This week on Defiant, Primate returned from retirement to take on Gabriel Kidd, while Joe Hendry has a massive statement to make… and it’s perhaps not the one you think!

We open with a recap from last week’s show, including that weird draw-restart-win tag title match between Aussie Open and CCK. This week we open with Prince Ameen ordering a curry just as Bea Priestley (and her STARDOM-typo’d hoodie) interrupt. Ameen knows Bea wants a rematch, which he’s set for Unstoppable in February. Except Bea rips up the contract, because she wants Lana Austin.

After credits, we cut to the arena as Joe Hendry comes out for his big announcement. You can just about see Dave Bradshaw wearing a Santa hat, because it’s Christmas week, but Hendry’s quickly in with his speech. He’s a little sore after having to quit against Martin Kirby at Refuse to Lose – something he says summed up his 2018. Hendry recaps his time in Defiant, having main evented against Kurt Angle despite having only three years’ experience, and turned that into a “your dreams are possible” motivational speech.

Hendry noted that when he said “I quit” it was a turning point, where wrestling was no longer his life – whether it was professional or amateur. Apparently his plan was to be at the top of Defiant, but if he can’t do it… then it’s time to call it quits for real. Some of the crowd were aghast of that, at least until Hendry said that his new goal was to go into MMA. Well, he’s already got more credentials for it than, say, CM Punk…

Hendry exits the ring, leaving his t-shirt behind in the ring as the crowd chanted “thank you, Joe”…

They announce that next week, Martin Kirby’s challenging WALTER for the Internet title…

South Coast Connection (Kelly Sixx & Ashley Dunn) vs. Benji & Leon Mercer
Benji and Mercer got the “already in the ring” treatment, with Benji getting a pretty good reaction. He started against Sixx, but a missed dropkick has Benji on the back foot, and things don’t go well as he mis-stepped against Dunn, who caught him with a head kick.

A double stomp from Dunn keeps Benji down, but he’s able to flip out of a back suplex before tagging in Mercer who gets caught with a back body drop ‘rana as the South Coast Connection were all over him. There’s a nice tandem lungblower/Quebrada onto Mercer for a near-fall, with Benji making a popular save before tossing Dunn to the outside.

Benji flies into Sixx with a knee off the middle rope for a near-fall, but Dunn’s back in with an ushigoroshi before Mercer ate a Strong Zero (the Roppongi Vice version) for the win. A decent enough squash, but this felt way too rushed – and now the question really is, what does Defiant do with the cult hero in Benji? **

David Starr’s backstage with Prince Ameen, demanding a title shot. Ameen tries to calm him down with a lollipop, but then telling Starr that not winning the Rumble or the Ringmaster tournament means that he doesn’t deserve anything. Starr asks what he needs to do… and he’s given an opportunity for January 5. Starr vs. Pac in Newcastle… and if he “comes close to beating him” he’ll get a title shot.

Somehow tickets for that were still available…

No Fun Dunne vs. Mark Haskins
Dunne had Drake and Santos alongside him, while Haskins was accompanied by Vicki Haskins and Jimmy Havoc. There’s a jump start from Dunne, as he took Haskins into the ropes, before the tables turned, with Haskins sending Dunne outside for a misdirection tope.

Haskins takes Dunne towards the commentary table, setting him up for a running kick by the stage before rolling back into the ring to break the count-out. Err… Santos gets in the way of a second kick, but Vicki Haskins slaps Santos for it… that allowed Dunne to recover and land an enziguiri, before going back into the ring as he put the boots to Haskins.

A knee drop from Dunne’s good for a near-fall, but Haskins has a second wind, which he used to good effect as a leg lariat dropped Dunne. Haskins followed that up with the roll-through Sharpshooter after a stomp misses, before a rope break ended with a kick to Dunne and a flying stomp off the top rope. That’s good for a near-fall, so Haskins looks for a pumphandle driver… it’s blocked as Haskins gets taken into the ropes for the 999 and a back cracker for a near-fall.

Yes, the 999 is the 619.

A springboard lungblower from Dunne’s countered into a death valley driver as Haskins came close once more, then followed straight up with a bridging armbar. Santos gets involved by putting Dunne’s foot on the rope… and gets kicked by Haskins for it, as Jimmy Havoc helped out. There’s shenanigans as the hard camera catches Santos whacking Havoc in the head with a baking tray, before he handed the tray off to Vicki Haskins… and with Jimmy taking an age to turn around, it looked like she did it.

Mark Haskins gets annoyed at that, as he went outside to calm down Havoc… then wandered back into a small package as Dunne stole the win. A really flat finish to what should have been a decent plot twist. I wonder how tired the crowd was here… **½

Post-match, Havoc and Haskins get into a shoving match, but they calm down and head off to share half a pint as commentary tells us that Jimmy Havoc’s defending his Hardcore title next week.

