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A Dangerous Expose: The PGHW Story

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Narrator: The following program is brought to you by Southeast Sports Radio.


[A heavy keyboarding intro kicks in, filling the air for about fifteen seconds.]


Narrator: This is A Dangerous Expose: The PGHW Story.


[The music fades into the background as the podcast finally.


Buck: Howdy y’all, this is Buck Conley alongside a man you’ll recognize if you have tuned into the puro wrestling scene in the last forty years: Danger Kumasaka! How are you today, sir?


Danger: I’m doing well, Buck. I’m looking forward to see where this new project of ours will take us both.


Buck: Hopefully it won’t take you too far from sunny Pensacola. How did one of the major names in Japanese wrestling find himself enjoying his retirement in the Panhandle?


Danger: Truth be told, my wife and I wanted a change of pace. The benefit of working with a touring company is I had ample opportunity to see nearly every part of my homeland, but that also left me feeling like I didn’t have much left when I stepped away from the business. At the very least, I’m in a place where new things truly feel new.


Buck: Can’t fault you for that. Well, I think we should probably answer the question that has crossed a lot of people’s minds already: why is a radio host based out of Birmingham talking Puro wrestling of all things? Well, simply put, I’m first and foremost a fan of wrestling and I know that that’s a passion my listeners share with me, many of whom could probably spout the minutest details of the Tuesday Night Wars. There are dozens of other shows you can go and find if you want to hear the same stuff talked about again and again. What you’re gonna get from A Dangerous Expose that you won’t get anywhere else is a first-person look into the Far East, a largely untapped market for many mainstream wrestling fans in the state. I hope that together Danger and I can educate and entertain you on what is arguably some of the best wrestling in the world.


Danger: I’m doing this because I wanted to get out of the house more.


[buck Conley chuckles to himself.]


Buck: Roll Tide, sir.


Danger: On a more serious note, I really wanted to offer the only thing I have left for this business: my thoughts. Not just my thoughts on Puro, but on wrestling from around the world. A Dangerous Expose will focus on the chronological history of PGHW, but I highly encourage the listeners to reach out with any questions they might have of any topic. Wrestling related, of course; no discussion of anyone’s genitalia proportions, please.


Buck: I don’t even understand that reference, but hey, you’re the pro. Regardless, I’m glad you brought up that last point. Off-air you described to me what I can best label as your wrestling philosophy. Do you mind sharing that now for the listeners?


Danger: Certainly, Buck. I approached the wrestling business like a spider building a web. You spread your gaze far and wide in the hopes of catching the best prey. And when you feel something you land, you don’t sit on your hands and wait for them to come within reach; you go and snatch it up, no matter the effort. If you don’t, you will starve.


Buck: And rumor and hearsay suggests that you were notorious for that, not just in Japan but all over the world. Just how deep did your influence run in the wrestling business, Danger?


Danger: I think by the end of this podcast, you’ll be shocked more by the opportunities I didn’t have a hand in. Not in Japan, of course; at the end of the day, my loyalty was for PGHW alone. But in the rest of the world, I wanted to see people get an opportunity. Might as well use what influence and sway I had to do just that.


Buck: Well I for one can’t way to hear about who you helped out along the way. We’re drawing close to the end of this intro piece, but before we go would you mind explaining why our podcast will start at the turn of 1997 and not at the company’s founding six months earlier?


Danger: I wanted to start at the turn of the year because I don’t think you and I can do any better than the documentary “The Birth of PRIDE” that was released a few years ago. If the listeners want to be more informed about PGHW’s origins, there’s no better resource than that one. Besides, I think the things we discuss for the month of January will be more than enough to hook the listeners on Puro.


Buck: Want to tease us with a few topics we might talk about next time?


Danger: The things I can promise we’ll talk about are these: How Burning Hammer put the Japanese independent scene back by several years in a single month, how an injury in PGHW’s main event scene changes my booking plans and, when it’s all said and done, this man’s career, and how I begin to plant the seeds that would change the business approach of PGHW.


