Lio Rush spoke with Sporting News ahead of his Cruiserweight Championship match on tonight’s NXT and talked about his time away from WWE and more. A few highlights are below:
On his return to NXT: “I feel like, with me returning to NXT, it was a huge opportunity for me to show the world, to show NXT, to show the people that have only seen me on 205 Live and Monday Night Raw and stuff like that, to show everybody that I got signed to the WWE because I was one of the greatest cruiserweights in the world. I know that my first run in NXT was very short, and a lot of people, they weren’t used to seeing me in the light that I was in. On Monday Night Raw, I was just strictly in a manager role. So to be in NXT with the second run and to show everybody what I can do in the ring is pretty cool, and it’s been an incredible experience. I’ve been having tons of fun with it as well and just doing what I love doing and proving to everybody that I’m here for a reason. I got signed to the WWE because I’m the greatest cruiserweight in the world, so it’s pretty cool.”
On his hiatus last year: “During that time, I was in a bad mental space. I feel like I’ve been pretty open with the public about my issues with depression and anxiety and stuff like that. I just needed a little break. I needed some time away to rethink, to be with my family, to remind myself of why I wanted to be a sports entertainer in the first place and be in the WWE in the first place. And that experience that I had on “RAW” was a very cool experience. I got to work with veterans of this business, people that have been a part of this business for so long. I’ve gotten to be on every single last pay-per-view. I’ve gotten to walk out at the Royal Rumble. I’ve gotten to walk out at WrestleMania. All of the things that takes guys so long to accomplish and I accomplished it all in six months. And, that time, I’m incredibly grateful for but, at the same time, it was eating me up.
Just because, again, I got signed to the WWE to be one of the greatest cruiserweights, and it was hard for me. It was hard to not be in the ring. It’s hard to not show the world what I was capable of in the ring. So I accomplished what I accomplished on Monday Night Raw, and to come back to NXT was a huge, huge step for me. And yeah, I’m grateful that I’m here. I’m grateful that I’m a part of NXT, grateful that I’m in the ring with the amount of talent that I’m in the ring with. Yeah, just had to regroup, rethink, refocus, and get back to work.”
On his tumultuous run in WWE: “I feel like since day one in WWE, I’ve always had something going on with me. Like you said, I’ve faced a lot of criticism. I feel like going into the WWE, I kind of already had some criticism and not a very good, I guess, reputation that was formed by others about me. So walking into the WWE, I felt like I kind of already had to look over my shoulder to see who was watching stuff like that. But again, I feel like a lot of that has come from being only 21, 22 years old and being signed to the WWE already having years of experience on the independent circuit and being inside at such a young age. So a lot comes with that. A lot of good, a lot of bad comes with that.
And yes, I have experienced a lot of ups and downs within the company, probably a lot more than people 10-plus years in the company have experienced, and it was traumatizing for me in a sense. But the way that I grew up and the area that I grew up in and the things that I’ve been through as a teenager I feel like prepared me for everything that I’ve been going through in the WWE. It showed me to push through and to fight for the things that you want and what you believe in, and to never back down or be discouraged by criticism or people saying that you can’t do this, you can’t do that. I just had to push through all of it. It’s been one hell of a ride. Man, it’s been crazy.”