Backstage Update On NXT Champion Ilja Dragunov

What's next for the Mad Dragon after NXT Stand and Deliver?

Ilja Dragunov NXT Title

NXT Champion Ilja Dragunov is preparing for a title defense against Tony D'Angelo at this weekend's NXT Stand and Deliver PLE, but many are wondering what's on the horizon for the accomplished superstar.

Fightful Select reports that Dragunov currently is not planned for a call-up to the main roster, though he is expected to move up once he loses the NXT Championship. Whether that telegraphs the result of his title match on Saturday is an open question. Dragunov has been regarded by some in NXT as "beyond the brand," according to Fightful.

While some fans have questioned whether he would be willing to move to the main roster due to his trips home, Fightful has not been made aware of this as an issue, indicating that WWE has accommodated his schedule.


Although his future direction remains unclear, one thing that is apparent is that Dragunov is highly regarded in NXT, receiving constant praise and needing very little direction from producers. One NXT talent told Fightful that the Mad Dragon "elevates anyone he steps in the ring with and that he has an incredible mind for the business." One source observed that he is a "wonderful person to be around."

That high praise could carry over to the main roster, as several in NXT believe the company views Dragunov in the same vein as Intercontinental Champion Gunther and has plans to push him similarly to the Ring General once he's promoted.


One possible destination that seems off the table for Dragunov apparently is NXT Europe, with a source telling Fightful he's not being considered for that planned expansion.

Dragunov has held the NXT Championship since September, when he defeated Carmelo Hayes at No Mercy. Since then, he's beaten back challenges from Dominik Mysterio, Hayes, Baron Corbin and Trick Williams.

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Scott is a former journalist and longtime wrestling fan who was smart enough to abandon WCW during the Monday Night Wars the same time as the Radicalz. He fortunately became a fan in time for WrestleMania III and came back as a fan after a long high school hiatus before WM XIV. Monday nights in the Carlson household are reserved for viewing Raw -- for better or worse.