Sixteen months. 33 episodes. Several reboots. The end of WCPW Loaded led to the death of the Prestige, for all intents and purposes, as all roads headed to the Defiant rebrand.

We’re weighing in at slightly under 90 minutes for this finale, and we start with the obligatory recaps from last week, which were literally all of the finishes clipped together. The highlight was Jimmy Havoc and Primate unseating War Machine as tag team champions… and that bleeds into them celebrating in the stairwells with all of their belts.

For one last time, cue the title sequence, featuring Rampage… who hasn’t been around since the World Cup Finals. Flame pyro opens us up (with the gas canister worryingly close to it… but hey, I’m not Health & Safety!), and we start with a four-way to tie-up some of WCPW’s longer-running stories.

Drake vs. El Ligero vs. Martin Kirby vs. Jay Lethal
We’re mashing together two long-term storylines – with Ligero and Kirby being on their very first episode back in June last year. Of course then we were cheering Ligero, but things have flipped around a little since…

Everyone pairs off like you’d expect, spilling outside as commentary reminds us that this is an elimination match. When they get into the ring it quickly enters the usual “two in, two out” territory, before Jay Lethal struts and starts diving. It’s an easy crowd this! A missed axehandle from Lethal gives Ligero a way in, but it’s back to the formula as Kirby helicopters Jay Lethal like a Terry Funk ladder.

Kirby nearly eliminated Drake and Ligero at the same time with a double crucifix, before hanging up Ligero in a Tree of Woe. Next up is the Tower of Doom, but Ligero breaks it up as everyone tried to target Lethal. Instead, Lethal ducks an enziguiri and traps Kirby in a Figure Four, which everyone tries to break up… because it’s a spot!

We nearly get the first elimination when Drake countered a Lethal Injection into a bridging German suplex, but a successful Lethal Injection ends up getting rid of Drake… before Ligero rolled up Lethal instantly for the next one! Kirby follows up with a Sable Bomb, but we get a kick-out as we aren’t getting three quick eliminations. Instead, Kirby tries for the Zoidberg Elbow, which doesn’t work as Ligero kicks him away.

Ligero ends up mocking the Zoidberg Elbow, which the crowd dubs the “Wanker’s Elbow”. Yeah, it misses, but Ligero remained on top until Kirby threw in a Slingblade and K-Kwik’s old Hat Rack Crack. Another enziguiri stuns Ligero, before a pair of Sable Bombs finally gets the win. Pretty good stuff to get us going, with just the one “what the hell are you doing? It’s elimination rules!” spot – and you have to tip your hat to them making some effort to go full circle here. ***½

The holy promo airs next, complete with the voice of Pastor William Eaver. It’s curious that they’re debuting him just before they take six weeks off…

Stu Bennett’s backstage next, and the GM mentions how the Defiant iPPV doesn’t have a main event yet. We’re getting a rematch of how the Refuse to Lose iPPV ended: Marty Scurll defending against Joe Hendry and Will Ospreay. I’ve heard worse ideas. That’s leading to a triple-threat trios match later tonight as Ospreay and the South Coast Connection take on Joe Hendry and two others from the Prestige, and the Bullet Club trio of Marty Scurll and the Young Bucks.

From there, it’s backstage with an Adam. He’s interviewing Alex Gracie, who isn’t speaking. We get to see him kissing Fat Ligero’s arse again, but Catatonic Gracie isn’t acknowledging anything. Deliberately uncomfortable.

Alex Gracie vs. Liam Slater
Gracie’s walking down to the ring completely devoid of any emotion after what happened at Refuse to Lose. Slater’s still being billed as the “Heart and Soul of British Wrestling”, which are two things Gracie isn’t showing here… and this is Slater’s first match on his own after Johnny Moss’ farewell.

Gracie’s pretty much a tackling dummy as he takes bumps and gets back to his feet. It’s like Festus with half of the size. A huge back body drop takes Gracie down hard, as does a monkey flip, before they worked up into a situation that was eerily close to where Gracie had to kiss arse. That made him snap, ramming Slater’s head into the apron, before pounding away on him back in the ring.

Sadly, the crowd’s silent for this, barely clapping as a Snapmare Driver planted Slater. A Jig ‘n’ Tonic belly-to-back piledriver spikes Liam, before the the Fall from Gracie gets the win… except Gracie continued to pound on Slater after the bell, forcing security to intervene. They get pelted with his nunchucks, and just as I’m expecting the referee to reverse the decision, they just play his music again and he leaves. What they did was alright, but this was the proof in the pudding. We’ve held up Alex Gracie as an example of what erratic booking can do to you. Further proof was shown here – any reaction is better than no reaction… which is what he got here. Sad. **

Once Gracie left the ring, Slater was left in the ring… and the lights go out. The holy promo plays, the crowd sings “He’s got the whole world in his hands”, and here is the Pastor! Commentary acknowledges the promos we’ve seen (but as if they’d actually named the Pastor), and it seems some people actually know who he is, as we hear a brief “We Bill Eave” chant, along with a “save his soul” chant.

