Zach Gowen has gone through a lot in his life – he lost his left leg to cancer as a child, he was thrust into a worldwide spotlight at 18, he went through a deep bout with drugs and alcohol, became homeless, then turned his life around, lived to tell the tale and started a family.
It’s truly an unbelievable story, especially when you consider he’s only 28 years old. For 6 months in 2003, he was the most talked about WWE Superstar on the roster.
In this interview, he talks about making it to WWE (“I was bagging groceries one night, working in front of 200 people at an indy show the next, then for WWE in front of 15,000 the next – it was a lot”), clarifying the “attitude problems” that led to his WWE departure, dealing with drugs and alcohol, being homeless, pulling out of that to where he is today – a motivational speaker who is writing a book about his life and is expecting his first child. Highlights from the interview are as follows:
What made him decide to enter professional Wrestling despite losing his leg to cancer, and what kind of reaction did he get from his family and friends when he told them that he wanted to be in the wrestling business: “I made the decision when I was 16. I knew that wrestling was what I was going to do because my love and passion for wrestling was unparalleled. Basically there’s nothing in life that grabbed my interest or mesmerized me as much as Professional Wrestling. I just knew I would somehow be involved in it.”
His debut with WWE on the May 15, 2003 episode of SmackDown with Mr. America, Sean O’Haire and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, where Piper pulled his prosthetic leg off. Explains how Piper originally tried pulling the wrong leg by mistake: “I hit him (Piper) with Mr. America’s flag pole and then Sean O’Haire tackled me. Piper was gonna come over, rip my prosthetic leg off, cause no one knew at the time I had a missing limb. When he was pulling my real leg, he was pulling extremely hard too and yelling at me “why wont this thing come off kid (laughs)”
What lead to his release from WWE; was it his backstage attitude? What was his circumstance like, and what extent does he remember going versus the perception he received: “I didn’t know how to conduct myself as a WWE superstar, I didn’t know how to conduct myself as an employee of that organization, I didn’t know how to conduct myself as a man at that point cause I wasn’t a man (Gowen was 18 at time of signing). I guess I acted out a little bit. Thing is I didn’t want to, that’s just what was going on in my head at the time. What was going on inside of me was the complete opposite, I felt like I didn’t belong there, I felt I wasn’t as good as these guys, I felt like I didn’t fit in at all.”
What are his goals today, doing motivational speaking, and explaining how he got into drugs and alcohol. When he was at the lowest point with the drugs and alcohol, what got it to turn it around for him: “I would like to say I have a spiritual intervention basically. I don’t know what happened, I was sick and tried of being sick and tired, and I was living one lie after another. I remember I came to my mom about everything because I was trying to leave this double life, everything just came out. Basically I dropped to my knees and asked for help for the first time in my life. My mom suggested I go into the WWE’s rehab program and thought it was a great idea, so I called the WWE office and told them I needed help and didnt know how to stop. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.”
The podcast is available here.