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Terry Funk
Funk as NWA World Heavyweight Champion in 1976
Birth nameTerrance Dee Funk
Born(1944-06-30)June 30, 1944
Hammond, Indiana, U.S.
DiedAugust 23, 2023(2023-08-23) (aged 79)
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
Alma materWest Texas State University[1]
Spouse(s)
Vicki Weaver
(m. 1965; died 2019)
Children2
FamilyDory Funk Sr. (father)[1]
Dory Funk Jr. (brother)[1]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Black Baron[2]
Chainsaw Charlie[3]
Dr Knows-it-All[2]
Terry Funk[4]
The Texan[4]
Billed height6 ft 1 in (185 cm)[5]
Billed weight247 lb (112 kg)[5]
Billed fromAmarillo, Texas[3]
Trained byDory Funk[3][1]
Debut1965[1][6]
Retired2017

Terrance Dee Funk (June 30, 1944 – August 23, 2023) was an American professional wrestler. Considered one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, Funk was known for the longevity of his career – which spanned more than 50 years and included multiple short-lived retirements – and the influential hardcore wrestling style he pioneered in the latter part of his career.

Over the course of his career, Funk wrestled for numerous major promotions, among them All Japan Pro Wrestling, Extreme Championship Wrestling, the International Wrestling Association of Japan, Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, the United States Wrestling Association, World Championship Wrestling, the World Wrestling Federation and multiple National Wrestling Alliance territories including Big Time Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Florida, Georgia Championship Wrestling and Stampede Wrestling. He was the promoter of the Amarillo-based Western States Sports promotion.

Championships held by Funk included the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, NWA World Heavyweight Championship, USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship, WWF World Tag Team Championship, and ECW World Television Championship. He headlined ECW's premier annual pay-per-view event, November to Remember, three times. Funk was inducted into multiple halls of fame, among them WWE, WCW, NWA, and Hardcore.

Early life

Funk was born on June 30, 1944, in Hammond, Indiana. He was the son of Dorothy (Culver) and Dory Funk, a professional wrestler and promoter.[7] Following the end of World War II, the family relocated to Amarillo, Texas, where Terry and his brother, known professionally as Dory Jr., grew up in the professional wrestling business. After graduating from Canyon High School, Funk attended West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M University), where he competed in amateur wrestling and football.[1]

Professional wrestling career

Western States Sports (1965–1979)

Funk with brother Dory (1973)

Main article: Western States Sports

Funk started his career in 1965, working in his father Dory Funk's Western States Sports promotion in Amarillo, Texas.[1] His debut match was against Sputnik Monroe on December 9.[8] He and his brother, Dory Funk Jr., quickly rose up the ranks as a team and in single matches against top names like Ernie Ladd and Hank James. They became big money wrestlers by the end of the decade.

Championship Wrestling from Florida (1970–1982)

Professional wrestlers Pedro Morales (left), Terry Funk (center) and Dory Funk Sr (right) in 1973.

In 1975, Terry defeated Jack Brisco for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in Miami, when Dory failed to appear for a title shot. He began a 14 month title reign defending the title against Jack Brisco, Dusty Rhodes, Carlos Rocha, Giant Baba, and Pat O'Connor. In addition to North America, he defended the belt in Australia, Japan and Singapore. The historic reign ended in Toronto when he was defeated by "Handsome" Harley Race, who had earlier beaten Dory, Jr., for NWA World Heavyweight Championship before losing it to Jack Brisco. Race lifted Funk for a shinbreaker and then trapped him in an Indian death leglock. When Funk failed to respond to referee Fred Atkins the match was stopped.

