Travis Banks got a late Christmas present this week, as he main evented this week’s Defiant with a title shot against Austin Aries.

Hey, they ditched the already-aging “We Are Defiant” video, and instead we open with a recap from last week, where Chris Ridgeway got Montreal’d by Steve Lynskey… and Joe Coffey gives Travis Banks a Defiant title shot since he’s playing GM for a while. As always, James R. Kennedy and Dave Bradshaw are on commentary. Guess which one’s wearing the ostentatious jacket and showing needless chest hair…

Jurn Simmons vs. Luke Menzies
Jurn was out with Pastor William Eaver and Liam Slater. One of those two needs to up their beard game. Oh, they’re also out with Prince Ameen, who’s been brainwashed as it becomes clear that the Pastor’s flock has gained another member.

It’s a surprising opponent here in the form of the debuting Luke Menzies, who is signed to WWE, and gets a slight hometown pop. He starts by frustrating Jurn from the opening tie-up, eventually shoving the Dutchman away… and in for a shoulder tackle that doesn’t budge either man. Wash, rinse, repeat, and eventually Jurn lands a leapfrog and a dropkick to put the rookie in the corner.

Menzies rebounds with overhead belly-to-belly suplexes, then a German suplex, but he’s soon shoved into the ropes for a clothesline as Jurn looked to get back in control, using a suplex throw to put the former rugby league player down. Another comeback from the former prop leads to a one-handed tiltawhirl slam that nearly secures the shock, but that’s the cue for Prince Ameen to get on the apron for a distraction.

It works, as Menzies turns around into a boot before Simmons nails a gutwrench powerbomb for the win. Pretty basic, but they gave Menzies a lot more offence than the last tomato can that Jurn had in Defiant. **½

Speedball Mike Bailey is backstage, bemoaning about how he’s been distracted by Drake when he should be preparing for his Internet title match with Zack Sabre Jr. He’s mad that Drake’s been cheating, and tonight’s going to end this feud.

Zack Gibson vs. Flash Morgan Webster
Apparently Zack has an “iron clad contract” with Defiant, which I’m hoping will get him a new entrance video on the next set of tapings. Ancient, clean-cut Zack Gibson is a weird look.

Of course, we’ve got the pre-match promo. This time he bemoans being dragged from his home in Liverpool, “on the rail replacements” to get to Leeds so he can wrestle for this crew of “smart fans”. Oh God, he’s going to mention Bullet Club tops isn’t he? Actually this time he doesn’t, as he has a pop on listicle videos, before saying that he’ll do “whatever I want”. Like unzip his jacket to reveal an IPW t-shirt. Is he blagging for bookings? IPW’s not used him since the summer of 2017, and that’s covered by saying that Zack’s just antagonising the company.

Flash Morgan Webster’s making his return here after appearing in the World Cup last year, and he’s using his podcast theme for his ring music. Hey, no Hot Tag?

From the bell, Gibson takes Webster into the corner, before he starts to work over the wrist and arm of the “Mod”. There’s pie-facing from Gibson as he lulled himself into a hands-up headbutt, before he’s shoved into the ringpost ahead of an around-the-post ‘rana onto the floor. Gibson tries to retaliate with chops, but he ends up hitting the ringpost as Webster puts him in a chair for a Sami Callihan-esque lap of honour into a superkick. Back inside though, Gibson catches Webster and traps him in the corner for a Ticket to Ride lungblower, as the Scouser goes back to wearing down Webster once again.

Webster tries to chop away with kicks from the ground, but it’s all Gibson again, at least until Webster fires back with some bodyblows and an eventual clothesline that took Zack into the corner. Another ‘rana takes Gibson outside again as a flip plancha keeps him down, along with a Rude Boy moonsault press for a near-fall. A wheelbarrow facebuster keeps Webster ahead as he nearly snatches the win, before catching him with a Pinball Wizard senton bomb onto a kneeling Gibson. Flash follows in with the Strangler guillotine, and counters an attempted counter into the Stundog Millionaire, before putting the Strangler back in until Gibson charged into the corner to break it up.

Gibson tries to grab hold of the ref as a human shield when Webster headed up top, and in the confusion the Scouser’s able to hit a cross-chop to the throat, before polishing off Flash with a Helter Skelter as the Shankly Gates got the quick submission. A really good match, although I’d hope this isn’t one-and-done for Flash – given how much focus was put on Gibson here, that may be the case. ***

Ring announcer Stevie Aaron heads into the ring to give Zack the mic. Gibson’s appalled by the lack of competition, like a mini Braun Strowman, but as he goes to beat down Flash some more, he’s stopped by the returning Rampage! Zack quickly powders, and that’s our next big feud!

After a Millie McKenzie video, we’ve got Alex Gracie – the changed man. Apparently he’s more focused and more sadistic. He brags about how he was banned from full contact stick fighting, and he wants to have a shot at “British legends” since he’s fed up of how Defiant have treated him. Next week he’s got an open challenge to any “legend”. Alright then… the rehab continues!

