Induction: Wrestlemania XV – RussoMania

39 Submitted by on Thu, 03 April 2014, 20:00

WWF, 1999

Wrestlemania is always supposed to be WWE’s biggest show of the year, but for a while, it seemed that every other year the focal point of the wrestling calendar would stink to high heaven. Think about Wrestlemanias 9, 11, and 13; if the WWF wanted to break the odd-numbered Mania curse in 1999, they would have to pull out all the stops for Wrestlemania. Unfortunately, during the Attitude Era, that meant taking the Monday Night Raw booking philosophy (already suffering from ADHD) and medicating it with speed instead of Ritalin to multiply the hyperactive insanity!

Sure, things started out smoothly; “America the Beautiful” was sung by Philadelphia’s Boys II Men. No, not Rob Feinstein’s favorite chat room, but the vocal group from Philly.   wmxv01
wmxv02  But then the “Showcase of the Immortals” kicked off its action with a Hardcore title Triple Threat match that was supposed to pit Hardcore Holly, Al Snow, and Road Dogg against each other. This match would have made sense, since the belt had been held by Road Dogg, vacated due to injury, and then won by Holly in a match against Snow.

 

But, and this is a big “but” (a shapely, toned, well-groomed “but”), Mr. Ass won the title for no good reason just two weeks before the biggest event of the year, taking his partner Road Dogg’s spot. On an unrelated note, Vince Russo was WWF’s head writer at the time.

The match came to an abrupt end when Holly used a chair on Gunn to break up a pinfall, then pinned Al Snow. But hey, they had to make time for a much more important match right afterward. wmxv03 
wmxv04  Or, failing that, a tag title match pitting Owen Hart & Jeff Jarrett against two singles wrestlers who won a battle royal just half an hour earlier. If you looked up “afterthought” in the dictionary, you’d be investing more time than the bookers did putting this match together. 
The match itself was a groundbreaking experiment: Could two strangers, one heel and one face, coexist and and defeat the champions with no planning?
 

The answer was no.

Fascinating.

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wmxv06 Owen Hart’s victory in his record-setting tenth Wrestlemania brought his record to 5-2-1. You might notice that that only adds up to eight matches, not ten, You might also have noticed that ten Wrestlemanias is still two fewer than brother Bret’s 12. The announcers, on the other hand, didn’t notice any of this.
 

Woo! Wrestlemania history!

At least someone in the arena knew their history. wmxv07
wmxv08  Next up was the infamous Brawl For All shoot fight between Bart Gunn and boxer Butterbean. No one’s quite sure whether this was punishment for Gunn knocking out Dr. Death that summer, or whether someone in Titan Tower actually thought Bart could beat a real boxer, but either way, the match ended in a knockout in 35 seconds. Fortunately for Billy Gunn’s kayfabe brother, Bart was spared the nickname “Mr. Ass-Kicked.”*


*Because he was immediately fired.

In a slightly longer bout, special referee Vinny Pazienza uppercut the San Diego Chicken, who was in Philadelphia for some reason. wmxv09
 wmxv10 In a featured bout, “Big Show” Paul Wight wrestled Mankind for the opportunity to referee the main event. Mankind won by disqualification because the Big Show is an idiot. Still, the chokeslam onto two chairs was somehow enough to render Mankind, who in June had continued wrestling after two twenty-foot drops, unable to even referee a match two hours later.

 

Phew, that was a close one! For a second there, I thought a stipulation would actually be honored.

Vince McMahon then slapped Wight, who knocked out the boss for face turn #1 of the night. It was shaping up to be an amusing episode of Raw. Yes, it was extremely thin on action, but sometimes you’ve got to tease the audience to convince them to buy the upcoming pay-per-view, especially Wrestlemania.  wmxv11
wmxv12 Next out was the Road Dogg, who — oh right, this *was* Wrestlemania. And here I just assumed all these thrown-together angles and stunts were just ploys to keep viewers from flipping to Nitro.
Anyway, this four-way match was supposed to pit Ken Shamrock against his sister’s lover Goldust and her former love interests Val Venis and Billy Gunn, all for the Intercontinental title. Instead, Road Dogg won the strap from Val for no reason two weeks before Wrestlemania (the same night Billy Gunn won the Hardcore title, also for no reason), putting both Outlaws into matches where they had no backstory. Shocking!

