LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 1/17: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Reigns vs. Roode tables match to choose Rumble stip, Big E vs. Morrison, Kane returns, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor



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LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JANUARY 17, 2020
GREENSBORO, NC AT GREENSBORO COLISEUM
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show began with the standard Smackdown video package and a display of pyro. The camera switched to a wide shot of the Greensboro Coliseum as Michael Cole welcomed the audience to the show. Corey Graves previewed the Roman Reigns vs. Robert Roode tables match for later in the night. Cole talked up John Morrison’s return to action against Big E. They also mentioned that Lacey Evans is scheduled to face Sasha Banks again.

-The arena fell into a red glow and fire burst from the stage as Kane’s music played and he walked to the ring. His appearance was teased on WWE social media earlier in the day. Cole and Graves talked up Kane’s accolades, specifically as they relate to the Royal Rumble match.

Kane discussed the Royal Rumble match, saying that the competitors go through hell but have a chance at immortality. Kane said he understands how important the match is, holding the record for most eliminations in match history. Kane said WrestleMania dreams turn into nightmares because of him. “It was a lot of fun,” Kane laughed.

He was interrupted by the title card for Firefly Fun House. Bray Wyatt appeared on the tron. “You haven’t changed a bit!” he said of Kane. Bray said it’s not nice to find joy in another person’s misery. He referred to Kane as “big red bully.” He joked about Kane making a trip up from “h-e-double hockey sticks.”

Bray provided an update on Ramblin’ Rabbit, saying he’s recovering nicely. The rabbit was hooked up to oxygen. Bray held up the Universal title. He said winning the Royal Rumble is foolish if it means challenging him for the title at WrestleMania. He turned his attention to Kane’s picture on his wall of friends. Bray said he’ll never forgive Kane. Clips of Kane facing off against the Wyatt Family flashed on the screen. Bray said “he” wouldn’t forgive either.

Back in the arena, the lights cut out as the electrical noises played over the speakers. The Fiend’s screeching played. Kane was standing outside the ring, staring toward the entrance. The Fiend popped up from underneath the ring, climbing out of his hole. Kane spun around to see The Fiend.

Daniel Bryan appeared out of nowhere and attacked The Fiend in the ring. The Fiend grabbed him and tried to pull him back underneath the ring, but Bryan fought him off. Bryan emerged from the hole with The Fiend’s dreadlocks in hand. Bryan began a “yes” chant with the dreadlocks. The lights returned to normal. Kane climbed back in the ring.

Kane engaged in the “yes” chant with Bryan. Bryan’s music played and the two old friends circled the ring together. Kane gave Bryan a smirk as Bryan stared at The Fiend’s dreadlocks.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Kane’s appearance didn’t really feel like it served much purpose outside of promoting the Royal Rumble, but truthfully, that’s what a character of his caliber should be used for at this point. Kane is long past the point of being taken seriously, but giving him the occasional random appearance isn’t necessarily a bad thing and the crowd seemed to enjoy seeing him. Seeing he and Bryan in the ring together again, even if their history wasn’t expressly acknowledged, was a nice little call back. Speaking of which, Bryan’s pulling of The Fiend’s dreads seemed a little hokey, but served as a decent call back to The Fiend’s attack on Daniel weeks ago. This feud remains interesting, albeit still flawed in its approach.)

-When the show returned from break, Daniel Bryan and Kane were walking together, arguing like the old days. Kayla Braxton approached. She asked about The Fiend. Bryan said The Fiend is best at running away and disappearing when he’s in trouble. He contemplated how you beat someone who does that. Bryan said he has an idea, and it may not be a good one. He challenged The Fiend to a strap match. Bryan said he understands it’s dangerous. “I am done with the mind games, I am done with The Fiend disappearing down that damn hole every time I get him in trouble.” Bryan said the Fiend changed him, and at Royal Rumble, he’s going to change The Fiend and win the Universal Championship.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Great, fiery babyface promo from Bryan. He knows when to turn up the intensity and when to sit back, contemplatively. He’s been the MVP of Smackdown for the last couple of months, and he continues to shine, even when dealt less than stellar situations to work from.)

