A Bank Holiday weekend edition of Loaded saw Simon Miller make his return to action while Defiant found a new top contender for Rampage’s title.

We’re back in Stage 2 in Newcastle, with Dave Bradshaw and James Kennedy on commentary. But first, Lizzy Styles issues an open challenge after beating Visage with the Virgil Van Strike last week.

Backstage, David Starr is in a stairwell, bemoaning his tag of being a “nearly man”. He drew number one in the Defiant Rumble, so he needs to win the number one contender’s match tonight or else he’s got a mountain to climb to get a title shot. That match is… now!

David Starr vs. Nathan Cruz vs. Mark Haskins
Cruz gets an inset promo during his entrance, telling us he wants to get back on track after he was put on the sidelines after getting injured last time in Defiant. Haskins gets one too, bemoaning how he was a team player but now everyone’s left him. We’ll ignore the time he tried to invade!

A sprightly start sees Cruz shove Haskins outside so he could brawl with Starr to the floor, giving Haskins enough time to recover and land a pair of topes. Back inside, Starr gets caught with a dropkick to the knees as Cruz and Haskins trade places… and yeah, it’s a fast-paced three-way that doesn’t leave much time for stuff to settle. After cutting off a tope from Starr, Haskins gets caught as Cruz hits the Thanks, Tully springboard back suplex. That seemed to be the cue for stuff to calm down as Cruz whips Starr into the turnbuckles, before dealing with Mark Haskins, throwing him into the railings before a suplex leaves Starr laying back in the ring.

Starr and Cruz trade chops briefly, before Starr countered a sleeperhold with a jawbreaker. That’s the cue for Haskins to return, as he caught Starr with a reverse DDT while dropping Cruz with a Flatliner at the same time. Kicks from Haskins follow, but he’s taken outside for a Cherry Mint DDT as Starr tried to put away Cruz with a cartwheel kick and a Flatliner of his own for a near-fall. Haskins returns to the fray as all three men sized each other up, but again Haskins gets sent out with a Starr kick as a Show Stolen from Cruz nearly ends things. Cruz turned his attention to Haskins after that, but again the third man gets involved as Starr put the brakes on, helping with a pair of superkicks as we turned to Starr and Haskins briefly, with a Han Stansen leaving those two men down.

Starr stirred first, but Haskins sat up like a dead man as the pair traded forearms back-and-forth. A sucker punch from Haskins led him to call for a brainbuster, but Starr counters with a Blackheart Buster as Cruz pulled him out to keep the match going, Once Cruz threw Starr into the guard rails, it looked somewhat elementary, especially once Cruz stole Vicky Haskins’ barbed wire bat… but she slaps him to get it back as Mark rolled Cruz into a Sharpshooter for the submission. This was fun, if not a little too fast-paced in the early going – coming in at around ten minutes, I’d have liked things to have been a touch more deliberate, but this was fine for what it was. ***¼

Post-match, Stevie Aaron interviews Mark Haskins at ringside. Haskins tells us that he’s the only non-WWE guy to have won at MSG and Wembley Arena in the last 12 months, and this is his year. Meanwhile, David Starr is still moping around at ringside, and but he’s a little offended at the timing of the interview. Starr’s moans are interrupted by Gabriel Kidd on the balcony… Kidd’s got number 30 for the Rumble, while Starr has number one. Opposite ends, eh? Kidd reminds Starr of all the things he couldn’t win, and as Starr twitches away, Kidd tells him to F-off. Kidd’s trying to lift PAC’s moniker, and he’s interrupted by Joe Hendry, who came out to ringside rather than jump him on the balcony.

Starr seems very put out by being second fiddle to this Hendry/Kidd stuff, and he gets in Hendry’s face… especially after Joe suggested he “get someone else to wrestle for him”. Is that the last of the interviews? Yes it is, as we fade away…

…to Sean Kustom drawing his No Regrets Rumble number. He’s impressed.

Drake’s awoken from his slumber by Chief Deputy Dunne and Los Federales Santos Jr. They’re annoyed at him working during his annual leave, so they’ve been dragged into the office. Can relate.

Rory Coyle vs. Justin Sysum
Coyle had a couple of his sack boys out with him, and he jumped Sysum as he came through the ropes to start this battle of good vs. evil. The bell doesn’t ring, so Coyle’s minions attack Sysum (somewhat legally), as Coyle tried to evoke the dark side of Sysum by inviting him to whack him with his Doink arm.

Sysum tosses the arm to the ref and just starts the match, taking Coyle into the corner as the former Defiant champion invited some shots on. A springboard crossbody out of the corner gets Sysum a near-fall, before those sack boys held Sysum in the ropes so Coyle could hand him the Doink arm once more. Again, Sysum refuses, shoving down the lackeys as he went for a dropkick that didn’t affect Coyle. A clothesline to the outside did, and yet again Rory wants to give him the arm… so Sysum just tosses it aside before he went after Coyle. Again, the sack boys get involved, which somehow isn’t a DQ.

