02/23 Powell's WWE Raw Live Review: The build to Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns for WrestleMania 31 resumes, followup to WWE Fallout

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02/23 Powell's WWE Raw Live Review: The build to Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns for WrestleMania 31 resumes, followup to WWE Fallout
2015-02-23 19:00:09

By Jason Powell

Prowrestling.net Live airs tonight at 10:30 p.m. CT (11:30 p.m. ET) and your phone calls are welcome for the free audio show. Listen and call in shortly after Raw at Blogtalkradio.com/prowrestlingdotnet.

WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Nashville, Tennessee at Bridgestone Arena

[Q1] The opening video aired... Michael Cole, JBL, and Booker T introduced the show and hyped that there were 34 days until WrestleMania... Randy Orton made his entrance to a huge ovation. Cole said it had been nearly four months since Seth Rollins nearly ended the career of Orton via the Curb Stomp.

Once in the ring, Orton said he's not the type to bore people with a 20 minute promo or monologue, but he had something to get off his chest. He said he'd been out four months and set up footage of the angle that set up his absence. Back live, Orton said there will be no more running or hiding. He called for Rollins to "get your ass out here right now."

Triple H's music played. Hunter, Stephanie McMahon, Big Show, and Kane walked onto the stage and then headed to the ring. Stephanie welcomed Orton back and said he made another huge return last night. Stephanie said she wanted Orton to be the face of WWE. He cut her off and said he's not part of their family, he wants to bash Rollins' brains in.

Stephanie said they were all willing to forgive Orton. "Come back home, join The Authority," she said. Orton told her he would rather kick some ass than kiss some ass. Big Show took the mic. The crowd booed. Show said he understands the frustration that Orton feels and he had to put some of his own aside, but joining The Authority was the best personal decision he's ever made. The fans chanted "you sold out." Show told Orton that returning to The Authority is the best decision he could make.

Orton said that by returning Show means "selling out." Stephanie said Orton has never been a good guy. She said he's done some deplorable things against her family and even against her. Orton smirked. She said it far exceeds what happened to Orton four months ago. She asked Orton to join them for a business conference and asked if he will listen. The fans chanted "no." Orton crossed his arms. "I guess they got the answer," JBL said.

Stephanie left the ring. Triple H stopped and glared at Orton before leaving the ring. Hunter's music played. Orton called for them and the music stopped. "I'll be there," Orton said. "Business meeting, fine." The Authority looked confident as they headed backstage...

Cole shifted the focus to the Rusev and John Cena finish. He pointed out that Cena didn't tap out, but the record books show that Rusev won. JBL hyped that fans would hear from Roman Reigns later in the show...

[Q2] Bad News Barrett made his entrance for a match against Dolph Ziggler... [C]

Powell's POV: Orton didn't deliver a 20-minute monologue, but he was involved in a 15-minute opening segment. Anyway, the crowd was really hot for Orton at the start, and Show had more "sellout" heat than he's had in some time. The "business conference" talk was a buzzkill, but obviously they're setting up some type of angle. Barrett didn't have his title belt, so they are going forward with the idea that Dean Ambrose stole and kept it.

Still shots aired from Fastlane of the U.S. Championship match... Barrett was cutting a promo in the ring. He called Ambrose a common criminal. He said he wants his belt back. Ziggler's music interrupted him...

1. Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett vs. Dolph Ziggler in a non-title match. R-Truth was on color commentary. The broadcast team recalled that Truth beat Barrett in a non-title match on Smackdown. Barrett was in control going into the break. [C]

[Q3] Footage aired of Barrett running Ziggler into Truth during the break. Ziggler had a flurry coming out of the break that resulted in a two count, but Barrett caught him with a kick to regain control. Barrett picked up Ziggler and went for a powerbomb. Barrett fell backward, but he was able to complete the powerbomb. It was noticeable enough that the broadcast team had to acknowledge it.

Barrett hit Winds of Change for a two count. Ziggler got a two count off of a rollup. Barrett charged Ziggler in the corner, but Ziggler moved and Barrett hit crashed and burned. Ziggler hit the Zig Zag and pinned him clean...

Dolph Ziggler beat Bad News Barrett in a non-title match in 11:05.

