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DeMarco: Did Age Impact Recent WWE Releases?

Greg DeMarco engages in crack research to identify a trend among those stars WWE did release, and those they didn’t release. Was age a factor?

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WWE Luke Harper

Greg DeMarco engages in crack research to identify a trend among those stars WWE did release, and those they didn’t release. Was age a factor?

I’m, not sure if you heard (you heard, I know), but WWE recently released Luke Harper, Sin Cara, and both members of The Ascension (you might not have known those last two still worked for WWE, though). The first two requested their releases earlier this year, and they were finally granted this week.

Sitting on the outside of that we have Mike Kanellis and The Revival, along with Oney Lorcan. Now we’re taking a (dangerous) leap of faith and assuming The Revival really requested their releases, since they didn’t tell us they did on social media (Kanellis and Lorcan did). But for the purposes of this exercise, we are going to assume that they did, because we need enough names to develop a pattern.

There are many different factors that go into a release being granted, but on the most recent edition of Greg DeMarco Show, myself, Miranda Morales, and Patrick O’Dowd stumbled upon something. Take a look:

Stars Released

  • Luke Harper – 39 years old
  • Sin Cara – 42 years old
  • The Ascension’s Konnor – 39 years old
  • The Ascension’s Viktor – 39 years old

Stars Not Released

  • Mike Kanellis – 34 years old
  • Oney Lorcan – 33 years old
  • Scott Dawson – 35 years old
  • Dash Wilder – 32 years old

It doesn’t take an actuary (Google it, it’s basically a genius) to see what I (not an actuary) am seeing here: the stars closer to (or over) 40 were released, and those 35 and under were retained.

WWE booking is cyclical, something it also doesn’t take a genius to figure out. This is especially prevalent in the mid-card, a place everyone on this list essentially lives. To be successful in the WWE mid-card, you need to be able to emotionally handle the booking cycle, always ready to jump in when your number is called, and hope you can make the most of the situation (aka, hope you can “Jinder it”).

This is important because those who are on the older end of the spectrum may not be a viable option to WWE if and when the booking cycle favors them again. Non-coincidentally (at least in my opinion), those folks were also the ones granted their releases. I know it seems blasphemous for me, someone writing about the product online, to say Luke Harper might not be a viable option at some point soon, but he is 39, and that doesn’t help him in terms of having a sustainable run at or near the top of the card. I know we all love to toss out the name AJ Styles (he’s 42, a fact Conrad Thompson reminds us of as much as Jim Ross reminds us that Dr. Britt Baker is a real-life dentist), but that’s the exception to the rule. It’s still an early 30’s WWE.

Now Oney Lorcan revealed he’s signed a new multi-year WWE contract, and Mike Kanellis hasn’t hit the “release me” campaign trail recently. The Revival are constantly cycled back into the rotation, proving they are the best tag team in the world at least once a month. Each is younger, and can be a viable option should the booking cycle spin in their favor.

I’m not calling WWE ageist in the least, but I think that–from a business standpoint–they see age as a factor in deciding to give someone their release when requested.


Pro wrestling, along with sports entertainment, is a fun ride. Enjoy it! Follow me on social media @ChairshotGreg and drop me a line at gregdemarco@thechairshot.com.


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Opinion

Andrew’s Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 1/24/2021

Well even on a quiet-ish week, all of the bigger NA companies get a version of representation and even AJPW found their way into the Top 5! Let’s see what we’re working with!

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Well now, we didn’t have much that really stood out on North American television, but we did get a few additions from All Japan Pro Wrestling!

Last week’s voting was pretty cut and dry, NXT UK: NXT UK Championship: Walter (c) vs A-Kid, managed to control the voting narrative. Now we get this week, and it’s definitely a little more interesting.

Which match will get the most support? Let’s find out!

