We’ve a pair of title matches on this week’s Loaded as the road to Sunderland continues!

Our recap of last week covers the Anti-Fun Police defending the No Fun title… Simon Miller going all AEW in adding a new assistance… the announcement of MJF debuting for Defiant… Nathan Cruz challenging Rampage for a title shot… and Gabriel Kidd getting suspended after he injured David Starr. Oh, and the wonky finish to Aussie Open vs. Team Whitewolf.

Backstage, an off-screen Lucky Kid finds out he’s not in the Magnificent Seven, while the lucky lolly draw meant that Benji and Dereiss made it into the match. This isn’t exactly looking to be full of star power this year. No Fun Dunne comes down and has his pick, but he drew a red lolly… as does Omari, so neither man makes it in before a brief shoving match broke out.

We’re in the extra-cramped Defiant Zone in Newcastle, with James Kennedy joining Dave Bradshaw on commentary.

South Coast Connection (Kelly Sixx & Ashley Dunn) vs. Jody Fleisch & Jonny Storm
This was billed as part of the General Ameen Tag Team Invitational, and dear God, Storm and Fleisch get what I’m affectionately already calling the low-effort “jobber tron”.

Still, they got a monster pop (relatively speaking) even with Stevie Aaron doing the “hey, they’re world famous” intro for them… before the crowd broke into a brief chant of “Ospreay’s bitches”. Sigh.

Sixx and Storm get us going, with Jonny encouraging the crowd before he started to lash out at Sixx, following in with a quick ‘rana and a palm strike. Hey, if it works… Sixx tries to return the favour, but it backfires as Jonny’s very slap happy here, striking Dunn too before bringing in Jody Fleisch.

Dunn’s in too, charging down Jody with a shoulder tackle, only to take a leapfrog/dropkick in return as Fleisch ended up eating a retaliatory dropkick en route to an obligatory double dropkick stand-off. Sixx tries to cheapshot, but he’s tossed outside as Dunn managed to find a foothold in the match. Fleisch finds himself isolated and in the wrong corner as Sixx nails a Vader bomb elbow drop for a near-fall.

The crowd falls silent-ish until Fleisch found his way back, landing a springboard moonsault flip over and a reverse ‘rana to spike Dunn. Tags bring in Storm and Dunn as the South Coasters become the Keystone Cops briefly, taking a double kip-up DDT from Storm. Sixx grabs Storm’s leg to block a Wonderwhirl, while Fleisch returns with a forearm to Dunn ahead of a plancha… which Sixx catches, only for Storm to tope con giro into the pair.

Yeah, that cramped ringside doesn’t help things here.

Storm looks to throttle Dunn at ringside as the crowd again goes quiet… meanwhile, in the crowd, Sixx whips Fleisch into the wall… but Jody rolls back the years and pulls off a wall-walking back flip. Which of course is barely caught on camera. Never change guys…

Back in the ring, Dunn and Storm trade blows before Dunn ran into a superkick. Fleisch is back as Storm German suplexes Fleisch off the top and onto Dunn for a near-fall, before Jody’s tagged back in to go for the 720 DDT… instead Dunn catches him with a lungblower in the ropes before a Quebrada onto the pile drew a two-count. From there, duelling enziguiri from Dunn and Storm led to an ushigoroshi for a near-fall on Fleisch.

Another fightback from Fleisch saw Sixx ‘rana’d off the top rope before Storm powerbombed his man onto Sixx for a near-fall. Dunn’s Cactus clothesline takes care of Storm, while Jody heads up for a shooting star press… Sixx moves away and gets ‘rana’d, before Dunn superkicked the pin to reverse it as Kelly Sixx stole the win. A pretty entertaining match, but man, a lot of stuff is working against folks here, eh? ***

Commentary notes that the South Coast Connection have three wins in a row. In CHIKARA that’d get them a title shot. Post-match, Jody asks for a mic, which he eventually gets as he sought for (and got) a cheap pop, before Storm and Dunn rejected the offer of a return match. Eh, it’s fitting with their characters.

