Six years after signing his WWE contract, Apollo Crews turned the tide in 2020 when he became the new WWE United States Champion. For him, this title run was his first gratifying experience following a long and pondering status on where he stood in the company. This week on Chasing Glory, the former champion reflects on this thrilling time in his career.

“It was awesome! Like I’ve said before, you can’t explain in words how it feels, especially after, you know, being in the mud. I felt like that for so long,” Apollo Crews noted. “When I say in the mud, I mean just this hustling and waiting for an opportunity to come, you know? I’d always get something but it never had any legs – it wouldn’t last too long. It’d be like one minute you’re on TV and it seems like they’d have something for you, next week, it was back to a dark match or on Main Event or something. It was very tough. I never thought about, or wanted to, quit. I love this company. This is where I’ve always wanted to work, but it was just frustrating.

“Even through that whole title run, I felt appreciated and it felt good. It makes me feel like [they thought], ‘Hey, we know you work hard, and here’s a reward for your hard work.’ I felt a true, legit appreciation from my co-workers. There’s nothing more than getting that respect from your peers. It’s such a good feeling to know that people are truly happy for you.”

Throughout the interview, the main topic discussed was the fear he’s had at building a different, compelling gimmick following his big title win. He believes what might create a draw might not be what fans looking for. He explains in detail the dismay he has about this debatable issue.

“I always think I should just be me on TV, but maybe that doesn’t translate well to the fans and maybe that’s why they don’t really understand who I am,” he pondered. “When you see people break outside of that comfort zone, that’s where they see a lot of success. Not just in life itself but in general, you know? I’ve always been timid about that, and I feel like I need to do better with that.”

Just last year, the WWE Universe caught a glimpse of the fun-loving side of Crews when he competed against Bobby Lashley in a posing contest. After having a good laugh with the host Lilian Garcia, Crews wants to exemplify that side of him that isn’t seen often on TV.

“When I’m with close friends, that’s who I am,” he chuckled. “I just thought to myself, ‘You know what? Just go out there and have fun!’ But man, I could feel the genuine love, and I could feel these guys really cheering for me, like, we need to see this. It was the first time I really felt that kind of reaction from the audience. I thought, ‘Man, if this is what it feels like, I need to do this all the time.'”

He also adds that his former Titus Worldwide partner, Titus O’Neil played an integral part in helping him break apart from his tough-guy exterior, and instead, showcase a different side of him.

“Another person who helped me with it was Titus. Man, what a guy,” he added. “We’d be backstage and stuff and he’d straight up tell me, ‘This is not good. You need to just be you. Don’t worry about the world so much, just be you.’ He helped me a lot with just like, not taking myself so seriously, and being like, no, don’t be that tough guy. Just go out there and have fun.”

Looking ahead towards 2021, Crews is determined to give fans something to talk about when it comes to his character development. After holding the US Championship for 96 days, he came to realize that gaining more opportunities like the one presented to him earlier this summer will happen if he goes out to the ring and grabs them, not wait for them to be given to him.

“This first title run helped me realize that these things won’t be handed to you. You’ve got to go out there and get it,” he stated. “I want people to see the layers; I feel like stories do help you with that, so it’s nice to be able to show like, ‘okay, what happens if someone pushes you? Is he the [type] of guy who pushes back? Is he the guy who runs away?’ I want people to see those different layers.”

You can watch Apollo Crews’ full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Lilian Garcia -Chasing Glory with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.