AEW star Lio Rush joined Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette to talk about his journey to AEW following a brief retirement. In addition to a shoulder injury and his budding music career, Rush also revealed that mounting frustrations with the wrestling business helped sway him to walk away from wrestling for a bit.
“I’m the kind of person where I don’t like agree with something or I don’t go with something, I’ll just say ‘f**k it, it’s whatever, I don’t care that much,'” Rush said. “I don’t put that much energy into it. But it came down to a point where, within wrestling, I think I got a lot thrown at me very quickly. And the only thing I knew how to do was adapt and adjust who I was and what I was used to to try and fit within that space that I was in. But I don’t think a lot of people agreed with that. I think I had a lot of anger in me, I had a lot of resentment. Early in my career I didn’t really understand why people felt certain ways.
“And it’s okay to feel certain way because I get it. I understand that this is a hard business and sometimes you have guys that spend ten, fifteen years putting everything into it, and some don’t get out what they put in. It hurts and it sucks. I can understand even someone like me, and I’m not the only one, where they’ll get signed or get pushed in a way where you wish that was you, or you wish you had that kind of momentum behind you. I just think I got a lot thrown at me really quickly, and politics played a huge role. I had a lot of people try to tear me down, I had a lot of people try to, get a head of the curve in a way.”
One thing Rush feels people mistakenly saw in him, especially during his run in WWE, was that he was overly cocky. Rush says that is not the case and that he was hurt by people thinking that.
“I think a lot of people thought I was super cocky,” Rush said. “And that, honestly, hurt me to my core. It sucks when that’s the stigma about you. And I think me, I’m just a very driven person, I’m very confident in my abilities. I know what I’m capable of, as everyone else does. I think a lot of people thought that I was cocky. This wasn’t the case at all. I just believe in myself so much, I’m a self motivating kind of person. I like speaking things into existence, I like saying that I’m going to do something and then doing it. Not for anybody else but for me.
“I think also, a lot of people don’t take into account that there is this such thing as introverts and extroverted people within a wrestling company. I always went there for work, I had other things to do think about. So it wasn’t like I was going to work to try and make friends. Obviously friends are great, but that’s not my number one priority. I don’t know, I think I was just in a very unfortunate, hard position, and I can see why things went the way they did for me. But at the same time, it does suck.”
Rush then talked about meeting with Tony Khan a second time, which led to him signing with AEW. He praised Khan for his knowledge of wrestling and for being a good guy, and that Khan gave him a different feeling than former WWE bosses Vince McMahon and Triple H.
“I remember flying from LA to Florida to have a conversation with Tony. A real conversation about just everything, about life and him getting to know me, me getting to know him,” Rush said. “The first time that we met was at Double or Nothing, where I got hurt. So we talked that night. There was a lot of me being so brutally honest with him, and a lot of him being brutally honest with me. And him expressing how much he really wanted me in AEW, and I thought that was so cool. That was the main thing for me, just because, and I think this will be the same for everyone that got released, there was that time we felt unwanted. We felt like we were just trash. And I didn’t want to sign anywhere unless I was really wanted. I wanted to feel like I was a valuable asset to the company. And he reassured me of all of that. He had saw in NXT a road show in Florida, and saw me and said that I stuck out to him more than anybody else on that show. And that meant the world to me. That was pretty cool. He had said the match that I was in and what I did and everything, so I knew he wasn’t lying.
“And Tony is such a great guy. I think that played a huge part in me wanting to be in AEW too, because I didn’t want another boss like Vince. I didn’t want another boss like Hunter. People have different opinions about Hunter, but me and Hunter, we kind of always butted heads for multiple, stupid reasons. But I didn’t feel like that with Tony. And I felt super connected with him and I felt like he was relatable. I felt like he cared about the same things that the boys in the back cared about. He felt hungry, he felt driven and passionate. And I liked his energy. I’m all about energy, and I just knew it was right. And with me doing what I was doing while I was injured, with rehabbing and finding out who I am and why I’m doing what I’m doing and where I’m trying to go and who I’m doing it for and stuff like that, I just saw such an opportunity to do something bigger than wrestling. I keep saying that, but I mean it in a positive way. Not saying that wrestling is on the backburner, but it is, for me, so much bigger than wrestling. I’m trying to reach an audience that is bigger than wrestling. And I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I think with learning what I’ve learned in the past, my experience, all of my f**k ups, all of my everything, I feel like I now, in this very moment, have the keys to success. It sounds so cheesy, but now I know what I need to do.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription