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  • Connor Ewens

In Memoriam: Bray Wyatt (1987-2023)

Last week, on the 24th of August, the wrestling world was in a state of shock at the announcement of the death of Windham Lawrence Rotunda, aged 36. Better known to us as Bray Wyatt, he has been off-screen with undisclosed health issues since February. Reports were positive of his health condition and his recovery, but unfortunately we learned he suffered a heart attack linked to an existing heart issue that was exasperated due to coronavirus. Bray Wyatt got engaged to announcer Jojo in 2022 and they have two children together. Before I continue, I'd like to ask that if you are able to spare the money, to go buy Bray Wyatt merch from WWE's shop. All the proceeds they make will be donated to Wyatt's family. This shocking news didn't feel real, and it still doesn't feel real. He will be remembered as a creative genius and a loving man to his fiancée and children.ay he rest in peace, say hi to Brodie for me.

Bray Wyatt is a third-generation wrestler, being born into the Windham/Rotunda family. His grandfather was Blackjack Mulligan, his two uncles were Barry & Kendall Windham, his father Mike Rotunda (aka Irwin R Schyster) and his brother we know as Bo Dallas. He won a state wrestling championship in 2005, the year of his high school graduation. After a brief 2 year stint in American Football, Windham decided he wanted to be a professional wrestler. He was brought in to WWE in 2009 and was a part of their developmental brand, Florida Championship Wrestling. He was trained up by FCW, as well as by Uncle Barry, ahead of his in-ring debut on the 5th of February 2009 where he defeated Brian Jossie. He went by the name Tank Mulligan. After a couple months, he made his television debut as Alex Rotunda, but he quickly changed his name to Duke Rotunda. Duke briefly teamed with Vic Adams before joining forces with his brother Bo. On the 23rd of July tapings of FCW, the Rotunda brothers defeated Justin Angel & Kris Logan to win the FCW Florida Tag Team titles.

Bo & Duke Rotunda would hold the belts for 119 days, the second longest reign ever for those titles. At the November 19th tapings, they lost the belts to the Dude Busters (Caylen Croft & Curt Hawkins). Duke continues to compete in FCW in both tags and singles until June of 2010, where he would undergo another name change. On the 8th of June, Husky Harris appeared on NXT in the season 2 premiere in a losing effort teaming alongside his Pro for the season, Cody Rhodes. Of you're unaware, the early days of NXT was more of a reality gameshow with challenges and weekly eliminations. He turned heel in June attacking announcer Matt Striker, to align with his recently turned mentor. He made his Raw debut in a dark match, losing to Mark Henry in July. Husky Harris finished 4th, being eliminated from the show in week 11 finishing being Alex Riley, Michael McGuillicutty & eventual winner Kaval. He reappeared at the season finale, attacking Kaval with the rest of the eliminated contestants. He continued to work in FCW, unsuccessfully challenging for the FCW Heavyweight Championship and feuding with Percy Watson.

On October 4th at the Hell in a Cell PPV, two disguised men interfered in the John Cena vs Wade Barrett match, helping the Nexus leader win and forcing Cena to join the faction. The next night on Raw, they were revealed to be Michael McGuillicutty & Husky Harris. Though initially not granted a place among the Nexus, Wade Barrett would soon induct them into the faction for their continuous assistance against WWE stars. In January 2011, CM Punk took over the group (now dubbed the New Nexus) and made everyone go through initiations. Harris recieved lashes from the group and he passed, though at the end of the month he was written off TV by a Randy Orton punt kick, quietly removed from the Nexus. He returned to FCW in Marchz briefly adopting the Axel Mulligan gimmick, wearing a hockey mask in what appeared like a prototype for his future gimmicks. The character worked a couple live shows but never made it to TV. He returned to competing as Husky Harris, eventually reuniting with brother Bo Rotunda who was the reigning FCW Heavyweight Champion.