-Big E’s voice filled the arena and he and Kofi Kingston headed to the ring. Kofi was sporting newly dyed blonde dreads. John Morrison headed to the ring next with The Miz.

(1) BIG E (w/ Kofi Kingston) vs. JOHN MORRISON (w/ The Miz)

Big E and John Morrison circled the ring when the bell rang. Morrison caught E with an elbow and shot him off the ropes. Big E countered with a shoulder tackle, then gyrated in Morrison’s face. Back on his feet, Morrison delivered a swift kick to the leg and took Big E down, mounting him for a series of punches.

Morrison slid Big E underneath the bottom rope and beat him down, rolling to the outside. He hooked onto Big E’s neck and hit a neckbreaker that dropped Big E to the floor. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Morrison had Big E in a grounded headlock when the show returned from break. Kofi got the fans going to encourage Big E, who slowly rose to his feet and broke free of the hold. Morrison quickly regained control, dropping Big E and connecting with a standing shooting star for a two count. Big E recovered quickly, scooping Morrison up for the mat and trying to transition into the Big Ending. Morrison slid free.

Morrison caught Bg E with a quick head kick then tried to springboard onto Big E. Big E caught him and hit an overhead belly to belly suplex. Big E tried for a second one, but Morrison poked him in the eye. After a quick counter, Big E dropped Morrison again and hit a running splash.

Big E got the crowd behind him. Morrison returned to his feet, kicked Big E, and hit a spinning neckbreaker. The Miz tried to get involved. Kofi Kingston circled the ring and pulled him off the apron. John Morrison launched himself off the top rope onto Kofi Kingston on the outside.

Meanwhile, Big E recovered. Morrison returned to the apron. Big E charged, but Miz pushed Morrison out of the way. Morrison took Big E down, quickly climbed to the top rope and hit Starship Pain for the three count.

WINNER: John Morrison in 8:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match. Morrison dominated most of this and still got a relatively clean win, minus some mild interference from The Miz. Morrison’s offense has always looked a little choreographed, but it’s actually aged well given how much the WWE style has progressed. This should be a great tag team feud.)

-At the announcers desk, Cole and Graves confirmed that if Roman Reigns beats Robert Roode tonight, he’ll decide the stipulation for his match against King Corbin at Royal Rumble. If Roode wins, Corbin will pick the stipulation. They threw to clips of Reigns taking out Roode a month ago, and Roode’s eventual return and payback on Reigns last week.

-Backstage, The Usos stood in a smokey room with Roman Reigns. They asked what he’d pick for a stipulation. Reigns said they’d find out with everyone else. He asked if The Usos were ready. Jimmy and Jey called out The Revival, saying “Welcome…” They walked off screen. The camera zoomed in on Reigns. “…To the Uso Penitentiary,” he finished. The show went to break.

-The Usos headed to the ring as Michael Cole talked up the show’s primary sponsor, Progressive Insurance. The Revival followed.

(2) THE USOS (Jimmy & Jey) vs. THE REVIVAL (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder)

Jimmy Uso began the match with Scott Dawson. They circled the ring and locked up. Dawson backed Jimmy into the corner and gave him a couple of slaps. Jimmy came out for another lock up. Dawson shot him off the ropes and dropped him with a shoulder tackle. Jimmy jumped to his feet and the two traded counters. Jimmy tagged in his brother Jey.

Jimmy and Jey doubled teamed Dawson out of the corner. Scott regained control over Jey, drove him to his corner and tagged in Dash Wilder. Dawson hit Jey with a suplex. Wilder followed immediately with a jumping elbow from the apron. The Revival isolated Jey Uso in the corner and traded tags. Scott Dawson delivered several leg drops and elbows to a downed Jey Uso before covering him for a two count.

Dawson slapped Jey in a grounded headlock. Cole talked up The Revival’s in-ring strategy. Jey Uso fought to his feet and rolled through Dawson’s headlock. Jey caught Dawson with a spinning enziguri. Both men tagged in their partners. Jimmy took down both members of the Revival with running clotheslines. He hit Wilder with a Samoan drop then called out to the crowd. He charged at Wilder, but Dash tossed him onto the apron.

