A slightly shifted card was presented as Defiant rolled into Manchester for their latest offering – Unstoppable.

We’re from the Manchester Academy in, yeah, Manchester, with Dave Bradshaw and James R. Kennedy on the call.

Gabriel Kidd & Rory Coyle vs. Joe Hendry & Primate
This was apparently 800+ days in the making, going back to the first WCPW shows, as a video package recaps Primate’s retirement… and unretirement, all the way through to the recent Rory Coyle storyline. This was a bloody good promo to set the stage, and worlds apart from the “moves and music” stuff that Defiant used to do… Speaking of music videos, we’ve got a new Joe Hendry custom song, poking fun at Gabriel Kidd, crooning that “he’s always a jobber to me”. Oh boy.

Of course, the result of that was “jobber” chants as Kidd and Coyle jumped their opponents before the bell… Hendry’s back with a shoulder tackle and a leaping knee for a two-count, before Primate came in and dumped Kidd with a T-bone suplex. Rory Coyle provides a distraction as Primate was on the top rope, and that allowed Kidd back into it, as he began to wrench away on Primate’s arm and hand.

A whip sends Primate into the corner, shoulder-first, as those “jobber” chants seemed to get under Kidd’s skin. Primate’s back with a Flatliner into the middle turnbuckle, allowing him to make the tag out to Hendry. Curiously, Kidd didn’t tag out, despite being in his own corner, as Hendry’s in with punches and a neckbreaker, before he suckered a tagged-in Rory Coyle into the ring and some charges into his own partner.

There’s a DDT on Coyle for a two-count, with Kidd breaking up the count, before the bad guys double-teamed, choking on Hendry in the corner. Coyle’s clothesline keeps Hendry down only for the Scotsman to hit back in kind as Kidd had to be of use, pulling Primate off the apron as Hendry remained in the ring. A guillotine from Kidd drags Hendry to the mat, but somehow it’s countered out of with a suplex, with both men then tagging out.

Which led us to Coyle vs. Primate staring down, with the crowd not reacting perhaps as intended. Nevertheless, Primate charges in and puts a beating to Coyle… only for Coyle to stand up and deliver some cross-chops to the throat. Nevermind, Primate’s back with clotheslines and an overhead belly-to-belly suplex ahead of a spear that drew a near-fall… because Gabriel Kidd pulled out the referee. Joe Hendry deals with that, and as the referee spent time admonishing them, Rory Coyle goes to his burlap sack and smashes a tape over Primate’s head, sending a cloud of red dust into the air. The ref’s back, and that’s enough for the pin. This was fine, but the curse of the Defiant crowds took this down a notch. I hear noises, but don’t see people moving… **¾

Nathan Cruz vs. Omari
This was built up on Loaded in the prior weeks, with Nathan Cruz doing the Lord’s work of mocking the “one-fall”ers. How is that still a thing in 2019?

Omari tries to jump Cruz with a leg lariat at the bell, before he found some luck with a shoulder tackle as he then turfed Cruz to the outside. He’s forced to abort a dive as Cruz slid back in, but Omari says on top with dropkicks before he’s caught with an up kick from Cruz, who then made a beeline to the corner to loosen a turnbuckle pad. He’s cut-off by Omari and a missile dropkick, which landed for a near-fall, before we headed outside with Cruz posting Omari. Cruz followed up by draping Omari onto a crowd barrier before kicking him off, rolling him back into the ring for a near-fall. The momentum stayed with Cruz as he whipped Omari back into the corner, only for Omari’s kicks to find their mark as he had Cruz down to his knees.

Omari’s comeback almost ended with a Show Stolen, but Cruz counters the counter and traps him in an Octopus hold. Omari gets to the ropes and heads outside, where he pulls Cruz out for some more strikes – with his injured arm suddenly okay enough to throw punches – before he takes Cruz onto the apron… and clotheslines him back into the ring. Back inside, a gutwrench sit-out powerbomb nearly ends things, before Cruz headed into the corner and removed that turnbuckle pad… it worked in his favour though, as hecounters some mounted punches by dropping Omari into the exposed corner.

