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Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Roman Reigns the Best Wrestler From the Anoa’i Family?

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Richard U. submits a simple question (actually more of an order) that takes a helluva long time to answer:

Rank all the wrestling members of the Anoa’i family from worst to best.

Let me start off by saying that, in answering this question, I’ve decided to use an expansive a list of “the Anoa’i family” as possible. A strict definition would involve just those individuals who are blood related to the original WWWF tag team of the Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika. However, for the sake of completeness, I’ve also included everybody who ever married into that family.

PLUS, on top of that, I’ve included what you might call the extended or adopted family. Even though there is no blood relation, the Anoa’is have considered Peter Maivia and his descendants to be relatives due to a “blood brother” relationship between Maivia and the father of Afa and Sika. Jimmy Snuka and his relatives also fall into the adopted family, because he married a niece of Peter Maivia. Finally, Haku and his family fall under this wing of the family as well, because even though they are of a different nationality (Tongan as opposed to Samoan), they are considered family because of a close personal relationship Haku developed with both the Anoa’i and Maivia families during his time in wrestling. The Rock calls Haku his uncle, and who am I to question the Rock?

If you disagree with my notion of including all that found/adopted family in this list, then I have three responses: 1) get your own column, 2) you can very easily pretend they’re not on the list and readjust the rankings accordingly, and 3) perhaps most compellingly, Afa lists all these people as family on his own website.

I should also note two names that you will not see on this list: Peter Maivia Jr., a.k.a Junior Maivia and Toa Maivia. I have seen a few sources stating that these two individuals were sons of Peter Maivia who both got into the sport. However, I’ve also seen at least one source affirmatively stating that Junior was actually a trainee of the family who was given permission to use the name and not a relative. Perhaps more importantly, Peter Maivia’s actual obituary from the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper does not list any sons as being among his survivors.

With that background out of the way, let’s get to the list. I’ve found thirty-nine names to rank, and I will be kicking myself if I missed anybody:

39. Thamiko T. Fatu: Admittedly, there are so many that I may have missed one, but as near as I can tell, Thamiko is the newest Anoa’i family member to break into wrestling, with his father Rikishi announcing his entry into the sport in April of last year. I have yet to see a record of him having a professional match, but his Instagram does say that he’s accepting bookings.

38. Zilla Fatu: Putting Zilla towards the bottom of the list isn’t a knock on the guy. He just lands here by default because he’s also relatively new to the game, having just debuted in December 2022. A son of Umaga, he originally trained with Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling in Texas. Given his heritage and his learning at the feet of a former WWE champion, we will probably be hearing much more from him over the next few years.

37. Journey Fatu: This is another young member of the family whose career is very much on the upswing. Journey is one of the sons of Sam “Tonga Kid” Fatu, and his biggest matches to date have been tag bouts with his brother Jacob, who we’ll see in a bit. Journey is mostly active on the California independent scene, where he has been wrestling since 2016.

36. Sean Maluta: Also known as the Samoan Dragon, Maluta has been active in pro wrestling since 2004, appearing in several promotions you’ve heard of, but never in a prominent role. Probably his biggest brush with fame came in 2016, when he wrestled in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, after which he appeared on several episodes of NXT. Years later, he was also a regular on AEW Dark. For what it’s worth, Sean has always been billed as a “nephew of Afa,” though I’m not sure on more details than that. This probably means he’s either Afa’s nephew by marriage or the son of one of Afa’s siblings who was not involved in wrestling. Yes, there is such a thing.

35. Nia Jax: This is our first trip outside the Anoa’i family bloodline, and it’s actually quite a far trip out. As noted, the Maivias and the Anoa’is tie together through an old “blood brother” relationship, which ties the Rock in to the family tree. Nia Jax is the Rock’s second cousin once removed, which means she is the child of his second cousin. In other words, she’s not particularly closely related to the Rock, who is part of the adopted family of the Anoa’is, so she doesn’t get too high up this list. (Also, she isn’t a particularly good wrestler.)

34. Sim Snuka: Also known as Deuce of the Throwback tag team Deuce & Domino, Sim Snuka is the son of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Despite his family pedigree and training in Ohio Valley Wrestling, Sim never really caught on in WWE and only made it about two years on the main roster. In an interesting bit of trivia, for a period of time before he entered developmental, his ring name was Solo Snuka . . . a first name that we’ll be seeing a little bit further down on this list.

