The History Of TNA: Year One

by Chris Gorst on 6th July 2008

On June 19th, 2002 the world witnessed history unfold with the debut of TNA Wrestling on PPV. TNA Home Video is proud to present “The History of TNA – Year One,” which is an in depth look at the beginning of the promotion. You’ll learn about the creation of TNA, the very early days in Huntsville, the Asylum in Nashville, the memorable moments from the first year with all of the ups, downs, challenges, triumphs and so much more!

The DVD includes interviews with the following TNA personalities: Dixie Carter, Jeff Jarrett, AJ Styles, Chris Harris, Raven, James Storm, Christopher Daniels, BG James, Mike Tenay, Don West and many others. Music featured on the DVD is “Fighter” by Candlefuse.

A special thanks to Pinnacle Vision for sending this DVD for review.

Part One – The Documentary:
The DVD opens with sound bites from Mike Tenay’s and Don West’s audio sound check on June 19th, 2002. These include us finding out that the ring broke during the dark match prior to the pay per view going live. We also hear Don West and Mike Tenay discussing the changes to the show (which included the X Division match being bumped for the legends segment to allow more time for the ring to be fixed by the Harris Brothers) as well as the final countdown to going live.

– The Summer of No Worries
The main feature of the documentary begins with the story behind TNA. Jarrett talks about how he was getting paid after WCW’s closure and how he labelled that as the “summer of no worries”. He explains that after his contract ended in October 2001, he went on tours of Australia and the UK. He talks about how there wasn’t a lot of money to be made wrestling domestically, so he set the idea in motion to opening a wrestling promotion of his own. It started as an idea without any sort of plan at all.

Jeremy Borash talks about how he had time to reflect on what he wanted to do, he was also getting paid and worked a few of the international tours with Jeff and got to know the workings of the business which got Jarrett interested.

Bob Ryder talks about how he and Jeff, and Jerry [Jarrett] used to go fishing and it was there that Jeff started discussing some ideas for the company. Ryder talks about how WCW getting kicked off cable was a huge reason TNA was unable to find a TV network. It was then that the idea of running weekly pay per views became a possibility. He explains, TV was the ultimate goal, but getting started, pay per view was were to begin.

Jeff says that after that trip, there was an idea, but nothing was set. He explains how he took it seriously and wanted to make a real go of it. He talks about looking into financing and all the other aspects needed. He talks about how he and Jill spoke a lot about it, one thing led to another and when he finally got financing, everything was starting to come together.

TNA Pay Per View Moment: Toby Keith signing on the first pay per view which Jeff Jarrett broke up on his way to the ring. We also get clips of the Gauntlet for the Gold that night and Toby Keith hitting a suplex on Jeff Jarrett.

– The Genesis of TNA
Jeff Jarrett talks about how everything had to come together, but it was destined to be in his eyes. From everything they had to struggle through, especially getting the PPV deal as he talks about how no PPV company had ever thought of a weekly pay per view concept before. They needed a roster (we are shown original roster pictures of Scott Hall, AJ Styles, Slash, Chris Harris, Low Ki, James Storm, Jerry Lynn and Brian Lee). He explains that Ron Harris was the first guy he signed. He talks about how hard it was to sell an idea with nothing to hand, no tapes or anything else. He explains it was hard asking for a substantial investment into an idea, not something that was already up and running. He is shocked it got up off the ground, but was proud that he did something no-one else was able to do.

Borash talks about how everyone was working in so many different parts backstage to get the company on its feet and how guys were working outside their fields of expertise to make it happen.

Tenay talks about not being optimistic for the weekly pay per views but that he was excited and how it was an ends to a means. They couldn’t promote their pay per view though TV, but it was the only option available, and it paid off.

Jarrett talks about how it wouldn’t work with just 12 events in a year or a pay per view every few months as there would be no storylines and that’s what wrestling is built on. He explains it was better to have weekly, episodic pay per views leaving a cliff hanger ending or a hook to get the fans to pay the following week.

TNA Pay Per View Moment: Ken Shamrock wins the NWA World title in Gauntlet for the Gold on the very first show.

– Building the Roster
Bob Ryder talks about how a meeting was held about building the roster. He says how himself, Jeff, Jeremy and a few others were there. He said Abyss, Chris Harris, James Storm and Rudy Charles all got jobs out of that show.