Buck: All of that and more next time on A Dangerous Expose. Send me any questions you have for Danger and his thoughts on the wrestling business at @BamaSlamma.


[The keyboard instrumental kicks in for a few moments as the show comes to a close.]




Writer’s Note: Hope y’all enjoyed the intro to the newest PGHW diary here on the forums. If you can’t tell by the layout and character cast, my main inspiration are the real-world podcasts hosted by Conrad Thompson, specifically the one he does with Bruce Pritchard. This will be the main layout I use for the duration of this podcast but I hope to sprinkle a few interludes in that show the POV of other Cverse characters in big moments that the AI created over time. Thus, this diary is going to be very PGHW heavy, though I hope to supplement with Danger’s thoughts on the wrestling product as a whole. In that regard, I encourage (and to a degree, even beg) for OOC questions about characters, promotions, or stories that I’ll then implement into the IC narrative (similar to listener questions).


Database is the CV97 Mod (my favorite mod to play with) with a few minor tweaks. The pertinent one PGHW is I changed the touring schedule a bit. I don’t like when a company starts with wrestlers on touring contracts but they’re not currently on tour. After a bit of debate, I decided not to take away the weight division in BHOTWG that is default in the database. My test runs showed me that the sign up a significant amount of talent but decided not to go against the lore defined in the mod.


Expect this OOC section to get some use, especially once I start dealing with regens later in the save. I’ll be writing the diary as if the listeners had a reference point to what or who was being talked about, but if I feel the need to explain myself, I’ll drop footnotes down here at the end of each piece.

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<div style="text-align:center;"><p><strong>Chapter One: A New Beginning</strong></p></div><p></p><p> </p><p>

Narrator: The following program is brought to you by Southeast Sports Radio.</p><p> </p><p>

[A heavy keyboarding intro kicks in, filling the air for about fifteen seconds.]</p><p> </p><p>

Narrator: While much of the world had the eyes fixed on the three-front war in North America, there was a different sort of conflict happening largely unseen on the edge of the horizon. One behemoth sought to darken the rising sons, but in the shadows a rebellion had begun. One that upheld three tenets that would help this persevere when all others would succumb. Pride. Glory. Honor. And this . . . this is that story. This is A Dangerous Expose.</p><p> </p><p>

[The updated intro fades away, leaving only the two hosts of the show.]</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Howdy there, its Buck Conley sitting alongside The Webmaster himself, Mister Danger Kumasaka. How are you, sir?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: I’m doing well, Buck. Feeling a bit old, to be honest, after going back and reliving a few of the matches we’re gonna talk about today. It’s crazy to think that that was over two decades ago.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: What’s the general feelings towards this point in your booking career?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: To be honest, I’m not too proud of this particular period, at least when compared to later parts on my run. Looking back, I can tell that I didn’t quite understand my booking formula yet and so a few of my decisions fell flat in the early parts of the year. Didn’t quite live up to Mister Jimbo’s wishes either. Granted, we were all less than a year into this endeavor, so I think it’s fair to expect a few rough bumps in the early going.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: I won’t disagree with that. And this wasn’t just the case for PGHW, either. Nineteen ninety-seven marked a monumental time in wrestling with several major wrestling companies really pushing to the forefront of their regions all at the same time. Do you mind setting the landscape for us, Danger, as we dive into January?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Not at all, Buck. If I were to pick a word to describe the wrestling industry in early 1997, it would have to be war. The United States itself had two major conflicts—The Tuesday Night Wars and the East Coast Wars—happening at the national and regional levels; to be fair, HGC rivaled SWF more in capital at this point than notoriety. On top of that, OLLIE and MPWF in Mexico were stealing talent whenever the opportunity arose. North America was volatile and, as these conflicts tend to go, Japanese companies suffered a bit of collateral.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: You’re referring to the talent raids that BHOWTG and GCG suffered in late 1996. I imagine I don’t have to remind you that some of the shrapnel that struck Hanshiro Furusawa’s promotion was fired from your direction, right?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: I won’t deny that PGHW’s rise didn’t have a bit to do to GCG’s declining status in Puro. With that said, our intention was never to put anyone our business. We hired the amount of talent we needed to start our promotion and left Mister Furusawa to keep his own company afloat. In 1997, we didn’t have the means to maintain a swollen roster, so we wanted to see other Puro companies develop the younger talent we couldn’t bring in at the time.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: But that wasn’t the Burning Way, was it?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: No, Mister Kaneie Komine had a different vision for Puro. He wanted to see the entire country under the banner of BHOWTG. In his opinion, there was only enough room for a single promotion.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Well I guess before we go further, we should read off the names of the men BHOTWG hired in January 1997.</p><p> </p><p>