PAC is still coming to Lights Out in April in Leeds.

They replay Justin Sysum pinning John Klinger at Unstoppable, and the Macho Man-esque attack from Klinger after the match. That led to post-attack footage of Sysum backstage walking past a camera.

John Klinger vs. Man Like Dereiss
Deriss is in the Magnificent Seven, but I fear he may not last long here.

From the opening tie-up, Klinger throws in some body blows and chops to Dereiss, who responds with a ‘rana before he took Klinger into the corner with a shotgun dropkick. Dereiss then heads up top for a 450 splash, but he rolls through before Klinger kicked him down and began to unleash with chops of his own.

Someone in the crowd calls out the Randy Savage tribute as Klinger heads up top for a double axehandle smash… then another… before Deriss backflipped out of a back suplex and hit back with an enziguiri and a cutter for a near-fall. Klinger counters a German suplex with one of his own, as he’s rolling those together before a shotgun dropkick of his own led to the Self Justice flying lungblower.

Except that’s not how Randy Savage won back in the 80s, so Klinger goes up top for an elbow drop, which commentary’s calling the Descent into Badness, for the win. Dig it. Perfectly acceptable Macho Man cosplay – mixing the look of TNA-era Savage with the 80s moveset. Dig it.

Post-match, Klinger gets a chair from the crowd and jabs Dereiss in the head with it, before he climbed the ropes and drove it into the throat… so I guess Dereiss is out of the Magnificent Seven?

Stevie Aaron’s doing another ringside interview as my 1PW flashbacks resume. Klinger tries to intimidate Aaron, successfully, as I’m left longing for the old days of Mean Gene and the Macho Man. Nothing against these guys, but this just doesn’t seem to mesh well in the Defiant environment.

Joe Hendry’s backstage addressing the Gabriel Kidd attack on David Starr, which is an excuse to play “you’ll always be a jobber to me”. Hendry’s mad that he’s not getting his match with Starr, so he’s going to ask for a match with Kidd at Magnificent Seven instead.

Simon Miller and “Adam” are backstage bemoaning their John Klinger Problem. Why is Shreddybrek always in his gear when Defiant don’t know him as a wrestler? “Adam” suggests throwing Benji to the German wolf that is Klinger, which prompts General Ameen to appear and make moves suggesting that “Adam” wrestle. Miller gets the hint, and that match is made for next week. Good luck. Commentary does finally name him as Adam Foster, so… that’s progression.

Defiant Women’s Championship: Bea Priestley vs. Kanji (c)
This was made after Kanji suffered a crisis of confidence, suggesting she wasn’t good enough to be champion.

Kanji looks almost over-awed at what she’s gotten herself into, and commentary’s fully on the “she can’t do it” train. An early handshake from Bea nearly led to a cheapshot as Kanji tried to end it early with a backslide, before a leg sweep and a low dropkick had Priestley rolling.

Priestley lifts Kanji onto the apron before she dropkicked her through the ropes and down to the floor. Back inside, another leg trip led to a step-up legdrop on Priestley for another near-fall as the crowd began to get behind Bea, who responded by just stomping the tar out of Kanji.

Kanji tries to fight back, but a big boot flattened her as a rather emotionless Priestley remained determined, stomping on the arm of the champion before Kanji found a way in with a springboard forearm. A headscissor takedown into the corner, then a 619 has Kanji further ahead, but Bea just sidesteps a dropkick before dumping Kanji with a Saito suplex.

