Interview with former WWE Superstar: Zach Gowen

Zach Gowen is a professional wrestler like no other, it is a hard enough challenge to step inside the squared circle for the first time, but for this particular grappler he defied the odds.

Gowen was diagnosed with cancer as a baby and at the age of eight had to have his one of his legs amputated. This however didn’t stop the Michigan born grappler living his dream as he performed in the WWE for a year between 2003-2004. During his time in the WWE Gowen worked with Mr. America (Hulk Hogan), and had matches against Brock Lesner and Vince McMahon himself.

We caught up with Gowen, who now wrestles for the Insane Clown Posse JCW (Juggalo Championship Wrestling), for an exclusive Wrestling 101 interview.

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Hi Zach, thank you very much for joining us today, first things first, how did you first get into wrestling?

I have been a big wrestling fan my whole life, some of my earliest childhood memories were watching WWF Superstars and WWF Primetime. I was a big Hulkamanic growing up, I liked the Ultimate Warrior, I liked the big powerful, colourful personalities like that.

When I got diagnosed with cancer at eight-years-old, I remember sitting in the hospital watching wrestling. They had to amputate my leg in January of 1992 and two weeks later I got out of the hospital for the first time and I remember watching Ric Flair win the World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble in 1992.

My love of wrestling continued throughout my life as it was a little difficult being so different as a child. I don’t think any kid likes to feel like their different and I certainly felt different growing up only having one leg. Profession wrestling was actually what I used to escape the horrors of being bullied.

When I was eighteen an opportunity to get trained presented itself and I jumped at the chance. Truth Martini at the House of Truth wrestling school trained me and I had my first match on March 16th 2002.

What was it like making your WWE debut working with Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper?

It was certainly a dream come true. I had signed a three-year contract with the WWE, but stayed for just over a year, and every day of the year I was with the company was like waking up into a fantasy. Two weeks before making my debut on TV with, Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and Vince McMahon, I was packing groceries at a local store in my hometown. To go from that to the grandest stage of them all was nothing short of amazing.

It was extremely overwhelming because at the time I was still a huge fan, so to walk into a room with Hogan, Piper, Brock Lesnar and Vince McMahon and to actually do an angle with them on TV was absolutely amazing and a dream come true but also very overwhelming for my young age.

What have been the toughest matches of your career to date?

Two that spring to mind and are probably two of my most famous matches to date are against Big Show and Brock Lesnar both during my time in the WWE. The match with the Big Show is very special to me because that was my first official match in the WWE, it was the main event on Smackdown and I was teaming up with Stephanie McMahon to take on the Big Show and if I won I would be granted by contract in terms of the storyline. I remember just being absolutely elated after that match and just overwhelmed by the great reception I got from the crowd.

The match with Brock happened in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan at the Joe Louis Arena, so it was a huge deal for me. I remember that match not even being scheduled till I got there. I think the original plan was for me to wrestle Matt Hardy as I was doing an angle with him, but they switched it when I got there. That was probably the more famous one out of the two because it was such a brutal beat down; he physically destroyed and dissected me in front of my hometown with my mum and my family all there. It got a lot of coverage at the time and was amazing.

What was it like work for Vince McMahon?

Working with Vince was awesome, I think there have only been four or five wrestlers in the history of the WWE that have had a match with Vince. I’m certainly in good company after my match with Vince along with the likes of Stone Cold, The Rock, Hogan and Flair. I kind of feel I don’t belong to be amongst those names, they are legends.

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You mentioned signing a three-year deal with the WWE, but only stayed for one – what was the reason you didn’t stay for the other two years of the contract?

I only stayed there for a year, because at the time it was a little too much, to soon I think. I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to handle that type of lifestyle, those types of responsibilities and ultimately they had to make the decision to fire me, which looking back it was the correct decision to make.

A Lot has been said recently about the term ‘wrestling’ what have you made of the WWE dropping the word from their name?

