REES' PIECE OF MIND
Sabu: Greatness Unrealized.
Spare me just a few moments of your time, young man, and let me tell you a little tale. Oh, I know you're busy, and I'm ancient to you, but set aside a few minutes and listen. Let me tell you a little tale. A tale about myself when I was a young man. A tale about wrestling before it was acceptable to be a wrestling fan. And, most importantly, a tale about the man who should have been wrestling's king.
I'm at a Hy-Vee, with my girlfriend (or soon-to-be, I can't remember), and I've stopped at the magazine rack. I don't remember the day, the month, or even the year. I know it was my junior year at Drake University, 1994-1995. The magazine racks is there, reminding me of the better days of my youth, when I would spend countless hours at a local bookstore, crouched in a catcher's stance, reading comic books and wrestling magazines.
On this rack, I see a year-end special of PWI. I can't resist thumbing it through it. I'm a sucker for the rankings, fantasy tournaments, and "Best Of" listings. As I read through, I see familiar names like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan. But there's a new name listed. Somebody PWI said was incredible, one of the best high flyers in wrestling. A man the PWI editors listed second, only behind HBK, as the person they would pay the most money to watch. And this thought was stuck in my head: Who the hell is SABU?
You see, son, the PWI magazines had fed my insatiable interest in wrestling, up until 1991 or so when I quit watching. I don't know why I lost interest; maybe it was because WCW had bastardized the long tradition of the NWA. Maybe because the Ultimate Warrior disappeared. I don't know. But, I went from being a kid who would restlessly scan the television guides for wrestling shows to a young man who couldn't care less.
Then Hulk Hogan ended up in WCW in 1994. I remember watching a scrambled feed of the Pay-Per-View where he won the WCW belt from Ric Flair, his first match in WCW. My two best friends and I decided to take a road trip to the August 1994 Clash of the Champions in Cedar Rapids soon after. We saw "Stunning" Steve Austin hanging around and Hogan get Nancy Kerriganned by Arn Anderson in a mask. Nancy Kerrigan, you ask, well, that's another story.
So, young sir, I had started to get interested in wrestling again. And then I read about Sabu.
It's my senior year in college, September of 1995, and I can't believe my eyes. Sabu is in WCW! Monday Night Nitro has revitalized the wrestling wars, jarring Monday Night Raw into becoming a watchable. The Giant was on a collision course with Hogan, who was wearing BLACK!, and my main man Big Daddy Cool was dominating the WWF. BUT THIS WAS SABU! SABU in WCW! I was finally going to see him! The suicidal, homocidal, genocidal maniac!
I watched in absolute awe. The nephew of the Original Shiek was the most maniacal force I had ever seen. He jumped over the top rope, onto the floor, crushing a guy through a table. He did these incredible flying moves, bouncing off the ropes like no man ever had before. He wrestled and defeated Mr. JL, a fella you know as Jerry Lynn, on Nitro, then beat him again at Halloween Havok with help from the Shiek. He was a force. And I was marking out for him like a four year-old, scripting SABU into the snow on the windshield of my roommate's car, annoying my friends with constant "SA-BOOO!" roars. Sabu was gonna be in World War 3, and he was gonna be the next champion.
Then a funny thing happened.
Sabu didn't show.
Now, in the fall of 1995, wrestling began to hit a hot streak, son. Not financially, but creatively. Bret Hart had defeated Diesel, who was in the midst of a becoming the first ever cool heel. Shawn Michaels, meanwhile, had collapsed in the center of the ring, suffering from unknown health problems caused by the lingering effects of a beating by several Syracuse bar patrons. Even though I knew wrestling was scripted, Shawn's injury hook sure didn't look it.
Well, Shawn would make a remarkable recovery and win the WWF belt at Wrestlemnia that year. And I was in my last semester of college, with two general credits left to get my degree. I decided to take a couple of entry-level journalism classes, classes that wouldn't tax my brain. In one of those classes, I had to do some generic research about this new thing called the Internet. So, since I figured looking up porn was out of the question, I did a report on wrestling instead.
And just like that, I was a smart mark.
Golddust was Dustin Rhodes! Razor Ramon was Scott Hall, the Magnum T.A. ripoff from the AWA? You're shitting me. HBK wasn't really hurt! They faked it!
I started religiously reading MiCasa and Herb Kunze's News Tidbits. I checked out every wrestling site I could find. My passion for wrestling was rekindled.
And best of all, I had found Sabu.
He was in ECW (huh?), fighting Taz (who?). Scotty Polo was the champ? Shane "Dean" Douglas, the surfer dude, was a shooting machine? I got to find this!
