Defiant returned to Newcastle for their third annual Refuse to Lose – one that saw the return of some familiar faces, and the end of a rivalry.

We’re inside Domain in Newcastle, with Dave Bradshaw and James Kennedy on commentary. Until he moved, I thought that was a waxwork of Kennedy there…

Nathan Cruz vs. David Starr
This was built way back in July at the Ringmaster tournament, when Cruz cost Starr in the finals of that tournament. We’ve had nothing to build this since, so… this is lukewarm, I guess?

Starr expected Nathan Cruz to charge at him during his introductions… and so he low bridges the “Professional” before we even get a bell. When we start, Starr works over Cruz’s arm, keeping him on the mat as the pair grappled for some kind of dominance. A cravat from Starr puts him back in control, before he used an arm whip to keep Cruz on the mat. Cruz counters with some headscissors on the mat, but Starr scoots free, only to find himself back in trouble as Cruz goes back to the arm. Some criss-crossing in the ropes ends with a Thesz press from Starr, as he tried to force Cruz to the mat for a couple of near-falls, as the pace quickened… before it came to a crashing halt as Starr scored an armdrag.

After some relatively fancy flips (for this match, anyway) Starr goes back to work on Cruz’s arm, but an uppercut from the former PROGRESS champion gets him right back in it… at least until he took another armdrag and a low dropkick as Cruz was forced to kick out late on again. A whip takes Starr into the corner, but he quickly lifts Cruz onto the apron… then dropkicks him to the floor as Starr followed up with a baseball slide to the outside… which Cruz avoids as he retaliated by dumping Starr into the apron.

Cruz keeps up his offence scoring with the Thanks, Tully springboard backbreaker… but he can only get a two-count as he shrugged off a comeback attempt from Starr. Chops from Starr lead to a Prawn hold roll-up then a springboard elbow drop as the near-falls continued to rack up, before a springboard clothesline took Cruz back outside… but he wanders away from a tope. Cruz wanders up the ramp, where Starr joins him, but he just ends up taking a suplex from Cruz on the stage… Starr drags his way back to the ring, throwing in a Cherry Mint DDT to Cruz on the way. The pair trade more right hands as they got back in the ring, with Starr edging ahead, before he clocked Cruz with a Han Stansen lariat.

A second Han Stansen’s ducked, before a Pretty Pumped sees Cruz land on his head… he’s back up to take a superkick as Starr gets another near-fall, before a crossface almost backfired as Cruz rolls up Starr for a near-fall. The crossface is quickly reapplied though… and just as Cruz looked to get to the ropes he ends up tapping as the Product got the win. As an opener, it felt very low key – but very solid as well as David Starr managed to get revenge on Nathan Cruz – and hopefully set him up for bigger things in Defiant. ***¼

Lana Austin vs. Kay Lee Ray
With Bea Priestley still in Japan, Lana Austin’s going through a former Defiant women’s champion as she continued her push for the gold.

We’ve a jump start for our second match, but Kay Lee Ray overcomes it, crashing into Austin with a missile dropkick, then a regular dropkick for an early two-count. Austin tries a comeback, but she took too long playing up a hip attack, before a headbutt and a side legsweep puts Ray back down for a near-fall. When Kay Lee looks to head up top, Austin pulls her down hard for a near-fall as she continued to build momentum. An elbow drop-assisted reverse DDT in the ropes gets another two-count, as the former champion was made to look like a shadow of her former self. A kick to the lower back keeps the Scotswoman down, as did a chinlock, before Kay Lee finally countered a whip into the corner with a tornado DDT for a near-fall.

Kay Lee’s fight back ends with a knee to the midsection, but she’s quickly back with a front suplex, and a sliding DDT for a near-fall. Weathering the storm, Austin’s back with a discus forearm for a two-count, which she followed up with a low dropkick… only for Kay Lee to hit back with a Gory Bomb that almost ended the match. Austin avoids an attack off the top, but gets pulled into a second Gory bomb… which she countered with a sunset flip for a near-fall, before she went back outside for plunder. She grabs a chair from the ringside crew, then shoves down the referee… not to worry, Kay Lee Ray superkicks Austin and DDTs her on the chair which somehow is only good for a two-count. No DQ, then? There’s a ref bump as Austin shoved Kay Lee into the official, which allowed Lana to crack Kay Lee with a chairshot to the head for the eventual win. Well, this was fairly one-sided, but not what I’d call a dominant win. A more competitive outing would have done more for Austin it seems, but she’s on course for a title shot, so it was what it was. **¾

We’ve an ULTRA ZOOMED IN PROMO backstage which shows what I can only describe as a slightly more developed “bumfluff moustache” on Gabriel Kidd. Was the room that tight?

