The Calfornia-based John LaRocca has been a pro wrestling booker for nearly nine years, having booked with All Pro Wrestling from 2008-12. He currently co-owns and books Premier Wrestling. This series will see John take a current WWE wrestler and give him a path based on his experience.
Apollo Crews wrestling on WWE Main Event and Superstars instead of RAW or Smackdown has left me scratching my head as he is one of the most exciting and naturally gifted athletes that I have seen in a quite a while. I understand that even with five weekly hours of TV on USA, you can’t put everyone on the main shows and some guys have to wait until the right opportunity opens up.
But when Apollo debuted after WrestleMania this year, a no-brainer since he was ready for the main roster from the get-go, I expected a pretty big push for him right away. Though he has been winning (mainly over Stardust and various Social Outcasts), the sad reality is when you are featured primarily on the “B shows”, you tend to be forgotten quickly by the fans. He is such a special athlete that he should not be forgotten.
The only weakness is his game is his promo ability. As a booker for nearly a decade, I believe you always hide a person’s weakness and exploit their positives. Apollo has more positives than weaknesses, and his work is such that you can’t wait to watch him in the ring again. While he’s not Steve Austin or The Rock on the stick, the guy can go in the ring. Plus, who is to say in time he won’t learn to improve on the mic like Chris Jericho and Eddy Guerrero did? I am so confident in Apollo’s talent that if you give him a program that is meaningful and featured on RAW and Smackdown, I think he will get over and get over quickly.
Here is how I’d get Apollo over to that next level. Note this was written up before the events of this past week’s RAW.
U.S. CHAMPION RUSEV vs. APOLLO CREWS
Rusev (with Lana) back as the US champion is the right move to get “The Bulgarian Brute” back to the top where he was in 2014-15. Crews vs. Rusev is a program that would benefit both men greatly. Rusev shines in matches with fellow big athletes who can go in the squared circle, and Crews will get a rub working with a guy who was featured in a WrestleMania match against John Cena. With Rusev as the champion, the belt will once again gain its importance and thus will mean something when Apollo eventually wins it from him. However, I wouldn’t recommend rushing into that program.
First things first, you need to establish Apollo as someone the WWE fan base will notice.
THE WIN STREAK
May 23rd (RAW) Crews versus Curtis Axel MiTB Qualifier — Apollo picks up a quick win after hitting his finisher, the spin-out powerbomb. The RAW announce team of Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton all make a huge deal about how Apollo defeated Axel in seconds.
May 26th (Smackdown) Crews vs. Axel rematch — As Apollo makes his way into the ring, Axel tries to sneak attack, but Apollo quickly hits his finisher again for the pin. The Smackdown announce team of Mauro Ranallo and Jerry Lawler both make a huge deal about Apollo’s defeat of Axel in seconds.
May 30th (RAW) Crews vs. Viktor of the Ascension –As Viktor makes his entrance to the ring, an inset promo that was recorded earlier airs of Viktor mentioning how everyone is talking about Apollo’s two quick victories last week on RAW and Smackdown over Axel. Viktor promises he will make Apollo’s shining star fizzle out tonight. During Apollo’s entrance, highlights of both his quick victories are shown. Bell rings and Viktor tries to get the upper hand quickly, but Apollo snatches Viktor up and delivers his sit-out powerbomb for another quick victory. Again, the announcers all make a huge deal about Apollo getting another quick victory over a WWE superstar.
June 2nd (Smackdown) Crews vs. Bo Dallas — Before the match, we get highlights of Apollo pinning Viktor. The Social Outcasts make their way to the ring first and the three cut their promo with Bo Dallas saying he will be ending Apollo’s losing streak because he believes this will be his big night. As Apollo makes his entrance, Viktor attacks him from behind and with help of Heath Slater and Axel. They throw Apollo into the ring and the bell rings. Apollo quickly recovers, picks up Dallas and delivers the sit-out powerbomb for the pin. Axel and Slater try and attack Apollo, but he quickly throws them over the top rope and out the floor in front of Viktor.
June 6th (RAW) Crews versus Viktor — Highlights of last week on Smackdown are shown. Just after the bell rings to start the match, the Outcasts, along with Viktor, attack Apollo. Later in the show, Apollo barges into Shane McMahon’s office and demands a match on Smackdown against The Social Outcasts and Viktor. Shane thinks Apollo is crazy, but he has an idea to make it somewhat fair. He books Apollo versus The Social Outcasts and Viktor in a gauntlet match. Apollo loves that idea and thanks Shane.