Storm heard about the company starting up in June of 2002 from Terry Taylor who he was working with at the time. He says Taylor told him they were holding tryout and told him to go down. He talks about how he and Chris Harris were feuding with each other and the match was set. They put on the match that Bob Ryder says stole the show.

Harris says after the match he knew they had a good match and JJ gave him a wink of approval and the promise of a call.

Don West said he didn’t know a lot about it when he was given a try out and he was paired with Ed Ferrara who was also a comedy guy. He says that he just tried to make observations and tell the story. After that, Jeff Jarrett and Jeremy Borash both believed he would eventually get it and he got the job.

TNA Pay Per View Moment: Jerry Lynn and AJ Styles win the first NWA Tag Team Championships of the TNA era.

– The First Show
Jarrett says they got there the night before. One of the main lighting rigs wasn’t going to work. Someone was going to try something new but he didn’t know the wrestling industry. They aren’t a rock concert, they aren’t a sporting event, they are somewhere in the middle. Everything was going well, but there were a few production elements holding them back. He woke up early the next day to get it fixed.

Rudy Charles talks about how he was nervous on the day of the first pay per view. He had only done indy work up until that point and Slick [Johnson] and Scott Armstrong really helped him.

Harris says he only remembers bits and pieces of that day. It was his big chance and him and Storm were roommates before they knew they were going to be a team.

Ryder says organizing travel was his main responsibility and he had flights arriving late and people calling because they were lost. He got to catch up with a lot of the WCW production team which was fun, he compared it to being at a Nitro as the setup was similar to that of the WCW arena. He talks about there being a lot of tension, but they also had a good crew and the Harris brothers really helped a lot.

Jeremy Borash says that he was shocked people were already chanting TNA before the first pay per view began. The countdown was electric and he knew he would never forget it.

West says he was so nervous and he used to suffer anxiety attacks. He very rarely had them at the time, but about 2 hours before the show he had a big one. He said they don’t last too long but he was trying to get past it. He then talks about when he had just gotten past the attack, there was a problem. A fat man by the name of Cheex was in the dark match and he broke the ring. They were about to go live and they needed to get the ring fixed

Tenay talks about how they were going to open the show if they couldn’t get it fixed in time. He talks about Keith Mitchell explaining to him how the show was going to be changing.

Ryder thought it was going to take a few hours to fix the ring which they didn’t have. The original plan was for the Flying Elvises taking on AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn and Low Ki which was supposed to be followed by legends of the NWA ceremony. They moved that segment to the start while the Harris brothers fixed the ring with a piece of cable.

AJ talks about how they were concerned about the broken ring in a match where they were expecting to use the top rope a lot. They were all praying it would be fine, but they had a bit more time because of the switch.

Jarrett talks about Cheex breaking the ring and says the ring was an old WCW ring, not on great shape. He knows you can fix it if you know what you are doing, but they didn’t have a plan because the cable snapped. They cut it, and it got too short. The Harris brothers and Jim Wakefield came up with the plan and they got it fixed. Ron and Don had to use their strength to push the stuff the right way. As the opening pyro goes off they run from the ring as they just got it fixed. They all came together with their experience to do the job.

Ryder says after the first show, there was a lot of emotion. It was a great moment and when something goes wrong, they work hard to fix it.

TNA Pay Per View Moment: Jeff Jarrett taking on the Tennessee Titans. He tells them he is a winner and gets jumped. Jarrett tries to fight them, and the New Church off with a chair

– Will TNA Last?

Ryder says a lot of people thought they were crazy and would be out of business in 6 weeks, which they almost were. He said it was crazy leaving a business to relocate to Nashville for a dream.

Jarrett says outside of his wife everyone thought he was crazy for trying but he knew it was a gigantic risk, but he always believed. Without great risk, there is no great reward. He needs to be told more than 100,000 times he can’t do something before he will start to believe it. He says that he had doubters, which was pretty much everyone outside his wife.

Tenay says the X Division was shaping up well and he was becoming more optimistic. He talks about having some established names in the heavyweight division but the tag division had not yet took off to the way it would.

Borash said he was stubborn and never gave one thought to TNA not surviving. The first year was so hard, but it made them all stronger. In July, they lost their funding and they thought it was done, but Jerry Jarrett made them believe they would stay alive.

