Classic Wrestling Review: Royal Rumble ’95

(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment)

Royal Rumble

January 22, 1995

USF Sun Dome

Tampa, Florida

News & Notes: Three days after Survivor Series, Bob Backlund defended his WWF Title at MSG in a match with Diesel. The match ended in eight seconds when Diesel kicked Bob in the gut and gave him a Jackknife. Diesel was the new WWF Champion and cemented his babyface turn. Diesel would continue having issues with both Backlund and Shawn Michaels in the following weeks. Meanwhile, Bret took a few weeks off to film a TV show. The kayfabe reason for his absence was injuries from his match at Survivor Series. When he returned, he was granted a WWF Title Match against Diesel, but Bret still had issues with both Owen and Backlund.

Since Shawn & Diesel parted ways at the previous PPV, the Tag Team Titles were vacated. The WWF held a tournament to declare new champions and the finals would take place at the Royal Rumble. The final two teams were Bam Bam Bigelow & Tatanka from the Million Dollar Corporation and The 1-2-3 Kid & Bob “Spark Plug” Holly. Bob is the former Thurman Sparky Plugg. He changed his name to this slightly less ridiculous one. The Kid & Holly were thrown together and painted as the under dogs in the fight. The tournament consisted of other teams from the time, but the Smoking Gunns were absent. It was said they suffered injuries in a rodeo accident, but Vince didn’t give specifics. I’m guessing they slipped on a cow patty and landed on a rodeo clown because that idea amuses me. The real reason is they wanted to hype a match for RAW where the Gunns faced the winners of the tournament.

In other news, this PPV has a couple of notable celebrity guests. First, Pamela Anderson is the host of this event. She will sit ringside for the Rumble Match and will accompany the winner to the ring at Mania. Pam was in the middle of her run on Baywatch, so the WWF was capitalizing on her popularity. Secondly, NFL great Lawrence Taylor was invited to sit in the front row of this event. The story was Diesel invited him. They’re hoping this will make Diesel look cooler. Taylor is on the show to set up a match for Mania, but I will discuss that later in the review.

Finally, there will be new faces in the Rumble Match, so I will introduce a few of them now. I don’t want to clutter the recap of the match. First, we have one of the most ridiculous gimmicks of the mid-90s, Mantaur. I guess he’s half man and minotaur. I’m pretty sure that simply makes him a man. He wore a bull’s head to the ring, but he removed it to reveal face paint that looked like horns. The WWF made Jim Cornette manage him, which had to be a rib on Jim. Next, is The Portuguese Man o’ War, Aldo Montoya. He’s the future Justin Credible in a mask that looks like a yellow jock-strap. Nothing about the gimmick looks like a jellyfish, so I don’t get the name. In fact, I’ve never been able to figure out what the gimmick even is. Then, we have two new tag teams. The former Bruise Brothers/Harris Brothers arrived in the WWF as the Blu Twins. They’re a couple of mountain men managed by Uncle Zebekiah, which is the future Zeb Colter. The other team is called Well Dunn. It’s a team of Timothy Well and Steven Dunn. Their gimmick is basically Chippendale dancers. They wear singlets with built-in thongs and bow ties. It’s awful. We also have the former Shanghai Pierce. He debuted as a hog farmer named Henry O. Godwinn. Get it? His name is H.O.G.! Tex Slazenger would later join as his cousin, Phineas I. Godwinn or P.I.G. Finally, veteran wrestler Dick Murdoch returned to the ring. Razor Ramon wanted Vince to hire him. Scott Hall liked Murdoch and thought he’d be fun to have around as a drinking buddy. The return wouldn’t last long, which is probably for the best.

The show opens with a white limo arriving at the building. Dink the Clown alerts a crowd of wrestlers and they all start cat-calling as Pamela Anderson emerges from the car. People like Mabel, Doink, Henry Godwinn, Kwang, and the Heavenly Bodies all attempt to woo her. She grins at the camera, but she heads straight into her dressing room. Come on! How could she resist the charm of Kwang!? He’s a ninja! Then, they cut to a Baywatch-esque intro. They’re going for a summer theme because they’re in Florida, but it’s late January. I doubt many people are on the beach.