 

Too bad Russo didn’t have The Rock drop the WWF title to X-Pac and really shake things up! You know, looking back, Russo really dropped the ball on that.

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wmxv14  Dogg pinned Goldust after both Venis and Shamrock got counted out. Goldust was disappointed because this was the Attitude Era, when title shots didn’t just grow on trees — unless there was a tree that could grow ripe fruit within 24 hours, since that’s how soon Goldust won the title from Road Dogg on free TV.
It was barely an hour into the show, and the WWF had already plowed through five matches. Even Wrestlemania 12, which had to leave time for an hour-long iron man match, had a better-paced card. Ain’t that right, Hawk? hbb05
wmxv16 Big Show got taken away in a cop car, while Mankind was taken away in an ambulance…
…and, perhaps in hopes of bringing in the fire department to complete the emergency services trifecta, the next match pitted Kane against Triple H after an angle revolving around shooting people with fireballs. wmxv17 
wmxv18 Besides reenacting Street Fighter II Turbo, Kane and Chyna had become an item since the latter turned her back on DX and joined the Corporation. They were quite the odd couple, as on one hand, you had a huge, hideous beast with a face only a mother could love, and on the other you had…
…The Ninth Wonder of the World, Chyna. Oh, were you expecting a cheap punch line there? wmxv19
wmxv20  The San Diego chicken attacked Kane during his entrance, only to be unmasked as Pete Rose and tombstoned. This, along with Bart Gunn getting knocked out by Butterbean, were this event’s two defining “Wrestlemania moments” that would be replayed for years. Maybe I should have just started off this induction with those last two sentences and called it a day.
At last, with the Big Red Machine facing Triple H, it looked like we’d finally have a match that wouldn’t be rushed or have an unsatisfying, abrupt ending.
wmxv21 The announcers worried about who would officiate Austin-Rock for much of the match, which ended abruptly when Chyna hit Kane with a chair. Face turn #2! As if things couldn’t get any worse for Kane, his next girlfriend would also leave him for a member of DX later that year.
Hunter and Chyna had an emotional reunion reminiscent of Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth, if Liz had been wearing high heels and leather booty shorts. wmxv22
wmxv23  I’ll give you a few moments to process that last mental image.
Finished? Alright, moving on. Vince McMahon updated us all on the most important story of the evening. No, not who would win the main event, but who would referee it, a role Vince claimed for himself. Yes, a match between the company’s top two stars, and the only match on the card with a build longer than two months, still needed some extra drama the night-of to get the viewers interested in the show (the show they had already paid for). wmxv23 
wmxv24  The women’s title was up for grabs as Tori took on the ever-popular breasts of Sable (and the person attached to them). Sable had recently turned heel, as the fame of being in Playboy had now swollen her head to ridiculous proportions, as well. Michael Cole didn’t understand why Jerry Lawler would need 15 copies of the same issue of Playboy, and the King refused to explain it, so I’ll let Reverend D-Von give you a hint. Speaking of which, King took some time to fawn over Sable’s “cute little cheeks,” even though, for that double-entendre to work, he’d have to leave open at least the possibility that he wasn’t talking about her ass.
On that note, it wouldn’t be a crappy Wrestlemania without an airbrushed butt crack, and challenger Tori’s outfit paid tribute to Giant Gonzalez in that respect. wmxv25
wmxv26.3wmxv26.2 Meanwhile, both women paid tribute to the big man by being utterly incapable of taking bumps or executing basic moves correctly. 
Here, Tori “countered” a Sable Bomb by landing on her butt… wmxv27
jackknife …which had been enough to put Shawn Michaels away four years earlier.
Nicole Bass of the Howard Stern Show interfered on Sable’s behalf to help her retain her title, forging a brief alliance that ended when the two women filed separate sexual harrassment suits against the Federation. wmxv29
wmxv30 Next, in both men’s Wrestlemania debuts, X-Pac battled Shane McMahon for the European title. X-Pac wanted to tear Shane a new one, and if anyone should know how to do that, it’s Sean Waltman. 
Test and the Mean Street Posse kept interfering on Shane’s behalf, but X-Pac persevered enough to jam his genitals into both Shane’s and Test’s faces. Nobody back then thought of the bronco buster in those terms, though, because these were more innocent times.
 