After Bo got injured and vacated the title, Harris unsuccessfully challenged for the title, losing in a fatal four-way also featuring Dean Ambrose, Damien Sandow & the winner Leo Kruger. He continued to work singles, feuding with the likes of Antonio Cesaro & Richie Steamboat, until his brother returned from injury and they won the recently vacated FCW Tag titles for a second time, defeating Alexander Rusev & Cesaro. They held on to the belts for 42 days, eventually losing them to Corey Graves and Jake Carter. In April 2012, the character of Husky Harris was no more, as we saw the debut of an iconic character that finally captured what Windham Rotunda was looking for. He became Bray Wyatt. He initally was paired alongside Eli Cottonwood, but Eli requested his release from WWE in June. The Bray Wyatt character resembles Max Cady, from the 1991 movie Cape Fear as well as former wrestler Waylon Mercy. FCW was retired and rebranded as a part of NXT, which cut away its gameshow structure to become the new developmental brand for WWE. Wyatt was injured with a torn pectoral but continued to appear in promos and vignettes, with disparaging words for the current world. In November, he began molding his cult when he added Luke Harper and Erick Rowan as his "sons".

He returned to in-ring action in February 2013, defeating Yoshi Tatsu, but he'd suffer his first loss the following month to his own brother, now known as Bo Dallas. Wyatt led his sons to glory as Harper & Rowan defeated Adrian Neville & Oliver Grey for the NXT Tag Team Championships on May 8th episode of NXT. Neville & new ally Corey Graves took the titles from them on the July 17th episode of NXT. Bray's last NXT match was the week prior, when the Wyatt Family defeated Neville, Graves & William Regal in the main event. Rewinding briefly, in the May 27th episode of Raw we saw the first Wyatt Family vignettes on the main roster. I'll link it at the end of the article. It was a creepy breath of fresh air to the show. It depicted Wyatt and his family in the depths of the woods, we see the empty rocking chair, the Wyatt compound, Rowan's sheep mask. It was captivating. After weeks of vignettes, the Wyatt Family debuted in June assaulting Kane. They appeared week after week, destroying many midcard wrestlers and tell Kane to "Follow the Buzzards". Kane was assaulted again, this time he challenges Wyatt to a Ring of Fire match at Summerslam (aka Inferno match). Wyatt defeated Kane thanks to his followers, post match they continued the assault and carried Kane away.

Bray Wyatt feuded with and defeated Kofi Kingston before moving into a programme with CM Punk & Bray Wyatt. Punk & Bryan beat Harper & Rowan at Survivor Series, but the Wyatt Family got their win back at TLC in a handicap match. On the final Raw of 2013, Bryan fought the Family in a gauntlet to face Wyatt. He defeated Harper & Rowan, but they interfered causing a DQ in his match with Bray. Bryan was mercifully beat into submission until Wyatt got what he wanted, he reluctantly joined the Wyatt Family. Bryan was a part of the group for a couple weeks but he was punished by Wyatt weekly for his failures. Eventually, in a cage match against the Uso's, Bryan had enough, attacking Wyatt in the cage and breaking free from the group in one of the loudest pops in Raw history. At the Royal Rumble, Bray Wyatt defeated Daniel Bryan in a great match, but he wasn't done yet. Later in the show, the Wyatts would cost John Cena his match against Randy Orton for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

They would interfere again in Cena's match, attacking his team with Bryan and Sheamus on Raw. This was a qualifier for the Elimination Chamber, they won via DQ and cost the match to the only faction more dominant than them. The Shield. This led to an awesome 6-man match at the EC PPV, which the Wyatt Family won. Later in the night, they again targeted John Cena and caused him to be eliminated. Heading towards Wrestlemania, Wyatt focused solely on exposing John Cena. He wanted to prove Cena's good guy persona was fake, a facade of lies to cover his true, selfish nature. He wanted Cena to become the monster he was capable of. Cena accepted a challenge and at Wrestlemania XXX, Cena was able to overcome Bray Wyatt and defeat him without becoming a monster or turn heel. The booking was criticised by the fans, but don't forget that this was a very good match and a Wrestlemania spot with John Cena is a good spot to be in. The feud continued as Wyatt grew more popular, claiming to be capturing Cena's fanbase. Wyatt defeated Cena at Extreme Rules thanks to interference from the Family and, I want to say a demonic choir boy? It was certainly creepy. The feud ended in a Last Man Standing match at Payback that Cena won, in what was Wyatt's best match to date.

