10 Wrestlers Who Debuted As "Fans"

Whose first appearance was on the other side of the guardrail?

santino marella bobby lashley
WWE.com

It's bittersweet that we're celebrating the idea of fans in wrestling during a time when they're not permitted.

Fans make wrestling what it is; it's that raw rush of emotion when a stadium full of people cheer in unison or have their hearts broken all at once that transforms two sweaty people pretending to punch each other into the glorious post-modern theatre that we know and love.

However, when it comes to the theatre, you don't often see members of the audience leap onstage and hit a dropkick on Hamlet.

Planting wrestlers in the crowd as "fans" is a tried and tested method of debuting a new star. Promoters have been using this trope for decades, with varying degrees of success.

For some wrestlers, debuting as a fan goes on to become an integral part of their character. Others lose that association and forge very successful careers for themselves, their offbeat debut a mere footnote in their story.

And then there's a few for whom running out from the crowd would be as good as it gets.

From the wonderful to the weird to the wacky, the following ten performers all began their (kayfabe) wrestling careers as mere fans of the sport.

It's important to remember, though, not to jump the barrier at a real life wrestling show. Not because of any virus, but just to save yourself from looking like a fool.

10. Zach Gowen

santino marella bobby lashley
WWE.com

Zach Gowen's wrestling story is nothing short of incredible.

A childhood cancer survivor, Gowen's illness cost him his left leg, which was amputated when he was just eight. Through sheer tenacity, he pursued his dream of becoming a pro wrestler and, in 2003, made his debut for WWE.

And what a debut it was.

Gowen was inserted in the "Mr. America" storyline, which saw Hulk Hogan sport the worst disguise since Mark Zuckerberg tried to pass himself off as a human being.

Mr. America was being assaulted by Roddy Piper and Sean O'Haire on an episode of SmackDown when Gowen decided that he'd seen enough. Portrayed as a planted fan, Zach leapt the barricade and came to Hogan's aid. During the scuffle, Piper yanked Gowen's prosthetic leg off to a very confused reaction from the fans.

Gowen was in Mr. America's corner for his match with Piper at Judgment Day 2003 and even got a match against Vince McMahon at Vengeance, which he lost (because of course Vince booked himself to beat the wrestler with one leg).

The Mr. America storyline might divide some fans, but there's no denying that Zach Gowen's first appearance for WWE TV was extremely memorable.

Contributor
Contributor

Jacob Simmons has a great many passions, including professional wrestling, music, watching random clips from The Simpsons on YouTube at 3am, and writing about himself in the third person.