33. Ava Raine: As the daughter of the Rock, this woman has had every high expectation in the world placed on her shoulders, and she doesn’t exactly come off as a professional wrestling prodigy, but . . . she’s fine. For a twenty-two year old with on a couple of years of training who was probably put on national television before she should have been, she’s fine. I look forward to seeing her develop more, and she might move up this list quite a bit if I were to re-write it in five to ten years, but this seems like a fine position for her for the time being.

32. Ricky Johnson: No, that’s not a typo. The Rock’s father is Rocky Johnson, but this is his brother Ricky Johnson, who also used the nickname “Soulman.” Ricky mostly wrestled in the early and mid-1980s, though he would make sporadic comebacks as recently as 2007. Probably the most noteworthy matches of his career came in the Maivia family’s NWA Polynesian Wrestling territory, where he teamed with his brother to face teams like the North-South Connection of Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch.

31. Tamina Snuka: Every so often, there’s a WWE wrestler who will wind up with the company for an extended period of time and, when you realize it, your reaction will be, “Wait, how?” That’s where I was when I realized Rosa Mendes had eleven years with the promotion, and that’s where I am now up realizing that Jimmy Snuka’s daughter Tamina will have been employed there for FIFTEEN YEARS. She’s not an actively bad wrestler, but she’s competent and not much more in a promotion where far more talented people have come and gone during her tenure.

30. Jacob Fatu: Another son of the Tonga Kid, Jacob Fatu has been on the independent circuit for about ten years now, and, over the last several, he has made quite the name for himself in Major League Wrestling. There has been talk that the actual major leagues of wrestling may have had some interest in him, though rumors persist that an armed robbery charge from his teenage years might be somewhat of a block on that.

29. Trinity Fatu: Here’s the first time on the list that we’re encountering somebody who married in to the family, and we all got to see a version of her wedding to Jimmy Uso thanks to her time on Total Divas. Trinity was signed to WWE with no professional wrestling experience all the way back in 2009 and eventually turned into somebody who could do a few athletic spots that a talented wrestler could build a good match around. Now she’s back in WWE after putting on her boo boo face a couple of years ago and running away to Impact Wrestling for a time.

28. Lance Anoa’i: No, this isn’t a Lance Von Erich situation where they didn’t have enough real Anoa’is and brought in some dude from Portland to play a spare. He’s legitimately the son of Samoan Swat Team member Samu and made his pro wrestling debut in 2010. Lance has had some WWE tryouts over the years, though he’s never quite made the cut in that company. Instead, he joined Jacob Fatu in MLW and, even more recently, he’s gone on his first tour of Japan, working with Pro Wrestling NOAH. Given what learning in Japan did for some of his relatives (more on that in a bit), I’m interested to see what the results are.

27. Black Pearl: Also known as Reno Anoa’i, Black Pearl may be one of the most well-traveled wrestlers that you’ve never heard of. He is the son of one of Afa and Sika’s non-wrestling siblings, and he made his pro wrestling debut all the way back in 2002. Though he’s wrestled throughout the United States, his most noteworthy matches have taken place in Europe mid-to-late 2000s when there was a bit of a boom in pro wrestling’s popularity on the continent thanks to expanded WWE television rights. That lead to the formation of Nu Wrestling Evolution, a company that toured places like Italy, Spain, and France using recently released WWE wrestlers. Rikishi was involved in booking American talent for the company, so he got his cousin a job, which resulted in Black Pearl wrestling and defeating names like Scott Steiner, Christian Cage, and Vampiro.

26. Dany Garcia: I can see some people getting irrationally angry about me including this name on the list, but Dany Garcia is the ex-wife and still-business partner of the Rock, managing much of his career since he went to Hollywood, including his returns to WWE. (To say nothing of the fact that she is the mother of Ava Raine.) In addition to that, her Seven Bucks Productions helped to produce the pro wrestling movie Fighting With My Family, based on the life of Saraya Knight and bringing some rare positive exposure to the professional wrestling industry.