After the match, Dean Ambrose came to ringside holding the Intercontinental Title and taunted Barrett, who was lying in the corner holding the back of his neck. Ambrose stopped and exchanged a look with Ambrose, then headed backstage... [C]

Powell's POV: Barrett started holding his neck after the botched powerbomb. Are they setting up a Triple Threat for WrestleMania? Ambrose didn't seem to care about R-Truth, nor should he, so that's probably something Barrett will blow off on television, assuming he's healthy.

A graphic boasted that Raw as the No. 1 show on cable for the fifth straight Monday. Um, what about "Better Call Saul"?... Cole narrated still shots from WWE Fastlane of the Sting and Triple H confrontation, and hyped Sting vs. Triple H for WrestleMania 31...

Backstage, The Authority stood with Seth Rollins, Orton, Kane, and Big Show. Rollins objected to Orton rejoining the group. Stephanie cut off his balls and questioned whether he had a problem with the decision because she's a woman. Kane stepped in and tried to offer his objection, but Stephanie cut him off too. Stephanie spoke about how having all of them together would mean absolute power.

Rollins questioned how they could ever trust Orton. Stephanie continued to defend the idea, then asked Orton if they could move forward. She guaranteed they would show him that they are his family and they would welcome him back with open arms. Orton shook hands with Rollins and stared at him intensely while doing so. Stephanie said they would show the dominance of The Authority by having Orton and Rollins face Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns...

Powell's POV: Orton's return obviously isn't going to stick. I always appreciated the way Rollins was treated as special and wasn't subjected to Stephanie's emasculating ways until now. Triple H is doing a good job of showing that his mind is elsewhere. He didn't say a word and wasn't engaged throughout the segment to show that he's more concerned with Sting.

[Q4] A Sheamus is returning video package was shown...

2. The Prime Time Players vs. The Ascension. The Players were doing their stupid dance before the match and didn't seem to be getting much of a reaction. A pop-box video was showing of The Ascension complaining about The Bushwhackers going into the WWE Hall of Fame because they wouldn't last four seconds in the ring with them. Darren Young rolled up Viktor and got the upset win. The Ascension flipped out after the match and cleared Titus O'Neil from the ring, then hit Fall of Man on Young...

The Prime Time Players beat The Ascension in 3:05.

Cole hyped Roman Reigns was coming up next... [C]

Powell's POV: Two weeks ago, I don't think anyone could have possibly predicted that the first Ascension loss on Raw would be to the Prime Time Players. The next segment is the big one, as it will be very interesting to hear how this crowd reacts to Reigns.

A graphic of The Rock at the Oscars was shown, and the broadcast team spoke about his appearance at the awards show...

Roman Reigns made his entrance through the crowd. Once he got in the ring, there was a mix of boos and high-pitched cheers. He said it's been one hell of a month starting with the Royal Rumble. He said going through 29 superstars apparently wasn't good enough, so he had a No. 1 contender match with Daniel Bryan. He said he did what he said he would and now he can say he's going to WrestleMania.

[Q5] Reigns said he could hear the fans all month. "I know a lot of you were rooting for the other guy," Reigns said. He looked into the camera and said, "But to all my doubters..." Daniel Bryan's music interrupted him. Once in the ring, Bryan stared across the ring at Reigns while Booker said the Fastlane main event was one of the best he's seen.

Bryan said he didn't mean to interrupt, then he said yes he did. He said Reigns mentioned the doubters. Bryan said he saw Reigns win the Royal Rumble. Cue the adult male booing. Reigns laughed. Bryan said he knew that Reigns deserved the opportunity to main event WrestleMania. Bryan said somehow he felt like "all of these people."

Bryan said he "booed, booed, and booed" on the inside. He said he knows people see a lot of promise and potential in Reigns. Bryan said if Reigns wants to talk about doubters, the biggest one is Daniel Bryan. He said when they talk about potential, why they're really talking about is size and strength and athletic ability.

Bryan said he's seen others like Reigns who didn't have half the heart that he does. "That's what The Authority doesn't see, and that's what all the people here tonight see. That's why they like Daniel Bryan and they don't like you." There was a mix of Yes! chants, cheers, and boos for Bryan's comments.

