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Elton's Weekly Wrestling High Spots and Botches: October 11-October 17

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AEW

WWE Raw

High Spots: It’s crazy to think that there were only two positives to come out of this insanely bad edition of Raw. The first one is that banger of a King of the Ring tournament match between Xavier Woods and Ricochet - Xavier has been campaigning to be the man to win the classic tourney and it was awesome seeing him make it past the first round. Ricochet never lets me down whenever he starts filling and dipping, so I was more than happy to watch him work with the perfect dancing partner in Xavier. When Xavier flawlessly popped Ricochet off the ground into the air and dropped him with his signature gutbuster, I popped like a MF’er! My feelings are usually hurt whenever Ricochet takes another L, but I wasn’t upset this time around since it happened after a competitive match against an equally amazing superstar. 

As for the second highlight of the night, that belongs to the sensible winners we got during the Queen’s Crown matches. Piper Niven made it past Natalya and Shayna Baszler butchered Dana Brooke to proceed further into the tournament. SO ALL IS RIGHT IN THE WORLD! Now we’re going to get the match between Piper and Shayna that was teased a few weeks back and I for one am ecstatic about watching that first-time meeting take place. As for the actual match length of those two tournament bouts, they left me feeling a bit empty...

Botches: Sadly, this episode lived by the moniker “Raw is Apathy.” There were just a whole bunch of segments here that left me with a feeling of emptiness by the time they came to a close. I came into this episode excited to see what would happen between WWE Champion Big E and his Crown Jewel opponent Drew McIntyre. Their opening war of words lacked the heated back and forth banter it truly needed to grab my attention - the generic speak from both guys and random inclusion of The Usos that was clearly set up to book a tag team match for the main event hampered the start of the show. The tag team match that ended the show delivered a lame count-out victory for The Usos and a super predictable attack from the challenger to champion that was decidedly average at best. 

Why does WWE insist on ending something worthwhile before it even has a chance to be fully explored? Not only did the duo of Mustafa Ali and Mansoor lose in nothing but a minute to Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander (A MINUTE!), but they also got broken up during a completely heartbreaking backstage angle that saw Ali jump all over his former tag team partner. I was so ready for Ali and Mansoor to work their magic on SmackDown and eventually win the tag straps over there. And now, that dream is nothing more than a lost fantasy. The short runtime of that aforementioned match was the theme of the night, it seems - everything except for Xavier vs. Ricochet and the main event was woefully short when it came to total runtime. The Queen’s Crown tourney may have provided two sensible winners (unlike SmackDown), but both those matches were “blink and you miss” type of affairs. Omos vs. Riddle was another disgustingly short bout that didn’t even get saved by a post-match RKO.

Jeff Hardy vs. Austin Theory could have been a star-making performance for the NXT 2.0 prodigy and the perfect showcase for the face-painted veteran. Instead what we got was another match that ended faster than a quick trip to the kitchen. Plus it was made all the more horrible thanks to the inclusion of the always terrible 24/7 goofs running in. Theory won with a roll-up after dodging a Swanton Bomb, which was quite the lame way to put the newly drafted guy on Raw over. Jinder Mahal continued to suck the life out of the room thanks to his channel-changing match with Kofi Kingston. And to make matters even worse, Jinder won! They couldn’t just throw my Kofi a bone, bruh? I can’t find a single damn to give about Goldberg vs. Bobby Lashley at Crown Jewel, so you can probably guess how I felt about Bobby’s mid-show promo about the guy and his annoying son.

The biggest disappointment of the night came during a women’s tag team match that deserved way more than the four minutes it got. Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch is a PPV-worthy matchup that could easily nab MOTY honors with 20+ minutes attached to it. Instead, we got nothing more than a pathetically short match that the ref was forced to throw out due to “excessive violence.” The post-match beatdown just left me feeling even more let down by the booking of this whole affair. Oh, and before I forget! F’s in the chat for John Morrisson. That man is down bad tremendously...