25. LA Smooth: Not be confused with LA Knight, LA Smooth is the first of Afa’s sons who we’ve seen on this list. He’s had matches as far back as 1987, and he’s been active in the ring as recently as 2022. Wrestling under a variety of different gimmicks, he’s had his greatest success in Puerto Rico, where he was a champion several times over in both WWC and the IWA. He’s also appeared in Japanese deathmatch promotions W*ING and in ECW as half of the Samoan Gangsta Party – a gimmick that almost transferred to the WWF to feud with (Rikishi) Fatu in his “Making a Difference” era, though the plan was dropped out of nowhere.

24. Manu: Speaking of Afa’s sons, here’s the youngest to get in to pro wrestling and the one who, for a time, had the honor of being bestowed the ring name Afa Jr. (I’m guessing Afa didn’t allow his older sons to wrestle under that moniker because he didn’t want to date himself while he was still an in-ring competitor.) Though his run in WWE was largely forgettable, Afa Jr. wrestled for many years before that and continues to be active to this day, with most of his career based in and around Pennsylvania.

23. Rosey: The brother of Roman Reigns, Rosey tragically passed away in 2017 at the age of 47 years old due to congestive heart failure. However, he still had a pretty full wrestling career, going all the way back to 1995 and including runs in WWC in Puerto Rico, ECW, FMW, WWE, and the final major promotion of his career, All Japan. He was also part of a weird, exploitative weight loss reality show called Fat March, which I reviewed on my MySpace blog back in the day. No, seriously.

22. Hikuleo: This is the first time that we are seeing a member of Haku’s immediate family on the list. Biologically, he is Haku’s nephew (via marriage), though he has been adopted by the man and is now his son. After some preliminary training under Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley at their school in Florida, Hikuleo headed overseas, where he continued his training with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Since then, Hikuleo has been part of NJPW, typically associated with his brothers, where he is the big man/enforcer of the group. It seems unlikely at this point that he’ll become a major singles star in Japan, but there is certainly a role for him to play.

21. Bad Luck Fale: Speaking of New Japan, Bad Luck Fale has been a fixture there for over ten years now, becoming one of the founding members of the Bullet Club, often serving as its muscle. Fale, who makes the list because he is a cousin of Haku’s sons, is not a top guy in NJPW but maintains enough credibility that he can realistically play a spoiler role in major tournaments, which has allowed him to get wins over the likes of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada. Fale also maintains his own wrestling school in New Zealand which maintains an affiliation with New Japan and has seen several of its graduates compete for the King of Sports.

20. Samu: The oldest son of Afa and the father of Lance Anoa’i, the wrestler most commonly known as Samu has over 40 years of involvement in professional wrestling himself, which is particularly impressive when you realize that he’s only 60 years old. World Class, New Japan, AWA, JCP, WCW, ECW, CWF, MLW, and many points in between . . . he’s been everywhere, man. Of course, his biggest single accomplishment may be his run as a WWF Tag Team Champion with his cousin Fatu in the early 1990s. Though he’s put together a career most wrestlers would be jealous of, he’s not be a featured player in a big promotion like many of his relatives were, so he finishes solidly in the middle of the pack.

19. Gary Albright: Here’s another entry into the family by marriage, as Gary Albright wed Afa’s daughter Monica. After an impressive amateur wrestling career at the University of Nebraska, Albright trained with a veritable holy trinity of Lou Thesz, Billy Robinson, and Danny Hodge before having his first major run with the Hart Family’s Stampede Wrestling in the late 1980s. From there he headed to Japan, where he would gain his greatest fame, initially for UWFi and then for All Japan, where he was a Tag Team Championship partner with both Stan Hansen and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. Chances are good that he would have continued wrestling and climbed this list even higher but for the fact that he tragically passed away from a heart attack that he suffered during a match for Afa’s WXW independent promotion in early 2000.

18. Tanga Loa: Getting back to the sons of Haku, most wrestling fans first saw Tanga Loa in WWE, riding around on a bicycle with Hunico and using the name Camacho. That run got him nowhere fast. Fortunately for Tanga, his brother (who we’ll get it momentarily) had already become a star in New Japan Pro Wrestling, helping him get a slot in NJPW once he was cut by WWE. They immediately became the Guerrillas of Destiny or G.O.D. For short, and they have dominated the IWGP Tag Team Title scene for years now, winning the championships seven times, more than any other team in the 38 year history of the belts. I think that’s enough to make up for his time on the bike.

