Thursday, June 22, 2017


World Mega-Battle Open Tournament King of Kings 2000 Grand Final
February 24, 2001 in Tokyo, Japan
Sumo Hall drawing 10,260

IT IS IN THE DARKEST HEART OF WINTER, LITERAL FEBRUARY, THAT WE MAKE OUR (GRAND) FINAL ENCOUNTER WITH WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS 2000 and as is customary, this occurs not in the year listed in the tournament title but in the early part of the year that follows which makes it unclear until you get used to it but then it's okay (as with so many things). Whilst that custom is observed, another is broken: we find ourselves situated not in the 日本武道館 Nippon Budōkan with which we most closely associate RINGS Grand Finals, but instead in the Sumo Hall of 両国国技館 Ryōgoku Kokugikan, which has not housed this our best-loved breed of kakutogi since November of 1993, when it was not yet quite kakutogi despite Akira Maeda's insistence that it was totally kakutogi, everybody shut up. And we are live!  When last we had access to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter archive (it updates weekly, whereas we update daily, and with each day we traverse months and probably also realms), Dave had mentioned passingly, almost casually, that WOWOW was perhaps about to begin to ease off on the premium television deal that had formed the premium backbone of the premium commercial viability of the æsthetically premium Fighting Network we have long premiumly cherished as RINGS, and we know that the end is grows extremely nigh (not because the shows are flagging; they are, on the contrary, exceedingly sikk, but because here in 2017 we feel the absence of RINGS each day and remember how and when it left us), but WOWOW remains sufficiently in on this situation that these GRAND FINALS air not in an edited, two-hour presentation but instead as a live special to which we are welcomed by the RINGS theme that once had a rap over it, we all recall each time it resounds through this or any hall, and by the voices of Kenichi Takayanagi and Hideyuki Kumakubo as the uttered words Gong Kakutogi remind us again of the fleeting nature of all but love (which when true is eternal):

"4/22 (Saturday) shows on the cover of the June release "Gong martial arts'. Issue 300 of Yuki Nakai's cover of the defunct Memorial issue. In 2007, the "last will and Testament and long interview also published. Also appeared in the special issue proposals, Kosei Inoue, Japan Judo men's coach. Horiguchi, Tsukasa RIZIN Yokohama meeting after × t. nasukawa Tenshin Mika."

I like that photograph of Yuki Nakai very much! Hey did you know that in addition to being a recently-half-blinded (like earlier that night), one-hundred-fifty-four pound guy that it took Rickson Gracie six-minutes and twenty-two seconds to hadaka-jime, Yuki Nakai trained at Hokkaido University under Kanae Hirata, renowned ne-waza judoist, under whom Koji Komuro also studied? And did you know that the third largest city in Hokkaido is Hakodate, which has a citadel and is Halifax's sister city? And that I went to an event at the university (the one at which I hold appointment in the department of English Language and Literature, not the one at which I hold appointment in the Club of Judo; guess which appointment I treasure more dearly [though both have been blessings, please do not mistake me) to celebrate the fellowship of our cities, and people from Hakodate performed an イカ ika or squid dance and it was neat? And did you know, further, and tying all of this together really very neatly, one of the best movies to watch if you are interested in the tensions between a fading puroresu and a rising kakutogi (the Boxing Squila is clearly K-1 [which was founded by Kazuyoshi Ishii who learned his cræft whilst in the employ of Akira Maeda in Fighting Network RINGS omg]) and also squids is 2004's いかレスラー Ika resuraa or The Calamari Wrestler  

