Defiant wrapped up their 2018 with a surprising main event as Martin Kirby had to face WALTER… or face another kind of chop.

We open with a recap of last week, focusing on Joe Hendry’s retirement speech, a brief shoving match between Mark Haskins and Jimmy Havoc, and Primate diving off of a door again. Oh, and Rory Coyle attacking Primate like he was Crush in 1993. This week opens up with Joe Hendry in the ring with a microphone. Yep, his retirement’s off! He tells us that “a few weeks ago” he told us of his quandry, which makes me think that they forgot to edit stuff out of order. Apparently he’s got unfinished business, and there’s a side to him that nobody’s seen. There’s shade for Discovery Wrestling and ROH there…

Hendry’s got more to say – he won’t stand back and allow Rory Coyle and Gabriel Kidd run roughshod over Primate, not after the work he’s put in to get back into the ring. That segues into an announcement for February’s Unstoppable show, where Hendry and Primate will team up to take on Gabriel Kidd and Rory Coyle.

Micky Mann vs. Nathan Cruz
Okay, Mann’s got an entrance video and is announced as “Micky the Dragon”, but commentary’s got not time for those gimmicks. Probably because there’s still no Speedboat.

Cruz takes Mann into the corner early, whipping him across the ring before laying in with some uppercuts. A sort-of enziguiri catches Cruz, as does a back elbow in the corner as Mann’s flying around all over the place, before he’s caught with the Thanks, Tully slingshot back suplex. There’s a suplex that gets Cruz a near-fall, before Mann gets back into it with some head kicks and an attempted Fireman’s carry, only for Cruz to slip out and take Mann into the ropes for a rope-hung lungblower for the win. Very much a squash, which I’m really digging. Wrestling’s always been great with squashes. **

We’re reminded that “live in person” on January 5, Defiant’s doing PAC vs. David Starr. That’ll be on Loaded shortly afterwards… Then we’re backstage as Prince Ameen’s sharpening a pencil. People still write these days?! Chris Brookes wanders in to ask for a title shot against Aussie Open, something that Ameen tries to shoot down because he’s had plenty. Brookes claims that he’s never had a fair shot, so Ameen gives a shot for the “real CCK” against Aussie Open.

As soon as Brookes shook Ameen’s hand, the South Coast Connection wander in as they overheard things… Brookes walks out as Kelly Sixx and Ashley Dunn wondered out loud if they too could get a shot. Instead, we hear about the General Ameen Tag Team Invitational, which sadly doesn’t have a funny acronym, but the winners of that gets a tag title shot.

Defiant Hardcore Championship: Drake vs. Jimmy Havoc (c)
I still dig how the Hardcore title here is literally the WCPW version of the belt with the logos sanded off…

Havoc starts by poking everybody’s eyes, before taking Drake down for a double stomp that gets him a near-fall. Apparently building rings for a living equates to being a world class wrestler, but at least Drake has help as Dunne tries to confiscate Havoc’s baking tray, bagging it up as “evidence”. I laughed.

Santos tries to get involved too, but he’s kicked in the balls before Havoc goes under the ring for… a jar of Lego? Someone’s been to Wilkos! Santos confiscates the pot, but Havoc kicks him down again, with Santos protecting the off-brand Lego like it was a beer. Seems like deep down, he loves fun. Havoc grabs a chair from the crowd, but Drake cuts him off before giving the chair to his Anti-Fun Police colleagues to bag up. Drake tries to charge at Havoc, but he just sends himself outside as Havoc goes hog wild with chair shots. In comes a table, but Dunne and Santos combine to delay Havoc, as the Anti-Fun Police again made use of the no-DQ rule. A mop comes out as Drake tries to clean up, while commentary makes the Perry Saturn comparison. Of course, Havoc crotches Drake with the mop and slaps him down to the mat.

Havoc sets up a pair of chairs on its side, and of course… he lands in it, when Drake picked him up for an uncomfortable as hell sidewalk slam. Drake looks to add to it with a corkscrew senton, which finds its mark for a near-fall on the chairs, before Mark Haskins’ music hit. Vicky Haskins appeared on the stage as a distraction as Mark came through the crowd with the barbed wire bat to lay out the Anti-Fun Police. With some help, Havoc finally pours out those off-brand Legos, which he tried to use on Drake… but instead he’s met with the Drake’s Landing delayed German suplex into the bricks. Haskins is thrown outside as Havoc eats a Shield bomb into the Lego for a near-fall, before Havoc makes the briefest of all comebacks, driving Drake through a table in the corner with a death valley driver for the win. This was alright for what it was – although save for that spree with the bat, Haskins’ assistance didn’t really amount to much. **½

Post-match, Vicki Haskins has some pints for Mark and Jimmy… but Santos comes in and shoves Vicki into Jimmy. Yeah, she spilled his pint, which is sacrilege, and leads to Mark and Jimmy having another fight as Mark stood up for his wife. Vicki impressively broke them up without spilling a drop… unlike Jimmy, who spilled half his pint when he snatched it off of her. Oh yeah, there’s one other pint left, which Vicki downs, then pours onto herself.