"And that is why I didn't like you," Bryan said. "Last night, I had an opportunity, if I beat you, I go on to WrestleMania to win back the WWE World Heavyweight Championship that I never lost." He said he gave it everything he had and dug down as deep as he could, "and I still didn't do it." Bryan said he doesn't regret a thing because he gave it everything he had.

"It wasn't me," Bryan said. "You proved to me last night that you had more heart that I ever thought that you did. I don't care how many people are booing you here tonight, you and I gave it everything that we had and guess what, you beat me." Bryan said he put it all on the table and the only thing left to say is congratulations. Reigns accepted his handshake.

Bryan said if there's one superstar he wants to team with in the main event against Seth Rollins and Randy Orton, it's Reigns. "Now do me a favor and go beat the hell out of Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania," he concluded. Bryan's music played and he started to leave the ring while Reigns seemed to have a confused look on his face.

Paul Heyman called out, "Ladies and gentlemen." Heyman stopped and let Bryan go backstage, then introduced himself as some fans said it along with him. Heyman said he knows the fans think he's there to cause trouble, but he was actually there to say congratulations. Heyman and Reigns shook hands. Heyman said that was a hell of a main event and an even more impressive victory by Reigns.

Heyman said he can't say he's surprised. He said his money would always be on Roman Reigns. He said only a fool could say Reigns is not the one. Reigns said his money would have been on Reigns in a match against Bruno Sammartino in 1975. He said his money would have been on Reigns in a match against Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, against Steve Austin in 1998, The Rock in 1999, Triple H in 2000, and Reigns against John Cena at any time in the last 13 years.

Heyman said his money was on Reigns at the Royal Rumble, and his money was on Reigns at Fastlane. Heyman said it's simple. "You're the guy," Heyman said. "You are. Roman Reigns against any other guy in history, my money's on Roman Reigns." He told Reigns that he's the right guy in the right place at the wrong time.

Heyman said Reigns isn't fighting a man at WrestleMania, he's fighting a Beast. "And, Roman, I have so much respect for you, you can't slay my beast," he said. "You can't conquer the conquerer. You can't beat the one to beat the one in 21-1." Heyman said his money is on his client, Brock Lesnar.

Reigns asked Heyman to stand in a specific spot and tell him that he can't do it. Reigns said he's been hear that a lot, but it's all motivation. "I thought you were smarter than that," Reigns said. "Give me some more motivation." Reigns recalled Heyman witnessing him the night after the Royal Rumble telling Lesnar that he's going to respect him.

Reigns said he doesn't care if Lesnar respects him, he was doing that "to get my Samoan blood boiling." Reigns said he's going to beat Lesnar at WrestleMania. He said he's not just going to beat him and that respect goes out the window. He said it's the way he beats him. "Because when I'm all done with him, he ain't gonna like me anyways," said Reigns. "Believe that." Heyman left the ring as Reigns' music played...

[Q6] The broadcast team spoke at ringside to hype the free sample of WWE Network on the WWE website for the first anniversary. Booker sang happy birthday, then JBL pimped the marathon programming...

Powell's POV: A strong segment with Bryan and Reigns, and then Heyman and Reigns. There was plenty of Reigns on camera, yet his promo time was wisely limited. Bryan endorsement of Reigns was strong. The look Reigns gave as Bryan was leaving felt out of place because he seemed skeptical even though Bryan seemed pretty straight forward. Even if he were to turn, there was nothing he said to elicit that look unless I missed something. Heyman was very good, but his comments about Reigns beating some of the most popular wrestlers in company history drew more boos at a time when the fans were listening and not booing Reigns. Reigns' response to Heyman was solid. An important segment. I don't think Reigns did anything that would change anyone's opinion of him here, but Daniel Bryan may have.

Still shots aired of the WWE Tag Team Title change from Fastlane...

3. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd (w/Natalya) vs. The Uso Brothers (w/Naomi) for the WWE Tag Team Championship. The Usos were on the offensive heading into the break. [C]

[Q7] The Usos remained in control after the break and one of them hit a top rope splash on Cesaro, but Kidd hit a top rope elbow drop to break up a pin. The announcers said they didn't think Kidd was the legal man, yet the referee seemed to see it that way.