Hardcore Match: Gabriel Kidd vs. Rory Coyle
Kidd’s still got no music, as he gets slow-clapped to the ring, while the debuting Rory Coyle got a decent pop in the city he’s made the most of his career in.

Coyle’s out with a camcorder and an old fashioned VHS tape. Maybe that camcorder means he’ll be able to take better footage than some (nameless) indys? FOR THE THIRD MATCH IN A ROW WE HAVE A JUMP START, as Gabriel Kidd knocks Coyle off the apron, then throws him into the ring post. Hope Rory caught that on tape. In the ring, Kidd boots Coyle, then unloads some plunder – throwing a VHS tape at him before choking him with some car jumper leads. The referee tries to break it up, but the match hasn’t even started so… why? Clubbing clotheslines trap Coyle in the corner, as does a t-shirt choke, before Coyle fought back with a headbutt and some biting!

Kidd hits back with the mannequin arm on Coyle, as the bell finally rings… but Kidd only gets a near-fall. Coyle’s again trapped in the corner, escaping with a double-chop and a full nelson slam, but a lariat from Kidd nearly puts an end to things… until Coyle clocks Kidd with that VHS tape, which produced a satisfying red burst of dust as it smashed. Kidd rolls outside… and then refuses to beat the count, instead powdering (har har) towards the back for the win. This was an absolute nothing of a match, but I guess a win for Coyle gets him to a good start in Defiant. *½

Post-match, Coyle gets the microphone as Kidd stands on the stage, accusing him of running to the back after “seeing the devil”. He’s got another present for Kidd – and after Kidd opens the briefcase, we get a video package… one that shows a hooded man digging up something from somewhere in Newcastle (or is it Gateshead?). The mask of Primate has been exhumed… and Primate is back in Defiant?! So much for the career-ending injury then – he’s back for Loaded, which tapes on December 3. Kidd holds Primate’s mask, then spits on it before leaving the ring.

I also guess this means we’ve another GM to appoint?

We’ve another video package for Loaded – which isn’t patched into the live feed – as we see David Starr, Bad Bones, Joe Hendry, WALTER and Jimmy Havoc will be on those Loaded tapings.

South Coast Connection (Ashley Dunn & Kelly Sixx) vs. Chris Brookes & “Kid Lykos” (Millie McKenzie)
Since we last saw the South Coast Connection in Defiant, Kelly Sixx has been on a tour of Japan, appearing for Kaientai Dojo, and returning with a fancy new leather jacket. Meanwhile, Chris Brookes was in the familiar position of needing a tag team partner… so his surprise choice today was… Kid Lykos?!

Except this Lykos was very rusty when it came to the mannerisms…

Brookes starts out with Dunn, working over the “Mindsweeper”’s arm before they ended up in the ropes for not-a-clean break. There’s a hiptoss from Brookes in response, as he began to assert himself over Dunn… then quickly tagged in Lykos for the CCK elevated lungblower… except Lykos drops down and dishes out a German suplex? Dunn hurriedly tags out, but Kelly Sixx takes one too, as Brookes wonders what’s going on… off comes the jacket, then the mask, and of course it’s Millie McKenzie. Commentary plays it as a shock because they thought she was signed to NXT UK, but clearly not as she keeps up the offence… only to get caught as a DDT’s countered with a dropkick-assisted backbreaker as Sixx nearly took the win.

Millie’s back with headscissors that took Dunn into the ropes, as a blind tag to Brookes saw him land a dropkick almost off-camera as he continued to build momentum. The CCK wet willie’s more of a double-team as Millie got involved, right as Dave Bradshaw seemed to think it was the wet-eared Dunn who’d been to Japan. Wrong one, Dave! Sixx tags in after that, and scores a Slingblade to Brookes for a mild cheer, before tripping Millie into a Tiger knee… a rolling death valley driver planted Millie onto Brookes as Sixx gets a near-fall. Brookes manages to fight back immediately with a back senton/dropkick combo to the southerners, before Millie comes back in with uppercuts to Dunn.

A spear flips Ashley Dunn inside out, but Kelly Sixx gets involved again… and takes a tiltawhirl tornado DDT through the ropes! Millie followed that up with a tope to the pair of them on the outside, before all four participants got involved, trading forearms and chops until “CCK” hit duelling Octopus stretches. The SCC crawl into the ropes to force the break, before Millie looked to hit the Lykos elevated lungblower… but Dunn blocks it and finagles his way into an accidental German suplex between CCK.

