Exclusive Backstage News On Ilja Dragunov Being Pulled From NXT New Year’s Evil

Last night’s WWE NXT New Year’s Evil special was set to feature WWE NXT Champion Ilja Dragunov defending his title after Iron Survivor winner Trick Williams. The big match did not take place as planned after it was announced that Dragunov was injured. It was noted that his neck had not fully healed from the attack he suffered at the hands of Ridge Holland on the December 13 episode.

After speaking with a tenured WWE source, Haus of Wrestling has learned that beyond his neck, Dragunov is “banged up from 2023” and is taking longer to heal his body than expected. The call to have him removed from the New Year’s Evil main event was made sometime this past weekend. As it was described to us, the time frame for Dragunov’s return to in-ring action is uncertain.

Dragunov was replaced by former Iron Survivor winner and WWE SmackDown star Grayson Waller. Toward the end of the main event, former WWE NXT Champion Carmelo Hayes ran to the ringside area and began arguing with Williams. While the referee was distracted by the two men, Kevin Owens popped out of nowhere and landed a big punch on Waller, who was trying to get a breather outside the ring. Owens then rolled Waller into the ring, setting up Williams for the win.

The adjustment to the main event was not the only last-minute change made to Tuesday night’s show, as Dragon Lee dealt with passport issues that kept him off the show. In his place, Carlito tagged with The LWO’s Joaquin Wilde and Cruz Del Toro in a winning effort against the No Quarter Catch Crew. During the bout, Wilde nailed a second rope trampoline spot that saw him travel what felt like twenty feet through the air onto a pile of his opponents outside the ring. Clips of the move have gone viral in the last twenty-four hours.