Apollo Crews scored the biggest victory of his career Monday on Raw when he beat Andrade to win the United States Championship, marking his first title of any kind since joining WWE in 2015.
Crews has been on the ascent as a member of the Raw roster since WrestleMania, and winning the U.S. title is a sign that there are big plans for him moving forward. In order to establish him as one of the top babyfaces on Raw, however, WWE must give him a strong series of opponents, matches and feuds to work through.
Now that the era of Apollo as United States champion has begun, here is a look at a few potential opponents who could get the most out of him and help him build credibility as the new champion.
After beating Andrade for the U.S. title, moving on to feud with Angel Garza would be a natural progression for Crews.
Zelina Vega could send Garza after Crews to gain retribution for Andrade's loss, and that could also help build the tension within Vega's stable after Austin Theory was kicked out and Andrade and Garza have had their issues with each other.
It has been clear that WWE is high on Garza since he was called up to the main roster shortly after winning the Cruiserweight Championship several months ago despite the fact that he hadn't appeared much on NXT TV.
Also, Garza recently defeated Kevin Owens in KO's first singles match since beating Seth Rollins at WrestleMania. He cheated to win by attacking Owens before the match, but it was a huge victory nonetheless.
Garza is a smooth in-ring performer who could have great matches with Crews, and he also oozes personality. He can cut some entertaining promos, plus he has Vega, who is one of the best talkers in WWE.
Crews has been improving on the mic, but it is still considered his biggest weakness. Getting some help in that regard by working with Garza and Vega could be a major positive for Apollo moving forward.
Like Garza, Murphy is a young performer with plenty of upside, and there is no question that he and Crews could make magic in the ring.
Crews and Murphy have a bit of experience working together. Their most notable meeting came on the pre-show of SummerSlam last year, but Erick Rowan interrupted the match by attacking Murphy, so it didn't have a satisfying conclusion.
A lot has changed for both Superstars since then. Crews is the United States champion, while Murphy is one of Seth Rollins' disciples and may be on the fast track to superstardom under The Monday Night Messiah's tutelage.
Murphy is a former cruiserweight and tag team champion, but he has yet to win a major singles title. Rollins' stable is in the midst of a rivalry with Rey Mysterio, Aleister Black and Humberto Carrillo. However, Crews could be a nice target for Murphy and Co. after the fact.
Once known as The Best Kept Secret because of his penchant for flying under the radar and having great matches, Murphy's abilities are now known by most WWE fans.
Crews and Murphy are two of the most talented in-ring performers WWE has to offer, so their matches could help elevate Apollo—as could working with Rollins by proxy of a rivalry with Murphy.
Shelton Benjamin hasn't been featured much on WWE programming over the past year or so, but he stands out as the ideal veteran to challenge Crews to help take him to the next level.
Even at 44, Benjamin is an athletic marvel. During a brief appearance in a gauntlet match on Raw in April to decide the final entrant in the Money in the Bank ladder match, he demonstrated his skills as he took the fight to Bobby Lashley before getting eliminated.
Benjamin is a former U.S. champion who held the title for 243 days from July 2008. Only Dean Ambrose 351-day reign has exceeded Benjamin's run since he lost it.
Shelton's status as one of the most successful United States champions in WWE history is something the creative team can reference in order to build a rivalry between him and Crews.
Benjamin is a highly respected member of WWE's roster, and fans still remember the earlier part of his career fondly despite his lack of usage lately. Because of that, beating Benjamin would help Crews a great deal in terms of how the WWE Universe views him.
WWE has a great asset in Benjamin, and there is no better way to use him than having him help an up-and-coming star early in his title reign.
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