Legitimate altruism is difficult to find in today’s society because by its very definition, it receives next to no publicity, and by its nature, it’s incapable of promoting itself.
This is the story of how a very ill pro wrestling fan (TheGreatFowler.com) discovered altruism's powerful nature, adopted its tenets as his own, and with the help of the wrestling community — and eventually, those who shine atop the wrestling industry itself — is “paying it forward” with every opportunity presented.
This is the story of “The Great Fowler” (less formally known as Jay): the conduit of altruistic intention in the world of wrestling, today.
“One day he’s in town, he picks me up from the police station, but he doesn’t hit me. He looks at me and says something that I’ll never forget. He says, ‘son, we’re the good guys. No matter what happens, no matter what’s going on around you, just remember we are the good guys.’” — Jon Moxley, Former World Champion of both AEW (2x) and WWE, on his father’s influence over his moral code
Jay, or “The Great Fowler” as he would become known to a broad circle of pro wrestling lovers on Twitter, was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib) and massive heart failure on January 14th, 2020. After spending 19 days in both the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the cardiology attachment of the hospital, due to the severity of his condition, his cardiologist determined he must have been suffering for no less than five years. With an ejection fraction (the amount of blood pumped out of a heart’s lower chambers each time it contracts) of only 10%, determined after they had drained 45 pounds of toxic fluid from his body, Jay was not expected to live much longer.
Over the ensuing 31 months, Jay has fought through homelessness, eviction, infuriating government oversight or red tape, and almost countless emergency room, general hospital, and ICU visits to still be here, against all odds, able to tell an almost unreasonably inspirational story. Throughout this terrifying ordeal in Jay’s life, alongside the dozens upon dozens of obstacles traversed, a wrestling fan, the wrestling media, and ultimately, a veritable who’s who of pro wrestling’s biggest stars were able to come together and turn a multitude of negatives into positives for deserving folks, who in their darkest of hours, just needed a little light shined upon their lives.
“You meet so many people in wrestling, both positive and negative, but the positivity embraced by Jay is truly second to none. He is an ambassador for the wrestling business and all that it represents. He keeps his finger on the pulse of social media, always watching to see who might need help, support, or their spirits lifted. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are, Jay will help you….It’s interesting that Jay came to the attention of the community at large when Jay needed our help — but immediately used his connections and familiarity to help everyone else he could. Selfless.” — “Voice of Game Changer Wrestling” Kevin Gill, 08/17/2022
Something had been off for years, the 50-year-old realized after he had a couple of days to reflect upon his cardiologist’s earth-shattering revelation. Jay had been in A-Fib for at least five years. A-Fib produces approximately a pound of toxic fluid per month it endures. The math was pretty undeniable. So were the results of the tests finally able to be performed once the 45 pounds of toxicity was removed. They confirmed that not only was Jay in A-Fib for quite a while, but he was at just a 10% heart ejection fraction. As it stood, he was not expected to make it through his first night at the hospital, let alone any further.
Fortunately, matters took an inspiring turn.
After well over 100 hours without sleep due to his labored, painful breathing, and in consideration of the hushed, yet anxious voices and a general tone in the room reminiscent of doubt and grave sympathy surrounding him, Jay deduced that his time was at hand. Over the next few hours, he made his peace with the fact that he was going to die. A member of the team attempting to save his life asked him, quietly and with a reverential sort of decorum reserved for the doomed, if, “there was anyone we should be calling?” Jay didn’t want to involve anyone he knew in this seemingly hopeless, mournful last scene of his life.
28 years prior, Fowler survived a suicide attempt. Though he claims that being found and revived was something for which he’d never been more grateful, Jay hadn’t had the easiest, most happy-go-lucky run in life. If he’d have had his way that one mistake-laden, eye-opening night, he’d already have become a member of the dearly departed. So, considering that he’d just suffered through 100 hours of the worst physical hell he could imagine, he reconciled with his assumed fate for the very most part. He was human after all, so the instinct to survive persisted.
He wanted to erase that last little bit of human nature that nagged at his brain with the desire to live in the way a severely-depressed, self-noosed individual’s legs kick violently at the air which, just a moment prior, replaced the surface area of a sturdy stool. That pesky voice that reasoned the unreasonable was preventing him from finally finding any semblance of rest. So, as a means of achieving finality, he had to ask one of the many doctors working on his case, “am I gonna die?”