NXT 2.0

High Spots: Before the show even got started, (S)Hit Row got ambushed in the most dangerous location in all of wrestling - the NXT parking lot. I’m sure Kenta got horrible flashbacks while he watched Isaiah "Swerve" Scott and his crew get served a beatdown by Legado Del Fantasma. And with that, I got treated to a solid installment of NXT 2.0 that started off hot and ended even hotter. Joe Gacy got on his soapbox once again to hit the audience with every keyword that disingenuous social justice warriors always use. While his promo sucked, his match against NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa was way better than I expected it to be. Gacy looked good for the very first time in my eyes and Ciampa got to look like the psycho killer he’s always been. After the match, Harland and his American History X haircut came out to do some damage on both champion and challenger. For some reason, the big guy calmed down once Joe caressed him with a slight touch. That sure was...something. So we’re getting another big debut in the coming weeks based on the creepy vignette that was shown here. It was pretty cool, not even gon lie. Now I have to ask - is it really going to be someone entirely new? Or are we getting the return of someone familiar under a brand new moniker? Could it possibly be...Dakota Kai? Sure sounded like her, don’t ya think? 

Xyon Quinn got to squash another victim and, to the surprise of no one, he did it while looking nigh unstoppable. I like the guy, so I can’t wait to see more of him during an extended matchup. So the Grizzled Young Veterans have it out for Ciampa, it seems. Luckily, the NXT Champ has some backup in the form of his title challenger Bron Breakker. I totally understand where Bron’s coming from - it’s better to beat Ciampa at his best by aiding him against his many threats and keeping him healthy for the big showdown at Halloween Havoc. Can’t wait to see those two duos square up. The Diamond Mine continued to rebuild and prosper with some impressive squashes of their own. Ivy Nile rearranged her opponent’s back with a sick Torture Rack, while Julius Creed knocked Ikemen Jiro’s block off. Kushida came out to help Ikemen from a post-match beatdown, but he was only met by an assault from Roderick Strong for his troubles.

Kyle O’Reilly and Von Wagner engaged in a halfway decent match against the UK brutes Pete Dunne & the SmackDown-bound Ridge Holland. I wasn’t overly impressed with Von’s performance here, but he wasn’t outright terrible by any means. Von ended up getting the W and did it by pinning Ridge, which makes total sense since Ridge is heading off to the main roster real soon while Von continues to rise up the NXT 2.0 ranks. The main event was full of surprises, I must say! Not only did Isaish shockingly retain his NXT North American Championship after a damn good match with Santos Escobar, but Carmelo Hayes cashed in his title contract to actually win the very same title soon after. Isaiah got to remain strong on his way out the NXT 2.0 door and a talent that’s being built for greatness got to win a championship & come off like an even bigger star. Simply put, good booking and genuine surprises are just...well, good.

Botches: I can definitely get jiggy with Toxic Attraction’s theme song. But the stable itself? I couldn’t care less about anything they do. I wasn’t all that keen on their verbal assault aimed at NXT Women’s Champion Raquel Gonzalez and NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions Io Shirai & Zoey Stark. I’m not really looking forward to the gang’s matches with their respective rivals at Halloween Havoc, either. The women’s tag team match was uneventful - I’m just not feeling anything involving Indi Hartwell and Persia Pirotta. I’m not at all excited about watching them get a title shot at Io and Zoey, either (even though I’m not much a fan of them, I wouldn’t be too upset if Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro get another shot at the straps).

Lash Legend and her cornball talk show segment “Lashing Out” made its unwelcome return. Sis really made a Squid Game reference and came off like one of those old folks that are struggling to stay hip and be all “I understand that reference!” Ugh...she’s insufferable. I can’t say I cared all that much for Andre Chase and Tony D’Angelo’s backstage segments, either. It’s going to take a lot for me to drum up even a sliver of interest in those two underwhelming guys. And sadly, I feel the exact same way about Duke Hudson. His match with Grayson Waller was just...alright, I guess. Grayson impresses me way more than Duke these days - he’s the one that needs to get some meaningful wins at this point.

Impact Wrestling

High Spots: KAZI NI NARE! The “Murder Grandpa” Minoru Suzuki is finally coming to Impact! I damn near backflipped off of my couch when his teaser vid popped up. If Sami Callihan wasn’t injured, I would have loved to have seen him try his luck against Minoru. Since he’s down and out at the moment, I’d be perfectly fine with watching Minoru come to blows with Eddie Edwards upon his arrival. It’s pretty wild that this episode finally saw Heath sign an official contract with the company he’s been with since last year’s Slammiversary. Now he’s set to face off with Violence By Design at Bound for Glory with Rhino by his side, but the chances of the “Man Beast” actually showing up are looking pretty slim in Scott D’Amore’s eyes. I’m sure the big guy will show up to support his former WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship partner. 

