Lio Rush was among the wave of WWE employees released back in April amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since his release from the company, Rush has teased multiple times that he may be done with professional wrestling for good and has been focusing on his music career.
The former "Man of the Hour" often found himself in the headlines with his open and public criticism of WWE for racism and a hostile work environment. Rush has also been extremely open about his struggles with mental illness and he was a recent guest on the "And Another Thing" podcast where he discussed those topics at length.
While discussing racial inequality in wrestling, Rush noted that his experiences were different in WWE than on the independent scene.
"It hasn't always been bad," Rush said. "I wouldn't even put the 'bad' title on it. It's more that it's unfortunate, but on the independent scene, which I was on for two years before my time with WWE, there's just so many companies and there's just not a lot of people that feel threatened or feel like they could be losing their position and things like that because there's so many independent promotions across the world and it's really equal across the board in terms of being able to progress.
"You hear the stories from ex-WWE wrestlers about their experiences. The unfairness that comes from a big organization like that as far as racial inequality or whatever, but my experience with WWE compared to my experience with the independent scene was far different. I feel like it's unfortunate that you don't see African American heavyweight champions and you don't see an African American as the face of the company. If you do, it's kind of a publicity stunt. I'm not sure if 'publicity stunt' is the word I'm looking for, but it's always more of a moment. I feel like it should just be the way that it is.
"There's something unsettling about the fact that during all of this protesting and Black Lives Matter movement that we finally got to see Apollo Crews as the United States Champion. That we finally had Bobby Lashley going for the world title. Why now? Why try to capitalize on real life scenarios and tragedy to push this agenda? In my eyes, it always felt like, 'Is this the right time to now put an African American on top because these real life social injustice issues'? That's just something that's always been upsetting to me and I know I'm rambling right now, but I always get pretty emotional about this."
The host then mentioned how unfortunate it is to still be hearing "The first African American" at the beginning of statements instead of simply "Apollo Crews is the new champ" or "Bobby Lashley is the new champ." Rush agreed and discussed how the pay scale is an element of inequality in the company.
"Sometimes the conversation comes up and it becomes, 'Well this person has more experience' or stuff like that," Rush said. "The longer I had been with WWE, I started to realize that's not always the case. It's based upon a lot of other things that doesn't have to do with talent or ticket sales or anything like that."
Rush went on to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and how the world can begin moving forward learning from the experience.
"I certainly hope that it's not the case that people saw it as a bandwagon movement and just get tired of it and move on," Lio said. "I think that in this case, and as far as I can remember, I know with these instances of African Americans being killed and murdered for no reason by law enforcement, I've never seen the entire world upset over something the way they were with this case. Everybody was talking about this, not just the African American community, so that's the biggest difference I've seen with other situations. This was truly a shift in the world."
Check out the full interview here.
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit the And Another Thing podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.