SHOW: The Main Event Radio Show with Ryan Rider and Steve Rockamaniac, Airing Sunday Mornings from 10:30am-12:00pm on www.MainEventRadio.com and 1690AM in Montreal
Interview Conducted by “Reporter” Ryan Rider Which Can Be Downloaded At: http://www.MainEventRadio.com
Zach Gowen joined host Ryan Rider this past Sunday to discuss his time in both WWE and TNA, his future plans, and his substance abuse problem which was previously kept secret from the public. This man has overcame all odds being the one and only one-legged wrestler in the history of the sport and provided for quite an interesting interview.
Q: First of all to start off, I was wondering if you could tell us what you’ve been up to lately in the wrestling world and maybe in the real world as well.
A: “Wrestling is picking up quite well for me actually. I picked up a full-gig in All Japan and I’m over happy to be over there in Japan.
Q: How’s it like working in Japan? What are the differences between working in America and then going on to Japan? I know during matches the fans are usually quiet and they clap at the end while in the U.S. they are loud throughout the entire match.
A: There’s no really that much difference. It’s still wrestling. You go out there and get to entertain people. As far as the physicality goes, it’s a little more physical there; the ring is a little harder. As far as the style goes, they hit a little harder. The matches are set up a little bit differently than how they are here. But when it comes down to it, it is pro wrestling. You go out there and you do your thing and you do what you know how to do.
Q: The first time I believe I saw you was in TNA, where you has a match against BG James. I think it was back in 2003, you wrestled as Tenacious Z. How did that opportunity come about?
A: I was only wrestling for maybe 7 months at that point. I sent in a tape to Bill Behrens who was booking the TNA dark matches at the time. He saw my tape and he had me come down the following Wednesday for a dark match. I wrestled against the guy who trained me, Truth Martini. They said our match got the loudest reaction that’s ever been at the Nashville Fairgrounds. They had no idea who I was, but we went out there and tore the house down and the next week they brought me back and I started with BG.
Q: You had a couple of matches there and not too long after that, you debuted in World Wrestling Entertainment. You got to work with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and the Big Show right from the get-go. How was that experience like?
A: It was overwhelming, you know it was exciting, it was crazy. Here I am, like a 19 year old kid, bagging groceries at the local grocery store and then two weeks later being on TV with Hulk Hogan. It was exciting, it was fun, and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to do that. Because of my exposure in WWE and TNA I’m able to make a living in wrestling and I’m very happy where I was and where I’m at right now.
Q: What about Vince McMahon? What was he like to work for?
A: He was cool, man. He was always a gentleman, always professional. He demanded nothing but the best and that’s what he deserves. He runs WWE, it’s a billion-dollar company and of course he’s a little demanding but that’s what he needs to do to run his company.
Q: What about that story about how it was your dream to meet Hulk Hogan when you were a kid and then you finally did? How did that story come about?
A: Well actually I was the one who made that whole thing up. It goes back to TNA. Before I worked with BG James, Mike Tenay came up to me and asked me if I wanted him to say anything during the match about me. On the spot, it popped up in my head that this would be a cool story to tell over the air. So I came up with that story. It never happened; I never met Hulk Hogan when I had cancer but I felt like it was a pretty cool story.
Q: It was a cold story though and it was definitely worked. How was Hogan like working with?
A: He was great. He didn’t have to go out of his way and give me advice and whatnot but he did. He’s been everywhere, he’s done everything, he’s just made so much money it’s not even funny. He was super nice to me and he was a true gentleman.
Q: Do you have any road stories from your time in the WWE?
A: I think when guys first come [to the company] they give them free rental cars. So I drove pretty much everybody around because nobody really wanted to pay money. I travelled a lot with Spanky and Rhino and Paul London. I drove Benoit around a lot, Eddie Guerrero a little bit. It was just cool getting to know the guys, being a part of the family.
Q: You mention Benoit. How was your experience with him?
A: He was awesome. He was real quiet; he trained real hard in the gym. He did his job. When I was there, he wasn’t really happy about his push or his standing with the company. He was a little down about that but as far as what happened with his wife and with his kid it just completely shocks me. You know it’s appalling and disgusting. But when I was there with him he was nothing but classy, and a gentleman, and a professional.
Q: At one point, you were really beaten up badly by Brock Lesnar where he “kayfabed” injured your leg and he threw you down some stairs as well. Where was this supposed to lead to?