Dives follow as Brookes is left flat on the floor, then brought back in as a Roppongi Vice version of Strong Zero (the spike belly-to-back piledriver) should have put Brookes away – but the referee delayed the count as Millie barely dove in in time to break it up. Brookes recovers to save Millie from a double-team, before he slingshots into a cutter on Dunn, who then age a German suplex and a Destroyer from Millie, as Brookes took the delayed pin. Huh. This was solid, if not a little ragged at times, but a good tag match as you have to assume Defiant are waiting for CCK to return “proper”? (which, as we wrote the review, looked to be coming in the form of Brookes & Jonathan Gresham…) ***

Commentary tells us that El Phantasmo’s Internet title match with WALTER was delayed because of scheduling conflicts… so ELP would get a new opponent.

Brent Banks vs. El Phantasmo
Perhaps expectedly, Banks gets little reaction for his British Defiant debut – coming 18 months after his prior appearance, in a first round loss during the Canadian leg of those World Cup qualifiers. Remember that tournament??

There’s handshakes all around to start us off, then some dance moves as Banks does the worm, while commentary tells us that the first new episode of Loaded will feature El Phantasmo and Chris Ridgeway challenging WALTER for the Internet title. Phantasmo tries to work over Banks’ wrist, but his fellow Canadian flipped free as the pair raced into each other with a quick series of takedowns and kick-outs ahead of the obligatory stand-off.

A dropkick from Phantasmo whiffs, but he’s able to come back with an armdrag that Banks cartwheels out of… and there’s the duelling dropkicks!

Banks does some push ups for fun, then challenges ELP, who does some hand clapping push-ups for the hell of it. Nobody likes a show-off! Phantasmo takes over with some spit-laden chops ahead of some rope-walking fun that led to an eventual double jump ‘rana to the outside. A tope nearly misses Banks as Phantasmo flew to the outside, where he continued to put the boots to Banks, setting him up for a Sami Callihan-like lap of honour into a boot to the face. The delayed hand-walking senton’s next, but it’s never going to be enough to put away Banks, who mounted a comeback of his own.

Chops from Banks keeps Phantasmo in the corner, ahead of a snap suplex that left him down for a near-fall. A chinlock follows, which Phantasmo fought out of before he lost his footing en route to a Quebrada that Banks eventually blocks. Instead, ELP hits a superkick, then his Quebrada for a near-fall, before Banks flipped free of a whirlibird neckbreaker. Another backflip from Banks keeps him away, as a dropkick took Phantasmo back down… but we end up with Phantasmo kicking out of roll-ups and sunset flips as Banks looked to force the issue… He’s quickly cut-off with the whirlibird neckbreaker, as ELP gets another two-count, before going up top once again… but Banks cuts him off with a slam off the top for another near-fall.

Banks continues with a frog splash as he tried to snatch the upset, but he’s caught on the top rope again, this time with an enziguiri, then a delayed ‘rana before Phantasmo lands a moonsault. A kick-out just sees Phantasmo follow up with an ankle lock, but Brent drags himself to the ropes for some freedom… but it’s just delayed as Phantasmo flies in off the middle rope with a Destroyer before sending one last message – tapping out Banks to the Gojira clutch. WALTER may have been delayed, but Phantasmo didn’t lose his focus… picking up another win over a game Banks. Another solid match, but one that really was going only one way. ***¼

They air a promo for a Loaded taping on January 5… the crowd pop at the words “he’s coming home”: Pac is coming back to Newcastle!

Defiant Tag Team Championship: Alpha Bad (Iestyn Rees & Kip Sabian) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) (c)
Alpha Bad won this shot a few shows back… I swear they’re still using the music they were given on WOS. You hear it for a lot longer here though.

Commentary really pushes how dominant Aussie Open have been in 2018 – which, results-wise, is true, but it’s been massively under the radar compared to their exploits in PROGRESS and Rev Pro.

When we get going, Fletcher works over Sabian’s arm, before some lucha-like series ended with Kip running into a tiltawhirl backbreaker. Some chops rile Sabian in the corner, before an early attempt at the Aussie Arrow ended with Sabian getting out and bringing in Rees, who dragged Fletcher into their corner for some double-teaming.