THAT OUGHT TO JUST ABOUT COVER IT as we turn away from the associative chain that would extend in time to bound all I now know or have ever known (the little that we are afforded) and turn instead towards the matters truly at hand before us as we consider again this Fighting Network, these RINGS. A Japanese-accented voice offers pretty-much-though-not-quite-idiomatic-yet-unfailingly-compelling English epithets to describe each of the eight remaining athletes in our tournament Grand Finals and they are THE LETHAL WEAPON FROM MINNEAPOLIS DAVE MENNE, THE SMILING KILLER HIROMITSU KANEHARA, THE MAN CHOSEN BY THE GOD OF JIU-JITSU ANTONIO NOGUEIRA, THE MAESTRO OF COMMANDO SAMBO VOLK HAN, PRESENT UFC WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION THE NATURAL RANDY COUTURE, GRÆPPLER OF JAPAN TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA, THE RISING BOMBER CRUSHER THE FLYING DUTCHMAN VALENTIJN OVEREEM, THE RINGS STAR THE FIGHTING JUNKY NORIHISA YAMAMOTO; THE STRONGEST OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY WILL BE DECIDED ON THE RING [INAUDIBLE, BAD RECORDING] and I am so ready for it to happen. Also note "Norihisa" as opposed to "Yoshihisa," which is actually how it is translated in the English patch I have of ファイナルファイヤープロレスリング~夢の団体運営/Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Yume no Dantai Unei!/Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Organization of Dreams/Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Dream Organization Management so I guess this is just one of those things where kanji are pretty complicated? (I have read that with its mixture of scripts, modern written Japanese is supposed by linguists to be the most complex written language in current use.) 

In addition to our usual commentary team and guests we have too a whole other panel, a youthful one, seated at some distance from the ring:

The young lady on the left I think picks Randy Couture, the fellow in the middle Nogueira, and I think the fellow on the right Yamamoto? It is possible and indeed even likely that I missed some or possibly even all of the nuance in their conversation since I do not speak the language they converse in. There's even an intrepid backstage reporter! She's brought the perfect coat for it!

She is probably getting scoops!

It is no scoop but rather well known to all who sit in 両国国技館 Ryōgoku Kokugikan and all who share its reality through the miracle of WOWOW that our opening match is to be between Dave Menne and Hiromitsu Kanehara. The little pre-fight video packages for each fighter are incredibly good, just a mix of their previous match highlights and training footage, but done with such art that they are captivating. Dave Mene has added some goony tattoos and a Van Dyke (commonly called a goatee but please; please) since last we saw him but Hiromitsu Kanehara has added neither. Perhaps they somehow fuel Dave Menne's græpple-strong first round? He enjoyed the better position pretty much throughout, and did a lot of hitting to Kanehara's body (that is the most acceptable kind of hitting there is, to the body, but it is still not good; everyone stop please). This is a good crowd! They are very encouraging when Hiromitsu Kanehara slips out of a hold or attempts a throw! A fine first round from each fighter in his own way, I think, but it definitely seems like Menne got the best of it. In the second, Kanehara comes out kicking, but is taken down before long. Not much happens of note, and so they are stood again, and the crowd erupts when Kanehara drags Mennea back to the ground and comes up on top in tate-shiho-gatame, and they shriek as he transitions to the chest-hold of mune-gatame and then then the head and neck hold of kame-shiho-gatame to attack with gyaku-ude-garami (think thoughts of Masahiko Kimura, now and always) and also juji-gatame but mostly gyaku-ude-garami! KANE HA RA KANE HA RA KANE HA RA! But Dave Menne is nothing if not wily and he avoids this trouble. As the round ends they are kickboxing vigorously! I failed to mention when it was happening but Kanehara took the back and just choked the hekk out of the face, like just a reckless face-strangling. At the end of these two rounds, one judge has it for Kanehara (the crowd loves this!) but two have it as a draw, and so a third round. This has been a great match! And the Sumo Hall crowd is so far--and we are only like ten minutes in, obviously--one of the best RINGS ones yet! In the third round both come out swinging (their arms, so as to hit one another with their hands), and Kanehara seems to do better at this? Oh gee, he is really connecting with Dave Menne's face and head now. HOLY MOLY KANEHARA WINS WITH A HUGE RIGHT HAND but is kind of cut up from the same exchange that won it for him, look:

Menne is far from thrilled with the stoppage but in fairness to him he he has just suffered brain trauma and there is no way he is doing a good job of thinking about things. I hope he does okay with that now? Kanehara advances!

