With Defiant still in the “rebuilding” stage it seemed, the promotion held a two-day tournament to crown a Ringmaster – and a new number one contender for Rampage’s title.

Yeah, we’re a little late on this one! There was a late change to the card as Matt Riddle missed his flight… coming in with the WWE signing rumours, I don’t know how many take that at face value in hindsight… he was replaced by El Phantasmo, who was making his Defiant debut. Your usual Defiant commentary team are on hand from ringside at Newcastle’s O2 Academy, but Dave Bradshaw and James R. Kennedy are joined by Joe Hendry. Just because. We see the sly volume tweak on camera Joe!

We’ve got video packages to introduce our first match: and it’s a clash of tag team partners (from elsewhere) as Stevie Boy and BT Gunn face off.

First Round: Stevie Boy vs. BT Gunn
Hey… Stevie Boy’s using Kay Lee Ray’s music and (similar) headache inducing video. You don’t think? Naah… (I know…)

Their opening exchanges played off of how well both guys knew each other, so they stopped to have a slap war, stinging each other’s hands before Stevie swung and missed with his slap… before he got punched out. The pair continued to remain even for a spell, trading forearms, kicks and the like, with the crowd slowly getting into those thigh kicks… then the shin kicks and rolling pins… which I don’t think was meant to draw laughter. It’s the kind of match that’d work really well on the holiday camps, or in a situation where the crowd knew they were an established team… but here, with little background, it came across as a comedy match that raised smiles, but not much in terms of laughter. Stevie manages to edge ahead a little, before a reverse roundhouse knocked his head off. A diving knee keeps it going, before he took Stevie up top, with the hard camera zooming in on other wrestlers trying to sneak a peek…

A superplex is aborted, as Stevie shoves him and and worked into a Destroyer… but Gunn’s up at two and comes back in with a stomp to Stevie in the corner, before a tornado suplex nearly wins it for the former WCPW Hardcore champion. One brainbuster later, and Gunn’s won. This match would have played out so much better had the crowd known their histories, but as a match “for an eventual title shot” it just felt weird. **½

First Round: Omari vs. Millie McKenzie
Hey, they used Rizzle Kicks for Omari! The polar opposite of progress, eh?

Having not watched Fight Club Pro this year, this is the first time in a long while that I’ve seen Omari – whose career perhaps hasn’t burgeoned in the same way as his opponent’s has in 2018. We started with Omari going for several takedowns, while Millie had to use her speed to try and bamboozle Omari – doing so with a nice ‘rana off the middle rope.

Omari catches Millie off guard with an early release slam as she went for a crossbody, and that put him in position to take over for a spell, stomping on Millie in the ropes… but some forearms from McKenzie got her right back in it, before she just ran into a leg lariat. She tries to hit a reverse ‘rana… but Omari clings on, only to get caught with a wheelbarrow facebuster for a near-fall, but before he’s right back as he delivers a gutbuster and a ragdoll powerbomb for a two-count. Mille’s able to uncork a series of German suplexes though, dumping Omari with a trio of those for a near-fall, before a Destroyer and a double underhook Destroyer (which didn’t quite go to plan) earned her a spot in the second round. This was fine, but did little to grab me I’m afraid. Given who’s more prominent in Defiant, this was the right result, although I’d like to see Omari back with another shot down the line. **¾

The video package for our next match seems to have a rather salty Martin Kirby – and to be fair, with his credentials, I’d be a little annoyed to be in this tournament too.

First Round: John Klinger vs. Martin Kirby
Defiant’s given Bad Bones his full name here, and since he’s no longer part of wXw I guess he’s got a lot more availability to put a run together somewhere.

Bones almost ended it at the bell with a spear to Kirby – who was taking quite a few verbal jabs from Joe Hendry on commentary – but Kirby’s able to fight back, taking Klinger into the corner for some punches and a leg lariat. A nipple twister works, but Klinger propelled Kirby into the air with a back body drop, then across the ring with some Beele throws as Bones was in dominating form here.