AJ talks about how there were rumours it wasn’t going to last, but after 6 months, he just started to ignore them and just believe. The only thing he was focusing on was his performances.

BG James says he was thankful for the opportunity but wasn’t very optimistic, thinking it would fail.

Elix Skipper says that when he started there, people were telling him the company would fold quickly. He just come back from Japan and was invited down. He’d heard all the talk that it wouldn’t last and would turn out to be an expensive independent company.

Harris wanted to believe, he heard it all and even people in the company saying they would fail. He kept going and did his job.

Storm is much the same and feared having to get a real job. He believed that they would fail at one point, but since Panda Energy came along, he was faithful.

TNA Pay Per View Moment: Ron “The Truth” Killings wins the NWA World Championship

– The Carter Family
Dixie discusses her first meeting with TNA. They laid out the concept and she knew Jeff from back in Texas. She thought he was lying about being a wrestler until she saw him on TV. When they had the meeting they talked about meeting each other back in the day. She was impressed, yet didn’t now how to take the meeting. She wasn’t sure what level they could deliver at, but she had a new appreciation for wrestling. She grew up watching wrestling but had grown away from it. But the meeting was good and she was impressed. The first show made her a believer and while it wasn’t as big a crowd as they wanted, the seeds were there to build on.

Jeff talks about how Panda Energy came about. The initial investors had major issues and had no money and pulled out. He then went on the search, and through Trifecta, Dixie’s company, he was looking for money, not directly from them, but letting them know what they needed. He had tapes and they produced a product.

After working with TNA, she was excited. They had a private meeting about losing the investor. She asked how much he needed since they had no money to run the next show, she took the concept to her father [Bob Carter] at Panda Energy and she knew he would want to help. With a WWE, there needed to be a TNA for the fans.

Jeff says the Carter family was interested and they met with Bob Carter. This time, they had tapes, business plans and everything else they had, and they wanted to make a deal.

Ryder says they had a dream but were understaffed. They were told one thing about marketing, but it wasn’t what they were told and they lost a lot in the beginning and were lied too.

Dixie says the initial challenges were huge and they had a lot of wrong information given to them. They had bad contracts with people, and they had a lot of repairs to do. The weekly concept was a hard sell, especially to get someone to buy show one in the hope they would come back and buy show two next week. They set realistic goals, they were low, but they were reachable. The guys in the ring worked hard that they had to do what they could behind the scenes.

Jeff says that the weeks leading up to show one they had constant snags and problems. The pay per view consultant gave them bad info as did the financial advisor and the pay per view companies were nervous about it all. He looks back on it fondly, but it was a stressful time.

Dixie says year one was so lean, the sets were bad and she got money for them to renovate the Asylum. Even she and her husband helped paint the arena. She was worried what she got into, but then she realized how passionate she was about the company. They all had to help, and it is a survival story.

TNA Pay Per View Moment: Americas Most Wanted wins their first NWA World Tag Team title

– The Rise of the X Division
Elix says that when he come in, they were all about the X division. The weird thing was when he left WCW they were pushing the cruiserweights. Now with TNA, he knew he had a chance to succeed. To him when he came to TNA and they were doing this, he knew it was great. TNA picked up a good thing that WCW was doing.

Ryder says they needed to spotlight some younger talent like AJ Styles. Ryder says himself and Borash remembered AJ from WCW and he was one of the first target for the division. They wanted to capatalize on the “X Games” that ESPN were running and the tagline “it’s not about weight limits, it’s about no limits” came about.

Don West remembers how great the X-Division was, and how exciting. He remembers the very first match, the 6-man. West knew they were great. Then the second show when they crowned the first X-Division champion. He knew he was bad then, but those matches made him get into it and want to get better. They were so good and easy to call because of the excitement.

AJ says winning the X Division title meant everything to him, the X Division was his baby. It changed wrestling and will continue to do so in future. He was honoured to be the first champion.

Andrew Thomas talks about his memories of the 3 way X Division ladder match between AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn and Low Ki.

Don West talks about the ladder match as still being one of his favourite matches in TNA history.

Christopher Daniels now discusses the X-Division. He thought it was a step in the right direction for him and the business as a whole. In TNA they weren’t filler, they were a spotlight, the main event at times and it was something that excited him.