Three verbs, two pronouns (one a contraction), and one very integral adverb inside the conviction-laced response allowed this story to be written today.
“We’re not gonna let you.”
Fowler didn’t make any huge promise or battle cry in his head at that moment. It was more a solemn acknowledgment that, if these folks are gonna work their asses off to make sure he survived, then “going quietly into that good night” wasn’t going to be his first or second course of action. The doctor’s words of reassurance even allowed Jay to finally rest for a few hours, ending his 108-hour-long day (four and a half days for healthy individuals).
Still, a 10% ejection fraction is incredibly tough to survive on.
To put that percentage in perspective, the current head of WWE Creative and Talent Relations, Paul Levesque (aka Triple H) was considered to be in an extremely grave scenario when his heart ejection fraction, caused by viral pneumonia, was at 12%. Triple H was lucky enough to have his heart failure reversed and stabilized. Jay would only be fortuitous enough to have his heart failure loosely stabilized, as the vital organ would show signs of regression just a couple of months later.
After leaving the hospital, Jay didn’t have many places to turn. To make matters worse, every other aspect of his life seemed to be in peril. His landlord was going to evict him, a clerical error made him believe the US government was denying him Medicaid, and after three visits to the hospital, his first bill came in, and hospital was charging him roughly $30,000 for the services rendered.
He would have loved to work off his debts, but that just wasn’t in the cards. Disability wouldn’t give him an answer for another five to six months at best — and when they finally did, despite a cardiologist’s detailed letter describing how just existing with his wildly life-threatening condition would account for his entire daily energy output nine days out of ten, they denied him, as denying severely ailing folks comfortable existences is generally what our Disability Claims Department does.
Regardless, he did resolve to take to Twitter, his only source of social media, to let the hundred or so folks that followed him know about his close brush with death and the financial woes that hovered above him like a life-sucking specter. It just so happened that one person who found value in Jay’s thoughts (ie “tweets”) was Dave Meltzer, the writer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter which, since 1982, has remained the most accurate and trusted source of pro wrestling journalism (along with Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp) in the world.
Dave saw Jay’s humble request for anyone who could spare a couple of dollars to consider him a worthy home for that currency. Meltzer recalled their few correspondences and how respectful and decent Jay had treated him, and took it upon himself to retweet Jay’s complete shot-in-the-dark with an adjoining message, prompting his approximately 290,000 followers to donate to Fowler and assist in his bid to avoid starvation, and if enough was left over, perhaps homelessness, as well.
Fowler was utterly shocked by the prominent journalist’s gesture of goodwill toward someone who’d only interacted with him three, maybe four times. When able to quickly catch a word with Mr. Meltzer on why he felt obliged to perform such a kind gesture for Jay, he responded with words of glowing affirmation about the sick, but ever-altruistic wrestling fan.
“He’s been a subscriber that I’ve known about and have interacted with for a long time and he was always a nice guy to me. So obviously, when his health problems got serious, we all wanted to do whatever we could to help him…He had so many issues, not just with his health, but with government red tape and he just seemed to be facing bad predicaments out of his control, which made it all the more frustrating when coupled with his health issues. Still, he’s remained in contact with us constantly to this day and has always been great with everyone who is fair and straight with him.” — Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter
Dave’s encouragement meant the world to Fowler, but that didn’t mean his health issues were any closer to clearing up. He began to show symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, and with every cough or sneeze, his heart literally skipped a beat. At 10% ejection, his cardiologist informed him that any sort of coughing or sneezing fit could, without a shadow of a doubt, end his life.
Imagine living life terrified to not sneeze more than twice in a row, or cough a little too hard.
If anything communicated to Jay how lucky he was to wake up every subsequent morning, it was this experience in late February of 2020. Jay communicated his experience via Twitter, and by this time, both Dave Meltzer and the co-owner of f4wonline.com, Bryan Alvarez, had Jay’s best interest at the forefront of their minds. That was more kindness than Jay ever felt he was entitled to or could be expected from his experiences in life.
Sometimes, though, it seems that The Universe realizes that a great person got the short end of the stick too often, too long. One act of random altruism leads to another, leads to another, and next thing anyone knows, out of thin air, someone’s life is completely changed. That’s what altruism does. It lifts people. It inspires people. It’s contagious. Jay was very much that individual who drew the short match of the bundle regularly, evident by all you’ve been educated upon.
