WWE NXT Superstar Lio Rush recently spoke with Brian Fritz of SportingNews.com and discussed the situation that kept him off WWE TV from last April through mid-September. Rush had been working on the RAW brand as Bobby Lashley's manager, but he disappeared right after WrestleMania 35. It was then rumored that Rush was unhappy in WWE, and then it was reported that he had turned down a contract offer, amid other rumors. Rush would return in mid-September, this time on the WWE 205 Live and NXT brands, and would soon capture the NXT Cruiserweight Title from Drew Gulak on October 9. He held that title until losing it to Angel Garza on December 11. Rush told Fritz that he was in a "bad mental space" during his 2019 hiatus.
"During that time, I was in a bad mental space," Rush said when asked what was going on with him during the time away. "I feel like I've been pretty open with the public about my issues with depression and anxiety and stuff like that. I just needed a little break. I needed some time away to rethink, to be with my family, to remind myself of why I wanted to be a sports entertainer in the first place and be in the WWE in the first place. And that experience that I had on "RAW" was a very cool experience. I got to work with veterans of this business, people that have been a part of this business for so long. I've gotten to be on every single last pay-per-view. I've gotten to walk out at the Royal Rumble. I've gotten to walk out at WrestleMania. All of the things that takes guys so long to accomplish and I accomplished it all in six months. And, that time, I'm incredibly grateful for but, at the same time, it was eating me up.
"Just because, again, I got signed to the WWE to be one of the greatest cruiserweights, and it was hard for me. It was hard to not be in the ring. It's hard to not show the world what I was capable of in the ring. So I accomplished what I accomplished on Monday Night Raw, and to come back to NXT was a huge, huge step for me. And yeah, I'm grateful that I'm here. I'm grateful that I'm a part of NXT, grateful that I'm in the ring with the amount of talent that I'm in the ring with. Yeah, just had to regroup, rethink, refocus, and get back to work."
Rush, who stressed how he's enjoying his current run on the NXT brand, had developed a negative reputation among some people. He was asked what he's been able to do over the last six months to try and get past that reputation, whether it's rightfully earned or not.
"I feel like much has changed from the person that people perceive me as before the six-month hiatus to now," Rush said. "Like I said, I felt like I was just in a very bad mental space and the frustrations of not being able to be in the ring and stuff like that. I guess through the six months, I kind of told myself that I need to focus, I need to remind myself why I'm here. I need to remind myself of who I'm doing this for. This started off as a dream, just for me, when I was a kid. I've always wanted to be a professional wrestler. I always wanted to be in the WWE, and it started off as a dream for me, but the older that I got, the more things that I've been through.
"You know, having siblings, having parents that are getting older, having grandparents that are getting older, having a wife, having two kids. The dream for myself slowly started to develop as a dream and something that I wanted to pursue for the people that I love so that I can change people's lives, change the situation, motivate people, inspire people. So, I feel like I'm doing this not only for myself but for so many people that look up to me and see me as a role model or a father figure or anything that is in that general area. All of that kind of helps me push through tough times. I have a lot of people that I would let down, a lot of people that would be discouraged. I feel like there's an army behind me, and I'm leading the charge, so I gotta be there. I gotta put in the work and I have to push through."
There were times last year where it was believed that Rush was on his way out of the company. He was asked if he's surprised he's still with WWE. Rush admitted that he had points where he thought he was done, and he wouldn't say he's surprised but he did say he's grateful to still be with the company.
"Man, I feel like I've asked myself this question a lot like," Rush said, laughing. "I'm not gonna lie to you, man. There were some times and some points where I thought that this was the end. And more than one occasion. More than twice, three times, four times. There were a bunch of times where I thought like, wow, this is it, and a bunch of times where I thought like, you know, where do I go from here? This is all I wanted to do since I was 5 years old. I wanted to be in the WWE, specifically. I wanted to be a part of the WWE. I wanted to have a long career. I wanted to be a Hall of Famer.
"Am I surprised that I'm still in the WWE? I wouldn't necessarily say surprised. I don't know if surprise is the word that I would go for. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to still be here. I'm not going to say that I'm surprised that they still kept me here or anything like that because I feel like that would be a very arrogant thing to say. The one thing I am is grateful."
He continued, "I'm grateful that I still have the opportunity to do what I love while making money and doing it. I'm grateful that I've had the chance to work and wrestle as many guys as I have at the level and the caliber of entertainers and athletes that there are. I'm grateful that they see that I'm an asset to the company, in WWE, NXT. I'm grateful that they see something special in me at such a young age and that they're willing to allow me to work out the kinks and go through these things to develop not only as a person but as a performer and businessman in the company."