AJ says the X-Division was main event, they had the spotlight and were treated as special. No one can put on matches like they did.

TNA Pay Per View Moment: Jeff Jarrett wins the NWA Title with help from Mr Wrestling III (Vince Russo)

– The Tag Teams
Styles talks about how AMW built the tag team division. They were the tag team to beat for a long time. They put it on the map. If Jerry Lynn, Low Ki and AJ were the pioneers of the X Division, Americas Most Wanted were the pioneers of the tag division

Harris talks about when he found out he was going to be a tag team wrestler, he says he wanted to be a singles star, but eventually conceded that there were big names and young guys. They didn’t put up a fight even though they wanted to be a singles star.

Storm says he found out at the first tapings. He says they both wanted to be singles wrestlers, but if they had to be a tag team, they were going to be the best tag team possible.

Tenay says that the AMW vs The New Church was the setup for the tag division’s success. He says it worked so well, that it showed they had a superior tag team division

Harris puts over the feud with the New Church and how they made people believe in tag team wrestling again since it had become a dying breed. Being old school, they just did what they were taught. He talked about how they could adapt to any style, they could fly, they could brawl, they could wrestle. They had bloody brawls and it really made them and the title.

Storm says that they [Slash and Brian Lee] worked stiff and he got knocked out a lot.

Harris puts over the feud with XXX which took them, and the division to a new level. XXX were predominantly known as high flyers so it let them work a different type of match and it was great.

Daniels discusses that he didn’t realise how important that feud was until he looks back at it now. The company really got behind AMW and he didn’t expect to be working with them. It was a big deal to feud with them and win the titles. He says the culmination was the first tag team cage match in TNA at the first anniversary show.

Storm says he loved the feud because they had great chemistry, it was just gold. He puts Daniels over as a leader and able to work with anyone with the athleticism of Elix and Low Ki.

Elix says all the matches were great, but the cage match was just awesome. Everything they did to build the company and make everyone more money and succeed. There was a true friendship and they supported each other. They just all helped each other to succeed.

TNA Pay Per View Moment: Roddy Piper comes to TNA Wrestling

– Welcome to the Asylum
Rudy says they started in Huntsville, but due to financial issues, they had to move to the Asylum in Nashville. He says it was a dump, good for an indy promotion, but not for pay per view. Jill Jarrett and others renovated the building and it looked really nice, it was amazing. He puts over how hard she worked to get it looking good enough for pay per view.

AJ talks about how the change wasn’t a big deal to him because it made them closer.

Storm talks about how the crowd in the Asylum was more like an ECW crowd because there were less fans, but they were crazier. It was home and people still think of the Asylum when they think of TNA.

BG James talks about how he broke into the business when it was in huge arenas, but he preferred the smaller venues like the ones where he used to see his family wrestle. He says he preferred it where he would be able to interact with the people as opposed to trying to bring someone in a sky box into the action.

Dixie says going to the Asylum was looked at as a step back, and made it look like it was going to fail, but they needed to do it to stay in business. The Asylum is important in the history of TNA. They got big names to come back and do one night stints due to where they were. She says the Asylum was the best name for the place as the fans were crazy. She says that she had to sit out there at times to fill the place. She sat next to a guy that paid every week to sit front row and got to interact with the crowd was priceless. She wishes she had 3-million fans like the Asylum fans. She was the first make-up artist for TNA because she did what they had to do.

TNA Pay Per View Moment: Raven debuts stealing the NWA title belt after Jeff Jarrett successfully defended it in a gauntlet.

– Raven vs Jeff Jarrett
AJ says Raven coming to the company was an important point in the company’s history. He could have sat home and got paid more money, but he come into TNA instead.

Storm says ECW was gone, and Raven still brought in new fans

Raven wanted to make an impact and he says stealing the belt was the best way to do it considering what the belt meant in the company. He also puts over how the NWA title was always the biggest

West talks about the first Raven vs Jarrett title match. He puts over how excellent the build was and how Raven was the first big pick for TNA. The feel was big time, and well done which was huge for TNA. On his radio show, he used to have to leave in the middle of the day to do it and get back 2 hours before the pay per view. He talks about one time coming in and not being able to park because 1,000 people were stood outside the building. He had to park in an animal stall that day because there was nowhere else.

