NJPW SAKURA GENESIS REPORT (4/6): Lansdell’s report on Tsuji vs Naito, Shingo vs Evil, and more

by Chris Lansdell. PWTorch contributor


April 6, 2024

Announcer: Chris Charlton

(1) TMDK (Zack Sabre Jr. & Kosei Fujita) vs. EL DESPERADO & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI

Fujita has really ratcheted up his cockiness since last we saw him.

Desperados and ZSJ started us off with a series of escapes and exchanges on the mat. As you might expect, ZSJ took the upper hand. Fujita and Taguchi tagged in, and Taguchi took Fujita down quickly. He tried a slingshot move but landed groin-first on the knees of Fujita. After Desperado interceded to take Fujita down, Taguchi locked in a half crab in the middle of the ring, but Fujita made the ropes.

Desperado tagged in and lost a strike exchange when Fujita connected with a spinning wheel kick. ZSJ tagged in and applied a bow and arrow hold, then a unique pinning combination for a two-count at the five-minute mark. ZSJ went to work on the mat, trying to tie up Desperado. Twice Desperado tried to counter into Numero Dos but ZSJ had an escape and a counter. Really nice series there. Desperado reversed a hold into a side suplex and tagged in Taguchi.

After a pair of butt-butts, Taguchi went for a springboard attack but ZSJ ducked it and kicked the arm. Fujita tagged in with a flying headscissors sending Taguchi to the outside. Fujita ran the apron and hit a PK, then threw Taguchi back in. A beautiful springboard senton got a two-count. He went for a deadlift German, but Taguchi countered with a rollup for two. Taguchi came back with a butt attack and the Bummer Ye for a near fall. ZSJ broke up the cover. ZSJ and Desperado were both sent to the outside, and then Fujita got an O’Connor roll for the victory.

WINNERS: TMDK via pinfall in 10:00 (**1/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: It was fine, nothing really stood out but it was smooth and Fujita got a bit of a showcase.)

(2) BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (David Finlay & Gedo) vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPÓN (Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi)

This was FInlay’s return from the inner ear infection that forced him to withdraw from the New Japan Cup. Hiromu came out in a mask to match his partner.

Finlay and Hiromu started the match, and immediately Finlay rolled to the outside as the crowd chanted loudly for Hiromu. Finlay rolled in and pounded on Hiromu, stomping him down in the corner. He launched Hiromu across the ring, but missed a charge and ran into a headscissors. Bushi came in and tripped Finlay, allowing Hiromu to hit a basement dropkick. Finlay fought off a double-team and connected with a uranage backbreaker for a two-count. He tossed Hiromu to the outside, where Gedo threw him into the barricade and the corner post. Gedo rolled Hiromu back in and Finlay covered for a two-count.

Finlay connected with another backbreaker, then tagged in Gedo. Gedo ran into a low dropkick from Hiromu who was able to make the tag to Bushi. Bushi came in with dropkicks for everyone, including a missile dropkick for Gedo.Finlay tried to interrupt with a Dominator, but Hiromu saved his partner and they hit a tandem dropkick. Bushi hit a missile dropkick to the knees of Gedo, then applied a modified figure four to get the tapout win.

WINNERS: LIJ via submission in 6:00 (*3/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Finlay’s losing streak continues, and he was not happy as he left ringside. Can’t say I saw this one coming, I expected Finlay to pin Bushi, but apparently we are getting a streak angle with Finlay. The match was short, abrupt, and not really notable except in the result.)

(3) JUST FIVE GUYS (Sanada & Yuya Uemura & Douki) vs. UNITED EMPIRE (Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb & Callum Newman)

Uemura and Cobb got us started. Cobb showed his strength early, shrugging off a pair of shoulder tackles. Uemura connected with a dropkick and tagged in Douki, and between them they took down Cobb with a tandem dropkick. Douki hit a series of kicks, but his headscissors attempt was blocked into a powerbomb…no, Douki slid out and tried a slingshot…oh dear. That was caught too. Cobb press slammed Douki and connected with a standing moonsault for a two-count.