During 1981, Terry spent some time in the Continental Wrestling Association feuding with Jerry Lawler. The most memorable match in this feud happened in April 1981 at the Mid South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee. The match took place in the empty arena, with only Lance Russell, a cameraman, and a photographer present. Funk had challenged Lawler to this match at this time because he felt he was getting unfairly treated in Memphis. The confrontation only lasted a few minutes, and ended with Funk trying to put Lawler's eye out with a broken 2x4. But Lawler kicked Funk's elbow, causing him to hit himself in the eye. The tape aired on April 25, 1981.[9]

All Japan Pro Wrestling (1972–1991)

Terry and Dory, Jr. also made a name for themselves in Japan. Terry became a star in the eyes of the Japanese fans with his over the top mannerisms, sometimes colorful get-ups, and his brawling ability. In Japan, the Funks were heels until they faced The Sheik and Abdullah The Butcher in Tokyo. The two later faced Stan Hansen, Bruiser Brody, and Giant Baba in memorable feuds as well.

World Wrestling Federation (1985–1986)

Terry Funk made his World Wrestling Federation (WWF) debut in June 1985 after a brief run in the AWA. In his televised debut on Championship Wrestling, he not only beat Aldo Marino, but he also beat on ring announcer Mel Phillips. Funk attacked Phillips, after Phillips made the mistake of putting on Funk's cowboy hat. Funk also had a gimmick of carrying a branding iron with him to ringside and using it to "brand" his fallen opponents. The attack on Phillips led to a feud with Junkyard Dog. In the mid-1980s, Funk teamed with Dory (calling himself "Hoss" Funk) and Jimmy Jack Funk, a storyline "brother." They were managed by Jimmy Hart. At the time, he had a heated rivalry with the Junkyard Dog which led to a match between Terry Funk and Hoss Funk and the team of Tito Santana and Junkyard Dog at WrestleMania 2.[10] Terry also had a series of WWF title matches against Hulk Hogan. Funk left the WWF in April 1986.

World Championship Wrestling (1989–1990, 1994)

J-Tex Corporation; Funk's Grill (1989–1990)

See also: J-Tex Corporation

Funk joined World Championship Wrestling in 1989 and became part of the J-Tex Corporation. He began feuding with Ric Flair, who had defeated Ricky Steamboat at WrestleWar for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Funk, who was one of three judges for the main event, challenged Flair to a title match. Flair refused, saying that Funk was "spending time in Hollywood" instead of focusing on wrestling. Funk then attacked, piledriving Flair on a ringside table. This put the champion, Flair, out of action until the Great American Bash in July 1989 where he faced Funk. Flair won the match by reversing a small package into one of his own, but shortly after was attacked by Gary Hart and The Great Muta. Sting came to aid Flair and the two brawled with Funk and Muta to close the show. At Clash of the Champions VIII in September 1989, Flair and Sting defeated Muta and Dick Slater. After the match, Funk used a plastic shopping bag to suffocate Flair. The feud then culminated in an "I Quit" match at Clash of the Champions IX in November 1989, which Funk lost after yelling "Yes, I quit!" after Flair put on the figure four leglock. After losing, Funk shook Flair's hand, and was attacked by Gary Hart's stable. This match received a 5-star rating from Dave Meltzer.[11]

Soon after he became a color commentator and the host of his own segment, Funk's Grill, on NWA Power Hour where a tuxedo-clad Funk would amiably interview the top stars of WCW, both face and heel. This did not last long and he left soon after for the USWA.

Stud Stable (1994)

See also: Stud Stable

In May 1994, Funk reappeared in WCW. He wrestled Tully Blanchard to a double disqualification at Slamboree 1994 and later that night, he became a member of Colonel Robert Parker's Stud Stable.[12] Along with Bunkhouse Buck, Arn Anderson and Meng, the stable would focus their energies on Dusty and Dustin Rhodes, as well as The Nasty Boys, culminating in a War Games match at Fall Brawl. Funk left WCW once more in October 1994.[13]

International Wrestling Association of Japan (1994–1995)

In 1994, Funk joined the fledgling International Wrestling Association of Japan promotion. Funk would go on to be a participant in IWA's most famous event the King of the Death Match Tournament, held on August 20, 1995, in Kawasaki. Funk would first defeat Leatherface and Tiger Jeet Singh in extreme-style matches which featured barbed wire covered boards, glass, and chains before moving on to the finals of the tournament. In the finals, Funk was defeated by protégé Cactus Jack, later known by US audiences as Mick Foley, in a No Ropes Barbed Wire Exploding Barbed Wire Boards & Exploding Ring Time Bomb Death Match. Terry would also participate in several other deathmatches throughout 1995.

