Kickin’ It With Zach Gowen – Handicapped Heroes

zach-gowen-pw

As I sit here trying to put together a travel plan for Gregory Iron and I for this weekend’s Heroes and Legends event in Indiana (www.heroesandlegendswrestling.com), I thought it would be a neat opportunity to talk about what our partnership means. What it means to me, what it means to fans across country, and maybe what it means to Greg.

Please allow me to set the table for the uninitiated: my name is Zach Gowen and I lost my leg to cancer at 8 and at 19 I became one of the youngest WWE Superstars ever. Gregory Iron was born with cerebral palsy which severely affects the right side of his body. His right hand is practically useless. When Greg was 16, he saw me on WWE television and my story inspired him to get off his butt, stop feeling sorry for himself, and to live out his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. Pretty epic to think about but I think there’s a lesson to be learned here: We all affect each other. If we share time and space on this earth, I think our presence, action, or inactions can have huge impacts on lives even without our knowledge. So let’s help each other out whenever we can, not just when it’s convenient. Life is hard. It’s hard for you, it’s hard for me, it’s hard for everyone. Our time is limited, let’s build up rather than tear down.

Gregory Iron

Moving along, I first met Greg right after he trained to be a wrestler on a Cleveland All-Pro show in 2007. I had no knowledge of how impactful my story was on Greg. I was dealing with substance abuse issues as well. I’m a recovering addict/alcoholic and this would have been right about where my using started to get pretty dark and heavy. So I didn’t mean to be rude or to blow Greg off. I was too caught up in my own garbage to really have a grasp on reality. And the reality was 4 years after I inspired a kid to live his dream, I may have just taken a huge crap on that same dream by being a jerk. Luckily for all of us, Greg is more resilient than me. And that little incident with me wasn’t going to stop him from continuing on the path to greatness.

Fast forward to 2011 and promoter and color commentator extraordinaire Joe Dombrowski thinks that a Zach Gowen/Gregory Iron match and feud will draw for his PRIME Wrestling outfit. I tell him he’s stupid and hang up the phone. First of all, how am I going to be a convincing bad guy and second of all, what kind of match can we have? I mean, I have 1 leg and Greg essentially has 1 arm. But like any good promoter, Dombrowski talks me into it. Greg and I would have to team for a few shows to get to where we needed to get to for the story to develop. It was then that I saw how incredibly talented and gifted he was as a wrestler and performer. Then we started gelling as a team. Slowly we became friends. When I first heard his story on a podcast about how much I meant to him as a kid, I cried. Then I called him up and apologized for being a jerk. Right then and there, a lightbulb went off in both of our heads. What if we started teaming up everywhere….there’s a powerful story here that I think needs to be shared. And The Handicapped Heroes were born.

(oh and that one on one match we had was awesome and remains one of my favorites of all time)

Gregory Iron and Zach Gowen

So we’ve been teaming for a few years now and I think we’re getting better with time. I feel our actual in-ring stuff can be put up against any tag team in the world. But I think what separates us is our ability to connect with an audience on a much deeper level than any other wrestlers. Greg and I have overcome so much in our lives and we truly have an appreciation of living out our dreams as wrestlers. I think that shines through… I know I have more fun when I’m in the ring with Greg as opposed to being by myself. And that’s the thing: what he can’t do physically because of his hand, I can usually do. What I can’t do due to my missing limb, he makes more than makes up for it. Together we are stronger than we are apart.

Gregory Iron and Zach Gowen

It’s funny how life works. My partnership with Greg came at a time in my career that I needed it the most. He re-ignited that flame inside of me for wrestling and opened my mind to all sorts of possibilities. We’re involved in anti-bullying organizations, writing books, and doing motivational speaking. Working with these kids brings me more joy than I ever thought would be possible. Who knows, maybe our sharing of time and space with these kids will have a huge impact on them without our knowledge! I have Greg to thank for all of that!

Greg means the world to me and I’m a card carrying Handicapped Heroes member 4-LIFE!

Thank you for reading and I hope ya’ll come out when we come to a town near you!!! Feel free to post your thoughts, opinions, feedback and comments below.

Twitter: @ZachGowen
IG: @ZachGowen

  • David Garcia

    Whenever I watch wrestling, I believe the participants are taking quality years off of their lives. By that I mean the aches and pains that they feel while plying their trade will become permanent and possibly severe pain as they get older. Joint pains, back pain, and neck pain that might be aggravating today could be debilitating tomorrow. By all means that is their choice, as it is Zach and Greg. They are (and should be) free to choose their own path in life.

    That being said, with my own sensitivity to how others abuse themselves to entertain me – whether it’s wrestling, boxing, MMA, football – I have to be honest and admit that I would struggle to enjoy watching Zach and Greg. They could be the second-coming of Ric Flair, but in the back of my mind I would not be able to put aside that they are real people…real people who already have real life physical challenges. It’s because of this sensitivity that I wish Zach and Greg would become managers or announcers or even creative types.

    But that’s just me and I could be wrong.

    • Zach Gowen

      That’s an excellent point David. Thank you for sharing.

      We do have physical challenges and I thank God every day for them because the overcoming of challenges throughout my life has molded me into the man I am today. And I’m proud of being the man I am today.

