When you think of the most brutal matches in WWE history, many will likely come to mind. For me the first I think of is Cactus Jack vs Edge at Wrestlemania 22. For others, maybe its Kurt Angle vs Shan McMahon at King of the Ring. Or possibly another King of the Ring match featuring Mick Foley, back in 1998 when Undertaker through Mankind off Hell in a cell and he plummeted sixteen feet into an announcers table.
But to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, a man who has covered wrestling for 40 plus years now, that honor may now belong to Walter vs Ilja Dragunov after their epic encounter for the NXT United Kingdom Championship which aired on 10/29/20. Sometimes when you watch a match it is so excellent you cannot stop talking about it. This for me was what I experienced after watch Johnny Gargano vs Andrade Cien Almas at Takeover: Philadelphia. You cannot run out of words that you want to say about said match and will discuss with anyone willing to listen and even those who dont. Othertimes, however, you watch a match that simply leaves you speechless. This was Walter vs Dragunov. The UK’s brand is often an afterthought to most fans as it airs only on the network stateside. With three hours of Raw, two hours of Smackdown, two hours of NXT, two hours of Dynamite, and two hours of Impact where can one find the time to watch a show on WWE Network? I dont rate matches and I am not here to tell you this match is better than any other match. What I can say definitively is it is one match you need to go out of your way to watch.
The setting is an empty arena leading to WON’s first 5* match without fans in attendance. Walter vs Dragunov has been built by WWE for the last seven months but was years in the making. These two men have previously had epic encounters in Progress and wXw. This time was something special. The match had a different feel than every other match of Walters under the UK brand as this time Walter was not walking in unblemished. For the first time in his stint under the NXT UK banner Walter had been pinned the previous week by Ilja Dragunov in a tag team match. Walter had previously suffered defeat at Survivor Series in a ten man tag match back in November of 2019. The loss to Dragunov felt different on the 23rd of October however. In NXT Walter has carried a coat of invincibility.
What happens when the immovable object is moved but it meets the irresistible force? Confidence for the challenger. Confidence that he can do what no man has yet to do in singles competition. Beat the Ring General and end his reign that began in April 2019. When the two finally met face to face one on on confidence was high but the results were the same. After an epic clash featuring Walters chops that could make your chest sting from a thousand miles away and Dragunov’s refusal to give up the challenger lay lifeless in the champions arms bleeding from the mouth. The referee had called a stop to the match as Walter choked what was left of Ilja Dragunov soul out of his body.
What makes Walter a good monster heel?
Consistently WWE has tried to build a monster heel. Braun Strowman, Lars Sullivan, Bray Wyatt, and even Drew McIntyre among others. But all either fail or quickly become fan favorites and forced to turn into the good guy. What makes Walter so different than others? Why after almost two years of being “the bad guy” does Walter still carry the presence of the monster without having people lose interest? It’s simple really. He’s better than everyone else. One of Walters key character traits is wanting to restore the honor and glory of the great sport that is professional wrestling. He doesn’t cheat to win his matches and consistently require outside interference, a key aspect of WWE booking that often causes people to lose interest in a title reign. And more importantly he has great matches. The good guys are built like they are David ready to take on Goliath. There is no fear. No sense of danger. But when the time comes after an epic encounter, Goliath still reigns supreme. And he leaves you wanting more.
Who can beat this guy?
In the past week we had two legends defending their title. In both instances the champion stood tall leaving you asking, who can even beat this guy if not him? First it was Khabib in the UFC. After starting 28-0 in his professional fighting career he was set to face what many believe would be his toughest challenger to date in Justin Gaethje. After eating a few solid punches in round one, Khabib did what Khabib does and he took Gaethje down in round two, got his back, and put him to sleep with a rear naked choke. As soon as the match was over I looked at the most dominate champion in the UFC and asked, who can even beat this guy? And I had the same question after Walter took Ilja down, got his back, and put him to sleep with a rear naked choke.
For Khabib, we may never know. For Walter however there is still a lot of fighting left. Walter has already faced the likes of Pete Dunne, who now appears to reside in NXT, Joe Coffey, Josh Briggs, Kassius Ohno, Trent Seven, Ridge Holland, Dave Mastiff, and Tyler Bate while UK champion. As Dunne would appear to be out of the picture moving to the United States joining Pat McAfee there does not appear to be many challengers left for the Ring General. Newly signed and announced Rampage Brown may lead to a good matchup down the road. And Triple H does really want Finn Balor to face the Champion of the UK. But it is another man who makes the most sense for a big title shot and eventually take the title off the monster of the United Kingdom. Tyler Bate, NXT’s first ever champion, previously clashed with Walter in what may be WWE’s greatest match of all time earning a 5 1/2* rating for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. The beauty of Walter’s title reign has been great matches and the lack of constant rematches. The previous encounter was based on Walter making a man out of the young Tyler Bate. And indeed a man was made. Will that come back to bite Walter in the future? Or will another challenger reign supreme? Until then I can promise you, if Walter is on the card, go out of your way to watch.