Former WWE Superstar Zach Gowen has candidly opened up about how Vince McMahon “saved his life” after leaving the company in a new interview.
Speaking with Alistair McGeorge of Metro UK, the 38-year-old former WWE star paid tribute to his former boss for saving his life following a battle with addiction, as well as discussing how WWE provided an escape after losing his leg to cancer at the age of only eight.
“It’s just crazy to me, full circle, how woven WWE is into the fabric of my life. As a child, losing my leg and then being able to escape into that world saved my life. And then, as a young adult being able to participate and make memories with The Big Show and Brock Lesnar and Hulk Hogan and Vince. And then in my late 20s, Vince McMahon literally saving my life. [laughs] It’s kinda strange, how woven that company and how important that company is to my daily life even at 38 years old. It’s unbelievable.”
Fastforward to after his WWE release, which Gowen says he knew was coming, and an email to Jim Ross saw Gowan’s “life saved” by Vince McMahon as the company paid for his rehab treatment.
“Literally within two minutes, I got a phone call from somebody in the office – Jim forwarded that email to somebody else in the wellness department. She called me up and they got me into treatment within three days after. That was February 14th, 2010 – which is the date of my last drink and drug. The foundation of my life started with WWE and their wellness program, and their willingness to pay for my treatment and to reach back to me when I reached out for help – literally within minutes.”
Gowen delved further into his issues, discussing how he felt like a failure after his release – detailing how he had “heat” with his fellow wrestlers and the company’s management.
“I definitely saw it coming because I had so much heat in the locker room with the other wrestlers and the office. I didn’t wanna get fired – I didn’t wanna quit! ‘But I was so immature emotionally, not only as a wrestler but as a human being, that I couldn’t handle the gift that was being given to me. I wasn’t equipped, I didn’t have the tools to navigate through that level of success successfully. My identity at the time was wrapped up in being ‘Zach Gowen, WWE Superstar’ so if you take away the ‘WWE Superstar’ for me, what does that make me? That makes me a failure, that makes me not good enough, that makes me a disappointment I’m an addict and I’m an alcoholic. It’ll be something I deal with on a daily basis for the rest of my life, and I didn’t know it at the time.”
Gowen, who made his WWE debuted in 2003, opened up about the traumatic experience of losing his leg, and feeling “inadequate” as a result.
“It all started for me when I was eight years old when I lost my left leg to cancer, and the fallout from that, which was extremely traumatic. Not just the battle of cancer, or the amputation or the physical pain and the rehabilitation that comes from that, but not really fitting in with anybody, feeling inadequate, feeling like there was something wrong with me – the emotional toll that comes from that as a child. But when I tapped into the magic of professional wrestling, all of those feeling of inadequacies went away. It was like my escape, and that’s really when the grips of professional wrestling wrapped around my soul as a child.”
The stars Gowen had grown up watching, though, in Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper, were soon his peers, as the inspirational wrestler found himself inside the ring with legends.
“Oh man, it was terrifying. To be in that spotlight, the only way I can describe it is completely overwhelming and terrifying – but what an amazing experience!”
38-year-old Gowen, though, still wrestles to this day – and is ready to get back in the ring having spent much of the past year on the sidelines due to the pandemic.
“I severely underestimated the impact not performing would have on me, and I severely underestimated the impact that getting in front of an audience would have on me as well. I want more of it, you know? If my body’s good and my schedule allows me to do it, let’s have some fun in 2021!”