      Greg and I are professional athletes with a combined 20 years in the industry. I have suffered 0 major injuries in my 12 year career**. I take great pride in knowing my limitations and working within them but still delivering a performance that makes it seem like there are none at all. That’s hard to do. But that’s part of the magic and allure for me that is pro wrestling.

      But it’s not just you and you’re not wrong at all! A number of people have expressed the same thing to me and it’s something that I will need to evaluate in the near future. I’m almost 31 years old, I’ve been hopping on 1 leg since I was 8. My son will be 2 in May and I want to be in good physical health for him as he grows. I’m very lucky in that I limit my wrestling schedule and I have another mean of income as an inspirational speaker.

      Thank you for reading dude, I appreciate your thoughts!!!

      **knock on wood!

      • David Garcia

        The whole time I was writing, I kept wondering if I was getting the right tone to express my thoughts, without coming off as some judgmental, sanctimonious, p***k. I’m one of those guys who can’t watch a lot of ECW or crazy high spot stuff….and don’t even get me started on Foley/Taker Hell in a Cell, which I watched once and never again.

        You sound as though you’ve given lots of thought to the future, which I think puts you miles ahead of most guys around our age…in wrestling or out…

        Good luck this weekend!

        • Zach Gowen

          You didn’t come off like that at all dude!! Thank you for sharing man, I need to hear it from all sides!

          • David Garcia

            Can I ask a potentially dumb question: What about working with a prosthetic? Is that not an option or do you just find it easier to work without it?

            I’m definitely aware of your WWE run, but it was during one of my tune-out periods, so I’m going to check it out on Youtube…while I can before WWE scrubs it for the Network.

          • Zach Gowen

            IMO, my WWE run peaked with me and Stephanie McMahon vs. The Big Show. The Brock beatdown in Detroit is very memorable as well. I’m grateful for the run but it’s hard to look back on now for a variety of reasons.

            I can’t work with my prosthetic, it just gets in the way. There’s a wrestler in Louisville named (funnily enough) Michael Hayes. He lost his leg in an attack overseas while in the armed forces. He wrestles, and does a great job, with his leg.

          • David Garcia

            I’m a big dork for all the behind the scenes stories in wrestling history and one of the things I always take away from the gossip is just how hard it would be to work for WWE. From the physical punishment night in and night out, to the travel to the politics (and that encompasses a whole litany of stuff…not just how we in the IWC typically misuse it) to just the machine that seems almost built to chew guys up and spit them out.

            It’s something I don’t think the typical fan really appreciates or even tries to understand. The fact that you made it, even if there were huge downsides to your time there, is still an accomplishment you’ll be able to tell your grandchildren about.

        • Doumrod

          You’ve got to be the guy in that “it’s still real to me dammit” video. Quit crying dude, or go watch the carebears

          • David Garcia

            C’mon man, if you’re going to do the troll thing at least come up with some good material. You went right to the cliche “it’s still real to me”…then you go in a completely different direction with Carebears.

            Maybe you should sit down and write some stuff up before you post it. Maybe consult a joke book.

            You just gotta try harder…

  • http://twitter.com/82Pyman pyman

    ZachGowen hi how long where you in wwe

    • Zach Gowen

      I was under contract for 1 year!

  • Danny Buck

    Good story. Any more ROH dates in the future?

    • Zach Gowen

      Thanks Danny! No talks with ROH since that match with Taven.

  • ThinkSoJoE

    Just saw Zack and Gregory at Empire State Wrestling over the weekend. Great job man, can’t wait to see you again on March 1st!

    • Zach Gowen

      Thanks a lot! ESW was a great experience for us. Fantastic fans :)

      • Trinity Webb

        HI Zach how are you?

  • Damian Antony Seeto

    Did you ever face any discrimination with other wrestlers while you were in WWE? I only remember you winning a singles match against Matt Hardy. Did other wrestlers refuse to let you win or what?

    Also, would be neat if you were able to be a surprise entrant in a Royal Rumble one day. I’m sure you’ve heard the jokes about that one.

    • Zach Gowen

      Yes, I did! But here’s the thing: nobody knew what we had when I was there. I didn’t know what I had. WWE didn’t know what I had (in terms of what I could bring to the table). I was so far out of the box and so far removed from your prototypical WWE wrestler….so what you saw on TV was pretty much an experiment.

      I want to make it clear that I don’t blame anybody who may have rolled their eyes when told they were going to work with me. Put yourself in their shoes. On the surface, a 1 legged 150 lb kid should not be beating anybody. It’s taken me YEARS of travelling around the world and working for 100s of promotions to finally find my sweet spot as a wrestler. At 30 years old, I can present a match with anyone in the world that will be believable, fun, emotional…but most importantly of all, enjoyable. (well, hopefully…I guess that’s subjective lol)

      It’s taken a lot of hard work to get there, but I’ve never been more comfortable and confident as a performer as I am now. Grateful.

      Great question by the way, thanks for reading and responding Damian!

      • Damian Antony Seeto

        Thanks for the response.

        When I first saw you wrestle, I was amazed. I didn’t care that you only had one leg, you did high flying moves that other people didn’t do at the time. I still watch your matches on YouTube from time to time.

  • Trinity Webb

    In the dog house handicap heroes where amazing