Despite his defeat at the hands of Carmelo Hayes at the "WWE NXT" Great American Bash, Ilja Dragunov's performance garnered admiration from a broad spectrum of wrestling enthusiasts, critics, and industry legends alike, most notably WWE Hall of Famer, Booker T.
During his appearance on "The Hall of Fame" podcast, Booker extolled the Dragunov-Hayes match as the event's ultimate highlight. This lengthy, action-packed confrontation, clocking in at over 24 minutes, featured Hayes, a charismatic champion, pitted against the relentless and powerful Dragunov.
The clash was indeed a spectacle that lived up to the description given by Shawn Michaels, WWE Senior Vice President of Talent Development Creative, as a "clash of techniques". Despite Hayes walking away with his "NXT" Championship intact, Booker was compelled to single out Dragunov's commendable efforts as the challenger.
"Dragunov deserves recognition," Booker asserted. "He brought the fight to Hayes and pushed him to his limits to remain the 'NXT' Champion. Not to detract from Hayes' accomplishments, but Dragunov is someone who personifies credibility in the ring."
Dragunov's Unique Fan Appeal
While continuing his analysis, Booker emphasized the unique quality that Dragunov brings to each match, capturing the attention of the audience in a way few other competitors can.
"It's all about the fans," said Booker. "They watch each competitor showcase their skills. And then Dragunov steps in the ring. Suddenly, the excitement level rises. They've seen the other matches, but they know something special is about to unfold.
That's what Dragunov brings to the table." As the match's intensity peaked at The Great American Bash, Booker also lauded Hayes for managing to counter Dragunov's onslaught. "Hayes found himself in the fight of his life," Booker confessed.
"And boy, did he deliver. He demonstrated exactly what I anticipate from this young talent week in, week out. He's expected to wrestle at an elite level, but when it's time to fight, he doesn't shy away. That's precisely the type of performance I witnessed that night."