After competing in the Money in the Bank ladder match, Wyatt targeting a returning Chris Jericho. This led to PPV matches at Battleground & Summerslam, both men picking up victories. Wyatt won the feud with a victory on the September 8th Raw in a Steel Cage match. Beginning in late September, we saw vignettes of Bray Wyatt setting Harper & Rowan free, seemingly disbanding the Wyatt Family. At Hell in a Cell in October, Bray made his return interfering in the Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose match, attacking the latter. He and Ambrose feuded for the next few months as Wyatt claimed he could fix Ambrose, like he did with Rowan & Harper. Wyatt won by DQ at Survivor Series, won in a TLC match at the following PPV, won in a Miracle on 34th Street fight on Raw and won their ambulance match on January 4th Raw. Bray Wyatt had a standout performance in the 2015 Royal Rumble, lasting 47 minutes from entering at number 5. He has the most eliminations in the match with 7, including his former family members Rowan, Harper & Bryan.

Following the Rumble, Bray Wyatt began referring to himself as the New Face of Fear. This led to Fastlane, where Bray Wyatt emerged in a coffin and laid out a Wrestlemania challenge to the Undertaker, in a quest to replace the Undertaker as WWE's resident spooky overlord. Undertaker answered the call and defeated Wyatt at Wrestlemania. This was another booking decision questioned by the fans, but you can't deny that a match against WWE's biggest legend on the biggest stage was a great spot for him. Bray Wyatt moved into a brief feud with Ryback, defeating him at Payback. In the Money in the Bank match, Roman Reigns look poised to win when Bray Wyatt attacked, getting revenge for losing to him on Raw. Wyatt defeated Reigns at Battleground with the help of Luke Harper, reforming the Wyatt Family. Erick Rowan would rejoin to once he returned from injury. After losing in a tag match to Reigns & Ambrose at Summerslam, Bray Wyatt introduced a new recruit into the family. The Black Sheep, Braun Strowman. The New Wyatt Family would defeat Reigns, Ambrose & Chris Jericho at Night of Champions, then the feud would culminate in a Hell in a Cell match the following month. Bray Wyatt would lose to Reigns at the PPV, but he would reappear in the main event. After the Undertaker's loss the Brock Lesnar, the Wyatt Family appeared and attacked him, carrying him away. They did the same to his brother Kane the following night on Raw. This set up a marquee match for Survivor Series, celebrating 25 years of the Undertaker as the Brother's of Destruction defeated Wyatt & Harper.

The Wyatt Family feuded with ECW alumni Tommy Dreamer, Rhyno & the Dudley Boyz, defeating them in an 8-man at TLC. They appeared at Wrestlemania 32 to confront The Rock, who would beat Erick Rowan in a record shortest Wrestlemania match and saw John Cena return to fight them off. The Wyatt Family entered a feud with the League of Nations, which saw glimmers of a Wyatt face turn on the horizon. This led to that tag match on the April 11th Raw with Wyatt & Roman Reigns defeating the LoN with that awesome finishing sequence. Unfortunately Wyatt got injured at a Live Event which seemingly cancelled plans for a face turn. The Wyatts returned in June targeting the New Day, especially Woods who seemed to fear Bray. An entertaining feud which culminated with a win for the Family in a 6-man at Battleground. In the revived 2016 draft, Strowman went to Raw whilst the other 3 remained on Smackdown though Harper was out injured. After Ambrose defeated Rowan, Wyatt abandoned him seemingly ending the Wyatt Family once again.

Bray Wyatt targeted Randy Orton, calling him damaged and challenging him for a match. Wyatt won by forfeit as Orton was attacked before the match and unable to compete. Wyatt won again in a rematch at No Mercy thanks to interference from the returning Luke Harper. On the October 25th Smackdown, Randy Orton helped Bray win his match against Kane, forming the third rendition of the Wyatt Family. Orton & Wyatt proved to be a good alliance, both men being the sole survivors for Team Smackdown at Survivor Series before going in the defeat Heath Slater & Rhyno at TLC for the Smackdown Tag titles. They held them for 23 days before the team of Harper & Orton (defending under the Freebird rule) lost them to American Alpha on Smackdown. This generated tension between Harper & Orton, leading to a match on Smackdown which the latter won. As a result of the loss, Wyatt hits the Sister Abigail to Harper, exiling him from the group. Bray Wyatt made it to the final 3 of the 2017 Royal Rumble, which was ultimately won by Randy Orton.

