Lio Rush's Contract Sheds Light on AEW's Relationship With New Japan

The potential partnerships between All Elite Wrestling and WWE with New Japan Pro-Wrestling have been a hot topic throughout the year. A report dropped late last month that WWE was in negotiations with New Japan back in March about becoming exclusive partners, prompting AEW president Tony Khan to cut a promo calling out WWE president Nick Khan while hyping up his future plans with the top Japanese promotion. That promo came days before AEW's Double or Nothing event, which saw Lio Rush (under contract with New Japan at the time) make his surprise debut in the Casino Battle Royale.

Rush announced this week that he suffered an injury during the match that was forcing him into early retirement. But it turns out the deal Rush was working on might give a glimpse into how future deals between AEW and New Japan might work.

"New Japan gave AEW the okay to sign him...Originally the nature of the New Japan contract was that he could work for AEW, he could work for MLW, he could do indies, but New Japan would have the first priority, and New Japan also would have the right to turn stuff down," Dave Meltzer said on a recent Wrestling Observer Radio (h/t Cageside Seats).

"But in fact, they gave him permission to sign an American contract with AEW. Which also I think is very important politically," he continued. "Because the fact that New Japan would give someone who they have under contract the okay to sign with AEW tells me that New Japan at this point today believes that they are going to be in business with AEW, and not WWE. So that's actually a pretty important part of this story too."

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Khan said in the press conference after Double or Nothing that Rush was on a handshake at the time of his debut. He then released a statement shortly after Rush's retirement announcement.

"Lio Rush reached out to me today, and he shared that he'd planned to announce his retirement from pro wrestling tonight," Khan wrote. "While this news was unexpected, I'm glad that he's made a choice that he's confident will make him and his family happy. Lio is a great talent, and I enjoyed briefly working with him, and I absolutely wish him the best."