Jimmy recovered, jumping to the top rope and hitting a diving cross body for a near fall. Jimmy went for a super kick, but Wilder shoved Jimmy away. Wilder almost knocked Dawson off the apron in the process, but they caught each other. Jimmy took Wilder down and tagged in Jey. They hit double super kicks on Dash and Dawson. Jey tagged back out. He dove to the outside onto Dawson, who’d rolled outside to recover. In the ring, Jimmy hit a splash on Wilder for the three count.

WINNERS: The Usos in 4:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match, albeit very short. The Revival continue to slide down the card, losing a match to The Usos in short order. The Usos, coming back from months away and with deep ties to Roman Reigns were clearly the correct choice to go over here, but The Revival appear to be in a clear downswing. The one bright side for them, if there is one, is that commentary is acknowledging it. One would hope this means this is part of a larger story WWE is trying to tell, though it’s hard to have that kind of faith in creative.)

-After the break, The Revival were shown walking backstage, frustrated. Kayla Braxton approached them. They said they need to make a change, because WWE cares about them “about as much as it cares about the tag division.” They were interrupted by screaming down the hallway.

The camera followed the commotion and found Lacey Evans fighting with Bayley and Sasha Banks. Sasha was on the floor, graphing her ankle and Evans and Bayley traded punches. Officials split them up.

-Back at ringside, Cole and Graves transitioned to the “budding romance” between Mandy Rose and Otis. They showed clips from last week’s show.

-Backstage, Sonya Deville was shown warming up. Mandy Rose walked on screen. She said she was fired up for Sonya’s match. Deville asked of Otis would want to accompany her to the ring tonight. Mandy asked why. Sonya said she was confused about the “Otis thing”, but now she gets it. Mandy seemed confused, saying Otis is a nice guy. She said he’d ask him.

-In the trainer’s room, Sasha Banks was icing her ankle. She and Bayley were talking trash about Lacey Evans. Banks said she’s been working her butt off recording an album and filming a music video. Bayley said she doesn’t care that Evans is a Marine, she plans to break every bone in her body.

Adam Pearce walked in and informed Banks and Bayley that the match was being promoted, so it has to happen tonight. Bayley protested. Pearce said Bayley would be replacing Sasha. Bayley said she refuses to put the title on the line. Pearce said it would be non-title, but the match is next.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Adam Pearce is an on-screen character now? This was presented with no explanation of authority whatsoever. A casual viewer would have no understanding as to why this guy just suddenly showed up with the authority to change matches and force wrestlers to compete in them. If they want Pearce to act as a figurehead for Smackdown and unofficial spokesman for “the powers that be”, that’s fine, but at least introduce him to the audience before giving him power.)

-After the break, Bayley headed to the ring, favoring her midsection and looking disgusted with recent developments. Cole recapped that the match was non-title, but that Lacey could earn a future title shot with a victory. Lacey Evans headed to the ring, slapping hands with fans.

(3) BAYLEY vs. LACEY EVANS

The bell rang as the second hour of the show began. Bayley immediately slid out of the ring. Lacey Evans gave chase. Bayley slid under the bottom rope and caught Evans off guard with stomps as she tried to return to the ring. Evans quickly recovered, taking down Bayley with a clothesline and then a head scissor takeover. Evans kicked Bayley to the outside.

Lacey met Bayley on the floor. She bounced her head off the side of the ring and tossed her back in the ring. Evans hopped over the top rope and into a roll up. Bayley kicked out at two. Bayley rolled up Lacey and put her feet on the ropes. The referee broke the pin.

Bayley drove her forearms into Lacey’s back and worked her into the ropes. She tossed her face first into the turnbuckle and then hung her up in the tope rope, pulling at Lacey’s hair. Bayley tossed Evans to the mat and covered her for a one count. She began working over Lacey’s arm. The crowd broke into a respectable “Lacey” chant.

Evans broke free of the hold with forearms to the midsection. Bayley drove her knee into Evans and regained control. Bayley taunted the crowd, allowing Lacey to recover and roll her up. Bayley kicked out and tossed Evans to the apron. She went for a draping neckbreaker, but Evans fought her off.