Vince McMahon then welcomes everyone to the Royal Rumble. He discusses the titles on the line, the Undertaker vs. IRS, and the Rumble Match itself. Lawler says it’s not about who will be the champion at WrestleMania. It’s about who will be champion after tonight. I’m pretty sure that one equals the other. There isn’t another PPV between the Rumble and Mania.

Intercontinental Title Match: Jeff Jarrett (w/ The Roadie) vs. Razor Ramon (c)

Notes: Razor Ramon began a feud with Jeff Jarrett after Survivor Series. Jarrett decided he needed a little help on his quest for the Intercontinental Title. So, he hired a roadie. They only refer to him as The Roadie. He doesn’t have a proper name yet. This is Brian Armstrong. He’s the future Road Dogg and a member of the Armstrong wrestling family.

The Roadie makes sure to clear the way in the ring, so Jarrett can strut. His entrance is filled with enough flashing lights to give someone a fit. His hat and glasses even flash. During the entrances, Vince references Jarrett having issues with William Shatner on RAW. He appeared on the 2nd Anniversary episode as a special guest on The King’s Court. He also was in Bret Hart’s corner for a match against Jarrett. Shatner seemed to have partaken in a little bit of the bubbly before the show. Considering it was a 1995 episode of RAW, I don’t blame him.

The Match: Razor gets the early advantage with punches before giving Jarrett a fallaway slam and a chokeslam. Jarrett answers with takedowns and strutting, but Razor sends him to the floor with more punches. Jeff regroups and lures Ramon into a trap. They trade pinfall attempts, but Jarrett tries to use the ropes for leverage. Jeff gets caught, and Razor pulls Jarrett into the post. However, Jeff sends Ramon to the floor, and Razor hurts his knee. Jarrett distracts the ref so Roadie can hit a chop block and the ref counts out Razor.

Jeff grabs a mic and says he didn’t come to get his hand raised. He came to win the Intercontinental Title. Wouldn’t that include hand-raising? Jarrett goads Razor into returning by calling him a coward and the ref allows the match to restart. Then, Jeff attacks Ramon’s leg and puts him in a Figure Four. Razor eventually escapes and both men reverse through a super back suplex. Razor then attempts a Razors Edge, but his knee buckles and Jarrett rolls him up for the win.

Thoughts: I enjoyed this match. I thought they set a fine pace and told a good story. I like the restart. It put sympathy on Razor. However, it didn’t quite get the heat they hoped. Jarrett’s crowd reaction was a bit lacking in this match. When he won, the crowd went silent. They’re building him, but it’s not working just yet. This is not the end of the feud, so they’ll have more opportunity to build heat for Jeff.

Winner: Jeff Jarrett (New Champion) (18:06)

Next, they go to Stephanie Wiand. She’s Todd Pettengill’s new co-host on WWF Mania. They managed to find a slightly less obnoxious female version of him. Stephanie won’t be around too long, but we will see more of her. She’s waiting for Jarrett, but he’s taking his time. So, they go to Todd in Pamela Anderson’s dressing room. She’s surrounded by gifts from wrestlers. There are shrunken heads from the Headshrinkers. The British Bulldog sent her a bulldog toy. Henry Godwinn bought a piggy bank. Shawn Michaels even provided a picture of himself and Luger gave her a t-shirt. She says she wears it to bed. Todd asks her about his gift and she can’t seem to find it or remember what it was. Todd then awkwardly offers her candy instead. They cut back to Stephanie while Todd is dangerously close to a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Stephanie is with Jarrett, but she calls him Razor Ramon. I can definitely see how she would be confused. They look so similar. Jarrett corrects her and then talks about celebrating. The Roadie holds up a copy of Jeff’s album while Jarrett slings water everywhere. He says he doesn’t have time for interviews and tells Pamela Sue he’s coming for her. This PPV has to be an H.R. nightmare with the way wrestlers are behaving toward Pamela Anderson. Jarrett then leaves while Stephanie says he’s raging victorious. That’s an odd phrase.

The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. Irwin R. Schyster (w/ Ted DiBiase)

Notes: IRS’s interference in the Casket Match led to a feud with Taker. They aired vignettes where IRS seized burial plots and headstones from people who didn’t pay their taxes before dying. Also, Ted DiBiase employed druids he had leftover from the fake Undertaker. They would interfere in matches and help IRS win. You know this feud is an excuse for Vince to laugh to himself about the death and taxes reference. He probably thought himself quite clever.