A: I’m not really sure. I think it was just an angle over the summer to get Brock over as a heel. He was a babyface for awhile; they turned him into a bad guy. For a few weeks he was beating up me and Paul [London], but he wasn’t getting over as a heel. When they came to Detroit, my hometown, they kind of put as a last minute thing me and Brock together to have him beat me up and get him over as a heel.
Q: How were the ladies like?
A: They’re awesome man! They were really cool, they were smoking hot. Everything’s professional, everything’s cool, and it was cool getting to know them too.
Q: I seem to remember at one point where you had a thing going on with Sable on an episode of Smackdown. What about that?
A: That was cool. I’d make out with her, I touched her boob. She swerved me and it led to Vince and Sable humiliating me or whatever but it was cool. You know what I mean? When I was 12 years old watching her on WWE television, she was always like a girl I had a crush on growing up. It was cool, she was nice.
Q: Vince McMahon. You got to work with him in the ring actually. How was he like as an actual worker?
A: He was nothing to write home about. He certainly knows the business, he knows what to do. I liked the match [at Vengeance 2003]; I thought the finish was really good. They pulled me out to Stamford, to headquarters a week before and we went over the match like every day. So there really wasn’t any room to make mistakes. He was there and he kept me safe and I kept him safe so I thought it was pretty good.
Q: At Bound for Glory 2006, you made yet another one-time appearance for TNA. Would you consider going back to TNA and how come it was only a one time thing?
A: That what that. That was in Detroit and I happened to be in Detroit. I think they used me to pop the crowd a little bit. I like working with TNA, I’ve done multiple shots with them over the last couple of years. It’s just never really come about. Like a year ago they gave me the ‘there are too many guys here, once we get two hours on TV then we’ll use you more’. But the two hours came and it hasn’t happened yet. I keep in contact with them and everything’s cool with that.
Q: You also worked a little in Ring of Honor. I know you had a match with Delirious. How did that go?
A: I liked it a lot. I think Ring of Honor has a really good thing going. I especially like it that they have contracts now and all the boys have insurance. That’s the thing that the business needs right now, more contracts like that. I have a lot of friends there, it’s always good to see guys get paid and being insured. And the product’s good so best of luck.
Q: What do you think of the current products? Do you get to watch at all, WWE or TNA?
A: I watch Raw every Monday. I sometimes watch Smackdown, it depends if I’m on the road or not. As far as what I’ve seen on Raw, the product is hitting all cylinders right now. Cena is super over, Jeff Hardy is super over, they have good matches in the ring. Things look good for them.
Q: Is there anybody who you didn’t get a chance to work with but would like to wrestle the future?
A: Yeah, I want to wrestle Samoa Joe! I think me and Joe could do some cool things. I want to wrestle Umaga. I saw Umaga and Spanky [Brian Kendrick] have a match on Raw a few weeks ago and that was tremendous. Me and Umaga could be the same thing as that. I’ve always wanted to work with A-Train [Giant Bernard]; I’ve always liked working with bigger guys. Getting beat up and coming back, it always works out well for me.
Q: I remember you had some matches with the Big Show. How was he like? I’ve always heard that he’s a funny guy backstage and how was he like in the ring too?
A: He was super nice, he was one of the nicest guys there. He slapped me down a couple of times to talk to me just one-on-one when he didn’t have to. As far as his work goes, I think he’s awesome. He’s 7 feet, 500 pounds, I think wrestling needs more characters like that and that he does his job very well.
Q: So what was all that heat about when you originally departed from World Wrestling Entertainment? What lead to your release?
A: I was really young; I was really green at the time. I made some mistakes. Just from being young in the business, I had some growing up to do and I’ve done that over the last couple of years. I’m in a good place now and I’m really happy.
Q: Has there been any talks with World Wrestling Entertainment at all about a potential return?
A: Ya, I keep in contact with the office, I’m pretty friendly with the office. Right now it’s just coming up with a good storyline for me and looking at the card and seeing where I can fit in there. I’m more than welcome for a return to WWE.
Q: In 2003, you won the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Rookie as well as Inspirational Wrestler of the Year awards. What was your reaction when you were notified of winning these awards?
A: That was pretty cool. I didn’t really know I won them until I saw the magazine at the local drug store. I’m still waiting for my plaque.
