Speaking in a new interview, Lio Rush has opened up about the differences between AEW and WWE, admitting that wrestling became “just a job” with his former employer.
Lio Rush was officially unveiled by AEW on September 30th after appearing at Double or Nothing 2021 during the Casino Battle Royal as the Joker in May.
However, shortly after the appearance Rush announced his retirement, citing his health as the reason. While the high-flyer said he would fulfil his NJPW obligations when healthy and step away, Rush appeared on Dynamite saying Tony Khan has been “calling him nonstop” and called himself LBO.
During a new interview on Excuse Me: The Vickie Guerrero Show, Rush compared his first impressions of AEW to his time spent in WWE. The star spent three years with WWE from 2017 till April 2020.
Rush began by explaining that the feeling is totally different in his new home.
“The feeling was so crazy because it feels like, visually, being back in a stadium and seeing the backstage area like that, it was kind of trippy because it was reminding me of WWE in a lot of ways,” Rush said. “But the overall feeling was just completely different. I didn’t feel any hostility, I didn’t feel any stress or anger in the air. It felt good. Even seeing guys that I was in the locker room with in WWE, some guys that I might not have had a close connection with in WWE. But to see us all here in this environment, I think it shows common ground. And I think it kind of eases that tension up a little bit.
“I think that’s so healthy for even the people who haven’t made it to WWE. I think it’s healthy and good to see that interaction with us, and I think it’s cool to be in a locker room full of people that are hungry. This is what a lot of guys and girls have been waiting for their entire lives, having another alternative to WWE. And AEW being the place that everybody wants to be, I think it’s really cool to want to work with people who want to put their all into everything that they’re doing. It’s a good feeling.”
The former Ring Of Honor star went on to heap praise on AEW President Tony Khan before admitting that he stopped feeling like a wrestling fan while he was with WWE.
“I just can’t believe that Tony’s our boss,” Rush said. “I can’t believe it. He’s such a cool guy, he’s a good dude. It’s amazing to have somebody in charge who’s hungry and passionate about the same things that the performing are. He’s amazing. I’m so appreciative of Tony, I’m so grateful for Tony, I’m so grateful for what he’s doing for the wrestling world. I think he’s making the boys fans again. I think its very easy to have it be just a job, like especially when you’re in WWE. And I don’t want to speak for everybody, but at least for me, it got to a point where it was just a job. I felt like I wasn’t a fan of wrestling anymore, I felt like I wanted to get away from it, as far as possible, when I wasn’t wrestling.
“But being with Tony and being with AEW, I’m excited. I’m excited. This is the most excited I have ever been. I feel like I’m learning how to, you know that feeling, when you want to be a professional wrestler. And you’re learning and you’re going to training every week. I feel like that again. I can’t wait to be on TV every week. I can’t wait to be in that locker room, I just can’t wait to be back in front of fans. And this time, wrestling on TV, because a lot of the time in WWE, on RAW, I wasn’t wrestling. I’m excited.”
Despite not always enjoying his run with WWE, Rush did say that he was grateful for his time with the company. The former NXT Superstar credited his stint with the company with making him a better performer, especially with regard to promos.
“I’m grateful for my time in WWE as well,” Rush said. “It wasn’t always terrible. And some of those moments put me in a position where it forced me to have to learn to do something. I was never really a promo guy before WWE. And I think being thrown to TV, in that position, week after week, it kind of forced me to really hone in on my promos and really study. I was writing, and recording, and putting out promos on my social media every day, every day.
“There wasn’t a time where I wasn’t cutting a promo or hopping on a live stream and talking to my fans but playing a character, just so I could learn to improvise and be witty. I enjoyed it a lot, and I can’t wait to be on TV and take what I learned in WWE as far as talking and my promos. And on top of that, being able to wrestle, perform in the ring at the same time. I think it’s going to be really cool.”
During his time in WWE, Lio Rush was an NXT Cruiserweight Champion, having won the title after a hiatus away from the company. Rush was initially on NXT before being called up to Monday Night RAW to become Bobby Lashley’s hype man, but took time away with much speculation that he had “backstage heat” after refusing to carry luggage for veterans.
Rush’s return saw him win gold and spend some time on the black and gold brand in a run where Rush got to show the world what he could do, before being released in a wave of departures in April 2020 due to budget cuts.
If you’re new to AEW, Lio Rush is the latest name you may recognise to join the company. You can see the entire list of former WWE Superstars here.
H/t to Wrestling Inc for the transcription.