Lio Rush has had a whirlwind year that has ended with him signing with AEW.
Rush was the Joker in the Casino Battle Royale at AEW Double or Nothing and seemed on track to signing with AEW, but instead walked away from wrestling to heal an injury and focus on himself. He would continue to fulfill his NJPW commitments and returned to AEW on September 30 where it was officially announced he had signed with the company.
Speaking to Vickie Guerrero on the Excuse Me podcast, Rush opened up about his journey from Double or Nothing to officially signing a contract.
"The opportunity alone was amazing," Rush said about being the Joker at Double or Nothing. "I was at the point in my career where I was looking for opportunities and the right platform to showcase what I could do. It was amazing that Tony Khan reach out to me and wanted me to be the Joker. I don't think a lot of people were expecting me. It was cool. I was nervous. I had no idea what people would think, if they would be excited or disappointed. There was a lot of names thrown around. I was shaking in my boots a bit until my music hit. It was an exciting moment for me."
Rush suffered an AC separation during the battle royale, which he didn't realize until he got back to the trainer's room.
"It was such a real moment that never in a million years did I think I would be in that position. I went into that night with the intention of having a good match, coming out and hopefully getting praise from Tony Khan and him wanting to sign me. That was the case, regardless of what happened in the match. When I came back to Gorilla, he offered me a deal right there. He let me have some time to think on it with terms and all that, but he did offer me a deal that night. It was incredible. I don't know what happened to me in the match, I just knew there was something really wrong and I was freaking out," he said. "I ended up separating my AC during the match. It was probably midpoint. When it happened, I was still wrestling and doing my thing in the match and it wasn't until I got eliminated. I already knew I was going to lay there and soak in the moment. I did that, but when I tried to get up, my arm wasn't moving, at all. It was like something was broken. It was such a crazy feeling. I called somebody to me and I said I couldn't move my arm. They helped me to the back and that's when I was talking to Tony. Nothing physically happened in the match that would make you think I got hurt. I was trying to focus on Tony, I wasn't gonna tell him about my arm, I was going to go put some ice on it and be fine. I just thought it was hurt a little bit, but I went to the trainer's room, I couldn't lift my arm, and they said I needed an MRI."
Rush noted that he went to the doctor where they confirmed the AC separation and told him he would need surgery.
On June 8, Lio announced it was time for him to retire from wrestling. On June 10, Rush posted a statement on social media before his AC procedure to address the issues that led to his retirement, saying that he was fulfilled and his professional wrestling career and was happy to be moving on to be a better father and husband and pursue other passions.
Speaking about his decision, Lio said, "During that time of me debuting in AEW, my wrestling career, viewed by the casual fan, it was on the up. I was going all over the country with Independent promotions, New Japan, MLW, and Triple A. It was a lot. I was also going through a lot of personal things during that time too and a big part of that was me...part of it was financial because of the huge hit that me and my family took with being released from WWE and trying to find consistent work without being under contract. It was a lot of things going through my mind. I was also doing music and me taking back and moving in a direction I thought I was capable of moving in the music industry and letting that be a source of income while also allowing me the time to be with my family and wife. I never really got the opportunity to be the dad I wanted to be because I got pushed in the wrestling world pretty quickly and that was when I had my first son. Then my second son, I was with WWE, so I definitely wasn't as home as I wanted to be. Then, with being released and having to work during the pandemic, I had to work twice as hard and twice as much to make up the money and I definitely wasn't home."
"I saw where my life was going and I didn't want it to be like that. It was a hard choice between signing a contract with AEW, along with the frustrations I've had with the wrestling business in general. It was a lot of everything. It was a lot of me kind of giving it up, believing in myself with other ventures I had, putting my family first, being selfish. Just a lot that I wasn't expecting. It was such a split decision. If I would have taken the contract during that time in my life, I feel like it could have affected me and my family. It came down to, do I want to work on being the family man I want to be or hurt my personal life even more and take the contract, but it might work out more financially, but by the time it works out financially, what does the personal life look like? It was a lot weighing on me and I decided to walk away and not take the contract. I decided to do things on my time. During that time, I found out a lot about myself and I started to get a grasp of how much influence I have on the wrestling world in a way that I didn't realize. The injury forced me to sit down, think, stop, and figure out where I would go, what I would do, who I would do it for. There's a bigger picture than just wrestling."
Lio was able to avoid surgery by undergoing a stem cell treatment.
Later in the interview, Lio said he always wanted to be in AEW, but didn't always think it was possible. He concluded by saying that there is a bigger message than just wrestling and he has put himself in a position to do something special in wrestling that hasn't been done, aiming to accomplish something bigger than wrestling and inspire people to do more and push for things outside of wrestling.
He returned to AEW television as LBO Lio with LBO standing for Leverage Buy Out. Following his vignette airing on the September 30 episode, it was announced that he officially signed with the company.
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