At the Elimination Chamber PPV, Bray Wyatt won his first singles championship, winning the WWE Championship in the Elimination Chamber match that also featured John Cena, The Miz, Dean Ambrose, Baron Corbin & AJ Styles. After a successful title defense against Cena & Styles, Orton swore allegiance to Wyatt and refused to face him at Mania. This would be a ruse, as he would later burn down the Wyatt Compound as well as the grave of Sister Abigail, setting up their big encounter at Wrestlemania. Bray Wyatt lost to Randy Orton, ending his reign after 49 days. They had a non-title rematch at Payback billed a "House of Horrors" match, a WWE cinematic match years before they became a staple of the Pandemic Era of Wrestling. Bray Wyatt won after help from Orton's rival Jinder Mahal. Bray Wyatt was moved to Raw and competed in the fatal 5-way at Extreme Rules for an opportunity at the Universal Championship. He had feuds with the likes of Seth Rollins, Finn Balor & Jason Jordan before moving into his next major feud with Matt Hardy.

Bray Wyatt's feud with Matt Hardy reintroduced the famous "Broken" gimmick, now repackaged as "Woken" Matt Hardy. They feuded for the first quarter of 2018, culminating with the hugely anticipated Ultimate Deletion match on March 19th Raw, a cinematic match at the Hardy Compound. It was fun, stupid wrestling that Hardy had popularised during his time in Impact and this match was just as entertaining. Matt Hardy won when he pushed Bray into the Lake of Reincarnation. Wyatt disappeared until remerging at Wrestlemania 34, helping Matt Hardy win the Andre the Giant Battle Royal and turning face. They united to form the Deleters of Worlds, a short lived but entertaining tag team that won the Raw Tag Team Championships at the Greatest Royal Rumble. They lost them after 79 says in their first televised title defence at Extreme Rules to the B Team. After failing to regain the tag titles, they mainly worked live events for the rest of the year. Both men pitched various creative ideas but they were shot down, so both men took time off to nurse injuries and the team quietly disbanded.

In April of 2019, we saw teaser vignettes featuring puppets of a Buzzard, a witch and a rabbit. Eventually, Bray Wyatt made his return via promo segments from the Firefly Funhouse. A Mr Rogers style children's TV show with dark, mysterious undertones. We were introduced to various characters throughout that referenced parts of Bray Wyatt. Mercy the Buzzard a reference to 'Follow the Buzzards' and Bray's inspiration Waylon Mercy. Abby the witch, a reference to Sister Abigail. Ramblin' Rabbit I believe references criticisms of Bray's rambling promos. Huskus the pig boy is of course his former character Husky Harris. Finally, puppet Vince McMahon which is self explanatory. After a few weeks of increasingly demented (but fucking awesome) segments, Bray Wyatt introduced us to his secret. The Fiend. A demonic Clown essentially. 'The Fiend' was here to protect us, Bray said. Making his return physically, The Fiend attacked Finn Balor setting up a match at Summerslam. We saw the first entrance by the Fiend, which will go down as one of the greatest entrances ever. The Code Orange redux of his original theme, the lantern made out of Bray Wyatt's head, the lighting and camera work. It was a masterpiece. The Fiend dominated Balor within minutes, we wouldn't see Balor again on the main roster for 3 years as he would return to NXT as a heel.

The Fiend began attacking various legends including Kurt Angle, Jerry Lawler, Kane & Mick Foley, he also began using Foley's signature Mandible Claw. The Fiend persona and the Bray Wyatt promos we're so popular that he was inserted into a world title feud with Seth Rollins. Seth successful defended the title at Hell in a Cell, in one of the most universally panned matches in recent history. No fault of the performers involved, but the poor booking and the referee stoppage finish inside a Hell in a Cell match made this one of WWEs worst matches. Bray Wyatt was drafted to Smackdown, but at Crown Jewel he defeated Seth Rollins in Falls Count Anywhere match to win the Universal title and take it with him. Seth Rollins would soon turn heel after his feud with the Fiend. Bray Wyatt introduced two new belt designs, his Universal title was changed to a blue design to suit it being on Smackdown. The Fiend introduced his own personal design too, which was a dark black and red with the Fiend's face on it, his phrases scattered over it.