Next we have the terrific idea of VOLK HAN VS. ANTONIO RODRIGO NOGUEIRA, and I am guessing that's what this says:

If not, it is being used terribly out of context. {UPDATE: my friend David, known to you already in these pages as One Who Reads Japanese, tells me this actually says Combat Sambo vs. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, THANKS DAVID} As part of Volk Han's excellent video package, they show his flying 蟹挟 kani-basami crab scissors into ashi-kansetsu (leg bone-locking) against Akira Maeda in a match that may not have been entirely on the up and up. I am really excited for this one! Ryogaku Wada is our referee and the bell sounds and this is really happening! Nogueira dives in for a takedown and the crowd is like HWWOOOOOAAAAHHHHH at this even though nothing could be more natural or expected; such is their enthusiasm broadly. Han grabs a head and arm and holds Nogueira there for a little bit but there is no real danger of anything, especially. They are too beneath the ropes at this point and so asked to stand once more. Nogueira's kuchiki-taoshi (dead-tree drop/single) and morote-gari (two-hand reap/double) takedowns are never especially pleasing ones but sometimes they put people down so it's hard to argue. Nogueira cycles through his osakomi-waza hold-down techniques as though he were prepping for a grading with a compliant uke (maybe we did this at judo just the other night, who can say); such is the extent of his positional work against the flattened-out Volk Han. In the second, Han is down once more, but does a better job of shrimping up onto his side to avoid such debilitating enflattening. He manages, even, to get back to his knees, where nothing happens and they are asked to stand. Nogueira bails on his next kuchiki-taoshi when it meets with resistance and drops back into the hikikomi position that one assumes Nogueira himself would think of as his guarda. NOGUEIRA IS ATTACKING WITH ASHI-KANSETSU WHICH IS TO SAY LEG BONE-LOCKING as he rolls through for a hiza-juji knee-bar! How wild would it be to defeat Volk Han by leg-lock! He does not, but does use the threat of this hold to come right up on top in tate-shiho-gatame in the ensuing scramble. THE PEOPLE LOVE VOLK HAN as he swings and misses at Nogueira but rolls him over with a lovely sumi-gaeshi from gyaku-ude-garami JUST LIKE MASAHIKO KIMURA THAT'S RIGHT . . .

. . . but, unlike Mashahiko Kimura, he ends pretty well stuck in an ashi-sankaku-garami (leg-triangle-entanglement/omoplata) from which Nogueira, rather than attempting to finish with a shime-waza strangulation from there (as illustrated on page 200 [I didn't even have to check] of Best Judo by Nobuyuki Sato and Isao Inokuma [who defeated Doug Rogers for gold at Tokyo 1964 and built Tokai University into the best university team in the world but ultimately committed seppuku in 2001 because things were not going well at Tokai Kensetsu [a construction company] which is really too bad because I mean it's just work man it'll be ok [it was not ok]{"The techniques of Judo are limitless," Isao Inokuma once wrote, "and the spirit of Judo is sublime," R.I.P. Isao Inokuma}) but instead opts for the figure-four ankle-lock of ashi-dori-garami. He does not finish with either hold, but does have Volk Han well stuck (and out of luck, whilst, somewhere, Iron Man is sipping rum out of Stanley Cups [unflammable]) as round two ends:

Nogueira rightly takes the two-round decision, and though Volk Han seems disheartened that not a single judge deemed a third round necessary, I think it is really very good that Volk Han at thirty-nine just went ten minutes with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at twenty-four and came out of it without tapping or being maimed because of not tapping! He did a great job! Do you ever weary of reflecting on how the three best professional wrestlers (Volk Han, Kiyoshi Tamura, and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, in whichever order you prefer) in the best professional wrestling style ever (shoot-style and of course RINGS especially) all turned out to be so fvkkn legit? Plainly I do not ever weary of considering this as you can see from how I have a several-hundred-thousand word blog about it but I thought I would ask if maybe you did. 

UPDATE: Aided both materially and in spirit by old birthday money from both my mom and my mother-in-law I had not yet spent, I have arranged to have a copy of the final issue of GONG KAKUTOGI mailed to me from Japan after I got all worked up about it several paragraphs prior to this one; I have also arranged to have sent the Japanese-language editions of Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki's Newaza of Kashiwazaki and Isao Okano's Vital Judo: Grappling Techniques, and while I will recognize scarcely a word in any of these texts, there are lots of pictures so I should make out okay. In case I get lost I do have a pdf of the now-extraordinarily-expensive English-language edition of the Okano book, and hey look so do you now too, along with its companion volume for throwing, both operating at the highest levels of taste and waza.   


