Ilja Dragunov Was Pulled From an NXT Match Because of Injury — Was It Real?


Dec. 20 2023, Published 10:43 a.m. ET

The Gist:

  • Ilja Dragunov appeared to be injured during a recent fight with Ridge Holland after he landed head-first on the canvas.
  • The injury was reportedly staged, as was the medical attention that Ilja received after he got "hurt."
  • Ilja is scheduled to compete again in just two short weeks, so the injury may have been designed to give him a redemption arc.
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We all know that despite the incredible athleticism that wrestlers need to compete, much of what we see in the ring isn't as real as it may appear. During a recent WWE match against Ridge Holland, Ilja Dragunov appeared to leave the ring with a serious injury.

Following Ilja's dramatic departure, many wrestling fans wanted to know exactly what happened to him and whether or not he got hurt. Wrestling can often involve some pretty impressive acting, but many fans also know that getting injured can be a real problem for wrestlers. They put their bodies on the line every time they enter the ring.

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Ilja Dragunov celebrating in a wrestling ring.
Source: Getty Images

What happened to Ilja Dragunov?

Ilja appeared to be hurt after Ridge attempted a brain-buster move on him. Ilja landed head-first on the canvas, and the match stopped so that he could get medical attention.

According to reports, the injury wasn't real. Instead, it was just an impressive piece of acting on Ilja's part. The match was pre-taped earlier in December and Ilja's injury was all part of the plan.

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According to reporting from Fightful, Ilja's injury was "good acting," but fans definitely shouldn't go after Ridge Holland over the injury. It was all staged from the start, right down to Ilja's inability to respond to the ref's call and the stretcher that wheeled him out of the arena. It's certainly possible for wrestlers to get hurt, but in this case, that doesn't seem to be what happened.

Ilja is scheduled to defend his title in just two weeks.

It seems like this injury story may all be part of a broader redemption arc that Ilja is being set up for. The NXT champion is set to defend his title on New Year's Day when he takes on NXT North American Champion Trick Williams. Trick earned his spot in the ring after winning the 2023 Men’s Iron Survivor Challenge. If Ilja was injured, there would likely be some news about his inability to participate in that match.

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Ilja is widely considered to be one of the most talented fighters to ever step foot in a WWE ring, and based on his ability to convincingly fake an injury, it seems like he's also a pretty good actor on top of that. It isn't clear what his future will be in the league, but it seems likely that he'll be back to compete in just a few short weeks. He may start the fight in a cast, but it seems unlikely that he'll end it in one.

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