17. Solo Sikoa: More than anybody else on this list, I think that Solo’s position has the potential to change drastically if we redo this exercise in two or three years. He made his WWE main roster debut less than a year after starting in developmental with the company, and he didn’t just debut on Main Event or something like that – he was immediately thrust into the biggest faction and biggest storyline in the promotion. Sikoa rose to the occasion, though, feeling like he belonged from day one. He’s continued to be heavily pushed since then, most notably with his dominant win over John Cena in Saudi Arabia. It seems that we are mere moments away from a major Solo Sikoa singles push.

16. Tonga Kid: From the newest WWE star on the list we go to one of the oldest – aside from patriarchs Afa and Sika themselves. Sam Fatu, the brother of Rikishi and Umaga, first appeared in the WWF in 1983 as the Samoan Savage but quickly transitioned to being the heroic Tonga Kid, and at less than 20 years of age he was wrestling in a near-top-of-the-card feud against Rowdy Roddy Piper, serving as a surrogate for Jimmy Snuka when Snuka was on the shelf. He continued in the WWF thorughout the 1980s as Tama, one half of the Islanders with Haku. In the 1990s, he became a bit of a journeyman, bouncing around between WCW, Mexico’s UWA and AAA promotions, the IWA in Puerto Rico, and even Pro Wrestling ZERO1 in Japan.

15. Sika: Before I started actually ranking the members of the Anoa’i family, I would have assumed that Sika would be near the top of the list. After all, he was one of the first two members of the family to wrestle, he was a three-time WWF Tag Team Champion and Hall of Famer, and he was trusted to be an opponent of Hulk Hogan on national television when Hogan was at his hottest. The fact that he is only number fifteen on the list isn’t meant to diminish his accomplishments. Instead, it’s simply a reflection of the fact that there have been A LOT of Anoa’is who have gone on to accomplish so much more than the original generation.

14. Tama Tonga: The third of the three adoptive sons of Haku that we’ve seen on this list, Tama Tonga is the best wrestler of the trio . . . as you probably would have guessed by his ranking. Though most of his career has been spent as a tag team wrestler in New Japan Pro Wrestling, he has also shined as a single when given the opportunity, particularly in a series of singles matches that he had against Karl Anderson, most of them implicating the NEVER Openweight Championship. Here at the beginning of 2024, Tonga has decided that he is going to depart NJPW to test his skills elsewhere. If they have the room to book him correctly, any major promotion in the world should be happy to have this fellow on their roster.

13. Jimmy Uso: Moving back to the contemporary WWE roster, we see the second of three sons of Rikishi Phatu that have made their way into professional wrestling. In terms of in-ring performance, Jimmy and his twin brother Jey may be one of the greatest tag teams in the history of the promotion. That standing on its own would have been enough to get him pretty high on this list, but he’s bumped up a couple of notches compared to where he might be otherwise thanks to him coming into his own as a singles performer over the course of the past several years. Hopefully WWE manages to resist the urge to put the twins back together anytime soon, because they really have done just about everything they can as a team.

12. Umaga: Real name Edward Fatu, this fellow had an interesting career trajectory. He debuted in 1999 and was pulled into the WWE developmental system in 2002 alongside his cousin Rosey. Their early work was . . . fine. As Three Minute Warning they were capable of pulling off some impressive high impact moves and participated in a couple of memorable angles, but they didn’t really stand out in full matches. A bar fight saw Eddie Fatu get cut by the promotion, and he found himself in All Japan Pro Wrestling. I don’t know exactly who to credit for this, but in AJPW something seemed to click for him, and he steadily developed from mediocre wrestler into an excellent high impact performer and monster heel. Two-and-a-half years later he was re-signed to WWE and became Umaga, a character that left me cringing when I first saw it due to its hearkening back to some old racial stereotypes. However, Fatu played it in a way in which he was a dangerous wrestler instead of a cartoonish savage, and it somehow worked, leading him to main event Wrestlemania XXIII with Vince McMahon and Donald Trump. Then, unfortunately, things ended too soon, as substance abuse issues lead to his termination and ultimately his death. Umaga may be the greatest “what could have been” on this list.

