Apollo Crews on Holding WWE's U.S. Championship in Unprecedented Times
Apollo Crews takes pride in wearing the WWE United States championship. It’s an accomplishment that has made all the sacrifices, disappointing days and more than a decade put into pro wrestling worth it.
Momentum is strong for the Raw superstar heading into the Horror Show at Extreme Rules. It’s where the impressive all-around athlete defends the gold against MVP. A veteran who last won the same title when Crews was just starting his career.
“Being against someone who has been in the business for the time he has and having the career he has had, I’ve grown a lot working with him,” Crews said of his upcoming opponent.
"I’ve watched him and Bobby Lashley growing up. It’s awesome to be able to stand across from him and fight with him. I have tons of respect for him. At the same time, he’s trying to take something that belongs to me. I can’t allow that. I am the United States champion. That is my baby. We’re going to go out there and fight. The best man is going to win.”
Before the big match, Crews sat down to talk about his reign and why he is thriving on Monday nights.
What are your thoughts on the newly designed United States championship?
Apollo Crews: I love it and can’t wait to bring it home and put it on display in my house so I can look at it. After Sunday it’s coming home to its rightful owner.
Were you told in advance that the new design was coming?
It did surprise me. I wasn’t told. You see a couple of things online, but you don’t know when you read it online. I was enjoying being United States champion with the then current design. So many amazing athletes have held it. But it’s cool to have the new design as well because like anything, things change.
You’ve jumped brands and had your share of ups and downs in WWE. I feel a turning point in a lot of people’s eyes came after your match post-WrestleMania in April with Aleister Black on Raw. Did that night feel like a breakthrough for you?
That was definitely a turning point for me. Before that any time I would come to the ring I feel people felt, “Okay, this is going to be over in a couple of minutes.” They wouldn’t think I would have that much time to show what I can do. That day I was in my car taking my two kids for a drive. One of them was two at the time; she’s now three. My son is one. I was driving them around so they can fall asleep at that time of day. I get a call around 11 if I can be at the PC [Performance Center in Orlando] that day.
I didn’t think twice. Drove home. My fiancée, who is working from home and my biggest support system, watched the kids. I had this match with Aleister Black. I found out how much time we had and thought it was fantastic. I never had this opportunity to be in the ring this long to show what I’m capable of. It was great for both of us to go out there and do what we love to do and put on a great show for the fans. It was a turning point in my career. It went up from there.
We just saw Keith Lee win the NXT championship along with holding the North American championship. What does it mean for you to be United States champion during this time where the push for diversity is as strong as ever?
It’s a huge honor. Growing up as a kid I had plenty African American superstars that I’d watch. It gave me motivation to be able to chase this dream even more. Now I'm in a position to give back to someone else who may be going through a tough situation or time.
Guys like me, Kofi Kingston, New Day, Keith Lee, Street Profits, are able to show young kids, and it doesn’t have to be African American, any race. We can show it’s possible to be whatever you want to be in life. For me, it was wrestler. I wasn’t going to let anybody stop me from doing that. It’s a very troubling time, but it’s cool we can be on TV and put smiles on people’s faces during a weird, crazy, rough time we’re in.
Everyone has their unique experience right now. You are a dad to young kids. How have these current circumstances impacted your life?
When we first entered this whole thing and lockdown, it was hard. With such young kids, they can’t understand why we can’t go to the store. My daughter is at daycare. She had to stop going to school, so her social life changed completely. At 2, you don’t understand why you’re not allowed to do that. Now I’ve kind of accepted the situation. I realize this is how it’s going to be, and they’re doing a lot better with it. I try to be as supportive as I can to my fiancée. She doesn’t get to socialize a lot either. We can’t really leave the house.
It’s not like we can go out and hang out with friends. It’s a tough time, but it’s much better accepting the situation and adjusting to this new life we’re in right now. What helps me to is being able to go to work and perform. For me, that’s a huge outlet. I got a gym in my garage to workout every day. Those two things are blessings. I get to spend so much time with my family and watch my kids grow up. At the same time, I do miss traveling and being on the road performing in front of a live crowd. It’s one of those things where I’m trying to enjoy as much as I can because I know sooner or later I’ll be back on the road all the time. I’m taking advantage of the time right now.
Those who follow you on social media know you have a fun sense of humor. Wrestling is so much about personality as well as in-ring style. Do you feel now you’re getting the opportunity to show more of yourself on TV?
Just having these opportunities and placed in different situations. People get to see how you are when you’re mad. People to see when you’re sad or happy. It’s not just one emotion. It’s nice for the fans to see how I react to different situations. They see I’m more than a guy who smiles and does cool flips. Being able to come out there weekly helps tremendously building a character. You find things out about yourself that maybe you didn’t know. That’s what I think was lacking from me for the longest time. I was trying to figure out who Apollo Crews was. I’m slowly doing that.
Is there anyone you’ve been working with this year that helped you take that next big step forward?
Paul Heyman is someone I sat down with over a year ago. I’ve talked to him to get some ideas. Fast forward to where we are now, he was one of the main reasons I came to Monday Night Raw. He really truly helped me and was very hands on with me. I feel like he, along with my hard work and talent, played a huge role in helping me get to who I am right now. He is such a fantastic guy. I have nothing but great things to say about him. I feel like I’ve opened some eyes in showing people what I’m capable of as well.
It’s nice I get a chance to talk every week too, which is something I never got a chance to do a lot either. It has all helped me get more comfortable in these situations as well. I feel personally I’ve thrived in these Performance Center shows. I’ve been able to figure out who I am. I don’t get too nervous now. I’m always calm and feel relaxed. It’s a good feeling. I’m excited to see if it will carry over when we go back to a live audience. I’m curious to see how it will be for me. One of the things I like to do is take on new challenges. Put in uncomfortable situations to see how I react. I think everybody should want to be out of their comfort zone. It should be welcome.
Speaking of challenges. MVP is challenging you for the U.S. title at Extreme Rules. Do you look at this match differently knowing it’s against someone you’ve looked up to?
You do have to approach the situation differently, especially against someone who knows the ring so well. He has been around this business for so long. It’s not just some guy who started yesterday. I look at every individual I face differently. It’s like facing a team [in sports]. Not every team is the same. Not every wrestler is the same. I feel like my mindset is the same in that I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to win. At the same time, I can’t think my last opponent is the same as my next opponent.
WWE Raw, Mondays, 8/7c, USA Network
WWE Extreme Rules, July 19, 7/6c, WWE Network and Pay-Per-View