Shout out to the X-Division! Most of the talent belonging to the “no limits” portion of the roster showed out on this episode. The three-way opener was a fast-paced barnburner that resulted in one of my NJPW faves getting the win. El Phantasmo is now my pick to win the X-Division Championship at Bound for Glory! Chris Sabin looked like the Sabin I fell in love with back in 2003 during his strong showing against Chris Bey. Team FinJuice got one over on their Bullet Club rivals and gave Sabin a much-needed victory for once. Ay, Savanna Evans is a beast! That big boot of hers was nasty, wasn’t it? After making short work of Lady Frost, Knockouts Champion Deonna Purrazzo came out to acquire her services and set her up as Mickie James’ in-ring comeback opponent. Can’t wait to see how that one unfolds. Speaking of the Knockouts, I definitely giggled a bit when Gail Kim got some snail mail from The IInspiration. That was a cool little gag right there.

Imagine how excited I was when Trey Miguel and Alex Zayne talked each other into a future matchup! That’s going to be quite the banger once it finally comes across my TV screen. ALEX FTW! Trey’s obviously gonna win though since he’s competing at Bound for Glory. And at the end of this episode, Josh Matthews showed up as the mediator for Impact World Champion’s Christian Cage and challenger Josh Alexander’s Impact Summit. The Canadian greats spoke highly of each other, but Christian took aim at Josh’s hot-headed nature to make a point. Josh ended up storming at the end, which played right into the champs' hands. This was a cool ending segment that added an unexpected wrinkle to the main event for Bound for Glory.

Botches: Ugh...so Steve Maclin spoke. It doesn’t get any more painful than that. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the match between Rich Swann and VSK, either. It was a wee bit short for my liking and never really got to enter that second gear I was hoping for. Johnny Swinger and his cringe comedy segment “Swinger’s Palace” finally closed up shop. I was delighted to see it go, but that means I had to sit through another unfunny batch of backstage comedy during Johnny's last hurrah. 

Those Good Brothers promos have finally run their course, wouldn’t you say? I just wished we would have found out who their Bound for Glory opponents are at this point. Here’s hoping some surprise tandem from AEW, NJPW, or AAA shows up to challenge ‘em. Proud N’ Powerful, perhaps? And finally, I wasn’t too fond of the battle royal meant to hype up another battle royal. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me and I think Impact would have been better off just waiting for the one booked at Bound for Glory. Congrats to W. Morrissey for the win, though.

WWE SmackDown

High Spots: This two-and-a-half-hour edition of SmackDown capped off an evening that saw WWE and AEW battle for ratings supremacy. This episode started off with one of Edge’s rage-fueled promos that got me even more fired up for his Hell in a Cell match against Seth Rollins at Crown Jewel. Seth really made the mistake of his life pushing Edge over the...well, edge. I cracked a smile when Edge mentioned how Seth took from his playbook by mentioning the one time he slapped the hell out of John Cena’s dad. Good time, good times. Seth responded in kind with a fiery promo of his own and made it clear that known how much the HIAC can change someone. Seth’s already been scarred by the towering structure, so he’s more than ready to go back inside and attempt to end Edge for good. I usually tune out of all the Middle East WWE specials, but this HIAC match between Edge and Seth actually has me excited to give this year’s Crown Jewel an actual chance.

In a King of the Ring semifinal match, Finn Bálor came to blows with Sami Zayn. The winner of this match was clearly not in doubt since we already know Sami never appears on WWE’s Middle Eastern shows, but at least the bout itself was still a good time. Now am I officially burned out on all the matches we’ve seen between The Street Profits and The Usos? Yes. But I’d be crazy to ignore how fun the Street Fight between them was for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship. Watching Montez Ford fly through the to land the best Frog Splash in wrestling today never gets old! The Usos overcame their longtime SmackDown foes in a match that clearly looked like it finally brought that feud to an end. The clear match of the evening came when Sasha Banks engaged in a commercial-free war with Becky Lynch. They got all the time they needed to work the crowd into a frenzy with lots of intense back and forth action & clever counters. Bianca Belair had Becky shook as she swung her ponytail at her hand at one point, which pushed Becky right into a Backstabber from Sasha for the win!

