Over the last couple of months, rumors have swirled about Ilja Dragunov potentially joining the Imperium faction on the main roster. While that sounds perplexing to anyone who has followed Dragunov’s career in NXT UK and NXT, it’s not hard to understand WWE’s rationale for possibly making the move.
For WWE fans who don’t watch NXT — of which there are plenty — pairing the hard-hitting Russian with Intercontinental Champion GUNTHER, Giovanni Vinci, and Ludwig Kaiser makes a lot of sense.
Dragunov, however, doesn’t feel the same way.
What does Ilja Dragunov think about potentially joining Imperium?
"“My question to this is honestly, who would actually want this? There couldn’t be more differences between Imperium and me. Those guys are very cold, very stoic, very methodical. I’m a completely unbalanced super intense mad dragon. That’s the person I am. They don’t fit together. Who wants to see something that is not fitting together?”"
In NXT, Dragunov and Imperium engaged in a months-long feud that culminated in Dragunov beating GUNTHER (then known as WALTER) in an instant classic to win the NXT UK Championship at NXT TakeOver 36 in August 2021. Dragunov will have another chance to win a championship at The Great American Bash when he faces Carmelo Hayes for the NXT Title.
Should Dragunov join Imperium?
Dragunov is right; he and GUNTHER seem incompatible as allies, and given their past history, it would be illogical for Dragunov to suddenly become pals with his WWE archnemesis. A lack of logic has never stopped WWE from doing what it wants to do, though.
If WWE wants to put GUNTHER and Dragunov in the same group, it won’t let a pesky thing like longstanding storyline animosity interfere with its plans. After all, the main roster shows barely acknowledge NXT anyway (though that has started to change) and there’s enough of a viewership gap between Raw, SmackDown, and NXT that allows it to get away with ignoring its own plot points.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping WWE from using their own footage to explain to fans these stories, but dusting off all that recent footage is too much work. Plus, Dragunov and GUNTHER chop people really hard, so of course they should be in the same faction.
Dragunov has thrived as a babyface that overcomes tremendous levels of pain, and while that sort of gimmick is harder to get over on the WWE main roster, it’s one that’s worth trying before turning him heel and stuffing him in a stable.