11. Lia Maivia: One of only two individuals on this list who has never wrestled a match, Lia Maivia, the wife of Peter Maivia and the grandmother of the Rock falls just outside the top ten for her time as a promoter. Her husband Peter spent many years maintaining his own NWA territory in Hawaii. When he passed away in 1982, some thought the promotion might fold, but Lia took it up and successfully ran it for several more years, including booking names like Don Muraco, the Von Erichs, Tully Blanchard, Kevin Sullivan, and many more. Promoting wrestling is hard. Promoting wrestling as a woman in the early 1980s was no doubt ten times harder. For that and for keeping the family business alive, Lia Maivia deserves all the respect in the world.

10. Rocky Johnson: Now we enter the top ten. When I was growing up as a wrestling fan, Rocky Johnson was largely retired and the only thing anybody ever said about him was that he and Tony Atlas were the first Black men to ever hold titles in the WWF. (Which actually isn’t true – Bobo Brazil beat them to the punch by quite some time.) However, that WWF narrative erased significant amounts of the Soulman’s pro wrestling career. Johnson was a headlining wrestler across North American between the 1960s and the 1980s, beginning in his native Canada and trickling down into the United States, hitting virtually ever territory that was active during his career outside of the AWA. It’s worth noting that, no matter where he traveled, Rocky always supported the Anoa’i family by making periodic shots for the Maivias’ NWA Polynesia territory, even when he was wrestling a more restrictive WWF schedule.

9. Jey Uso: Some reading this may ask why it is that Jey Uso is several slots above his twin brother Jimmy on this list. After all, they’re twins and have spent the bulk of their careers as a tag team. Shouldn’t they share a spot on the list or, failing that, shouldn’t they be ranked one right after the other? I suppose some could argue that, but it’s not their list. It’s mine. I’ve given Jey an edge in terms of rankings because he is the one who broke away from the tag team first and thus has had more of an opportunity to prove himself as a solo performer than Jimmy, beginning with his two WWE Championship matches against Roman Reigns during the year 2020 and culminating with his Tribal Combat match against Reigns at last year’s Summerslam. Plus, Jey has fewer DUI arrests, so he’s also got that going for him.

8. Rikishi: We move from the Usos to their father, a man who has had many ring names during his career but these days is perhaps best known as Rikishi. In reality, he is Solofa Fatu, nephew to Afa and Sika and father to the Uso and Solo Sikoa. Of course, he’s also had a lengthy run in pro wrestling in his own right, starting in 1985 under his own version of the Tonga Kid gimmick but quickly becoming Fatu of the Samoan Swat Team with his cousin/Afa’s son Samu. From World Class to WCW to the WWF, the Swat Team (a.k.a. the Headshrinkers) was together for almost a decade, after which Fatu started his singles run, first under that name, then as the Sultan, and, most notably, as Rikishi. He accumulated numerous championships and ran Steve Austin over with a rental car. Plus, in a stint that many don’t realize existed, he also was a promoter for about eight years, running Nu Wrestling Entertainment in Italy from 2005 to 2013 after wrestling exploded in popularity in the country due to a new TV deal. Big Kish has done just about everything there is to do in pro wrestling, and he deserves his top ten finish here.

7. Afa: Though Peter Maivia was in wrestling first, when it comes to the actual, blood related Anoa’i family, Afa is the patriarch. In many respects, his in-ring career is identical to Sika’s because they spent so much time as a tag team, and you can even argue that Sika did better on the whole as a wrestler because he stuck around as a single into the Hulkamnia era and got some big WWF Championship matches with the Hulkster. However, I still rank Afa a fair amount higher than Sika on this list because of Afa’s influence as a trainer. Though virtually all the Samoans helped train each other, Afa is the guy who truly headed up the Wild Samoan training camp and the associated WXW independent promotion in for 27 years. (In fact, as of the time I’m writing this, it was just announced that WXW would be running its last show in April.) He is the one who laid the groundwork for so much of this list, in addition to starting of a few other non-family members like Dave Batista, and that’s why he deserves to rank as highly as he does . . . even though there were a few members of the family whose star outshone his in terms of in-ring performance.

