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Why Ilja Dragunov Didn’t Participate In NXT New Year’s Evil

Last night’s WWE NXT special, New Year’s Evil, was supposed to feature the NXT Champion, Ilja Dragunov placing his title on the line against Trick Williams. However, things didn’t go according to plan, and WNZ has the reason why.

Ilja Dragunov WWE NXT
Source: @ProWFinesse, X/Twitter, Screenshot

Last night’s WWE NXT special, New Year’s Evil, was supposed to feature the NXT Champion, Ilja Dragunov placing his title on the line against Trick Williams. However, things didn’t go according to plan, and WNZ has the reason why.

Why Ilja Dragunov Was Pulled From The WWE NXT Special

Ilja Dragunov ended up being pulled from NXT’s New Year’s Evil special. It was announced that the champ was injured, still recovering from the attack by Ridge Holland during the December 13th, 2023, edition.

Ilja Dragunov WWE NXT
Source: @Fightful, X/Twitter, Screenshot

According to Haus of Wrestling, a WWE source states that Dragunov is still “banged up” from 2023. His body is taking longer to recover than originally anticipated.

The decision to pull him from the NXT special was made at one point this past weekend. As per the report, no timeline was given for the Ilja’s return.

Ilja Dragunov Was Pulled, Grayson Waller Stepped In For The Save

Former Iron Survivor winner and current SmackDown talent, Grayson Waller ended up replacing Ilja. However, that wasn’t the only change made to this week’s NXT special.

Ilja Dragunov WWE NXT
Source: @wwefantasyplus, X/Twitter, Screenshot

Another last-minute swap up to the New Year’s Evil event included a match Dragon Lee was supposed to participate in. He dealt with a passport problem and was pulled from the show.

In his place, Carlito tagged with LWO’s Joaquin Wilde and Cruz Del Toro. They ended up defeating the No Quarter Catch Crew.

Still, while fans likely missed seeing Dragunov, all’s well that ends well. Ex-NXT Champ Carmelo Hayes made an appearance at the main event match when he started an argument with Trick Williams.

While the ref was distracted, Kevin Owens surprised everyone by coming out of nowhere and punching Waller. KO was able to roll Waller over to set Williams up for victory.

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