Lacey caught Bayley with a pair of running clotheslines. She countered Bayley’s Irish whip into the corner and took her down with a hard kick to the chest, sending Bayley into the turnbuckle. Lacey climbed to the middle rope, saluted the crowd and leaped onto the top rope for a moonsault. Bayley got her knees up. Evans rolled to the outside.

Bayley recovered, headed to the outside and gave Lacey a running knee into the crowd barrier. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Bayley had Evans down in the corner when the show returned from break. She drove her shoulder into Evan’s stomach repeatedly. Evans fought out of the corner with a big boot. Bayley caught her with an apron neckbreaker for a two count. She mounted Evans and dished out a flurry of wild punches.

Bayley tossed Lacey into the corner and hit a spinning back elbow, then a flying elbow off the middle rope for a near fall. Bayley dropped Evans with a knee to the face. She went for a cross body off the tope rope, but Evans ducked. Bayley recovered in the corner. Evans charged at her, but Bayley moved out of the way. Bayley shot Evans off the ropes, but Evans stopped cold and hit her with the Woman’s Right for a three count.

WINNER: Lacey Evans in 10:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: This felt like one of Evans’ better TV efforts to date, with plenty of offense befitting her babyface persona. The development of Evans as a babyface has been slow, certainly slow than it should have been, but she’s progressed nicely in the last couple of weeks and the crowd seems to be getting behind her pretty strongly. I continue to think Bayley is hamming it up a bit too much as a heel. Her mannerisms and general demeanor seem like that of a person trying really hard to play a bad guy, not someone actually succeeding at it.)

-Cole introduced new backstage correspondent Alyse Ashton, who was standing on the interview set in the back. Ashton welcomed Shorty G. She brought up Sheamus’ surprise return and attack on him two weeks ago. Shorty G said Sheamus is projecting his own insecurities onto him. G said Sheamus’ tactics aren’t going to work on him, and he’s prepared to teach Sheamus a lesson. “I know Sheamus is big, and I know he’s one of the most decorated athletes we have…”

Shorty G was cut off by Sheamus. He jokingly asked if anyone had seen Shorty G. He said he may have to kick Shorty G’s head off his shoulders. G attacked Sheamus. Officials immediately closed in and separated the two men. Sheamus returned to his feet in a rage, flipping a table. The show went to commercial.

-Kayla Braxton welcomed the audience back to the show from the interview set. She introduced Braun Strowman. Strowman declared himself for the Royal Rumble match. He said that’s next week, and right now he’s got his eyes on the Intercontinental Championship. He said he’s earned an opportunity by pinning Shinsuke Nakamura twice. He said he wants an opportunity ay time, any place.

-In the ring, Greg Hamilton welcomed Elias. Elias said he’d learned a lot about himself over the last year. He called himself the “full embodiment of WWE.” He said he needs the audience to be a “truth” that rings out in every city and every arena. He asked the fans to chant with him.

Elias said he wrote a song called “Walking in Greensboro.” Elias barely got his first line out before he was cut off by Shinsuke Nakamura’s music. Nakamura was flanked by Cesaro and Sami Zayn. Zayn had a microphone.Sami said what he has to say is far more important than whatever Elias has to say.

Zayn said they’re dealing with serious business in Braun Strowman and his interest in the Intercontinental title. Zayn said Nakamura doesn’t back down from anyone. He then said the answer to Braun’s challenge is “absolutely not.” Zayn said Strowman is in no position to demand anything. “We call the shots around here, ” Zayn claimed. He said Nakamura won’t be defending his title with nine days to go until the Royal Rumble.

Zayn reminded everyone that Nakamura won the Rumble match two years ago, insinuating he plans to do it again. “You’re all being put on notice,” Zayn said. He told Elias to go back to whatever he’s doing. Elias stopped the trio. He said he listened to Zayn and wrote a new song at the same time. He said it’s called “Sami Zayn Needs to Shut His Damn Mouth.”

Zayn was incensed. He yelled for Elias to stop. He told Cesaro to show Elias “what we do to funny guys.” Cesaro rushed the ring and attacked Elias. Elias fought back, but Nakamura joined the fight, followed by Zayn. the trio quickly overcame Elias. Braun Strowman’s music hit. Strowman trotted to the ring. Zayn gave Nakamura and Cesaro marching orders, then left the ring in a hurry.

