What do you get when you combine a strong background in dance, flamboyance and top tier wrestling ability?
You get XO Lishus, aka Sonny Kiss of All Elite Wrestling. This is not your grandfather’s wrestler I can assure you. The “Concrete Rose” may be familiar to those who follow Lucha Underground. But who is Sonny Kiss, where did he come from, and why should you care?
Sonny Kiss began wrestling professionally in 2015 for organizations such as Full Impact Pro Wrestling, World Wrestling Network, Full Impact Pro among a myriad of other professional wrestling promotions including Warriors of Wrestling where he wrestled as recently as this month. 2019 ushered in a brand new company boasting wrestlers such as Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and The Young Bucks. The hugely popular and highly anticipated All Elite Wrestling or AEW debuted in Las Vegas May 25th 2019.
The signing of Sonny Kiss to AEW proved two things to the world of professional wrestling: Sonny Kiss is the real deal and was signed based on his in ring abilities, charisma, and ability to connect with fans; and AEW is an all inclusive company that makes personnel decisions based on talent and ability.
This last fact is supported by the fact that Sonny Kiss is an openly gay wrestler who happens to be in a relationship with fellow professional wrestler, Killian McMurphy. Sonny Kiss and Killian McMurphy represent the first openly gay couple in professional wrestling, a fact that should be viewed as progress in a profession typically viewed as a macho sport. Not everyone has shed the views of intolerance and bigotry however, as evidenced by the insensitive remarks of Jim Cornette.
Cornette has worked with and been associated with the professional wrestling industry for decades and sadly it appears his views do not reflect the views of AEW or society as a whole. On episode 288 of his podcast in which Cornette was reviewing the Casino Battle Royale, from Double or Nothing Cornette states:
“Then here comes Sonny Kiss who apparently got off his day job at the drag-show at the f**king Tropicana. They’re not explaining any of this. The transvestite or exotico as they would say at AAA.”
Overwhelming support for XO Lishus flooded social media from fans and wrestling insiders alike. Fellow former Lucha Underground performer LuchaSaurus tweeted the following:
For his part Sonny Kiss issued the following response to Cornette’s comment on his twitter page:
Cornette, facing a barrage of social media backlash offered a bizarre and confounding explanation for his inappropriate comments stating “If I’ve hurt Sonny’s feelings by using the term transvestite—which I thought since it’s in the dictionary—or insinuating that he might have worked at the drag show then I do feel bad about that. But here’s also the thing—if I do go to the drag show and in the chorus line, out comes a guy dressed like a wrestler—am I not allowed an explanation there too? It’s all context. If you’re going to have a flamboyant gimmick, whether its based on your real life or not, you’re going to have to expect people to comment on it.”
This statement seems a tad ironic as he seems agitated that he is being forced to explain the context of his comments for which there really is no justifiable defense. While AEW is fighting to be inclusive and dispel the stereotype of professional wrestling as an intolerant boys club, Cornette it seems is fighting just as hard to perpetuate that antiquated stereotype.
Let’s get back to why Sonny Kiss is a part of AEW in the first place. Kiss has held the following titles in his brief career: Tier 1Title which he won by defeating Rude Boy Riley in 2016. He won the WoW (Warriors of Wrestling) No Limits Championship by defeating Chris Banks and Joey Ace in a three man match for the title which he held for 112 days eventually relinquishing the title to Isaiah Wolfe in a Four Way Ladder Match.
Kiss has twice been crowned the ACE Fight for Flight champion, once by winning a Three Man match and once by winning a Four Man match. Kiss defeated Chris Steeler to become the WOW Heavyweight Championship on January 12th of this year, a title he still holds to this day. This current title reign has lasted for 152 days so far. The title was on the line June 8th when Sonny Kiss squared off against Vinny Pacifico at Warriors of Wrestling Extreme Heat from Staten Island. Kiss is also the current reigning ECPW (East Coast Pro Wrestling) Light Heavyweight Champion. Sonny made his AEW debut in the Casino Battle Royale at AEW’s inaugural Double or Nothing show in Las Vegas Nevada on May 25th.
Sonny Kiss’ wrestling repotrie includes signature moves such as the “twerksault” which is a variation of the moonsault which includes, you guessed it twerking. His finishing move is called the “Sonny Side Up” which is a split legged version of the moonsault. Mix in a spinning wheel kick, a handspring elbow and the “ass effect” and you have the major in ring moves of The Concrete Rose, Sonny Kiss. The combination of dance, athleticism, and wrestling acumen have allowed Sonny Kiss to advance his career while collecting titles along the way. AEW is the next step for Sonny Kiss on his professional journey through professional wrestling.
So what is next for the 25 year old Concrete Rose? Only time will tell. He was signed to AEW, as were all of the wrestlers, to promote the brand so I would anticipate that he will get a major push within the organization. AEW is allowing their performers to continue to compete on the independent scene until the TV deal goes live so look for Kiss to continue to defend his two titles and hone his craft until that time.
Regardless of what else Sonny Kiss accomplishes in the ring he has already cemented his legacy for breaking down barriers in the world of professional wrestling. Kiss has shown that a wrestler can be true to himself and still make into the hottest wrestling promotion in the country. Kiss did not hide his identity nor sacrifice his dignity in order to make it in this business. Make no mistake, Sonny Kiss is no prop token or novelty he has earned his way to All Elite Wrestling by hard work, in ring skill, and compelling character development.
Credit AEW for creating an environment of inclusion for all the wrestlers as well as fans of Sonny Kiss and others of the LGTBQ community who may now feel welcomed by the professional wrestling community or at least AEW. Stay tuned to AEW for events to see when and where Sonny will wrestle next. Until then you can follow him as he competes on the independent circuit defending his titles.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @ngtriplett. Thanks for reading!