Ilja Dragunov Is Your New NXT Champion After Defeating Carmelo Hayes At WWE No Mercy

After a brutal match that left both men lying at points throughout, Ilja Dragunov captured the "NXT" Championship from Carmelo Hayes during the penultimate match of the "WWE NXT" No Mercy premium live event. In an impressive showing, Dragunov, a former "WWE NXT" U.K. champion, started off the match hot and kept Hayes in check throughout the bout.

The two first faced off for the championship at the Great American Bash at the end of July in a brutal match, though Trick Williams did get involved. Williams' involvement in the win shattered Hayes' confidence in recent weeks, though the now-former champion was set on winning at No Mercy to be a "beacon of hope" for kids who look like him. Their bout at No Mercy was even more brutal than their last match at a premium live event. At one point in the match, Dragunov hit a coast-to-coast on Hayes and was busted open on his forehead. Hayes continued to be resilient and kick out of everything Dragunov threw at him, but at the end, Hayes couldn't hang on any longer and the challenger pinned him for the three count.

After the match, Dragunov remained intense but shook Hayes' hand in a show of respect. The win marks the start of Dragunov's first "NXT" Championship reign. Hayes defeated Bron Breakker in April at "NXT" Stand & Deliver to win the championship. Also on No Mercy, Williams defeated Dominik Mysterio to capture the "NXT" North American Championship, and he and Hayes were seen celebrating backstage before Hayes' title match.