Jay was finally able to redirect his natural inclination toward optimism when he received a message from someone with bonafide global fame, who happened to be one of Jay’s favorite wrestlers. Even more bewildering was that the extremely kind gesture came from a man who famously avoids social media, which augmented the meaningful nature of the outreach exponentially.
Responsible for the act of true altruism was two-time AEW World Champion, Jon Moxley, who helped Jay in so many ways for two reasons. One was good faith in the opinions of Meltzer and Alvarez, and two, was his assumed responsibility to remain true to his creed, as the mantra of “the good guys” was integral to his moral compass.
Jay was always a good guy before that exchange, as it’s not in his nature to be a particularly bad person, just perhaps a fairly negative one. What Moxley did for Jay was the most poignantly moving experience with altruism to which Fowler had ever been exposed — and it changed him. It was a revelation — finding out some people did nice things for complete strangers, not because they want praise or community recognition, but because they want to do cool, affecting things for other human beings.
If both parties can sleep a little easier at night?
The altruistic endeavors in Jay’s life didn’t stop there, though.
Just months after Meltzer’s public mention of Jay’s struggles and his fortuitous interaction with Mox, in the Summer and then again in Autumn, Bryan Alvarez would organize benefits for “The Great Fowler” during his highly acclaimed podcast, The Bryan & Vinny Show. All of the proceeds generated from the events went toward Fowler’s fund, set up through the webpage TheGreatFowler.com.
Jay had once looked into “Go-Fund-Me” and other such crowd-sourced fundraising avenues, but the model they employ didn’t make sense for Jay, as he had no way of deciphering the total amount of money he needed to raise. He knew he could die any day and would likely die relatively soon, but he didn’t know exactly when that 10% ejection would stop being enough to keep him alive.
When asked why he decided to put on the two astonishingly kind and beneficial fundraisers for Jay, Alvarez was thoughtful and candid, “really, it sounds cliche but we just saw that he was having a really tough time and so we thought it was the right thing to do.” As far as his opinion of Jay and his efforts to spur on positivity, Bryan had this to say, “I appreciate how he tries to be a positive force on social media and put over the people who do good work…I am very happy to see the community supporting him as well, both fans and people in the business.”
Alvarez, Meltzer, and the good folks at F4W Online wouldn’t be the only source of wrestling media that extended their support toward Jay over the last thirty-one months. More recently, Sean Ross Sapp (affectionately referred to on social media as “SRS”) and the excellent people at Fightful decided to have a benefit to assist Jay with his various pressing financials.
When asked about the impetus behind his decision to have a benefit for The Great Fowler, Sapp was very forthcoming.
“I learned about Jay’s situation through mutual friends on social media. In wrestling, most fans, media, and people [wrestling] are only separated by a few degrees. Some people I respected spoke really highly of him. The unfortunate situation he’s in piqued my interest, and wanted to help when we could.” — Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful, on why he wanted to support Jay
Speaking to the sense of empathy that one would hope those reading this article would feel toward another human being, Sapp continued.
“I’d like to think that if I were in the same unfortunate position physically, that people would help out. If we are in a good place to do that in a responsible manner, I think we should. Also, by that time, I’d spoken to Jay and knew he was a good, genuine person. He was very positive in our conversations and I admired that.” — Sean Ross Sapp on why altruistic action is so crucial for society.
SRS would not be the only member of the Fightful team to step up with an affirmation of Jay’s undeniable zest for life and positivity, as Rob Wilkins, a part-time writer for the major wrestling and MMA media brand, as well as the regular co-host of the podcast, Coexisting (with “Wrestling Bartender” Maggie) is an outspoken, ardent supporter of his brother in mental health advocacy, Jay.
“The one thing that will always stand out to me is Jay’s love for life. Our brain has a natural tendency to remember negative experiences or interactions; more than positive ones. This means that this is a common occurrence when it comes to wrestling fandom, as well as anything else. Jay is completely the opposite. He talks about the positive way more than the negative…He doesn’t complain in situations that people like myself would. If we all treated people the way Jay treats people, the world would be a much better place,” — Fightful Contributor, Rob Wilkins
This is a quote from just one of the hundreds of close friends Fowler has made since he went public with his story, at first out of necessity, but eventually, out of a desire to help others suffering in the world. Still, Jay was suffering every day himself. Not just in the physical sense of his failing health, but financially, he was drowning. The decency and kindness of a community revolving around an entertainment source that’s largely been mocked and considered lower class by society at large would do its best to remedy that.