IRS comes to the ring with a mic and says no one will rest in peace before they pay all their taxes. Then, Vince talks about Undertaker appearing at a monster truck rally the previous night. He says Taker was pulling for his favorite truck, Grave Digger. Now, there’s a fitting crossover. Vince also mentions Taker, Diesel, and Luger attended the NFL 75th Anniversary dinner. I bet they stuck out like sore thumbs. It was there Diesel invited Lawrence Taylor to attend the Rumble.

The Match: IRS stalls a lot to begin the match and even chases Paul Bearer. He tries luring Taker into a trap, but Taker throws him around by his tie. Then, Taker hits Old School. DiBiase tries to interfere and nearly gets hit, so IRS and Ted argue. DiBiase placates him by inviting the druids to the ring. They shake Taker off the top rope on another Old School attempt. However, Taker goes after the druids. IRS uses this opening to ram Taker into the steps and takes control of the match. The druids interfere again, and IRS puts Taker in an abdominal stretch, but Taker breaks free. Then, both men collide, and a druid pulls IRS on top of Taker. It doesn’t work, and Taker shoves IRS into one of the druids. He then attempts a Tombstone, but IRS escapes. IRS answers with the Write-Off, but Taker rises. IRS attempts another one, but Taker ducks and hits a chokeslam for the win.

Thoughts: This was a slow and uninteresting match. I’m unsure who thought they would match well with each other. These are two guys who work a methodical pace. They tried adding some bells and whistles, but they didn’t help. I’m glad they didn’t have it go for twenty minutes, but twelve are bad enough. Sadly, this isn’t the worst feud Taker will have in ‘95.

Winner: The Undertaker (12:21)

After the bell, Taker celebrates with lightning and thunder effects. The druids attack, but Taker fends them off until King Kong Bundy arrives. They go face-to-face while IRS punches Paul Bearer and steals the urn. The distraction is enough for Bundy to nail Taker with the Avalanche and a splash. IRS retreats with the urn, so Bundy continues splashing Taker and leaves. Get used to the urn being stolen. It happens to him numerous times throughout the year.

Next, they go to footage of Todd attempting to speak with Diesel. He says Diesel was nonchalantly reading comics on Action Zone, but now he’s much more serious. Diesel replies it’s not the time and refuses to speak with Todd. I don’t blame him.

Then, Todd is with Bret Hart. Todd mentions his failure with Diesel and asks Bret for his comments. Bret says he lost his title at Survivor Series and has thought of nothing but regaining it. Bret also says he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He likes Diesel, but this is about the title. Todd tries to ask him about the Jackknife, but Bret says he will cross that road when he reaches it. He then grows tired of Todd and asks him to leave. Poor Todd. No one likes him tonight—or any night. This was an understated but decent promo by Bret. It fit the mood.

WWF Title Match: Diesel (c) vs. Bret Hart

Notes: Bret enters first and gives his shades to a kid. He also gives a necklace to the kid’s brother. That’s a new addition. Lawler responds to this by saying he hates the whole Hart family—except maybe Owen. Diesel then arrives and he’s finally got new music. It has a blues feel to it. I like it. They also gave him break-away glass in his entrance. They’re doing all they can to make him look cool. Diesel greets Lawrence Taylor before entering the ring and posing with fireworks. Vince then mentions that Diesel won all three titles in one year.

The Match: The match starts as a slug-fest until Bret goes after Diesel’s legs. He rams them into the post and eventually puts Diesel in a Figure Four. They fight to the floor, and Bret does a suicide dive, but Diesel sends him into the steps. Then, Diesel focuses his attack on Bret’s ribs. He uses a sidewalk slam and two forms of a backbreaker. Diesel also nails a big boot, but Bret regains control. He then uses his wrist tape to tie Diesel’s legs together around the ring post. Earl frees Diesel, but Bret goes into his finishing routine. They end up on the floor again, and Diesel catches Bret before ramming him into the post. Diesel then hits the Jackknife, but Shawn Michaels arrives and attacks him.