Cobb tagged in O-Khan who laid in a trio of Mongolian chops. He did his sitting spot in the corner before tagging in Newman, who leveled Douki with a round kick to the chest. Newman and Douki exchanged suplex escapes, an exchange which ended with Douki connecting with a headscissors. Sanada tagged in and hit all of United Empire with dropkicks. Sanada hit a slingshot crossbody to the floor onto Newman, then rolled him inside. Newman countered a sunset flip and tried to apply the paradise lock, but could not figure it out. Instead he settled for a dropkick and tagged in O-Khan.

O-Khan hit a Mongolian chop but then ran into a Frankensteiner. Uemura tagged in and took down O-Khan with a pair of arm drags and a dropkick. He went for a backdrop suplex but O-Khan blocked. Both men fought for control, a fight won by O-Khan with a hiptoss. United Empire ran a train of corner attacks on Uemura, ending with a beautiful belly-to-belly suplex. Wait…out of nowhere a crucifix by Uemura! 1…2…3!

WINNERS: Just Five Guys via pinfall in 8:00 (**)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: This flowed well but seemingly was only there to get Uemura a pin on O-Khan and set up that title match down the line. Good little tussle.)

After the match, O-Khan charged at Uemura in rage and disbelief…and ran right into the deadbolt suplex. Uemura grabbed O-Khan’s title and held it up to a good response from the crowd.

Still sweaty and in his singlet, Jeff Cobb joined Chris Charlton on commentary.

(4) BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney) (c) vs. Catch 2/2 (TJP & Francesco Akira) vs. Intergalactic Jet Setters (Kushida & Kevin Knight) – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match

Kevin Knight’s hair is certainly a choice. Almost like he was channeling Doc Brown.

Unfortunately I had some internet issues at the start of this match, but came back in time to see TJP face-washing all four of his opponents. He had an innovative spot which saw him apply a submission hold to three people at once. Connors broke it up, but Catch 2-2 set up to hit their 2×2 attack on the apron. Moloney broke that up and Connors hit a GORGEOUS snap powerslam on TJP on the apron. They then absolutely LAUNCHED Knight over the top onto a pile of opponents.

Connors and Moloney took it to Knight with chops. Snap suplex from Connors was followed by an elbow drop at the five-minute mark. Akira tried to intervene and was slammed down hard by Moloney. Bullet Club continued the beatdown on Knight, whipping him hard to the corner for a two-count. Knight jumped over a double clothesline attempt and took both opponents down with a kick. A dropkick sent Connors to the floor, and Kushida started throwing people over the barricade. Good GRIEF Knight hit a springboard crossbody from the ring over the barricade into the crowd.

A brawl broke out on the floor as the referee counted. When he reached 19 all six men scrambled under the rope. They all exchanged shots on their knees, with Connors and Moloney getting the upper hand. Moloney and TJP were left in the ring. Moloney put TJP on the top, but he fought off Moloney Knight came flying in with a headscissors off the top! Sky High to Akira! 1…2…no! Connors and Moloney demolished Knight with the Hit and Run! 1…2…no!

Kushida interrupted the beatdown of Knight but got speared on the apron by Connors.Knight and Moloney exchanged forearms, an exchange won by an enzuigiri by Moloney. Moloney hit a floatover Stunner, then Catch 2-2 blitzed the ring. Akira threw Kushida to the floor and followed him out with a slingshot crossbody. TJP hit a Mamba Splash for a near fall. Chaos ensued with multiple men coming into the ring and being taken down. Two by Two from Catch 2-2 to Kushida! 1…2..Connors broke it up!

Catch 2-2 went for the Leaning Tower, Kushida managed to escaped but got locked in the Pinoy Stretch! Kushida countered into the Hoverboard Lock! Akira tried to break the hold but was cut off by a spike DDT by Knight. Hoverboard lock by Knight! TJP fought for the ropes but couldn’t get there! War Dogs broke the hold but got taken out by a tandem sequence. Connors broke up a double-team move with a spear. Moloney hit Drilla Killa on Kushida, Connors hit No Chaser on Knight. Full Clip attempt…connected! 1…2…3! The champs retain!