Q: They haven’t sent you a plaque? What is this?
I grew up reading the magazine and they always had pictures with guys with the plaques and stuff but you know it’s been five years or whatever and I’m still waiting for them.
Q: And they still show wrestlers holding the plaques, I’ve always thought that if you win an award you get a plaque sent to you…
Right, right, right, it should be in the mail, coming anytime now.
Q: It better be, must have gotten lost in the mail a couple of years ago. Should get there any time now. So, what’s next for you Zach Gowen? Where do you see yourself in the coming years in professional wrestling?
A: Right now you’re seeing a renaissance as far as my wrestling goes. I’ve grown up a bit, physically bigger, I’m better than I’ve ever been. I’m really stoked, really happy to be full-time in Japan right now. That’s such a great opportunity. Hopefully it’ll lead to returns in WWE. Right now I’m focusing on public speaking and sort of segway my wrestling career into motivational speaking so that’s where I’m at right now.
Q: Have you done any motivational speaking? How has it been going so far? I know you’ve got a great story on how you overcame all odds as a one-legged wrestler.
A: It’s a great career, lots of money to be made. Right now I’m taking classes, making contacts, getting my name out in that field. I think that my career in pro wrestling will really help me as far as that goes. I can only beat myself up or beat someone up for so long hoping on one leg or whatever. So I’m definitely looking to segway into that.
Q: I believe you had a concussion at some point too. How’s your head doing these days?
A: It’s good, I’ve had concussions over the years. My last one was a couple of weeks ago in Cleveland. My head’s okay but it’s like a wake-up call that you can’t do this forever. I’d like to wrestle until I’m 30 at least but after that it’s definitely time to move on and do something that’s a little more safer as far as my body goes.
Q: You’re wrestled for a few years now, what would you say have been your favorite matches?
A: Hmm…My favorite match probably of all time was against Jimmy Jacobs, he wrestles for Ring of Honor now. I wrestled him maybe a year and a half ago. It was a really low point in my life, where my confidence was shot. I had problems with alcohol and substance abuse and at that point it was kind of rock bottom. He kinda like brought me back, gave me more confidence in the things I need to do and we had a match and we just tore the house down. He’s always been there for me and I can’t thank him enough.
Q: I actually never knew you had a substance abuse problem. Have you been able to overcome your demons since then and turn your life around?
A: Yeah. I actually had a DUI in March 2005. Part of the treatment for that was checking into rehab and getting my head straight, my life straight. And I’ve done that and I’ve cleaned up. I’m back almost 100% now, every day’s still a struggle, but I’m fighting a good fight.
Q: What was the rehab like?
A: It was different man, it was cool, it was something that needed to be done. Actually, I never really told anybody about it until you so I guess you’ve got the scoop right now. It was something that was getting out of control and I needed to turn my life around a little bit, and I did just that.
Q: I guess it’s good to talk about sometimes. How did you get into this spiral of drinking and whatnot?
A: I drank a little bit or whatever. My problem was with pills, with painkillers and Vicodin and the like. Just over the years of abusing your body, looking the quick fix and trying to get to the next town and going to the gym. It just became a habit that spiralled out of control a little bit. Things needed to be changed and I changed them and I couldn’t be happier right now.
Q: A lot of wrestlers especially in recent years have been having addictions to pain killers, Vicodin, stuff like that. Kurt Angle was a well-publicized one himself. Do you have sometime to tell to wrestlers who might be going through something similar issues to you as to how they can overcome them?
A: Every man’s their own man. They have to take responsibility for themselves. As far as what I went through, it got to the point where it wasn’t manageable anymore. It wasn’t just for pain, and it got pretty ridiculous. Nobody could really help you except for yourself. Once you look in the mirror and you realize, “Hey this is like not cool anymore, this is out of control, I don’t like where I’m going right now. This is preventing me from being where I should be at right now.” That’s when you have to make a change.
Q: And steroids?
A: Nope, I’ve never taken a steroid in my life. I haven’t. I weight 160 pounds, you know what I mean?
Q: Best of luck to you in your future, in Japan and all over the world wrestling. It’s great to hear that you got over your substance problems and it was great to have you on the show today.
A: Thanks a lot Ryan, appreciate it. Bye buddy.
You can listen to the interview with Zach Gowen in it’s entirety on www.MainEventRadio.com (February 17th show).