To bring this Super SmackDown episode to a close, WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and his Crown Jewel opponent Brock Lesnar met for a contract signing to finalize their marquee matchup. Roman called Brock a whole dumbass for signing the contract so fast without even bothering to read it, but then Brock outsmarted him and caused further doubt for the “Tribal Chief” when he noted that he already read over the contract with his advocate. And we all know who that is! I love how Brock was short and sweet with his response and caused an even bigger divide between the champ and the man he’s losing trust in each & every week. YOU’RE ON THIN ICE, PAUL E!

Botches: While “The Man” and “The Boss” offered some great representation for the women’s division on this episode of SmackDown, the rest of the pack came off looking pretty bad here. The handicap match that saw Sonya Deville bring Shayna Baszler with her to the ring to take on Naomi in a Handicap match was more of an angle than an actual competitive contest. It wasn’t that good, though. Why does Sonya hate Naomi again? Kinda wished they’d explain that already. 

As for the Queen’s Crown semifinal match between Carmella and Zelina Vega, it was yet another case of a match primarily being used to advance an angle. And to make matters even worse, it was far too short to matter and didn’t do any good for either woman. The first-ever Queen’s Crown tournament has been a complete wash and it really shouldn’t have been that way. Do you know what really irked me on this episode, though? That completely unnecessary “Happy Talk” segment that ultimately saw Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs interrupt Happy Corbin & Madcap Moss. The jokes were horrible, of course. But the main thought I had running through my head during this whole thing was “they gave this more time than the Queen’s Crown match? Why?” That was a clear head-scratcher of a booking decision right here...

AEW Rampage

High Spots: On the other side of the Friday Night War, AEW Rampage came out swinging with a 2-hour edition that was split between the YouTube Buy-In and the second half that aired on TNT. And those two hours delivered the very best of this show to date. At the start of the Buy-In, Tay Conti battled Santanna Garrett in a decent match that showcased the former NXT stars in a stronger fashion. Tay’s improvement in the ring continues to wow me and I can’t wait to see how she factors into the TBS Championship tournament. Next up was a technical contest between Lee Moriarty and Bobby Fish. Both guys put on an excellent clinic that started slow and gradually increased in intensity as it wore on. Lee’s definitely someone to watch now that he’s a part of the AEW roster and he showed why Tony Khan signed him in the first place. Bobby got the win since he’s heading into Saturday Night Dynamite against the “American Dragon.” Good effort from both guys there!

In the clear match of the night, “Murder Grandpa” Minoru Suzuki took on Bryan Danielson. What we got here was the sort of match you’d see in the second to last spot on a major New Japan Pro Wrestling card. Both men clobbered each other with stiff elbow shots, nasty kicks, hard chops, and plenty of tight submissions. This match was a heated war that had the crowd going insane from start to finish! I winced at some of the blows both men exchanged, which should let you know how brutal the offense was during this epic clash. By the time Bryan clocked Minoru with his Busaiku Flying Knee and got the winning pinfall, I still wanted more! That...was...awesome. Once Rampage ended on YouTube and got going on TNT, we got another banger of a match between CM Punk and Matt Sydal. It was the sort of match you’d see on an early 2000s Ring of Honor encounter - there were slick hold exchanges, a wealth of snappy kicks, and a pretty sick bodyslam on the ring apron. Punk pulled out with a win, Matt got to look as good as he always is on a bigger stage, and the crowd appreciated every moment of it.

The ladies of AEW got a second match here as Ruby Soho locked up with The Bunny. And to my surprise, it was better than the Buy-In women’s match! Ruby shined and so did The Bunny (I always get a kick out of her superkick into the corner and top-rope German Suplex combination!). After Ruby shocked her opponent with a surprise backslide pin, Penelope Ford came out to aid her twisted friend and KO’d Ruby with those infamous brass knucks. I’m guessing Ruby and Penelope will settle their differences if they end up booked against each other during the TBS tourney. 