Chops finally seem to rile up Kirby in the ropes, as he returns fire with an inverted atomic drop and a back senton for a near-fall, but Klinger cuts him off with German suplexes, before he suplexed Kirby from the ring to the floor. Good God, that spot’s always scary, especially when it looked like Kirby clipped the apron on the way down. Somehow, Kirby’s able to return to the ring well before the ten count, and mount a comeback too as he hits a jawbreaker on Klinger, then a dropkick and a Slingblade as that second wind was in full effect. A Sable bomb’s cut-off as Klinger instead lands a cutter for a two-count, but Kirby’s able to trap him in the ropes not long after for a gamengiri back into the ring.

A flying stunner from Kirby takes Klinger to the outside, but he comes back in with a bang as a leaping lungblower proved to be enough to put Kirby down for the count. Some good back and forth, but I get the feeling the “unfamiliar names getting muted reactions” is going to remain a motif here. ***

Post-match, referee Steve Lynskey buggers off as Klinger throws Martin Kirby out of the ring.

Even more post-match, Joe Hendry takes shots at Kirby who was staying down on the outside hurt. It’s a little over the top and not exactly subtle, as he claps “give him your sympathy”. I think he only remembered that line… and that was the cue for Kirby to get in his face. Apparently Joe Hendry is a “broadcast colleague”, which sounds wrong (because it is)… and the situation’s sort-of defused as Kirby heads to the back.

More video packages next as Kurtis Chapman and David Starr are next. All the nicknames!

First Round: Kurtis Chapman vs. David Starr
I think this may be the furthest North that Kurtis has ever been… commentary ties in the feud in Rev Pro between these two, which is a nice touch.

Starr easily takes down Chapman to start the match, as he looked to trap the Super Contender in a leg spreader, but it leads to an easy escape… so Starr goes back to another hold as he looked to keep Kurtis on the mat. After freeing himself, Chapman’s able to get himself into the match, heading up top for a crossbody to Starr… only to get cut off as he ran into the Pretty Pumped. Chops are next from Starr as Chapman was again in trouble… but he tried to fight back with elbows before a short-range Han Stansen just sent Kurtis crumbling to the outside. Starr gets a little annoyed that the referee isn’t starting the count-out… which gave Chapman a lot more time to get back into the ring. Except he just continues to get beaten by chops… until he’s able to land a shot and string a few together, anyway.

A missile dropkick takes Starr down, as does another from the apron as Chapman followed up with a tornado DDT… which almost produces the upset (well, in Defiant canon anyway). Some more scares for Starr followed as he was caught with some headscissors in the ropes, then a knee through them, before Chapman connected with a Goomba stomp through the ropes.

Chapman turns it up a little more with a cannonball senton off the top – but he crashed a little with the barriers on the way down… fortunately not doing himself any damage in the process. That seemed to slow Chapman down a little as Starr’s able to get right back in it with a Product Recall catching him through the ropes, before cornering Chapman for a Violence Party, ahead of a Liontamer-like Boston crab. Somehow Kurtis escaped as he countered a lariat and ended up catching Starr with a back cracker, before he just ended up running into Han Stansen as Starr picked up the win. A fun back-and-forth outing, and out of the debutants so far, Kurtis Chapman perhaps looked the best. ***¼

More VT, with TK Cooper mentioning he’s a former MCW champion. Christ, nobody’s put a belt on him over here yet?

First Round: TK Cooper vs. Kay Lee Ray
It’s TK’s Defiant debut, as long as you don’t count the No Regrets rumble… and you’ll be shocked to hear this is a first-time match.

The early feeling-out process started with Kay Lee Ray taking TK Cooper down to the mat with a side headlock… only for TK to escape with headscissors as they went back-and-forth. TK starts to edge ahead, rolling Kay Lee into a La Magistral for a near-fall, which just sparked a long series of back-and-forth pinning attempts, not unlike our opener as referee Steve Lynskey was thrashing the canvas during each count.

A simple kick stops that as TK was down for a two-count, but he’s quickly back with a leg lariat for a near-fall, only for KLR to quickly restore order. TK joins her outside and levels her with a forearm… but Kay Lee ends up throwing herself into TK with a dive. Things change again back inside as TK lands his version of the Kotaro Krusher for a near-fall, only for TK to get hit with an instant DDT, with Kay Lee rolling into a guillotine choke for good measure. TK’s able to stand up out of it, and eventually suplex his way free, before he catches a flying Scotswoman with a gutbuster. That’s followed with an axe kick that awkwardly catches Kay Lee… and there’s a weird finish as the referee counts two then waves for the bell. TK’s somehow gotten bloodied in that last bit, as he gets through to the next round. A decent match until the weird finish… it feels like there’s a lot of those in Defiant these days. ***

More VT…

First Round: Kyle Fletcher vs. Adam Brooks
These two have met once in the past in singles action, with Brooks taking the W at the Cockpit earlier this year for Rev Pro.

