Intercontinental Champion Big E says he’s desperate for his WrestleMania opponent Apollo to make a success of his sudden character change – for the sake of his on-screen career.
Apollo challenges the former New Day member for the title this weekend at WWE’s WrestleMania extravaganza.
It makes a sharp upturn in the career of the 33-year-old, who is in the midst of a major redevelopment of his on-screen presentation.
Undoubtedly an incredible physical specimen, Apollo has rarely been given much else with which to flesh out the persona of the man we see on screen.
Though a former US Champion, he’s only now beginning to immerse himself an a feud that allows fans to become invested in his character – that of Nigerian royalty as he draws on his own ancestry.
With a new look and a new accent, the change for Apollo after seven or so years in WWE has been sudden but, according to the man he’ll face in the ring on Sunday, it’s one he’ll need to be ready to run with.
Big E is an multi-time champion who is now known for his loud and exuberant character on-screen – though as he explained in an exclusive interview with Daily Star Online, that wasn’t always the case.
Now, he says, Apollo must do what he learned to do years ago and to adapt with the change and make a success of it, to ensure he remains a presence on television each week.
"In many ways, a lot of my character changes were abrupt for a while,” said E, 35.
"I think it was around the time I was working with Rusev and I was playing around with different deliveries and knew I needed to do something different.
"I wouldn't watch this back as I'd be cringing, but I think I came out and start cutting this all All American, preacher style promo with this delivery that I've never used before.
"That was abrupt and, for me, it's kind of finding that footing. I had to learn to pull back on certain things.
"Over time, my hope for Apollo's sake is that he's able to figure out where to pull back and where to adjust.
"Often [so much of] what we do in WWE is on the fly, it's 'here, this is what you're handed – make the best of it.'
"That's what I think he's being tasked with right now – he has to find ways to make the best of it, and what's important for him is that if he's going to sustain a career in WWE, he's going to have to figure this out.
"In that sense, I see a guy who is extremely talented, and I want to see him win in the sense that I hope he's a guy that can figure it out, and not a guy that's off television and we don't see him again.”
That may seem an ominous warning, but it’s one the popular performer is right to sound, with WWE’s ranks bursting at the seams with those who’re ready to take an opportunity of their own.
As an established performer and one of the company’s most colourful characters, E went on to admit that, just as with Apollo, he’s keen to see more of the company’s lesser used talents get their chance to shine.
"We need talented guys like that,” he added. “Our roster is stacked, and we easily have a half-dozen guys who could be world champion, and a bunch of guys who have never touched a world title on our roster.
"I wanted to see more of those guys get the opportunity to add to the show… to kick through the door, whatever it is and to really shine."
Big E meets Apollo for the Intercontinental title on night two of WrestleMania this Sunday, which airs over the course of 10 and 11 April in the UK on WWE Network and BT Sport Box Office.
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