WINNERS: Bullet Club War Dogs via pinfall at 18:00 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team championship. (***3/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: That was a lot of action to jam into 18 minutes. Everything looked crisp and fast, with each time looking like they were going to win at some point. I don’t know where War Dogs go from here, the division is not exactly replete with contenders, but I would not complain about seeing this again. Just…maybe slow down a little. For the sake of my fingers.)

(5) BULLET CLUB (Kenta & Chase Owens) (c) vs. BISHAMON (Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi)

This match was set up during the New Japan Cup, with Goto beating Owens and Yoshi-Hashi beating Kenta during the tournament. Kenta was in Philadelphia on Thursday night, defending his Defy championship.

Bullet Club jumped Bishamon before the bell. They threw Yoshi-Hashi to the floor but it was short lived, as he came back in to hit a tandem shoulder tackle on Owens. Bishamon hit a pair of double-team moves to take the upper hand. Goto missed a charge, allowing Owens to hit an STO and a senton. All four men went to the outside, where Bullet Club took control. Owens rolled Goto back inside.

Owens dropped a fist on Goto, then tagged in Kenta. They made a wish on Goto’s groinal region, leading to a two-count. Kenta applied a figure four headscissors. He released the hold, then tagged in Owens who hit a lariat. Kenta tagged back in with a Russian leg sweep. Kenta continued to beat down on Goto, until Goto was able to duck an attack and hit a clothesline. Yoshi-Hashi tagged in and leveled Kenta with a tackle. A neckbreaker from Yoshi-Hashi got a two-count. Owens tripped Yoshi-Hashi from the outside, but their tandem attack attempt was unsuccessful as Yoshi-Hashi dropkicked Kenta’s knee.

Owens and Goto tagged in, and Goto hit a spinning wheel kick in the corner, followed by a back suplex for a two count.Both men pounded away with forearms in the middle of the ring, then ran into each other with lariats. Yoshi-Hashi came in to end the exchange. They went for Shoto, but Owens kicked free. Kenta hit Goto in the back with a chair! It was only enough for a two-count. Kenta and Owens cleaned house, and Owens hit Jewel Heist on Goto for another two-count.

Owens went for the package piledriver, but Goto blocked it and hit a back body drop. Kenta had the belt in hand while Owens distracted the ref…Goto ducked the belt shot! Ushigoroshi to Kenta! Owens charged in but Yoshi-Hashi hit a superkick. Final Flash to Owens! Owens escaped another Shoto and hit a C-Trigger on Goto for a near fall. A second C-Trigger led to a package piledriver…Yoshi-Hashi broke it up! Kenta stopped Yoshi-Hashi from gaining momentum, but got waffled with a Goto lariat. Shoto to Owens…he escaped again! Superkick from Yoshi-Hashi! Shoto…connected this time! 1…2…3! New champs!

WINNERS: Bishamon via pinfall in 14:00 to win the IWGP Tag Team championship. (***)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: This was probably the best Owens and Kenta match in a while, and it was still not great. They do hide each other’s shortcomings in a tag environment, but this felt a little routine to me. Not bad at all.)

The lineup for Best of the Super Juniors was announced. The surprise entrants are Blake Christian from ROH, and Hayata and Ninja Black from Pro Wrestling NOAH. Kosei Fujita will be making his BOSJ debut.

(6) SHO (c) vs. YOH – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match

Yoh came out first, with the purloined junior heavyweight title. Sho came out at the same time and chased Yoh through the arena and to rinsgside. The bell rang when both men got into the ring. Yoh hit a basement dropkick and…ouch. Yoh clearly dislocated his shoulder on that move. You could see it out of the socket. Yoh tried to continue but the referee called it off due to the injury.

WINNER: Sho via referee stoppage in 2:00 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship. (N/R)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: That was an extremely unfortunate event. The injury was visible and obvious and clearly not part of a story. Too bad, this could have been excellent.)

While Sho celebrated like he had just won a 40-minute classic, Kosei Fujita came to the ring. Sho laughed at Yoh’s misfortune while Fujita stood stoically in the corner. As Yoh went to the back in tears, the crowd chanted for Fujita. He got on the mic and called Sho the worst champion in history. He challenged Sho for the title, but of course Sho shook his head. Douki entered the chat! He said he agreed with the premise, but he was the one with the momentum and he deserved a shot.