A short time later, Kidd rolled up Jimmy and used the ropes for leverage, but Naomi pushed him off. Naomi broke it up. Natalya ran over and shoved Naomi to the mat. Jimmy superkicked Kidd and went up top, but Natalya crotched him for the DQ. Naomi pulled Natalya off the ring apron. Natalya clutched her ankle. Kidd took off Natalya's boot and helped her to the back...

The Usos beat Tyson Kidd and Cesaro by DQ in 9:45.

The broadcast team hyped Cena and Rusev, and said Bray Wyatt was up next... [C]

Powell's POV: It's nice to see Natalya get involved. They really could have built up to Natalya becoming a heel in a more meaningful way by having her act innocent only to go all out heel and help her team win, but this could still be fun. I hope she acts innocent here since she can act like she just got carried away because Naomi got involved first.

The freakish photo of Vince McMahon on Muscle & Fitness was shown... Backstage, The Miz was de-linting (is that a word?) his own jacket! What?!? Mizdow showed up and Miz demanded to know where he was. Mizdow apologized and said he had big news. Miz cut him off to say that the only thing he hasn't won in WWE is the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Miz said it all leads to more television and movie opportunities. Mizdow said that's what his big news was all about. He thanked Miz for letting him step out of his shadow of being a stunt double. He said casting directors are calling him and think he could be a leading man. A jealous Miz told him that's great, but "get rolling." Mizdow de-linted Miz's jacket...

Powell's POV: This seems to be the first official confirmation that the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal is returning at WrestleMania 31. I assume the two guys featured in that segment will play big parts in that match and may even be the final two.

The broadcast team set up footage of the Bray Wyatt segment from Fastlane... A new video featuring Wyatt cutting a promo while looking into a casket was shown. He spoke into the casket and mentioned 21-1. He laughed and said if our entire existence is defined by moments, than this was the end of "yours."

[Q8] Wyatt said the mighty Undertaker was a pile of broken bones and broken dreams on the grandest stage of them all. Wyatt said he's going to finish the job at WrestleMania. "I know you're afraid, Deadman, but there's no reason to hide. It's so much better down here. Wyatt slammed the casket closed. "Find me," he said while looking into the camera...

Stardust made his entrance for a match. He was back to wearing full face paint and a full bodysuit... [C] A shot aired of Dusty Hill of ZZ Top in the crowd. He had a beard long before the creepy obsession people have with beards today, er, before it was cool...

4. Stardust vs. Jack Swagger. Cole read some tweets that Swagger issued earlier to set up the match with Stardust. In the end, Goldust's music played and he came out and distracted Stardust. Swagger applied the ankle lock for the win...

Jack Swagger beat Stardust in 1:55.

Powell's POV: Man, this Goldust vs. Stardust feud has been a letdown thus far. By the way, could Cole have sounded any less engaged while he read through the Swagger tweets? Cole read those with the same level of enthusiasm that a father would show while holding a press conference to apologize for his son being a serial flasher.

The broadcast team spoke about the U.S. Championship match at Fastlane, then Cole hyped that Cena would be out next... [C]

John Cena's entrance music played and he made his entrance to a mixed reaction, though one with more passion than the crowd showed for Reigns earlier. He was wearing loose shorts because his testicles had swollen up to the size of bowling balls as a result of the low blow at Fastlane. Okay, I made up that part.

[Q9] Cena spoke about how Fastlane was filled with defining moments. He tipped his cap to Rusev for taking him to his limit. He said he had Rusev staring into the eyes of defeat. He said both men were going back and forth, and he found himself stuck in the Accolade. He said the thing that went through his mind was "Don't you ever give up, John, don't you ever give up."

Cena said he fought and got to his feet and realized he would be the first to break the hold and defeat Rusev. "I never got the chance," Cena said. He said Rusev let him go so he could spin him around, kick him low, and seal his victory. Cena said that's fine. "I lost and Rusev won," he said. Cena said his problem is with Rusev. He said he parades around like a hero, but at Fastlane he showed he's nothing more than a coward.

