For months, we never heard the end of Lio Rush’s never-ending praise for ‘The All Mighty’ Bobby Lashley, as the former independent wrestling sensation stepped up and became an excellent mouthpiece for the monstrous WWE superstar. Lio and Lashley formed an entertaining team, but for one reason or another, ‘The Man of the Hour’ has not been seen on WWE’s flagship show in recent months. Since then, Lio Rush has quietly been working on other projects, and he’s now back in the limelight with his impressive debut single ‘Scenic Lullaby’.
In this SteelChair Magazine exclusive interview, Lio Rush discusses his new single, and how his work in WWE gave him the confidence to release his single. He also discusses the “strange” perception some fans have of him, working with Bobby Lashley and his goals for the future. It’s a fascinating insight into a superstar and man many people have misunderstood, but someone that constantly proves he is one of the most talented performers in the wrestling business.
I wanted to start by getting to know more about you, Lio. When you were young, was wrestling and music always the dream?
I think my main goal when I was younger was to become a professional wrestler. As far as music goes, my parents were musicians, and I grew up going on tours with them, watching them perform, and going to award shows. So I always knew that one day I was going to be involved in the music industry, but I didn’t know how or when, or what exactly I’d be doing. But I always knew that one day; I did want to pursue some kind of career in the music industry. But it all started with poetry for me, and eventually, it branched off into me, putting that into songs.
Did you always know that you would be a singer or rapper, or did you ever think about taking up an instrument?
(Laughs) No, my sisters were pretty good with the instruments. I was never good at playing any type of instrument. But I knew that I wanted to either sing or rap, something along those lines because I used to write a lot. Again, it all started with writing poems here and there when I was younger. I was always a writer, and I knew that one day, that skill would help me become a rapper or singer.
What was your first memory of watching wrestling and was there a wrestler that stood out to you?
Oh, yeah, for sure. The superstar that stood out to me the most was Jeff Hardy. He was so charismatic. He was bold. He was out there with the flashy lights, vibrant colours, and the daredevil tactics that he used every week. It was exciting to watch, and I looked up to him so much when I was younger.
And as far as an early memory of wrestling, I remember sitting down in the living room with my sisters, and we were turning the channels, and we just so happened to come across wrestling on the TV. I remember it was SmackDown, and I think it was on UPN at the time. It was Booker T vs. Rikishi, and I remember Booker T throwing up because Rikishi gave him a stink face, and he threw up all over Michael Cole (laughs), and that was my first memory of wrestling.
You’ve said before that you experienced a lot as a young teenager, and now here you are as a 24-year-old who has performed for the biggest wrestling company in the world and has released his own single. Do you think your experiences and the fact you had to grow up so fast helped you achieve so much at such a young age?
Oh, for sure. I definitely feel like everything I’ve gone through in my life as a teenager has fuelled the fire to succeed, and that want to be better, and do better. And be able to provide, not only for me but for my family as well. All of that pain and struggle that I went through at an early age has just been my drive, and I definitely think that it’s helped me accomplish the amount of things that I’ve accomplished in the wrestling world so far. It’s because I’ve always stayed so hungry. So passionate about everything that I’ve done and I am doing. Even though it’s been hard to go through, it’s been one of my strengths.
You mentioned poetry is a big part of your creativity. Did you always know that was going to lead to a song or was it simply you writing it for yourself?
No, I never had any intention of releasing a lot of the things that I’ve written. It’s always kind of been therapeutic for me. Just having it down on paper and being able to read it back, having that feeling that I’m talking to somebody. So I think all of my writing has been pretty therapeutic for me, and I never really had the intention of releasing it. But, you know, things change, circumstances change, and you start to wonder if your story and the things that you have gone through could be a motivational tool for somebody else that’s going through the same things.
You talked about the tough days as a teenager, would you say poetry was one of the big things that helped you during that time?
Yes, for sure. You know, even if I was not writing at the time, even the thought of wanting to do that helped me through those times.
The song is really good, and I’ll be honest, I’m not the best when it comes to music, but I really enjoyed it. You could tell it wasn’t just random words or rhymes. It had meaning. But the quality of the video really stood out to me. Was that your vision, or did someone assist you when it came to the presentation?
It was my idea. I’m a very creative and artistic person when it comes to visual and how I want to present certain things. I wanted that video to not only represent how I felt, and how the song came off but also what the cover of the single was. Me being a little boy, sitting with my sister, I wanted the video to represent that with me sitting on a swing, reminiscing about the old days, and me sitting in the bathroom, which kind of represents the lowest point in my life. So I definitely put some thought into how I wanted to present everything. From the cover to the song to the video.
I also think people seem to jump to conclusions about you because they associate you with the character on RAW. However, this song shows a much different side to you, and a very deep and meaningful side. Do you hope that people learn a little bit about the real Lio Rush by watching this?
Yeah, definitely. That’s something I had high hopes for, that this video and the song can show a different side of me. At times, I have difficulty with expressing myself to people that I am not familiar with, or people that I feel I cannot trust. I can sometimes feel standoffish, and my personality can come across as arrogant, and I think that’s the biggest misconception of me. And I feel like this song can give people a little bit more of an idea of who I am as a person, and why I am the way that I am.
Do you find it strange that we’re in 2019, and people still seem to associate you with a character that you’re playing on TV, and they cannot seem to differentiate you to the character?
