Friday, September 2, 2011
Exclusive Interview: Zack Gowen Talks Path to Sobriety, JCW, WWE Experiences, and More!
Growing up as a wrestling fan, Gowen seemed to be just like any other fan, except for one thing; his cancer that caused his leg to be amputated at age, 8. No matter, Gowen went onwards with his dreams in full throttle and became a WWE Superstar at age, 20. Zack's life is not short of rough patches, but he has come over each and every one to become one of the most inspirational wrestlers of all time. The one legged wrestler has proved anything is possible and I was able to catch up with Zack for a few questions. Hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did, conducting it.
Rallo: First off, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview, my first question I'd like to ask is, where did this passion for Professional Wrestling begin? Could you tell us of when you really started taking an interest in Pro Wrestling as well as when you really decided this was a career you wanted to pursue? Wrestlers do seem to watch from a younger age, but when you had your leg amputated at age 8, an age that wrestlers ordinarily may start watching, did you feel it was something you still wanted to pursue or something you'd rather just watch than take part of? Did your passion to become a wrestler grow since that tragic event? Also, who were some of your biggest inspirations in and outside of the ring?
Gowen: My passion for professional wrestling began when I would watch it every Saturday morning with my father. Some of my earliest memories in life revolved around sitting with my pops, watching wrestling. I think most boys, especially around my age, were into pro wrestling and cartoons like Transformers, Thundercats, and He-Man. That's what we grew up on. My interest in wrestling grew to monstrous levels around 1996 when the NWO formed and the next boom was happening. I didn't know if having 1 leg would help or hinder my chances at succeeding in wrestling. I thought the bigger issue would be my size, or lack-thereof. But my perception of wrestling changed when I saw Rey Mysterio for the first time. I saw him do these beautiful, high-risk maneuvers so gracefully and I thought to myself, "I can do that". Even more doors were opened in my mind when I discovered ECW and saw Sabu for the first time. Sabu and Rey are my favorite performers of all time. I wanted to be the one-legged Sabu when I started in 2002.
Rallo: It is known that you took your dream to Truth Martini and Bran Shotwell for your training. Upon arrival to their wrestling facility, could you tell us of what exactly their first reaction was when they saw that you had a prosthetic leg? I have no doubt you had your fair share of naysayers in your life, but what was it like when they had first seen you? Do you feel they had accepted you right from the get go or that there was some initial setback? Also, how did your training go to begin with? How difficult do you feel it was to wrestle with one leg and the prosthetic as well as working on just one leg? Did you feel one was easier than the other or did you feel it wasn't as bad as some would imagine? To this day, do you have a true and personal preference on how you wrestle? How did your overall training go and are there any unique stories you wish to share that occurred in your days of training?
Gowen: I have much love and respect for both of those men. www.hotwrestlingschool.com is the best school in the world. To their credit, they treated me no different from any other student. They saw I had potential to do something great in wrestling and they didn't want to let me know, in fear of me getting a big head or an ego. They did a wonderful job. The problem was, even at this stage of the game, I saw how quickly I was picking everything up. I was a natural athlete and if something in the school was shown to me one time, I could do it. If my physical limitations wouldn't allow me to do it, I would find a way around it. Wrestlers from all over would come into the school just to see me work out. Even before my first match, I felt like I was something special. That's when my ego starting inflating. I was an egomaniac with an inferiority complex because I was picked on or ostracized my whole life because of cancer and the amputation. It was a weird time in my head, and it got even weirder when I went to TNA and WWE shortly after.
Rallo: Before, I get into your run with WWE, I'd like to discuss experiences with TNA, which seemed very on and off. TNA provided you with your first real exposure, but you appeared sparingly in parts of 2003, 2005, and 2006. Could you tell us what it was like working in TNA as well as how you got the job to work there in the first place? Who had contacted you and why was TNA intent on bringing you in? Could you tell us of your thoughts on working in TNA as well as your thoughts on it's evolution to today? Would you ever consider returning to TNA or do you feel that, in no way, shape, or form, is the right place for you? Do you have any memorable moments and experiences you hold close to you from those days? Thoughts?
