Defiant brings a change of aesthetic to their latest Loaded tapings, as No Fun Dunne rebranded his newly-won title on this week’s show.

A quick head’s up – our review of Unstoppable will drop on Wednesday – so if you haven’t watched and/or are avoiding spoilers, this review probably isn’t for you!

So, we’ve a one-day turnaround from the latest tapings from Newcastle, with a new-look lay-out as we’ve dropped the WWE-like stage, and instead have a bit of an isometric entry-way.

We open with a recap of the El Phantasmo Whodunnit, along with the false accusations towards Lucky Kid… which led to No Fun Dunne winning the Hardcore title at Unstoppable last week. So… Crime pays! We’re then taken into a backstage room as Los Federales Santos Jr. tries to have the Anti-Fun Police work things out. It kinda works, as Drake admitted he’d gone too far, but it was only because he wanted to win the belt. Drake admits he was having fun and got hurt… so Dunne was right after-all! The Anti-Fun Police turn the blame towards Ameen and Simon Miller, claiming they’re trying to break them up. In the end, the Anti-Fun Police vow that nobody’ll have fun at their expense… and they’re united again, just in time to rebrand the Hardcore title the No Fun Championship. Have I ever said how much I love the aesthetic of the Defiant Hardcore belt literally being the old WCPW Hardcore strap with the logo sanded off?

We’re back inside the new-look arena, which looks very compact and… ODD. It’s almost like the old days of TV studio wrestling. James Kennedy and Dave Bradshaw are on commentary, as usual.

Lizzy Styles vs. Little Miss Roxxy
Styles debuted on last week’s Loaded and pinned the women’s champion Kanji… which I don’t think anyone here watched judging by the reaction she got.

Styles shoves away Roxxy at the bell, who replies with forearms and some headscissors, only to run into some boots as Styles mugged off the crowd. Roxxy gets whipped into the corner for an uppercut, before a snapmare and a PK drew a near-fall, only for Roxxy to rebound with a lucha roll through for a near-fall. Stomps keep Styles down, as does a side Russian legsweep, before Styles scored with a Northern Lights suplex. A Scorpion kick and a sunset bomb takes Styles into the corner, where she rolls outside… but Roxxy joins her and tries to choke her with the Liverpool scarf. Instead, Roxxy stays on the apron as Styles argues with the referee, before she’s choked with said scarf.

Back inside, a diving dropkick gets Roxxy a near-fall after some misdirection… but she misses a follow-up shotgun dropkick as Styles responds with a running knee for the win. This was okay, but the sound of silence throughout was deafening. **

After the match, Styles gets some wet wipes and uses them to “clean” Roxxy’s make-up.

The downside of the new venue lay-out? It’s so small you can hear individual cat-calls… and the silences.

Backstage, Simon Miller tells us he can’t shower because of the “What Would Mo Do?” wristband. He’s hired an assistant so he can get stuff done… it’s Man Like Dereiss, except he doesn’t want the job. After then, Miller runs into “Adam” (who you may know as Shreddybrek in NORTH), who gets the gig. Defiant are probably aping AEW with these endless assistants who would be better off being VPs… Apparently Simon Miller’s bought a bag of lollipops to decide who’ll be in the Magnificent Seven match. A green lolly means you’re in, a red one means you’re not. There’s a spoiler on screen as Santos gets green, but Ashley Dunn and Kelly Sixx draw red. Visage is next, opposite a screen which asks “is Visage a girl”, and he… draws green. Well, that was a unique way to decide who gets into the match, although I’d have liked the joke to be that they were all green.

“Adam” books Visage vs. Santos later tonight because they had a beef over being in the match. It should have been a tag team match because Santos called him “Shreddy Long”… but the Defiant hierarchy argue as Man Like Dereiss bemoans turning down the opportunity. It was… different.

Defiant Hardcore Championship/No Fun Championship: No Fun Dunne (c) vs. Lucky Kid
Dunne’s put “No Fun” stickers on the old Hardcore title belt, as he threatened… and his first defence is against the man he tried to frame a few weeks ago.