It’s very strange. We’re in a day and age where a lot of people know what professional wrestling is, and they know we’re on-screen characters, and fans love to think that they know what’s going on. Fans want to be involved now, and everybody wants to be a critic. I feel like there are very few fans out there that sit back and enjoy the product for what it is, and that’s entertainment. I feel like a lot of people mix real life with professional wrestling/sports entertainment. But it is very strange. I still can’t figure it out, and I don’t think I will figure it out because it hurts my brain to try and figure it out.
Did you ever have nerves or any fears about releasing the single? It’s always a big step for a wrestler to step out of their zone, and critics are not often kind when wrestlers fail in other ventures.
I don’t think I was ever really nervous about releasing the single. I’ve always been a pretty open person. I’ve been pretty open about my personal life, my past, and the physical and mental struggles I’ve been through in my life. I feel like it’s important for fans to see different sides to a person because as I said, people can misinterpret how somebody is because of their personality on screen.
I feel like if fans feel like they know you a little more, and they feel like they have a connection to you and are closer to you, then they can appreciate you not only as a person but as an entertainer that much more. So that’s pretty important to me.
Also, even if I did feel like I was going to fail with this single, I’m a big believer in ‘you have to fail in order to succeed, and you have to fail in order to learn’. And if I didn’t do this, and I always wondered how the outcome of it would be, then I would never know. If it sucked, I could go back, and re-evaluate what I did, and what I need to do next time. I also want the opinions of the fans because, at the end of the day, I’m putting this out for their ears. So if they’re not enjoying the product that I’m putting out, then I need to re-evaluate what I’m doing. So I’m not afraid of taking chances and taking risks in pursuit of a bigger purpose.
Going back to your independent days, you always stood out with your talent in the ring, but in a recent interview, you said being the voice for Bobby Lashley was a brand new experience. How instrumental do you think being the talkative personality on WWE TV was to helping you release this single?
I feel like it gave me the confidence that I never knew that I had. On the independent scene, it’s not a necessity. It’s not really a requirement to cut promos before the event or during the event. We kind of go out there and wrestle to get everybody’s attention and to make them remember who we are. So they will want to come back for the next show. I also feel like on the independent scene, I never really had the opportunity to do that.
I was so busy trying to make people remember my name, and to spread my name across the wrestling world as one of the best wrestlers in the entire world, so I could potentially get signed by the WWE. And with me being the voice for Bobby Lashley, it allowed me to show a different side of me, and show everyone that I’m not just the in-ring guy. I can also talk on the mic, and be an asset to somebody else’s career on top of mine. So it gave me the confidence that I needed to succeed outside of wrestling, and it gave me the confidence that I needed to know that I could be the “total package” in WWE.
In the independents, did you ever think about doing more promos and trying to improve that part of your game, or did it never cross your mind?
I did think about doing more promos, but at the end of the day, I wanted to get people talking about me when they went to a show. So I felt like I wanted to be known not only for my wrestling but for something else. So I tried to think about different ways I could get noticed before even stepping into a ring. I thought about my entrances, and what I could do differently during my entrances, and how I could make people feel and react during my entrances. That’s how the whole ‘Blackheart’ character came about in CZW. I wanted people to be able to talk about me not only in the ring but for what I was doing before I even got to the ring. It was another layer of me, and how I wanted to push myself out there for the people watching.
You’ve always had a swagger, even during your independent days. I thought you were a natural with Bobby, and I enjoyed the chemistry between you and Bobby. Was there ever a moment after a segment with Bobby where you felt like you’ve got this or was it a slow process gaining that confidence to cut a good promo every week?
It was a slow process. Bobby and I didn’t know each other. We had two different levels of experience in the wrestling world. But what I think helped us the most was that we both had a clear mind of where we wanted to go, what we wanted to accomplish, and how we wanted the people to feel about the pairing. It definitely helped us out a lot.
Was it easy to work with Bobby Lashley because he comes across as a very easy going guy? And, of course, a freakishly talented performer.
(Laughs) Definitely. He’s one of the most laid back guys that I know, and he had so much faith and confidence in me. Bobby wanted me to be a part of his success, and the process of getting him to where he wanted to go, and he had so much faith and trust in me. Whether it was promos or running social media or getting different content out there, whatever I suggested to him, he just went with it. He just went with it because he knew that I had his best interest in mind, and also I had a different idea of how to do things.
One thing I loved about your pairing with Bobby was when he used to smack you and say, “My man!” It was great because of the size dynamic between you two. Did a lot of things come from you guys flying off the cuff and trying different things?
Yeah, exactly. That was literally everything that we did. Let’s go out there and see what works and see what doesn’t work. Thankfully, the majority of things that we did worked, and it made people remember us.
What’s the goal moving forward? A full album or a return to wrestling? Anything you can share with us?
Right now, I’m taking this time to spend it with my family and work on other projects that I’ve always wanted to work on, which is this single. The goal and the game plan moving forward is the same as it’s always been and that is work hard, and continue to have faith, and trust in the process. Work every day, and live today how I want to be remembered tomorrow and I’m making sure that I’m putting in the work every day. I’m also taking one step forward to not only better my career, but to put my family in a better situation.
As far as wrestling goes, I’m 24 years old, and, of course, I still want to be a professional wrestler. I have so much time ahead of me. It’s been a goal and a dream of mine since I was a little kid. So the love and passion for wrestling is still there. But in the meantime, I’m also working on other dreams and goals, and making the most of my time.
You can watch and listen to Lio Rush’s single by clicking on the link.
Download ‘Scenic Lullaby’ here.
To keep up with Lio Rush and his career and projects, you can follow him on Twitter.