Sho then took the mic and asked if they were crazy. He asked if they just saw what he did in the previous match. He said he didn’t want to wrestling either of them, so they should just get out of the ring. Fujita hit a springboard dropkick on the champ, then took the belt and held it up in front of Douki. Fujita left the ring, Douki grabbed the title and left with it, saying that Sho should challenge the winner of Douki and Fujita.

(7) JON MOXLEY & SHOTA UMINO vs. HOUSE OF TORTURE (Ren Narita & Jack Perry)

As expected, Moxley and Umino came in through the crowd to a hybrid of their two entrance themes. That in itself is a sign of the elevation of Umino.

Moxley and Umino jumped the gun on the start of the match, with Moxley taking Narita to the outside. In the ring Umino dropped Perry face-first with a slam, then hit a basement dropkick. Umino ran the ropes but Narita kneed him from the apron, giving Perry control. Perry connected with a suplex and floated over for a two-count. Narita tagged in, then threw Umino to the floor. Perry stomped away at him on the outside while Narita attacked Moxley. Back in the ring Narita hit a suplex of his own for a two-count. Umino avoided a clothesline and hit a spinning neckbreaker, allowing him to tag Moxley.

Moxley blitzed Narita with forearms and a clothesline, then hit a corner clothesline. He pounded on Narita in the corner, perched him on the top turnbuckle, and raked his back . Narita blocked the superplex attempt but got caught with the bulldog choke! Narita made the ropes in a hurry and they went to the outside. Perry blindsided Moxley but was dispatched. The distraction allowed Narita to hit an exploder on the outside.

Back in the ring, Narita hit a bridging northern lights suplex for a two-count. He went to the top, Moxley sidestepped the leaping attack and hit a cutter. Perry and Umino tagged in, and Umino ducked a series of attacks before hitting an elbow. A fisherman’s suplex got a two-count. Perry avoided a charge and hit a northern lights suplex, rolled through and hit a second one. He went to the top…Macho Man elbow drop! Umino kicked out at two. He avoided a tandem attack and hit his beautiful slingshot apron DDT on Perry while Moxley hit a tope on Narita on the floor.

Umino threw Perry back in and connected with a missile basement dropkick and an exploder for a two-count. Perry escaped a suplex attempt and hit three superkicks, one high two low. Umino was unimpressed and hit a gorgeous dropkick, then tagged in Moxley. Narita also tagged in, and they exchanged shots. Moxley got the better of the exchange, and hit a corner clothesline and a superplex for a near fall. Narita was able to reverse a clothesline into a cobra twist, which brought Umino and Perry into the ring. Narita got the push-up bar and choked Moxley with it! Moxley broke up the choke, Narita tried to waffle him with the bar but Umino took the bullet for him!

Moxley hit a nasty back suplex, Narita countered another one with a sleeper. Moxley turned into it, then hit Death Rider for the win.

WINNERS: Jon Moxley and Shota Umino via pinfall in 15:00. (**3/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Mostly a showcase for Moxley, which is fine. Umino was hardly a slouch here, but it did seem weird with Perry and Narita getting so little. Wait…where were the shenanigans? No ref bumps, no run-ins? Is it Christmas?)

(8) EVIL (c) vs. SHINGO TAKAGI – Never Openweight Championship match

Evil came out with his House of Torture cronies, including a referee-shirted Yoshinobu Kanemaru. He was not actually the referee for this match, and Marty Asami made sure he knew it. He sent Togo and Kanemaru to the back. Evil jumped Shingo while all that was happening, but the advantage was short-lived as Evil ran into a tackle. Shingo beat down Evil in one corner, whipped him to the opposite corner, and slammed him down. Chris Charlton told us that both these men were trained by Animal Hamaguchi.

Shingo hit a senton and a snap mare, then Evil bailed to the floor. He retrieved a chair from under the ring but Shingo refused to be drawn in. Evil dropped the chair and Shingo then went to the outside, where he was rammed into the barricade. Evil found a pair of chairs, wrapped one around the neck of Shingo and was about to decapitate him with the second one. Shingo removed the chair but got jabbed in the gut by a chair. Evil swung for the fences with his chair, which was mostly blocked by Shingo’s chair but still sent Shingo to the ground.

