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Ilja Dragunov On How Pizzeria Job Prepared Him For NXT TakeOver Triumph

Ilja Dragunov

After vowing to make the you can read that world sit up and take notice with the monumental sequel to his infamous NXT match with WALTER, Ilja Dragunov has opened up about his struggles as a youngster, and how working in a pizzeria and at a gas station taught him the mental endurance to help get through such a physically and emotionally demanding match as the one we saw at NXT TakeOver 36.

Dragunov, of course, has been open in the past about struggling as a Russian immigrant in Germany as a youngster, and struggling with the language barrier, before working in a pizzeria and a petrol station as a young adult. In fact, Dragunov also spoke about his family never having the money to buy any “luxuries” – speaking of begging his mother to buy him a Twix. A problem that’s a far cry from Dragunov’s life now, but one which he always keeps in mind.

Speaking with Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy, Ilja Dragunov tells the story of how he became the only man thus far to endure the brutal tirade of WALTER in singles action in WWE.

It prepared me very well because, through the stuff I went through, I have a very strong mentality regarding what I expect for myself and how I work towards it, so there is no day that is too hard for me to get out and do the best I can because doing the best I can is everything that is needed. Like, there is no guarantee for nothing in life. And I know this. I know that very well. And I know that this could be very rough. But only do your best, day by day, with all the constancy you have is the only chance to get to moments like I received at TakeOver 36.

When asked about the reaction backstage following his win, Dragunov noted how he was so drained, he doesn’t even remember who was there when he walked back through the curtain.

“I was a very good reaction. I can remember a lot of things, to be honest, because I was completely drained after this. I was so tired, I couldn’t even put it into words. So everything was like kind of delusional for me because I prepared myself so hard for the match, physically, that I was expecting just to put everything into this match, just everything so I cannot even remember who was the first person I was talking to, because after I came through the curtain, I was like into, I don’t know, aware of no thoughts, no thoughts.”

You can watch Ilja Dragunov’s victory over WALTER for the NXT UK Championship during NXT TakeOver 36 on-demand on the WWE Network right now.