A rare look at what could be the “last” of this style of NXT, as we swing by the NXT UK title match from last night’s Takeover…
I’ve seen every WALTER/Ilja singles match – I even wrote about it for 411 last year – so of course I’m not going to handwave perhaps the one feud from the height of European wrestling that’s managed to port itself into the States. Yes, I was disappointed when the rematch from October was moved to the States – particularly since it felt like WALTER vs. Ilja “2” could have been a big ticket seller, but it’s a moot point. Both men, former wXw tag team champions, former wXw Unified World Wrestling Champions, take their feud to a new continent as Dragunov looks to end WALTER’s title run at 870 days.
NXT UK Championship: Ilja Dragunov vs. WALTER (c)
Ilja’s got a big ol’ plaster over his eyebrow, having been bloodied up on a recent NXT.
An early Cornish hipe from WALTER has Ilja in the ropes, but Dragunov stings the champion with chops before WALTER forced an opening with a forearm. Dragunov counters out of a waistlock and rolls WALTER to the mat, then landed a shoulder block before countering WALTER’s Thesz press into a surprising slam. A headlock takedown from Dragunov has WALTER down, but Ilja’s bandage has already disappeared – and WALTER going for the eyes means that blood-letting is almost a sure-fire thing. Dragunov clings onto a side headlock, but gets taken to the corner before he blocked a chop from WALTER, catching the arm and rolling him back to the mat in a scissored armbar.
WALTER tries to free himself, eventually doing do as he pulls up Dragunov, lifting him onto the top turnbuckle before a thunderous chop sent Dragunov crashing to the floor. A powerbomb onto the edge of the ring followed on Ilja, who was brought back into the ring as WALTER looked to close this out with a rear naked choke. Ilja gets to the ropes, but the hands are slapped away for the ol’ RINGKAMPF German suplex, before a Boston crab saw WALTER sit down on Ilja in the middle of the ring. That’s transitioned into a bulldog choke, before Ilja was rolled through for a kick to the back. More chops wreck Dragunov as it’s back to the rear naked choke, but a piledriver’s stopped as a back body drop got Dragunov free.
WALTER counters a Konstantin-Spezial lariat into a uranage for a near-fall, before another chop blistered Dragunov, who fell backwards into the ropes as that familiar part of WALTER’s arsenal continued to turn his chest red. Despite that Florida tan! A front kick has Dragunov on all fours, but he’s back to his feet, swinging with WALTER, surprisingly countering a clothesline as he rolled down in for an armbar, before instead opting to throw knees and backfists at a kneeling WALTER.
More elbows looked to set up for an Octopus stretch, but WALTER picks him up… only for Dragunov to slip free and pull WALTER into a knee strike. WALTER’s right back up with a pair of clotheslines for a two-count, including one as Dragunov was looking for another leaping kick, before WALTER opted to chop Ilja’s back in the ropes. A swinging lariat from Ilja has WALTER down, as he then returned that back chop ahead of a German suplex, only for WALTER to goozle and slap Dragunov in return. A snap enziguiri has Dragunov ahead, with a running knee in the ropes ahead of a pumphandle driver for a near-fall, before a flying dropkick and a back senton off the top had the Russian surging ahead.
Except his Torpedo Moscau’s caught and turned into a sleeper suplex, bouncing Ilja on his head, but Dragunov’s right back to drill WALTER with a Torpedo Moscau as the Austrian was on his knees. Another Torpedo Moscau followed for a near-fall, before WALTER stopped Ilja in a hurry with a chop as Dragunov charged out of the corner. WALTER heads up top for the big splash, but he’s brought down in a hurry with a superplex, then met with a Coast to Coast dropkick again as Dragunov stayed on him. WALTER’s back with a dropkick and a powerbomb though, but couldn’t shut the door on Dragunov, as he then went back to the chops and a running knee. Another powerbomb drops Dragunov, as WALTER heads back up for a big splash, this time landing it as Ilja finds a way to kick out!
Mounting Ilja on the mat, WALTER rains down punches, but Dragunov gets free and hits a springboard Torpedo Moscau out of the corner… elbows from above have WALTER covering up, before Dragunov goes back to the rear naked choke, but WALTER’s still strong enough to get up, climb the ropes, and splat backwards to break it up.
Ilja picks himself up though and comes back with elbows back on the road to the rear naked choke. WALTER tries to fall backwards again to break it up, but Dragunov clings on, eventually letting go to pepper WALTER with kicks and strikes, including chops and elbows to the back of the neck… before he pulled up WALTER into another rear naked choke for a frantic submission as Dragunov went one step better than October, and managed to make WALTER tap! A hell of a fight done at quite the sustained pace, with sickening strikes – and the addition of an engaged crowd helped pull this to give me that proverbial fear. A fear that didn’t need to be realised, as this felt like the perfect match to potentially wrap up their long and storied feud – for now. Much like my (still-preferred) “no chop” match from 2018’s wXw Superstars of Wrestling show, this was an easy call for me. Full five.
Of course, a lot of questions lie over who goes where next – with speculation over WALTER heading to America permanently, while Dragunov now heads up a NXT UK that really ought to be heading back on the road… and while I don’t want this to be anytime soon, maybe that UK title will finally change hands in the UK one day, given that every title change thus for the UK belt has been in, erm, the US…
Result: Ilja Dragunov submitted WALTER to win the NXT UK Championship in 22:03 (*****)