Hey, Brooks has the power! All these “real” themes going under the radar, eh? From the opening lock-up, Brooks looked to go for Fletcher’s arm, before he tripped the “Aussie Arrow” in a rather tentative opening spell. Fletcher manages to grab Brooks’ arm in an armbar, as commentary notes that we could have Aussie Open against each other in the semi-finals… just like when they first arrived in the UK!

There’s a cheapshot from Brooks as he offered a handshake, but Fletcher’s quickly back in with a low dropkick, then a kick to the arm as Kyle seemed to be hell-bent on removing Brooks’ vertical base. A reverse springboard off the ropes from Brooks doesn’t work, and ends up jarring his own leg, as Fletcher stayed on top, but he’s quickly stopped in his tracks as Brooks twanged the rope into Fletcher’s midsection.

That helps Brooks to turn things around as Kyle was, erm, favouring his groin, before he tried to chop his way back into the match. It only got him so far as Brooks took Fletcher into the corner for a cheeky n… poke to the eye. A missed enziguri allows Fletcher back into it, as he dumps Brooks with a back suplex, before a springboard attempt from Kyle’s cut short. There’s another fightback from Kyle, but Brooks clubs away on him before he’s caught with a Michinoku driver out of nowhere. Back-and-forth strikes follow as the pair get back to their feet, before Fletcher sent Brooks through the bottom rope with some headscissors ahead of a nice tope. Returning to the ring, a thunderous High Fly Flow-like crossbody dumps Brooks for a near-fall, but the Loose Ledge manages to return fire with a backpack stunner after catching Fletcher in the corner. From there, Brooks heads up top, but he has to abort his leap before he’s caught in a Ligerbomb for a near-fall.

Fletcher tries to keep on top of Brooks, but gets sent onto the apron with an enziguiri, where he’s met with a slingshot DDT to the floor. Brooks quickly throws him back in for a Meteora to the back of the head, which is only enough for a near-fall, before Fletcher returns fire with a lawn dart into the turnbuckles. That too is only good for a two-count, and eventually Fletcher’s able to follow-up with a flying X-Factor… but in the end Brooks manages to snatch victory with a reverse rana, then a cross-legged Blackheart Buster. This was a pretty good back-and-forth match – although I’m not crazy about having a current champion pinned. ***½

First Round: Nathan Cruz vs. Simon Miller
I guess you’d slot Cruz in the “new to Defiant” bracket, since his only prior outing here was a loss to Justin Sysum in a No Regrets rumble qualifier.

Miller got one of the loudest pops of the night for his entrance, which probably shouldn’t surprise anyone these days. There’s some whinging from Joe Hendry on commentary, which may well be seed sowing, but hey, let’s get past this match first eh? Nathan Cruz is a pretty good opponent for a newcomer, but I’d be stunned if they had Miller going through to the next round.

After initially being taken into the corner, Cruz grabs a headlock before he’s sent off the ropes… and into a shoulder charge. The motif continues as Miller sends Cruz into a hiptoss, before some forearms and boots in the corner forced the NGW champion to scurry for safety. Cruz quickly hits back, hanging Miller in the ropes as he throws some forearms of his own, before a back body drop gets telegraphed. Miller takes advantage, kicking it away before clotheslining Cruz to the floor… and Cruz ducks under the ring in a bid to confuse the rookie. Except Miller saw it coming, in a spot where “guy who watches lots of wrestling, actually makes use of nerdy hobby”! Cruz uses another hotshot to take Miller back to the floor, where he’s whipped into the ring post as the beating resumed.