Eastern Championship Wrestling / Extreme Championship Wrestling (1993–1997)

Later in Funk's career, his style changed from wrestling traditional southern style wrestling matches to the more violent style of hardcore wrestling. In 1993, after a special appearance against Blanchard at World Championship Wrestling's Slamboree, Funk promised to help the fledgling Eastern Championship Wrestling (later renamed Extreme Championship Wrestling or ECW) by lending his talent and notoriety to the promotion. On July 16, Terry and Dory Funk lost a barbed wire match against The Public Enemy. Funk maintained a regular schedule of wrestling for ECW in its early days while also competing in Japan. He had many feuds and wrestled programs with wrestlers such as Cactus Jack, "The Franchise" Shane Douglas, The Sandman, Sabu, and Terry's own protege, Tommy Dreamer.

Funk further elevated ECW by headlining their first pay-per-view, Barely Legal on April 13, 1997, winning the ECW World Heavyweight Championship from Raven. Earlier in the night, he defeated The Sandman and Stevie Richards in a Triple Threat match, thus earning him the match with Raven. Funk went on to successfully defend the title in bouts at Chapter 2, The Buffalo Invasion, Wrestlepalooza, and Heat Wave. He was ultimately defeated for the title by Sabu in a barbed wire match at Born to be Wired in August 1997, in which the ropes of the ring were taken down and replaced with barbed wire. Both men had to be cut out of the wires at the end of the match. Sabu had his biceps visibly torn open by the barbed wire – as a result, the wound was taped up and the match continued.

In September 1997, a show was held in Funk's hometown of Amarillo. It was called "Terry Funk's WrestleFest" and was both his own show and a celebration of the careers of Terry, his father, and his brother. Terry lost to then-WWF Champion Bret Hart in the main event, a non-title match. Beforehand, ECW owner Paul Heyman presented Terry with a belt, paid for through a collection taken up by wrestlers on the ECW roster, that declared him the Lifetime ECW World Heavyweight Champion.

Return to World Wrestling Federation (1997–1998)

Funk appeared in the 1997 Royal Rumble match appearing at number 24 and lasting fifteen minutes and eighteen seconds before being eliminated by Mankind. Funk then returned to ECW before his retirement. Funk's retirement lasted just 11 days before he returned to the ring. After wrestling in Japan with Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and on the United States independent circuit (most notably a bout with Rik Ratchet that drew many fans on the east coast), Funk rejoined the World Wrestling Federation.

Funk made his return to the WWF on the December 29, 1997, episode of Raw as the masked "Chainsaw Charlie" (although his true identity was soon acknowledged by the announcers), teaming with Mick Foley, who was wrestling under his Cactus Jack persona. Charlie and Jack began feuding with the New Age Outlaws, who defeated them by disqualification on the January 26, 1998 episode of Raw.

The following week on Raw, Charlie and Jack had a match against each other, with the match ending in a no contest after the New Age Outlaws attacked both men, placing them both in a dumpster and then pushing it off the stage. At No Way Out of Texas: In Your House, Charlie and Jack teamed with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Owen Hart, defeating the team of Triple H, Savio Vega and the New Age Outlaws. At WrestleMania XIV, Charlie and Jack defeated the New Age Outlaws in a dumpster match to win the WWF Tag Team Championship.[14] The following night, on the March 30 episode of Raw, Charlie and Jack lost the titles back to the New Age Outlaws in a cage match.

On the April 13 episode of Raw, Funk began wrestling as himself and formed a tag team with 2 Cold Scorpio. The team was short lived but did defeat the likes of the Quebecers and the Midnight Express. On the May 4 episode of Raw, Funk was defeated by Foley in a falls count anywhere match. On the June 1 episode of Raw, Funk was defeated by Mark Henry in a King of the Ring qualifying match. During the King of the Ring pay-per-view, Funk interfered in the Mankind vs. The Undertaker Hell in a Cell match, receiving a chokeslam from The Undertaker.[15]

Funk then formed a short lived tag team with Justin Bradshaw, which defeated Too Much on the July 25 episode of WWF Shotgun Saturday Night. At Fully Loaded: In Your House, Funk and Bradshaw were defeated by Faarooq and 2 Cold Scorpio, with Bradshaw attacking Funk after the match.[16] Funk left the WWF once again the following month.