A dropkick into the corner’s next as Bea built momentum, running in with a knee for a near-fall. Duelling forearms seemed to weaken Bea, but she’s still able to duck Kanji’s kicks before she just superkicked Kanji to the mat. Kanji responds with a headkick, but Bea has the same idea as both women fall to the mat, before Lana Austin and Lizzy Styles rushed the ring and attacked both women for the no-contest. Eh, until then this was just about treading water and wasn’t exactly killing the narrative commentary was enforcing about Kanji, who has something… but pushing her to the moon from the off wasn’t for the best if this was the follow-up. **

Backstage, Lucky Kid is upset about not winning the Defiant tag titles with Chris Brookes… and he’s beside himself with how Brookesy abandoned him. He’s also annoyed with the “Magnificent Seven thing”, because he’s not in it, as he just stares into the distance.

They announce in two weeks: Lizzy & Lana vs. Bea and Kanji… Next week, PAC vs. Robbie X, Adam Foster vs. John Klinger.

Defiant World Championship: Nathan Cruz vs. Rampage (c)
Cruz got this shot by way of his dominance over Omari in recent weeks – and given how close Rampage was pushed at Unstoppable, you’ve got to think Cruz has a decent shot here.

We don’t get the big match intro here, which may be a tip-off, and we start with the obligatory lock-up as Rampage shoved Cruz into the corner. Cruz tries his luck with a chop, but it works as he suckered in Rampage for some strikes before he got caught with a pop-up powerslam. A suplex followed for a near-fall, before a slam and an elbow drop gets Rampage another two-count, as Cruz tried to find a way back in.

A double sledge off the top knocks Cruz back down though, ahead of a Saito suplex for a near-fall before Cruz scuttled to the outside for a breather. Rampage followed him out for a Benny Hill chase, catching Cruz on the outside as he tries for a suplex, only to get charged into the ringpost instead.

Rolling back inside, Cruz throws Rampage into the corner as he followed up with the ol’ Curt Hennig neck flip for just a two-count. The Thanks, Tully slingshot back suplex gets Cruz another two-count, so Cruz puts the boots to the champion some more, before he clubbed Rampage deep into the corner. Another fightback from Rampage takes Cruz down, but he’s charged back into the corner as Cruz unloads some more… only to get decked with a single forearm.

Another charge into the corner’s blocked, sort of, as Rampage gutwrenches Cruz into a Doctor bomb… and there’s a nasty landing as Cruz tore his deltoid muscle on impact. Cruz instantly reaches for his upper shoulder, but to his infinite credit fights on as he trades rights with Rampage, who took him back into the corner for some body blows and a flapjack, which must have sucked.

A lariat from Rampage is good for a near-fall, as Cruz was limited to a schoolboy roll-up. Rampage hits back with a chop and an implant DDT… but somehow Cruz kicks out at two, before he’s taken back into the corner. Cruz tries to fight back by pushing Rampage out, but he just runs into another big boot before a step-up enziguiri caught Rampage up top ahead of a rare top rope ‘rana!

Cruz follows up with a Show Stolen, but Rampage kicked out at two… so Cruz goes to the timekeeper’s area and grabs the title belt. Of course the referee disarms him, but Cruz also had the ring bell, which he used on Rampage for another near-fall as Cruz got more and more frustrated. Cue more rights on Rampage, as another attempt at Show Stolen’s elbowed out of, with Rampage returning with a spinebuster and then a piledriver for the win. Muted crowd aside, this was a heck of an old-school match, made all the more impressive by Cruz continuing on for half the match with the torn delt. That’s what you call professional. ***¼

The lights go out as Rampage celebrates… and that’s the cue for a Rory Coyle vignette. It distracts Rampage, as Coyle runs into the ring and chokes him out with… jump leads?! Coyle stands over Rampage with the belt before he leaves to end the show. So… this feels very NORTH, eh?

Next week: PAC vs. Robbie X, Omari vs. El Phantasmo and Adam Foster vs. John Klinger.

We may have had a muted crowd again, but in-ring, this was a much better batch of matches from Defiant. Perhaps not the en-vogue indy style, but the basic storytelling was much better – and there’s at least clear direction on show here; which can’t be said for all promotions these days!