about the WWE Title match tonight. McMahon wanted to go over some pre-match instructions. No outside interference, no foreign objects, no gouging, and no low blows. Above all else, obey his commands. Sheamus was taken aback. “May the luck of the Irish be with you,” McMahon smiled. Sheamus smiled back.
Still to come: Reigns vs. Sheamus with McMahon as special referee.
[Commercial Break at 9:05. A local spot for WWE in Houston this Friday hyped Del Rio vs. Cena for the U.S. Title and Brock Lesnar vs. Sheamus.]
In-ring: Ryback was introduced to the ring as Cole noted that Ryback is official for the Royal Rumble in three weeks. Big Show was out next for a re-match from last week’s Raw.
4 — BIG SHOW vs. RYBACK
Ryback knocked down Big Show in the opening seconds, then called for the end. But, Big Show pushed him off the ropes and nailed a chokeslam. Big Show then throat-pressed Ryback over the top rope for a Royal Rumble elimination teaser.
Suddenly, the Wyatt theme interrupted. When the lights came back on, the quartet of Bray, Braun Strowman, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan were standing around Ryback at ringside. They proceeded to beat down Ryback (with no bell sounding) while Big Show watched from the ring with hands on hips. Show wasn’t sure whether to enjoy his opponent being dismantled or be mad about them interrupting his match. Braun applied his lame bearhug squeeze on Ryback, then stood over him on the floor.
Suddenly, the Wyatts directed their attention toward Big Show. The quartet surrounded Show, who remained standing in the middle of the ring. Show decided to attack before being attacked, then he came face-to-face with bug-eyed Strowman. Big Show got caught up in the showdown and was blindsided by the other Wyatts. The Wyatts left Show out cold in the ring. Bray then stopped to yell at the crowd that they are war, death, and pestilence. Bray said at the Royal Rumble match, they will ride and the others will all fall down. The henchmen held up upside-down four fingers as Raw cut to break.
WINNER: No result around 1:20 when the interruption happened.
[Q6] [Commercial Break at 9:16]
Back from break, the generic League of Nations music produced Rusev and U.S. champion Alberto Del Rio for tag action. Lana did not accompany Rusev for official League business. Meanwhile, Cole plugged Brock Lesnar at the Toyota Center in Houston this Friday night. The Usos were then introduced as the League’s opponents.
5 — U.S. champion ALBERTO DEL RIO & RUSEV vs. THE USOS (JIMMY & JEY USO)
Weird start to the match with the two teams playing games in a neutral corner, drawing over the ref the get two teams on each side of the ring. Meanwhile, the crowd noticed Lana’s absence, chanting “We Want Lana.” Rusev and Del Rio slowed the pace isolating Jimmy Uso, then Jey came in with a top-rope double axehandle smash. The heels used their numbers, though, and Rusev suplexed Uso off the top rope to the mat. Raw cut to break with the League in control.
[Commercial Break at 9:27]
[Q7] Back from break, Rusev landed a standing dropkick to Uso. Meanwhile, a chant for Lana picked up, then quickly faded out. Del Rio and Rusev continued to work over Jey, who finally surprised Rusev with a Samoan Drop. Jimmy got a tag and nearly accidentally pinned Del Rio, who kicked out right at three.
Jimmy followed with a kick to the head before going to the top, but Del Rio cut him off and hung him upside down in the corner. Del Rio wanted his two-foot stomp, but Uso ducked. Superkick to Del Rio, tag to Jey, and top-rope Superfly Splash, but Rusev broke up a pin. After chaos broke out, Del Rio grabbed Jey and posted him shoulder-first. Del Rio then hit a double foot stomp to the shoulder and pinned him for the win.
WINNERS: Del Rio & Rusev at 13:21. Del Rio looked good in the second-half of the match after this started out as subtraction by addition – Del Rio and Rusev are just better as singles wrestlers. Also of note, no sign of John Cena after Del Rio retained the U.S. Title over Cena with a DQ loss last week.
[Commercial Break at 9:38]
Back from break, Dolph Ziggler was introduced to the ring. In an inset promo, Ziggler entered himself in the Royal Rumble. Heath Slater’s music then produced Slater, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, and Adam Rose. Apparently it’s Superstars & Main Event invading Raw, tired of being relegated to the prelims.