The Fiend began feuding with another former rival, Daniel Bryan. The Fiend defeated Bryan at Survivor Series, on the following Smackdown he attacked Bryan and dragged him below the ring and pulled out his hair. Whilst The Fiend was "busy" with Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt got into a short feud with The Miz, where he would stalk The Miz's family. Wyatt defeated Miz at TLC, Daniel Bryan made his return to attack Bray looking a lot like his American Dragon run pre-WWE. The Fiend defeated Bryan in their rematch at the Royal Rumble in a great strap match. Unfortunately, the Fiend ran into his greatest opponents yet at Super Showdown in 2020, Goldberg. Goldberg squashed The Fiend in under 3 minutes, ending his 118 day reign and in the eyes of the fans, absolutely burying one of WWE's greatest characters of the century. The following Smackdown, The Fiend attacked and targeted a returning John Cena, setting up a match at Wrestlemania 36.

The coronavirus brought the world into lockdown, which we may have to begrudgingly thank for the creation of the Firefly Funhouse match we saw between Bray Wyatt & John Cena. A surreal cinematic masterpiece that deep dives into Bray Wyatt & John Cena's history, as well as wrestling history and it's over-reliance on 1 megapushed star (Hulk Hogan mainly). The Firefly Funhouse is one of the great media productions in wrestling history, cinema gold in storytelling. It's one of my favourite things. The Fiend won, we never saw John Cena on live TV for over a year. Bray Wyatt turned his attention to Braun Strowman, looking to reclaim the Universal Championship. After losing as Bray Wyatt at Money in the Bank, he embodied his Eater of Worlds character during a Firefly Funhouse segment and looked the destroy Braun Strowman. The Fiend defeated Braun Strowman in a non-title Wyatt Swamp Fight at 'Horror Show at Extreme Rules', which was another cinematic history lesson through Bray & Braun's history.

The Fiend attacked Alexa Bliss, Strowman's friend but later seemed to develop a connection with her. 2 weeks later, Braun pretended to attack Alexa to draw out the Fiend but he vanished and The Fiend appeared. The mind games led to Summerslam where The Fiend defeated Strowman to win his third World Championship. Both men were attacked by a returning Roman Reigns, who would later beat them both in a triple threat at Payback, ending Wyatt's reign after just 7 days. In September, it seemed like Bray Wyatt was gone and he had fully been absorbed by The Fiend gimmick. He returned by attacking Kevin Owens, but importantly he extended the hand to Alexa Bliss who accepted and they vanished together. After defeating Kevin Owens, The Fiend was drafted to Raw where he would reignite his feud with Randy Orton. Randy Orton defeated the Fiend in a Firefly Inferno match at TLC, Orton setting him on fire and seemingly destroying the Fiend.

In his absence, Alexa Bliss continued to torment Randy Orton, leading to a rare intergender match at Fastlane. During this supernatural contest, The Fiend returned all charred and disfigured from the flames, attacking Orton and helping Bliss get a victory. This set up a final match between The Fiend & Randy Orton at Wrestlemania 37. It started off cool as shit, with a huge Jack in the box that Alexa Bliss turned to reveal a regenerated Fiend, back to his usual spooky self. After a few minutes though, Alexa Bliss started spewing black liquid which distracted The Fiend, Orton hit an RKO for the win. After a brief staredown, they both disappeared. Later, Bliss would reveal she no longer needs the Bray Wyatt or the Firefly Funhouse anymore, it seemed like the spirit of the Fiend had possessed her instead. That Wrestlemania match would be the final appearance of the Fiend, as Bray Wyatt would be sadly released on July 31st.

In September of 2022, over a year Wyatt's release, we heard an acapella version of the song 'White Rabbit' played. We saw QR codes on various TV shows that led to vague imagery which seemingly led to Extreme Rules in October. After the main event, the show ended with the epic return of Bray Wyatt. We saw his puppets appear throughout the crowd before eventually a door at the entrance. It opened up, out stepped Wyatt wearing a new wooden style mask. On Smackdown, Bray Wyatt cut an awesome heartfelt promo seemingly pushing him as a face. At the end, he was interrupted by a masked figure. He was interrupted again a week later, the figure called himself Uncle Howdy. We saw glimpses of Wyatt struggling to stay good and keep out his violent tendencies. This led to him attacking LA Knight backstage. Their feud built on disrespect saw them go at it week after week, but also for the physical debut of Uncle Howdy. Howdy saved Bray one week, but another week he attacked Bray, drawing mystery to his motives. We saw a brief return of the Firefly Funhouse, as well as a passing of the torch moment on Raw XXX, where Undertaker & Bray Wyatt took out LA Knight. At the Royal Rumble 2023, Bray Wyatt defeated LA Knight in a Pitch Black match (sponsored by Mountain Dew) which was a no DQ match with weird lighting. After the win, Uncle Howdy appeared and jumped from a platform down onto LA Knight, watched by the Firefly Funhouse characters from above.

