He started his career in 2009, originally working under the ring name Uhaa Nation, and made his breakthrough in 2011, when he was signed by the Dragon Gate USA promotion, which also led to him making his first trip to Japan to work for Dragon Gate. In 2015, Uhaa signed with WWE and was assigned to its developmental brand NXT, where he was given the ring name Apollo Crews. He was promoted to WWE's main roster on April 4, 2016. Standing at 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) and weighing 240 lb (110 kg), Uhaa is known both as a high-flyer and a power wrestler.
Early life[edit | edit source]
Born in Sacramento, California, Uhaa was raised in Atlanta, Georgia and early on fell in love with professional wrestling, becoming a fan of performers such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and especially Kurt Angle. He went to a military high school and began practicing various sports, including amateur wrestling, soccer, football and track and field, as both an outlet and a way to "get away from the military life". While weight training in high school, he was given the nickname "Uhaa Nation", when his coach noted that he was "as strong as a single nation".
Professional wrestling career[edit | edit source]
Early career[edit | edit source]
After finishing college, Uhaa quickly got a job in order to pay for his professional wrestling training. He began training at the age of 21 under Curtis "Mr." Hughes at his World Wrestling Alliance 4 (WWA4) promotion's training school in Atlanta. After making his wrestling debut under the ring name Uhaa Nation on August 17, 2009, he spent over a year working mainly for small promotions on the Georgian independent circuit, but also made trips to Houston, Texas-based Pro Wrestling Alliance (PWA) and Phenix City, Alabama-based Great Championship Wrestling (GCW), often working with fellow WWA4 trainee AR Fox.
Dragon Gate and affiliates (2011–2015)[edit | edit source]
On September 9, 2011, Uhaa took part in a tryout seminar held by the Dragon Gate USA promotion. He was immediately signed for appearances for not only Dragon Gate USA, but also its parent promotion, Dragon Gate, and close affiliates EVOLVE and Full Impact Pro (FIP). He made his wrestling debut for Dragon Gate USA later that same day, defeating Aaron Draven in a squash match. Uhaa made his pay-per-view debut the following day at Untouchable 2011, where he answered Brodie Lee's open challenge and dominated him, before Lee left the ringside area. The following day at the Way of the Ronin 2011 pay-per-view, Uhaa defeated Facade, Flip Kendrick and Sugar Dunkerton in a four-way match. On October 29, Uhaa made his first appearance for Full Impact Pro, when he defeated Jake Manning for FIP Florida Heritage Championship. Uhaa then entered a storyline, where different Dragon Gate USA stables tried to recruit him to join them. On November 30, Uhaa made his Japanese debut for Dragon Gate, during an event produced by the villainous Blood Warriors stable. Uhaa defeated Kotoka in a match that lasted 99 seconds, establishing himself as the newest member of Blood Warriors in the process. For the rest of the tour, which lasted until December 25, Uhaa worked alongside the Blood Warriors stable, winning every one of his matches. At the end of 2011, Dragon Gate USA named Uhaa the Best Newcomer of the year. He also finished second behind Daichi Hashimoto in Wrestling Observer Newsletter's award category for Rookie of the Year.
Upon his return to the United States, Uhaa made his debut for Evolve on January 14, 2012, with a win over Pinkie Sanchez. When the following March, Akira Tozawa took over the leadership of Blood Warriors from CIMA and renamed the group Mad Blankey, Uhaa Nation followed along to the renamed stable. Uhaa made his first appearance representing Mad Blankey at a DGUSA event on March 29, when he and stablemates Akira Tozawa and BxB Hulk defeated Ronin (Chuck Taylor, Johnny Gargano and Rich Swann) and D.U.F. (Arik Cannon, Pinkie Sanchez and Sami Callihan) in a three-way trios match. However, during the match Uhaa suffered a knee injury, which sidelined him for a year. Uhaa returned to the ring on February 1, 2013, at Full Impact Pro's Everything Burns iPPV, where he successfully defended the FIP Florida Heritage Championship against Chasyn Rance. On March 2, Uhaa returned to Japan and Dragon Gate, when he and BxB Hulk defeated Don Fujii and Masaaki Mochizuki for the Open The Twin Gate Championship. They lost the title to Shingo Takagi and YAMATO on May 5. On May 11, Uhaa was pinned for the first time in a Dragon Gate ring, when he was eliminated by Jimmy Susumu in the first round of the 2013 King of Gate tournament. On July 28 at Enter the Dragon 2013, Dragon Gate USA's fourth anniversary event, Uhaa suffered his first pinfall loss in the promotion, when he was defeated by Anthony Nese. On August 9, Uhaa lost the FIP Florida Heritage Championship to Gran Akuma. Back in Dragon Gate, Mad Blankey turned on Uhaa Nation on August 30, after he refused to wrestle Akira Tozawa, who had recently been kicked out of the group. Uhaa then formed a new partnership with Tozawa and Shingo Takagi. On September 12, the three were joined by Masato Yoshino, Ricochet and Shachihoko BOY to form a new stable, which was on October 6 named Monster Express. On January 12, 2014, Uhaa received his first shot at Dragon Gate USA's top title, the Open The Freedom Gate Championship, but was defeated by the defending champion, Johnny Gargano. On March 6, Uhaa also received his first shot at Dragon Gate's top title, the Open The Dream Gate Championship, but was defeated by the defending champion, Monster Express stablemate Ricochet. On May 23, it was reported that Uhaa had signed a new contract with Dragon Gate USA.
On February 5, 2015, Uhaa made returned to Dragon Gate as Akira Tozawa's surprise partner in a tag team match, where they defeated Cyber Kong and Don Fujii. At the end of the event, Uhaa confronted BxB Hulk, challenging him to a match for the Open The Dream Gate Championship. On March 1, Uhaa failed in his title challenge against Hulk, after which he announced he had wrestled his final match for Dragon Gate. Uhaa worked his final Evolve events later that month during WWNLive's WrestleMania week.
Personal life[edit | edit source]
Uhaa is of Nigerian descent. His father is originally from the Benue State in the mid-belt region of Nigeria. Uhaa is close friends with fellow professional wrestlers Kevin Owens, Finn Bálor, Chris Masters and Ricochet. Uhaa has a sister, who is in the United States Army and is stationed in San Antonio, Texas. Uhaa lives in Orlando, Florida, where he is roommates with fellow professional wrestlers Ricochet and Tessa Blanchard.
In wrestling[edit | edit source]
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
- "One Man Nation"
- Entrance themes
- "Dschinghis Khan" by Dschinghis Khan
Championships and accomplishments[edit | edit source]
- Dragon Gate
- Dragon Gate USA
- Best Newcomer (2011)
- Full Impact Pro
- Great Championship Wrestling
- GCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Preston City Wrestling
- PCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him No. 72 of the 500 best singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2016
References[edit | edit source]
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