6 — DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. HEATH SLATER (w/Adam Rose, Curtis Axel, and Bo Dallas)
The crowd didn’t know what to make of the lower-card guys hanging around ringside as Slater tried to match Ziggler move-for-move in the ring. Ziggler then rolled up Slater for a two count as the crowd remained quiet.
[Q8] Slater went for some sort of weird standing move, which Dolph turned into a roll-up for a two count. Dolph followed with a leaping elbow drop. Meanwhile, Bo made strange bird noises off-camera from ringside, keeping the crowd quiet. The announcers didn’t know what to do with this match as Slater slowed the pace with rudimentary wrestling. Dolph finally had enough and snapped off a DDT. Dolph went HBK in Shawn Michaels tuning up the band, which brought Rose on the ring apron. Dolph, distracted, got rolled up by Slater for the pin and the win.
WINNER: Slater at 4:36. Man, that was bad. The group is self-acknowledged as lame, Slater has regressed in the ring, and Dolph is just a guy now. The crowd didn’t care. Only in the three-hour Raw era or the end of WCW would something like this make air.
Post-match, Slater celebrated on the stage with his new friends. Adam Rose growled into the mic that they’re “ready to riiiiiiide.” Curtis Axel didn’t know what Rose said, so he grabbed the mic and shouted that the chains are off. Bo calmed him down, then tried to inspire talking about standing together as one. Slater called them the “Social Outcasts.”
[ Reax: Did WWE sit around one day looking at how lame the roster is and decide they need to help everyone by forming groups? It’s like a bunch of bad Survivor Series teams. ]
Backstage: Bouncing down the hallway, WWE tag champions New Day played their instruments in people’s ears to massive laughter.
Stone Cold Plug: Steve Austin interviews Ric Flair on the next Stone Cold Podcast next Monday after Raw on WWE Network.
[Commercial Break at 9:51]
Smackdown plug: Dean Ambrose defends the IC Title against Kevin Owens again on Smackdown. Plus, Becky Lynch challenges Charlotte for the Divas Title. It’s this Thursday on the new home, USA Network.
Locker Room: Mr. McMahon walked up to Roman Reigns, who a few hours ago growled about wanting a piece of McMahon. Now, he backed down as McMahon told him the pre-title match rules against Sheamus.
In-ring: New Day’s music played to produce the tag champions. Big E. talked on the way to the ring about 2016 being a magical year. And, it all starts tonight when they break Kalisto and the Dudleys. Xavier Woods spoke that they are going to re-create Mike Tyson falling down on a hoverboard. People on the front row in the background just hung their heads or checked their phones as the skit went on. Kofi Kingston then presented a present on the video screen. Eventually, a countdown clock started.
Suddenly, the countdown clock was interrupted by Chris Jericho’s trademark graphics and music. Cole welcomed everyone to 2016 as Jericho emerged on-stage in street clothes looking tired with a scraggly beard, light-up jacket, vest, and jeans. From the stage, Jericho pointed toward New Day and then the crowd, which needed some urging to pick up a “Y2J” chant.
[Q9 — third hour] Jericho welcomed everyone to Raw is Jericho. He said he is Chris Jericho, the party host and one of the most charismatic showmen in WWE history. Jericho did his routine to a light reaction, then noted he has returned to WWE 16 years later to save WWE. Jericho said all of WWE’s business metrics need a boost, flashing back to his August 1999 promo we highlighted a week ago.
New Day claimed they already saved WWE, but Jericho said WWE needs some saving, so he is entering the Royal Rumble. Jericho continued to try to re-create the WWF Raw debut promo opposite The Rock putting everyone in the ring, behind the scenes, and in the production truck on notice. Jericho said things will never, ever be the same again. Jericho’s music immediately played after he signed off.
[Commercial Break at 10:06]
Back from break, New Day was still hanging out in the ring. Lucha Dragons’s music produced Kalisto. After WWE highlighted Sin Cara injuring his shoulder, the Dudleys were out next to join Kalisto. Meanwhile, Cole announced Dean Ambrose on ESPNews SportsCenter tomorrow with The Coach.