Considering his hope, not expectation, was to receive $5 here and $10 there, imagine his surprise when a doctor from Canada, with whom he had no connection other than sharing an affinity for the Wrestling Observer community, donated $100 one day. This was not a megastar pro wrestler or a big-time wrestling media influence, it was just a fan doing the right thing for a fellow fan. Countless other interactions like this would take place over the next couple of years, but when the doctor’s donation in particular arrived, that’s when Jay decided he wanted to start “paying it forward” as much as possible, but he was having difficulty deciphering how he might do that.
He had a lot of time to think about it. Due to the unreasonably high level of dysfunction to which his body had been relegated, Jay was more or less bound to a rested position, yet left him frequently unable to sleep more than three or four hours per twenty-four lived. This made media entertainment a very valuable tool for the maintenance of his sanity.
One night, unable to sleep, Jay took interest in a documentary about Adam Copeland, the pro wrestler known more commonly as “Edge”, who, in 2009, at the very peak of his career, had his retirement from pro wrestling thrust upon him due to the paralysis-threatening spinal stenosis in his neck. Ironically enough, while Jay fought for his life in a hospital room in New Jersey, Copeland shocked the entire wrestling world when he began his second chance at being a pro wrestler when he debuted at the 2020 Royal Rumble, one of WWE’s major wrestling events.
The documentary detailed Adam’s journey from believing his time as a pro wrestler had been irretrievably stolen from him, finding out, as medicine rapidly advanced, that perhaps a return was not unattainable, and working as hard as he needed to and then some so he could reach that destination in front of 40,000+ in Houston, Texas. Copeland was living proof that your diagnosis and designation in life one day may not be carved in stone as once believed, but rather in an identically shaped, but far more malleable type of clay.
Fowler points to his experience following Copeland’s story that night as another surreality that practically screamed at the very sick man, “YOU ARE HERE FOR A REASON!” Jay reached out to Copeland, never expecting a response, just to let him know how much watching his documentary made him not just want to survive another day, but to really live every day he was allowed.
In many cases of fame, which can serve as a superconductor for the development of gluttonous vanity, the celebrity Jay contacted might not have responded or cared, but to Jay’s initial disbelief, Copeland reached back to Jay immediately, and let him know how much The Great Fowler’s words touched him, how good it made him feel that his journey could have such an incredible impact on someone else’s road of uncertainty — especially, someone whose journey’s finish line constantly changed its proximity, but never so much that its existence fell out of sight. Copeland even gave this random guy who he so inspired his actual mobile phone number, in the event Jay ever wanted or needed to talk.
Some currencies are more valuable than money, material possessions, or societal clout. Legitimate friendship and expressions of genuine concern, consideration, and respect are a few. Copeland has even shown enough respect and admiration for Jay to politely call him out on some tweets that didn’t reflect the positivity that Jay preached to his community, which only a real friend is willing to do.
Copeland isn’t the only hall-of-fame level talent who felt Jay’s story, and beyond that, composition as a human being was justification for the fostering of a personal relationship. Months after Moxley reached out so candidly to Jay, his comparably famous wife, Renee Paquette, came down with Covid.
So, Jay managed to acquire around 250 signatures and messages of positivity onto a digital get-well card from fans of Renee’s work in the sports media industry. Jay wasn’t just being altruistic and hoping that the card uplifted Paquette, he was also doing his best to show her and her husband, Moxley, that even though he could never mirror back what Mox had done for him, he wanted him to know how much it meant.
It was this campaign to lift Moxley’s sick wife’s spirits for a few minutes that solidified what has now been a two-and-a-half year friendship between Jay and the first-ever two-time AEW World Champion. Calling it a friendship is not hyperbole or a nicety born from politeness, either. For instance in August, following a show in Atlantic City promoted by Game Changer Wrestling, a high-profile independent promotion of which Moxley is champion, Jay met Jon backstage and shared a couple of Moxley’s favorite, now-famous non-alcoholic beers from Athletic Brewing Company.
