Lio Rush states that him & NJPW were working towards a deal

Photo Courtesy: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

Rush’s time in Japan is a stretch of his career that he looks back fondly on. 

Starting off 2023, Lio Rush was a part of NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 at the Tokyo Dome. Rush and YOH won the 2022 Super Junior Tag League tournament and secured themselves a shot at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships. 

Rush returned to the company for the New Japan Cup and closed out the tour with an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title match against Hiromu Takahashi. He was a part of Best of the Super Juniors and he joined NJPW for their Road to Destruction tour in September but had to pull out because he fell ill

He opened up about his 2023 in Japan while speaking to WrestlePurists. Rush said there was no contractual deal in place and him and NJPW were on a tour by tour basis. He shared that a deal was being worked towards and it was discussed but never came to fruition. 

No, it was no type of deal (with NJPW). It was no deal. I was going out there tour by tour. We were working towards a deal. I feel like that was talked about and in the works for quite some time. That never really came to fruition but, yeah, no deal on the table. Just me going out there, putting everything on the line, sacrificing, hustling, doing what I can to try to provide for my family the best way that I could so, yeah.

Speaking about his relationship with NJPW present day, Rush said it’s great but beyond that, he does not know if he’ll be going back to Japan or if the company is interested in signing him. 

He stated that he cannot continue to go off to Japan for months at a time and not be able to provide for his family the way he needs to. 

I mean, the relationship (with NJPW) is great, the relationship is great. I don’t really know what the situation is. I don’t know when I’m going back, I don’t know if I’m going back, I don’t know if they’re interested in signing me. I don’t know what really the situation is but, I know what I want. I know what is necessary in order for me to continue to go to Japan. I think it just got to a point where I couldn’t and I can’t continue to go out to Japan months at a time and not be able to provide for my family the way that I need to. Not even the way I want to but the way that I need to. So, we’ll see. I mean, we’ll see what the future holds. As of right now, I have no idea.

Looking back at his 2023, Lio feels it is the best year of his career so far because of that experience with New Japan. He mentioned his IMPACT Wrestling run that provided an X Division Championship reign. Rush felt like he was sharp the entire stretch and never felt better. 

This year in New Japan was by far the best year in my wrestling career I feel like… I really enjoyed my time in Japan. I think from my in-ring work, from, you know, my promos, whether it was backstage promos, whether it was vignettes I was putting on social media, whether that was promos I was cutting in-ring on top of being able to go back to America and be on TV with IMPACT and cutting promos. I just feel like I was on point, I was sharp the entire time, and I never felt better honestly. I was in the best shape of my life. It was amazing and being able to do that in front of a completely new audience, in front of an audience that probably couldn’t understand what I was saying half of the time, but, they felt my emotion, my passion… It was real. Everything — and I don’t know how many people followed my New Japan run this year while I was in Japan but… everything that you saw, literally everything that you saw there, everything that I said was real. Everything came from the heart. Those fans saw me pour my eyes out in the middle of the ring, they saw me pour my eyes out backstage, you know, talking about my family and how I wanted to relocate and bring my family to Japan, how I was fighting for my family. All that stuff is real. It’s all coming from a real place and I think that’s why it came off as genuine and as well as it did because people felt that and I think that’s what made my run this year in Japan so successful because it all came from a real place. I wasn’t wrestling, I was fighting and I was fighting for my life, I was fighting for my family’s lives so, yeah, I think my run in Japan was by far my best year that I’ve had in wrestling for sure and I loved every minute of it. I loved going out there, waving to the kids, I loved crying with the fans, I loved them crying when they saw me, I loved learning the little bit of Japanese that I learned in order to communicate with them. From the fan art to going out and getting recognized at restaurants and afterparty clubs and stuff like that. It was amazing. It completely took me by surprise, but it was for sure some of the best moments in my career.

Out of all the matches he’s had under the NJPW banner, Rush said his favorite was the Junior Heavyweight Title match against Hiromu from the New Japan Cup final. 

I think this was from the New Japan Cup. I came out with half face paint. This was my first match with Hiromu (Takahashi) for the IWGP Junior Title. The energy in that building was insane. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like that before. That has to be, hands down, my favorite match that I’ve had in New Japan so far.

Rush reiterated on social media that he is a free agent and listed off a handful of names he wants to share the ring with such as Jon Moxley, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, Will Ospreay and Roman Reigns among others. 

If the quotes in this article are used, please credit WrestlePurists with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.

About Andrew Thompson 8465 Articles
A Washington D.C. native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.