And in the biggest surprise of the night, The Inner Circle’s Chris Jericho, TNT Champion Sammy Guevara, and Jake Hager had a damn good match against Men of the Year’s Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page alongside MMA fighter Junior Dos Santos. My expectations for this trios match were kinda low going into it, but I was pleasantly surprised by how hot of a match it ended up being. JDS didn’t trip over his feet and looked a lot better than I thought he’d be. He had to hold back on his punches, of course. But they didn’t look terrible by any means. The ending stretch of this match had the crowd on its feet as Sammy came flying over the top rope onto...well, someone since the camera missed him by a split second. I also popped for Jaker putting JDS right through a ringside table. Scorpio scored the win after Jorge Masvidal clocked Jericho with another flying knee to break up the Walls of Jericho. After the match, American Top Team went to town on Jericho some more and gloated in their big win. Santana and Ortiz may have taken their sweet time coming out to save their Inner Circle compadres, but they sent Scorpio and Ethan in just a few seconds. We got a hot ending to a very hot edition of Rampage!

Botches: None to speak of, honestly...

AEW Dynamite

High Spots: Saturday Night Dynamite was a whole vibe, guys! And for someone as introverted as yours truly, getting to stay inside to watch some wrestling was perfect. Yes, I’m washed. Whatever! Anyway, we were treated to some great in-ring action here. After CM Punk bathed in all that live audience adoration, Malakai Black and Dante Martin competed in the first match of the evening. There was smart limb work on display here as Malakai had midsection issues, while Dante’s leg got worked over throughout the match. Dante’s high-flying work was heat as usual, but it all came down to a swift Black Mass kick from Malakai. Lio Rush tried to help his boy Dante get the win by avoiding another springboard maneuver, but the Top Flight member ignored his pleas. At least Dante got some recognition from Malaki, though! Based on the backstage beatdown handed down by The Elite to Jurassic Express, I’m fully prepared for a major grudge match between the two stables at Full Gear. Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus, and Christian Cage vs. Adam Cole & The Young Bucks in a rematch with a special stipulation works for me!

I’m kinda diggin’ this whole American Top Team vs. Inner Circle feud now! After that hot trios match we got on Rampage the night before, I actually care about what happens between the two stables from this point forward. Adam Lambert is a friggin’ heat magnet and one of the biggest heels in wrestling, which is pretty wild when you think about the current heel landscape. We’re due for a 10-man tag between the groups at Full Gear, I say. And hopefully, another singles match between Scorpio Sky and Chris Jericho, plus a TNT Championship match between Sami Guevarra and Ethan Page on Dynamite in the coming weeks. So Andrade El Idolo promised us a masked duo for this episode’s AAA World Tag Team Championship (Campeonato en Parejas AAA) match against The Lucha Bros. Here I was expecting a AAA tag team, but instead, we got a mysterious new duo. And after a few minutes of watching them work, it became increasingly evident that it was FTR under the masks. My initial confusion turned into excitement as both teams ended up having quite the exhilarating tag team contest! The lively Miami crowd loved every moment of it and so did I.

The end result of that match was the most shocking as FTR escaped with the belts. It turns out an earlier business transaction between Andrade and MJF led to that whole affair coming together in the first place. It’s gonna be pretty wild once FTR makes the trek over to Mexico to get embroiled in some AAA action! Backstage, we learned that Lio has something new in mind for his young protege Dante - a new tag team partner. And of course, it’s gonna be Lio himself. That’s pretty dope, actually! Can’t wait to see how well those two mesh together. Another backstage vignette saw Serena Deeb embrace her new heel role by making it clear that she single-handedly saved AEW’s women’s division. Hikaru Shida put hands and feet all over her to disrupt that promo, which has me excited to see them run it back in the ring once again. Jon Moxley’s on a warpath, it seems! Wheeler Youta just so happened to be on that path and got himself a swift beatdown for his troubles. I wonder if Orange Cassidy will step in to defend his boy Wheeler and step up to Moxley at Full Gear…