Extreme Championship Wrestling (1998–1999)

At ECW November to Remember, Funk was believed to have been Tommy Dreamer's mystery partner against Justin Credible and Jack Victory. However, it turned out to be Jake Roberts. An enraged Funk attacked Dreamer at every opportunity in late 1998 and early 1999, came down ill before they could have a match, and "retired" yet again in mid-1999.

Return to World Championship Wrestling (2000–2001)

Funk returned to World Championship Wrestling in January 2000 after an absence of five years, being named the WCW Commissioner by WCW President Bill Bush. Shortly after arriving, Funk formed a stable dubbed the "Old Age Outlaws" (a play on the New Age Outlaws) alongside Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, and Paul Orndorff to oppose the New World Order (nWo). His first match upon returning saw him wrestle nWo member Bret Hart to a no contest in a hardcore match that aired on WCW Thunder. At Souled Out on January 16, Funk faced nWo leader Kevin Nash in a hardcore match with the stipulation that if Funk won, the nWo would disband, but if Nash won, he would replace Funk as WCW Commissioner. The match was won by Nash.[13][17][18][19]

Funk went on to feud with Ric Flair, including losing to Flair's son David in an "I Quit" match on WCW Monday Nitro. The feud culminated in a Texas death match at SuperBrawl in February 2000 that was won by Flair. Funk then went on to feud with Dustin Rhodes, losing to Rhodes in a bullrope "I Quit" match at Uncensored in March 2000.[13]

In April 2000, Funk began competing in WCW's hardcore division. At Spring Stampede later that month he defeated Norman Smiley to win the vacant WCW Hardcore Championship. He lost the title to Shane Douglas the following month, but regained it several days later. His second reign ended in June 2000 when he lost to Eric Bischoff. In September 2000, Funk defeated Lance Storm for the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship at a house show in Amarillo, Texas. He lost the title back to Storm the following day. In December 2000 at Starrcade, Funk defeated Crowbar to win the WCW Hardcore Championship for a record third time. He made his final appearance with WCW at Sin in January 2001, losing the Hardcore Championship to Meng in a three way match that also involved Crowbar.[13]

Independent circuit (2000–2006)

From 2002 to 2004, Funk was a regular top star for Ring of Honor Wrestling and Major League Wrestling. Funk had several battles with the likes of CM Punk, the Extreme Horsemen (Steve Corino, C. W. Anderson, Justin Credible and Simon Diamond) in specialty matches such as a No Ropes Barbed Wire Death Match, and a 5 on 5 WarGames match. On MLW's final show until 2017, Funk was attacked by his former manager Gary Hart and his syndicate. In November 2004, Funk competed in the UK wrestling company FWA's annual show entitled British Uprising. He teamed with Paul Burchill and Paul Travell, managed by "The Twisted Genius" Dean Ayass, to face The Triad, managed by Greg Lambert, in a 6-Man Tag Team match. Funk's team emerged victorious in front of a crowd of 2,000 people in the Coventry Skydome. In 2005, Funk received an offer from World Wrestling Entertainment to appear at the ECW reunion show One Night Stand, but turned it down in favor of working the ECW nostalgia show Hardcore Homecoming that was being put together by Shane Douglas. At Hardcore Homecoming, Funk lost a three-way barbed wire match to Sabu.

NWA Total Nonstop Action (2004)

On February 4, 2004, NWA-TNA, Funk and The Sandman lost to The Gathering (CM Punk and Julio Dinero). On February 18, 2004, NWA-TNA, Funk and Raven defeated The Gathering.

On May 23, 2009, Funk made an unannounced appearance at a house show for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. At the show, Terry joined longtime friend, Mick Foley, as special guest enforcers for a match between Scott Steiner and Samoa Joe.

