Veteran Who Lost Leg in Iraq Is Now a Professional Wrestler

Good Morning America
Veteran Who Lost Leg in Iraq Is Now a Professional Wrestler
.

View photo

Veteran Who Lost Leg in Iraq Is Now a Professional Wrestler (ABC News)

Chris Melendez may have lost a leg while serving in Iraq, but the native New Yorker is not going to let the injury cut short his dream of becoming a wrestler.

Inspired by his father, a Vietnam veteran, Melendez joined the military when he was 17 years old. In 2006, when Melendez was only 23 days away from returning home after his deployment, he lost a leg in a roadside bomb at the age of 19.

"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 told ABC News. "I quickly realized it was my leg."

Former US Navy Pilot Takes Longboards to a New Level

Michelle Obama: Veteran Homelessness ‘Should Horrify Us’

'Lose 10 Years in 60 Minutes': Military Veteran Gets Makeover

Melendez was treated at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. The bomb damage led to his jaw being rebuilt, the severed tendons in his left arm getting replaced and, ultimately, his left leg being amputated above the knee.

Despite the injuries, Melendez made a quick recovery. With a prosthetic leg, he was walking again within 40 days.

Melendez, a Purple Heart recipient, had watched wrestling since he was little with his grandmother, who was a huge fan. He had always wanted to become a wrestler, and the injury didn't deter him.

After he able to walk again, Melendez began training to become a professional wrestler in 2012.

His talent was spotted by TNA Impact Wrestling, which offered him a multi-year contract. He made his debut at Manhattan Center in New York on Aug 5.

"I am very excited because there have been so many people who have not seen me perform, who are questioning my ability, whether I can go to the distance," Melendez said. "Once I step in there, I will show the whole world what I'm capable of."

Melendez had a few words of encouragement for other injured veterans: "Regardless of what happens, you can still succeed at whatever you apply yourself to."

"I like to credit the fact, a lot, that I'm a New Yorker," Melendez said of his recovery. "I don't waste any time, and I have to hurry up."

Although appreciative of his prosthetic leg, Melendez actually thinks that he wrestles better without it.

"I prefer to work with it off because my agility's better, I move a little faster, I'm able to do certain things that I can't do with it on," he said. "It's actually a hindrance to have it on.

"I like that ability to captivate the audience and tell a story, not with words, but with our bodies," Melendez said.

View Comments (65)

Recommended for You

  • Jeb Bush's Fall (or Maybe Rise)

    On the eve of today’s New Hampshire presidential primary, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush finished his day at the Frank Jones Center on the seacoast, the same locale where another unlikely GOP contender, John McCain, once hosted his final town hall in a state that he ultimately won eight…

    Good Morning America11 mins ago
  • EXCLUSIVE: ‘Real Housewives’ Star Teresa Giudice Says Prison Was Like ‘Living in Hell’

    The showers were freezing cold ... I mean, the living conditions were really horrible. Speaking from her New Jersey home, the 43-year-old Giudice talked to Robach about her finances, her future and her time in prison –- including working for 12 cents an hour in the kitchen. The reality TV star…

    Good Morning America21 mins ago
  • Oscars Countdown: Stars Gather at Nominees Luncheon

    In “The Danish Girl,” Alicia Vikander’s character brims with tenderness and understanding. In “The Hateful Eight,” Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character Daisy is no fragile flower. Both actresses are Oscar nominees in the supporting actress category. At Monday’s Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills, the…

    Good Morning America21 mins ago
  • Marco Rubio Believes He Must Be ‘Doing Something Right’

    Sen. Marco Rubio today brushed off recent attacks by his GOP rivals, saying he must be "doing something right," and expressing confidence despite what he called the "unusual set up" in today’s New Hampshire primary. Despite Christie's attacks, Rubio believes he had "a very strong debate," and…

    Good Morning America46 mins ago
  • Everything You Need to Know About the New Hampshire Primary

    Regardless of who wins, there’s a reason for Granite Staters to celebrate: Tuesday marks the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire primary. Secretary of State William Gardner is predicting a record surge in Republican ballots cast.