Back inside, Evil produced Dick Togo’s garotte and choked Shingo with it. He disposed of it right in front of the referee, but was he disqualified? I think we all know he was not. A fisherman’s suplex from Evil got a two-count. Evil continued the beatdown, with Shingo trying to fire up through the onslaught. Evil went to the eyes, but Shingo was able to see well enough to catch a kick and hit a dragon screw. Both men were down. Shingo got up first and hit a scoop slam, but missed a senton. After a couple of reversals Shingo hit a suplex for a two-count.

Shingo was about to tell the world what time it was, but Evil cut him off. Shingo shrugged off the attack and faked a lariat, then dropped Evil with a DDT. He charged and connected with a corner clothesline, then hit a beautiful superplex for a near fall. It’s Shingo Time! Oh, no it wasn’t. It was Yujiro Takahashi at ringside time. To be fair he didn’t actually do anything, so I can’t complain yet. Evil feigned a knee injury, allowing Yujiro to remove the corner pad. Evil hit caught a Shingo kick and hit one of his own, then whipped Shingo into the exposed corner. A lariat followed, then a Darkness Falls for a near fall.

Shingo blocked Everything is Evil, then blocked a pair of lariats. Shingo fired in a series of shots, but when he went for pumping bomber, Yujiro hit him in the back with a chair. Did the referee see it? Of course he did not. Bushi is here to counter the interference! He…wait a second, he attacked Shingo! The real Bushi came out and unmasked the ersatz Bushi, who was of course Dick Togo. The referee got taken out, and here we go…House of Torture Shenanigans (™). Kanemaru in his referee shirt counted a three following a Magic Killer, and Togo rang the bell. Evil celebrated his “win” as Hiromu came out in his own referee shirt! He disposed of the interlopers but got squashed in the corner when Evil shoved Shingo into him. Low blow from Evil! Everything is…no! Everything is Dragon!

More nonsense ensued with the real referee still down. Bushi recovered and took out Kanemaru. Yujiro tried to throw powder on Shingo, but Shingo ducked and the powder caught Evil. Shingo grabbed the whisky and sprayed Evil with it! Red Shoes came to ringside! In the ring Shingo connected with a lariat, then hit Last of the Dragon! Red Shoes slid into the ring…1…2…3!

WINNER: Shingo Takagi via pinfall in 21:00 to win the Never Openweight championship. (**)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: It was going so well until the nonsense started. I honestly expected Shingo to lose here, setting him up to challenge tonight’s winner. Instead I would expect Evil to be that challenger now.)

After the match, Shingo got on the mic but was cut very short by Bullet Club War Dogs. Gabe Kidd grabbed the mic and absolutely eviscerated New Japan, calling it a joke. He said that Matt Riddle and Nic Nemeth showed up and now all of a sudden everyone was wrestling like they wanted to be on SuperStars. He asked if the squiggle on the apron said Level Up. He doubled down, saying Tanahashi might as well walk into Tony Khan’s office, pull down his trousers and say “do your worst.” He spit on the lion mark in the middle of the ring, and threatened to destroy NJPW. Yikes. It went way too far, but I liked the spirit of the message. A lot of people were thinking what Gabe Kidd said, and it positions him at the forefront of the fans’ ire.

(9) TETSUYA NAITO (c) vs. YOTA TSUJI – IWGP World Heavyweight Championship match

I expected an LIJ salute before the match, but on reflection that was never likely. Naito avoided the first couple of lockup attempts, trying to establish psychological dominance. On the third attempt he kicked Tsuji in the gut and applied a headlock. Tsuji pulled his hair and applied his own version of the hold, then ran straight through Naito. Tsuji laid in some shots and stomped Naito’s face into the mat for a one-count. At the five-minute mark, Tsuji clamped on a body scissors.