The ref missed that, but caught Cruz with his feet on the ropes as he rolled up Omari. A low blow’s also missed as the referee was having a banner evening… Omari nearly capitalises with a sunset flip, but Cruz kicks out and rolls Omari into a Lion Tamer, before he’s pushed off into that exposed corner as Omari nearly made the most of things. Omari took too long to follow up though, as Cruz popped up with a hattrick of Show Stolens to complete an emphatic win. Thanks for coming Omari – this was another one of those matches that looked good on paper, but felt like it was in a vacuum. ***

They play a promo from PAC, who calls Manchester shit. Instead, he’s in Japan defending his title in Dragon Gate… and then we miss the rest because they cut back to the live crowd, and don’t keep the audio.

John Klinger vs. Justin Sysum
This was meant to have been Bad Bones vs. Ilja Dragunov, but save for a video clip of Justin Sysum saying “interesting”, there was nothing filmed to bridge the gap between Dragunov’s reported WWE deal stopping him from working this show… and Sysum being the replacement.

So yeah, John Klinger has gone full Macho Man now, adding long tassles to his leather jacket. He’s even dropped the “Bad Bones” name, calling himself the “Badness”… all that’s missing is “oooooh ja” from his repertoire and we’re done. Sysum’s back in Defiant for the first time since last April’s No Regrets. Seriously, it’s been that long? Time flies… and he’s already in trouble as he gets his cape caught on the stairs down from the stage. Still, he sees the funny side of it as commentary talks him up as the “guardium of British wrestling”, all from that managed pile-on in response to his Tweet over Contract Armageddon last year.

We start with a lock-up, with Klinger taking Sysum into the corner from a tie-up as the crowd cottoned onto Klinger’s new gimmick. Eh, it’s a step up from the “shit Perry Saturn” chants he got. Sysum charges Klinger into the corner, sending the beanie hat flying, before a shoulder tackle sent Klinger to the outside.

In frustration, the former Bad Bones hurls a chair into the ring, which Sysum catches, only for Klinger to return and unload with some chops. Sysum rebounds with a back flip out of the corner and a back body drop that gets him a near-fall, only for Klinger to turn it back around with some ground and pound. Even the “shit Randy Savage” hecklers have died down as the crowd noise is barely a murmur as Klinger pulls Sysum out of the corner for a near-fall. Sysum again goes for a flip out of the corner, but he’s caught in a series of German suplexes… he flips out of one of them, but flips again as he took a Klinger clothesline for a two-count. Klinger heads up top for the Macho Man elbow, but Sysum gets to his feet… so it’s an axehandle smash instead for a near-fall… the pace is so slow it’s doing nobody any favours.

Sysum dropkicks away another axehandle smash as one guy in the crowd was very audible, before Sysum comes back with a slam into the corner as he rolls through a 450 splash. Instead, he rolls back into a back senton on Klinger for a near-fall, which caught me unawares. A diving corkscrew forearm whiffs badly from Sysum, who then catches a running lungblower as the match was threatening to fall apart… a superkick gets us back on track, as does a German suplex from Klinger, who followed in with the Self Justice flying lungblower for a near-fall.

Frustrated, Klinger takes Sysum into the corner for some chops, before a missed knee opened it up for Sysum to fight back, landing a leaping lariat. Klinger’s lifted onto the apron, allowing him to come back in with a slingshot spear, before he tossed Sysum to the outside…only for Sysum to return with a leaping spear from the floor back into the ring, before a 450 splash gets the win. The camera work on that spear from Sysum wasn’t great, and while he left this with a win, this was far from an inspiring return – although I’d like to see Sysum become a permanent fixture here as the Macho Man tribute act already seems to have run out of steam. **¼

Post-match, Klinger attacks Sysum, knocking him into the guard railings before he went up top and flew with a double axehandle as Sysum was over the guard railings. Hey, we’re even getting old Macho Man storylines from Klinger, as he crushed Sysum’s throat, before he modernises it with a chair-assisted elbow to the throat of Sysum, who left the ring bleeding from the mouth. I’ve been down on Klinger lately, but if this leads to a Steamboat/Savage classic down the line, I’ll eat my hat!