I know this match well, and have watched it quite recently, definitely within the last year, and so although it will hold few surprises for me here, I know that it contains several delights, and so my anticipation is none the less (nonetheless). Couture, as mentioned above, enters the WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS GRAND FINAL as the UFC World Heavyweight Champion, having very recently defeated Kevin Randleman (R.I.P., I don't know how he survived that unreal staph infection to make it is long as he did afterwards, but all the same gone far too young of course; of course) for the title at UFC 28: High Stakes, not to be confused with UFC 27: Ultimate Bad Boyz (I have taste-level concerns). He did this between KING OF KINGS rounds! Tsuyoshi Kohsaka comes into this one bout having just defeated Fedor Emelianenko (which sounds amazing!) by slicing him up with an inadvertent elbow in the thirteen seconds (oh okay). I am pretty sure this match is available online any number of places (like no fewer than two), let me see . . . yes ok here you go! Let's enjoy it together, shall we? 

Couture and Kohsaka shake hands heartily and we are underway! And they clinch, if you can believe it! Kohsaka tries to turn his right hip in for an uchi-mata or harai-goshi right away; Couture's task here is to square up his hips and keep them square, and to achieve this by footwork and gripping, and he does it ably (this is all as one might expect of each). The boxing comes in little flurries and Couture is certainly the better boxer though Kohsaka does not look utterly at sea against him. It would be wrong to say that TK gives as good as he gets, or anything, but he gets the odd shot in, enough that the crowd has something to be pleased about. THEY ALSO LIKE LIKE THE 払巻込 HARAI-MAKIKOMI SWEEPING HIP WRAPAROUND TSUYOSHI KOHSAKA THROWS RANDY COUTURE WITH RIGHT IN FRONT OF AKIRA MAEDA AS KENICHI TAKAYANAGI AND HIDEYUKI KUMAKUBO SAY JUDO NEARLY ENOUGH TIMES AND HERE PLEASE ENJOY A GIF OF IT:

While that could conceivably be ruled an ippon I am going to be conservative and opt for waza-ari (literally "technique exists") on this one lest I stand accused of naked (or hadaka) partisanship (I am in fact the nakedmost partisan quite possibly ever), and also just because I actually think it is a waza-ari, but even so I am delighted. TK hangs out in Randy Couture's double-entanglement of niju-garami and fires away with hard punches whilst the crowd loudly cheers each strike (I have never heard a RINGS crowd cheer like this for strikes on the ground before) and one lands so hard the tape couldn't properly deal with it:

This strong TK-finish to the round is interrupted with about ten seconds to go when some incidental contact (from an elbow maybe?) slices Kohsaka quite bleedingly about the eye. Ah, the replay reveals that Randy Couture hit him with a head-butt from the bottom, a rare technique! That was a great round. The second begins with further clinching, if you can believe it of this contest between a judo player and a Greco-Roman wrestler, and Kohsaka tries another harai-makikomi but comes out on bottom as we get a good look at just how much the cut from that headbutt has opened up again:

That's not good! When Couture passes from niju-garami right up top to tate-shiho-gatame for an instant, TK scrambles back up to his knees, only to get flattened back out, this time in the north/south pin of kame-shiho-gatame WHICH HE TK SCISSORS OUT OF:

It is magnificent. KOHSAAAAAKAAAAAAA KOHSAKAAAAAAAAA are the crowd's cries but there is also one RAAAANDYYYYY that should be noted, too. One begins to wonder if there is any position out of which TK will not attempt TK Scissors: 