Quick Top 5:

  1. AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino
    Rating: **** 1/4
  2. AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)
    Rating: *** 3/4
  3. WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles
    Rating: *** 3/4
  4. IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)
    Rating: *** 1/2
  5. NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher
    Rating: *** 1/2

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • NXT UK: Dave Mastiff vs Rampage Brown
    Rating: *** 1/4
  • NXT: Imperium vs Lucha House Party
    Rating: ***
  • WWE Raw: Asuka vs Alexa Bliss
    Rating: ***
  • AEW Dynamite: MJericho vs Sammy Hager vs Santana & Ortiz
    Rating: ***
  • NXT: Kushida vs Leon Ruff
    Rating: ***

4t. NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

The ref checks on Thatcher but Thatcher grabs at Ciampa over the ref’s back! Ciampa uses the leverage for WILLOW’S BELL!! But Ciampa can’t win off a cover, he wants to know if that knocked Thatcher out! The ref starts a count, Thatcher is still conscious but he has to get up before 10! The count is 5, then 6! Thatcher uses the cage and drags himself up at 9.9! But Ciampa CLOBBERS him, underhooks, but Thatcher spins out to throw EuroUppers! Ciampa forearms, they’re brawling back and forth with fury! The fans are fired up as Ciampa CHOPS but Thatcher tackles him into steel!

Ciampa throws elbows, has a facelock, and he RAMS Thatcher into steel! FAIRYTALE ENDING!! And then a SLEEPER HOLD!! Ciampa wants Thatcher to pass out, but Thatcher fights up! And scoops Ciampa to RAM him into the steel! Thatcher gets Ciampa in a sleeper hold of his own, but Ciampa uses the corner to go up! Thatcher shoves Ciampa into the corner! Thatcher CLUBS Ciampa over and over and over, then has the leg trapped in the girder! HANGING STRETCH MUFFLER!! Ciampa shouts in pain, he TAPS! THATCHER WINS!!

Winner: Thatcher Hanging Stretch Muffler

 

4t. IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)

From My Results:

Fast paced as expected, but early on we see Tony Khan and Jerry Lynn walk out to sit at ringside and watch the match. Storm didn’t slow down too much, which is surprising since aside from his brief stint back in Impact at the end of 2020, we saw him tagging with Eli Drake in much slower, less workrate dependent matches.

Private Party were their usual high flying, fun having, break dance inspired flourishes to some offense we’ve seen for years. Beer Guns had a cool tandem move with Sabin Sunset Flipping from outside in, Quen rolled right into the Backstabber from James Storm. Lots of signature spam, a few dives, highlighted by a nice Fosbury Flop from Quen.

Sabin looked to be setting up for the finish, when Jerry Lynn hops the familiar guardrail, grabs Sabin’s foot while Matt Hardy distracted the ref; and Private Party hit Gin & Juice for the heel tactic upset! Interestingly, Private Party still comes off as great babyface kids who are being swindled by scummy adults. So they aren’t playing heel, but everyone around them is doing it for them.

Winner: Private Party via Gin & Juice

 

2t. WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

Ricochet is frustrated but Omos is relieved as Styles survives. Ricochet fireman’s carries but Styles fights out. Ricochet mule kicks a leg then back flips into the DEAD LIFT GERMAN! Bridging cover, TWO! Ricochet grows further frustrated but he watches Styles stand. Ricochet runs out from the corner but Styles dodges. Styles runs in, Ricochet elbows back, QUEBRADA into a LARIAT! Styles gets Ricochet up, SNAP BRAIN BUSTER!! Cover, TWO!! Styles fireman’s carries Ricochet for USHIGOROSHI! Cover, TWO! Omos says it’s alright but Styles is still surprised Ricochet survives!

Styles goes to a corner, goes to the apron, and takes aim. Styles springboards, but Ricochet hits the RECOIL!! Both men are down, Ricochet crawls to the cover, TWO!! Styles survives and Ricochet is beside himself! Ricochet goes to the corner, climbs up top, but Styles trips him up! Ricochet lands hard on his stomach and flops to the apron! Omos coaches Styles as Ricochet drags himself up. Styles goes to the corner, brings Styles up, but Ricochet hotshots! Ricochet aims, slingshots, but into Styles’ suplex, that rebounds off the ropes! Into the STYLES CLASH!!! Cover, Styles wins!