Wait, no they weren’t!

What the hell was wrong with X-Pac?

wmxv31 
wmxv32  Triple-H and Chyna arrived on the scene to even things out once and for all. Or so it seemed. Instead, Hunter pedigreed his DX teammate while Chyna distracted the official, allowing Shane to retain his title. It turned out that Chyna and Triple H had both taken the McMahons’ money in exchange for following their orders (a practice otherwise known as “signing a WWF contract”). That was also heel turns #1 and #2 for tonight.
Billy Gunn and Road Dogg arrived but were quickly beaten down by Hunter and Test — that is, until Kane entered to try to get his revenge. And there was face turn #3 for the night!

 

Owen Hart might not have made Wrestlemania history, but Vince Russo did, booking 5 face/heel turns in a single night, a record for Wrestlemania — or any pay-per-view as far as I know (though I haven’t seen all the WCW events churned out under his watch).

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Does that mean Shawn teamed with himself at Backlash 2006?

wmxv34  If all these swerves were too much for the audience, the next match provided a break from the confusion with a good old-fashioned battle of good vs. evil, complicated slightly by the fact that both sides were evil. Remember how just a few minutes ago, the evil Shane McMahon and his Corporation had broken up DX and robbed X-Pac of the title? Or how the evil Vince McMahon had been trying to screw over Steve Austin for months, up to and including half an hour ago? Well, their Corporation was being threatened by the Satanic Undertaker.
Forced to choose between evils, the few fans who gave a damn sided with the physical embodiment of death (sporting a neat Shredder costume), instead of the corporate rent-a-cop.

 

Michael Cole tried to get indifferent viewers invested in the match, hyping up the danger of the Hell in a Cell structure. “This isn’t your traditional steel cage. You could get a finger caught in there!” Fortunately, Jerry Lawler was there to mock Cole then so I don’t have to now.

wmxv35 
wmxv36 Bossman cuffed the Undertaker to the cell wall until the handcuffs broke off literally seconds into the planned beatdown.
Taker won with a tombstone, then tied a noose around Bossman’s neck, taking the rather extreme measure of hanging him as the cell lifted up to the ceiling.
 

“Could this be symbolic!?” screamed Cole. “Could The Undertaker be hanging the Corporation in effigy!?” Yeah, maybe, but at least wait until the actual person being murdered gets cut down before you start worrying about symbolism! That’s just rude.

wmxv37 
wmxv38 With that shocking image presented on our TV screens, Cole infamously segued into a plug for the previous night’s “Wrestlemania Rage Party.” If I were the Bossman, I would have been extremely insulted once I regained consciousness. Then again, you’ll recall that all the brutality and elaborate mind games involved in this match and this angle were all just a ruse to trick Steve Austin for some reason, so I guess Bossman took Cole’s slight in stride.
At last, it was time for the main event. Vince McMahon arrived to referee the match, but was given the boot by Shawn Michaels, whose nebulous powers as Commissioner now allowed him the exclusive right to pick the ref at Wrestlemania. It was all in the totally-not-made-up WWF rulebook, which I believe was published the same night that Pat Patterson won the Intercontinental title tournament in Rio. wmxv39 
wmxv40  Despite the whole convoluted referee plot that developed that evening, HBK simply installed a regular official, proving that Triple H-Jericho wasn’t the only Mania main event to revolve around a shaggy dog story. Michaels then barred Vince and all Corporate members from ringside. Actually, he clarified, maybe he’d allow Vince himself, but absolutely no one else. Whoops!
 

It reminds me of that riddle: A man brings his son to the emergency room. When the surgeon comes in, he says, “I can’t operate on this child. He’s my son.” Sorry, did I call the surgeon, “he”? I should have said, “he or she.” The surgeon might be a woman. 

With the final swerve of the night now blatantly telegraphed, Michaels escorted the boss out, and viewers at home no doubt expected the program to go to commercial break.

