Sabu – A Living Legend
The term ‘Living Legend’ has been used way too often in the sports world and as early as I can remember it was used to describe first ballot hall of famer’s in all of the major sports. Being born and raised in South Philadelphia, there’s a certain tough, blue collared expectation of our athletes and when they perform with that hard-nosed, gritty level they become larger than life. The elite of that bunch become ‘Living Legend’s. Within the inner cities and especially in the 1980’s Professional Wrestling had become as apple-pie as baseball. I was five years old when Hulkamania was born and I was hooked into the world of ‘Rasslin and naturally the NWA and the WWF were a big part of my childhood. I loved Professional Wrestling, In detail, I loved the storytelling aspect,the buildup and especially the athleticism. Bret Hart, The Dynamite Kid, Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, etc and even though we were told that the guys on top were the most important, My friends and I loved Ricky Steamboat, we loved Bobby Eaton, we loved Terry Funk. We didn’t need to be smartened up to know who were the best performers at that time. As I grew older I certainly didn’t care for the cartoony nature of the WWF and then WCW product. 13 year old kids don’t care about Mulkey brothers or Ding-Dongs or Shockmasters and they certainly don’t invest their time into Tugboats, Duke The Dumpsters or fucking Gobbygooker’s. When you’re a 13 or 14 year old male, The things you desire certainly change. No longer was Milli Vanilli cool it was Nirvana. No longer was Brooke Shields hot, it was Pamala Anderson and no longer was Randy Savage a high-flying daredevil, It was Sa-FUCKING-BU.
It was destiny I suppose, I was lucky enough to live in Philadelphia in the 90’s. I was lucky enough to get Sportschannel, and I was lucky enough to view Eastern Championship Wrestling. It was 1994 to be exact and I remember it like it was yesterday. I was the youngest mark in my small South Philadelphia street. We would congragate every monday after a pay-per view and I had just witnessed Hulk Hogan beating Ric Flair in his WCW debut to win the title. It was the first pay per view that I had ordered in about 3 years. I was entering my sophomore year in high school, times were a changing, but I didn’t know how important this day would be, not even the slightest clue. When I walked down my steps, I for sure thought that the WCW pay-per view would be the hot topic amongst the group. If I only knew….The two older males were always navigating me towards what was cool, whether it was telling me to purchase “Raising Hell” by Run Dmc or “License To Ill” by The Beastie Boys, they were the trendsetters in my neighborhood and they always had their finger on the pulse. So it was with great curiosity when they told me they went to Swanson and Ritner the night prior to the WCW pay per view. How did they even find out about this you may ask ? They were in a line at the local Mcdonalds and they were approached by a guy wearing A New York Islanders jersey. This guy wind up doing jobs for ECW, his name…Chris Kanyon and he used two tickets to get in front of my friends so he could get to the arena and eat his meal in sufficent time.
As hard as they tried to explain Sabu to me, words could not do this man justice. There were guys who laid it all on the line every night and then there was Sabu. This guy was on a whole different fucking level. Prior to this guy exploding on the scene, there was nobody like him in the history of the world. Sure there was Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask but the style that this guy employed was other worldly and unless you were a tape trader or a wrestler how would you even know that New Japan Pro Wrestling even existed?.. The American Wrestling scene in the 90’s was completely different from todays wrestling and if you weighed under 225 lbs you might as well be a leper. Then along came Sabu and a whacky roster of well…mainstream rejections. It didn’t take me more than 3 weeks after being told to buy a ticket at the door and marvel at the new world that I discovered. Paul E Dangerously aka Paul Heyman was the mouthpiece and booker of a Philadelphia Indy named E.C.W. Through the booking ability of Paul and the “never say die”, “Us against the world” psychology , Paul and his “misfits” turned ECW from an Indy to the last territory of the 20th century.
As a teenager, I was a lone wolf. I had survived the mafia wars of the late 80’s- early 90’s in Philadelphia. Every week my neighborhood was a crime scene and I was lucky enough to avoid many bullets that were fired in my street. I was born in the Italian market and if you know your history it was a fucking warzone. Wrestling and Video Games were my escape, but most of my older friends had picked a side in this civil war so to speak and I wanted no part of it. Most of my friends had gravitated towards it, The movie “Goodfellas” might as well have been the bible for them and the term “Gangster” surely misdiagnosed as “Saint”. Who would have imagined that Sabu and ECW would later save my life ?
I could go on and on about Sabu and his wrestling accolades but that’s why there is wikipedia. After witnessing my first ECW show, I knew in my heart that I wanted to become a pro-wrestler. It started as a feeling in my stomach, It started with seeing Sabu do an Asai Moonsault to the floor. I knew that this was my path, a path that was paved with the blood,sweat and tears of Sabu. I never got a chance to tell him how important he was to not only my life, but to so many of us next generation students. A little over 5 years after attending my first ECW show I was blessed to be in a 3 way dance with Sabu and a rookie named Low ki. We tore the house down that night and I’ll never forget hearing the late Georgiann Makropoulos’s sunday report on Dave Meltzer’s hotline as she cited that we had a 4 and a quarter star match. I was 20 years old and I had just accomplished a feat that many thought was impossible. 16 years later and here I am typing about a man named Sabu, who as Joey Styles often claimed to be “The suicidal, genocidal, death-defying Sabu”. Sabu is a such a proud man, he would never ask for a favor and because of the way he was raised, he should have took way more from this business than he gave. He often gave his fans 100 times the amount than the ticket price. While Sabu’s spirit is everlasting his human body is mortal, with mortality comes age and with age comes decline. Sabu needs a new hip and I was informed that there is a go fund me page where the lifelong fans and friends can donate. If there ever was a man who deserved a donation for his lifetime body of work it’s Sabu. Afterall Sabu isn’t just a man….He’s a living legend.