Earl Hebner demands Shawn leave, but he decides the match must continue. Bret returns to attacking the leg and uses another Figure Four. But, Diesel escapes and attacks Bret’s ribs once more. Diesel lands a gut-wrench suplex, but he misses another boot. Bret takes advantage by wrapping Diesel’s leg around the post and uses a chair, but Hebner allows it. Then, Bret puts Diesel in the Sharpshooter, but this time Owen interferes. He breaks the hold and removes one of the turnbuckle pads.

Hebner announces again the match must continue. So, Diesel crawls to a cover and only gets two. Diesel then attempts to use the exposed buckle, but Bret reverses him. The match returns to a slug-fest until Bret plays possum and rolls up Diesel for another near-fall. Next, Bret attempts an O’Connor Roll, but he bumps Earl Hebner. This opens the door for chaos. Michaels, Owen, Backlund, and even Jarrett arrive to attack and Hebner declares the match a draw.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this bout. It was easily Diesel’s best match to date. They told a good story, and I’m even okay with the finish. It kept both men looking strong and built their other feuds. I also liked how Bret played the heel to help get Diesel cheers. You could tell he focused on helping Diesel start his title run well. Those subtle changes are an example of how Bret adapts to the opponent and situation. Now, if only the WWF would continue that momentum for Diesel.

Winner: Draw (27:19)

WWF officials arrive to stop the chaos. Backlund and Owen attack Bret while Shawn and Jarrett beat up Diesel. The Fink announces the match is a draw because the referee couldn’t control the match. So, this is all Hebner’s fault? After the announcement, chaos erupts again. Backlund puts Bret in the chickenwing, but Diesel fends off an attack and saves him. Diesel helps Bret to his feet and the two hug and shake hands.

Meanwhile, Todd is still in Pamela’s dressing room while she changes behind a screen. She asks him to hand her a purse, so Todd awkwardly does as he’s told. He nearly knocks over a few things in the process. Why would she let him stay? I guess he made a better impression than I thought. Then, they go to Stephanie. She’s with the 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly. She asks them what’s going on in their minds. I doubt it’s much. The Kid says they’re nervous but excited. Bob compares them to the San Diego Chargers, who made it to the Super Bowl. I have some bad news for Holly. He might not want to jinx himself like that. Steph wishes them luck before sending it back to Vince.

Then, Lawler uses the magistrator to draw an image of himself trying to kiss Pamela Anderson. I know Lawler is legitimately a good artist, but he does a terrible job. He also claims he has a date with her, but Vince doesn’t believe it.

Finals of the Tag Team Title Tournament: The 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & Tatanka (w/ Ted DiBiase)

Notes: I’m unsure why this is going on after the WWF Title Match. I guess it’s to give the crowd a breather before the Rumble. Vince continues the Super Bowl comparison during the entrances. Vince says the 49ers are the favorites to win, and he’s not wrong. That Super Bowl was a blow-out if I remember correctly. Lawler then mentions that Tatanka beat the Kid on the Action Zone. Vince adds that Bam Bam beat Holly, but those were individual matches. Also, Vince says the Smoking Gunns will receive a match against the winner on RAW.

The Match: Holly is in trouble early with Tatanka. He and the Kid attempt double-teaming, but Bam Bam puts a stop to it. Bigelow then throws the Kid around the ring until the Kid surprises him with a hurricanrana. However, Bam Bam hits an enziguri and the beating continues. The Kid eventually dumps Bigelow over the ropes and shoves Tatanka into him. Then, Holly & The Kid attempt stereo flying cross bodies, but Bam Bam & Tatanka catch them. The Kid & Holly answer by shoving Bam Bam & Tatanka into each other again. Holly then hits multiple dropkicks and clotheslines until Bigelow low-bridges him. Bam Bam also utilizes a ref distraction to attack Holly on the floor. Tatanka takes control and uses some miscommunication between Kid & Holly to his advantage. Unfortunately, Tatanka accidentally hits Bigelow with a flying chop. He recovers and tosses Holly to the floor before Bam Bam & Tatanka double team Bob. Eventually, Tatanka and Holly collide and both make tags. The Kid cleans house with wheel kicks and a somersault plancha. He also nails a flying cross body, but Bigelow press slams the Kid to the floor. Then, Bam Bam attempts a moonsault, but Tatanka accidentally knocks him off the ropes. This opens the door for the Kid to crawl over and pin him for the win.

