Apollo Crews is a man who, despite having little charisma, has spent the majority of his career relying on exceptional athleticism to make a name for himself inside the ring.
He really is the perfect hybrid – muscle-bound to match the strength and power that WWE has had its talent embody for generations, while also possessing an innate agility that allows him to soar all over the ring in a manner that has essentially defined this generation of professional wrestling.
But although Crews utilized his impeccable in-ring ability to become a standout on the independent scene, it’s almost impossible to make it in WWE without a natural-born charisma, and that’s where Crews misses the mark. He’s lasted well up until now with just his performance between the ropes, but it goes without saying that out of all the NXT stars called up since WrestleMania, Apollo Crews is the least memorable, simply because his lack of character prevents him from making an impact.
People adore Enzo and Cass’ charisma, they love to hate Baron Corbin on his journey to make as much money as he can at the expense of anyone else on the roster, and it goes without saying how quickly they’ve taken to the likes of American Alpha and Bayley. Even The Vaudevillains and Mojo Rawley, albeit afterthoughts in the SmackDown tag division, have gimmicks that stand out.
Apollo Crews is merely known for being a good wrestler, and while it’s worked for some in the past, he’s just not turning enough heads to be granted the opportunity for a push. When that happens for somebody with little personality, and the WWE chooses to switch things up with a new gimmick, the company typically opts for the less-flattering gimmicks that get cooked up behind the scenes.
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that when WWE notices a wrestler on the payroll is having trouble connecting with the fanbase, they’ll slap him with a ridiculous gimmick to see if it can allow them to grow on the mic. The perfect example of this is Cesaro, who once upon a time was backed into a terrible yodelling gimmick that crashed and burned when the man, surprise surprise, couldn’t yodel. Even if he could, it was the absolute worst way to get the man over.
Crews is starting to show signs that an equally infuriating gimmick may be about to change the course of his WWE run. Regular SmackDown viewers may remember when Daniel Bryan opened the show by inadvertently referring to Crews as “Apollo Creed,” a fictional boxer from the “Rocky” series.
They did their best to capitalize on this mishap by allowing The Miz to imply that Crews’ name wasn’t established enough for anyone meaningful, such as a WWE Intercontinental Champion like himself, to remember. This would of course prompt Apollo Crews to get fired up and correct Miz, spelling out his name and laying out the titleholder heading into their match at SummerSlam.
But seemingly, somebody saw this as the only character development that Apollo has had since his debut, and decided to let the kid run with the whole spelling shtick so that he might be able to come across as a meaningful character on television. But simply put, the gimmick sucks, and needs to be axed before it becomes what Apollo Crews is forever associated with.
It was great to see somebody light a fire under Crews and let him get aggressive in the ring, but that was enough. Unless Crews comes out and starts spouting spellings of words like “serendipitously” and “convalescence” in a quick-fire motion, the only thing intriguing about a guy who spells things out is the potential for him to mess up and embarrass himself.
Even if he did impress with some big words, this kind of gimmick is far better suited, if at all, to a heel. After all, we’ve already got two babyfaces on the Raw roster spelling things out for you, and if Enzo and Cass are anything to go by, fans generally prefer their spelling lessons to be misinformed.
Even so, Crews’ mic skills just aren’t nearly good enough to back himself up as a villain, so the best option would be to toss this gimmick to the wayside and continue trying to get the guy to show some passion. As a wrestler, aside from maybe his height, Apollo Crews is in a position where he could believably stand toe-to-toe with just about anybody inside the ring.
They should use that to their advantage, because if they kept putting him in rivalries against guys like The Miz, who could push his buttons and force him to lose the smile, get serious and try to remove the chip from his shoulder that says he may not be a fit for the WWE, it would make for far more interesting viewing than spelling out meaningless words prior to, and during his matches.
It’s been a month since the brand extension, which means WWE has far more time to get a guy like Apollo Crews the exposure his ability demands, without justifying his screen time with a ridiculous gimmick. There’s still plenty of time to let this fade out without becoming something the fans lose their respect for Crews over, so it would be no harm done if they acknowledged it as a shameful effort and moved on to something a little more comprehensive from now on.