After securing a win over Apolo Crews at NXT Vengeance Day, Carmelo Hayes was riding high. He and Trick Williams walked down to the ring to sing their praises, and it looked like the duo were preparing for a one-way ticket to wrestle Bron Breakker… at least until JD McDonagh walked down to the ring to give the duo a hard time. With a match booked to see who really was deserving of a match with the current NXT World Champion moving forward, Hayes, Williams, and McDonagh walked down to the ring and proceeded to work a match worthy of a main event “anywhere in the world,” but before the finish could be fairly contested, a certain song sang out through the PC and who but Ilja Dragunov emerged from the back to run off the man he knew as Jordan Devlin in NXT UK, but not before he could be pinned by the “A-Champ.”
Now, for fans out of the know, Dragunov has been missing from NXT since October, when the man who finally defeated GUNTHER-then-WALTER for the NXT UK Championship at NXT Takeover 36 suffered his second major injury of 2022 in a match with McDonagh less than one week after losing the NXT World Championship in a Triple Threat match with McDonagh and Bron Breakker at Halloween Havoc. Finally healthy, it’s clear Dragunov is back in NXT and clearly out for blood against McDonagh, who he clearly blames for this injury.
Can Dragunov run McDonagh off in the same way he did in NXT UK, where he won a Loser Leaves NXT UK match back in the spring of 2022? Or will McDonagh prove too tough for the former NXT UK Champ and leave the Russian-born “Unbesiegbar” firmly in the midcard below the likes of Breakker and Hayes? Either way, it’s nice to see Dragunov back in NXT, as his visa issues reportedly made it hard to get him back into NXT over the past few months.
ILJA DRAGUNOV IS BACK!!!@UNBESIEGBAR_ZAR #WWENXT pic.twitter.com/XOXJoBLgum
— WWE (@WWE) February 8, 2023
Shawn Michaels explains NXT’s trouble booking Ilja Dragunov, Meiko Satomura.
Speaking with reporters before Vengeance Day on an NXT conference call, Shawn Michaels was asked why Dragunov and Meiko Satomura weren’t on NXT television since the fall of 2022. While the NXT booker didn’t get too deep into the weeds on either performer, he did provide an excuse for their absence and hoped to see them back in the not-too-distant future.
“Much like several months ago, we want them here and love having them here,” Shawn Michaels said. “A lot of it is availability, a lot of it is, as you said, visa issues. A lot of it, also, that is a big career move and life difference. Those are all things we want people to consider before they make that move. Nothing would thrill me more than to have Ilja and Meiko here on a regular basis. They are phenomenal talent. We’re thrilled about Gallus being back and Tyler (Bate) being back. As far as who is to come in the future, a lot of that is up to the talent themselves and, also, there are visa issues, but we’re waiting on a long-term commitment from some people, and we understand that’s not an easy decision to make.”
Fortunately for Michaels, it looks like his issues have been resolved, as Dragunov made his return to NXT at the end of the McDonagh-Hayes match, and Satomura has been announced as Roxanne Perez’s tag team partner against Katana Chance and Kayden Carter on the following edition of WWE’s Tuesday night show. While only time will tell how the duo work out in the current NXT landscape, as a ton has changed over the past few months, the brand is better off with the former NXT standouts in Orlando than sitting at home.
.@roxanne_wwe has her partner for next week and it's none other than..@satomurameiko 😱😱😱#WWENXT pic.twitter.com/nnt8XZPE4p
— WWE (@WWE) February 8, 2023