Meet Ilja Dragunov: Ilja Dragunov created history at NXT No Mercy 2023. The Czar won the NXT Championship in a very physical match against Carmelo Hayes. Fans may be curious as to who the new champion is and what his victory means for the white-and-gold brand.
Meet Ilja Dragunov: The New NXT Champion Taking the Wrestling World by Storm
Wikipedia identifies Dragunov as a “Russian-born German professional wrestler.” He is a veteran with matches in numerous independent promotions, such as PWG, wXw, and Progress, that have garnered critical acclaim.
In 2019, Ilja Dragunov contracted with WWE and joined the company’s UK brand. Before suffering his first defeat at the hands of Kassius Ohno (also known as Chris Hero), he was unblemished.
— Sportskeeda Wrestling (@SKWrestling_) October 1, 2023
During his early tenure in NXT UK, Dragunov had outstanding matches against Antonio Cesaro (Claudio Castagnolo) and Finn Balor. He had a fleeting rivalry with Imperium before laying his sights on the group’s leader, Walter (Gunther), in their NXT UK Championship conflict.
The Austrian Anomaly and Dragunov’s rivalry produced some of the greatest matches of their careers. After failing to defeat the champion at an NXT UK filming, Dragunov ended Walter’s historic title reign at NXT TakeOver 36.
Ilja Dragunov’s path to NXT No Mercy 2023 was not straightforward
Ilja Dragunov’s path to triumph was littered with obstacles. At NXT Halloween Havoc 2022, he lost the NXT Championship to Bron Breaker in a triple threat match involving JD McDonagh.
He also lost to Carmelo Hayes at the NXT: Great American Bash in 2023. However, Dragunov’s tenacity and determination allowed him to eventually put an end to Hayes’ championship reign at NXT No Mercy 2023.
The two performers put on a clinic at the Mechanics Bank Arena in front of a fervent Bakersfield audience. Dragunov won his first NXT Championship by hitting Hayes with an avalanche forearm in the final seconds of the title match. Finally, the era of the Czar has arrived.