Thoughts: This was a fun match. They had a good story of miscommunication. Neither team was established, so they had issues working with each other. It also makes the win seem more of a fluke, which plays into the under dog story. Plus, it sets up the post-match storyline, but I’ll get to that in a second. As far as the Kid & Holly, they would lose their titles to the Smoking Gunns on RAW. But, it’s a nice victory for them.

Winners: 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly (New Champions) (15:32)

After the match, DiBiase and Tatanka leave Bam Bam laying in the ring. He recovers and walks around ringside while fans heckle him. Bigelow argues with them and finds himself face-to-face with Lawrence Taylor. He’s laughing, so Bigelow yells at him. Taylor offers a handshake, but Bam Bam shoves him to the floor instead. L.T. gets up and his bodyguards hold him back, but he looks pissed. Bigelow walks away and yells no one laughs at him. The crowd chants L.T., while Taylor sits down and makes sure his sunglasses didn’t break. If you didn’t already know, this was done to set up a WrestleMania match between the two men. Vince knows his roster is thin, so he’s loading Mania with celebrities.

Next, Todd recaps last year’s Rumble. They show footage of Diesel’s dominant performance, but we also see Shawn helping everyone eliminate him. Then, they cut to comments from Shawn. He bemoans the fact the cameraman missed him helping eliminate Diesel. He claims he did it single-handedly and promises to do it again to all the big men. They also show the finish of last year’s Rumble. There are multiple replays of Luger and Bret tumbling from the ring. This leads to a promo from Luger. He says 1994 is yesterday’s news. He’s tired of being a contender, but he says he will win the Rumble. Wouldn’t that make him a contender? No one ever accused Luger of being smart.

Then, Vince apologizes to the fans and Lawrence Taylor for Bam Bam’s actions. Meanwhile, the Fink introduces Pam Anderson. She enters the ring and waves to the crowd while Lawler again claims they have a date. He won’t say where they’re going because he doesn’t want fans following him. Vince jokes they’re going to Burger King.

30-Man Royal Rumble Match

Notes: The WWF roster is thinner than ever, so they decided to accelerate this Rumble. The entrants will enter every minute instead of two minutes. I guess Vince hoped the rapid pace would distract everyone from the number of jobbers in the match. It doesn’t help and thankfully they would drop the idea after this event.

The Fink then introduces the #1 entrant, Shawn Michaels. He dances around the ring and does his striptease while Pam Anderson looks amused. Lawler says Shawn loves being the #1 draw because he gets his full entrance. He’s probably not wrong. Then, Fink introduces the British Bulldog at #2. Shawn jumps him the second Davey enters the ring.

The Match: Bulldog throws Shawn around the ring and Michaels bumps like a pinball. #3 is Eli Blu of the Blu Twins. #4 is Duke the Dumpster Droese, but he eats a boot from Eli. Then, Jimmy Del Ray enters at #5 and Lawler says he likes him. I’ll refrain from making the obvious joke there. #6 is Sione of the Headshrinkers while Michaels narrowly escapes elimination. However, Del Ray is not so lucky. Sione hands out headbutts before Tom Prichard enters at #7. Sione tries to press slam HBK out of the ring, but he escapes. Next, we have Doink at #8. Lawler jokes he drove to Tampa in a Lincoln Clown Car. #9 is Kwang and #10 is Rick the Model Martel.

Shawn avoids elimination again by hooking his legs around the ropes. Then, Owen Hart enters at #11. However, Bret attacks him from behind. He beats up Owen until officials stop him. Timothy Well of Well Dunn enters at #12 and we miss Owen Hart being eliminated because the camera is on Bret. Duke Droese, Eli Blu, Rick Martel, and Prichard are all eliminated in quick succession and then Bushwhacker Luke arrives at #13. He only lasts a few seconds, so it’s back to Shawn and Bulldog. #14 is Jacob Blu. He attacks both men, but Michaels back drops him out of the ring. King Kong Bundy is next at #15. Mo of Men on a Mission is #16, but Bundy immediately eliminates him to Lawler’s delight. #17 is Mabel and he goes right for Bundy. They trade punches and Mabel slowly eliminates Bundy while Bushwhacker Butch arrives at #18 and only lasts seconds. Meanwhile, Mabel and Bulldog hang HBK upside down, but he survives. #19 is Lex Luger, who quickly dumps Mabel. He also press slams Michaels. #20 is Mantaur. He moos on the way to the ring and starts clubbing Luger and Bulldog.