Jarrett talks about the debut coming at the right time, and it was well done. They had great chemistry and it all clicked. He knew the fans were right where he wanted them. He says this was the biggest deal in year one, feud wise in his eyes.

Raven says it was huge for the company. He used an analogy that Jarrett had built up a Tommy Dreamer type baby face in himself, but there was no Raven, and then there he was. He says the match lived up to its expectations.

TNA Pay Per View Moment: AJ Styles wins the NWA World Title and becomes a triple crown winner thanks to Vince Russo.

– Looking Back at Year One
AJ says how unbelievable it was for him and for wrestling that there was something new. He is honoured to be a part of that because year one set the tone for things to come.

BG says it got him back to his roots and he was happy again wrestling. TNA happened to him at a time when he needed it personally. He learned a lot in the last 5 years, and he loves it. He says you just got to be good at what you love.

Harris says that TNA was his real start, he had a short stint under contract for WCW, but he never really started his career. He did that in TNA. People know who he is, and he says year one was amazing. They have come a long way and proved a lot of people wrong.

Daniels knew it was an opportunity to be something. He worked hard to make everything he did great. TNA wouldn’t be what it is if it hadn’t been for the effort of a lot of guys from year one. Everything from the first show and the first year is why they are here today.

Rudy says it was an opportunity for a lot of people, and they all took advantage. They almost went out of business a few times, but they are still here.

Ryder says there were a lot of ups and downs, but when they hit one year, Jeff, who isn’t a touchy feely guy, was hugging people at the party and was very emotional. They knew they could do it as long as they kept the effort up.

West compares the first year to the first year of a marriage. It wasn’t easy, but they had luck on their side and they bucked the odds makers. It was baby steps, but they made it. There were bad times, but the dream eventually became a reality. They won the war of survival, and they now continue to fight.

Borash says that without year one, nothing would matter. It was special for everyone, but he wouldn’t want to live through it again but he is proud of everything they did.

Tenay talks about the ups and downs, they fought and got on FSN, then Spike TV, then monthly pay per views. The first year was rocky, but it was necessary, it was like a career rebirth for himself and a number of the other talents.

Dixie says how TNA was a change to her career. She used to have a successful company with lots of clients, but she started putting more time and effort into TNA and that became her job and her passion. She says she feels more professionally fulfilled now than she ever did. She wouldn’t trade it for anything. She puts over the passion of the talents who knew they were working in-front of smaller audiences, but they worked as hard as if they were working in the main event of Madison Square Garden. She emphasises that is what made TNA special.

Jarrett sums up the fact it was hard work, people jumped off the train and refused to work for them because they didn’t see it going to where it is today, but the people who remained with the company are proud of what they have done. A certain few gave up so much and he’ll never forget that. People who would look him in the eye and tell him he was destined to fail. They cared for him and didn’t want to see him fail. They worked hard, believed and they stuck with it. Anyone can quit and everyone quits in life, but it takes a really determined person to stick with it. He had a vision and a select group was determined to succeed and they did.

Part Two – The Matches:
Just to put explain. I will list the matches, but will not be doing a full play by play review of them since they are 1 hour 20 minutes long between the four of them, I’m already closing in on 5,000 words, and there are plenty of reviews of those matches on the net. I will however give my opinions on the match.

Double Elimination Match To Determine the first NWA-TNA X Division Champion:
AJ Styles vs Jerry Lynn vs Psicosis vs Low Ki – Special referee: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat

Thoughts: This match is what the X Division is all about. Many people look at the first year of the X Division as the highlight of the division. And this match really showed what the division could be. Mike Tenay said it right in the match, this is what Total Non-Stop Action is all about. As soon as one man was pinned or forced to submit, the next was in the ring and we were treated to a great match. On this night, the X Division was born, and AJ Styles became a star.
Rating: ****

Triple Ladder Match for the X Division Championship:
Low Ki © vs Jerry Lynn vs AJ Styles