Gowen: In December of 2002 I sent a tape and an email to Bill Behrens who was the dark/tryout match coordinator at the time. He watched the tape and had me come down at their next PPV, sometime in January 2003 to work in a dark match. I wrestled Truth Martini in a dark match and got a huge, positive reaction from the crowd, the wrestlers, and the office. This match alone created such a buzz, WWE hired me without even knowing who I was or what I looked like. They immediately tried to hire me but ended up signing the wrong one-legged guy. TNA has always treated me well, I'm happy it exists because I have a lot of friends there that are making a living at what we love most in life. As a fan watching the product, I think it can be a lot better considering how much talent they have but I can't really speak more on that because I don't know the inner-workings of the company. I think I could do very well in TNA, I think potentially it could be a mutually beneficial deal.
Rallo: Next, in 2003, you did leave TNA to ultimately sign with WWE, at the age of, 20. Like in the previous question, could you tell us of how you were contacted by WWE and what the pinnacle in sports entertainment thought of you? It is unlike WWE to debut a 20 year old kid on the mainstream as quickly as they pushed you, not to mention, placing you in a program with Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper in your debut. You even later went on to have matches with guys like Brock Lesnar, Big Show, and a feud with, Mr. McMahon. Could you tell us, how you feel today about how your entire WWE career had went in regards to your push in comparison of how you felt when you where 20 years old? If you were to redo things, would you do so? What are your thoughts on how your push went in WWE? Anything in particular you loved doing in the company as well as any other things you did not like as much?
Gowen: I wouldn't change a thing man. It was trip to be there and to work with those cultural icons. I was 20 years old, the biggest wrestling fan in the world... working for the largest wrestling company, traveling around the world on their dime, getting paid, getting asked for my autograph wherever I went, working with Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon on a daily basis... you gotta be kidding me! It's funny to think about now. It's unreal that happened.
Rallo: Moving on to the backstage part of the company, it is widely known that you had not been one of the most popular guys in the back. You have openly claimed so in the past. It seems to be one of those "I was young and stupid" stories, as you were one of the youngest employees in the company. Would you agree with that statement? Also, could you explain any backstage stories in the locker room that may have shown you that you weren't one of the beloved guys in the back? We have heard stories in the past, with people such as, Miz, who had been literally banned and deemed an outcast from the WWE locker room. Did you have any events such as this? How did the other people in the back talk to you? Did you feel there was jealousy from your young push upon arrival? Explain your backstage life in and out of the locker room, as well as what you felt about your release in 2004. Could you ever see a comeback, now that you have matured and improved vastly?
Gowen: Yeah I wasn't liked at all in the WWE locker room. Honestly, if I was working there right now and a kid like me started to work there and acted how I acted, I wouldn't like me either. For better or worse, there are many rules to the wrestling profession. Many guys have sacrificed so much more than I can ever imagine and have followed these rules to a tee for 15, 20 years and STILL don't make it WWE. I made it there 9 months after my first match. I couldn't accept that gift. I couldn't appreciate that opportunity because I didn't work hard or sacrifice enough to get it. I can see that now. That's the perspective that comes with age, maturity, and many ups and downs in my professional and personal life. I look at Miz as an inspiration, I think he's awesome. Do I see a comeback to WWE? I don't know, time will tell. Here's the thing, I'm open to anything... whether it be doing a motivational speaking tour or hopping on a plane to do a Japanese wrestling tour or spending 2 weeks in NYC writing my book with an awesome writer/producer or donating time to homeless shelters and detox facilities or whatever the day brings me. I have no plans or goals. None. I wake up everyday, thank God for another day, and do the next right thing at all times. Each day is different and each day is an adventure. I'm just really enjoying the ride right now after many years of living in fear and anxiety and self-pity. Do I see a comeback? I already came back.
Rallo: Moving on from, WWE talk, it seems you have been all over since then. Could you tell us of anything non-wrestling related that you pursued following your stint in, WWE? You had really fell of everyone's radar after this run. Could you tell us if you had any feelings on ever leaving wrestling or was that still a goal to be a very successful Pro Wrestler? Were there any other endeavors you wanted to pursue such as motivational speaking, something in acting, different charities, etc that were goals? What was your mindset once you departed from WWE and what were some endeavors in which you took part in? Is there anything today, outside of wrestling, that you would really like to do one day?