A neck snap’s next for a near-fall, as Miller keeps finding ways into the match, ducking chops before throwing his own as commentary mentioned that cardio may well be a weakness for him. Cruz manages to nail the Thanks, Tully slingshot back suplex, but Miller’s up at two, only to get knocked straight back down with a leaping knee strike. There’s a grounded chinlock as Cruz grounds Miller some more, only for the hold to be elbowed out of as Miller again began to fight back, landing a clothesline before telegraphing a back body drop. Cruz can’t take advantage and ends up taking a spinebuster as Miller began to look a bit like “Syback” here, setting up for a Falcon arrow… and getting it! It’s only good for a near-fall though, and Cruz takes his opportunity to try and chip away some more, uncharacteristically climbing the ropes… and getting caught!

Miller tries to bring Cruz down with a superplex, but he’s shoved down, then met with a swandive headbutt as Cruz came closer still… and after he chop blocked Miller’s knee, he’s straight into a Figure Four, which led to the finish as Miller “passed out” and ended up getting pinned. Hey, I’m all for wacky takes on finishes, and while Miller was out of his depth a little here, he was still made to look strong by the finish… and by the way Cruz bumped around for him. You may not be a fan of how often he’s being used here, but at least Miller’s going about this the right way, not relying on fame, and instead is quite competent between the ropes. ***

Some more VT for our main event, with El Phantasmo introducing himself as Matt Riddle’s replacement… wearing a Mark Davis t-shirt.

First Round: El Phantasmo vs. Mark Davis

These two have one prior singles meeting under their belts, back in March where Davis beat ELP in a slow-mo match at ATTACK’s “I’ve Got A Dark Match And A Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Up Lykos”.

Phantasmo starts by lucha rolling around Dunkzilla, before coercing referee Sean McLaughlin into doing a log roll on the mat. There’s more rolls, with Dunkzilla surprising ELP with one of his own, before they start to exchange shoulder tackles… with Phantasmo perhaps overdoing it in his bid to overcompensate for the size difference.

ELP gets the crowd into it (see, that’s what happens when you do crowd participation!), and eventually takes down Dunkzilla with headscissors… before running into a Whoopee Cushion. Whoops. Davis drags Phantasmo out of the corner to score a two-count, before they embarked on a chop battle… which ended with a high five and a pancake for the Canadian. Davis continued to use his size to keep Phantasmo down, as well as his power… but a back senton misses as Phantasmo rolled away. A springboard crossbody’s turned into a slam though, and Davis gets his back senton in anyway for a near-fall. There’s a STF as Davis continued to bear down on Phantasmo, then again with chops as the debutant was having to really show his durability here.

A moonsault helps him avoid Davis in the corner as the springboard crossbody and Quebrada combo almost put away the Aussie, before he had the daft idea to try for the whirlibird neckbreaker. Yeah, that wasn’t happening, but he’s able to keep on top as Phantasmo took the Defiant ring ropes for a spin with some rope walking and a ‘rana! Davis heads outside for cover, but ends up eating some topes, before a moonsault off the top ended up getting Phantasmo another near-fall.

Some right hands from Davis just knock Phantasmo out, as he then proceeds to go for the Alphamare Waterslide… but ELP counters into a cradle for a near-fall as he seemed to be gaining momentum… until he’s just clubbered off the top rope. A superplex looked to bring Phantasmo in, but he slips out and comes back with a dropkick and a ‘rana… following up with a big splash off the top for a near-fall! Davis rebounds, going straight to a piledriver, then the Alphamare for a pair of near-falls as Phantasmo just wouldn’t give up… flipping out of a pull-up piledriver and hitting back with a ‘rana!

Davis heads outside for cover, but he catches a tope and snaps Phantasmo onto the ramp with a piledriver… seemingly enough to win by count-out. It doesn’t work as Phantasmo narrowly beats the count, which earns him some more chops as Davis looked pissed. Undeterred, Phantasmo keeps on fighting and manages to avoid a rare Dunkzilla moonsault before throwing a punch and a lariat, and finally the Whirlibird neckbreaker to almost get the W! One tornado DDT later, and that’s the win as the “replacement” scored the upset! Easily the best bout on the entire show, with lots of back-and-forth, and a new star made in Defiant in ELP. ***¾

The first night of Defiant’s Ringmaster tournament was effectively a try-out for several new faces… and in front of a casual audience, it was a bit of a struggle at times in terms of crowd reactions. As a VOD watcher, we could have done with some graphics, as the tournament brackets were only ever described verbally on the broadcast, but on the whole this was an easy watch that set the table nicely for the next night’s finals.