WALTER’s United Kingdom Championship reign will have lasted 870 days when he defends the title against Ilja Dragunov at TakeOver 36 on September 22, 2021. We look at that reign and why Dragunov will win WALTER’S UK Title.
The record reign has only included nine title defenses. But these have been high in quality and presented WALTER as dominant. His three title defenses this year – against A-Kid, Tommaso Ciampa, and Rampage Brown – could all legitimately find themselves in 2021 match of the year lists. The Ciampa encounter at NXT TakeOver: Stand and Deliver, in particular, could top many lists by January.
WALTER’S match with Ciampa came just 24-hours before his bout with Rampage Brown at NXT UK Prelude. WWE took advantage of a pre-taped NXT UK to present WALTER as competing in the two championship matches in two days and in the US and UK. Simply put, WALTER hasn’t had a bad match since he won the Championship from Pete Dunne.
None of those matches have been met with the same level of plaudits as his match with Ilja Dragunov in October 2020. WALTER won on that occasion and many will expect him to beat Dragunov again when they meet in their rematch.
The Tale Of Two Narratives
WALTER vs. Dragunov II was storyline delayed due to a hand injury WALTER suffered in a backstage brawl. The injury is a legitimate one even if the kayfabe reason for it is less glamorous.
NXT UK is telling one of two stories. One: WALTER simply cannot be beaten and will continue to dominate his opponents from now until forever. “The Ring General’s” title reign will hit 1,000 days. It fits with the WALTER character for the reign to continue. Plus, there’s a lack of pressure by fans to see a new United Kingdom Champion crowned.
This second narrative sees Dragunov win the Championship, and here’s why.
Why Dragunov Will Win WALTER’S UK Title
Simply put, it makes complete storyline sense for Dragunov to win the United Kingdom Championship. For those that require a little more context, here you go. Dragunov has changed a lot in the past nine months and nobody has gone into a title match with WALTER with as much momentum as the “Moscow Madman”.
When Dragunov lost to WALTER in their first brutal and heavy-hitting bout it left a big impression on him. Dragunov’s lifeless body lay in the ring with cuts and welts on both his chest and shoulders from WALTER’S devastating chops. In his post-WALTER matches, Dragunov began to show signs of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Whenever Dragunov’s opponents slapped him on the back, he would snap into a trance-like state and inflict severe punishment on them. Dragunov lived for months in fear of his actions. He would attempt to wrestle his matches without entering the trance but failed for months.
Eventually, he managed to navigate a match against Sam Gradwell and keep his cool. He picked up the win and didn’t snap that night but there was one more challenge for Dragunov before he could say he’d fully battled his demons.
Dragunov’s Biggest Night
Enter Noam Dar. Our clearest indication that Dragunov was being primed for a crowning moment came on the June 3, 2021 episode of NXT UK. First, he participated in a grueling and evenly-weighted match with Noam Dar. Dragunov’s mind and body were attacked by Dar but he picked up the victory without suffering a rage blackout.
This was the opening bout on a show centered around Joe Coffey and Rampage Brown’s ongoing rivalry to prove which one of them was the top guy in NXT UK. We had been conditioned to believe whoever came out on top in this rivalry would be next in line for a shot at WALTER’S United Kingdom Championship. After Coffey beat Brown in the main event, the two gestured that it was 1-1 between them to seemingly set up a rubber match and a clear Number 1 contenders’ match.
But Dragunov had other ideas. His music hit and he appeared on the ramp for a staredown with both men. This wasn’t the tortured Dragunov we were used to seeing. He looked cool and calm. He was in control of his demons.
If there was to be a match to prove who the top guy in NXT UK was, Dragunov wanted in. Fast forward and Dragunov defeated both Coffey and Brown in a triple threat match. This victory was to act as Dragunov’s ultimate redemption. After the bell, WALTER unleashed a brutal beating on Dragunov.
It Could Still Go Either Way
WALTER questioned whether or not Dragunov had battled his demons and visibly got in the head of him during a press conference. That war of words was preceded by a backstage assault on WALTER that postponed the Championship match until August. The fact that the match will take place in front of fans is another indication Dragunov could be taking the title. It is unlikely that the powers that be would want the moment WALTER loses the title to be in an empty BT Sports Studio. Moving it to TakeOver 36 will mean even more eyes will watch it.
Of course, there’s still a huge case to be made for WALTER continuing his United Kingdom Championship run. WALTER’S claims Dragunov has not fully put his mental issues to bed could be true. “The Ring General” could put on an attack of the mind and body of Dragunov and come away victorious.
There’s never been anyone built up to face him as much as Dragunov. Be prepared for a shock come NXT TakeOver 36.
— WALTER (@WalterAUT) July 23, 2021
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