Fletcher gets free and brings in Davis, as the two big men of the teams came into play. Rees throws the first shot, but he’s quickly caught with an enziguiri-like kick, then a flying shoulder for just a one-count. Kyle’s quickly back with a dropkick to Rees for a delayed near-fall, but Sabian gets involved, tripping Fletcher on the apron as Rees had the referee distracted. Sabian gets some receipts for those earlier chops, as the challengers roughed up Fletcher in the ropes – while simultaneously riling up Mark Davis in the other corner. That run ends when Fletcher again gets free, tagging Davis back in for his customary chop/clothesline comeback, along with a knock-out punch for Sabian.

Kip escapes the Alphamare Waterslide and goes for a springboard DDT… but that too is countered as Davis hits the Alphamare anyway for a near-fall. Iestyn Rees gets involved as he pulls Davis outside, posting him in the process, before Fletcher took out the Welshman with a dive. The focus goes back onto Sabian with the double-team Go to Sleep on the floor, before an assisted cutter ges a near-fall as Rees narrowly saved the match.

Rees is back to break up a Fidget Spinner, before dishing out a spinebuster on Davis as the challengers again targeted Fletcher, setting up for their powerbomb/Blockbuster finish. Instead, we got a version of the New Day’s Midnight Hour, but Kyle kicks out at two, before escaping the powerbomb/Blockbuster as the two big guys came back in to trade elbows to the head. A lariat from Davis leaves Rees down, but Sabian comes back in to be a nuisance – and delay his partner’s eventual doom – as a sliding punch to Rees in the corner leads to the Fidget Spinner… and another successful defence. This was business as usual for Aussie Open – a solid outing, but in spite of their brief win streak, you never really felt that Rees and Sabian were ever that big a threat. ***½

I Quit Match: Joe Hendry vs. Martin Kirby
Commentary billed this as a meeting for “perhaps the last time”, while Stevie Aaron makes a note to call out that the winner “really has to make their opponent say I quit.” No soundboards here!

They immediately go to ground, with Kirby rolling to the outside as he tried to get away from Hendry’s grappling game. It didn’t quite work as the pair scramble… but another powder to the outside has Hendry follow Kirby there as you heard various folks in the crowd cheering Hendry on.

There’s some brawling around ringside before Hendry whips Kirby into the barriers – and into the audience. The one show that commentary doesn’t have a monitor, they’re left reliant on their own eyesight as Hendry looked to boot Kirby out of a chair, before having to settle with another Irish whip as Kirby gets sent deeper into the crowd. A sleeperhold looked to force Kirby to quit, but he elbows free before he gets back body dropped through someone’s chair. Poor sod.

Kirby tugs at Hendry’s ear to get free of a sleeperhold before throwing him back into the chairs, as the seating area became more of a moshpit. That’s followed up as Kirby tried to choke out Hendry with someone’s scarf, before he’s suplexed into some chairs, giving another painful landing. The problem is, when commentary’s at 10/10 for regular stuff, just shouting louder doesn’t make this seem any more special… and when the crowd can’t react (to what they don’t see), it just feels very… there?

The pair finally return to the ring, where Kirby resumes the offence with a backbreaker, then an Arabian clutch, pulling away at Hendry for extra torque. Hendry’s put in a Tree of Woe next, with Kirby grabbing a metal chair from ringside that he… can’t use because Hendry catches him with a spider German suplex before the chair could be thrown into his nether regions. It also freed up the chair, then Hendry had no issue using on Kirby, before pulling him into a camel clutch. Kirby gets free, but gets wiped out by a running knee as he’s back outside… and in the path of another charge from Hendry, who just gets thrown head-first into the barrier. Echos of Kirby’s injury 18 months earlier when he lost the WCPW title…

Kirby throws the referee aside as he goes back into the ring with Hendry, jabbing the chair into his knee, looking to soften it up for future holds. A half crab doesn’t get a submission, so Kirby drags Hendry into the corner for a ringpost figure four, before letting go as his bid to use a chair goes awry when Hendry moves away. A DDT from Hendry gets him back into it, before he tosses Kirby into a chair in the corner, following up with a Freak of Nature fallaway slam… but you weren’t exactly getting a submission out of that! Kirby’s back with a chairshot through the ropes as Hendry’s taken down, but he manages to catch Kirby in an ankle lock, scissoring the leg too before Kirby got to the ropes. Of course, there’s no rope break, but Hendry lets go anyway… just because!