Pastor’s got a mic, addressing the “heathens of WhatCulture”, before turning his sights onto “Brother Liam”, whom he almost seems to want to form a new team with. Before they can get too far, Moose (of all people) interrupts. Commentary react with bemusement/disgust (choose depending on your milage), and Moose puts down Eaver as “Baby Jesus”. Yep, have the import belittle your new guy on night one, especially with a crowd that doesn’t let chants go.

Moose tries to remind Slater of their prior time as a team, and suggests that they reunite to go for the tag titles. Eaver’s disgusted that the crowd’s chanting “for a horned animal”, and then challenges Moose to a match at the Defiant iPPV, with Slater as the guest referee. Cue chants of “crazy Jesus”, and I guess the obvious result is Slater screwing Moose?

After that, Stu Bennett’s backstage with some papers. David Starr interrupts, annoyed that Stu gave Travis Banks a title match for no reason. Starr reckons he was overlooked in WCPW, and wants something different in Defiant. He demands a title shot, but Mike Bailey walks in and offers a match: Starr vs. Bailey. Stu makes it a best of three-series. They’ve already had match one, at Refuse to Lose (where Bailey won an Internet title shot… which is now going to be back on the line), so match two is at We Are Defiant in December.

I love disingenuous David Starr.

We get a video package of the Kay Lee Ray/Veda Scott interactions from last week’s intergender tag, and it’s announced here that we’re getting Ray vs. Scott for the women’s title at the iPPV. From there, we’re going back to Built to Destroy in June, where Kay Lee Ray won the women’s title over Viper (filling in for Bea Priestley)… which is our “hey, this is up next!” moment.

Viper vs. Bea Priestley
Another full-circle match here as we tie-up the loose ends in the Bea Priestley-Viper story that had been dangling over the summer.

The pair shove each other as Bea tries to whip Viper into the corner. Instead Priestley’s forced to use her agility, but that too doesn’t go to plan as a guillotine choke’s suplexed out of as Viper asserts her dominance. She resists a back suplex from Bea, headbutting her away.

Finally Priestley gets off the back suplex, before getting off a swinging neckbreaker for a two-count. Priestley then traps the Scotswoman in a modified cross armbreaker, but Viper makes the ropes, and swiftly hits back with a Viper Driver, then a back senton. Bea kicks out at two, but gets up to cut off Viper on the middle rope, only for her top rope ‘rana to get countered into a brutal powerbomb.

Viper tries to crush her with a cannonball, which misses, but she ends up climbing the ropes again for a Vader bomb. Bea escapes and hits a Cheeky Nando’s, before a Del Rio double stomp – barely pulling Viper out of the corner – gets the win. This was fine, but the several-month gap between the storyline starting and paying off clearly hurt the reactions from the crowd. I guess Bea’s going to be sticking around when we become Defiant then? **¾

We’re backstage again with not-that-Adam, who’s with Travis Banks. They announce Banks vs. El Ligero for the next iPPV, and Adam questions whether Travis is a part of the Prestige. Before he can answer, Joe Hendry and Ligero attack him, which answers the question. Hendry’s mad that Travis didn’t win the belt, and even more that he shook Marty Scurll’s hand. So I guess… Travis Banks is a lone wolf now?

They run down the card for We Are Defiant on December 4, throwing in Bea Priestley into the women’s match that was announced not even half an hour earlier in the show.

The Prestige (Joe Hendry, Joe Coffey & BT Gunn) vs. Will Ospreay & South Coast Connection (Ashley Dunn & Kelly Sixx) vs. Bullet Club (Marty Scurll & Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson))
Moments after turfing out Travis Banks, it’s notable that BT Gunn was in Prestige colours here after his nonchalance last week.

By the time the entrances were done, we had a hair over 20 minutes left, so I’m expecting a LOT of shtick for this final Loaded match. The Bucks at least had their gear delivered after they had to wrestle in “Dad Jeans” at the iPPV. Of course, the crowd loved the Bullet Club trio, even if I think certain combinations of that group are currently in mid-air heading over a shark.

Scurll and Ospreay start off here, and yes, it’s familiar stuff until Joe Hendry blind-tagged himself in from Marty. The ring quickly fills, with the Bucks singling out Gunn and Coffey for their usual high-paced routines as the Bullet Club stood tall going into the Terminator Dive. Hey, you’re not Kenny! Instead, it’s Ospreay and friends who get the dive off, or as Will proclaimed it, “flippy shit”.