The no-holds barred match that followed started out with brawling inside the ring, then transitioned into some more brawling in the crowd, before progressing into some additional brawling in the entranceway. Unfortunately, this was pretty much all Stone Cold would be capable of until his neck surgery. To call this match a bit disappointing would be, well, still a pretty big compliment considering how much worse than “a bit disappointing” the rest of the show was. wmxv41 
wmxv42 And just when you thought the ref situation had been sorted out, Mike Chioda, Tim White, and Earl Hebner all got knocked out of commission in the final minutes of the match.
Along the way, Vince came back to the ring and stomped Austin. Good thing Commissioner Michaels specifically said this wasn’t against the rules. wmxv43
wmxv44 Finally, Mick Foley had recovered from the brutal bump he took from several feet in the air earlier that night. Now the referee (which he should have been all along because of the advertised stipulations), Mankind counted the three for Austin, apparently earning Stone Cold the WWF title. Having gotten so caught up in the drama over who would officiate, you might have forgotten there was a championship on the line.
Vince was heartbroken, forgetting that he could just screw Austin out of the title anytime he wanted… wmxv45
wmxv46 …preferably with another crooked referee.

 

If there is one positive we can take away from this event’s mess of overbooking, constant swerves, haphazard matchmaking, and inconsequential title matches (both the IC and tag team titles would change hands within the next two days), it’s that 1999 was the year those unsung heroes in zebra stripes finally got to shine at Wrestlemania.

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Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He currently runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws and Hasbro WWF figures. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
39 Responses to "Induction: Wrestlemania XV – RussoMania"
  1. Justin Henry says:

    Philadelphia didn’t have a disgrace this grand since until the 2013 Sixers

  2. Downtown OPC says:

    This was the first live WrestleMania I ever “watched”, i.e. I turned to the PPV channel and watched the scrambled feed. Had I sat through the Tori match though, I probably would not have noticed a difference between that or porn.

  3. Jerichoholic Ninja says:

    Before I read this, I thought “No way this should go in before WM2000″ but you’ve convinced me. At least 2000 had the Ladder Match and the IC/Euro title match. This one only had the Main Event.

    It’s funny that during Attitude Era, very few of the Big Four shows ended up being really good. WM14-16 in particular were rather lousy (of course, that streak was broken by 17, one of the best WWE shows ever).

    • Justin Henry says:

      I disagree on 14. It was an era-defining show that, from the 3rd match on, delivered on all fronts. It was the anti-XV, in that everything made sense

      • Matt Soileau says:

        14 was amazing. It started the Austin era and pretty much everything else was awesome. Even Taka/Aguila.

        • Jerichoholic Ninja says:

          Now that I look at the card, I realize I was wrong about 14. For some reason, I had the undercards of 13 and 14 mixed up. 14 was a solid show (though most of the mid-card matches didn’t reach their full potential due to a lack of time, but that could be said about any show). It’s 13 that had one spectacular match surrounded by a bunch of lackluster matches.

  4. Hulk6785 says:

    The first WrestleMania I saw live, and I loved it. In my defense, I was a young, dumb, teenager at the time.

  5. Matt Soileau says:

    Your best one yet, Art. Great job, dude!

  6. Scrooge Mcsuck says:

    11 and 15 still rate as my all-time worst Mania’s. Reading this might’ve convinced me 11 wasn’t the worst, what with an entire card of shit matches, shit booking, and shit execution.

    • John C says:

      This changed my mind on 11 also because of all that convoluted booking crap. HBK back in the days of battling the personal demons line delivery was so hideous it will always make sure that I don’t lose my smile.

    • Mike Hunt says:

      Don’t forget 27. My roommate at the time, who hadn’t watched wrestling in years, watched it with me and I remember getting that hot embarrassing feeling by the time the Lawler/Cole abortion came on. He went to bed halfway though that match.

      TOP FIVE WORST
      1) WM 11
      2) WM 27
      3) WM 9
      4) WM 2
      5) WM 15

  7. "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

    Another knockout, Art. I remember being so disappointed with this WrestleMania considering how good the shows had been up to this point.