6. Haku: Considered an “uncle” by the Rock, Haku is one of those guys who I am putting on the list to err on the side of being over-inclusive. However, he has definitely had one of the best careers of those who I have chosen to list here. He was originally selected by the literal King of Tonga to train in sumo in Japan, and after retiring he fell in with All Japan Pro Wrestling’s dojo. After a stint in AJPW he headed to Puerto Rico, which set up the WWF run that most everybody reading this is familiar with. Between the WWF and his later time in WCW, he also had a stopover in Mexico’s CMLL promotion, meeting up with a young Chris Jericho. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention his reputation as legitimately one of the toughest wrestlers to ever lace up a pair of boots, allegedly fighting off multiple cops at once, no selling pepper spray and, oh yeah, biting a guy’s nose off. Are you going to tell him he doesn’t belong on this list?

5. Yokozuna: Sometimes the brightest stars burn out the most quickly. After a few years of alternating between New Japan Pro Wrestling and Mexico’s UWA promotion as the Great Kokina, Rodney Anoa’i headed to the WWF where he was christened Yokozuna. Originally the gimmick was that he was a Samoan guy who went to Japan and trained in sumo, but pro wrestling is really bad at nuance, so after a while we all started pretending he was Japanese. Regardless of his nationality, he was a physical marvel at 500 pounds, moving with a speed and fluidity that nobody that size should be able to exhibit. Unfortunately, the girth that was his trademark also became his downfall, as his weight spiraled out of control and eventually destroyed the wrestling career that it helped to launch. Though he mostly wrestled on top in the WWF at a time that business was way down, he still managed to mix it up against some of the greatest names of the 1990s, holding his own on each and every occasion.

4. Roman Reigns: Yup, it’s the Big Dawg. Though I think fourth place of forty-ish wrestlers is pretty damn impressive, I suspect that there will be a handful of people in the comments yelling at me for not placing him even higher. However, I hesitate to do that in part because I do think the other three guys I’m listing are legitimately bigger stars and in part because, to steal a phrase from another wrestler, Roman’s story is still being written. Yes, he’s already etched his name in the history books, but we do not know how much further he is going to rise before it is all said and done. So, come back in a year or two and we might just see Reigns move a notch or two up this list.

3. Jimmy Snuka: No, Jimmy Snuka was never a WWF Champion. However, he was the biggest attraction in professional wrestling for many years at a time when not everybody was given the biggest championship in the “sport.” His positioning and popularity make him as significant a player as any multi-time or multi-year world champion in the 2020s. Heck, the guy was so big that he was considered one of the backups to build Vince McMahon’s national expansion around had Hulk Hogan not been available. Granted, there are also some significantly problematic events in Snuka’s history, most notably everything related to the death of Nancy Argentino – though we should note that he was never convicted due to a late-in-life determination that he was no longer mentally competent to stand trial and his own passing very shortly thereafter. Despite all that, he does rank highly among the most successful members of the Anoa’i family – which he counted himself a member of due to his marriage to a niece of Peter Maivia.

2. Peter Maivia: Though I just gave Afa credit as being the man who trained the vast majority of the Anoa’i family, it truly is Peter Maivia as the man who started all of this. As I wrote in another recent column, it was Maivia wrestling in San Francisco that lead to Afa and Sika, who were fans not smart to the wrestling business, jumping the heels who assaulted him. This caused the promoter to break the Wild Samoans into the profession, and the rest, as they say, is history. However, Maivia doesn’t just rank this high on the list for being the inspiration for the Anoa’is. He would be an all-time legend even if none of that happened, breaking in during the early 1960s and traveling all over the world, first gaining prominence on the UK scene and Hawaii before touring Japan and then taking California by storm. By the early 1970s, he was a strong contender for the NWA and AWA World Heavyweight Titles, squaring off against both Funk brothers, Nick Bockwinkel, and Harley Race.

1. The Rock: . . . is cooking. Yeah, if you didn’t see this one coming, I don’t know what to tell you. To quote my old friend Justin Tiberius Watry, “No explanation needed.”

We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.

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