Rusev and Lana made their entrance. Lana was all smiles. She asked him what that American phrase was. "Oh, we told you so," she said. Lana told the fans who were chanting USA to shut up. Lana said the truth is that Cena failed. "Millions of people believed in you and you failed," she said. Lana said he was humiliated and humbled by a superior athlete.

Rusev took the mic and objected to being called a coward. "John Cena, I broke you," he said. He said it's his time and no one can beat him. Rusev said he wants Cena to admit that he is better than him. "I want you to admit that Rusev and Russia is better than Cena and America," he said. Cena said Rusev can say what he wants about him, but he better "watch your ass when you run down the United States when I'm around."

Lana mocked him for giving up and said his entire life is just a lie. She set up still shots that showed Cena lying face down on the mat after the match. Cena said his life is a lie when he fails to get back up. Cena said he will keep getting up and fighting to get the job done. He said that's what Americans do. He said Rusev makes him sick and if the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin are really calling they should be embarrassed.

Cena said Americans raised a flag 70 years ago today at Iwo Jima and they were real heroes. Cena said he's going to humble Rusev on the grand stage at WrestleMania. Rusev asked him what makes him think he deserves a rematch at WrestleMania. "You were the great John Cena, and now you are just the quitter John Cena," he said. "As far as a rematch goes, you don't deserve it, my answer is no." The Russian flag fell behind Cena in the ring, and Cole said it must be the ultimate insult to Cena...

Powell's POV: Rusev made fair points. I'm defecting. If Cena was just going to shrug off the nut shot finish, then they should have had Rusev pin him clean. Shouldn't he be outraged by Rusev's actions? Cena got more patriotic than he was going into Fastlane and I assume that will grow since I also assume he's winning at WrestleMania.

The broadcast team set up footage from earlier in the show of the business conference where everyone stood facing the camera while conducting their business...

Backstage, Seth Rollins and J&J Security entered Randy Orton's locker room. Orton said if they were going to talk strategy, he would appreciate it if Rollins left his "pets" at the door. Rollins dismissed the two. Rollins said he knows Orton hates him. Orton cut him off and said that's a strong work, and they could say they're on the same page from a business sense.

Orton said he wasn't going to forget what happened, but the only thing on his mind is showing Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns that they were lucky he wasn't one of the 30 men in the Royal Rumble. Rollins said they could show them what the face and the future are all about. They shook hands and Orton said, "By any means necessary." Rollins walked away satisfied, while Orton shot him a look and a slight smirk...

Cole hyped an in-depth look at Sting... Paige made her entrance for a match...

[Q10] [C] Footage aired from inside a country bar... Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt was shown. The fans booed. He seemed a bit surprised and then clapped louder for himself... Cole flashed a weird grin while setting up a video package for Sting...

Powell's POV: Is Paige just standing in the ring watching the Sting video? Between the video and the commercial break, they could have had four Divas matches by now. By the way, based on the similar hairstyles at times over the years, I'm convinced there were nights when the late Michael Jackson actually played Sting and no one noticed.

5. The Bella Twins vs. Paige and Emma. Brie knocked Paige off the ring apron, then kicked Emma in the gut and gave her a facebuster and pinned her. Paige kicked Brie after the match, but Nikki ran over and knocked her down and then taunted her by standing over her with the title belt...

The Bella Twins beat Paige and Emma.

Cole played up the mystery of the tag team that would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, though did note that it got attention from some magazine in New Zealand... [C]

Powell's POV: I originally wrote "seven Divas matches" in the above joke, but I trimmed it to four to be more realistic. I should have stuck with my gut. What was the point?

[Q11] Cole set up the Hall of Fame video for The Bushwhackers and plugged the New Zealand magazine again they had break the story again...

Powell's POV: There was more licking in the video than the one I watched earlier, er, never mind. Would Demolition have received the Hall of Fame nod if Parts Unknown had a magazine that WWE could strike a deal with?

Curtis Axel stood in the ring wearing a red and yellow AxelMania shirt as he pointed at the WrestleMania sign. He told viewers not to turn the channel. Many ignored him. He said he was never eliminated from the Rumble and listed the days, hours, and seconds that he's been in the match. Axel announced that he's in the Andre battle royal at WrestleMania. "You can't stop me," he said. "You can't stop #Axelmania."

