After taking care of business on SmackDown in the first-ever Intercontinental Championship challenge of Xavier Woods’ career, Gunther was riding pretty darn high; his Intercontinental Championship had been successfully defended for the 10th time, Imperium came off as imposing as ever, and with the WWE draft rapidly approaching, the faction looked prime to hear their names called very early in the proceedings.
Asked how it felt to squash Woods’ dreams of becoming a singles champion, Gunther let it be known that for “The Ring General,” it was just another day at the office, as he detailed to Megan Morant on the SmackDown LowDown.
“What was it like?” Gunther asked. “If you look at it from the outside, you’d think Xavier Woods is a very accomplished competitor in WWE, but I can see through all of them. It’s about one year (since) we arrived on SmackDown, since then, times have changed. Like I said, I see through all of them. It’s enough of taking advantage of this great sport for their own benefit. It’s enough of goofing around and not taking this seriously. This means a lot to us, and just like today, our mission will continue.”
Morant then decided to ask Gunther about the forthcoming WWE draft and whether or not he has any concerns about Imperium being moved to SmackDown after having one of the best first years imaginable as a member of the main roster.
“Do you think that matters to us?” Gunther asked. “It does not matter to us. Imperium can be on RAW, Imperium can be on SmackDown; our journey and our mission does not change. It doesn’t matter where we go, RAW, SmackDown, the United States, Canada, England, the whole world, we stand in that ring proud and we claim us as the ones to protect this great sport. We are Imperium, and wherever we go, the mat is sacred.”
On paper, it’s hard to argue with Gunther’s admission, as he’s 21-4 on televised matches since debuting on SmackDown and has dominated some of the best performers WWE has to offer, from Sheamus to Ricochet and even Drew McIntyre, who still hasn’t returned to WWE television since taking a loss to “The Ring General” at “The Showcase of the Immortals,” WrestleMania 39. Regardless of where he wrestles on a week-to-week basis, be it RAW, SmackDown, or even back in NXT, it’s safe to say that trend will continue.
Fans think Ilja Dragunov could be the man to dethrone Gunther as IC Champion.
With the WWE draft rapidly approaching, folks have begun to wonder if a roster shake-up could be the perfect way to reconfigure who wrestles where and provide Gunther with the perfect opponent to take him to his limits and ultimately end his run before it reaches one full calendar year. But who could it be, Seth “Freakin” Rollins? Austin Theory? Bobby Lashley?
Well, how about Ilja Dragunov, the NXT standout the and man who ended Gunther’s championship reign in NXT before it could hit 1,000 days? Though he may not be a super high-profile figure in the eyes of most WWE fans and has only worked 11 matches on NXT television, the “Unbesiegbar” did beat the man formerly known as Walter seven times before during his professional career, including at Takeover 36, and needless to say, that moment has stuck with him ever since, as he detailed to Alistair McGeorge of Metro back in 2021.
Of all of the men in the WWE Universe, there are few with the same level of in-ring experience versus Gunther as Dragunov, and he has the matches to prove it, with two of their WWE marches, one for NXT UK and the aforementioned contest at Takeover 36 earning over five stars from Dave Meltzer in the Wrestling Observer. If WWE is willing to put over a sub-6-foot-tall performer who specializes in brutal submissions and expressive antics, there really isn’t a better man for the job on the RAW, SmackDown, or NXT roster to challenge Gunther to a full program than Dragunov.
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