7 — WWE tag champions NEW DAY (BIG E. & KOFI KINGSTON & XAVIER WOODS) vs. KALISTO & THE DUDLEYS (BUBBA RAY & DEVON DUDLEY) — six-man tag match
Xavier and Kalisto started the match. But, Xavier shouted that he wants Bubba Ray. Kalisto obliged as Cole referred to events on Smackdown when Xavier went through a table. Xavier landed a chop, which Bubba shook off. Bubba then smacked Xavier hard across the chest, bringing in Kofi as Xavier tried to catch his breath. Bubba dominated Kofi, too, and delivered a delayed vertical suplex.
[Q10] Kalisto tagged in as the crowd chanted for tables, which would not exactly work in this match setting. Suddenly, New Day spilled out of the ring needing to set up a pre-commercial spot. Bubba picked up Kalisto and tossed him out of the ring, splashing all three New Day members. Cole went to break.
[Commercial Break at 10:16]
Back from break, the action picked up with wrestlers in and out of the ring from both sides. But, Xavier tripped Kalisto from the outside, allowing Big E. to land a big belly splash on Kalisto as he hung across the ring apron. Big E. celebrated while Kalisto sold injured ribs on the floor.
Back in the ring, Kalisto fought back against the tag champs, then finally made the hot tag to Devon. Back-elbow smashes to Xavier, then a flying shoulder tackle. Kofi wanted some, so Devon dropped him with a spinebuster. Suddenly, Xavier tried to roll up Devon, but he kicked out, then tagged in Bubba. Bubba Ray smashed each New Day member, tributed Dusty Rhodes in Texas, and hit the full-nelson slam on Xavier, but Big E. broke up the pin.
Kalisto knocked Big E. out of the ring, then tried a suicide dive, but Big E. caught him in mid-air and slammed him into the guardrail. Back in the ring, the Dudleys wanted What’s Up on Kofi, but Xavier blocked it. Chaos broke out, then Kofi and Big E. combined for their double-team finisher on Devon for the pin and the win.
WINNERS: New Day at 16:37. Exciting second-half to the match.
Up Next: The WWE Title match. Interesting that there have been no signs of John Cena tonight.
[Q11] [Commercial Break at 10:30]
Next Monday: Brock Lesnar returns.
Announcers: Cole and Co. hyped WWE Network launching in Japan today (the day after New Japan’s Tokyo Dome Show). With NXT being such an important part of the Network, WWE needs more Japanese stars, which is why they recruited KENTA (Hideo Itami) and are now locked in on Big Three New Japan star Shinsuke Nakamura.
Video Package: WWE went back to last week when Mr. McMahon was arrested, then booked Reigns against Sheamus for the WWE Title with himself as special referee.
In-ring: Mr. McMahon was introduced to the ring as special referee for the main event title match. McMahon went with a sleeveless zebra shirt, which put his veins on display underneath pasty skin. McMahon directed Lilian Garcia introducing him, then McMahon raised his arm in the air and put on a goofy facial expression. McMahon paced the ring as Raw cut to break.
[Commercial Break at 10:42]
[Q12] Smackdown plug: Cole reiterated the IC Title and Divas Title matches set for the Smackdown on USA Network debut this Thursday night.
Back in the ring, McMahon proudly flexed his nasty-looking arms like a heel, then Sheamus’s music played to bring out the challenger. Sheamus posed in the ring to McMahon’s approval, then the crowd went quiet. After a pause, The Shield’s music played to bring out the WWE World champion Roman Reigns through the crowd. Reigns slowly marched down to ringside, then entered the ring as McMahon welcomed him in. Lilian Garcia handled formal ring introductions. Hardly any reaction for Sheamus, then a light, but positive reaction for Reigns.
Before the bell sounded, McMahon asked for the title belt. Reigns played games with him, chuckling to himself. McMahon eventually got into a tug-of-war, so Sheamus blasted Reigns from behind and McMahon called for the bell.