    Good Morning America51 mins ago
  • Dixville Notch Casts First Votes in New Hampshire Primary

    The nine voters of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, became some of the first in the state -- and consequently, first in the nation -- to cast their ballots in the presidential primary in the early hours of Tuesday. New Hampshire has held the "First in the Nation" presidential primary since 1920, and…

    Good Morning America51 mins ago
  • John Kasich’s New Hampshire Primary Day Prediction: ‘We’re Going to Finish Very Strong’

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose campaign has maintained a laser-like focus on performing well in today’s New Hampshire primary, declined to predict exactly how he would place once all the votes are counted here, but sounded a note of confidence in an interview today on "Good Morning America.""We’re…

    Good Morning America58 mins ago
  • Good Morning America
  • Bernie Sanders and the Expectations Game in New Hampshire

    Sen. Bernie Sanders might be the underdog nationwide, but he has been leading in the polls in New Hampshire for months. Another from UMass-Lowell, also out Monday, had Sanders at 56 percent and Clinton at 40 percent. While the numbers would be exciting for any campaign, they have also set the…

    Good Morning America
  • DA in Cornell Sex Assault Case Condemns Underage Drinking Culture on Campuses

    The district attorney prosecuting a Cornell University fraternity president accused of attempted rape and sexual abuse blamed schools in general for "turning a blind eye" to the subject of underage drinking in connection with sexual assault on college campuses. Wolfgang Ballinger, 21, a member of…

    Good Morning America
  • Zika Virus Outbreak Prompts CDC to Activate Highest Emergency Ops Level

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emergency Operations Center has been moved to Level 1, the agency's highest level, due to the risk of Zika virus transmission in the U.S., officials said today. The Level 1 activation is "reflecting the agency’s assessment of the need for an…

    Good Morning America
  • 'Girls' Star Lena Dunham Taking Time Off for 'Chronic' Illness

    The acclaimed HBO show "Girls" is back for a new season this month, but its biggest star will not being making press appearances due to a "chronic condition."Lena Dunham took to Instagram today to write, "I just wanted to let you know that, while I am so excited for Girls to return on Feb 21, I…

    Good Morning America
  • WWE Wrestler Daniel Bryan to Retire

    Former WWE champion and professional wrestling star Daniel Bryan is retiring."Due to medical reasons, effective immediately, I am announcing my retirement. Tonight on Raw, I'll have a chance to elaborate. #gratitude," he tweeted on Monday.Read: Stone Cold Steve Austin: My Life After Pro…

    Good Morning America
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Rocked by Hurricane-Force Winds Heads Back to New Jersey

    A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was rocked by hurricane-force winds overnight is sailing back to port in Bayonne, New Jersey. The ship left from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Saturday for a seven-night cruise to the Bahamas. The company posted a message on Twitter saying that all guests are…

    Good Morning America
  • Panda Cub Bei Bei Climbs a Tree With the Help of His Mom

    Bei Bei is moving up in the world.The Smithsonian National Zoo’s baby panda experienced the outdoors for the first time last week and now the nearly six-month-old cub is scaling trees—-with the help of his mom Mei Xiang, of course. The Washington DC based Zoo posted a video of the feat online this…

    Good Morning America
  • Chinese New Year Fireworks So Dangerous That Only a Few Get to Witness

    For much of the next two weeks, millions of Chinese will welcome in the Year of Monkey, which begins today, with a cavalcade of fireworks lighting up the night’s sky. In almost every corner of every city or village in Mainland China, families will light their own firecrackers and boxes of…

    Good Morning America
  • Countdown to New Hampshire With 5 Things to Watch in Tuesday's Primary

    Tuesday will be a critical moment on the road to the White House as residents of the Granite State cast their votes in the first-in-the-nation primary. With independents making up more than 40 percent of the electorate, the New Hampshire primary can often surprise, and that may be the case…

    Good Morning America