Winner: AJ Styles via Styles Clash

 

2t. AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)

Iwamoto has finally started to blossom as the Ace of the current Junior Division. Fuminori Abe on the other hand, is a freelancer who can do anything and everything. This should be a great test for the Junior Ace, since Abe can hit you from every conceivable angle.

There’s a brief period of feeling out we saw the versatility of Abe. He delved into a little bit of his comedic side with the long set up on a Penalty Kick to the back, but he also snapped off some great Frankensteiners and high spots. He also worked over the upper body well to try and go for his signature Octopus Hold, but Iwamoto was able to get the rope break.

Iwamoto’s saving grace was his Judo background. A few Dropkicks to get distance and just catching Abe with multiple Judo Throws, set up beautifully for the Koko no Geijutsu, because it is also a fast snapping Judo Throw, but he uses the ropes for the added momentum to make it a finish.

Smooth as butter, and only rated under a 4 because of how fast the match was. If it had a longer build or another back and forth, this could’ve been epic. But it was still a damn great match.

After the match Cima challenged via video.

Winner: Koji Iwamoto via Koko no Geijutsu

 

1. AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino

Suwama’s hand picked opponent because of their similarities. Ashino being the former ace of Wrestle-1, a disciple of Keiji Mutoh and an accomplish amateur style wrestler; this all rings true with Suwama. So we get part two of the Mutoh’s favorite son challenge!

This match did have a few of the same issues as their first one, since a slower mat based style doesn’t resonate well with no crowd or a muted crowd. Suwama did keep up with Ashino for the most part, and the match had many similar elements as the first match. Ashino worked over the Ankle and went for the Ankle Lock; where Suwama showed he could counter most of it and apply his own submissions.

Smartly, Ashino did his best to avoid the Last Ride Powerbomb, which is how he lost his first challenge, and force Suwama to dig deeper. Ashino was explosive with German Suplexes, but he fell into the SANADA trap. Ashino drags Suwama to position him from the corner, even commentary is confused since Ashino is no high flier, but Ashino goes for the Mutoh Moonsault, and hits nothing!

After the miss it felt like Ashino was looking for something he didn’t have to take down Suwama. Suwama did have to pull off numerous Backdrop Drivers and finally the Backdrop Suplex Hold to retain the title. A very solid defense that built off the previous matchup, and would’ve been much better if the mat wrestling didn’t feel like it dragged because of the world situation.

Kohei Sato comes out after to challenge.

Winner: Suwama via Backdrop Suplex Hold

 

Thoughts:

Now I’m really intrigued at how this vote will shake out. A few matches from the lesser view AJPW, a match from Raw, a crossover with AEW & Impact and a gimmick match from NXT.

My vote personally will go to Private Party vs Beer Guns, because this is the first interaction that really does feel interesting for the invasion/war/crossover/takeover whatever story. Great use of former Impact talent, great screwjob and ideally should lead to bigger things. Plus it’s nice to see a younger/undercard team like Private Party getting their star elevated a bit.

Do I think any of these matches touch the first week of the year? No, not at all. But they weren’t stinkers, so let’s make the month interesting before Royal Rumble!


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News From Cook’s Corner 1.25.21: Swinging For The Fences

Some notable deaths and a shift in the USA Network programming schedule seem to have peaked Cook’s interest. Check out what he’s got hot off the presses!

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Some notable deaths and a shift in the USA Network programming schedule seem to have peaked Cook’s interest. Check out what he’s got hot off the presses!

Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! Last week around this time, I was riding pretty high and feeling good about how things were going with the whole writing thing. Got some podcast publicity, wrote some pretty good stuff that went over well with the public, was expanding my horizons with some different work, good times were being had by all. That lasted a few days until I ran into every writer’s greatest enemy.

Writer’s Block.

It’s not that I’m lacking things to write about. There’s plenty going on in the world of pro wrestling, and now that the Chairshot is expanding its reach into sports, there’s always some NFL topic that people want to read about. One goes through times where it’s hard to find the words. It usually happens at a pretty inconvenient time, like when I actually have a lot of free time to write.