  8. ChrisV says:

    I still have it in my mind how Michael Cole insisted on being grammatically correct with the hanging of the Big Boss Man.
    I’m sure at one point on RAW, he even made sure to correct Lawler on using “hung”.
    “I do not believe that’s correct, King. They hanged the Big Boss Man from the Cell, not hung him.” “Whatever Cole. We’re supposed to sell this as evil, not worry about grammar.” “OK. But, was it symbolic, King? Was it? Huh?”. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about, Cole. All I know is they hung a man.” “Hanged, King. Hanged.”
    I was upset that they sold this horrible action by having Boss Man back in action a week later too.

  9. Wyatt says:

    You know, I was really getting frustrated thinking of what a mess 1999 was, and yet that just make the joke about X-Pac’s ass all the better.

    You might say it was the funniest crack of the night.

  10. E-Squared says:

    I remember watching this in a “different way” live back in the day. I remember being so hyped for it but looking back, I can really see why this was regarded as one of the worst Wrestlemanias ever. I am not sure if 13 will get inducted because that match will forever be remembered for the awesome Austin and Hart match, when the rest of the show could have easily passed as a glorified Raw or In Your House PPV. At least 17 broke the mold of odd-numbered Wrestlemanias being bad as that went down as one of the great Wrestlemanias ever.

    • Scrooge Mcsuck says:

      I can see 13 being inducted. When it comes time for Bret/Austin, I can see something like “We were treated to an all-time, career defining classic… but this is WrestleCRAP.com, so let’s move on.” The rest of the card is that bad and heatless. I won’t call it the worst WM because of Bret/Austin, but it really sucked. I don’t think I’ve watched it straight through since the original broadcast.

      • Justin Henry says:

        I can only speak for myself, since Art does the inductions (although I did induct 27, to some derision), but there are seven WrestleManias I consider to be a D or an F. Five have been inducted: 27, 11, 2, 9, and now 15. The only others are 1 (which should get a pass) and 4, which deserves to be inducted.

        13′s a barely-there C- to me, saved by one match.

        • Jerichoholic Ninja says:

          Justin, what do you think of WM2000? To me it should be inducted because it’s a show with 1 amazing match (ladder), 1 decent match (Jericho/Angle/Benoit, which I think gets over-rated largely because of the names involved) and then a bunch of crappy tag team matches with little build. Plus a bad Main Event that involved four of the biggest names of the era but instead focused mostly on the McMahons.

          • Justin Henry says:

            As I said on Twitter, it’s the blown tire on the victory lap of WWF 2000. Not quite induction worthy, but still a major missed opportunity.

        • Scrooge McSuck says:

          That one match definitely makes all the difference, and the LOD/DOA street fight was alright, but WM 13 felt like just another PPV, as if “WrestleMania” meant nothing. Worst Main Event (I don’t count the Hogan/Yoko 20-second stuff at 9), a pointless/heatless opener, a pointless/heatless IC Title Match, a pretty poor effort from Hunter/Goldust, and surprisingly lackluster effort from Owen/DBS vs. Vader/Mankind.

  11. Dave says:

    I started hosting Wrestlemania parties at my house, and this is the one that began the tradition. And we all thought the chicken being unmasked to reveal Pete Rose was hilarious (Some years later I met Pete in Las Vegas and got to talk about his Wrestlemania experiences–he really seemed to enjoy chatting about them, too!) And we also made that Giant Gonzalez joke about Tori.

  12. SCFNL says:

    Is this wrestlecrap though? When you think back to the sort of angle / characters this site used to cover, I fear again that we are entering smart mark criticism of booking rather than some light hearted laughing at wacky moments in wrestling.

    Say what you want about this PPV – the casual fans were hooked and ate this sort of thing up. I still don’t get the high horse riding that so many people these days pull out when it comes to the attitude era. It got so many people back into watching wrestling – yes there was some nonsense along the way, but overall the fast paced (sometimes all over the place) angle / crash tv was so popular at the time.

    • Pooz says:

      Wrestling was popular IN SPITE of the car crash nature of the booking. It was popular because of the personalities at the top, as well as the crudeness and quote-unquote ‘attitude’ involved. WWF’s financial peak was in 2000 when the booking tightened up significantly, while Russo buried WCW deeper into the mire. This Wrestlemania is no better in terms of overall quality than either the Royal Rumble or St Valentine’s Day Massacre of the same year.