Naturally, I lost my access to the insider world when I graduated, so I was back in the dark again. But WCW wrestling, my old favorite, was beginning to roar. I watched in disbelief as Razor and Diesel showed up in WCW. My tongue hit the floor when Hogan joined Hall and Nash and created the New World Order. I laughed my ass of at Nash cold-cocking some fat-ass who charged the ring. Then I got access to the net again, through work. And I found Sabu again. My cyber-vigil started anew.
And in February 1997, my dreams came true. You see, Vince McMahon ran short on talent, about the same time ECW was readying for its first pay-per-view. And ECW was suddenly on my TV.
ECW is invading RAW! Holy Shit! Total Elimination on a ring boy! The Blue World Order - Big Stevie Cool, Da Blue Guy, Hollywood Nova, and 7-11! 7-11? Who cares! I want a shirt! Hey, it's Raven, the world champ! He don't look like Scotty Polo anymore. Oh my God! It's Taz, the Human Suplex Machine, with Team Taz and some annoying guy blowing his whistle like an idiot! SABU ON TOP OF THE RAW SIGN!!! He took out the entire Taz crew! Well, actually he kind of fell off awkwardly, but still, it was SABU! Sabu vs. Taz at the pay-per-view! Tommy Dreamer against the Dudley's! A dropkick into the steel steps! The Innovator of Violence! 3D! The Sandman! HE JUST CRUSHED A BEER CAN ON HIS HEAD! OUCH! A cane shot! THIS IS THE BEST SHIT I HAVE EVER SEEN!
At that time, son, the net went ape-shit about a potential merger, or at least more ECW/WWF collaborations. There was one more appearance, with RVD and Sabu in separate singles matches. RVD unleashed a split-legged moonsault on the WWF faithful and the Mr. Monday Night moniker to his fans. Sabu's match was, to be kind, less than impressive. It took him three attempts to break the table Flash Funk was on. He then left through the crowd, pissed off, and shoved a fan in his way. But that damn table wasn't set up right. The WWF didn't know what it was doing. And whoever that guy on the web is that wrote Sabu's fan incident is why he'll never make it in the big Two can go to hell.
ECW disappeared off of my TV again, but I still followed them on the net. And the WWF started to explode, with the emergence of Stone Cold, Degeneration X, the Hart Foundation, and the Nation of Domination. And WCW had me twisting in the wind, waiting for the epic Hogan versus Sting match. And Bret Hart got screwed by Vince McMahon!
When WCW decided to run a live Thunder in Cedar Rapids at the tale end of February 1998, my sister, her new husband, and two of my cousins decided to make it a mini-family vacation. You see, son, it was a month after my engagement broke-off, and it would be the first time I had seen my family since. This 4-day weekend would be a time of healing for me, built around spending quality time with my family and wrestling.
We had a wonderful time at the show, and then I spent the weekend at their various apartments in Des Moines. And then something amazing happend. I saw an ad for ECW Living Dangerously, on that very Sunday. Here was my chance to see ECW! Why go home to an empty apartment, an empty life in Chicago, when I could stretch out my vacation another day and watch ECW with my family! I talked my cousin into ordering it.
They were absolutely floored. Tables! Chairs to the head! Ladders! Guys flying all over the place! Taz falling through the ring with Bam Bam Bigelow on top of him! Sabu, the Sandman and RVD doing moves with such violence that the PPV company wouldn't show it live! What's with the "Got Head" signs? That many guys going nuts about Jenna Jameson? Hey, Sunny is here! Kick ass! Wait a minute, why is Lance Storm offering Skip head? Al Snow! Al Snow? Lief Cassidy? The fans are going nuts! Snow Plough on Douglas! Snow wins! The crowd is throwing foam heads into the ring! Joey Styles screams, "We're all getting head in Asbury Park!"
I was hooked from that point on. The next PPV sucked, but then Heatwave '98 rocked.
Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanaka. RVD and Sabu versus Hakushi and Hayabusa. Unreal - but what was with the spot where Sabu is standing on the top rope, RVD hits a Van Daminator on Hayabusa, and Sabu just jumps off? Taz in the a wild rematch against Bam Bam. And an absolute war between the Dudleys with Jack Victory (boy, he got fat) against Tommy Dreamer, Spike Dudley, the Sandman, and New Jack.
Sabu and RVD were a TEAM, I tell ya. They had this move called Rolling Thunder that was breathtaking. And pot-head RVD's "3/4 of the tag team champions" line is still one of the five best I've ever heard.
Well, soon after, the two joined Taz to form the New Triple Threat, against the old Triple Threat of Douglas, Candido, and Bigelow. At November to Remember, they fought, and Sabu pinned Douglas with an Atomic Arabian Face-Buster, winning the title shot at the next PPV! Sabu was going to be the ECW World Champion.