June 9th (Smackdown) Crews versus The Social Outcasts and Viktor Gauntlet match — Highlights leading up to this match are shown. First person out for the Gauntlet is Dallas, who Apollo once again pins quickly with the sit-out powerbomb. Next is Axel and it’s the same result. Next is Heath Slater, and Apollo quickly pins him. The last man out is Viktor, who gets halfway down the ramp, and then walks to the back, forfeiting the match. Unsatisfied with this result, Apollo goes to the back to find Viktor. The cameraman follows Apollo to the back. Viktor blindsides Apollo and attacks him and leaves him laying.
June 13th (RAW) Crews vs. Viktor — Highlights of what led to this match are shown. As the bell rings, Viktor once again tries to gain an upper hand, but Apollo picks up Viktor and delivers the sit-out powerbomb for the pin. After the commercial break, Renee Young interviews Crews about his meteoric rise in the ranks in the WWE and about his opportunity at Money In The Bank this Sunday. During Apollo’s interview, he is interrupted by Sheamus. Sheamus tells Apollo that he might be getting a lot of attention for his quick victories, but he still hasn’t proved he belongs in the WWE. Sheamus challenges Apollo to a match later on RAW. Apollo agrees.
Crews versus Sheamus — The hard-fought match goes fifteen minutes when Sheamus goes for the brogue kick, but Apollo ducks and picks him up for the sit-out powerbomb for the pin. After Sheamus recovers, he and Apollo have a stare down. Sheamus puts out his fist and Apollo responds with a fist bump. Sheamus walks out of the ring now respecting Apollo Crews.
June 16th (Smackdown) Apollo Crews and Kalisto vs. Rusev and Sheamus — Match goes twelve minutes, but in the end, Rusev pins Kalisto with a jumping side kick.
June 19th (Money In The Bank): During the climactic end to the MITB main event, Rusev is only inches away from capturing the briefcase hanging high from ceiling when Apollo knocks him off the ladder and both men go crashing to the mat. The eventual winner of the match claims the MITB.
APOLLO CREWS v RUSEV PROGRAM FOR THE US CHAMPIONSHIP
June 20th (RAW) US Champion Rusev vs. Apollo Crews — During this fifteen minute match, Apollo injuries his back and Rusev is relentless, slamming his back against the guardrail, ring apron, and ring posts. Eventually, Apollo makes a comeback, but his back injury is affecting his explosiveness. Lana trips Apollo from behind which allows Rusev to lock on the Accolade. Apollo does not tap, but passes out because of the pain and Rusev is declared the winner.
Lana tells Rusev to “crush” and once again, Rusev locks on the Accolade. A few babyfaces come from the locker room, but Rusev quickly disposes them. Again, Rusev locks on the Accolade for more punishment. Another wave of babyfaces come to stop Rusev, but he disposes of them as well. Rusev locks on the Accolade again, and this time, referees and officials come out, but they can’t pull off Rusev. Finally, Sheamus makes his way to the ring and Rusev releases Apollo from his grasp. Rusev and Sheamus have a staredown as the medical personnel attend to Apollo, who is then taken out on a stretcher.
It is announced Crews is out indefinitely with a severe back injury suffered at the hands of Rusev. Bridging his return, Sheamus has turned babyface and is seeking revenge against Rusev. Though he and Apollo are not friends, Sheamus learned to respect him after their match on June 13th on RAW. This Sheamus and Rusev program runs through BattleGround on July 29th (in which Rusev retains the US title) up until a few weeks before SummerSlam.
During the Rusev/Sheamus program, vignettes of Apollo’s recovery are shown. Four weeks before SummerSlam, the vignettes of Apollo are now focused on him training for his big return against Rusev at SummerSlam.
August 21st (SummerSlam) US Champion Rusev v Apollo Crews — Apollo pins Rusev with the sit-out powerbomb to win the US title.
THE FOLLOW UP
As a booker, not only is there a beginning, middle and end of a story, but you always keep in mind what is next for that individual or team.
August 22nd (RAW) — US Champion Crews comes out for an in-ring promo. He talks about fighting back from his injury to win the the belt. After Apollo thanks his family, friends and his fans for sticking by him, he says he plans on being a fighting champion. He brings up that John Cena won the US title at WrestleMania 30 and after winning it, he promised to defend the title on RAW every week. Apollo wants to honor that, and challenges anyone to come out from the back who wants to challenge for the title.
Out comes…John Cena.
US Champion Apollo Crews versus John Cena — You can go a few different ways with this match. Since I am big believer in clean finishes, I would have Apollo retain the title by pinning Cena, maybe not with his finisher, but with an inside cradle or roll-up. But there is still a lot of life in the Apollo v Rusev program. You could have Rusev come out and cause a no contest by attacking both Apollo and Cena. Either way, I would continue Apollo Crews putting his championship up every week on Raw like Cena did in 2015.
And that’s how I’d book Apollo Crews to elevate him into a serious contender with some gold around his waist.
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