[buck Conley takes a deep, audible breath.]</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Yosuke Narita, Tasuku Shinozuka, Golden Fox, Ninsei Tanuma, Masayuki Shiga, Naonobu Murkami, Bairei Yasujiro, Dark EAGLE, Takesi Umehara, Kano Shizuna, Onishi Takuma, PLATIMUM Takamatsu, SILVER Ishihara, Gihei Kanesaka, Junnosuke Fukuzawa, Ken Shimedzu, Razor Valentine, Shotaro Ikina, Toshinobu Taku, Go Amori, Tetsu Onodera, Yasunori Koga, Hayate Hasegawa, Amiri Ngala, Asato Matsubara, Naotaka Fujino, Tatsuki Miyata, Lee Bennett, Sadakuno Nishimuraya, Riki Toda, Kiyoshi Hara, Kayin Puro, Naruki Miyata, Go Matsunaga, Travis Century, Bloody Takai, Botan Oonishi, The Wolverine, Death, Daisetsu Satou, Naoshi Shinomori, Dai Shunichi, and Lamprecht the Lunatic.</p><p> </p><p>

[A few long moments of silence hangs after the last name.]</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Wow.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Did I mispronounce any of the names?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Lee, but I won’t fault you for it.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: I mean, why did they feel the need to sign so many people? And on written contracts to boot? Besides the few freelancers in the mix, of course.</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: It was just how Kaneie and Haruki Kudo operated. They wanted to wide spread array of talent and were willing to overpay to do it. On top of that, they had an image in mind for the kind of person that had the Burning Spirit. It just so happened that this mold included most of the veterans in the Puro scene not already under a written contract.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: No kidding. If GCG wasn’t feeling the sting from PGHW or HGC, they were certainly feeling it after a large portion of their upper midcard were poached. Of the names we listed above—and I promise the listeners, we will be spared these name vomits from here on out—were any of them prospects you were looking to bring in at some point in the near future?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: A few, Buck. Shiga and Murkami were two solid hands that would’ve fit in well if they ever stepped away from GCG; I was interested in bringing them in while they were under contract because I understand how difficult it was on the body to working with two touring companies at the same time. As for the gaijin, Lee Bennett had caught my eye. I probably would’ve brought him in with his tag team partner, Alexander Robinson, for the Spring tour had they both been available. And, finally, Yosuke Narita and Bairei Yasujiro, but Mister Jimbo wasn’t interested in their style.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: In what way?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: At the time, Mister Jimbo wanted to create a sharp divide between our product and Burning Hammer so he was very adamant that I didn’t hire anyone who worked a junior or lucha style. Which was unfortunate because I feel like those two talent in particular would’ve adapted to our grounded style without too much difficulty.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: And looking back, would you say that his hiring spree hurt the Puro scene in 1997.</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Without a doubt. As I hinted at last week, this behavior by Kaneie and Haruki set the Japanese wrestling scene back several years. Within a span of a month, the majority of the veterans over the age of thirty found themselves exclusive to either Pride or Burning Hammer, leaving a handful of those who were left untouched to split time between multiple promotions. The young lions that could secured a guaranteed contract with any of the named promotions found themselves unable to work at all save for a rare tribute show appearance because no one was willing to run spot shows. As we would see in the next few years, quite a few men and women would have to seek employment abroad to even have a chance in this business. And for what? For a jumpstart journalist to have his monopoly? It would take a long time for Japan to bounce back from this hit.</p><p> </p><p>