Good works and acts of decency don’t replicate even a tenth as fast as apathy and acts of nihilistic disregard, but luckily, their impact is exponentially more powerful.
After important people to fans of the wrestling industry, like Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez, showed their kindness and concern, Jay was touched and felt like he mattered. These experiences made him feel as though he wanted to give back the positivity he’d incurred.
After people who were perceived by the world as — not “more important,” but more crucial — to the health and existence of the wrestling industry, like Jon Moxley and Adam Copeland, reached out and showed Jay how much he absolutely did matter and meant something to the world, it made him feel like he’d been all-but-divinely-mandated to spread that feeling to as many who needed to feel it as possible.
As the weeks and months wore on, Jay was able to connect with a veritable who’s who in professional wrestling’s pantheon of “Great Wrestlers, Better Human Beings”.
In addition to the first two wrestling giants, Jay was also able to establish a very strong rapport with Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes, specifically. This came about after Jay opened up to all of Twitter about his past with frequent suicidal ideations and even one attempt, how the mentality he had before this battle to survive with heart failure had changed, why it changed, and a plea for anyone that felt like they were at the end of their rope to please reach out and talk to him.
“There is not a lot I can do in this condition, but I have found inspiration to fight and to help others in this last phase of my life. The remainder of the time I have left here is about “quality of life” for me, and hopefully, the fight is a long one, [but] if you are depressed or feeling like you are at the end, DON’T GIVE UP.” — Excerpt from extensive thread written by @TheGreatFowler (Jay) on Twitter
Not too long afterward, Jay was put into contact with the two parents of a young man who was struggling in the hospital after a suicide attempt. He talked to them about the young adult they loved more than life itself and discovered he was a big wrestling fan. So, Jay put an APB out to every pro wrestler he could find a Twitter handle for to see if there was something he could do to help this poor kid feel like life was worth living and that his survival not only mattered to his parents and other loved ones but to his heroes too.
Unfortunately, before all of the moving pieces were able to be located and connected, the young man succumbed to his illness.
Needless to say, Omega, Rhodes, and Jay were all completely devastated by this news. They were doing more than anyone would have believed, they were trying to put together a spectacular display of affirmation and affection, and they were being phenomenal human beings, but sometimes, the best of intentions can prove to be one’s worst enemy. Desperately wanting to make this man in his early twenties feel rejuvenated and beloved in life only to fall short of taking your shot as the clock runs out would be enough to make any human being decide to take their altruistic services away from the table.
Instead, the two All-Elite Wrestling Executive Vice Presidents (at the time, as Cody has since relocated to World Wrestling Entertainment, where his career was born) sort of doubled down. They’d gotten to know Jay a bit, though he hadn’t yet divulged his situation to them, it was clear he was struggling through life while he attempted to make those of others brighter, but it would be a while before they would venture to pry.
“Why use your natural abilities to make someone feel bad? I want to be the guy who uses his power to be positive.” — Kenny Omega, on positivity
Regardless, the three of them, two of the most famous pro wrestlers in the world setting the world on fire week after week, one nearly anonymous technically-dying middle aged man living day-to-day from the confines of bed, since walking just a quarter-mile was simply way too much to ask of his heart, resolved to never feel the way the young man’s death made them feel again. They began to talk about getting somewhat organized in ways they could help folks really in need of a boost.
Jay’s relationship with both Omega and Rhodes went from a purely philanthropic business-related nature to one more reminiscent of friendship. Due to his health, Jay cannot travel far distances, but Cody and Kenny made sure he had tickets to the next AEW show close enough for him to feasibly see. Unfortunately, the show that the two megastars invited him to had come at a time when Jay couldn’t financially justify doling out money for travel or lodging. When Jay missed the event, a new character entered this group motivated toward altruistic ends.
The Head of Creative, General Manager, Chief Executive Officer, and Owner of All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, contacted Jay through Twitter. He and Jay worked out a way to enable him to make it to an upcoming show. Khan, Rhodes, and Omega also made sure to help with whatever Jay needed, and it not only assisted in his mental health, but it reinvigorated him in his pursuit of altruistic intention beyond what he’d ever believed possible.
