In January 2019, WWE announced that it had signed Ilja Dragunov, assigning it ex officio to the newborn roster of NXT UK, an NXT branch in England. In the NXT UK episode of May 15th Rukober, assumed the ringname Ilja Dragunov, easily defeats Jack Starz.
Thus began a long series of victories, defeating athletes like Joseph Conners and Ashton Smith, but this winning streak was stopped on August 15 when Dragunov was defeated by Kassius Ohno. On the December 5 episode of NXT UK (taped November 15), Dragunov appeared during the main event negotiation segment between Walter and Joe Coffey, for their title match at NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II.
Walter wanted Dragunov to face Wolfe in a no disqualification match at a future date, but Coffey refused, since Dragunov was not a member of Gallus. In a recent interview with TalkSport, the NXT superstar discussed working with Triple H and Shawn Michaels: “Yeah, what can I say?!
Of course, it’s learning from the best. It’s just stuff you can’t imagine when you’re getting into it [professional wrestling]. It’s a completely new horizon for me and I know things I never thought I’d know and I see them from a different perspective. I’ve grown as a performer every single day. This is the most exciting time in my life”.