Finn Bálor def. Ilja Dragunov

Finn Bálor def
Finn Bálor def. Ilja Dragunov

HOUSTON — Going into Worlds Collide, Finn Bálor laid things out very clearly to Ilja Dragunov: NXT UK’s ruby-eyed Russian would get exactly one crack at the self-proclaimed “Prince” — an opportunity he’d best not miss. The message was received: Even though the Irishman ultimately upended his foe, Dragunov all but made himself famous in defeat, handing the former NXT Champion everything he could handle and then some.

Dragunov — relatively unknown to the American audience, save perhaps for that all-timer against Cesaro last year — gave his foe a painful crash course, thumbing Bálor in the eye and battling through a series of frustrated chops from the former NXT Champion that turned Dragunov’s chest a bright shade of red. The Mad Russian’s crescendo, literally and figuratively, came by way of a coast-to-coast dropkick that might have broken Bálor’s nose.

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Finding himself in the unfamiliar position of fighting for survival, Bálor absorbed his punishment and picked his opening perfectly to win. Blocking a top-rope senton from Dragunov, the Irishman uncorked a massive Coup de Grâce and followed up with 1916 for the win. Given the effort put forth by Dragunov, you’d be hard-pressed to say he missed in any sense of the word. But the Russian fell short in the most crucial sense: He didn’t keep his foe down.

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