When Jay finally did get to see All Elite Wrestling live, Khan, Omega, Cody, and a lot of the company’s stars made sure that Fowler knew how much his life and contributions to society meant to the world. His seats were facing the dual-tunnel entranceway, which could be argued are the best possible seats one can acquire. During the taping of Dark/Elevation, Jay received a message from Khan expressing how happy it made him that Jay could finally make it. Cody also reached out and invited him to find him during his pre-show meet-and-greet.
Even before the 8 pm live feed began, Jay was made to feel as though he wasn’t some special fan in attendance, but a highly-valued, legitimate member of the AEW family. During Dynamite, the first wrestler to ever validate Jay’s existence as worthy made his famous entrance through a sea of adoring fans. Somewhat ironically, Moxley stood directly next to Jay as he seethed with intensity and fire without having the slightest clue he’d chosen to stand beside a person whose suffering he’d altruistically, monumentally eased while living up to his “we’re the good guys” mantra.
Later, Kenny Omega, during the peak of his record-setting world championship heel (“bad guy”) run, made a point to break character/kayfabe while the cameras transmitted his every action to the millions watching across the world (one million in the US alone), to embrace Jay and thank him for coming.
That’s class. Those are the actions of one who places a higher premium on validating a long-embattled human being who chooses optimism over bitter anger versus that which he places on his legacy of arguably being the best in the world at what he does. Jay thoroughly enjoyed the show, but once the cameras faded, he learned that his night was only getting started when he received yet another direct message from Cody, who asked whether or not he was still in the arena, and to hang tight, because he was going to come and find him.
Elated, Jay’s sense of belonging couldn’t even be tarnished by the less-informed security guards who attempted to coax him out of the arena. It tripled when a gentleman, whose face was shrouded by the overhang of a dark hoodie living up to its moniker, mentioned just a couple of words to the black-shirted men trying to usher Jay out. When his final instruction was delivered, security’s demeanor toward Fowler shifted to one of an affable nature.
Moments later, the cloak-and-dagger figure revealed himself to Jay as AEW Executive Vice President, “The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes, who brought him backstage, where Jay even got to experience what it’s like to be “heeled” (made fun of) by the premiere heel in pro wrestling today, Maxwell Jacob Friedman (aka MJF). Jay contends that he didn’t mind the browbeating and calls it an honor to have been “heeled by the best”.
Tony Khan, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and everyone else Fowler met that night made him feel like more than just a sick fan they wanted to treat to a unique experience. They made him feel like a tightly-knit member of their remarkable, revolutionary, rejuvenating, and reverential family. This was further proof that what @TheGreatFowler had been preaching — that good things (should) happen for good people who really need them to occur — had more legitimacy than he’d prior understood. Jay’s mission to find those who needed to experience something positive and help create that validation or acceptance for them became a crusade.
“It’s very overwhelming — the amount of positive outpouring and love she received from people literally across the globe. Truly remarkable!” — Michael, Father of 9-Year-Old UK Girl Fighting Rhabdomyosarcoma (Cancer)
It was around this time that Jay contacted the father of an eight-year-old girl located in the United Kingdom while she was hospitalized, fighting against cancer tooth-and-nail. Seeing the worried dad asking for prayers for his daughter, Jay responded and inquired about whether she was a fan of pro wrestling, and Michael indicated that she was a big fan of All Elite Wrestling, he knew who to call. Two days later, Jay received a video message dedicated to the courageous little girl named Skye. It featured Omega and at the time, a brand new arrival to AEW, (though, a longstanding member of The Elite in the hearts of his oldest fans, if not in canon kayfabe lore), Adam Cole.
They didn’t call her their hero and they didn’t say “beat that cancer” — which wouldn’t have been the end of the world and is obviously what they hope she does — but eight-year-olds aren’t dumb, especially ones whose lives thrust upon them lessons and wisdom that most human beings aren’t meant to endure or retain until their twilight years. They incur that anxiety all while they learn to spell, read, and write.
Omega and Cole let her feel like she was a special kid they wanted to recognize, and that was it — they didn’t remind her about the fight for her life she endured every day, they didn’t say something like, “you’re our hero and we look up to you,” which sounds sweet to fawning fans unrelated to the situation, but to an incredibly sick child, it subtly suggests that their failing health defines them as human beings.
Do yourself a favor, especially if you’re having a negative type of day or if you’ve lost faith in human decency, and check out Kenny Omega and Adam Cole try to make a deserving little girl an ocean away feel special for a day or two (and every time she rewatches it) here.