[Another pause at the pair lets the seriousness of the claim settle in.]</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Well I guess we can finally get to the primary focus of the podcast. Pride finds itself in the final month of its Winter Origin Tour. The biggest news of the tour thus far had been the first Glory Crown title change—Hito Ichihara finally besting his rival Koryusai Kitoaji-- since the company’s founding in what was eventually named match of the year in 1996. At the turn of the year, PGHW was just under two weeks away from Night of BEGINNING and you, Danger, were Hito’s first title challenger. Why Beginning and why you?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Night of Beginning was symbolic because it marked both the changing of the year and, though it wasn’t obvious at the time, a changing of the guard. Pride had been founded abound an older generation of talent—myself, Kitoaji, Ichihara, and Yodo Nakane—but we were bursting with potential in our young lions. Had men like Nobuatsu Tatsuko or Mito Miwa had the name recognition that we did at the time, we would’ve already been a major threat against Burning Hammer, not a budding one. I wanted this show to mark the start of the young generation’s rise to the top of the card. Not many would win that night, but it’ll mean something five years later when the rest of us were retired and gone while those kids were still there and now wrestling in the Main Event scene. As for my title challenge, I wanted Hito Ichihara to have a solid first defense against a credible name.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Did you have any desire to hold the championship?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Not really, to be honest. I never had the aspiration to be at the top of the card. I’ve always prided myself on being the first name in line to help elevate the younger talent as well as make the older guys look good when I needed to.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: You were working on top opposite Ichihara for most of the Road to shows teaming with Dread. How was it like working with the big man?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Surreal, Buck. Besides the Four Corners of Pride, Dread was the most over person in the company. So few foreigners come over and make a lasting impact in Puro, but he was able to leave crater sized holes in the history books. Not to mention he was the best hand backstage at maintaining proper decorum, especially with the young boys.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: It’s obvious looking at the run cards for these shows that you were still in the feeling out stages for the promotion’s direction; lots of random pairings and matches. Was there anything in particular you were looking for in your booking?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: For the most part, it was to judge individual performance of my roster members. If I found a pairing that seemed to click, that was a bonus. The Dad pairing of Dragon Agakawa and Kazuo Mitsushi, for instance, was something I kinda just stumbled across. It gave me a solid pair to work the opener with young lions though to pass on their wisdoms. They weren’t necessarily the best matches, but they made the boys better workers.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Were there any standouts in these Road To shows?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: I mean, the names everyone thinks of when they think of with Pride had solid showings. Eisaku Hosino and Eisaku Kunomasu proved formidable in both singles and tag team action, as well as Shuji Inukai and Yoshimi Musashibo. Not to mention Tatsuko and Miwa as well.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Speaking of Miwa, he would team alongside Hito Ichihara in a losing effort to you and Dread on King’s Road that first week. In the post-match, he would challenge Dread to a singles match at Night of Beginning. Would you say that this was one of your old guard, new guard showcases?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: For sure. This was a match I hoped to see headlining with the Glory Crown on the line down the road. Even in the losing effort, this match was only going to help him.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Pride was working three nights a week with, compared to your competitors, a smaller roster. How did you combat fatigue in these first few months?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: In all honestly, rather poorly. I was so fixated on building the younger talent as quickly as possible that I was overworking them, which would hurt some of the matches near the end of the tour. It would take me a few months to work around this oversight.</p><p> </p><p>

