INTERVIEW: Lio Rush discusses ‘Not Found 2’ EP, running into Tenille Dashwood, NJPW STRONG, 205 Live memories

While promoting his 'Not Found 2' EP, Lio Rush spoke to Andrew Thompson about the project, aspirations in NJPW, 205 live memories and more

Photo Courtesy: SP Media Graphics

On 6/24, Lio Rush is going to release his ‘Not Found 2’ project which is a follow-up to the ‘Not Found’ EP he put out in September 2021. The project is going to be out on various platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify.

While speaking to Rush, he told me that he wants to change the stigma surrounding wrestlers in the music industry. He does not think the two have the best collaboration history but regardless of that, he feels that it laid the groundwork for him to be able to do what he’s doing now.

Like you said, they need to see people that look like them [Rush responded to the discussion of there being an entire audience of Black people that have always been entertained by pro wrestling but fell out of touch with it] and I feel like even when I was a fan of wrestling, there was nobody who looked like me. There’s nobody who looked like me and I feel like I’ve become kind of a face or someone of some kind of value in the wrestling industry, in that community, in the Black community of like, ‘Man, Lio looks just like us. I feel like I went to high school with Lio,’ you know? Stuff like that, I’ll get that stuff all the time, and I dig it. I like the fact that, you know, people look at me in that way as some sort of representation for them within the wrestling industry and yeah, I’m looking to break that stigma. I never really understood it. I mean, I get it because some wrestling and music things haven’t always been the best product put out, but I definitely think it laid the groundwork for people like me to be able to and do it in a way that nobody’s ever done it before and I definitely feel like I’m well on my way so, I’m super excited.

Since January, Rush has been sidelined with an injury and during his recent media tour, he has clarified that he’ll likely miss the majority of 2022 regarding an in-ring return.

Lio appeared at NJPW Capital Collision in May and as our discussion rolled on, he stated that he is interested in the idea of New Japan using one of his songs as the theme for one of their STRONG specials on FITE. Rush said it’s something he’ll try to make happen.

I definitely think that-that would be cool and that’s something that I’m looking to make happen [NJPW using one of his songs for a live STRONG special]. I want my music to help my wrestling career and I want my wrestling career to help my music career because it’s all me and it’s all things that I love and enjoy doing and even with the relationship with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, they’ve been so open and willing to allow me to continue to do the things that I do outside of wrestling, you know? And I’m super grateful for that, you know? Even doing my own entrance music and always pushing out my own vignettes and promos and them showing them on the big screens at the shows and stuff like that so they’ve always been super supportive with what I’m doing, to, you know, build my stock value and my name value in hopes — you know, adding and bringing something a little bit different to the table with New Japan and I definitely feel like I bring something different to the table with New Japan and I can see it growing into something special. So, yeah, that’s a great idea and I — that’s something that I’m looking to try to make happen for sure.

In the summer of 2018, while Rush was still with WWE, he was moved to the 205 Live roster. At the time, the likes of Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali, Buddy Matthews, KENTA, Drew Gulak, Samuray Del Sol and Mascara Dorada were on the roster and talents such as Swerve Strickland and Roderick Strong would make special appearances.

Lio shared that the roster would consistently have conversations about the presentation of the 205 Live brand and what it could be like if the proverbial ‘WWE machine’ was behind them. Rush expressed that they were frustrated because they knew what they could offer, but also stated that it was a fun time and the roster looked out for one another.

We’d have conversations like that all the time [205 Live roster would talk about why WWE doesn’t put ‘the machine’ behind them]. Almost every taping, we’d have that conversation amongst ourselves and not even just amongst ourselves, even with, you know, people within the company… I think it was just that clear. I think it was that clear to everybody. You could see and just feel the frustration with all of the guys, you know? Because we were going out there and putting on a show and really, really trying to make a name for ourselves and I definitely felt like we trusted each other too so it kind of felt like a brotherhood, it wasn’t that many people. You know, you got Raw, you got SmackDown, you got NXT, rosters of people. You know, 30, 40, 50-plus, 60-plus but you know, with 205 Live, you only had those core amount of guys and it felt like we had each other’s backs so that was definitely a special time for sure.

It was definitely a fun time. We worked hard, we worked hard. We’re proud of that groundwork that we laid. But yeah man, it was a fun time for sure. It was short-lived. It was short-lived but it was fun, definitely.