They’re back inside, as Sysum misses a charge into the corner before he ate a full nelson slam for a near-fall. Somehow Coyle’s bloodied up his own lip, but that doesn’t faze him much, as Sysum made a comeback, landing a leaping clothesline before connecting with an Exploder-like suplex for a near-fall. Coyle distracts the ref as his minions drag Sysum outside again, which doesn’t get the boos you’d expect, as Sysum has to fight back from the entry way, coming back with a spear from the floor to the ring. Sysum follows up with a 450 splash, but a sack boy pulls the referee out at the count of two. Still not a DQ. so Sysum leaps into all three of them with a crossbody. Thankfully, that wasn’t a DQ! The ref’s still down as Coyle reaches into his bag of tricks, getting a video tape that he smashes over Sysum’s head before the Dip in the Lake gets a delayed pin for the win. I get what they were going for, but the constant interference with no repercussions doesn’t do the referee any favours. I do like how Rory’s got his followers, but whether that can be spun into anything in the long term remains to be seen. **¼

Post-match, Coyle grabs another tape and teases using it on Sysum as he was held back, but Rampage makes a save with a chair… except he then lays out Sysum with it?! The crowd sheers, presumably because they weren’t that keen on the saccharine sweet Sysum, and Rampage is now aligned with a Sick Boy. Is the burlap sack not needed for Rampage then?

Backstage, Benji tells Conor Renshaw that if Conor low blows someone after Benji cashes in, he’ll get DQ’d. Conor doesn’t understand, so Benji’s going to get him some tapes. I think Rory’s got them all in a sack, mate…

Ruby Radley vs. Natalie Sykes
Ruby’s music is SO SO close to the notorious David Flair theme it’s almost unnerving.

Sykes is back to try and prove her win over Laura di Matteo wasn’t a one-off. She’s having to defend a wristlock and a headlock early on, but Sykes manages to get free, only to get taken down with a clothesline. Radley takes Sykes into the corner for chops and running forearms, following in with a face washing boot at the crowd just about began to try and get behind Sykes. A monkey flip, then a double underhook suplex drops Sykes for a near-fall. Knees to the gut get a similar result, before Radley misses a back senton out of the corner, allowing Sykes back in it… and back in it she gets as she quickly puts Radley away with the Dudley dog springboard bulldog. Eh, this was fine, but this crowd didn’t want to care. **

We fade away and see General Ameen doing Hindu squats… he’s saved by Aussie Open, who want something to happen after they got cheated last week. Kyle Fletcher’s mad and talks his way into a fight with Rampage… next week. The knowing nod from Dunkzilla’s face was quite the sight…

Lana Austin’s somewhere with a hushed selfie promo. I think it might have been filmed in a tent. The upshot of this is she wants a rematch with Lizzy Styles in her home town of Manchester.

Next week: Gabriel Kidd faces Joe Hendry… RenBen take on the Dynamic Duo… and Kyle Fletcher takes on the newly-villainous Rampage.

Anti-Fun Police (No Fun Dunne, Drake & Los Federales Santos Jr.) vs. Simon Miller, Adam Foster & Prince Ameen
Miller got the big reaction for his return – his first match since losing to Gabriel Kidd at last July’s Ringmaster tournament.

There’s arguments between Ameen and Foster before the bell as they wanted to start first. It was Foster and Drake who get us going, with Drake throwing some uppercuts, only to get taken down with an overhead suplex by-the-arm. Drake hits back as Foster teases tagging in Miller… but a tag into Dunne sees him run into a press slam. A tag’s made to Miller, as Ameen’s left looking forlorn on the apron. Miller runs in with a slap… and hey, he’s ditched the Sy-back singlet for trunks. An arm wringer sees Miller tag out to Ameen, who instantly fights back with a spinebuster to Dunne. Ameen set up for his Whole New World splash, which the crowd seemed to forget, as the Anti-Fun Police ran in and put the boots to him instead.

Ameen’s cornered with shoulder charges from Santos, who got into it with the ref as Dunne and Drake chokes Ameen in the corner. Eventually Ameen lands a missile dropkick and makes his way to the hot tag to Miller in the corner, who went clothesline crazy before a double back suplex drops Drake and Dunne. Santos is in to jaw jack, before he proved to be too big for Miller to slam. Dunne’s back in with a 999 as Santos lands a stomp-assisted Big Ending for a near-fall. Foster’s in to take Santos down with a back body drop as a Parade of Moves broke out to clear the ring, only for Miller to land more clotheslines.

Miller goes all Ryback as he looked for a finish, before Ameen shoves Drake into Dunne… stunning Dunne for the finish as the Ups and Downs – a running Michinoku driver – got the finish. A decent enough tag, and Miller comes back with a win. That being said, the stories of dissension on both sides perhaps overshadow this, and I’d not be too shocked if we got Drake and Miller as a team down the line. **½

This was a show that did exactly what it said on the tin: you got a satisfying, if not rushed three-way to decide Rampage’s next champion… and if you were left wondering from that “how would a babyface match work?”, well, watch on and find out! The main event also delivered with Simon Miller’s return – and you have to remember, injury aside, he’s still very new to wrestling, so I wouldn’t expect too much in the near future. Of course, next up for Defiant is their annual No Regrets rumble, which has a good few storylines built into it. Whether they’ll get any buzz from it remains to be seen…