Commentary tells us that Jimmy Havoc has been hospitalised (apparently with blood poisoning per Jimmy’s Twitter, which is alarming). That’s the cue for the Anti-Fun Police to hit the ring to address things, telling the crowd that Havoc isn’t here, before demanding that GM Prince Ameen awards him the Hardcore title by default.

Ameen appears, but sadly default wasn’t Dunne’s two favourite words, as Ameen tells us that he’s vacated the belt, and will have it up in a match between Dunne and a member of the Anti-Fun Police. Ameen threatens to fire them if they try any shenanigans, and we have our match!

Defiant Hardcore Championship: HT Drake vs. No Fun Dunne
Poor Drake. The crowd chants “we want Santos” at him before the bell… Dunne pulls rank and orders Drake to lie down, but Drake kicks out at two, then tries to nick it with a roll-up, prompting Dunne to slap him.

The slaps are returned, before an enziguiri from Drake took Dunne outside, with Santos then becoming a human shield… and a distraction as Dunne attacked Drake from behind. Dunne hangs himself in the ropes on a 999 attempt as Drake’s back with a German suplex and a high knee, before Santos again interferes, only to get knocked to the floor as a Drake moonsault finds its mark.

Back inside, Drake hurls Dunne into the corner with an Exploder suplex, and now it’s time for plunder. Chairs come from under the ring, as does a table, but Dunne cuts him off with a spear on the apron. The 999 followed as Santos held Drake in place, ahead of a slingshot back cracker for a near-fall. Dunne then uses the chairs, placing them next to each other before he cracked Drake with a headbutt.

A springboard lungblower’s blocked and countered into a suplex into the open chairs… but somehow Dunne kicks out. Again, Santos interferes as Drake headed up top, accidentally shoving him off through the table before Santos rolled him back inside for the win. Well, considering this was meant to be an anti-Hardcore match, it was just odd seeing plunder in a “comedic” manner”. This didn’t seem like anything the crowd wanted to see, and I can’t place any of the blame at the foot of the guys involved, as they made the most of a bad situation. **¼

Dunne and Santos leave together, with Drake left alone. I guess that’ll be a feud going forth? General Ameen heads out after the match, and rails on Drake for interfering in the whodunnit in the last few weeks over ELP’s glasses. That brings out Simon Miller to the loudest pop of the show so far, as Miller came face to face with the man credited with injuring him. Miller and Ameen attack Drake with a clothesline and a pedigree respectively, before a double-team clothesline sent him packing.

Falls Count Anywhere: Bea Priestley vs. Lana Austin
Apparently falls count anywhere in Manchester… so I guess it’ll be a no-contest if Lana gets a cab to, I dunno, Salford? Bea Priestley’s out in streetfight jeans, while Lana was in her usual ring gear.

Austin tries to run away, but Bea chases her onto the stage and throws a chair at her for an early two-count. Yep, we’re starting in the entrance-way with Bea putting Lana’s head through a chair, but a punt kick misses as Austin scurries into the ring for relative safety.

They run around the arena as the camera crew has a hard time keeping up, but we eventually catch Bea stomping on Austin in the crowd, then dropkicking her out of a chair for good measure as we head back towards the ringside area, where Bea pump kicks Lana off the barriers. Back by the ring, Austin lands a headbutt before she threw Bea into the ring apron for a two-count. From there, Austin pulls off Bea’s belt and chokes her with it. Forearms from Bea get her free, but Austin comes back with a forearm for a two-count, before she wedges a chair between the turnbuckles, following up with a throw as Bea bounced off the chair.