Today, Skye is back home and doing better than she has in quite a while, though she is not entirely clear from cancer that has run five of the first nine years of her life. Thanks to Jay, she’ll be able to show any of her wrestling-loving friends throughout her journey that Kenny Omega and Adam Cole know exactly who she is and couldn’t be more stoked about her existence.
So impressed was Cody Rhodes with the swift action Jay took in facilitating this validating and encouraging message for an eight-year-old girl who didn’t experience much joy relative to her peers, he began the process of streamlining Jay’s ability to continue his benevolent work through AEW. However, as fate would have it before anything official or any real roadmap was charted, Rhodes would depart from the promotion he helped build to pursue opportunities with the one responsible for his foundation as a professional, World Wrestling Entertainment.
Feeling pretty good about what he’d been able to accomplish in his “overtime” run in life, Jay tweeted an expression of appreciation for those who support him and make him feel genuinely loved. Of the many comments that his tweet attracted, one stuck out. It was from a man who more or less said, without bitterness or spite, that it was great that Jay had found so many people that care about him. He then indicated that he didn’t feel as though he could say he related to that feeling at all. In fact, he didn’t think anyone really cared about whether he existed or not.
The man wasn’t feeling sorry for himself, but rather pointing out that he had no one and nothing in life that made him feel connected. This was Jay’s first opportunity to test out his new streamlined ability to help deserving folks experience a boost in morale. He asked the man if any major wrestling shows were coming to his town any time soon. As fate would have it, in ten days, AEW would be coming through.
Despite Cody’s departure, he still connected Jay with AEW up-and-coming talent, Captain Shawn Dean, who already handled some of AEW’s philanthropic outreach. The remarkable thing about Rhodes’ involvement in this situation was that, at the time, he wasn’t even employed by All Elite Wrestling anymore.
He was in the midst of setting Monday Night’s ablaze as the returned prodigal son, “once undesirable, now undeniable”. Yet, he still cares about the human race so much that he had no problem utilizing his contacts to help Jay make something positive happen for a guy who felt like no one cared about him. Jay contacted Dean and within the day, AEW had complimentary tickets set aside for this melancholy fan of theirs.
Following the show, feeling like someone cared about whether he was enjoying his life or not, the man wrote a very nice message to Jay, saying the show was amazing, but more importantly, thanking him for his efforts and for simply caring enough to do something positive for someone he didn’t know in the slightest degree.
“Happy to help. Especially for Jay, who always goes out of this way to help everyone. I think his stories are worth sharing.” — Cristi Dragan, Friend & Beneficiary of Fowler & His Altruistic Intention
Another example of how Jay was able to make someone feel as though their fandom was not taken for granted is in the story of Cristi Dragan. Romanian-born and raised, Cristi taught himself English by watching his favorite wrestlers, CM Punk and Cody Rhodes (from Legacy and Stardust into Bullet Club), cut their in-ring promos. Cristi became so proficient in English via solely these means that he graduated from a highly competitive American university and, to this day, lives in New York.
A big-time supporter of Jay and everything he has tried to do insofar as encouraging positivity (and discouraging “buffoonery” as Fowler would describe it), the two were supposed to have watched several events together over the last couple of years, but due to health, finances, or both, ultimately Jay wouldn’t be able to make it. At least, not in body, but Dragan always made sure that Fowler was there, even if in no other way than name.
He informed Cody how he learned to speak English and also how much Cody inspires him to not only persevere but extend kindness and decency to everyone that surrounds him. Just knowing that Cody was going to watch a video message he made was enough to make Dragan feel like a billion bucks. Rhodes responded positively to the message and offered to meet Cristi the next time he and Jay were able to get to a show.
The three were supposed to connect in Atlantic City, but unfortunately, Cody was unable to make the show. Dragan and Jay had bad luck catching Cody together, but much to Dragan’s shock and delight, Cody knew how much the Romanian admired him, so he wanted to make sure he felt as special and appreciated as Dragan’s initial video made Rhodes feel. When someone learns a language because they like the way you speak it and perform an unrelated activity so well, it means a little more than a fan saying, “gee, I just think you’re swell.”