That would end up being Bray Wyatt's last televised match. We saw promos of him targeting the winner of Brock Lesnar vs Bobby Lashley to a match at Wrestlemania, but he was removed from TV and the match was cancelled. We heard little noise on the subject, but we eventually learned Bray Wyatt was battling an illness. It kept him off TV from February. Around August we heard possible positive signs of his recovery and return, however that was not the case. It was revealed via Sean Ross Sapp that Bray Wyatt had suffered a heart attack and passed away. He caught covid-19 that exasperated an existing heart condition.

Bray Wyatt will be remembered as one of the greatest minds in the wrestling business. He had unlimited levels of creativity that would have made magic in movies, and it did make magic in wrestling. A dedicated performer, a loving father and partner, a beautiful soul. Rest in peace Bray Wyatt. Taken from us too soon. We lit the way for you and we let you in, and we are eternally grateful for you.

Championships & Achievements:

-FCW Tag Team Championships x2

-Raw Tag Team Championships

-Smackdown Tag Team Championships

-WWE Championship

-Universal Championship x2

-Ranked in the PWI 500 yearly from 2010-2021

-2010 PWI Feud of the Year (Nexus vs WWE)

-2013 CAGEMATCH Award for best gimmick

-2013 WON Award for best gimmick

-2014 WON 6th best MOTY (Shield vs Wyatt Family)

-2014 PWI Match of the Year (Wyatt vs Cena)

-2014 Voice of Wrestling 3rd best MOTY (Shield vs Wyatt Family)

-2014 WWE Top 100 matches to watch before you die (38th, Shield vs Wyatt's)

-2019 WON Award for best gimmick

-2019 WWE Male Wrestler of the Year

-2019 CBS comeback of the year

-2022 NY Post Award for best return

Match/Promo recommendations:

Early Bray Wyatt promos in FCW

Bray Wyatt's NXT debut

Bray Wyatt's first main roster segment, May 27th

Wyatt says goodbye to NXT

The Wyatt Family debut on Raw

12-Man Tag on 18th November Raw

The Uso's vs Wyatt & Bryan, Steel Cage on 13th January Raw

Bray Wyatt vs Daniel Bryan, Royal Rumble 2014

Wyatt Family vs The Shield, Elimination Chamber 2014 (WWE Network)

Wyatt Family vs The Shield, 3rd March Raw

John Cena vs Bray Wyatt, Payback 2014

Bray Wyatt vs Dean Ambrose, TLC (WWE Network)

Bray Wyatt vs Roman Reigns, Battleground 2015

Wyatt Family vs Reigns, Ambrose & Jericho, Night of Champions 2015 (WWE Network)

Bray Wyatt vs Roman Reigns, Hell in a Cell

Bray Wyatt & Roman Reigns vs League of Nations, 11th April Raw

Raw vs Smackdown, Survivor Series 2016

WWE Title Elimination Chamber 2017

House of Horrors match, Payback

Fatal 5-way, Extreme Rules

The Ultimate Deletion, March 19th Raw

Bray Wyatt returns at Wrestlemania

The Firefly Funhouse

The Fiend vs Finn Balor, Summerslam

The Fiend vs Daniel Bryan, Royal Rumble 2020

Firefly Funhouse match, Wrestlemania 36

Bray Wyatt returns, Extreme Rules 2022

Bray Wyatt return promo, 14th October Smackdown (go check out the full video if you can find it)

WWE Tributes to Bray Wyatt

Thank you for reading, it's been a tough time in the wrestling world. Let us not only be sad for our loss, but thankful for the time we had. Look after yourself everyone, check on your loved ones. Until next time, follow the Buzzards.


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