Ilja Rukober is a 27-year-old professional wrestler from Russia. He is currently signed to the WWE and performs on NXT under the ring name, Ilja Dragunov.
Rukober began his wrestling training at the German Wrestling Federation and then made his in-ring debut in 2012. A year later, he began wrestling for Westside Xtreme Wrestling. Rukober experienced great success at Westwide Xtreme Wrestling; he was a one-time wXw Unified World Wrestling Champion, three-time wXw World Tag Team Champion and two-time wXw Shotgun Champion.
Rukober’s Progress Wrestling Debut
In 2018, Rukober also began wrestling for Progress Wrestling and made his in-ring debut in October in a losing match to Pete Dunne. At Chapter 83 in January 2019, Dragunov defeated Timothy Thatcher. At Super Strong Style 16, he defeated Chris Brookes in the first round and then beat Trevor Lee in the quarterfinals. In a triple threat match against David Starr and Travis Banks, Ilja was the first wrestler eliminated when Banks defeated him by pinfall.
At Progress Wrestling’s Chapter 91, Rukober defeated Jordan Devlin in a number one contender match for the Unified World Championship. He lost the following day at Chapter 92 to Walter. At Chapter 95, he competed in a royal rumble match for the Proteus Championship entering as number two and eliminated Niwa, TK Cooper and Chuck Mambo, before he and William Eaver simultaneously eliminated each other.
Rukober’s WWE Contract & Debut
In January 2019, Rukober signed with WWE and began using the ring name, Ilja Dragunov. He defeated Jack Stars in his televised NXT UK debut in May 2019. Dragunov then began a short undefeated streak, beating Joseph Conners and then Ashton Smith. At NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff, Dragunov lost to Cesaro after answering his open challenge.
On January 2, 2020, Dragunov defeated Wolfe in a no disqualification match. In retaliation, Barthel and Aichner attacked and beat Dragunov after the match. At NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II, the main event title match was between Walter and Joe Coffey. Wolfe interfered in the match attacking Coffey and Dragunov came to the ring and hit Wolfe with the Torpedo Moskau.
As a result, after NXT UK Tag Team Champions Gallus (Mark Coffey & Wolfgang) defeated Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch on the February 13, 2020 episode of NXT UK, Dragunov came out and confronted Coffey and Gallus. This led to a beat down on Dragunov by Coffey and Gallus. This was due to Coffey stating that Dragunov owed “the Gallus firm” a debt, and led to a match between Dragunov and Coffey on the February 20, 2020 episode of NXT UK, where Dragunov defeated Coffey. After the match, Gallus’ Mark Coffey and Wolfgang appeared in order to commit a post-match assault on Dragunov, but Joe Coffey stopped them and informed Dragunov that he had paid his debt and that matters were now settled.
Career Championships and Accomplishments
- German Wrestling Federation/Next Step Wrestling
- NSW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NSW European Championship (1 time)
- Westside Xtreme Wrestling
- wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship (1 time)
- World Tag Team Championship (3 times)
- wXw Shotgun Championship (2 times)
- 16 Carat Gold Tournament (2017)