He nearly catches a yoko-sankaku-jime side-triangle-choke with it! What on earth! Couture slips out, but it is enough to get Kohsaka back up to his feet. An alternate angle on the replay shows the ringside presence of Jon Bluming (who once taught judo at the university where I now do [this is ground we have covered thoroughly]), which is good, but the reason we have time for a replay in the middle of the round is that TK's cut is a total mess, which is bad. With two minutes left there is much clinched striking, and some TK hip-turning, answered by Couture's hip-squaring. And again the cut. It's really not very good. Also his nose is bleeding a lot. Akira Maeda is up and everything; that is how seriously they are taking all of this blood. But they allow him to continue! In the final moments, TK comes close with uchi-mata, Couture pushes him to the mat once, and there is much clinched boxing. I have this bout as one round for Kohsaka and one round for Couture and so by that measure you might think I would have them fight a third round, but TK is all cut up and I do not mind at all the unanimous decision for Randy Couture, as adept at fighting as he is at child-bearer-leaving (his autobiography details all of this, and even how his incredibly shabby treatment of his second wife led to his falling out with Dan Henderson [they were couple friends and Henderson was like come on man she's great what is this]; and again, this is all from his own published account of his carrying on; I tell no tales out of school). Anyway, great fight! There's Dan Henderson now, in Randy's corner. And there's Masayuki Naruse in TK's. I feel like we haven't seen him in ages?

There are ring ladies for this show and that is not something I favour; I will not for the purposes of the historical/poetic record that the æsthetic sought here seems to be one akin to that of the ring ladies in PRIDE's employ (or are they yet? I believe they were; I will not check). 

Valentijn Overeem finishes Yamamoto Norihisa (that is definitely what they are saying here) by juji-gatame in a mere 1:45 and the crowd thrills to this, which is not what I would have expected, necessarily (the crowd reaction, I mean, not the result), and so as the intermission begins our semi-final match-ups of Hiromitsu Kanehara vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Randy Couture vs. Valentijn Overeem are set. Those match-ups . . . those match-ups are awesome. Our youthful panel of non-Kenichi Takayanagi people take us through the highlights of these first four matches, and they are many! Great fights, great waza, great crowd! As the intermission draws to a close, we have Masayuki Naruse come to the ring in a nice suit and carrying his RINGS Light Heavyweight (-95kg) championship belt, which he returns to Akira Maeda! He says a few words and that's it for that whole title I think, as notes only that Naruse was the first RINGS -95kg champion and that in time the title was dissolved? Perhaps when the Observer archive catches up with us we will have more clarity on the factors at play here but the situation itself seems plain enough. 

To give our WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS GRAND FINAL semi-finalist a little more time, we have a match between a rising-sun-shorts'd Alistair Overeem and Vladimir Tchanturia, who I believe to be a boxer of some kind. Overeem wastes no time in wrangling him to the ground and applying a hadaka-jime strangle at 1:06. 

Hiromitsu Kanehara's entrance music is so good! I really have to find out what it is. Although our affection for Kanehara is real and true, it is had to see much good for him in a match with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, wouldn't you agree? And yet here he stands, dauntless, about a half a foot shorter than his plainly more skillful foe. Also his ribs are all wrapped up. Wait, he's doing great: he has Nogueira's back for a moment in all the opening scrambling, and holds a fine position on top, until Nogueira picks an ankle and then he doesn't anymore and Nogueira has him totally on the run. But Kanehara keeps popping out of things! This guy is such a character! Young Nogueira is doing all the things you would expect of Young Nogueira, it's just that Kanehara is a slippery and clever little guy. Now he's out-striking him! How can Hiromitsu Kanehara kick anyone in the head, let alone Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who is like 6'3"? A serious and still-pretty-sliced-up Tsuysohi Kohsaka offers counsel from Kanehara's corner. Ah, Kanehara looks pretty caught in this juji-gatame, this might actually be it aaaaaaah saved by the bell! THIS KANEHARA IS SOMETHING ELSE. Is Hiromitsu Kanehara the "1999 KING OF KINGS Andrei Kopilov" of the 2000 KING OF KINGS? It would certainly seem so! In the second round it takes Nogueira only twenty-seven seconds to secure the hadaka-jime strangle, and so he deservedly moves on to the finals and we congratulate him on this, but Hiromitsu Kanehara though! 

