Purple Heart Recipient Set To Make Pro Wrestling Debut
Chris Melendez became a hero fighting for his country on the battlefields of Iraq. But now, the war hero from East Harlem, NY is now preparing for a different kind of "fight," taking to the ring for "TNA (Total Nonstop Action) Impact Wrestling" in New York this week.
Melendez, the son of a Vietnam veteran, was inspired by the events of Sept 11, 2001 and joined the military at age 17. He was 23 days away from the end of a two-year stint when an IED explosion cost him his leg. "When I was able to open my eyes after the explosion I looked across the battlefield to see what I thought was a fellow-soldier in need of help," Melendez said in a TNA press release. "I quickly realized it was my leg."
Sgt Melendez was resuscitated three times and endured numerous emergency surgeries and procedures. Through pure grit and determination, cutting edge science and technology delivered at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, and with the support from friends, family and The Wounded Warrior Project, Melendez was walking with a prosthetic within 40 days. His long road of recovery led him to back to memories of his childhood in New York. Despite losing his limb, Melendez would not give up on his dream of becoming a professional wrestler, a sport his grandmother had introduced him to while he was growing up in New York.
"The ability to captivate an audience without having to say any words is what got me hooked," said Melendez, who recalled his love for pro wrestling that grew from his youth when he would watch with his grandmother in Spanish Harlem. This road to recovery led him to the door steps of Bubba Ray (Mark LoMonaco) & Devon (Devon Hughes) Dudley and their Team 3D Academy of Professional Wrestling in Florida, where Melendez has been training for two years. His persistence has paid off as his day-in, day-out training regiment has led to Chris Melendez recently signing a multi-year contract with TNA.
Still known in the locker room as “Sarge”, Melendez is set to make his debut this week, during the August 5-7 tapings at New York City’s legendary Manhattan Center. Melendez will not be the first person with one leg to wrestle professionally. Years ago, Zach Gowen, who lost a leg to cancer, wrestled for a short time in WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). Gowen now wrestles on the independent circuit.