Dunne starts off by booting Lucky, who counters his way out of a wristlock before he began to… hug Dunne’s leg. Lucky keeps ahead with some low dropkicks, taking Dunne outside before he faked out a dive, which was just as well given how cramped ringside is these days. Lucky tries for a plancha, but he lands into the path of Santos and Drake, who then take a kick off the apron as Lucky tried to overcome the Anti-Fun Police. A 619 from the floor has Lucky Kid on top, before he went under the ring for a chair. Apparently weapons are allowed, but Drake and Santos distract him as Dunne hit an enziguiri, allowing them to remove the chair as Lucky stayed ahead, flipping out of a German suplex before a handspring back elbow found its mark.

A forearm sends Lucky outside, but he skins the cat and comes back in to score a near-fall, before he chopped his way out of a false alarm enziguiri. Dunne headbutts away an enziguiri before a 999 and a slingshot back cracker dumped Lucky for a near-fall. Another springboard lungblower’s attempted, but Lucky counters into a sit-out powerbomb before he heads up top for a missile dropkick to the back, which took Dunne down hard. From there, Lucky teases something, but Drake and Santos hold him in the corner before a beltshot from Dunne gets the win as Dave Bradshaw moaned. Add another one to the “good match but silent crowd” column… **¾

Post-match, El Phantasmo hits the ring with a mic as he’s looking for his glasses. ELP threatens to punch Drake, who just walks away as Phantasmo’s left to wait.

They recap the finish from Starr/Rampage at Unstoppable, which had an electric crowd in comparison to this show so far. Nathan Cruz appears next to brag about making an example to Omari, which led to a challenge to Rampage for next week.

Adam’s had a change of t-shirt (and an amazing Yokozuna shirt as well…) as Simon Miller’s calling Stu Bennett to figure out a wild card for the Magnificent Seven. He’s told to just put names on a whiteboard. So he scribbles down Repo Man, Chris Jericho (“he’ll work for anyone these days”), Undertaker (“he’s only 25-grand an hour, we can afford that”), as Ameen pokes his head around the corner. I bet the Dead Man’s fee spooked him. Repo Man definitely isn’t dead, by the way! Ameen rules out everyone on the list, as he then pointed to the name of the wildcard… MJF!

Kafka vs. Joe Hendry
Kafka’s got a first name elsewhere – Josef Kafka – but he’s also got the jobber entrance template here. The crowd woke up for Joe Hendry, on the day he announced he was leaving Impact…

Hendry starts by wrestling Kafka to the mat in a waistlock, before backing off as Kafka tried to fight from a sitting position. It kinda worked, as he locked in some headscissors, only for Hendry to kip up… so he charges Hendry into the corner before a shoulder tackle sends Kafka bouncing into the corner. A leaping knee takes Kafka into another corner, but he’s back with a springboard monkey flip. An attempt at meditating is applauded by Hendry, who has him play to the crowd… except his attempt at a chant doesn’t get over with the crowd, as Hendry hits him with a lariat. Kafka’s jawbreaker looked to get him back in, but a Freak of Nature fallaway slam ends this nice little TV squash. **

Stevie Aaron does a ringside interview with Joe Hendry, which gave me flashbacks to 1PW… they do the interview facing the hard camera, but we’ve got to duck through the crowd to see them. Aaron said something that Hendry took as “he has no friends”, something that Joe took offence to, but Hendry vows that he’s ready for anything and everything that comes his way. He wants a test too… which drew out David Starr, who wants to prove his worth. Looks like we’re getting Starr vs. Hendry next week…

Kanji is backstage, apologising for losing to Lizzy Styles last week. She feels like a paper champion because she can’t get a “decent win”… and feels like she stole the women’s title from Bea Priestley in the gauntlet. Rather than toss down the title, Kanji wants to fight on… and next week she’s defending against Bea Priestley. Next week, in addition to that match, we’ve the South Coast Connection against Jonny Storm and Jody Fleisch… plus Starr/Hendry and Rampage/Cruz. Two title matches, eh?

They also announce for Magnificent Seven in Sunderland: Martin Kirby finally defends against El Phantasmo.

Los Federales Santos Jr. vs. Visage
Santos was out on his own, with Dunne and Drake presumably leaving because of how badly “Federales” was botched.