The crowd’s still deathly silent as Austin tries it again, but instead Bea catches her and takes her up for a Cheeky Nando’s into the chair for a near-fall. Lana responds with a discus forearm, as that Cheeky Nando’s into a chair was quickly shrugged off, before a double-jump missile dropkick from Bea turns it back around, taking Austin into the ropes for a punt for another two-count.

Lana’s back with a hangman’s DDT out of the middle turnbuckle before they head back outside, and onto the stage as Priestley curb stomped Austin onto a chair, which led to the punt kick through the chair for the win. An emphatic win, but this was yet another match that the crowd weren’t invested in. Perhaps some urgency would have done it, but this felt very “back and forth” for the sake of it. **½

They plug PAC will be at Lights Out in April…

Then El Phantasmo’s music hits, but he’s out in street clothes. He was meant to be wrestling Martin Kirby for the Internet title, but he got injured a few days earlier after he got drunk and did a flip… and in his words “ate shit”. He’s still mourning his missing sunglasses, which dragged out Martin Kirby, who did the boo boo face, and stared down a crap chant. Kirby pulls a Cartman, but he’s stopped by ELP, who tells him he has a title defence anyway. No, it’s not Santos… it’s Benji! Who still has the jobber titantron format…

Defiant Internet Championship: Martin Kirby (c) vs. Benji
The crowd get behind Benji (relatively speaking) as Kirby stared at him.

Kirby tries a cheapshot, but it’s caught as Benji tripped him ahead of an eventual headscissor takedown as the hard cam wrestled with being zoomed in too much. A dropkick takes Benji down next, as Kirby looked for a clothesline in the corner, instead having to lift Benji onto the apron as the newcomer came back in with a ‘rana.

Benji joins him on the floor, but he gets thrown into the barriers, with Kirby then following up by… flicking Benji’s headband at him. A knee to the gut keeps Benji down for a two-count, with shoulder charges into the corner leading to a back body drop. The crowd have gone cold on this one, with Kirby keeping things deliberate with a neck crank on the mat. Benji escapes and begins to fight back, landing a crossbody out of the corner for a near-fall, before a Code Red almost gave us the upset. Kirby’s back with a Slingblade for a near-fall, only for his wheelbarrow to get countered into a bulldog as Benji somehow clung on. From there, Benji headed up top and came back with a sunset bomb, then a tornado DDT… this time forcing Kirby to kick out late on. Another tornado DDT’s turned into almost a Rikishi driver for a near-fall, but Benji kicks out again, only to get caught with a sit-out F5 and a PK. Yep, Benji still frustrates, but the crowd don’t seem to catch on, as Kirby instead goes for a sit-out Sable bomb… and it’s still not enough.

In the end, Benji tries for his own “Benji Bomb”, but it’s countered into a belly-to-back piledriver from Kirby for a near-fall, before Kirby went for his super move of doom… which he lost with last time, and lightning nearly struck twice as Benji rolled up Kirby for a near-fall, in spite of the sound guy playing his music and Dave Bradshaw having a fit on commentary. The crowd laughed that off as Benji celebrated, allowing Kirby to catch him with a tornado DDT and a Sharpshooter for the win. Well, I get what they were going for with the fake win, but the crowd just weren’t buying any of this. Shame, but I did like the progression of Benji here. **½

Defiant Tag Team Championship: CCBlaaah (Chris Brookes & Lucky Kid) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) (c)
Before the match, commentary mentioned “another injury to Kid Lykos”… so we’ve got another tag team partner for Chris Brookes, in the form of Lucky Kid.

Lucky Kid and Mark Davis start us off, with Lucky trying to get on Dunkzilla’s back… which just doesn’t work. A second crack had more luck as Lucky spun on Davis’ back, only for him to parade into a kick from Fletcher through the ropes. The pace quickened when Chris Brookes came in, but he’s quickly taken into the corner as Fletcher came in to try and work the arm.

