Interview with Tenacious Z (Zach Gowen)
July 7, 2004 -- by Alan Wojcik -- http://www.alanwokcik.com
ZACH GOWEN made one of the biggest splashes on the wrestling scene in 2003 when he joined the WWE. Yet as fast as he rose in the promotion by being in storylines with the Big Show, Brock Lesnar, Roddy Piper and Mr. America AKA Hulk Hogan, he faded into obscurity. This interview was conducted on night one of the 2004 Jeff Peterson Memorial Cup weekend, June 4, 2004. Hope you enjoy it.
Alan Wojcik: For those that might have not watched WWE TV where did you grow up and who were some of your favorite wrestlers?
Zach Gowen: I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. I was a big fan but it got serious around age 13 or 14. I watched WWF as well as WCW, ECW and stuff from Mexico and Japan. I got into Rey Misterio, Shawn Michaels as well as what are now called the cruiserweights.
AW: Everyone knows how you survived cancer and the loss of your leg. Recently in your Live Journal (http://livejournal.com/users/zachgowen ) you confessed about fabricating the story of Hulk Hogan visiting you in the hospital. Why did you make the story up about the visit?
Zach: That didn't come up in the WWE. That was an angle that came up in NWA: TNA from talking with Mike Taney before my dark match, sorry Xplosion match. Tenay asked me if there were any stories he could tell and I made it up on the spot. It's a good story if it were true. I didn't expect it to go anywhere. He mentioned it and then it came up everywhere I went. Stephanie (McMahon Levesque) asked me about it and the Make A Wish Foundation wish I was offered and I turned it down because I knew I was going to be alright. I wanted to meet Hogan and that was a shoot so the WWE ran with it.
AW: If you hadn't gone into wrestling I heard you were going to attend Eastern Michigan University.
Zach: Actually I am studying there right now for a degree in Secondary Education and Mathematics.
AW: How did NWA: TNA come about and what can you say about working for them?
AW: What led you train with Truth Martini and Tommy Johnson?
Zach: It was all by accident. I was a senior in high school. A buddy and I went to the Lavonia Mall to drop off a package at Fed Ex. On the way out of the mall we saw two guys outside an abandoned CVS Pharmacy store chain wrestling. So we drove over and they told us there was a wrestling show held there. So we went to the show and they were advertising the school I went there the following Tuesday with 200 dollars and they let me train. I debuted against Truth on March 16, 2002 in the Lavonia Mall in front of 20 people, 15 of them being my friends and family, and for a first match it was good. Truth is an awesome wrestler, one of the best in the Midwest.
AW: Was there ever a debate as to would you be able to wrestle wearing your prosthetic leg and what is the hardest move for you to attempt?
Zach: I have trained with the leg on and it gets awkward. I can't do certain moves like a dropkick because it becomes dead weight. I can't do much and if I want a half way decent match I go without it. I know I can't do huricuranas, flying head scissors or go off the ropes. If I do that I fall right to the mat. Guys have to work around me and my basic moves set.
Zach: I think I was supposed to be on their debut show in June of 2002 thanks to Puppet the dwarf. But Puppet quit the group shortly after and I lost contact with TNA. I sent a tape with the match I did with Truth down to Nashville and they called me back in January to come in June 2003 since they were so booked up. Then they called me on Monday and said could I come down Wednesday. I skipped school and work for the show. Funny story about the tape I sent. Two weeks later Ron Killings came out doing Truth's gimmick and mannerisms plus Slash did the twirly bird in a match as his finisher and Truth and I used in our match, I don't know if that was coincidence or not.
AW: How did you come to be contacted by the WWE and what were your impressions of Vince McMahon and Jim Ross?
Zach: I think it was after my dark match. Jim Ross told Johnny Ace to sign me but he went and signed another one legged guy. So while that was going on I went back to TNA for a couple of matches and they wanted to sign me. I got home that Friday and Johnny Ace called with an offer to sign and I took it. I had lots of fun. I met Vince the first day when we did the angle with Roddy Piper and Mr. America and I will say Vince is very intimidating physically and mentally. He knows so much about the business but he was extremely nice and he is a very funny person. I didn't meet Jim Ross for the longest while in fact I think we met at a PPV. Jim was cool I liked him.
AW: One of the first matches you had was with the Big Show and you won with the help of Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. What was it like to face the near 7 foot, 500+ pound Big Show?
AW: Did anyone ever say to you, Zach the WWE signed you just to exploit your disability?
Zach: Of course that's why they signed me, there's no question in my mind. They didn't sign me for my size. Wrestling has been a freak show since the carnival days. But I wasn't worried about being exploited since I was doing the exploiting by taking my leg off and doing moonsaults. I was trying to make money.
AW: You mentioned Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper; did being in a storyline with those two legends intimidate you?
Zach: Honestly it really didn't. I admit I was scared the first day waiting around for it to happen. But once it happened excitement took over and I wasn't intimidated. I was real excited to work with the two of them.
Zach: It was awesome. I love working bigger guys since I can bump around and make them look like killers. I weigh150 pounds and Big Show is huge. The guy is awesome. I came out with my shirt on and I was planning on keeping it on during the match. The first thing he did was rip it off and hit me with an overhand chop. I couldn't breathe for about ten minutes. He left me a huge hand print on my chest for the next two days. It was a great time being in there with Show.
AW: You are one of the few people to have been in the ring with WWE Owner Vince McMahon in a wrestling match at Vengeance 2003. Did you handle it differently since your boss is your opponent?