Since January 14, 2020, Jay has experienced both extremes of life’s satisfaction spectrum. He should have died, almost did, and is about a thousand times more likely to at a moment’s notice than anyone reading this article today. He’s also been uniquely exposed to the altruistic nature of good people that existed within his periphery. As Sean Ross Sapp aptly stated, in the pro wrestling industry, from the fans to the megastars, there’s usually never more than a separation of three degrees, let alone six.
Jay benefitted from that close-knitted fabric immensely, and even though no one would blame him if he just accepted all of the cool experiences and generous interactions without feeling an obligation to help others do the same, he just isn’t built that way. By living a life characterized by struggle and hardship, The Great Fowler is as empathetic as they come. Instead of shunning his empathy, he embraces it, and from that connection of human experience to a deep understanding that one’s troubles are not wholly unique to themselves, altruism is born.
With the help of successful folks from both All-Elite Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment, Jay has done some amazing things for some even more amazing individuals that needed to feel good about something in life. That’s not to say he’s finished, it’s just that sometimes his efforts are stalled by his abysmal health.
Jay has been in and out of the emergency room, the general hospital, and even ICU more times than he can count all through the course of the yarn just spun for you. In August 2022 alone, he saw the ER twice and made a third trip that resulted in him spending a few days in the ICU. When able to catch a word with him earlier today, Saturday, September 3, 2022, he was on his way back to the ER.
Jay’s life is not easy and despite their efforts to assist his quality of life, Jay still doesn’t live in conditions that evoke visions of Shangri-La by important friends in high places. He’s constantly exhausted. Still, he expends constant energy toward the cause of altruism becoming less of a rare occurrence in the world and more of a part of popular culture because it saved his life.
Altruism sustains Jay, so Jay sustains altruism.
In the future, health-permitting, Jay hopes to expand his philanthropic efforts and converse, or perhaps even work, with more individuals in the industry. He’s cited Triple H as someone with whom he would love to have a conversation, as they share common experiences in health and obviously, they both have the same passion for sports entertainment (a phrase that equates to “pro wrestling”, strategic to this sentence).
Others on the list include Chris Jericho, as they love the same style of music and have mutual friends; Adam Cole, so he can thank him personally for taking the time to do Skye’s video with Kenny Omega; Shawn Michaels, simply because he’d like to know why The Heartbreak Kid blocked him on Twitter, considering he’s Jay’s all-time favorite wrestler and he’s never had any prior correspondence with “The Show Stopper”.
He’d also love to connect with Eddie Kingston since the sharp-tongued lover of all things puroresu and New York City-born-and-bred working-class hero shares a lot more in common with Jay than anyone else discussed in this piece. Mark Cuban, who also endured atrial fibrillation, is another person with whom Jay would like to discuss philanthropy or charitable opportunities.
Most of all, Fowler would like to connect with “Make-A-Wish” quasi-deities John Cena and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Both members of the Hollywood elite’s roots exist in pro wrestling and each shares a deep affinity for altruism, taking very seriously their respective missions to make the lives of the less fortunate a bit brighter.
“I don’t even believe your kick-outs anymore.” — Jon Moxley on Jay’s uncanny ability to continue surviving close calls with death ("kick-outs" as the industry calls them).
Regardless of what the future holds, the man who received a very limited second chance at experiencing the joys of life has taken advantage of that opportunity and then some. Nearly a casualty of severe depression 28 years ago and a victim of massive heart failure three years ago (and technically, every day since), Jay has every reason to be miserable, angry, and spiteful. He has every reason to despise any human being that feels sad about their life but only complains about it rather than do anything to fix it, all while their heart ejects 50–72% of the blood it possesses with every contraction. By all rights, Jay could feel slighted and disgruntled about the lot in life that he drew.
Fortunately for the world, his motto of “don’t be a prick” was engrained within his mentality prior to all of the health problems.
Fortunately for society, he’s always been one of the “good guys”.
Fortunately for us, he’s willing to show anyone watching how to best live life while the chances of his ending increase exponentially with every passing day.
So, for the love of yourself, your fellow man, your creator, your mother, your best friend, your love of professional wrestling —
— for the love of love itself, please start paying attention.
Then, start paying it forward, as The Great Fowler and the rest of the good guys do.
To donate or keep abreast on Jay’s remarkable story of mind and spirit trumping harsh, physical reality and more details about Fowler’s struggles since January 2020, visit his webpage, https://thegreatfowler.com.