Ilja Dragunov and Walter put on a match that will be on the short list of the best performances in wrestling when 2020 comes to a close.
COVID-19 era wrestling has been a time when fans were forced to watch professional wrestling from monitors, unable to enjoy their passion from ringside. Still, many promotions found ways where possible to put on events and matches worth watching. NXT UK had a very special match of its own when Walter defended the NXT UK title against Ilja Dragunov. In the days since this match occurred the praises have rained in and it is clear this will be on everyone’s short list for the Match of the Year.
There is something alluring about two professional wrestlers throwing caution to the wind and laying everything out there. Walter and Dragunov did just that. For twenty-five minutes these two men beat each other up in a way that is reminiscent of what fans see in the Octagon. The chops, kicks, German Suplexes and Power Bombs all landed with a sickening thud. It was understandable if fans grimaced with each one.
When looking at why this match worked, the Walter vs Dragunov match is very similar to the Kyle O’Riley versus Finn Balor match from NXT TakeOver 31. The big thing that stood out was again, less was more. WWE frequently gets in its own way when it comes to match booking. WWE leans on distractions, disqualifications, and other convoluted ways to get out of matches. This NXT UK title match had none of that, just like its counterpart on NXT TakeOver 31.
The two men in the ring did nothing else but beat the mess out of each other in what was an exceptionally believable fashion. Dragunov’s back and neck were blood red after the first series of Walter chops, but he had to go through nearly half and hour more of the violence. Walter was the bigger man but that did not stop him from selling for the challenger. His offense came off as very believable throughout this match as well. Still, the brutality of Walter’s offense is what people are going to remember from this NXT UK main event.
Strong style wrestling is a form that has long entertained hardcore fans and enthralled the casual demographic as well. The match that Walter and Ilja Dragunov put forth on NXT UK would make Strong style practitioners proud to see. Match of the Year rankings are all based on opinion but its still an interesting conversation to have. Walter versus Ilja Dragunov deserves all the respect it is getting because this was a great match that wrestling fans should make it a point to see before the year is over.