Brookes tries to get back into it by raking Fletcher’s eye, but Kyle just comes back with a shoulder tackle before Brookes looked for a brainbuster. Yeah, no dice. Lucky Kid proves an annoyance, distracting Fletcher to the outside, but Brookes kicks the rope into his groin while Dunkzilla came around to help… except his bid attempt at a powerbomb’s stopped when Brookes stomps him on the apron before scoring a double stomp to Fletcher’s arm. Standard stuff.

Brookes and Lucky work well together, targeting Fletcher’s arm with Lucky Kid tagging in to keep up on the limb, wrapping Kyle’s arm in the rope. Lucky ups the ante, whipping the arm into the ring post, before scurrying in to stop a tag out, then returning to an armbar, with some cheeky biting there behind the ref’s back. A tag brought Brookes back in, with more of the same following as Kyle’s left arm took the brunt of the challengers’ offence.

Fletcher managed to hit back with a double suplex, then brought in Davis for the chop/clothesline comeback ahead of a stacked-up slam to Brookes and Lucky. The Gold Coast Waterslide’s next for Brookes, but he fought back… only to send Lucky into some superkicks as he tried to make him a Lykos. From there, an inverted Razor’s Edge into a slam gets a near-fall on Lucky, who’s then slingshotted into a uranage backbreaker and a double-team powerbomb for another two-count. The momentum swings again as Lucky Kid comes back with a double Asai DDT to Aussie Open, before Brookes’ slingshot cutter drops Davis for another two-count as the champions almost saw their run come to an unlikely end.

Brookes tries to finish off Davis with a Praying Mantis bomb, but Davis powered out and into a chop battle, which he looked to be winning handily. At least until Brookes found a second wind, allowing Lucky back in with a handspring back elbow to spark a Parade of Moves. Things settle down as Lucky and Fletcher trade forearms, before Lucky slipped out of a lawn dart and shoved Kyle into the corner, following back in with La Mistica and a crossface!

Brookes tries to restrain Davis in the ropes, but the big Aussie stands up and breaks the hold with a death valley driver regardless, but Brookes turned it on its head as he slips out of a double team Go To Sleep and uses Davis for an accidental one-man Magic Killer. Lucky Kid’s back with a powerbomb to Fletcher – with a kick from Brookes on the way down – for a two-count, before… a 450 splash?! The hell, Lucky?! Still, it’s only enough got a two-count as Lucky reapplies the Lion’s Cage crossface… but yet again Davis monsters up, climbing through the ropes with a piggy-backing Brookes before Fletcher got to the ropes.

From there, Brookes headed outside as Lucky began to chop Fletcher some more… but he’s nowhere to be seen when a Davis lariat sets up for a Fidget Spinner… fortunately diving in with a missile dropkick to make the save. Tags took us back to Brookes and Davis, with the latter almost losing to Death By Roll-ups, before a Dunkzilla punch knocked out Brookes, as a pull-up piledriver got the win. Thank God the crowd got into this as the match went along – easily the best thing on this show so far, as these four guys delivered… and then some. ***¾

Post-match, Brookes abandons Lucky Kid. God, no wonder he’s got a long list of tag team partners…

Defiant World Championship: David Starr vs. Rampage (c)
The pre-match package included Starr eliminating WALTER from the No Regrets rumble last year. Something tells me that all the references to this in various promotions isn’t an accident…

So it’s a different promotion for Starr to have a shot at the big one in, but will it be a different story? The crowd gets on Rampage’s back from the off, as they perhaps wanted to see a title change here… meanwhile, David Starr tried to ignore the Baby Shark chants.

From the opening tie-up, Starr’s taken into the corner before he began to work over the bullseye that was Rampage’s taped-up shoulder… only to get stopped in his tracks with some chops before a cartwheel sends Rampage to the outside. Starr teased a dive, but Rampage moves away as he tried to slow down the pace. Back inside, Starr trips Rampage, then pats him on the head in a very patronising manner… then on the rear, before he’s caught in a pop-up slam.