Prior to joining the 205 Live division, Rush was a part of NXT and in October 2017, following Tenille Dashwood’s release from WWE, he joked on Twitter about it in relation to a match she had with Asuka just one week prior.

Rush and Dashwood both have spoken about it over the years since and they recently met up in May at a wrestling convention and had the chance to talk about everything.

Yeah, yeah, that was cool. That was a really cool moment [meeting up with Tenille Dashwood] and I’m glad that it happened and I feel like so much has happened since then. So, you know, both of us talking about it and not really laughing on the situation but just thinking back on how crazy it was and how it changed my career, not so much changing her career [Lio laughed]. But, just seeing what transpired from it and me growing as an individual and seeing how I could have said or not said or approached things differently. I like growing and changing for the better. I never wanna have the same mentality that I had, you know, four or five, six years ago. So, it was cool that I saw her and as soon as I did, I walked up to her, we had a chat and later on in the day, we took a picture and I’m glad that-that moment happened. Definitely one for the books for sure.

Season 36 of MTV’s reality-competition series, ‘The Challenge’, featured Lio Rush as a participant. He opted to step away from the game early in the season and explained why via a statement after the episode aired.

During the season, Rush was able to put his wrestling skills to use during a mission called ‘Road Kill’ in which two competitors had to try and throw the other off the platform. Rush went up against four-time Challenge winner Darrell Taylor. Darrell was aware of Rush’s wrestling background and knew he was not going to be an easy out. Lio reflected on that moment from the season (5:30 mark in the video below).

Yeah man, I knew he [Darrell Taylor from The Challenge] was such a bigger dude than me so I knew being on a moving truck and standing wasn’t going to do me any favors so, I knew as soon as we got on the ground, you know, my ground game has always been strong with my amateur wrestling background so I knew it’ll be a little bit more difficult for him to get me off of that truck if we stayed on the ground and you know, once we got to the edge, that’s when I tried to work my magic and took him over at the last minute but, nah, he was strong in his own right. He was extremely strong and I feel like I’ve always been the guy talked about in my weight class as somebody who’s a lot stronger than they look. So, I’m glad that I surprised him with my performance. Yeah, it was pretty funny.

The group formerly known as ‘Hit Row’ (A.J. Francis, Swerve Strickland, Briana Brandy & Tehuti Miles) formally debuted on NXT TV in May of 2021. They were drafted to the SmackDown brand later that year and released one month after being drafted.

Lio departed WWE the year prior, but while AJ was still with the company, he shared that he wanted Rush and Swerve to be a part of the original concept for the group. Lio said it would have been cool to be a part of it and add whatever he could.

No, I never heard it. I mean I’ve heard it before, after the fact [that A.J. Francis wanted Lio & Swerve Strickland for the original concept of Hit Row]. But while I was there, it wasn’t brought up to me at all. But that would have been cool and it was cool because I believe we were all there at the same time too so it was definitely a possibility that it could have happened I guess. But yeah, it just didn’t pan out that way but I definitely think that it would have been cool, it would have been — you know, they made their own waves in their own right, you know? It would have been cool to be a part of that and you know, add to it whatever it is that I had to add to it.

When Rush showed up at NJPW Capital Collision, Hiromu Takahashi was among the names he mentioned when it comes to talents in New Japan he’s looking to face. In the past, Takahashi has expressed interest in wrestling Lio and described him as amazing. Rush is hoping he can make that matchup happen.

That’s something that I still hope can happen in the future [match with Hiromu Takahashi] with me continuing my time with New Japan Pro-Wrestling so that’s definitely a matchup I’m looking forward to for sure.

Before his injury this year, Rush competed inside Hammerstein Ballroom at The WRLD on GCW. He wrestled Blake Christian and it was their fourth match together. Lio said when he gets cleared, it’s likely that he and Blake are going to have a fifth match.

For sure [I’ll wrestle Blake Christian again]. It definitely feels like there’s still something there with me and Blake. You know, I didn’t get Tombstoned on my head outside the ring just to let it slide so, yeah, we’re gonna have to run that back.

To keep up with all things Lio Rush related, check out his official website. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram @IamLioRush.

Our full interview can be watched via the player at the top of this article or on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.

About Andrew Thompson 3683 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.