Kirby replies with a low blow as he applies his own ankle lock, which he then lets go as he goes back outside and finds some plunder. It’s… the old baton that Will Ospreay used to have here, and he swiped it against Hendry’s leg. The chair’s back as Kirby tries to Pillmanize his opponent, repeatedly stomping on the chair before he caught Hendry in the Edgucator – an inverted Sharpshooter for those who don’t remember Edge’s brief time with the hold, seguing that into an inverted Figure Four that Hendry tried to power out of.

Kirby goes all buggy eyed as Hendry fought on, but it was for nought as the Scotsman eventually gave up. This started off all weird with the crowd brawling that rarely works in smaller venues, but when we got back to the ring this became a really good, intense brawl. The win gives Martin Kirby a scalp, but given that part of this storyline was literally “Kirby’s done all there is to do here”, the questions remains… what next? ***½

After the match, Hendry gets back to his feet as the pair stared at each other… Kirby seemed to expect a handshake or some sign of defeat, and although he got it, it was a ruse as he kicked away Hendry’s leg before reapplying a Sharpshooter as referees tried to break it up. They eventually do, as the camera stays on Hendry hobbling to the back.

Defiant World Championship: John Klinger vs. Rampage (c)
Klinger won this title shot at July’s Ringmaster tournament – and you could well surmise that Rampage’s injury delayed the cash-in, given that Gabriel Kidd had to wait for his shot.

We start with Rampage running into a dropkick as Klinger looked to force an issue early on, but Rampage quickly hits back, taking the German into the corner with some body blows. Klinger’s back with a back body drop out of the corner, following up with an overhead suplex for just a one count as we were nowhere near done.

An attempted lungblower’s blocked as Rampage took Klinger to the outside, following him outside with some chops, but Klinger turns it back around with a low-pe as he then proceeded to throw aside Dave Bradshaw so he could pose on the commentary desk. A desk that’s quickly smashed when Rampage drives him through it as the brawl left us without commentary for a while.

Klinger keeps up the offence with a German suplex onto the apron as Rampage somehow kicks out at two as commentary scrambled to restore some order. More German suplexes follow in the ring as James R. Kennedy was convinced nobody could hear them… thankfully, Bradshaw soldiered on, as Klinger continued his slew of Germans. Rampage counters one by backing Klinger into the corner, where he follows up with a forearm before trying for a piledriver… but Klinger escapes and lands a superkick, then a half-nelson suplex for a near-fall. Klinger keeps up the pressure with a chinlock on Rampage, before a flying double axehandle smash keeps the champion down. Another axehandle blow’s caught and turned into a back suplex as Rampage fought back, but things quickly go south when a battle for a suplex from the apron in is blocked, with Klinger instead landing a slingshot spear for a near-fall. Rampage’s uranage stems the tide, but he’s unable to follow up as the pair instead fight from their knees, leading to a big lariat from Rampage.

The champion follows up with an implant DDT for a near-fall… but an uncharacteristic leap off the middle rope’s countered with a clothesline as Klinger hit back. Bad Bones goes up himself, and scores with a Macho Man elbow drop for a near-fall… but he takes too long to capitalise, and ends up taking a brainbuster before Rampage’s attempt at a piledriver’s countered with a back body drop.

Klinger’s right back in with a lungblower for a near-fall, before he gets taken up top for some chops and a superplex for a near-fall. Another piledriver’s pushed out of, as Klinger ends up on the apron again… but another slingshot spear’s countered into a piledriver as Rampage gets the win. This was okay, but felt like it lacked any kind of urgency or intensity. A competitive match, but one that Rampage never looked in any danger of losing. ***

Post-match, David Starr (poppy and all) appears on the stage… but gets attacked from behind by Nathan Cruz as our opening match reignited. The two brawl in the ring, with Starr eventually sending Cruz packing as Starr and Rampage ended up in a staredown after the bad guys left the scene. I guess that’s our next title direction – with those questions being answered when Loaded returns on YouTube in December.

All in all, Refuse To Lose was a solid show… but not one that really jumped off the page. Save for the hardcore match, which wasn’t bad but just served to be a conduit for Primate’s announced return, there was nothing bad on here. We’ve said for a while now that Defiant have somewhat lost their way while they’ve only had their monthly shows; with new characters taking a while to bed in, especially if those shows travel across cities. With any luck, Loaded’s return will help remedy this, so new characters and storylines aren’t something that we see on one show and forget about for a month until the next big show.

We’ll pick up Loaded when it returns on December 9 – but the one thing that really bugs me… just how serious was that Primate injury? Originally announced as career ending, there’s been an incredible turnaround from this summer when Primate was forced into retirement…