  13. John Nelson says:

    I don’t see why people crap on this Mania. Yeah it’s not a steller one, but damn it is entertaining to watch. I’d compare this Mania to bad movies like COmmando, sure they are bad but damn they are entertaining.

    I haven’t seen all of the Manias, but so far the worst I’ve seen is 11 or 27.

  14. Gonzo says:

    Great induction, also should be pointed out it was also Gorilla Monsoon’s final public appearance before his passing, from memory was a ‘judge’ in the Butterbean/Gunn brawl.

    Was very sad to see how pale and thin he looked

  15. MIB says:

    One thing omitted from this great review was the fact that Michael Cole gave away the result of the main event earlier in the show!

    Prior to one of the HITC match (I think) Cole was plugging some post PPV event for the Shopping Channel which he said would feature all the top WWF stars “including the ‘New’ WWF Champion”! Oops!

    Naturally it was edited off the subsequent home video releases but it was definitely on the live show.

    Keep up the good work! :-)

  16. Alan Skinner says:

    After that HIAC match, The Brood dropped down from the rafters after ‘Taker “raised” them down from above, bringing the infamous noose with them. In Adam Copeland’s book, “Adam Copeland On Edge”, he wrote that when they were being raised back to the rafters, something malfunctioned and he was stuck hanging there for a few minutes. Also, is that picture of Shane McMahon holding up the Smoking Skull Belt from the infamous WWF Over the Edge 1999 PPV? That said, WM XV was Owen’s last WM sadly. My favorite WM moment from Owen was when he wrestled my “namesake” Skinner right before the Hogan-Sid match at WM VIII. RIP Owen. He left us too soon due to a stupid stunt that wasn’t needed to get The Blue Blazer over.

  17. Kurt says:

    It almost seems like blasphemy to include a WrestleMania from the Attitude Era on WrestleCrap, cause we all know we were eating this stuff up back in the day… but presented in this form, yep it truly deserves an induction. Well done.

  18. Hashington says:

    More proof that Attitude Era programming was really solid for the main event storylines and really bad for everything else.

  19. Big wiggle says:

    MASTURBATION!

  20. Jimbolian says:

    It’s amazing how 1999 was suppose to be the peak of the WWF Attitude Era, yet we got two inducted big-time PPVs with Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania that were both blah-tastic. Speaking about the Big Four, I wonder if Summerslam ’99 and Survivor Series ’99 will be inducted soon.

    • Scrooge McSuck says:

      Both shows were very hit and miss, but not “omg, this is awful” bad. WM XV was awful to me, even back when (I distinctly remember asking myself “why did they turn Chyna, only to turn her AGAIN on the same night?). The Rumble PPV wasn’t very good, but match itself was easily the worst ever.

  21. Guest says:

    Jesus and I thought the Royal Rumble of 99 was messed up.

  22. Chad says:

    OMG, you should be banned from the Internet. You bashed an attitude era WrestleMania. Don’t you know the attitude era was the greatest wrestling era of all time and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it at all

  23. Evan Waters says:

    I watched this one on DVD a while back and didn’t think it was terrible, but it was pretty forgettable. I do like the main event quite a lot, it’s just that everything else kind of flattens out into an indistinct mass.

    It’s not as aggressively bad as something like WM IX (which has maybe one good match) but it stands out for how weak it is when the WWF as a whole was doing so well.

  24. James Clancy says:

    This is the event I bring up whenever I here anybody start a “PG WWE sucks, bring back the attitude era” garbage. 2 of the 3 Wrestlemanias during the peak years of the attitude ere were abysmal. Yes, 17 was one of the best of all time but a 33 1/3% success rate is still pretty bad. 15 and 16 were both outdone by 18 and 19 which was when WWE was supposed to be leaving the glory days and getting crappy. 14 was also a solid show but personally I don’t count that as an “attitude era” event because it was in its very early stages.

  25. Wade Preston says:

    You forgot to mention how Michael Cole let slip that the WWF title would change hands before the Hell in a Cell match. This was in the PPV broadcast.

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