In my lifetime they went from the World Wrestling Federation to World Wrestling Entertainment and now they’re just WWE. They continue to change, I think it’s a branding thing, when they want people to hear WWE, they want them to think of an entertainment powerhouse. They’re not just wrestling anymore – they make movies and records, I think it is actually a smart move to venture off and do all of these different side projects to become a bigger powerhouse in the future. I know Vince is always trying to evolve and he’s been doing it since 1984 or something like that, he’s been doing it for a very long time and he’s a very smart man so I defiantly trust they are making the right decisions.

You also had a spell wrestling with TNA, they have gone in the opposite direction and have emphasised the term wrestling – what are your thoughts on that?

I kind of have mixed feelings about it, I think Impact Wrestling is such a great name, but TNA has been around since 2002 and it’s 2011 now, that is nine years. So for nine years they’ve been pushing this TNA brand and quite frankly it didn’t work, because if it worked they would have stuck with the name.

They’re doing the best they can and I’m happy that they are still around because I have friends down there that are making a living off wrestling and that’s the goal of every wrestler – so I think its great the exist and I think its great my friends have a place to work.

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You are now currently working with the Insane Clown Posse and JCW –how does JCW compare with the WWE and TNA?

I have been wrestling for little over nine years now and I’m having the most fun in my career right now at this time in JCW. I love being on the independent scene and being my own boss. I think as a fan of wrestling JCW is something I would watch and it feels good to be a part of that because the characters are so great, the storylines are every entertaining and it’s just a fun show to watch.

As a performer in JCW it’s amazing because I have creative freedom, I work for the Insane Clown Posse and they’re the guys running it. If I have an idea or if I want to do something I go directly to them and pitch them the idea and nine times out of ten we will either run with it or we’ll tweak it a little bit to make it better then run with it.

It is so amazing to get the chance to let my talent shine through and doing a little more on top of that instead of just being told what to do like a robot, like I was in other companies. It’s really good on a personal level to have that creative freshness integrated into the product and quite frankly I’ve never been happier.

JCW currently have a number of recognisable faces, including Vampiro, Sabu, Raven, Eugene, Rob Conway, Colt Cabana and Rhino – what is it like working with those guys?

I love it, it’s my favourite locker room, sitting next to me I have Jimmy Jacobs, who I think is the most under rated talent out there and my best friend. Sitting across from me I have Eugene and next to him is Rhino, The Sandman and Vampiro. Everybody in the locker room is so cool.

I certainly respect all of the old ECW guys, because ECW was booming so much at a time during my teenage years, so they really appeal to a young man like myself who felt like an outsider.

I’m currently in a tag team with Eugene, which I just think is a perfect match – Eugene can do what I can’t do physically and then I do what Eugene can’t do mentally, so it’s just a perfect match.

At the start you mentioned wrestlers you grew up idolising – since becoming a professional wrestler with a disability, have you had people come up to you that you have inspired?

Yes! And that is the best part of what I do – in addition to wrestling I also go around to schools and hospitals and I share my life story with children with disabilities. Doing things like that are so rewarding and that is another reason why I love independent wrestling because I can go out there and have the same high calibre match that you see on TV but then after the match I can meet all the fans and talk to them and it’s really personal – its just really spiritually fulfilling to be able to do what I do and be where I’m at.

Finally Zach, do you think we will ever see you back in either TNA or the WWE someday?

I don’t know, and I don’t want to give you a vague answer like anything could happen because I’m sure that’s what everybody says. There have been discussions in the past with both companies and the thing is right now I don’t have any interest at this time, but that could change tomorrow, it could change next year, I don’t know. At this present time I have no interest in going to the WWE, I’m 28-years-old and I can’t imagine being on the road four or five days a week. I enjoy being my on boss and doing other projects outside of wrestling and if I go back to WWE then WWE becomes my life, and that’s not a bad thing for certain people but for me at this time I really enjoy going out there and doing my public speaking and I’m halfway through writing my autobiography – I like having my hands in lots of different things and if I was in WWE right now I would have no control over that.

Watch Zack in action:

For more information on Zach Gowen visit his official website ZachGowen.com

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