Strowman bulldozed both Nakamura and Cesaro. He tossed them both from the ring. Zayn collected his men and retreated up the ramp. The crowd broke into a “get these hands” chant as Strowman’s music played. Cole called Strowman the “odds on favorite” to win the Royal Rumble.

(LeClair’s Analysis: On the bright side, I guess we got an explanation for Elias’ new character, or lack thereof. He’s the self proclaimed “full embodiment of WWE.” I suppose that mean he just promotes company happenings and acts as a general sing-along shill. Zayn’s interruption was welcomed, and he, Nakamura, and Cesaro continue to be a highlight of the show. The eventual beatdown leading to Strowman’s appearance was predictable but effective given the circumstances. I expect these guys to have a lot of solid interaction in the Rumble match, and for Strowman to get his first singles title shortly thereafter. All in all, I think this has been a positive angle for Braun and fun for Zayn and company, even though they’ll certainly come out on the losing end.)

-At the announcers desk, Cole and Graves turned their attention to paying tribute to Rocky Johnson. They threw to a video package. They showed a live shot of the crowd engaged in a “Rocky” chant before fading out to a tribute graphic and commercial.

-Back from the break, Sonya Deville was already in the ring with Mandy Rose, sans Otis as requested. The on-screen graphic for the NFC Championship game kept overlaying the screen repeatedly. Graves chuckled. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross headed to the ring, slapping hands with fans.

Heavy Machinery’s music played and Otis and Tucker headed to the ring just before the bell rang.

(4) SONYA DEVILLE (w/ Mandy Rose) vs ALEXA BLISS (w/ Nikki Cross)

Mandy hopped onto the apron as the bell rang, distracting Alexa Bliss. Sonya Deville dropped Bliss with a quick kick. Sonya grabbed Alexa by the hair and kicked her in the midsection repeatedly. After a takedown, Sonya covered Bliss for a quick two count. She locked in a chin lock.

Bliss fought to her feet and took Deville down with a drop toe hold. She rolled through a kick attempt and slapped Deville in the face, then followed up with an elbow to drop Deville. Sonya retreated to the corner. Bliss attacked. Sonya fought her way out of the corner.

Alexa set up for a DDT, but Mandy Rose climbed onto the top rope to provide a distraction. Nikki Cross hopped onto the apron and knocked Rose off the turnbuckle. She fell into Otis’ waiting arms. Deville chopped Bliss to the mat. Otis and Mandy smiled at each other.

Deville went to the ropes to check on Mandy. Bliss rolled her up for a quick three count.

WINNER: Alexa Bliss in 2:00

Mandy Rose ran into the ring to apologize to Sonya. Bliss and Cross escaped up the ramp. Otis celebrated catching Mandy and danced to Alexa’s music.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Nothing to this match. It was a means of getting Bliss her win back after losing to Mandy last week off of the Otis distraction. The Mandy/Otis angle continues to be entertaining, despite its ridiculousness. Otis is wildly entertaining and it’s great to see Mandy and Sonya be able to expand on their characters, even if only a little. I presume this means continued dissension between Rose and Deville, where Mandy will ultimately either side with Otis, or return to her friend Sonya. Either scenario could work depending on how it’s handled.)

-Backstage, Robert Roode was shown stretching in a locker room. King Corbin and Dolph Ziggler approached him. They talked up Roode’s attack on Reigns last week. Roode said he’s waited six weeks for this opportunity. He told Corbin he’d get to choose the stipulation at Royal Rumble. Corbin said he wants a match that will humiliate Roman Reigns and completely take him out of the Royal Rumble equation. He said that’s only possible if Roode gets the job done by putting him through a table. He recited Roode’s catchphrase. The show went to commercial.

-After the break, Cole and Graves threw to clips of Kane’s appearance to kick off the show, followed by The Fiend’s appearance and Daniel Bryan’s attack. They confirmed that the Bryan and Fiend match has officially been made a strap match. Graves also confirmed that Shorty G will face Sheamus at Royal Rumble. Cole announced that Bayley will defend the Smackdown Women’s title against Lacey Evans on the show as well.