Zach: I saw it as just another match. I was worried about getting blown up since we were in Denver, Colorado. Once we got in the ring he was just another opponent. Vince got split open ear to ear and that freaked me out. He seemed happy with the outcome and so was I.
AW: At No Mercy 2003 you took on current Raw performer Matt Hardy Version 1.
Zach: Of all the guys I was in the ring with I worked Matt the most. We worked all the house shows and even before the shows. Matt has been around for a long time and he knows what works in the ring. He has great mind for the wrestling business. He should be one of the top babyfaces on Raw. I consider him a friend.
AW: You spoke of the vicious chops of the Big Show but what was it like to be in with the hardest kicker in the WWE, the Japanese buzzsaw Tajiri?
Zach: Tajiri was my last match in the WWE at the Smackdown right after No Mercy. It was a fun match. Working me you have to work around me and try to bring my strengths out and Tajiri knew how to do it. We had a fun little match and you are right he kicks hard as hell.
AW: Your last appearance on Smackdown fans saw you being annihilated by former WWE champion Brock Lesnar. What was it like to work with Brock and how did you feel about having your mom in the angle?
Zach: I loved it. I loved working with Brock. For someone that wasn't a fan of the business growing up he is so tremendously skilled. As far as my mom being in it my mom was the best worker of all of us in the angle. I had the idea of her taking an F-5 but they turned it down since they thought it would get a face pop.
AW: How did you find out that the WWE was letting you out of your contract?
Zach: I got hurt and I had to take some time off to recover. When I recovered I called the office and asked if I could go back to OVW to begin reconditioning and they said no we'll call you when it's good to go to OVW. I thought that was weird. They didn't call me until late January when they told me I had a meeting and that's when I knew the writing was on the wall. I had the meeting with Jim Ross and Johnny Ace and that's when they let me go.
Zach: Since your release you have been working for several independents promotions including Ian Rotten's IWA Mid-South. According to your live journal the fans reaction to you wasn't what you expected.
AW: I loved IWA Mid-South they have the most entertaining promotion in America. Say what you want about Ring of Honor, CZW or other promotions but Ian has the best shows. The whole angle was to have me as a heel with Alex Shelley which was cool since I hadn't worked heel to that point. Many of their fans are smart marks and I am not well received on the internet so that was an easy place to get energy. I played up to having an ego and being a pompous jackass and it was good I got over as a heel. The second time I was there the people got real disrespectful.
AW: Like a Kill the Cripple sign?
Zach: I'm all about being booed and I love wrestling fans but that sign and some guy got on me. It got too much. People think I hate internet fans and that's not true I just hate fans in Highland, Indiana. I love working heel and working in front of passionate fans but when the fans get stupid I have to get stupid.
AW: At one point during your indy journey you faced off in a tag team match with former WWE and ECW wrestler Chris Candido.
Zach: Candido and I worked in Boston and he is awesome. I wasn't a big fan but I respected his work. When we got in the ring he showed why he has been all over the world. He has so much in ring knowledge.
AW: You recently went over to work in Japan. How do you think the fans took to you and any memories of wrestling with Taka Michinoku?
Zach: The Japanese fans were awesome, totally respectful. I had an awesome time there teaming with Taka. He is another good worker. It was a good learning experience and I hope to go back soon.
AW: You found out recently that you have three slipped discs in your back, what is your current health status?
Zach: Well my back is pretty torn up right now. I hurt in Japan doing something stupid. After June 26th when I work the Warlord I am going to take some time off and heal up.
AW: Tonight is the first part of the 2004 Jeff Peterson Memorial Cup. How do you feel about being part of the event?
Zach: I am very happy to be here. This is great to help out a little girl with cancer. I know first hand the effects cancer has on a family. I am working for free and I know she needs the money more than me. (Please see www.petersoncup.com for more information.)
AW: You recently celebrated your 21st birthday. How did you celebrate?
Zach: We went to a bar I know of in Detroit and we shut it down for the night. It was "This is your life" for Zach Gowen with wrestlers, childhood friends plus my mom and step-dad.
AW: We have mentioned the live journal that you actually told me you don't want to talk about. But what made you sign up for one and what else do you talk about besides your wrestling career?
Zach: A referee from Detroit named Brian Gory (sic) signed me up since my website went offline due to me being cheap and not paying the bill. So I said fine I'll write it thinking just my friends and Detroit wrestling fans would read it. Since we don't talk on the phone that often I use it as way to keep in touch with them. But the fans and other people began to read it. I tell funny stories in my life as well as wrestling. What caused the big ruckus were the last two entries. I got sent a link and I saw people were reading it and commenting online on message boards. I made a joke saying Zach Gowen can't be liked on the internet. I called internet marks fat and lazy and any retard that read it could tell it was a joke. If they got upset well they suck and I hate Highland, Indiana.
AW: Past or present, if you could have a dream match who would your opponent be and why?
Zach: It's happening on June 26th when I wrestle the Warlord. I was a huge mark of his growing up. Other than him I have worked everyone I have wanted to well except for the Barbarian.
AW: What can the fans expect from Zach Gowen besides finishing off his college degree?
Zach: I am doing indy shots once in a while but that's about it. I have two jobs and I go to school. I am focusing on school and living a normal life, working Monday to Friday wrestling on the weekends.
Thanks to Zach Gowen for his time. He might not want you to but see his live journal for where you can see Zach wrestle. Thanks to NWA Florida's Joe Price and Ron Niemi for setting the interview up. Be sure to log onto www.petersoncup.com for information on how you can help fight cancer.
by Alan Wojcik --- For More Interviews, go to http://www.alanwokcik.com..
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