No, Defiant still haven’t come outright with what the Visage character is, no matter what they write on a log-in screen to troll with! Santos and Visage both trash talk about how they’ll win Magnificent Seven, before Santos pulled off Visage’s wig. Cue a headbutt and some forearms as Visage caught Santos with a hip attack… only for a spinning heel kick to wipe him out. Visage hits back, taking Santos outside for a tope, before a missed hip attack back inside led to a pumphandle powerslam as Santos nearly took the win. Another hip attack connects as Santos was left down, before a high kick from Visage got the win. Two wins here is a winning streak for Defiant’s drag queen… but aside from the character work, this wasn’t great. **

Rory Coyle’s in with a vignette now, mocking the Defiant crowd for not having an attention span. Coyle plays clips of Primate bemoaning how “a company keeps taking talent”, then recalled the retirement of Primate… which he called hypocrisy, along with Primate’s recent appearances for NXT UK. Tune in next week for more!

Team Whitewolf (A-Kid & Carlos Romo) vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)
This was Whitewolf’s debut in Defiant – they had this match about a fortnight earlier in Rev Pro, and was quite the banger. Including that deadly doomsday lawn dart finish…

It’s a non-title outing this, but that didn’t stop the ring crew dropping the belts as we started with Fletcher and A-Kid. From the opening tie-up, A-Kid wrestled Fletcher to the mat, but Kyle quickly rolls to the ropes in a wristlock, as he seemingly was taking A-Kid lightly. Some pinning attempts got the crowd going, as Kyle edged ahead before a tag brings in Mark Davis to help flapjack “Mister Five Star”. A back senton from Davis squashes A-Kid for a two-count, before A-Kid retaliated with some chops, only to run into a big body slam throw into the corner. Kyle makes light work of a suplex on A-Kid, dangling the Spaniard like a ragdoll before landing the move for a two-count. Carlos Romo comes in and scores with a rolling thunder dropkick to Fletcher, before Whitewolf double-teamed him with a series of kicks to the chest for a two-count.

Mark Davis tags in as he charges A-Kid into the corner, then hurls him across the ring for the chop/clothesline comeback, before he dumped Whitewolf with the stacked-up bodyslam. A back senton squashes the pair of them at once, before he battered A-Kid and Romo with endless running corner-to-corner forearms. The sit-down splash out of the corner is next for a two-count, then an enziguiri and a powerbomb as Romo continued to take a beating. A springboard moonsault out of the corner from Davis misses (no typo), as A-Kid comes back in with a Spanish Fly, ahead of a Romo moonsault off the top for a near-fall. Kyle made the save, before he blind tagged in as Davis took a beating with some superkicks.. Dunkzilla’s back with his part in a double-team Go To Sleep and an assisted lawn dart as Romo had to make the save.

Kyle keeps up with an assist on the inverted Razor’s Edge slam, before White Wolf dragged Aussie Open into the crowd as A-Kid took to the skies with a springboard moonsault into the front row. Back in the ring, a missile dropkick/legsweep combo gets a near-fall, before a Spanish fly off the top almost led to the finish… except Fletcher got his knees up to block Romo’s moonsault. Kyle rolls up Romo from that… the referee counted two, but the bell rang, and rather than have an eggy restart, they called it a day there. A weird finish to a match that was getting good. ***½

The South Coast Connection head out after the match, seemingly to issue a challenge… but they drop off the ring and go to the back.

Backstage David Starr is seething about losing to Rampage… it’s a familiar story for the Product, who’s then attacked by Gabriel Kidd, who throws him into some railings before he trash talked Starr for not being there when Defiant started “in the dingy warehouse”. Seems the Defiant originals have a lot of bad feeling for the new faces. Prince Ameen comes in and suspends Kidd, as the show comes to a close.

I don’t know how much they taped in this sitting, but five matches (on a show that went about 80 minutes) felt like a long show, in spite of the welcome addition of backstage segments. Still, as far as “what the show achieved”, this ticked all the boxes – we had matches announced and developments towards the Magnificent Seven, plus matches for future episodes of Loaded. The only shame is that the new layout and the crowd in particular will do little to dispel the narratives behind the lack of buzz surrounding Defiant. As long as they keep doing the right things, things should pick up. Should, being the key word…