Ryback's music played. Ryback came to the ring and acknowledged their tag team history. He said he'll be the last man standing in the battle royal. He asked why doesn't the "big guy take the axe man to smashville"...

6. Ryback vs. Curtis Axel. Axel had a moment of offense before losing in Diva-like time...

Ryback beat Curtis Axel in 0:45.

Cole hyped the tag team main event... [C]

Powell's POV: It wasn't exactly Ric Flair setting up a Starrcade main event and the live crowd didn't care, but that was the most comfortable Axel has ever looked on the mic. This better be a hell of a main event because this show has not been the red hot start to WrestleMania that viewers were hoping for.

Cole hyped the Fastlane six-man tag rematch, just as I joked last night would turn out to be the case. You can't make it up... Ring entrances for the main event took place. Rollins and company were heading to the ring, they replayed footage of the Rollins and Jon Stewart video exchange. Once in the ring, Rollins gave a big introduction for Randy Orton.

[Q12] Reigns entered through the crowd, then Bryan made his entrance... [C]

7. Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton and Seth Rollins (w/J&J Security, Big Show, Kane). At 3:30, Bryan backdropped Rollins to the floor. Bryan set up for the suicide dive, but Orton pulled Rollins out of the way. [C]

Powell's POV: Because that's what this show needed, a late commercial break just five minutes after the last one. Sigh.

Footage aired from during the break of the heels getting the better of Reigns. Reigns started showing signs of life, but Orton cut him off with a clothesline.

[Overrun] With Rollins in the match, Reigns made the hot tag to Bryan, who dropkicked Orton off the ring apron. Bryan delivered his series of kicks to the chest and back of Rollins, who dodged the last one and rolled him up, only to have Bryan counter into the Yes Lock.

Rollins cut off Bryan by crotching him on the top rope after Joey Mercury provided a distraction. Orton worked over Bryan as Big Show played the world's largest cheerleader from ringside. Bryan knocked Orton off the ropes, but Orton rolled out of the way when Bryan went for a top rope headbutt. Bryan tagged in Reigns, and Orton tagged in Rollins.

Reigns through a series of clotheslines at Rollins in the corner and the crowd counted along. Reigns knocked Mercury off the apron with a Superman Punch, but Rollins caught Reigns with a kick to the head. Rollins tagged in Orton, who traded punches with Reigns. Orton performed his power slam on Reigns. Show yelled, "That's why you're the Viper, way to go, Viper" from ringside, which was actually pretty comical.

Orton went for his hanging DDT on Reigns, only to have Rollins tag himself in. Orton stormed to ringside and said, "Screw this." Reigns went to his corner and set up for a Superman punch on Rollins, but Bryan tagged himself in. Bryan hit a running knee on Rollins and pinned him.

Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan beat Seth Rollins and Randy Orton in 16:10.

After the match, the screen went black. No, not because something cool was about to happen, but rather because they were having technical issues. When the picture came back, Cole noted the technical difficulties. Orton had Rollins in position for the punt kick, but he didn't do it.

Jamie Noble came up behind him and ate an RKO. Orton went after Joey Mercury, but he backed into the corner. Orton walked over to Rollins and patted him on the back once and then left the ring without touching him otherwise. Cole said Rollins seemed surprised by the restraint that Orton showed...

Powell's POV: The unintentional highlight of the match was when one of the announcers pointed out that Reigns "wasn't whining about it" when Bryan tagged himself into the match, even though that's exactly the type of thing we just saw from them for the last month leading up to Fastlane. I like the way they are dragging out Orton unleashing on Rollins. I figured they would pull the trigger tonight, but they showed restraint and it will mean more once he does.

Overall, this was a disappointing first night on the road to WrestleMania. The show had some good moments, but not enough of them to make it feel like they are off to a strong start on the final road to WrestleMania. I'll have more to say during Prowrestling.net Live coming up momentarily (see the top of the page for more details) and in Tuesday's WWE Raw Hit List. Thanks for watching along with me tonight.




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02/09 Prowrestling.net All Access Daily Podcast - Jason Powell's WWE Raw Review featuring Daniel Bryan's retirement speech
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