Backstage, Aussie Open respond to “General” Ameen’s decision to make the CCK vs. Aussie Open title match in February. Davis and Fletcher are just happy to have another chance to beat CCK.

Rory Coyle vs. Visage
Coyle’s got his camera as he prepares for what’ll probably be another squash. Commentary had no idea how to address Visage, who’s bumped out of the ring as he was going through the ropes.

Coyle pulls off Visage’s wig as we get a nice tour of the ring that hadn’t even been mopped up between matches. Visage tries to fight back, but Coyle bites his nose, which commentary not so subtly tells us is a callback to Primate. There’s a knee to the midsection, then a spinning heel kick from Visage, who then rams Coyle into his midsection before getting shoved off the top rope to the floor. Coyle tries to bring a big sack into the ring, but the referee confiscates (and rips it). Not to worry though, Rory’s gotten a VHS tape in his hand, which he smashes into Visage’s head… and despite the cloud of smoke and the remnants left in the ring, the referee counts the pin rather than wonder “why is the ring suddenly cluttered”. SPLAT.

Rory Coyle wants the mic after the match, but he has to wait for Stevie Aaron to march to the ring since he’s the owner and protector of the stick. Coyle tells us that he doesn’t owe “any of you Internet trolls an apology”, before he diverts from his monologue to poke the crowd. He empties the sack of tapes onto Visage as he tells us that the answer to “why, Rory, why?” is on them before he got into it with a fan who threw and spat a drink onto him. I swear he looks familiar…

We get the next part of the feature on Kanji, who tells us that her favourite wrestler growing up was Shawn Michaels, while Stixx was also an influence on her. Kanji’s aspirations for the next year are to keep wrestling against the likes of Bea Priestley, before she tells us that she’s got her dad’s ashes on a necklace. Maybe it’s me having watched too much WWE, but that had better not become part of a storyline…

Defiant Internet Championship: WALTER (c) vs. Martin Kirby
Our main event sees WALTER take on Martin Kirby in a match that, if Kirby were to refuse, he’d have been fired. So Kirby has a brilliant idea: he wrapped himself in bubble wrap!

Kirby’s taken into the ropes from the off, immediately losing some of his bubble wrap as I swear he’s wrapped it around him like a sumo thong. Or a mawashi, if you’re that guy.

WALTER takes Kirby into the corner, but the referee pulled him away, allowing Kirby a chance to get into the match with an eye rake. That doesn’t work, so WALTER hits a shoulder tackle before he took the match outside so he could rip apart some of the bubble wrap. You know what that’s going to mean… Kirby chops, and gets chopped! A Beel throw from WALTER sends Kirby across the ring, before some crossface punches in the roped turned Kirby’s bubble wrap suit into a bubble wrap skirt. Kirby’s playing cat and mouse again as WALTER is outclassing him with those crossface punches, at least until Kirby caught one… forcing the referee to try and split them up. That opens the window for a mule kick as our referee proved ineffective again… and yet again seconds later when the ref tried for a tug of war for the Internet title belt on the apron, which resulted in him sailing to the floor!

WALTER powerbombs Kirby, but there’s no referee… when the referee comes to, he’s back in the ring and watches WALTER block a chair shot from Kirby. That’s not a DQ, but the ref does disarm WALTER as he tries to retaliate… and while the ref’s removing the chair, WALTER blocks a belt shot… but not a low blow, as Kirby gets the upset. Huh. Well, everything happens for a reason, but that was about the most shenanigans you could put into a match where WALTER loses without losing any credibility. I’m just sad we didn’t get any of these things in the match: WALTER popping the bubble wrap… a chop bouncing off of the bubble wrap with no effect… and Kirby bouncing up from a bump, “protected” by his padding. **

Kirby celebrates on the stage as the show hurriedly ends, with nothing announced for next week. Now, I don’t know if that means we’re getting a delayed best of 2018 special, but since they’re taping Loaded just a day before next week’s is due to air, I’ll be surprised if we get anything “fresh”.

As for this week’s episode, well, it was clear that this was the “last knocks” of the taping, as the crowd seemed tired (especially when we got do-overs of the Havoc/Haskins brawl). Still, for the first set of tapings, this seemed like a more traditional wrestling show – with plenty of squash matches that were designed to spotlight wrestlers without falling into the WWE-like trap of having established names against each other in every match, which hurts those guys “not being focused on”. Defiant’s 2018 has been one of change, and, weirdly, one of re-establishing themselves after 2017’s rebranding. While they’ve not quite got the same buzz they had under their prior moniker, the overall product has been solid for the entire year, and while the rest of the UK scene perhaps enters a period of turbulence, Defiant find themselves in the same boat as Rev Pro – a promotion that has already been on the WWE naughty step, and thus is in a better position than others to respond in the new year.