The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Feb. 21, 2023

Is Lio Rush Returning To WWE? Why His AEW Run Was Cut Short, Working With Bobby Lashley, Tony Khan

Is Lio Rush Returning To WWE? Why His AEW Run Was Cut Short, Working With Bobby Lashley, Tony Khan

Lio Rush (@iamliorush) is a professional wrestler, musician and actor. He is known for his time with WWE, AEW, MLW and NJPW. He joins Chris Van Vliet in Los Angeles to talk about coming out of retirement, the recent matches he has had in MLW and NJPW, why his time in AEW was so short, what he thinks of Tony Khan, whether or not he thinks he will return to WWE, his music career, what he learned from working with Bobby Lashley in WWE and much more!

On Lio Rush’s time in WWE as a manager:

“When I got put in that role, it was very confusing for me. It was very confusing and very frustrating. I think it was confusing for me, I didn't really know how to wrap my head around what was actually happening, things were just moving so quickly, I feel like I didn't really have a chance to think to myself or just have a grasp on, you know, why I feel so upset. And I think getting older and not being in that environment anymore. Just realising, you know, I just got signed to WWE, I'm 21 22 years old. I was able to get signed here without like, really a try out or, or anything, but I got noticed because of my wrestling in Ring of Honor. And then when you get told to be in a speaking role, and mainly just like a speaking role. Yeah, I'm still so, I feel like I'm still so hungry, athletically, and I feel like I just got to this place where, you know, I've always wanted to be. I grew up an athlete, my entire life feels like I should be an athlete and feels like I should be doing something physical. And I made it somewhere, you know, at the top of this mountain, doing something physical and being the best at doing something physical. So when that physicality kind of got, like, chopped from underneath me, at 21 22 years old, you know, I didn't grow up, like 4 5 6 years old, saying that I wanted to be a manager in WWE. So I feel like I also got a little scared and nervous that, okay, this is gonna be my legacy and WWE, like I worked so hard, so many years to try to be a professional wrestler in WWE, and then that stamp of like, okay, you're a manager. And I didn't really know how to sit with that. Now, I was making decent money. I was out there with Bobby Lashley, a guy that I grew up watching and admired, still to this day.”

On a potential WWE return:

“Um, I think that it potentially could. I think yeah, I think it potentially could lead me back to WWE. I think at a certain point, it would ultimately be up to me whether I want to go that route again or not. I realised that nothing is forever. So being presented certain opportunities, I truly want to make the most out of them, and I want to do my absolute best to make sure there's no, you know, wasted time, no wasted movement, no wasted effort. And every little thing that I do needs to be a building block to, you know, a bigger legacy or a bigger whatever the case may be to continue to do the things that I want and to continue to create opportunities for my kids to be able to do what they truly want. So if you know spending another 3, 5, 10 years in WWE to build something bigger than me, then I'll take that. And I feel like me going through that process and me already knowing what that system is like and how things are ran. I mean, who knows if it's ran the same? I have no idea. But I think already having that experience and having that, that showing on their television network could work out in my favour. I mean, I see it all the time. I think a great example of that, and obviously he's not the only one, but I definitely, I mean, I've seen in real time, you know, Drew McIntyre getting released, coming back. I wrestled him when he was on the Indies. And I think if I'm not mistaken, I think I was his very last match on the Indies or second to last match before he ended up going back.”

Has the hatchet been buried with Tony Khan:

“Um, probably a little bit [of animosity]. I mean, how can there not be? But I think Tony, I like Tony a lot. I really, I really, really like Tony. I think that's the first time I'm saying that out loud. Yeah, I can't take it back now. But I do like Tony and I, like, I was, one thing that made me so willing to give AEW, a chance because I feel like I was scarred from my WWE run. I feel like I was, you know, traumatised a little bit. Tony liked me a lot. I feel like we connected pretty quickly. And I feel like that's why things probably, there was a lot of emotion involved with. And I probably shouldn't have brought it, brought the emotion out, but I'm glad again, I'm glad. I'm glad that I did. I'm glad that I show people that I stand for something. I'm glad that I show people that I care about myself, I care about others. It's not always about a pay check to me. Yeah, I am, I'm sorry, I'm kind of, I mean, this is huge. For me, like really, because this is the first time that I'm really, really speaking on it. Like, you know, I've talked about it, but I haven't really, really talked about it in that sense, like with my actual like relationship with Tony and stuff like that. [Chris - But have you talked to him since you left AEW]? Uh, yeah. Yeah. I've talked to him a few times. Yeah. I've, we've talked to a number of times. And it's always great. It's always, you know, how you been good to hear from you. You know, if the show was on the air, yeah, I try to like pop out and see and stuff like that. So the love is still there. The support is still there. Yeah, I think there's just other factors into me actually being there. I mean, I'm doing so much right now. I'm happy with what I'm doing. It's not really like I'm trying to force something to happen. You know if it happens, it happens. But I love the direction that I'm going in right now. I love what I'm doing, I'm glad that I feel like I don't really have any true like bad blood within wrestling, I feel like with me being so active right now. And being in front of people. It’s a lot different when you're in front of somebody, you can see them, you can kind of feel their energy, you can see why they're doing what they're doing and stuff like that. So I think a lot of people with me popping up back up like this so consistently and so kind of like making a pretty big splash with, you know, any show that I that I do, I feel like people are starting to see me and see my characteristics more and you know, who I am as a person, as a performer. Maybe respected my work a little bit more realising that I'm 28, but I've been doing this for almost a decade now. I think people are just kind of coming to terms and, and just really starting to see me. Yeah, it's a nice feeling.”

