In 2021, Crews was repackaged as a heel and referred to himself as Nigerian royalty. He spoke with a Nigerian accent in his promos and carried a spear to the ring. Crews memorably defeated Big E in a Nigerian Drum Fight at WrestleMania 37 to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Eventually, Crews’ time on the main roster stalled, and he returned to NXT in June 2022.
Speaking with Rick Ucchino for Cageside Seats, Crews spoke about his run in NXT, which completely dropped the accent and all other apparent aspects of his previous gimmick. Crews noted that he was glad to represent his roots, but now it’s time to move forward.
“You know, I really enjoyed what I did with the heel character and being able to represent Nigeria, even though… the accent was one thing, you know what I mean? It is what it is,” Crews of the chance to represent his Nigerian roots. “But that is a part of who I am. You know, those are my roots, and I wanted to represent that. I was glad that I got to do that. And not that it’s not part of who I am anymore, but we’re just taking a different approach.”
Following his run in WWE SmackDown, Crews made his way back to NXT, where he will now appear at Halloween Havoc in a Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal match against Grayson Waller. The bout will mark Crews’ first appearance on a WWE premium live event since WrestleMania 37, something that hurts Crews. He made it clear that he believes he has the talent level and commitment required to be on the major shows.
“The fact that it’s been that long, it’s pretty sad, I think,” Crews said. “I feel like with my talent and commitment and the things that I can do, I don’t feel like I should go that long without being on any kind of premium live TV.”
Crews also briefly touched on the state of the WWE Intercontinental Championship, which has received more emphasis following Triple H taking over as head of creative at WWE. For Crews, it’s nice to see such a prestigious title in the spotlight again. During his reign with the title, he didn’t get the chance to defend on a premium live event. This streak lasted beyond his reign and ended at WWE Clash at the Castle 2022, where Gunther retained the gold against Sheamus.
“It’s nice to see what’s going on with that (the Intercontinental Championship). It’s great to watch that getting the respect that it deserves.” said Crews. “It’s such a prestigious title and seeing those guys, Gunther and Sheamus, go back and forth is fantastic as well.”