By Sarah Shurge – “I’ve had the gift of having cancer. The gift of losing my leg. The gift of almost losing my life to drug addiction and alcoholism. These are all gifts,” said Zach Gowen. “Life is one big gift.”
At 8 years old, Gowen was diagnosed with cancer and his left leg was amputated. He found comfort from the negative feelings in his life while watching and engaging in professional wrestling. By 16 years old, Gowen knew he wanted to be a professional wrestler and at 18 years old, he had an opportunity to train to be one. Gowen jumped at the chance.
In 2003, Gowen signed a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and was featured on their television show Smackdown. Gowen was involved with icons like Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Brock Lesnar, and Vince McMahon.
“It was a dream come true. There’s no other way to put it, especially growing up the world’s biggest wrestling fan,” said Gowen.
Gowen was the first and only one-legged competitor ever to compete in WWE.
“To be the first to do it and to do it with who I did it with, was a dream come true,” said Gowen.
Gowen will be at HYPE Athletics on Friday, October 13th for a family-friendly wrestling show fundraiser, Champion for a Cause Promotions Presents: The Hart of the Matter.
Wrestling icon Bret “The Hitman” Hart will be appearing at the event. Also appearing: The “Man Beast” Rhino, The Motor City Machine Guns, The “One-Legged Wonder” Zach Gowen, “The Dearborn Destroyer” Karam Alame, and more.
The Hart of the Matter is an event about making a difference. Proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorships will be donated to the Fredi the PizzaMan Foundation This organization is dedicated to building sensory rooms in public schools, and creating safe spaces for students with autism to learn, grow, and thrive.
Tickets can be purchased at championforacausepromotions.com. Use promo code: SCHOOL to get $20 off four general admission tickets. This event is for anyone and everyone, so be sure to get your tickets.
The Bret Hart Meet and Greet will be from 4PM – 6PM and the doors for the wrestling show open at 6:30PM.
“I’m really excited about seeing the community come together, celebrate the magic of wrestling, and help with a great cause,” said Gowen. “I can’t thank everyone enough and can’t wait to give them the best live wrestling show.”
Gowen’s path to where he is now has not been an easy one. Six months after he signed a contract with WWE, he was let go.
“I was going through a really dark season of my life with alcoholism and drug addiction,” said Gowen. “There’s a huge stigma around addiction and I like to shine a light around it. It can affect anyone at any time. There is no amount of willpower to stop and I realized I was powerless in this fight.”
One thing helped Gowen with his addiction.
“I had to stop fighting. Give up. Accept that this is a challenge that I can’t overcome on my own. Once I accepted the fact there was nothing I could do on my own, I was able to ask for help,” said Gowen.
Gowen has been sober for over 13 years now.
“Best thing that’s ever happened to me,” said Gowen. “Everything that I do is rooted in my recovery.”
Gowen applied to be on American Ninja Warrior, one day after the deadline. He got a call from casting and was casted for Season 8. Gowen made it to the third obstacle in the 2016 Indianapolis Qualifier.
“There really isn’t anything fake or choreographed on American Ninja Warrior. I had to rely on my athletic ability with it,” said Gowen. “The greatest victory was it was the most watched run of Season 8. Getting to connect with the audience and share my story, it was an awesome experience.”
Gowen continues to share his story and be an inspiration to others as a Youth Empowerment Speaker.
“Being a motivational speaker or pro wrestler is not much of a difference to me. They’re both an avenue to share my story and serve the same purpose,” said Gowen.
For the past 10 years, Gowel has traveled the country and worked with over 100,000 students, teachers, and parents in America. He works to inspire and lay out tools for these students to be successful not only in school, but outside of school as well.
“Life isn’t about what happens to us. Life is about how we respond to what happens to us,” said Gowen. “The main takeaway for the students is thinking about the things they can control and not the things they can’t.”
Gowen lists the three things we can control as: our attitude, our actions, and our reactions.
“When you work on those or master those response types, your world around you will reflect that. I want the students to think about those,” said Gowen.
Gowen also works on professional development with the school staff, focusing on mental health, wellness, and self care.
“Staff needs all the support they can get. It’s never been harder to be a teacher than now,” said Gowen.
Gowen completed a school tour in the Wayne-Westland Community Schools District, visiting: Edison, Wildwood, Elliott, Walker, Roosevelt, Taft, Hamilton, Schweitzer, Hicks, and Graham.
“The more I give away – time, money, messages, services – the more enriched my life becomes,” said Gowen. “Some of my most cherished work that I do is go back to Children’s Hospital in Detroit and work with the social work team and oncology there. I get to know the families, offer support, and be a lighthouse for those battling childhood cancer.”
Gowen spends his time either on stage at a speaking engagement, in the ring at a professional wrestling show, instructing adaptive and non-adaptive DDPYoga workouts, or spending time with his wife Kelly and their children.
Over his 22 year career in pro wrestling, he has won over 45 championships.
“I like to accomplish, overcome, and set an example,” said Gowen. “I want to inspire people.”
If you want to see Gowen in action, be sure to purchase your tickets for The Hart of the Matter at HYPE Athletics.