The hope for this column is that I can get some creative juices flowing thanks to some topics that interest me. There are plenty of reasons to talk about sports this week, so hopefully that will help! Let’s find out…

Will NBCSN’s Demise Lead To Changes For WWE?

Big news broke in sports television over the weekend, as NBCUniversal announced its intention to close down NBCSN by the end of 2021. This is being seen as a strategy intended to bump up the Peacock streaming service, where many of the properties currently airing on NBCSN will end up. The memo did mention that USA Network would begin carrying some of the programming, including NASCAR races & the Stanley Cup playoffs. This, naturally led to wrestling fans like us jumping to conclusions.

Oh, and fans of all those other sports too, but for the purposes of this column we talk about wrestling fans jumping to conclusions. WWE has two weekly wrestling shows currently airing on USA. Raw’s deal doesn’t end until 2024, but NXT’s ends in October of this year.

I think some are blowing this whole thing out of proportion. Maybe I’ll end up being wrong, but I don’t see the addition of the NHL & NASCAR affecting WWE too much. NASCAR will mostly air on the weekends. The NHL does have this Wednesday Night Hockey gimmick on NBCSN that people tell me is a big deal and may lead to the end of NXT on Wednesday nights. Mayyyybe that happens, as it’s pretty undeniable at this point that NXT would draw a larger audience on a different night. WWE would prefer to take a chunk out of AEW Dynamite viewership, but that’s not as big of a concern to USA.

However, as somebody that watches a good amount of hockey, I’ve never thought of Wednesday night as a destination night for the sport. Might be because my Nashville Predators are rarely featured on it (they will be this week, largely because they’re playing Chicago), but I don’t see it as this big thing that changing to Tuesday or Thursday Night Hockey would put traditional hockey fans up in arms. Certainly not like how they get worked up every time something related to Hockey Night in Canada changes.

There’s also the factor of the NHL contract with NBC expiring after this season, which could render the whole “Wednesday Night Hockey” thing as a moot point. This is all very interesting to keep an eye on, but I’m not expecting anything major to come out of it, at least when it comes to WWE business. Say what you will about Raw or NXT’s TV ratings, the NHL sure wouldn’t mind having them. We might see NXT get pre-empted if the NHL has a ton of playoff games on a Wednesday night, but other than that I wouldn’t worry about it.

Hammerin’ Hank

As a baseball fan that has loved studying the history of the sport from a young age, the last year or so has been brutal. It’s been a seemingly never-ending parade of Hall of Famers leaving us. Most of them were along for a long time, so it’s not like they were taken too soon or anything like that. It’s just kinda sad for baseball fans to see a piece of their childhood fade away.

Hank Aaron passed away at the age of eighty-six on Friday. He was the man who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record back in 1974, and had to deal with everything that that entailed. People that had a certain outlook on life were outraged to see Hank Aaron, an African-American, break the Sultan of Swat’s record. When I first read about all this and saw some of the things people sent Aaron in the mail, I was shocked. I was much younger at the time and under the impression that certain things had gotten better. Which they have, as now they send Tweets.

Aaron’s record of 755 home runs lasted over 30 years until Barry Bonds surpassed him with 762, and many folks out there still recognize Aaron as the home run king due to certain aspects of Bonds’ career. I’m not here to tell you how you should feel about that. What I will say is that 755 is much easier to remember than 762. It’s like how I was talking about the WrestleMania III attendance record being easier to remember than WM 32’s just last week. It’s just a better number.

You might wonder why I’m talking about all this in a wrestling column. Maybe you’re not, since it’s a pretty well known story. After Aaron retired from baseball, he became an executive with the Atlanta Braves & TBS. At the time, the Braves & TBS were owned by Ted Turner, who owned pretty much everything in Atlanta at that point. Including later in the 1980s, World Championship Wrestling. Aaron, like most TBS executives at the time, kept his distance from WCW, which was widely considered the red-headed stepchild of the Turner corporation.