Drake vs. Mike Bailey
We had this match a fortnight ago, with Drake playing the dummy bad guy as he constantly stopped in the hope that the referee would call the match off due to “excessive beating” or something. Hopefully this isn’t a repeat.

Drake escapes to the outside at the bell, but Bailey gives chase… and it’s instantly exposed as a ploy for Drake to go for Bailey’s legs. It’s quickly stopped as Bailey’s able to take down Drake and hit a running shooting star for a near-fall, before connecting with a corkscrew roundhouse on the third attempt.

Bailey seems to be favouring his leg, but he’s able to go sailing with a Sasuke Special to Drake on the outside, following up with a running knee to the back as he ran down the stage. So, what about that leg, huh? Back inside, Drake goes straight for it with a Dragon screw, before dropping a knee over it, and finally… he kicks his leg out of his leg. Yep, I love me some Owen Hart references whenever I can get them in.

Drake keeps up with a shinbreaker or two, then dumps Bailey with a released Regalplex for a two-count, before a single leg crab’s swiftly broken in the ropes. Frustrated, Drake goes for a chair and looks to end it with another DQ, but he’s also hidden a wrench in there – and again Bailey ducks it as he kicks Drake down ahead of the shooting star knees off the middle rope.

Gotta love a babyface who doesn’t change his arsenal like that. Defiantly, Drake flicks some Vs at Bailey, who responds with a kick to the head for the win. Well, that’s another loss, but at least this match wasn’t big on the kicks, but for my tastes there was a lot of Bailey doing stuff he probably shouldn’t have been able to with the damaged wheel. Maybe it’s because I’m just not that big a fan? **¾

We’re taken outside as Gabriel Kidd is still looking for Prince Ameen. He’s stopped by Simmons, Eaver and Slater… but Ameen finally wanders in. Kidd hugs him and tries to walk away with him, but instead Ameen asks him to join the Congregation. Yep, he’s definitely been brainwashed, and they all walk away as we hear the introduction of Little Miss Roxxy bleeding out through the walls. No, she’s not wrestling next…

Defiant Championship: Travis Banks vs. Austin Aries (c)
Austin Aries is back to his old Impact theme music, which has me wondering about tie-ins given what’s going on these days. He’s also calling himself “the Truth” some reason. What’s up?

Aries sarcastically claps the crowd’s chant of “Trav is our champion” as the match started at a fairly tentative pace, with Banks scoring a headlock takedown that Aries instantly kipped up out of. They keep things on the mat, as Aries got more of a statement pin as he wrestles Banks down for a one-count, but Banks comes back in kind, tripping the champion and using a La Magistral cradle for a near-fall.

Commentary throws in a nugget that Chris Sharpe was made referee here after Steve Lynskey “screwed” Chris Ridgeway last week, the only reference thus far to that issue, as Aries edges ahead with chops to the Kiwi Buzzsaw. A kick back trips the champion though, as Banks unloads with kicks to the kneeling Aries, before sending him outside… but Aries quickly comes back to hit a forearm before Banks can go diving.

Aries returns the favour on those kicks, following up with an diving elbow to the back and an old-school stump puller, pulling Banks into a pinning predicament as the champion continues to wrench away on the Kiwi. Banks is able to get a sleeper on, which is shoved away… and he rebounds with a desperation Slice of Heaven… but can’t follow up with a cover. The pair end up fighting back to their feet with forearms and chops, before they start fighting for their respective finishers.

Banks is able to eke out a near-fall, forcing Aries to cling onto the bottom rope for his own safety, before hitting back with a bell clapper and a discus forearm before he decided to go diving. A neckbreaker in the ropes looked to keep things comfortable, but Banks rebounds with a trip into the corner as Aries bails again… until Banks hits his low-pes to stop Aries from walking out.

With Banks looking in control, we finally get interference as El Ligero and Joe Hendry of the Prestige come out to be a nuisance… Banks dives onto them, but Austin Aries is able to capitalise, eventually lifting up Banks for a brainbuster to retain the title. This was really good, although you probably guessed there’d be interference… it was just a case of whether it’d be from IPW or the Prestige! ***½

The Prestige head to the back as Austin Aries gloated with his belt to end the show.

Next week – we’ve got Joe Coffey in a handicap match against Hendry and Ligero… the open challenge from Alex Gracie… and the Defiant debut of Aussie Open, as Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher have a non-title match against the Defiant champions Jimmy Havoc and Primate. That looks to be a really tasty line-up on paper.

The latest episode of Defiant was business as usual – I’m really digging these shows being an hour long, as they’re easily digestible and watchable (the era where every week was a 2-3 hour show was insane, and probably accelerated the burn-out of storylines). My only criticism here is that the way these tapings have been structured, in taping several weeks at a time in one show, the choice to not hit us over the head with repeated IPW mentions and invasions could end up having the story feel rather stop-start… but let’s see where this heads, especially if we’re getting a slow-burn here. Since rebranding, Defiant feels like a far cry from the product that WCPW was putting out – whether that’s by choice, or whether it was forced upon them by other circumstances is irrelevant, but I for one am not missing those YouTube stars (or the threat of them) whatsoever.