Naito wriggled and squirmed his way to the ropes. Tsuji cut off a rally with a knee lift and a kitchen sink, sending Naito to the sanctuary of the outside. Tsuji followed with a tope. He sent Naito to the barricades twice, then hit a stun gun on the edge of the apron. That’s the hardest part of the ring! Back inside, Tsuji hit a backbreaker for a two-count, then applied a camel clutch. He did not keep it on long enough to make him humble, and transitioned to a back stretch. He then hit a modified backstabber. Tsuji toyed with Naito, shrugged off some strikes and spit in Naito’s face. Naito came back with a hip toss neckbreaker to take control.

Naito hit a snap mare and a basement dropkick to the back of the head. He locked in a cravate, then hit a second hip toss neckbreaker. He went to the floor and dragged Tsuji across the apron, dropping him with a neckbreaker to the outside. Back in the ring, Naito locked in a leg full nelson. He released the hold and went for Gloria, but Tsuji elbowed free and hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker Both men were down.

Tsuji hit a running big boot and a scoop slam, then the Mount Tsuji running splash for a two-count. He hit a huracanrana to send Naito to the apron, then joined him there. He lifted Naito for a fireman’s carry, but Naito slid off the back. Tsuji kicked him and tried to hit a curb stomp on the apron. It didn’t quite work out, probably thankfully. It is, after all, the hardest part of the ring.

Naito made it back into the ring at the count of 18, just as we passed the 20-minute mark. A sudden burst of energy allowed Naito to stop Tsuji’s momentum with a tornado DDT. Naito established wrist control and laid in his trademark elbows to the side of the head. The crowd chanted “Yota, Yota” as Naito stalked his prey. Naito connected with a top-rope Frankensteiner, but Destino was countered with a modified blue thunder bomb. Tsuji connected with a stiff knee lift, and a falcon arrow for a two-count. Tsuji set for Gene Blaster but ran into a rolling kick from Naito. Running Destino! As we hit 25 minutes, Naito set for Dest…Tsuji countered! GENE BLASTER! Both men were down. Tsuji crawled over and laid in an ineffectual forearm. Naito returned the favour with more vigour. Tsuji continued to hit soft forearms, until Naito locked up the wrist and knocked Tsuji down with a series of elbows.

Naito went for Valentia, Tsuji escaped and got the backbreaker-trip-curb stomp combination. He called to the crowd as he sought his third wind, then turned Naito over with a Boston crab. Naito quickly made the ropes, so Tsuji curb stomped him again. He put Naito on the top turnbuckle, went up with him, but Naito shoved him off. It looked like Tsuji lost his balance there. Tsuji went back to the well, hitting a superplex as we went beyond thirty minutes.

Tsuji locked in another Boston crab. He increased the angle, turning into a Liontamer. Naito tried to get to the ropes , so Tsuji broke the hold and hit the triple jump curb stomp for a near fall. Fireman’s Bomb from Tsuji! 1…2…no! He called for Gene Blaster, but Naito monkey-flipped Tsuji into the corner pad! That was a sweet counter. Gene Blaster by Naito! 1…2…no! After a series of escapes Naito connected with Valentia, and went for Destino. Tsuji blocked it momentarily, but Naito changed grip and managed to execute. A second Destino finished the job.

WINNER: Tetsuya Naito via pinfall in 35:00 to retain the IWGP World Heavyweight championship. (***1/2)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: I understand why the match was wrestled the way it was, to show how heavily Naito had influenced Tsuji. It had the side effect of feeling a little plodding at times. I loved the story of Naito being better prepared and knowing what Tsuji was going to do, but the action was just a little lacking for me. Still a very good match, but it could have been incredible with just a little more speed.)

As Naito got on the mic after the match, Jon Moxley came to the ring. Naito asked him if he wanted the IWGP World Heavyweight championship. Moxley did not move. Naito repeated the question, slower. Moxley nodded, and Naito agreed to put the title on the line. Naito then complimented Tsuji and did his role call.

Final thoughts: The sad thing about this show is that Gabe Kidd’s promo stands out the most. Despite the minimised House of Torture nonsense and two excellent title matches, we’ll be talking about Kidd’s comments for several days I imagine. The card was good from top to bottom, with the obvious exception of Yoh’s injury. I hope Kidd’s comments actually signal some clarity on behalf of the company and not just an angle, but we will see.

You can contact me at lansdellicious@gmail.com or on Twitter @lansdellicious . Thanks for stopping by!

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