8 — WWE champion ROMAN REIGNS vs. SHEAMUS — WWE World Hvt. Title match — Mr. McMahon as special referee
Sheamus went for a pin 20 seconds in and McMahon fast-counted a nearfall. Sheamus and Reigns then blasted each other out of the ring. Both sold on the floor as McMahon stood in the ring watching instead of counting. McMahon then walked across the ring pretending to express a concern to the timekeeper as Sheamus picked up ring steps and smashed Reigns with the stairs. McMahon turned back around to chat with Sheamus as Raw cut to break.
[Commercial Break at 10:52]
Back from break, McMahon was enjoying watching Sheamus wear down Reigns. Sheamus the lined up Reigns for forearm strikes to the back as McMahon savored each blow. Reigns fought back with uppercuts, but walked into a sleeperhold, but Reigns countered with a back drop. McMahon yelled at Sheamus to fight back as Reigns went on the offensive. Reigns nailed his two-foot dropkick to Sheamus’s head into a Samoan Drop, then McMahon very slowly counted to two on a pin attempt.
Reigns angrily glared toward McMahon, then powered Sheamus to the mat. Reigns had a pin, Sheamus remained pinned, and McMahon suddenly had an eye problem in-between two and three. McMahon asked for some eye drops, then Reigns slowly stood up and contemplated retaliating, but opted to hit Sheamus with the Superman Punch. McMahon didn’t even count on this pin attempt.
[Q13 — over-run] Cole reset as Reigns slowly stood up to face McMahon. Reigns seethed, then they set up an awkward deal where Reigns nailed McMahon with a Superman Punch. Reigns avoided a Brogue Kick, then nailed a spear on Sheamus. Reigns covered Sheamus, but McMahon was KO’ed. Reigns yelled for another referee to show up, but no one came out.
Meanwhile, Sheamus rolled out of the ring, where he got punished again by Reigns. Reigns then saw McMahon wake up in the ring. Reigns climbed back into the ring and pushed down McMahon before McMahon could leave. Reigns stalked McMahon, then he grabbed him around the throat. Reigns started to lose control of himself, then Stephanie McMahon’s music played.
Stephanie bounced down to the stage concerned about her dad’s well-being. Steph yelled at Reigns not to do anything to her father. Meanwhile, McMahon got up, so Reigns shoved Vince into Steph, bouncing both of them off the ropes into the ring. Reigns then stalked Stephanie out of the ring. Vince got up o the other side of the ring, then Reigns went for the big spear on Vince, but Sheamus smashed him with a kick to the head. Sheamus then Brogue-Kicked Reigns and pinned him, but McMahon struggled to move his arm to make a count. Or something. Suddenly, old Authority referee Scott Armstrong ran down to the ring and counted a nearfall for Sheamus. Armstrong freaked out when he did not register a three, apologizing to Sheamus.
Reigns then knocked out Armstrong as McMahon continued to sell on the floor. Another referee, John Cone, then ran down to the ring as Reigns speared Sheamus and covered him. Cone registered a three count for Reigns to get the win.
WINNER: Reigns at 18:20 to retain the WWE World Title. A lot of smoke & mirrors to this one, including several incredibly awkward McMahon Moments for the tape library.
Post-match, McMahon checked his jaw on the floor while Stephanie checked on him. Vince then punched out referee John Cone. McMahon took the mic and sarcastically said there’s the champion, Roman Reigns. He said Reigns will defend the WWE Title next at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. And, it will be inside the Royal Rumble match against 29 other wrestlers. Flair & Charlotte smirked, then Reigns winced in pain as the announcement and effects of the match against Sheamus settled in. Raw signed off nine minutes past the top of the hour.
No John Cena on Raw tonight. And, he was not really promoted much for the Smackdown debut on USA Network this Thursday.
[ Reax: So, either Reigns wins the Rumble a second year in a row, with WWE hoping for a better crowd response in Orlando, or they have someone else win the Rumble to set up Reigns’s re-match at Fast Lane and/or WrestleMania. Also, if Reigns wins the Rumble, then WWE has to find another way to determine his title challenger at WrestleMania, like at Fast Lane. Or, they just name someone. All of this seems like WWE trying to plow through some booking issues that we’ve talked about on the Livecast the last few weeks while re-arranging the WrestleMania line-up. ]
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