When we calmed down, Joe Hendry found himself isolated against Ospreay and friends, with Dunn hitting a double stomp to the former champ’s arm, but the Prestige had a run, with Coffey catching Sixx in a wheelbarrow swing ahead of a facebuster for a near-fall. The referee had a hard time keeping track of the trio of trios, but at least he had a chance to get a breather when Gunn and Sixx crashed into each other with duelling crossbodies.

The Bucks rebound into life a reverse DDT/double stomp on Gunn, before superkicking away Joe Coffey’s crossbody. Superkicks ahoy follow, because of course they do, and cue the shtick. Just Kidding superkicks take down Ospreay and pals, before the Prestige get caught in triple Sharpshooters, complete with high fives. Your milage will probably vary, but it’s this sorta stuff that’s tiresome…

The ring fills as everyone takes part in our favourite Parade of Moves, settling down again as Ospreay lands a Robinson special/Revolution kick to Gunn, who then countered an OsCutter with a Cutter of his own for a near-fall. Hendry tries to capitalise with a Freak of Nature to Ospreay, but he escaped with an enziguiri as Dunn comes in to hit a flatliner/backcracker combo with Sixx. Ospreay’s shooting star press on top of that nearly gets the win, but instead we get a tease of the Meltzer Driver… that the Prestige break up.

From there, Marty cracks Will and Kelly’s fingers, as the pair respond with dives, before Hendry hits the ring to go after Dunn… and gets the win with a sit-out Dominator out of nowhere. That finish felt weird, not so much an opportunist’s win, but just something that nobody expected. The silence was really noticeable, which again highlights a major problem we’ve had at the end of WCPW – in that the booking has killed a lot of these characters. Yes, the crowd might have wanted to see a Bullet Club win, but there’s a way to not have them win without the crowd chanting “bullshit”. As a match, this trio of trios was pretty fun, even if we had a lot of shtick… but what do you expect? ***½

After the match, Ligero comes out to celebrate, and the Prestige tease running back into the ring to go after the Bullet Club trio. Except only Hendry and Ligero do, as the Scottish section of the Prestige flick the Vs and walk out on Hendry! The Prestige are dying, with a Meltzer Driver to El Ligero seemingly underscoring all that, as all three title contenders stare down to end the final episode of Loaded.

Well then… there’s something for Defiant to tidy up in December: do you go with Hendry and Ligero as a team, or do they go their separate ways?

Okay, let’s unpack some of this WCPW run. We’ve not exactly been WCPW’s biggest fans, but that’re more out of honesty rather than anything else. We don’t sugarcoat or dress up stuff for the sake of it. When WCPW started, it blatantly came across as a vanity project for the YouTube guys – yes, they needed the YouTubers as their USP, but having them dominate as much airtime as they did in those early episodes was crap. Even more so when it came from a place that would have crucified WWE for doing the same…

Since then, WCPW has been several things. It’s been a place that’s introduced “indy-style” wrestling to a previously untapped market in Newcastle. It’s been a place that’s brought over several big names that hadn’t appeared on other indys in the UK. It’s been a place that had the foresight to create a monstrous World Cup tournament to drive expansion… an expansion that was massively derailed by YouTube’s advertising policy changes.

However, aside from the YouTube guys, their biggest strength has been their biggest negative. In not using the same guys that everyone else uses, we’ve seen a lot of erratic booking, most lately with Alex Gracie who veered from killer to joker towards the end of WCPW’s run. My big concern now though, is what’s going to become of Defiant. It’s clear that they are maintaining lineages as far as title history, which isn’t a bad thing. The problem is that without the YouTube guys, Defiant has no USP.

Being “that place where the old WWE guys sometimes go” is something that produces diminishing returns – which has become evident in the crowd numbers towards the end of WCPW. Add in the elephant in the room that is reduced YouTube income, and you have to wonder if Defiant’s going to have a new calling card. It’ll need to. December’s relaunch needs to have some buzz going into it – and whilst they have announced a good portion of the card six weeks out, there’s still time to do something to spark things, it’s going to take something to even match the promise of disruption that the initial WCPW had.

Speaking of that card… as of the end of the final Loaded, they actually managed to build up a hell of a show before going dark:

Defiant Championship: Marty Scurll (c) vs. Joe Hendry vs. Will Ospreay
Pastor William Eaver vs. Moose with Liam Slater as guest referee
Defiant Women’s Championship: Kay Lee Ray (c) vs. Veda Scott vs. Bea Priestley
Travis Banks vs. El Ligero
Defiant Hardcore Championship: Primate (c) vs. Jimmy Havoc
Best of Three Series for a shot at the Defiant Internet Championship: Mike Bailey (1-0) vs. David Starr (0-1)