Since signing for WWE in February 2019, Ilja Dragunov has gone from strength to strength.
From battling the Swiss Superman Cesaro at NXTUK Takeover: Cardiff to challenging Finn Balor at Worlds Collide and much more, Dragunov now faces one of the biggest matches of his career when he takes on Walter for the NXTUK Championship on Thursday.
Two people that will be keeping a close eye on the match will be WWE Legends Triple H & Shawn Michaels, who are involved in the production of NXTUK.
With a combined 18 WWE Championship reigns between them, plus many years of experience, the pair are the perfect shoulder to lean on if any NXTUK superstars need anything.
And that’s the case with Ilja Dragunov who, despite having 8 years wrestling experience, is still learning each time he works with them.
“If you see it from that perspective, they’re two people who make that thing so big for decades,” he stated.
“I remember if you’re doing something for very long, sometimes you have the feeling of ‘okay, I don’t have to learn anything anymore’.”
“This is not that I thought it, but it’s just points where you think ‘okay, you got it’. When I came to this place and learnt from them, I definitely knew that I didn’t know anything.”
Dragunov continued: “This is inspiring because we should never stop learning and there’s so much more to know and it just keeps my hunger alive.”
“Hunger to get better. Being around those people is the ultimate gift from the perspective of learning.”
When questioned on what was the best piece of advice they’d given him, the 27-year old kept it nice and simple.
“Be who you are. That’s actually it.”
Dragunov’s character is a unique one with a stand out entrance theme, look and personality – something he believes is necessary in today’s wrestling world.
“Every performer has this huge strength that makes everything interesting because nobody is like the other,” he commented.
“If it wasn’t that way, it wouldn’t be entertaining at all. When the people realised what I am about, what my strengths are, what they can rely on, what the brand can rely on in my person, I just get the advice to do what I do because I just put this thing into a new environment to show people things they’ve never seen before.”
“I’m very, very sure the people before haven’t seen something like Ilja Dragunov.”
You can watch Ilja Dragunov challenge Walter for the NXTUK Championship this Thursday at 8pm on the WWE Network or at 10pm on Friday on BT Sport.