Later returns to WWE (2006, 2009, 2013, 2016)

Funk made a brief return to WWE in 2006, when he appeared on the May 15 episode of Raw, confronting Mick Foley over the attack on Tommy Dreamer on the previous weeks episode of Raw. At ECW One Night Stand, Funk would team with Dreamer and Beulah McGillicutty in a losing effort against Foley, Edge and Lita.[20] Midway through the match, Foley injured Funk's left eye with barbed wire, and Funk was taken backstage. He later returned to the match (with a bloody cloth tied over his eye) to hit Foley with a flaming 2x4 wrapped in barbed wire.[20]

Funk, along with his brother Dory, was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009 by his longtime friend Dusty Rhodes. In 2013, Funk inducted Mick Foley into the WWE Hall of Fame. Funk made a cameo appearance on the March 21, 2016, episode of Raw, giving Dean Ambrose a pep-talk for his match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32. At the conclusion of the segment, Funk presented Ambrose with a chainsaw, in reference to his previous gimmick as Chainsaw Charlie.

Return to the independent circuit (2006–2017)

Funk in September 2013.
Terry Funk appearing for PWS in Sayreville, NJ in 2015

After the one-off appearance at the WWE produced ECW One Night Stand, Funk then returned to the independent circuit and made appearances in Japan. He claimed to be semi-retired after wrestling in his last match in September 2006 against Jerry "The King" Lawler in an Extreme Rules match at The Great Plains Coliseum in Lawton, Oklahoma, for the promotion Impact Zone Wrestling.[21][22] Funk was also the special guest referee during the Raven and Johnny Webb vs. Khan Kussion and Homeless Jimmy match at "Cold Day in Hell" on May 24.[23] On August 8, Terry made a surprise appearance for Insane Clown Posse's Juggalo Championship Wrestling at the 10th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos. He served as special guest referee for a match between Viscera and 2 Tuff Tony. Funk also appeared at the annual NJPW January 4 Dome Show in 2010, teaming with Manabu Nakanishi, Masahiro Chono and Riki Choshu to defeat Abdullah the Butcher, Takashi Iizuka, Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano.[24]

On September 11, 2010, at Ring of Honor's Glory By Honor IX, Funk worked as the ringside enforcer for the ROH World Championship match between Tyler Black and Roderick Strong.[25] Funk appeared at the fifth WrestleReunion event at the LAX Hilton in Los Angeles, California, from January 28 to 30, 2011. On the second day of the event, he competed in a Legends Battle Royale on the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla show. He lasted until the end where he was eliminated by Roddy Piper.[26] Funk wrestled Jerry Lawler unsuccessfully in a "No holds barred contest" for Northeast Wrestling on October 1, 2011. On October 15, 2011, Funk unsuccessfully faced his long-time friend and protégé Tommy Dreamer at the AWE "Night Of Legends" event. In a shoot interview conducted the next day featuring himself and Dreamer, Funk stated that he believed that would be his last match. On January 12, 2013, Funk stated that he was officially retired from professional wrestling at age 68,[27] On October 27, 2013, he returned to All Japan Pro Wrestling with Dory in a tag team match, wrestling Masanobu Fuchi and Osamu Nishimura to a 20-minute time limit draw.[28] On November 9, 2013, Funk appeared at House of Hardcore 3 as Tommy Dreamer's tag team partner. They defeated Sean Waltman and Lance Storm and the match was promoted as the last time Dreamer and Funk would wrestle together.

On December 11, 2014, Funk returned to Japan for a Tokyo Gurentai independent event, which saw him, Masakatsu Funaki and Mil Máscaras defeat Kaz Hayashi, Nosawa Rongai and Yoshiaki Fujiwara in a six-man tag team main event.[29] On October 16, 2015, Funk made an appearance at AIW's Big Trouble in Little Cleveland event, where he attacked Eddie Kingston and his manager, The Duke, destroying the concession stand in the process. On October 24, 2015, Funk had his last match at USA Championship Wrestling in Jackson, Tennessee, at Oman Arena against Jerry Lawler, Lawler went on to win by DQ. On September 17, 2016, Funk announced his retirement at House of Hardcore 17.[30] Funk made another return to the ring on September 22, 2017, for the Big Time Wrestling promotion in Raleigh, North Carolina. He teamed with The Rock N' Roll Express in a six-man tag team match, where they defeated Doug Gilbert, Jerry Lawler and Lawler's son Brian Christopher via disqualification.[31]