WCW had quite the revolving door of executive VPs, bookers & assorted people in charge its first few years under the Turner umbrella. The middle of 1992 saw the arrival of Bill Watts, a man known in wrestling circles as pretty much a genius. Watts had booked for a number of successful territories during the 1970s & 1980s, and the Mid-South Wrestling promotion he led during the early 1980s produced some of the most critically acclaimed wrestling television to this day. Also did big business in Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and other areas that weren’t exactly population & media centers. Watts’ reputation as a wrestling genius gave people big hopes once he arrived, and, well, things didn’t quite go as hoped.

I have re-watched some of 1992 WCW fairly recently thanks to WWE Network dumping some WCW Saturday Night just before I started watching as a kid on there. I enjoyed a lot of it, but there were definitely some warts. The TV definitely didn’t draw a lot of money, and Watts’ new rules he brought to WCW definitely didn’t make any friends backstage. Watts was also forced to cut costs, though as Arn Anderson has pointed out, he would see other people pop up on the roster after his salary was slashed. Arn admitting that he used Erik Watts beating him down at a gas station as an excuse to take four months off, sit at home & let things play out just increases my opinion of the Enforcer. Tremendous.

WCW under Watts was definitely a mixed bag. The Cowboy had some good ideas, but he also had some terrible ideas that stifled the roster. Watts has explained the top rope ban as making the moves mean more, but it was ill-timed when WCW was trying to promote a Light Heavyweight division where the top two stars were Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Flyin’ Brian. I mean, it didn’t hurt Brad Armstrong or Scotty Flamingo too much, but we would have rather watched the former than the latter in 1992. Or in most other years.

Watts had gotten behind the times. Apparently, he was even more behind the times based off of a Torch Talk interview he did in 1991 that allegedly helped him get the WCW job. That’s a myth that’s been passed on over the times by newsletter writers, but when I read that interview, I saw at least 27 red flags. I had heard Watts’ explanation of the situation prior to my reading the actual transcription of all of this. Once I saw what he actually said, well, I can see why he was trying to spin it.

Bill Watts is a complicated figure in wrestling history. He gave the Junk Yard Dog his big push in Louisiana. He made Ron Simmons the first black WCW Champion. He made Ernie Ladd his booker in Mid-South Wrestling. He rightly saw that most of the top athletes in the world were black, and that wrestling denying that was ridiculous. Regardless of his opinions of other races, he saw that there was business to be done in pro wrestling.

Which, to be honest, puts him ahead of most other promoters in his time. Watts might have been a racist, but as a capitalist he still saw the business potential. WWE has been criticized for decades for not properly pushing African-American talent. They have been putting belts on minority talent lately, but still fund political campaigns meaning to bring minorities down. I’m not telling any lies here, just ask the people that vote for Vince & Linda’s preferred candidates. That’s what they want to do. Don’t get me started on the debate over who the first black WWF/E champion was. I am sticking a ten foot pole between me and that debate.

Watts made a habit of pushing African-American talent throughout his stints as a promoter & booker. He entrusted Ernie Ladd with booking Mid-South Wrestling, which was the first time an African-American had booked a wrestling promotion. Which made the interview he did with the Pro Wrestling Torch prior to getting hired by WCW more damning when I actually read it. I had read summaries before, and had heard Watts’ take on the matter. Actually seeing what he said…pretty shocking, though there are plenty out there that might agree with his hot takes.

The story is that Mark Madden (another wonderful individual just like his fellow Torch columnist Bruce Mitchell) faxed the Pro Wrestling Torch interview to Hank Aaron, after seeing Aaron on WCW television with Watts shortly after Aaron had spoken out against Marge Schott, the owner of the Cincinnati Reds that had made some very questionable statements concerning Adolf Hitler, among other things. See, Watts was big on mainstream sports, and would have marked out to have Hank Aaron on TV with him. Probably pulled some strings to make that happen. Aaron was not pleased when he saw the Torch interview, and told Madden that there would be something done about it. Watts resigned from WCW shortly afterwards.

