Apollo Crews is a huge enigma to me and continues to baffle me from a creative standpoint. From the word go it was clear WWE had big plans for him and they weren’t afraid to let people know this in 2016. Yet throughout 2016, this momentum slowed to an awkward crawl. The engine constantly stalling on what original promised to be one of the company’s more exciting talent. The potential is there for something, but for one reason or another, it seems Apollo Crews has found himself trapped in lower mid-card purgatory. Why is this?
I’d be remiss to throw too much annoyance at Smackdown Live’s creative team, if only because Apollo Crews was really, really rushed to the main roster. He appeared during the backend of 2015 at NXT: Brooklyn and, while he certainly had some eye-catching moves in his arsenal, had the personality of wet paper bag. The expectation seemed to be that his time in NXT would iron out these character flaws, give some dimension and depth to his on-screen persona. But nope.
In the shadow of Wrestlemania 32 he was surprisingly called up to the main roster. I remember thinking at the time that it might be a bit too soon for him – he hadn’t really developed at all on NXT and still had zero memorable character traits to his name. I can only assume that his promotion was based entirely on how passable his in-ring work was, it certainly wasn’t for his engaging storyline contributions.
Since then he’s made a habit popping up when story lines need someone/anyone to fill in the blank. He had a brief run at Rusev in early summer of 2016 before getting drafted to Smackdown Live – where he kind of just faded into the background. He has matches – but they’re not memorable. He challenged Miz for the Intercontinental Championship a few times – but I’d be hard pressed to call any of those matches engaging since they were mostly there to pass time. His most famous contribution on Smackdown Live was probably Daniel Bryan accidentally calling him Apollo Creed during a backstage segment.
And that’s kind of the problem with Apollo Crews. He’s a great worker in the ring, and he certainly has something about him, but he’s kind of disappeared from view. The only decent thing he’s done in recent times was getting beaten up by Ziggler – which in itself may lead nowhere as Ziggler moves on to feud with Jerry Lawler. There’s obviously still a chance he could come back into the feud, but playing Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler’s protector is hardly the most interesting use of his time.
Part of the problem loops back to that earlier point – he was pushed to the main roster way too soon. NXT should be the staging ground for WWE Superstars, the place where potential is molded and shaped. Not everyone can be a main event level talent on the main roster, but everyone should at least come out of NXT with a persona and something unique to their name. Crews lacked this entirely. If I asked you to name three personality traits for Crews as a character, you’d struggle to write two down. He’s that bland.
It also hasn’t helped that he’s been given nothing at all to work with. Without a solid story, his run has descended into the awkward meandering slot that the likes of Zack Ryder used to fill. The mid-card talent that’s rolled out to act as filler until the real show kicks in. Fans see him and they politely applaud, but he’ll never get to move beyond this because there’ll always be bigger names ahead of him the queue. Nowhere was this showcased more than Dean Ambrose seemingly lifting his Intercontinental Championship feud with Miz out the way in order to capture that title himself.
It’s a shame really because prior to the brand split, he’s one of the Superstars I would have had pegged to break out. Smackdown Live seemed like the perfect home to foster his abilities and make him shine – but six months later he’s all but been relegated to footnote. Perhaps more damningly, fans don’t seem to be clawing to see more of him on the weekly show.
Perhaps he could be better utilized in a tag-team. Smackdown Live needs more teams and Crews could probably do with some time basking in the shadow of a bigger name. It’s worked wonders for Randy Orton; whose re-invention with the Wyatt Family has been nothing short of a miracle. Crews could easily play the bigger partner role for one of the shows weaker members.
It’s hard to get that animated over Apollo Crews misuse. I assume he has fans out there and they’re probably upset. But given that I rarely see these people, and hear them complain even less, perhaps that’s why WWE don’t really feel the urge to push him harder. Maybe in time he’ll find a better position on the roster. Or maybe he’s just doomed to forever be an afterthought. With Wrestlemania season about to kick off, I suspect we won’t be seeing all that much of Crews in either case.
Do you think Apollo Crews deserves better booking on the main roster?