[The shuffling of notes can be heard from Buck’s end to break up the exchange for a moment.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: You ready to tackle Night of BEGINNING?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Fire it my way</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Night of Beginning 1997 was hosted in the Nagoya Sports Stadium in front of a sellout crowd on ten thousand people with another 2.1 million tuning in on television. The show opens with tag team action between the Dad duo of Kazuo Mitsushi and Dragon Agakawa versus two young lions, Amane Shunsen and Kanaie Ichihara. The veterans unsurprisingly pick up the victory. It was an okay opening, but nowhere near this ‘beginning’ status you guys were trying to put off.</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: It isn’t always a bad thing to uphold tradition here and there. Kazuo and Dragon were working in synch and they were good about guiding younger talent along. I can’t ask much more of men who were clearly past their prime.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Next we have six man action: Kimitada Yanagita, Shuji Inukai and Java versus Rico Santana, Harumi Okazawaya and Sotatsu Sarumara. Shuji would end up picking the victory over Sarumara after his breathtaking lariat. Again, okay but not great.</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: It’s Japan, Buck; sometimes you have to drag yourself through a few multi-mans. The match was pretty basic but there was a few nice stories told. Mister Jimbo had hired men like Oka and Sarumara to make our big men look good, but I urged them to market themselves as well. Unlike my boss, I didn’t just see the smaller competitors as fodder for our big men; I wanted an openweight feel to our product. This early in the game, though, I was forced to adhere to the original vision.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: The next match certainly embodied your vision. Lee Wright and Raymond Diaz successfully defends the Glory Crown against the team of Koji Kojima and Koki Ishibashi. I gotta say, the big men were smooth in this match.</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: It was one of the reasons they were our initial champions; their chemistry could hardly be denied. The match itself wasn’t blow away but it served its purpose.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: What were your feelings towards Koji and Koki? We would see after the end of this tour that you would sign Ishibashi to an exclusive deal but would ultimately pass on his tag team partner.</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: At the end of the day, it came down to attitude; Koji was a head case in a locker room that was still young and easily influenced. Plus, with Mister Jimbo’s aversion to all things high flying, Koji wasn’t the best equipped to adapt to our roster. Koki, however, worked a more grounded style and I felt he would serve us better in the long run.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Next is another tag team match, Yodo Nakane and Koryusai Kitoaji versus The Eisakus, Hoshino and Kunomasu. By far the best match of the night up to this point, and it ended with Kitoaji picking up the win over Hoshino. It was clear after a match like this that he was performing on a whole level from everyone else, right?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Indeed. Of the big four, Kito was the one must untouched by his age. Yodo just couldn’t perform to the standard we had set for ourselves and was beginning his climb down the card from this point on. We chose to give the pinfall to Koryusai to warm him up for the Elite Series in two months.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Next we see Nobuatsu Tatsuko wrestle Yoshimi Mushashibo to a twenty-minute draw with the Historical Japan title on the line. A decent match—we’ll see better in the years to come—but I wanted to talk about their rematch. Six days later you’re gonna put this match on TV and switch the belt in a match that just didn’t live up to their first fight. What was the thinking and what do you think went wrong?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Well the second question is easier to answer: both men were just gassed. This was a prime example of me expecting too much from the younger talent. The older guys too. I was overworking the boys and matches like this one suffered because of that. As to the first question, I felt Nobu’s title reign had served its purpose. He was performing at a level that warranted a higher spot on the card and I didn’t want him to drag my secondary title to the upper midcard with him. I felt of our younger talent, Yoshimi would offer the most to the belt.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: But you would pull the plug on the reign mighty quickly. Nobuatsu would take the title back from Yoshimi in his first defense in the Spring Tour. I know we’re jumping ahead a bit, but why abort?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: I took a hard look at my decision and felt my opinion of Yoshimi’s ability had clouded my judgement. To a lot of the men in the locker room he was still a young lion and was getting opportunites before he had necessarily earned them. I figured it best to rectify my mistake immediately instead of putting Yoshi in a rough spot because I was being too stubborn.