On being inspired by Kevin Hart:

“Yeah, he really did [inspire me]. There was, it’s funny, there was a point in time in NXT, right when I got signed to WWE when I was doing some house loop shows around the Florida area. Kevin Hart chants would break out, like in the audience, and, and, you know, nobody ever wants to be called somebody else but for me, it was, it was a huge compliment, and I was really enjoying it. You know, I, if I could give off that feel that Kevin Hart gave me like watching him on screen or watching him on a stand up special or whatever. Yeah, I just wanted to be a small loud mouth. You know, like, such like a big presence for like a smaller guy. Like, that's what I wanted. You know, that character was supposed to be like, loud, brash, arrogant, cocky. And I feel like it worked really well. Maybe a little bit, too well, They already hated me really.”

On coming out of retirement:

“Yeah, I was going through a lot in that time period. I think personally, I was going through a lot on top of the physical injuries that I had, and it kind of just made me put a lot of things in perspective. Just wanted to figure out what I needed to, like, prioritise in my life. I definitely feel like I grew up with a lot of responsibility that someone my age isn't really, I wouldn't say supposed to go through, but it's definitely an interesting situation with me being currently 28 years old.”

On returning to wrestling:

“No, it's good to be back in a wrestling setting really. I feel like I've been away for so long on and off. But I'm glad that I'm, you know, here for a good chunk of time without any really distractions or things pulling me away from the wrestling scene. So yeah, I'm having a good time right now.”

Was the decision to return financial or personal?

“Both really. And family has always been there for me, it always will be there. It always will be my number one priority. And the reason why I do what I do. Having more experience in wrestling and you know, having my kids get older. I always say like I do this, I do this for them now. This is my reason for doing it. You know, before that I was a fan of wrestling. I wanted to become a professional wrestler for me. It was my goal for me, it was what I wanted to do for me. But now with so many people that I love and care for and provide for I feel like I'm doing this for them. But there was a rare switch in me recently that I feel like I haven't felt since I wanted to get signed to WWE. And it was feeling like this is what I'm meant to do. You know, I grew up being a fan of wrestling. I grew up dedicating, you know, my athletic skill set to, you know, morph myself into being a professional wrestler, like I became an amateur wrestler so that I can be a professional wrestler. You know, I was an all American in amateur wrestling, but I never wanted to wrestle at a collegiate level. I didn't want that, I wanted to take that skill set and use it to have a strong foundation in professional wrestling. But it was definitely that switch that went off that said, this is what I'm supposed to do. This is what I worked so hard for. Literally blood, sweat and tears to, to get to where I am at the age that I'm at and yeah, it feels like this is what I'm supposed to be doing right now. I feel like I could, I'm not gonna say I feel like I can, I feel like I am, I feel like I am the best wrestler in the world. I feel like with me saying that, it always sparks. But that's how much I believe in myself a lot. I feel like I've shown myself a lot. And I feel like I can afford to say that to myself. And when I say that. I'm not saying [that to myself], I'm saying that to everybody. Because if I don't say it, and if I don't put it out there and make people think like, oh, is Lio, the best wrestler in the world? Why is he saying this? Let me pay attention to some of his matches just a little bit closer than I was before. Let me try to see if this is what he's saying. Is it true? Does it have some kind of, you know, truth to it.”

On other wrestlers’ reactions to Lio Rush saying he is the best wrestler in the world:

“I would hope that they would say the same thing that I would say. I hope that they would say good for you. You know what I mean? Like, I feel like if you're not saying that you're the best in the world, like, you know, what are you really working towards? Why are you doing this? What is your, what is your drive? Where's your motivation coming from? I feel like, Will Ospreay is the best wrestler in the world, and he should think that he's the best wrestler in the world. He's, he's incredible, but I feel like he's incredible at what he does. You know, I don't want to, you know, steal a quote from, from, from Chris Jericho, or Triple H of, you know, saying, you know, I'm the best wrestler, or I do what I do best, better than anybody, you know, something around those lines. And I feel like I have my own style, and, and my own way of doing things, and I'm the best at doing it that way.”

On being back full time:

“Yeah, it definitely feels like I'm back full time. That's what the schedule that I'm on, how often I'm wrestling. The amount of matches? Yeah, the amount of matches that I'm having, it's kind of, you know, blown me away really, with the schedule that I was able to, to kind of pull it together and be full time.”

What is Lio Rush grateful for?

“My family, all the people who are not blood relatives who care about me and the fact that I am still living.”