Thoughts: While many people thought the match double elimination match was a great match, this is the match that really defined the X Division. This had so much action it is hard to keep up (which I suppose it’s a good thing I am not reviewing it in a play by play style). Jerry Lynn, Low Ki and AJ Styles are looked at as pioneers of the X Division matches, and it was matches like this (as well as their feud leading into this) that put the X Division on the map. If you look at people’s favourite TNA matches, this one will be on a lot of people’s lists, if not at the top as this was an amazing ladder match. The thing I think makes this such a good match is that 5 years on, it still stands up as a great match.
Rating: ****¼

The Final Battle – No Disqualification Match for the NWA World Tag Team Championships:
The Disciples of the New Church © vs Americas Most Wanted

Thoughts: This was the final match between the 2 teams that had put the tag team division on the map, they had been feuding for a while over the belts. One thing I need to put over is the fact that my thoughts on this are only based on this match, not the feud that preceded it. This was a brutal match (in a good way), lots of bloodshed, lots of brawling, lots of near falls, the fans bought into it. With some of the hardcore matches and barbed wire massacre matches that we’ve seen since this time, the match still holds up as a good match, but not as much as the others on this compilation. I understand they wanted to put on the ending of the feud that made the tag division stand out, but I would have personally chosen the XXX vs Americas Most Wanted cage match from the First Anniversary Show (since that should still count as year one).
Rating: ***¼

NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match:
Jeff Jarrett © vs Raven (with The Gathering)

Thoughts: To me, this match was one of the most important in the first year of TNA. As mentioned during the documentary, Raven was the first big acquisition for TNA, and what a way he debuted. The build for this match was great, and it was really built and the crowd was anticipating it which lead to a lively crowd. The addition of the “Extreme Revolution” of The Sandman, Perry Saturn, Justin Credible and New Jack was great as I don’t think people saw it coming, and Sabu, of all people, making the save for Jarrett was good to see. I think this put Jarrett over as a true champion as he kicked out of a lot of punishment in this match. All in all, this match felt special at the time due to the amazing build they did, and it still stands up as an exciting title match today.
Rating: ***½

Part Three – Bonus Features:
Year One Appearances: We get a video package highlighting all the major names that TNA had come in for one off appearances or short stints including Chris Rock, Harley Race, Percy Pringle, Nikita Koloff, Dory Funk Jr, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Bob Armstrong, Sabu, Brian Christopher, Jeff Hammond, Hermie Sadler, Kevin Sullivan, Nelson Knight (aka Big Daddy V), CM Punk, SCREECH, JJ Dillon, D’LO Brown, Jackie Fargo, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, Ricky Steamboat, Tony Schiovone, The Rock and roll Express, Vader and The Road Warriors.

The Original TNA Commercial: Until this DVD set, I had personally never seen this (due to being in the UK). Don West does the voice over, and puts over Scott Hall, Jeff Jarrett, Ken Shamrock, Hardcore Midget Mayhem and the TNA Girls.

James Storm vs Chris Harris – The Try-Out Match: This was from June 1st 2002 and actually takes place at the Asylum (pre-makeover). I have to say, they did a great job redecorating because had I not looked it up, I wouldn’t believe it was the same place. This match is basically a highlight video (as I believe the entire match is available on another TNA DVD release, The Best of Americas Most Wanted). Both guys looked like they had talent, and obviously the guys in TNA liked it as they got a job. Harris looked the same, Storm has shorter hair and isn’t as big as he is now, but besides that, there is no difference from the AMW that became the best tag team in TNA.

Remembering Curt Henning: In 2003, the wrestling world lost a great friend and competitor in Curt Henning. During his time with Total Nonstop Action, Curt became close with several TNA stars…..and they spoke about him during the filming of this DVD. This is the introduction TNA put on the beginning of this feature. In this video, James Storm, BG James, Mike Tenay and Chris Harris all talk about their time with Curt and share some of their memories of the man.

The Lowdown: The History of TNA – Year One is one of my favourite DVDs in my TNA collection. It was the first documentary that TNA did that put an emphasis on the documentary section. This is one of the most honest DVDs I’ve seen in a while. I was actually surprised how honest they were about their financial troubles. For me, this is up there with some of WWE’s documentary DVDs (most of which I love). This reminds me of the Rise and Fall of ECW due to the honesty shown. Clocking in at 3 ½ hours, it is a great in-depth look at the first year and they have chosen a selection of good matches to emphasise the product from year one.

Rating: 9.5 [Must See]

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