I was about to say that Randy Couture vs. Valentijn Overeem, while unlikely to offer quite as much as Kanehara/Nogueira because of how weirdly special that one ended up being, should still be totally good, but it has just now ended in fifty-six seconds on Overeem's mae-hadaka-jime front choke! So that's different but pretty great in its own way! Couture shot in for the low, tackling morote-gari (two-hand reap) right away, and got it, and Overeem started hunting for the strangle right away. He actually fished around for it for what felt like kind of a while, and when Couture realized he couldn't slam his way out of it, that was it. The crowd loved it! What of the lineal UFC Heavyweight Championship! (I have just now looked it up and the lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion seems to currently be the same as the actual UFC Heavyweight Champion, so that's disappointing; I had hoped it would wander off in interesting directions like how Mayweather/McGregor will be for the lineal WWF Brawl for All title [agreement on this is not universal], but no). 

Wataru Sakata enters once more to "Land of Hope and Glory" and kicks Ryushi Yanagisawa extremely in the groin almost immediately:

To say that this is the most notable occurrence in this bout is not to disparage any of the many hard-fought moments (or indeed textures) that it offers beyond that but merely to acknowledge the inherent lure of the groin attack. The much larger Yanagisawa weathers the storm of it and claims a two-round decision victory, after which Sakata briefly addresses the crowd (to what end I cannot say).   

To speak of entrance music again, "Renato" Babalu "Sobral" continues to come out to the P. Diddy Led Zeppelin song from the Godzilla movie I did not see (there are many Godzilla movies I have not seen, but only one that has this song in it [to the best of my knowledge]). "Flame of Mind" is better, and it is what Kiyoshi Tamura enters to in his tied-off U-FILE CAMP t-shirt (the right decision). SPECIAL MATCH DESU yeah you can say that again, Kenichi Takayanagi! The people continue to love Kiyoshi Tamura, if you had been wondering about that. This disc is stuttering in ways that do not inspire confidence right now but let's fight through it. Babalu looks a little beefier than when we last saw him, and I think he gets more tattoos between rounds. I would broadly characterize the many græpplings in the first round thus: Babalu certainly had the upper-hand in position and control and attempts, but Tamura was lively throughout and enjoyed fine moments as well (clearly fewer). Is this a ten-minute first round, unlike the tournament bouts? Just tonight I thought one of our rounds of ne-waza randori was going awfully long so I grabbed my phone, upon which my round-timer programme was running, to see that I had a new voicemail that had stopped the round timer! Imagine my surprise and exhaustion! Maybe that is what has happened here in RINGS to Akira Maeda's phone (this is preposterous as phones that are like that remains years away, forgive me this absurdity). Things continue much the same way in the second, and while there are many screams of TAMURAAAAAA there is also a chant of BA BA RU BA BA RU and he is pretty irresistible, I get it (wait until the get a load of him in like five to seven years when he is at peak handsomeness). One judge has it a draw, but the other two rhave it for Babalu, which is the extremely the right call in my view and in the view of the 両国国技館 Ryōgoku Kokugikan Sumo hall crowd who are a knowledgeable body. Babalu seems very delighted with how the people receive him! It really must be quite a thrill.

AND NOW AT LEAST WE CROWN THE WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS 2000 GRAND FINAL KING OF KINGS KING and of course Akira Maeda in his red jacket speaks solemn words in proclamation and national anthems resound throughout the hall and we are underway as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira dives in low and after a brief struggle takes a position atop Valentijn Overeem in the fine chest hold of mune-gatame and then atop his foe to tate-gatame and then to 肩固 kata-gatame which is the most exciting one yet in that it is not only an osae-waza or pinning technique but also and perhaps especially a shime-waza or strangulation technique and it is extremely on and despite the valiant Overeem's best efforts to resist that is very much that in a mere 1:20! This young Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is really something! 

Valentijn Overeem is warmly applauded for his excellent showing in this utterly sikk tournament, and is embraced warmly by Jon Bluming, who as you know in 1958 taught judo at the very same university where I taught it earlier this very evening, either because the university where we have both taught judo is an international hub of judo excellence (possible) or because the world is very strange (perhaps more likely). 

But the day and like eleven trophies are richly and truly and deservedly Antonoio Rodrigo Nogueira's. What a wonderful martial artist and lovely man! 

Please join me again soon for further RINGS! Thank you in all sincerity for your time and attention.


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