Apollo Crews envisions WWE journey coming full circle at NXT Deadline

Apr 11, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Apollo Crews (white/green attire) and Big E (orange/silver attire) during their Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania 37 at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Apollo Crews (white/green attire) and Big E (orange/silver attire) during their Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania 37 at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

WWE’s Apollo Crews chats returning to NXT, why his run would come full circle by winning the NXT Championship at Deadline, being back on the road, and more.

Almost exactly six months ago, Apollo Crews resurfaced on WWE NXT with one goal in mind: to capture the championship that has alluded him his entire career.

He confronted Bron Breakker the night of his return and staked his claim at the NXT Championship. However, he knew he’d have to prove himself to earn the opportunity to challenge, something he’s had to do his entire career.

Crews has spent the last six months racking up wins and working with NXT’s finest including Grayson Waller, JD McDonagh, and Roderick Strong. Now, he finds himself on the verge of challenging for the gold in one of his biggest matches yet with Breakker at NXT Deadline.

“It’s been a fun ride,” Apollo Crews told Daily DDT in regard to his run in NXT. “The Casket match was something different and something I really enjoyed doing. I got the victory in that which set me up for this match on Saturday, which is insane because I’m facing someone really similar to me as far as in-ring abilities.”

The former Intercontinental and United States champion praised the second-generation star for being extremely athletic, strong, quick, agile, and powerful, all attributes he has himself. He also commends Breakker for accomplishing so much in such a short span of time and respects him for all he’s done to carry the brand on his back this year.

Although he doesn’t feel pressure heading into this high-stakes matchup, Crews still feels he has a lot left to prove.

“I felt like [going back to NXT] was something that had to be done,” he said. “This is the cherry on top. This would make the return to NXT complete and I’m looking forward to filling that. The feeling of being a champion, you never forget what that feeling is like. I’ve won two [titles] here and I remember what the feeling was both times. I look forward to feeling that again and accepting everything that comes with being champion.”

Winning the NXT Championship would be extra special to Crews considering it was the first title he had a chance to contend for upon arriving in WWE years ago. He first faced Finn Balor for the belt on an episode of NXT in late 2015 and came up short.

It wasn’t long after that he was called up to the main roster without having a chance to hold the gold. He trod water in the undercard for a few years before finally finding success as the United States champion and later as the Intercontinental champion in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Once those runs were over, he was back to being relegated to enhancement status on Main Event (WWE’s Hulu-exclusive D-show) and the occasional episode of Raw. It was apparent something needed to change, and upon realizing that, Crews knew it was time to return to his roots in NXT.

“Having a chance to turn my career around is great,” he said. “It’s not like it was bad or anything, but it got stale there for a while. There was a certain point where every time I got to the ring, people knew I was going to lose. It’s like, how do you change that? In a world where people responding to you is such an important thing, how do you make them believe in you again? It’s not losing that belief in yourself and that was something I struggled with for a while. If I don’t believe in myself, why should anyone else?”

Knowing what he’s capable of, Crews took his talents back to NXT with the mindset of crushing all expectations. So far, he’s done just that, including on the character front.

Physic gimmick aside, NXT has done an excellent job of making Crews much more relatable these past few months. For the first time in his career, he’s gotten the vignette treatment consistently and his upcoming championship clash with Breakker has been built up exceptionally well in the way of character profiles.

“It’s nice to do something so different, even for me,” Crews said about his fishing trip with Breakker that aired this week on NXT. “I never had the opportunity to have packages and I was never built for anything, so doing these things where I can come out of my comfort zone and do things that are different for me, I’m all for it. It was my first time fishing! Whatever’s placed in front of me, it’s my job to bring that to life.”

Crews called it “almost unfamiliar” to be involved in such a storyline, as it’s something he admits he should have been already used to. He recognizes storytelling is what wrestling is all about, and that winning the title during this second stint in NXT would mean much more than it would have during the first.

“I wouldn’t have been as grateful for it as I would be now,” Crews continued. “It’s having those experiences and it’s come full circle. I’m just going to show how good I am, again.”

Much like he did in 2015, the number one contender to the NXT Championship came into NXT at just the right time this year with WWE announcing this week that the brand will be hitting the road again for premium live events starting with Vengeance Day on February 4th.

Crews had the feeling of chasing the dream when he initially arrived in WWE, and now that he has that feeling again, he’s ready for his journey to come full circle and take NXT to new heights as its champion.

“I think it’s fantastic, not just for me but a lot of the guys and girls getting signed now haven’t experienced wrestling on the road due to the pandemic shutting everything down,” he said about NXT’s return to the road. “They only know wrestling in one place, and it’s crazy because it’s all about traveling in those different towns. Being able to travel again and being a part of the brand again, the same feeling I had when we first started traveling years ago with NXT, I’m getting both sides of it. I’m getting to do it all over again.”

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Catch Apollo Crews challenge Bron Breakker for the NXT Championship this Saturday, December 10th at 8/7c on Peacock.