Tonight's WWE SmackDown will bring with it the Big E's first title defense, and it will be Apollo Crews challenging for his newfound Intercontinental Championship. Crews is one of many who are happy for Big E's win, but that doesn't mean he isn't going to pull out all the stops so he can start his next title reign. ComicBook.com had the chance to talk to Crews all about his big match tonight as well as what he hopes to add to his superstar arsenal, his newfound love of Cobra Kai, and what he hopes will make a return in 2021. First off though we had to talk about how he's preparing to handle someone like Big E in the ring, and somehow this will actually be their first match against each other one on one.
"It's so crazy, and I was just speaking to someone earlier, because we've never, I don't think we've ever been in the ring with each other as far as facing each other in any kind of capacity," Crews said. "So it's hard to say at this point, it's like studying game film, you know what I mean? Just watching his every move and kind of figuring out what he does here, how he moves and certain things like that. It's just all study at this point. But I know what I do. I'm comfortable with what I do. I know I have to go out there and do what I can do to win. I'm not walking in there, especially with someone like Big E, who's done so much in this company, walking in there thinking that this is just going to be a cakewalk."
"I'd be a fool to think that I can walk in there and just take it easy and lead Intercontinental Champion. I feel like I'd be a fool to think that about anybody at this level of competition," Crews said. "So studying a lot, watching a lot of his stuff and just knowing, being very comfortable and being confident in what I can deliver as well."
If he can make a win happen, Crews feels ready to take on all the responsibility and pressure that being the Intercontinental Champion comes with.
"There's so much history behind that and so many great Intercontinental champions. I feel like I could be along there with that list of great Intercontinental champions," Crews said. "I don't really take days off. I'm always working to get better. I'm always trying to improve no matter what it is, whether it's in the ring, whether it's physically, my body, my personal life, professional, whatever it is, I'm always trying to improve."
"So if I were to become Intercontinental champion, that wouldn't change. As a matter of fact, that's where the work would really just begin. It's where you've got to even work harder, it's where you've to push harder. It's where you've got to wake up earlier. You've got to take those phone calls that you don't feel like taking. It's where you've got to talk to the people that you may not feel like talking to. It's showing up dressed looking like a star," Crews said.
"And I feel like I'm ready and prepared for that. For me, not that it seems like it'd be easy, but I kind of, just coming off the summer as United States champion, it wasn't too long ago that I was in that spotlight, I guess you could say. So it seems like it may be easier to transition back into that then if I weren't United States champion and I didn't know what that felt like," Crews said. "That's what I feel like I could bring, and that's what I feel like I will bring if I do become Intercontinental champion."
Crews is known for his skills in the ring, boasting a unique mix of athleticism and power that is rarely found in one person. That said, there's another piece of his skillset that he wants to bring to the forefront in 2021.
"I feel like with the promos and stuff like that, that is something that I've been working on very hard. I want to be more entertaining," Crews said. "I don't want to just be this guy who comes in the ring with some nice pair of tights and does some cool moves. You know what I mean? I feel like that entertainment part is a huge part of this business and it's a huge part of having people, fans. Or, it helps with fans being able to relate to you."
"That's what people really gravitate towards, is when they see who you are as a character," Crews said. "So I feel like that's something that is very important for me to work on and for me to build a bigger fan base and for people to want to see me do better. That character work is so, so important, and that's something that I've been actually focusing on a lot. That's one thing that I'd love to be able to show more in 2021, is that side."
"That's one of the things that I realized later where at first it was like, 'Okay, I need to be disciplined in the ring. It's in the ring, in the ring, in the ring.' And then I realized, 'Okay, that is not something that I should worry about too much. I need to worry about this other part of it, the entertainment part and show people who I am as a character," Crews said. "So that to me is important this year, to be able to get out there."
When Crews isn't taking down opponents in the ring, he's looking for that next great film or show to catch his attention, and Cobra Kai managed to completely hook him from episode one.
"I kind of found out about that show, I think, way later than it actually came out," Crews said. "So I only found out about it when it came out on Netflix. I heard it was on YouTube even years before that. I was like, how have I not seen this? How am I just now finding out about this? I just literally watched the third season from 6:00 PM to midnight the other day. It's a fantastic, amazing show. It's just so well written. Well, I didn't realize I was going to be hooked to it. Crazy."
As for who he would like to play in the show if given the chance, Crews is eyeing a sensei role. "I'd like to be a sensei and have a group of kids that I'm training and then passing my skills onto," Crews said. "I don't think I'd be such an evil human being. I think my thing would be more about respecting the discipline."
2020 brought its share of challenges to everything, including the wrestling industry. Looking forward to 2021, we asked what he would like to see make a return in 2021, and it came down to the fans.0comments
"I cannot lie. The ThunderDome experience was so, so awesome. It's such a different, unique, and we're so blessed to be able to still perform. We were blessed to be able to perform through the pandemic and also give the fans...allow them to be able to still watch the product and give them something to kind of escape, whatever they need to do because it was a rough year for a lot of people. So I feel like the ThunderDome was such a great experience that I'd love to have a live crowd back. There's nothing like hearing those cheers, hearing the crowd roar, and once music plays, hearing that live audience. I don't think that feeling can be replicated no matter how hard you try, you know what I mean? It's such a huge part of the business. That part, I do, I truly miss that. It's one of those things that you realize, sometimes you may have taken for granted because now that we don't have it, you realize how great it was."
You can watch Apollo Crews take on Big E for the Intercontinental Championship on tonight's SmackDown, which airs on FOX at 8 PM EST every Friday night. You can also watch complete coverage of SmackDown right here on ComicBook.com, and you can always talk all things WWE with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!