Brand new NXT UK Champion Ilja Dragunov says has said he’s proud brutal in-ring style – saying it suits his energy and passion for wrestling.
Dragunov reigns supreme at the top of NXT UK after dethroning long-reigning champ Walter at NXT Takeover this past Sunday.
His awesome victory over Walter, who had held the gold for the better part of two years, has already been hailed as a Match of the Year contender.
It was the second of an epic double of matches against the towering giant and one that proved every bit as physical as the first – although this time the Russian came out on top.
Professional wrestling remains very much a performance art as opposed to a genuine spot of competitive combat – but fans would scarcely know that by watching Dragunov’s punishing bouts – the Walter one being the perfect example.
Speaking to Daily Star Online following his momentous victory, the 27-year-old elaborated on why he chose such a bone-crunching style – and how his body copes.
"It all came naturally to me,” he said.
"I never think about a lot of stuff I am doing. When I started my journey, I realised quickly I had a lot of energy inside of me, a lot of passion.
"This is something I want to show to the audience and this reflects in my style – I'm going forward and I'm going very hard and very intense.
"This is my completely honest face that I show to the audience, to the fans.
"It is my biggest strength and I rely fully on [it]."
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His all-out war with Walter left both men battered and bruised – hardly a new sensation for the new champ who often exits the ring with many a mark of battle.
Insisting he’s able to take it all in his stride, he went on to say: "My other strength is that I recover very fast and very well.
"This style I chose because I can take it, and it especially makes sense because people can feel physicality through seeing it.
"It's very easy to believe what you see if it is very physical, and this is why I think my style is outstanding and one people want to see."
While many of WWE ’s millions of fans tune in each week to see stars like Roman Reigns, Edge and Drew McIntyre on their flagship television shows, NXT UK arguably flies under the radar by comparison.
While it may not command the company’s biggest global audience, it has without question delivered some of its best matches.
Dragunov spoke with immense pride about the quality on show in NXT UK – which airs each week from BT Sport studios in London – and urged more wrestling fans to give it a try.
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"I would love to carry the brand on my shoulders with all the pride and honour that I have, because I am proud of the brand and the hard-working people.
"I step into the locker room and see a lot of people and everything they want, day by day, is getting better.
"The work mentality inspires me and makes me proud to be the champion of the brand and represent it.
"I see so much talent in this brand that people will definitely pay attention as soon as they [give] it a chance. In this job, one chance can change the world.
"I am absolutely sure that those people who sleep on NXT UK won't sleep on NXT UK in the future as there is so much talent that will rise up."
Catch NXT UK each week on BT Sport, airing each Friday night on television and each Thursday online via the WWE Network.
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