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Fair enough. Anyway, back to Beginning. In the semi-main event we see Dread defeat Mito Miwa in what many considered the match of the night. What was the story behind this one?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Well my long-term goal with Mito was to make him the ace of the people even if he never became the ace of the company itself. I knew when Mister Jimbo started this company that that kid was going to wear the crown, so I wanted to create this narrative of prolonged adversity while we built him to that level. Dread, Japan’s Juggernaut, seemed the first good choice to oppose Mito. Everyone knew he wasn’t going to win this match and the goal was to have a list of men who bested Mito on his rise to the top, so that when he finally makes it, the challengers were already made.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Can’t knock you for your forward thinking, to say the least. And now we’re left with the Main Event, your match for the Glory Crown against Hito Ichihara. You wanna kill two birds with one stone here?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: Yeah, we might as well; I know what you’re going to mention next.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Of course you do; you hyped it yourself on last week’s show. Spoiler Alert: Hito Ichihara beats Mister Danger in a solid match. Most people will put the Dread/Miwa match over it and with the match of the year victory over Kitoaji a month prior in the back of everyone’s mind, this match really suffered. Further tragedy would strike a week five days later when Hito Ichihara suffered a Displaced Sternal Fracture in a six-man tag and was put on the shelf for nearly three months. Pride would vacate the Glory Crown and, despite a few attempts in the years to come, Hito would never hold the title again. What say you, Danger?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: I hate to say it, Buck, but Hito’s unfortunate injury was really a blessing in disguise for the company as a whole. We veterans never like to be told that our prime was behind us, but the truth was Hito had eclipsed his by years. He sadly wasn’t fit to compete at the top of the card any longer. Thankfully he has always been a real professional and would stick alongside me in the years to come as we developed the next generation. There’s real pride to be had in being a teacher.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: There is, at that. And that concludes Night of BEGINNING. Hard not to compare it to your shows later in the year, but it was certainly acceptable for the point you guys were at. Truth be told, not much else happens after this show until you guys hit your February lull period. Just a lot of Road to shows as PGHW headed towards the inaugural Elite Series Challenge in March. You would hire two more men on before the break, Matsudaira Morioka and Chuichi Sanda. Why these two?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: They both fit Mister Jimbo’s vision. Two men who possessed the spirit of Puro within them and both young enough to learn. Sanda had had a few opportunities before I reached out and seemed he had the making to be a solid hand and Morioka was still a young boy. To some, they only see youth; I see opportunity in that.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: Ominous. I like it. I think we can wrap it up on that note. I wanna think our listeners who have stuck with us to the very end of this. I hope you learned a little bit more than you knew before you tuned in; I know I did. But before we go, Danger, can you give the fans a few teasers about what we talk about next week?</p><p> </p><p>

Danger: A few topics I know we’ll end up covering is the men who I offered full-time contracts after the Winter tour, The men I would hire to join us in the Spring Tour, and my thought process behind the booking of the first ever Elite Series. We might even talk about some wrestling elsewhere in the world while we’re at it.</p><p> </p><p>

Buck: That we might. If you listeners want to hear anything specific, be sure to reach out to us with your questions. But until then, that's it for A Dangerous Expose. See y'all next week!</p><p> </p><p>

[The keyboard instrumental kicks in for a few moments before the show comes to a close again]</p><p> </p><p>

</p><div style="text-align:center;"><p>*******</p></div><p></p><p></p><p> </p><p>

<strong>Writer's Note:</strong> Well that took longer than I intended it to take. Hope it was an enjoyable read, albeit a long one. I imagine a lot of your own games, especially if you were paying attention to the Japanese region, started with a similar BHOTWG hiring sprees. I just felt the need to tackle it in this post because it really does have an effect on the game narrative. Regardless, I hope the coming months will yield some stories that you haven't seen before.</p><p> </p><p>

Until next time.</p>

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