Wrestling wasn't Lio Rush's first dream, or even his second. He had a couple of different career paths to choose from when he was younger and eventually settled on wrestling after being in motion-picture school for a while.
Rush talked about getting into pro wrestling when he joined the Cheap Heat podcast.
"It was rough. The starting point was pretty difficult from falling back on school, well, falling out of school and then figuring out what I wanted to do next. I had a newborn; I was supposed to go into the Army but I backed out last minute because I just felt like something was missing and I wasn't going in the path that I wanted to or dreamed of since I wanted to as a child. I searched for different training schools in the area but there wasn't any. I eventually decided to attend Full Sail University for school," said Rush.
"I was interested in becoming a videographer. I had been working on videos since my teenage years and I wanted to be like a film director so I studied cinematography for a while and then once I found out that Maryland was opening a new training school I left Florida, went back home and started to train there. I got introduced to that school by Patrick Clark [Velveteen Dream]. He was the one that told me about the school. Patrick Clark and I were part of the first class at Maryland Championship Wrestling. It's crazy because everybody that is in WWE right now, it was me, Patrick Clark, Jessika Carr, who is a referee down in NXT, Renee Michelle, who is the wife of Drake Maverick. It's so crazy how many people went through that first class."
Rush and Velveteen Dream grew up just a couple miles from each other in the DMV area and the two first teamed up in Maryland Championship Wrestling. Rush talked about that pairing and how it led to more opportunities down the road.
"I started out in a tag-team, which is how me and Patrick became so close. We were in a tag team called Sudden Impact, and we were just two young athletes who had just graduated from the training school and we're trying to make a name for ourselves. It wasn't so much about the characters; we came out in tracksuits, looking like a unit. It was crazy how fast we got noticed by a lot of people," stated Rush.
"We didn't stay in Maryland for too long; we wanted to venture out. We did some independent shows in the New York area. We went to Pennsylvania working for Samu, which built our confidence a little bit. Got some eyes and attention on us and once we started rocking and rolling Patrick gets a call from WWE saying that he was going to be on Tough Enough and that was the end of that. We were a team for not even a year, so it wasn't that long, but at that time we were a team we definitely made an impact."
After wrestling on the indies for a few years, Rush was then signed by Ring of Honor in 2015. That platform then led to him getting noticed by WWE and joining NXT in 2017.
"I was coming up on my contract with Ring of Honor and I knew I didn't want to be there anymore and I wanted to go overseas, so I didn't resign with Ring of Honor. I spent a year there and I always feel like I am the kind of person that if I do something, even if it's a short amount of time, that's on my resume for the rest of my life," said Rush. "I kept building my resume so I felt that I had a pretty impactful run with Ring of Honor to kind of get my name out there more and be able to learn and wrestle from some of the best wrestlers in the world. I knew that I wanted to wrestle overseas and I knew that Ring of Honor would help me build that name to potentially get booked overseas, which ended up happening.
"I spent about three months in Europe and then I spent a little under a month in Mexico and about a month in Canada, so I was all over the place so WWE took notice of that. I had a couple of matches that had gone viral, a couple of clips that grabbed people's attention and then I got the call from WWE that they were going to be bringing me up with a few familiar faces that I knew from Ring of Honor so it was pretty cool."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Cheap Heat Podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.