But, see, Paul Heyman had other plans. Sabu was only a pawn, and Taz took his shot, and won the belt. But Sabu had his revenge during that match. Boy, did he ever! He made one of the greatest run-ins of all time, completely man-handling Taz and the Franchise.
Sabu got his shot at the next PPV, Living Dangerously '99. One year after my first ECW show, and Sabu was FINALLY going to be champ. Yeah, right. Sabu got his jaw broke legit by a vicious Taz clothesline a couple of weeks before-hand, and then he lost to Taz. Eventually, that injury would lead to Sabu being banned from wrestling in the U.S., even though he appeared at every show.
Oh, what about the other promotions? Well, the WWF owned professional wrestling. WCW, however, was fading fast. And ECW got a cable TV deal with TNN that summer. ECW's long the step-child of wrestling, was being accepted.
ECW's first ever event in Chicago! And I'm there! Taz verbally tore Steve Corino a new asshole, and physically tore Rhino one. The Dudley's damn near started a riot. RVD, "The Whole F'N Show!" has a great match going with Lance Storm when the lights go out! It's Sabu! But he doesn't do anything good? What the fuck? But RVD wins! What a show!
The TNN deal began. Sabu, of course, was banned in the U.S.A., so TNN ran clips of Sabu in 1995. Wow, was he fast back then. And crisp! Damn, he was unreal.
But this thought was stuck in my head. Maybe Sabu was fading as bad as the 'Net said he was.
It's Anarchy Rulz, my first pay-per-view. I'm in my brand new "Sabu - Insanity!" T-shirt, having a blast. I'm starting "Your still faggots!" chants at the guys near the entrance. Roadkill is there - he fucks sheep! New Jack hits some jobber with an electronic football game!!! Sabu jobs to Justin Credible? What? Who cares! It's Awesome versus Taz versus Tanaka for the title! Taz is pinned! Awesome POWERBOMS TANAKA OFF THE TOP ROPE THROUGH A TABLE! Good Lord!
Well, Sabu went on to beat Candido at the next pay-per-view, in a match no one cared about. He fought RVD for the World Television championship after that, and lost in a so-so match.
Finally! Sabu turns on RVD and Alphonso, and joins Mike Awesome, the world champ. This tag team will be unstoppable! Sabu's going to be in the main event again! He'll turn it back on and soon be the world champ!
About that time, Sabu decided to jump ship to WCW. The THIRD place WCW. The dying-a-slow-death WCW. But Sabu can't get in. Ya see, he has a contract with ECW through 2003, with a near impossible escape clause. So he's forced back into ECW. And, eventually, after being informed he would be jobbing to Super Crazy on TV, he just simply walked out.
Living Dangerously 2000 has a higher buyrate than SuperBrawl. Akklaim starts a massive advertising campaign supporting ECW and it's new video game. ECW plays a big part of a major motion movie about wrestling behind the scenes. Rumors swirl that ECW will be USA's choice to replace the WWF when it jumps for CBS/TNN.
Sabu went up to Calgary to wrestle for Stampede. He wasn't going to be on my TV anymore. He wasn't be again anytime soon. I'd have to use the net to track him again. And I just lost track of him.......
As each day passes, Sabu's style takes another two or three away. I wonder, when, or if, I see him again, will he be Mick Foley, without the vocal charisma? Will he be a shell of his former self? But then I realized. He already is.
It's kind of amazing. Wrestling is bigger than ever. The money is greater than ever. And, just as ECW seems to be on the brink of hitting it big, Sabu leaves.
Sabu is going back to the independents. Back to wrestling in front of nobody.
Sabu just missed out on the huge money contracts and glory days of WCW. His two shots on WWF TV were marred by two screw-ups.
Think what a 1994 Sabu could do in the 2000 WWF. A 2000 WWF that has four young, skinny guys who never talk and have gotten over solely on their mat skills. Is Jeff Hardy in 2000 really better than 1994 Sabu?
Unfortunately, that's all wrestling fans as a whole will ever have from Sabu. Videotapes of him wrestling all of today's superstars. Videotaps of what could have been. Videotapes of what should have been.
As for me, well, my life has turned out pretty good. Denice and I got together in April of 1998, and we have a house and a home together. We have two cool cats, Bo and Bob, the BOBOB! Life is great.
Yet I can imagine the day, some year from now, when it will happen. I'm outside, raking the leaves, in my Sabu t-shirt. A young kid, new to wrestling, sees the shirts, and asks a quesiotn.
A question that should never have had to been said, but soon will be.
"Who the hell was Sabu?"
And I'll say, "Son, let me tell you a tale."Scott Rees
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