Lio Rush had a rocky career with WWE.
Rush started his WWE career as part of the revamped cruiserweight division. Soon after his arrival, Rush was moved to RAW and paired with Bobby Lashley. His pairing with Lashley lasted less than a year, and Rush found himself on the sidelines after WrestleMania 35. Despite reports of backstage heat, heat Rush said was exaggerated, he returned to the cruiserweight division at the end of 2019.
Rush spoke with Sportskeeda’s Gary Cassidy about the long layoff between his pairing with Lashley and going back to NXT. Rush said he accepted he wouldn’t return to WWE during his hiatus from the company.
“During that entire time period when I was home, which was the six months, I didn’t hear a single word from the company,” Rush said. “There was no urge to reach out to me to see how I was doing and how my family was doing, there was no urge to keep me updated on what my wrestling career was going to be.
“So I moved on with life. I moved on with everything. I came to the conclusion, or better yet, I realized and I accepted the situation for what it was, and I just told myself and told my family that it was time to move on, and then I was in California because I was looking at some property there because I was going to move to California.”
While in California, Triple H called Rush to bring him back to NXT prior to the move to USA Network. Rush said he was surprised to be brought back.
“While I was out there, I got a call from Hunter [Triple H] saying that he wanted to bring me back but, this time, for NXT because they were going to relaunch the whole brand on USA Network and they thought my past exposure on USA Network could help NXT with their exposure on the USA Network,” Rush said. “So, it definitely came as a surprise to me. I think the thing that came as a surprise to me was me being called back to NXT but, once I was there, I don’t think that was a surprise to me that I won a championship because I feel like I’ve worked my ass off to earn it.”
While he was surprised he was brought back to NXT television, Rush was not shocked to be thrust to the top of the cruiserweight division. Rush said he feels he earned the WWE Cruiserweight Championship after all of his hard work.
“I feel like I earned the spot of being the face of the cruiserweight division, just because of everything that I’ve done and sacrificed, the time, effort and hard work I put in to invest in myself, to show people that not only am I the best, or think or believe that I’m the best in the world at this but that I can be a face of a division and of a brand,” Rush said. “So, yeah, I don’t think me winning the championship came as a surprise to me because I knew that I was going to work my ass off to get there.”
Rush was released from WWE in April as part of cutbacks due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rush said it’s hard to tell whether he is leaving WWE on good terms with management because he would get mixed signals.
“I mean, that first hiatus that I had from the company, I was dealing with Vince and, yeah, he had said that he was going to reach out to me at some point during my time at home but I just never got a call from anybody or heard anything from anybody so I was dealing with Vince at that point but then, once I came back to the company, and I started to wrestle for 205 Live again, being at the same tapings as Friday Night SmackDown on FOX, I saw Vince, I would see Vince all the time and he would just … He would say, you know, ‘Hey, good to see you, hope you’re doing okay,’ and stuff like that, so it felt like … Even though he didn’t really reach back out to me after the initial hiatus, it felt like he still acknowledged me, he still acknowledged the fact that I was away and now I’m back, so that was a good feeling to have from the boss.
“Triple H … I don’t know if it ended on good terms or not because I feel like me and Hunter, we clashed heads a lot. We were always in disagreement as far as what the plan was for me and how he saw me as a character or how he saw me as an asset to the brand.”
Rush said it was hard working with Triple H because it was hard to separate the wrestler he grew up idolizing from the boss he was constantly butting heads with.
“I feel like we were just always disagreeing all the time and it sucked because obviously I looked up to Triple H when I was a kid and stuff like that, so it was weird trying to break that separation from being an admirer of his but now, at the same time, I’m an employee of his and he is my boss, so it was hard for me to separate the two and it was kind of disappointing every time I had a conversation with him – but the lack of communication leading up to the initial release was with Hunter,” Rush said.
“You know, I was having some back-and-forth conversations with him, and then, out of nowhere, it just kind of stopped for weeks. It just stopped. That’s how I knew that something was weird, something wasn’t right, and I felt like it was coming, my release was coming.”
Gary Cassidy contributed to this article.