#21 is Aldo Montoya. He fights with Michaels while Luger and Bulldog double team Mantaur. #22 is Henry Godwinn and he starts giving everyone forearms. They show Pam Anderson and she looks like she’s regretting her decision to be there. Next, Billy Gunn sprints to the ring at #23. His partner Bart Gunn is #24. Then, #25 is Bob Backlund, but Bret returns and attacks him. Hart throws punches until the officials stop him again. #26 is Steven Dunn of Well Dunn. He enters the ring as Luger eliminates Backlund. Bret attacks him again as Bob leaves. Next, #27 is Dick Murdoch, who enters to silence. I’m unsure the fans know him. #28 is Adam Bomb and he gets a decent reaction. #29 is Fatu. He apparently figured out how to put on boots since Survivor Series. After Fatu enters, Luger dumps Mantaur. Finally, Crush enters at #30.

Crush immediately eliminates both Smoking Gunns because they were fighting with each other. Aldo then eliminates Steven Dunn while they show Pamela again. She tells the cameraman to focus on the ring. Also, Vince claims two men will never go over the top rope at the same time again. I have bad news for him. Everyone brawls for a while, and Crush eliminates Adam Bomb. Next, HBK throws out Aldo and Crush tosses Fatu. Murdoch gives Godwinn an airplane spin, but Dick stumbles over the ropes while Henry saves himself. Henry and Shawn double team Luger until Lex gives Godwinn a clothesline and dumps him.

(Final Four: Shawn Michaels, The British Bulldog, Crush, & Lex Luger.) Luger fights off Crush and Michaels until Crush back drops him over the ropes. Shawn then strikes a deal with Crush and they double team Davey. However, Crush kicks Shawn and tries to press slam him. Michaels escapes and Bulldog clotheslines Crush out of the ring. So, it’s down to the same two men who started the match. Bulldog whips Shawn around the ring and crotches him on the ropes. He then clotheslines Shawn to the outside and seemingly wins the match. Bulldog’s music plays and he celebrates, BUT Shawn returns and dumps him out of the ring. Hebner signals that Shawn won the match. Everyone is confused until the Fink announces only one of Shawn’s feet touched the floor. Therefore, Shawn wasn’t eliminated, and he’s the winner.

Thoughts: It’s probably for the best they accelerated this match. It was severely lacking in star power. You know it’s bad when half the participants were barely known jobbers. The finish was memorable and well done, but most of the match is forgettable. It’s impressive that Shawn won from the #1 spot, but it is slightly undercut by the fact that this match was half the length of a usual Rumble.

Winner: Shawn Michaels (38:41)

After the match, they show slow-motion replays to confirm only one of Shawn’s feet touched. Vince had told Shawn to not overdo it in case he screwed up the finish. This is Shawn we’re talking about, so he naturally was dramatic as possible. You could practically hear the annoyance in Vince’s voice during the footage. Shawn then celebrates in the ring with Pamela Anderson, who laughs at Shawn’s posing. She looks amused by everything. Vince says she will escort Michaels to the ring at Mania. He then says goodnight while fireworks explode.

The Good:

– The IC Title Match was good.

– Bret/Diesel was great.

– The Tag Title Match was fun.

The Bad:

– The Rumble was lackluster, despite the good finish.

– Taker/IRS was dull.

Performer of the Night:

I’m going to make it a tie between Bret and Diesel. I think they both worked hard in that WWF Title match. Plus, it was Diesel’s night to shine.

Final Thoughts:

The Rumble Match might have been disappointing and that Taker/IRS match was bad, but I thought it was otherwise a decent PPV. I think there was enough good to outweigh the bad. It was an easy watch and the finish of the Rumble Match is memorable. I only wish the decent start to ‘95 was an indicator of what to expect. Unfortunately, I’m well aware it’s downhill from here.

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My next review will be WCW’s SuperBrawl V. Look for my review next Saturday.


Written by Paul Matthews

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