Features

WWE Character Rehab: Apollo Crews by Matty J. Douglas

Happy Friday TJR Faithful! I’m back and feeling better than ever. I’ve stored up a tank full of WWE hot takes and I’m ready to unleash them. We are two weeks into this new brand split, and I certainly have a myriad of opinions on how things are going with that right now.

I could talk about how much I’ve found myself enjoying the squash matches on Raw, or how annoying it was to have Superstars “Invade” one another’s shows one week into the split. I could talk about the cosmetic changes that both shows have made that help them look different, or I could talk about how other than those purely superficial changes, both shows feel at their cores exactly the same, simply with different rosters. Those are all topics I will cover in due time, but this week a different topic has captured my attention and imagination. That topic is none other than Apollo Crews.

This week on Smackdown Live, during the opening segment with Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon, Daniel Bryan accidentally called Apollo Crews, Apollo Creed. It was a funny line flub that did more to hurt Apollo and illustrate his position in the WWE right now than it did to make Bryan look bad. Let me put it this way, Daniel Bryan isn’t accidentally calling The Rock, Rocky Balboa. He isn’t accidentally referring to John Cena as John Stamos. Hell I doubt he’d ever accidentally call Jason Jordan, Michael Jordan. In a split second, he unintentionally conditioned the audience to perceive that Apollo Crews doesn’t matter, by accidentally calling him Apollo Creed.

Am I making too big a deal out of an innocuous line flub? Perhaps. That said, I truly do believe that that moment was indicative of all the problems with Apollo Crews’ character at the moment. It feeds into the idea that he doesn’t stand out. That he doesn’t have a personality, and that he’s nobody special. His character needs a jolt, something that will ensure that nobody ever confuses him with a fictional character played by Carl Weathers. He needs to be checked into what I’m calling “The Matty J. Douglas Character Rehab Facility”. This week I will look into what’s working for Apollo Crews, what’s not, and write a prescription that will set him on the path to Superstardom on Smackdown Live! Let’s Do This!

What’s Working

So before we can rehab Apollo, we need to look at his best qualities. What is working for him right now as a WWE Superstar. I’d say one of his biggest strengths at the moment is his look. He is in phenomenal physical condition and just looks like somebody that would be imposing to get in the ring with. I’d also say that his flashes of aerial athleticism are a big positive in his matches. The way he backflipped out of Kane’s Chokeslam last week was great to see, and any time they give him the opportunity to show that kind of acrobatic ability, he nails it. Unfortunately that’s probably about where the positives about his current portrayal end.

What Isn’t Working

Where to begin here. Let’s start with the name. Apollo Crews? Is that really the best they could come up with? It’s one of those names that makes me imagine the worst in the people in the WWE. I imagine they saw him and thought “he’s a black fighter, like Apollo Creed, and he also looks a little like Terry Crews… oh my god, I think I’ve got his name!” There’s something undeniably lazy about just mashing up two famous black people’s names in creating a name for a wrestler. They might as well have called him Will Washington or Denzel Smith. Couldn’t they have at least paid a little homage to his name on the indies (Uhaa Nation, because he was a One Man Nation) and called him Apollo Crew, and say he’s a One Man Wrecking Crew?

Another one of his issues is a lack of personality inside and outside the ring. It’s one thing to not be a great promo. There are a lot of guys that aren’t spectacular promos. In those cases they need to have an in ring personality that shines through prominently. Cesaro is insanely fun to watch in the ring because of the energy he brings. The Usos have a character they bring to their matches, as do Jordan and Gable. The epitome of letting your personality shine through in the ring is Shinsuke Nakamura. That guy gets over without having to utter a word. Crews doesn’t seem to have a set style or personality that shines through when he wrestles. He just looks like guy doing moves, which wasn’t what he was like before he made it to the WWE.

The guy used to do incredible moves that showcased his power and his aerial athleticism. Since he’s debuted in the WWE, it seems that they want to suppress that acrobatic style and focus more on the strength aspects of his offence. It’s a huge mistake if you ask me.

Finally, he hasn’t really been given a chance to find his character’s footing. He just arrives smiling, wrestles his matches, once in a while wows us with a move, and then leaves without ever displaying anything that could remotely resemble a character trait. What does he like? What does he dislike? What are his goals from match to match? For his career? What does he feel about those around him? What has gotten him here to the WWE? Answering any of these questions is vital in building a character. Not only does it make booking a character infinitely easier, it also endears them to an audience. The public empathizes with people whose lives and personalities interesting and challenging, not just people who smile a lot.

The Prescription

It may be too late to change his name but outside of that it would only take some very small tweaks to fix what ails Apollo Crews right now. First off, let him use his finisher from the indies, The Uhaa Combination. Give it a new name (“Showtime At The Apollo” maybe?) and let him wow people with his press slam, into a standing moonsault, into a standing shooting star press.

Just look at him hit it there. So much swagger. So much more confidence than he seems to have right now. The small details in the way he covers the opponent after hitting it. He looks like he actually has personality and life to his character. Part of why he seems so dull right now is that he’s being handcuffed in the ring, and it shows.

In NXT, his trunks would often read “Too Easy”. Let him express that sentiment in his matches and in his promos. Empower him to display his unique combination of power and acrobatics, and it won’t be hard for people to get into him. Let him be a little cocky and bust out moves a guy his size shouldn’t be able to hit. Let him put on a show out there instead of wrestling paint by numbers matches. Let JBL or David Otunga give him a nickname like Half Man Half Amazing, and let him showcase his one of a kind skills much like Vince Carter would in his prime, dunking on cats night in and night out.

Simply changing his finisher to a unique combination of moves he’s used for most of his career would perfectly illustrates everything his character is about in tight sequence, as well as go a long way toward building his comfort zone in a WWE ring. What would it hurt to at least try it out.

————

There you have it, but as always I want to know what you think! What do you think Apollo Crews’ biggest problems are? Is it the name? The lack of character? The incessant smiling? His finishing maneuver? What prescriptions would you guys write to make his character more interesting? Is it as simple as letting him do cool moves in the ring? Does he look uncomfortable to you guys?

Until next week folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying I didn’t enjoy Suicide Squad… just not a good movie. Have a great weekend everybody!