-The camera ran along the ringside barrier, showing the tables lined up on their sides. Greg Hamilton introduced the match, and then Roman Reigns headed to the ring. Cole said he has “a lot on the line” as pyro shot to the rafters. Robert Roode ran down behind Reigns and attacked him. The referee immediately called for the bell.

(5) ROMAN REIGNS vs. ROBERT ROODE – Tables Match

Robert Roode stomped away at Rman Reigns at ringside. He picked him up and tossed him in the ring. Roode fired off a punch, but Reigns blocked it and hit Roode with a pair of rights, following up with a running clothesline. Roode tossed Reigns to the outside. Reigns quickly caught him with an uppercut. Roode fell to the floor. Reigns retrieved a table.

Roode attacked Reigns as Roman set up the table. He tossed Roman into the steel steps and dragged him to the opposing set. Reigns blocked his attempted and bounced Roode’s head off the steel. Reigns cleared the announcers desk. He went to retrieve Roode, but Roode raked Reigns’ eyes and whipped him shoulder first into the ring steps.

Roode retrieved another table from underneath the ring. He slid it in the ring, but got caught with a drive-by from Reigns. Roman sized Roode up, played to the crowd, then got a running head start around the ring. He threw himself at Roode, but Roode sidestepped him and sent Roman crashing through the barricade in the timekeeper’s area.

Just after the crash, King Corbin’s music hit. He appeared on the stage atop his throne. “The complexion has changed!” Cole exclaimed, sending the show to break.

Roode had Reigns seated on the top rope above a table when the show returned from break. Reigns blocked his superplex attempt and delivered a pair of headbutts. He dropped between Roode’s legs and tried to power bomb Roode through the table. Roode countered it and tried to suplex Reigns again. Reigns blocked a second time and tried to give Roode a Samoan drop, but Roode blocked it with another rake of the eyes. He flipped over the table for good measure.

Roode escaped to the outside. Reigns set up a table in the corner. Roode returned to his feet as Reigns left the ring. He charged and connected with a Superman punch, then tossed Roode back in the ring. Roode staggered to his feet near the prone table in the corner. Reigns set up for the spear. Corbin hopped onto the apron to distract Reigns. Ziggler appeared in the ring and dropped Reigns with a super kick.

Roode tossed Reigns into the ring post. Reigns spilled to the outside, allowing Corbin and Ziggler to attack. They set up Reigns on the announcers desk as Roode climbed to the top rope, preparing to fly onto Reigns. The Usos rushed to the ring and took down Roode, then went after Ziggler and Corbin. The helped Reigns to his feet and positioned Ziggler on the announcers desk.

Jimmy and Jey hopped onto the crowd barrier and hit double splashes onto Ziggler and through the announcers desk. In the ring, Reigns set up for the spear. Roode turned around and got speared through the corner table, ending the match.

WINNER: Roman Reigns in 11:00

Corbin screamed in frustration at the top of the ramp. Reigns grabbed a microphone. He said the Royal Rumble is in a baseball stadium. “That thing is huge, and I’m gonna whoop your ass all over that thing.” He chose a Falls Count Anywhere match as the show went off the air.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent match, marred by the usual brawl finish that every match involving this combination of wrestlers seems to devolve into as of late. Reigns’s decision to call for a falls count anywhere match felt anticlimactic and sort of counter intuitive. Those matches are a dime a dozen in WWE, and it doesn’t really give Reigns any sort of advantage. On the surface, it evens the odds at best, but Corbin’s crew also seems to employ the services of The Revival when necessary, giving them an overall two man advantage. I truly hope, whatever the outcome, this spells the official end of the Reigns/Corbin program, which has dragged on far too long and put a damper on the overall quality of Smackdown.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: This wasn’t a great show, but it felt like an overall improvement over the last few weeks. Plenty of development for the Royal Rumble, two good matches to kick off the show, a decent tables match to close the night, and some great work from Daniel Bryan. Additionally, the continued entertainment value coming out of the Otis/Mandy Rose angle brought a nice sense of levity to a build heavy event. Smackdown continues to trail several notches behind Raw, but the show is seems to be finding itself a bit more as we head into WWE’s busiest time of year.

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