Gowen: Sure. I certainly fell off the radar. I even fell off my own radar. I found the solution to all of my fears, anxieties, self esteem issues, insecurities, secrets, and resentments in drugs and alcohol. Woah... for the first time in my life, I felt confident, attractive, and funny. I was comfortable in my skin. Great, so the more the merrier right? Well for someone like me, there isn't enough booze or drugs in the world to keep me satisfied. I ended up chasing my own tail for about 7 years before I had enough. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I just wanted a way out but I was hopeless. It fucking sucked. At my lowest point, I reached out for help and genuinely meant it, and I was given lots of help. Honestly, a person like me doesn't deserve all the good things and gifts that I've been given in the past year and a half. I'm so grateful.
Like I said, I don't have any goals. Thing's just happen. Here's the thing: I stay sober and grateful and humble and I do the next right thing always and I help out my fellow addicts and alcoholics and things just have a way of working out. I jumped without a parachute and I've never been more free in my life. I fell into stuntwork for movies and TV shows, I've shared my story with thousands of kids and disabled people and cancer survivors, I'm writing my book with a great writer/producer in hopes it'll be turned into a movie someday, I'm wrestling all over the world having fantastic matches, life is unbelievable right now. And the weird thing about it is, I don't deserve any of it! Life's a beach, I'm just playing in the sand, man.
Rallo: I'd like to discuss one of the promotions you are currently involved with, Juggalo Championship Wrestling. Recently, you have returned for the first time since 2008, so could you tell us of your experiences in this promotion? What do you like about JCW that constantly brings you back to the promotion? It also seems as though you departed on a pretty bad note as you were blacklisted from the company after no showing an event. Could you tell us of what occurred to lead to this and any struggles you had to face following your departure of JCW? How did you overcome these problems and ultimately return?
Gowen: I burned a lot of bridges and JCW happened to be one of them. Earlier this year an opportunity came up to meet with the office and I gotta job with them from that meeting. That wouldn't have been possible if I was still living in the pain. I love those guys, they saw a change in me. I'm reliable now and a strong, unique talent. JCW is my favorite place to work. Not only because they gave mean opportunity when nobody else would, but because I love ICP's vision of what makes entertaining professional wrestling. Strong, wacky, well-defined characters. Funny, fresh, entertaining storylines. Amazing wrestling withA hardcore, high-flying, death defying flavor sprinkled into the JCW stove top stew pot. It's awesome. And it's only 5 bucks to watch anywhere in the world on www.psychopathiclive.com.
Rallo: Keeping on with JCW talk, you did return this year in a tag team with former WWE talent, U-Gene (Eugene). You did tag with him recently, but U-Gene had a heel turn, leading to an upcoming match up at, BloodyMania V. For those unaware, could you explain the importance of, BloodyMania to JCW as well as your thoughts on your upcoming match up on the card? How do you feel working with and against, U-Gene and do you have any goals in mind for your upcoming performance. Also, speaking of a Eugene heel turn, what are your thoughts on working as a heel, which you have never really gotten to do that much? Do you feel handicapped stars really can play as a heel? Thoughts?
Gowen: U-Gene's an amazing talent. I loved teaming with him and watching him do his thing, he's so good at it. I can't wait to see where he takes the new persona. I think it's hard for me to be a bad guy. I really don't feel like a bad guy, like I don't believe in my persona when I'm a bad guy. I'm just playing a character. I'm not good at that, I'm not a good actor. I just like wrestling and feeling the love and energy from the crowd. It gets me every time.
Rallo: Before, I let you go, do you have any last words for your many fans? Is there anything you would like to plug or tell anyone about? Any inspirational words? Where can your fans find you online and in the ring next?
Gowen: Whoever reads this, I appreciate your time and interest in me. I wish nothing but love to and yours. Life is short, let's help each other rather than tear each other down. People helping people is such a positive action, you will be rewarded 10x more than you gave, trust me. Love and be kind to yourself.