Ilja Dragunov says Walter ‘made me’, names A-Kid as the superstar to watch in NXT UK and talks possible TakeOver at BT Sport studios

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If you haven’t seen NXT UK, then you’re missing the bright star of Ilja Dragunov.

Prior to the global lockdown, the Russian had won a battle royal to determine the next challenger for Walter’s NXT UK championship.

Ilja Dragunov is very popular with fans in NXT UK

Ilja Dragunov is very popular with fans in NXT UK

Six months later, he’s finally getting to pick up his momentum again and he looked great in the first main event back for NXT UK against Noam Dar.

talkSPORT caught up with Dragunov on the week of NXT UK’s comeback and we dived into all things wrestling.

On his respectful relationship with Walter…

Respect is definitely a word we can say about the connection me and Walter have. We have a lot of history and we met at a lot of different stages of our careers and every stage meant something.

I think at a certain point, Walter made me. So much, so often. And I’m thankful for that, but regardless, I’m the number one contender and when we step in the ring, something is happening that people have never seen before. Never.

Because every time we step in there together it’s a special something and they will never, ever forget the experience.

Ilja Dragunov and Walter is the biggest match NXT UK have right now

Ilja Dragunov and Walter is the biggest match NXT UK have right now

On the BT Sport studios being NXT UK’s home

I got to say, the BT Sport studios are one of the most beautiful sights I ever saw before.

I was there for the launch party in January and already impressed then, but to know we have such a strong partner and a new home in the BT Sports studio in East London, it was a pleasure. It was pure professionalism.

On how hungry the NXT UK roster is since returning…

The whole roster is hungry. We are all hungry and I’m super hungry. Of course, it definitely different to work in front of nearly no one with no audience. Like I said, I’m like Walter, I just adapt to everything. I see it as something exciting.

It’s a new experience to do my best at, with no crowd cheering you. That’s not something that stops me, though. We’re still there to do the best we can do and that won’t stop us.

On watching WWE during lockdown…

I watched a lot of stuff going on in America during this and I have a lot of respect for NXT and the other brands and how they treated the situation. Because we had time to prepare ourselves and look at how they are doing this.

We just saw a crazy work ethic and this super professional way of handling the situation. It’s just great. That keeps the drive going for me, too.

Ilja Dragunov put on a fantastic show with Cesaro at NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff

Ilja Dragunov put on a fantastic show with Cesaro at NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff

On who to look out for when watching NXT UK…

I got to say that the first person that springs to mind from the NXT UK roster is definitely A-Kid. We had a match together and it was one of the episodes during this pandemic already and I have so much respect for A-Kid because his work ethic impresses me, the kind of person he is impresses me.

He’s a very kind, humble person. But his work ethic speaks so loud in a very humble and respectful person. And to see how able and how strong his style is – a very European style – I think he’s going to impress a lot of people tuning in.

On having a TakeOver show at the BT Studios…

Obviously with the situation right now it makes it impossible to do a TakeOver with a live crowd. Of course, we’re working towards having the best tapings we can have and BT are open to having fans attend eventually, so when it is possible, we’re working towards it.

Catch NXT UK on the WWE Network each Thursday at 8pm and on BT Sport at 10pm every Friday

Ilja Dragunov is the number one contender for the NXT UK title

Ilja Dragunov is the number one contender for the NXT UK title





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