We get a profile piece on Kanji, after she won the Defiant women’s title last week. It’s a Q&A really, and perhaps the type of thing you should have done before she debuted, rather than in week three of her time on the roster as she’s got the title. Anyway, we learn that she trained to wrestle under Stixx, and that her career has risen pretty damn quickly. There’ll be a part two next week…

Conor Renshaw vs. Rampage
Renshaw actually gets an entrance, but I feel it’s a rib so that the Newcastle crowd can just boo Conor, who’s from Sunderland. I fear this may just be a warm body for Rampage…

Renshaw actually took Rampage into the corner and suckers him with a body blow, before a kick and some clubbing forearms were followed up by a shoulder tackler… but Rampage hits back in kind before a suplex dumped Renshaw for a two-count. There’s a gunshot-like chop from Rampage next, then another, before Renshaw lands a clothesline to the back of the head as the Defiant champion wasn’t having it his own way here.

Out of nowhere, Rampage lands the spear/slam combo on Renshaw, before a snap piledriver put away Conor. It ended like a squash, but injury or not, I’m not sure Rampage should have given so much up here. Still, at least Defiant are rolling out new faces… **

Backstage, Prince Ameen stops Joe Hendry in the corridors. Ameen asks Hendry why he’s leaving, as it turned out he’d not heard the promo earlier. That’s a bad impression for a GM to make. That bleeds into Ameen berating Nathan Cruz, saying that Omari apparently spent a night in hospital because of his attack last week. The ever-smug Cruz tells Ameen to warn his “flavours of the month” that he’s putting them on notice.

Gabriel Kidd vs. Primate
Stevie Aaron’s interrupted before he finishes his announcements – this match was a no count-out, no DQ “all out war”. Kidd still has no music, save for the sound of boos, while Primate had a monstrous pop for his return as he sported a look very much inspired by War Machine.

He’s caught by a diving boot on his way into the ring though, as Kidd killed the momentum early… except Primate’s back to his feet and dumps him with a spinebuster before some mounted punches saw him club away at Kidd. Going outside, Kidd’s caught by a tope by Primate as the crowd bizarrely chanted “welcome back” at him.

Primate tries to clear a part of the crowd, but he ends up getting sent there courtesy of an Irish whip over the guard rails. He comes back in with a shoulder press over the guard rails, before he chopped Kidd around ringside, before he threw Kidd into a chair on the ring apron.

Kidd finally turns it around with a back body drop onto the steel ramp, before another part of the crowd gets cleared as Primate’s sent back into the crowd. Rather than stay on Primate, Kidd mouthes off, before we got a tour of the venue as they fought by the bar, culminating in a spear from Primate. Commentary calls back to a dive from Primate, and sure enough, he spots the platform above a fire exit… he climbs back up onto it and leaps off as Kidd (and security) took the brunt of the leap.

Primate heads back into the ringside area, but Kidd shoves him into the ring post as the crowd again fell oddly silent. They fight back up onto the apron, trading forearms, chops and kicks before Kidd took a death valley driver onto the edge of the apron. Kidd’s rolled back into the ring, but Primate is very much the worse for wear, taking an age to prepare for a spear… and ends up having a chair thrown at him in mid-flight.

Kidd picks up the chair from there and puts it to use, whacking it over Primate’s head before using it for a jawbreaker. The referee steps in and tends to Primate as Kidd laughed, then tried to make Primate kiss his feet to spare himself. Primate refuses, so Kidd keeps stomping… then has him “eat” the rope before he’s stopped by Rory Coyle’s music. Coyle’s out with a mannequin arm, but it’s a con as he turned on Primate and clubbed him with it, a la Doink in 1993!

The crowd vaguely boos Coyle for that (we’ll touch on that later), as he and Kidd worked over Primate’s jaw, making him eat a tape called “REMEMBER THE YARD”. Joe Hendry comes out with a chair to stop anything else happening… but it seems that his retirement barely lasted fifty minutes as referees and Prince Ameen come out to help. We even get the X’s thrown up, before Primate throws away the tape (he’s probably got no VCR) as the show comes to an end. The main event? That had no result announced, and save for the “Primate got him some”, this never really went anywhere. **½

Next week: Jimmy Havoc defends the Hardcore title. WALTER defends the Internet title vs. Martin Kirby… and that’s all announced for the New Year’s Eve Eve edition of Loaded!

So… remember we said when Defiant brought back Loaded, that it’d help with developing characters? Had we had Loaded for a month or two before this, then Rory Coyle’s character would have at least been established in the promotion as something other than “hey, he’s Primate’s buddy”. As it is, he’s had one match (a count out win over Gabriel Kidd at Refuse To Lose… which makes this union rather more baffling) and precious little else, with the crowd’s reactions likely being more based for his work at NORTH than anything else.

Anyway, this was a solid show, even if the star ratings don’t bear that out. Storyline-wise, the retirement of Joe Hendry felt rushed… and now we know why. In Defiant, the major announcements are the main events (even if the retirements don’t end up sticking). That being said, Hendry’s retirement seemingly lasting 50 minutes, on the same show (and segment) where Primate’s retirement perhaps shows that they’ve gone to that well once too often.

Next week’s Loaded I hear is notable for several reasons… roll on the post-Christmas hangover!