The chops come next, then the suplexes, as Starr was suddenly on the back foot, getting caught with clubbering forearms in the ropes before he was taken outside, with more chops waiting for him by ringside. Back in the ring, Rampage lands a leaping legdrop on the apron as the match became a little more fluid, with Starr’s chops quickly getting snuffed out. Somehow, Rampage got bloodied, which just served to annoy him as more chops rained down on Starr, who replied with a superkick to cut things off. A Violence Part of chops and forearms send Rampage outside for a massive tope, before he kept Rampage outside for more chops… as he then side-stepped a charge as Rampage began to taste the crowd barriers repeatedly, taking out one of the lighting stands in the process!

Starr tries to go for a Cherry Mint DDT, but instead he drags himself in for a sunset flip, then an O’Connor roll as he picked up some more near-falls. The pair struggle over a suplex, before Starr ends up low bridging Rampage to the outside as he managed to edge ahead with the Product Recall in the ropes. Rampage kicks out at two, so Starr keeps up on him with some Han Stansen lariats, but Rampage stands tall before he got tripped and caught in a crossface.

Rampage hits back suddenly with a spinebuster for a near-fall, before he unloads some more chops to Starr, weakening him on the top rope before he readjusted his footing for a slam off the middle rope. From there, an implant DDT spikes Starr for a near-fall, before Starr countered a piledriver into a jack-knife cover for a near-fall.

One big Han Stansen leaves Rampage down after that, but he can’t make a cover, and instead both men get back to their feet and begin to swing for the fences, allowing Starr to dump Rampage with a Blackheart Buster for a near-fall… then follow in with another Han Stansen for another two-count. Rampage sidesteps (I think) as Starr waylays the referee…

So he takes his chance and heads out for Rampage’s belt, as he teases a belt shot to win the title… but he tosses it away instead, and gets booted in the head by Rampage. One piledriver later, and we’ve a visual pin as the referee just about comes to… and makes a two-count as Starr barely gets a shoulder up.

Somehow, Starr gets back to his feet first and surprises Rampage with a piledriver of his own… but the Trapped Arm Bob Fossil doesn’t get the job done, as Starr goes for another Han Stansen, only for Rampage to side-step as Starr ends up hitting the ropes, whipping his head into the mat, before a Rampage piledriver finished him off. Starr had Rampage’s number, but one slip-up proved to be the difference as a missed lariat (and the consequences of it) proved to be Starr’s downfall. There were boos for that, but truth be told, this was a really good match that went sorely underappreciated by the crowd. Yeah, it’s a pattern. ***½

So, where do we start here? Away from their Newcastle base, Defiant’s shows have had a nasty habit of being held in front of crowds that don’t give a damn. Sadly, that was the case here, with blood feuds barely eliciting reactions – and as such, that made this show a bit of a slog to watch on VOD. It’s the perennial question here: how DO you recapture the lightning in a bottle that this company had back in the WCPW days, especially in the current era where seemingly every Tom, Dick and Harry is getting signed?

Aside from that, there’s a deeper issue at play within Defiant, and it’s one that seems to be affecting a lot of promotions these days: where’s the depth? Going solely off of the results here, what’s next for David Starr? Another push for the title, or does Nathan Cruz get that shot while we wait for the Magnificent Seven winner to be crowned? What about the tag team division – Aussie Open’ll be over 300 days in as champions by the time Magnificent Seven approaches, but there’s no clear challengers, while the women’s title scene perhaps is the most defined, with Bea Priestley surely at the top of the list of challengers for Kanji, who also has Lizzy Styles on the list after her successful debut against Kanji on Loaded this week. Still, there are at least storylines at play, but without any buzz, this feels like a promotion that is sadly sleepwalking.