Other media

In 1989, Terry Funk appeared as a bouncer in the movie Road House with Patrick Swayze. In 1999, Funk was featured in director Barry Blaustein's wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat. His legendary toughness was attested to when cameramen followed him to a medical appointment, where he was told by the doctor that he would not be able to walk without intense pain. He also appeared in other movies such as Paradise Alley, The Ringer, and Over the Top.[32] He released an autobiography, Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore, in 2005. On May 11, 2010, Funk appeared on "Right After Wrestling" with Arda Ocal on SIRIUS Satellite Radio to discuss his possible retirement, to which he replied "I never really truly will retire". This was also the interview with the infamous quote, "I dislike Vince (McMahon). I'm jealous of Vince."

In 1985, Funk appeared in the short-lived western Wildside. Only six episodes were aired. Behind the scenes, Funk choreographed the street fight between Rocky Balboa and his nemesis Tommy Gunn at the end of Rocky V. Funk's name can be seen in the end credits. Funk also had a short lived career in music. The release of the album "Great Texan" in 1984 which was a soft rock AOR oriented album. The album was met with mixed reviews and is generally considered a "cult classic" by fans. Funk also appeared in several WWE video games, in WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2008 and WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2011 as himself and in WWE '13 as downloadable content as his Chainsaw Charlie gimmick.

In July 2022, Terry Funk released his self-titled biographical comic book through Squared Circle Comics.[33]

Personal life and death

Funk married his wife Vicky Ann on August 14, 1965. They had two daughters together. For many years, Terry and Vicky owned a ranch in Canyon, Texas, which they later sold. Vicky died on March 29, 2019, as confirmed by Ted DiBiase on Twitter.[34] Funk was close friends with NFL player John Ayers. Funk was also close friends with Sylvester Stallone. On September 12, 2016, Funk underwent surgery for an inguinal hernia, and was supposed to be resting and in bed for a couple of weeks, but chose to attend Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore shows.[35]

In June 2021, fellow wrestling legend Don Muraco reported Funk was diagnosed as living with dementia and was living in an assisted living facility.[36] On December 29, 2021, Ric Flair announced on his podcast with Mark Madden that Funk had returned home and was doing well.[37] Funk died on August 23, 2023, at the age of 79, at a Phoenix-area hospital.[38][39][40] The August 25, 2023, episode of SmackDown honored him and Bray Wyatt, who had died on August 24, by airing tributes and behind-the-scenes footage; the episode also held a namesake "hardcore" tag team match between The Brawling Brutes and the Street Profits.[41][42]

Championships and accomplishments

Terry (left) and his brother Dory Funk Jr. were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009.
Funk's Hardcore Hall of Fame banner in the former ECW Arena

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1978 Paradise Alley Frankie the Thumper Also stunt coordinator
1987 Over the Top Ruker
1987 Timestalkers Bearded Cowboy
1989 Road House Morgan
1998 Mom, Can I Keep Her? Jungle Ed
1999 Active Stealth Morgan
1999 Beyond the Mat Himself Documentary
2004 Friday Night Lights Fan Uncredited
2005 The Ringer Frankie

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1985 Wildside Prometheus Jones Recurring: 6 episodes
1991 Swamp Thing J.J. Dax Episode: "The Prometheus Parabola"
1991 Quantum Leap Carl Shilo Episode: Heart of a Champion – July 23, 1955
1992 Tequila and Bonetti Sgt. Nuzo Recurring: 11 episodes
1993 The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. Defendant Episode: "Pilot"
1994 Thunder in Paradise Amarillo Doaks Episode: "Queen of Hearts"
1998 Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction Dirk Simmons Episode: "The Wrestler"
2021 Dark Side of the Ring Himself Episode: "Blood & Wire: Onita's FMW"

Discography

Bibliography

References

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