Apollo Crews Finally Has a Distinctive Character to Go With His Elite Ring Work

Apollo Crews has always been one of WWE’s best in-ring talents. Now he hopes his new character will be the key to a career renaissance.
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Apollo Crews is ready to unveil a new element to his character in WWE.

This runs deeper than his new gear and refined persona. And although this was already visible when watching his in-ring performances, there is now a different feature on display in his work, particularly when he holds the microphone. For the first time in his WWE career, Crews has a confidence that directly connects to viewers.

“This isn’t arrogance or cockiness; it’s just me knowing what I am capable of doing,” Crews says. “My talent has been hidden for too long, and people are finally going to see how great I really am.”

The 33-year-old Sesugh Uhaa has put in the work since the moment he arrived seven years ago in WWE. Despite well-crafted stories and unrivaled athleticism in the ring, Crews never found the recipe to connect with the WWE audience. That has now changed, as his new character—accompanied to the ring with two guards and speaking in a Nigerian accent—presents Crews in an entirely new light.

“I have such a different background,” Crews says. “You don’t often see African representation on our show. This is a chance to get back in touch with my Nigerian roots.

“I always cared too much what people thought when I was younger, but my mindset has changed. I’m excited about what I’m doing right now. It’s an extension of who I am, and it feels so natural. I am stepping outside my comfort zone, and I’m so excited to do that.”

The confidence to take risks with character development has been lacking throughout Crews’s career, partially because of a genuine shyness. Another factor is that Crews is one of the best wrestlers in the world, which is what brought him to WWE, and has carried his presentation.

“It was so different on the indies,” Crews says. “I did these cool, awesome things in the ring, and my work carried me. At the time, I thought that would take me where I wanted. I got to NXT, and I had the chance to be me.

“Then I struggled to find myself in a new environment [on Raw and SmackDown]. That’s how it’s always been for me. I’m naturally shy and it takes me some time to get familiar with a new situation. That led to me being a generic guy, so people weren’t sure about me. I noticed that when we did live shows. People weren’t connecting with me, so I’ve really worked to build that connection and reaction from the fans.”

Over time, Crews became more seasoned to life in WWE. He learned how to advocate for himself and who to seek out for guidance. And while the current product is still a work-in-progress, Crews is optimistic about his future.

“It’s only been a couple weeks, but a lot has happened in that amount of time,” Crews says. “I have the right character, one that gives me purpose. There is a real history here, too, bringing my Nigerian heritage to our TV. It’s going to be different than anything you see.

“I am really grateful for this opportunity, and I’m giving people everything to the best of my ability. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.”

In retrospect, Crews noted that he would have benefited from more time developing his character in NXT. Yet his talent and hard work are undeniable, and he is beginning to thrive on SmackDown. This can even be witnessed through his character’s new accent, serving as a testament to his range and versatility—both requisites for any star on television.

“This is the right point in my career for character exploration,” Crews says. “Five years ago, as a performer, I couldn’t have done this, with the character or the accent, or any of it. Now I can. And look at the reactions. People hate it, people love it. That’s pretty cool. I don’t want anyone in the middle.”

Though it seems like a distant memory, Roman Reigns was once a character who struggled to connect with a large portion of the audience. Clearly, that is no longer the case, and Crews has drawn inspiration from Reigns’s journey and ascent to a rare level of superstardom.

“Roman does everything so well,” Crews says. “I’ve watched and learned from him. He’s the best. Everyone wants to be in the spot he’s in, so watching him has taught me so much. I want to be that person who can captivate an audience, with an undeniable greatness. That’s Roman’s level, and that is what I am working toward.”

In addition to fleshing out his new persona, Crews is excited to put a unique twist on his work in the ring. A constant in his career has been a continual in-ring evolution as a performer, and he can add so many different wrinkles to his work while presented as an elite heel.

Crews’s ability to thrive in the ring should only be enhanced by his work on the mic. This is a skill that has taken time to develop, and he now believes he is a complete package in terms of presentation and delivery.

“This is a chance I need to take,” Crews says. “It takes a lot of pressure off knowing I can go in the ring with my eyes closed. I’m not worried about any of that. I’m focused on cutting the best promos of my life.”

Wrestlers are also reliant upon the right opponent, which allows a program to flourish. Chemistry is never a given, but Crews expressed his gratitude to be working with someone as talented as Big E, whose style in the ring marks a stark contrast from Crews. Big E is currently the intercontinental champion, seeking to reach new terrain as a singles performer, just as Crews strives to climb to new heights.

And while WrestleMania is meaningful for every performer, this year it represents a date with destiny for Crews.

“Apollo Crews vs. Big E for the intercontinental title at WrestleMania, a singles match for a very prestigious title, that’s what I have in sight right now,” Crews says. “I can’t put into words what that would mean or how I would feel. Just to be on that card in any capacity is meaningful, but to have a singles championship match against someone that’s accomplished as much as Big E, that’s living out a dream.”

A distinctive character and a newfound, hard-earned confidence on the mike have placed Crews on the precipice of a platform he has long sought to attain.

“It’s finally a real-life possibility,” Crews says. “This is what I’m all about, setting goals and reaching them. My goal is winning that intercontinental championship at WrestleMania, but it also runs deeper than that. I want to get to that next level, and I’m putting in the work to get to that spot.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.