Three words, folks - SOCKO! SOCKO! SOCKO! Evil Uno went to the Mankind well during an insane trio match between The Dark Order and the SuperKliq. I realize The Bucks’ balls to the wall match formula is off-putting for many, but I just can’t get enough of it. This match was another example of just how awesome it is to witness PWG trios matches being broadcasted on cable TV. The Dark Order had some renewed spirit thanks to Adam Page’s return, but Cole and The Bucks’ combined awesomeness overcame them. Afterward, Jungle Boy came back to enact some revenge on the guys that jumped him earlier in the show. Brandon Cutler got his ass whupped as usual while his stablemates left him behind. I loved that moment just cause the super-live Miami crowd sung along to “Tarzan Boy” all the while. We got a much stronger Cody Rhodes and Arn Anderson training vignette on this episode. Arn and Cody’s wrestling school trainees showed him some tough love in an effort to get him refocused on being the best he can be. This is all leading to a rematch with Malaki at some point, so count me in for this new version of Cody once that third meeting between the two comes to pass.

MJF sure loves the word “mid” now, I see! He sprinkled it into his scathing promo aimed at Darby Allin and the entire city of Miami. I think we’re due for a major grudge match between the two at Full Gear but based on what happened during the ref’s countdown, Sting wants a piece of the privileged slimeball first. Just imagine MJF getting to go one on one with Sting! I’m hoping we get that on the next Saturday Night Dynamite. AEW’s ladies got to shine a bit! It looks like Britt Baker and Anna Jay is starting to take shape, which I’m slightly intrigued by. In the ring, we saw Kiera Hogan and Penelope Ford deliver a solid exhibition. It started off a bit sloppy at first, but it gradually grew into something I got some enjoyment from. Kiera has a sick superplex, I must say! Penelope ultimately got the win, but her celebration was short-lived as Ruby Soho came out to dish out some revenge. It’s looking like all these women’s division mini-feuds are going to have a huge impact on the TBS Tournament! COWBOY SHIT! COWBOY SHIT! COWBOY SHIT! “Hangman” Adam Page spoke to the crowd and delivered an emotional promo that covered everything that’s gone on in his AEW career thus far. Fresh off the heels of him winning an AEW World Championship opportunity at Full Gear and the birth of his son, Page is ready to realize his dream and capture the big strap.

"The Redeemer" Miro is now questioning the very same God he fought for as TNT Champion. That promo of his was so convincing that I thought he was about to enter a feud with the man upstairs! I can't wait to see which direction Miro goes next. This airing of Saturday Night Dynamite was capped off with a hard-hitting scrimmage between former Ring of Honor greats Bryan Danielson and Bobby Fish. Both men were all about that “tap and snap” game plan during their heated main event. Bobby was definitely on one here as he talked super spicy with the crowd and tore up Danielson’s leg with stiff kicks and submissions. The “American Dragon” responded in kind with some debilitating kicks and leg locks of his own, which made their match especially brutal when compared to the rest of the evening’s card. Bryan got the W and sent me & the Miami crowd home happy after another eventful evening of AEW action! 

Botches: None to speak of, honestly...

Random Rumblings Around the Squared Circle

High Spots: Ever since I learned about Buddy Murphy’s unceremonious release from WWE, I’ve been awaiting news of the next major wrestling company he decided to sign with. I finally got an answer to that burning question as it was revealed that the man now known as Buddy Matthews will now be competing under the NJPW banner. On November 13, Matthews will make his debut for the company’s Battle in the Valley event in San Jose, California. Can we please get Matthews vs. Taiji Ishimori? Pretty please? It’s a safe bet that Matthews will do great things as the newest member of the NJPW roster.

Botches: Another week, another heartbreaker of an episode for Dark Side of the Ring. Luna Vachon’s mental health issues and her many struggles as a professional wrestler became that much more clearer to me. And I was shocked to learn about her drug addictions, family strife, and mistreatment by the powers that be during her WWE stint. I’ll always be a fan of the woman thanks to her distinctive look and badass persona. She deserved so much more than having to put over Sable and her horrid offense at the height of the Attitude Era. That story about Medusa's willingness to drop the WWF Women’s Championship to Luna on a random house show showed how much love and appreciation her peers had for her back then. Man, she ruled during her Bam Bam Bigelow days! Rest in power, Luna...

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