It should be noted that Watts has a different take on all of this, though it has to be called into question since he made his Torch comments seem much less racist in his re-calling. Part of it does seem believable, since he claimed that he was already intending to step down from WCW due to the corporate agenda he didn’t want to deal with. It seems feasible, and Jim Cornette backed him up on the timeline on the ROH Straight Shootin’ Series interview they did. (Has Jim Cornette ever commented on Bill Watts’ political beliefs? That’d be an interesting YouTube clip.)

Watts’ removal led to Ole Anderson taking control, which didn’t last long. Once Ole pissed enough people off, he got shown the door, and that’s when Eric Bischoff slid in. I don’t think Hank Aaron paid attention to WCW a second after he got a fax from Mark Madden. Could be wrong, though I think if Aaron was at some of those Nitro telecasts they would have drug him out there to get a pop.

A lot of news sites wanted to sell Aaron as changing the course of wrestling history in their news bites reporting his death. I think that’s a little overblown, as Watts would have gone away even without Aaron being forced to respond to an interview that TBS apparently didn’t look into before hiring Bill Watts. The main issue is that Watts shouldn’t have been there to begin with. Easy to say with hindsight being 20/20, and the perception being Cowboy Bill being a wrestling genus, but his WCW stint, at least as far as TV entertainment value goes, was lacking.

Maybe he saved some money, but why would we care about that? Especially when he was saving money by cutting production values and cutting Arn Anderson & Bobby Eaton’s pay in half. Those were acceptable costs. And how much money do you save by not placing pretty blue mats at ringside to keep wrestlers from killing themselves on the floor? Can’t be that much.

Larry Fling Live

CNN has never really replaced Larry King. They tried to have Piers Morgan do it, which was a debacle that fortunately only British people have to deal with now. Chris Cuomo has the slot now, but that is what that is. Anderson Cooper is smart enough to stay out of that time slot because he doesn’t want the comparison. He’ll take any other slot on CNN, just not that 9:00 PM Eastern slot.

That was where Larry King interviewed people on CNN for twenty-five years. It was the signature program on cable television’s first news network. As much as we talk about cable television dying off and viewership going away, cable news is still a pretty big thing. It’s only gotten bigger since Larry King Live went off the air, and one wonders if a cable news host like King would do well now. King didn’t wear his party affiliation on his sleeve, which made him great for television back in the day. For television now? Could be an issue, since viewers tend to lean towards networks that reinforce their political views. Centerists aren’t especially popular these days, nor are people that try to hide their political opinions. You’re better off pandering to your side & checking all objectivity at the door these days.

Believe me, I’m not a fan of that idea, but that’s what the people want.

Larry King was always pretty unbiased. Which made him a great tool for pro wrestling. CNN was under that Turner umbrella we talked about earlier, but they tried to steer clear of WCW. They’d cover some WWF stuff from time to time, but pro wrestling wasn’t really under the cable news radar until the Chris Benoit murders/suicide. Many thought that could lead to the end of the business, and plenty of cable news shows were ready to jump all over it.

King’s show was open to bringing on more enlightened pro wrestlers, at least at that time. He was willing to let those wrestlers, whether it was Bret Hart or Chris Jericho or Mick Foley or whoever, speak their mind. He didn’t cut them off or shout them down. King’s fairness at that time won him favor from WWE, who had previously lampooned him with “Larry Fling Live” hosting segments between the Huckster, Nacho Man & Billionaire Ted, since they were mad when Ted Turner was competing with them.

King did find the wrestling business interesting, and appeared on Raw in 2012. By that point, King was off of CNN, and WWE was happy to let him make a guest appearance. He got to talk to menches like Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston & The Miz. Can’t hate on that. He even got out of there before Kane could say something to him.

I would like to someday think of myself as the Larry King of pro wrestling writing. Except I’ve probably already pissed off too many people to make that idea work.

Thanks for reading! Hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have enjoyed bumbling through it. Until next week, keep your stick on the ice.


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