Raven vs. Shane Douglas with guest referee Mick Foley. AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels. Monty Brown vs. Abyss. What sounds like a stacked TNA pay per view is in fact going to be held in a saloon in Belleville, Michigan on December 12th. The top independent wrestlers in North America are joining forces to help out a fallen comrade. His name has become legend as an innovator in professional wrestling, and he has had an impact that will be felt for years. He is Homicidal, Genocidal, and Suicidal. He is Sabu.
He is also far too human, as a recent 50-day hospital stay proved.
“He has a virus of some sort, nobody is sure what it is,” event promoter Scott D’Amore told SLAM! Wrestling. “He’s been sitting at home for five months, two of them in a hospital. Both his arms and legs were paralyzed at one point.”
The idea is the brainchild of D’Amore, Raven and Jimmy Hart. Hart remembered how quickly Sabu went from healthy to ill.
“I had been on Ballpark Brawl in Buffalo, New York two nights before. Sabu had a great match that night, and the next morning he and I were talking at the airport before I came back to Tampa and he went home to Detroit,” ‘The Mouth of the South said. “On the Tuesday night Impact taping, I asked Scott D’Amore where Sabu was and he said ‘He’s in the hospital.’ I said ‘Maybe we can put together a fan appreciation night.’ Scott suggested we have it in Michigan and has worked hard on it. A lot of great wrestlers from around the country wanted to be involved.”
Raven recalled how quickly things came together. “I don’t know whose suggestion it was but as soon as I heard it, it was like the Little Rascals, we had to put a show on for our buddy. Anyone who spends four months in a hospital without insurance has got to be financially hurting. I am not saying he is bankrupt but that is a huge chunk of change out of your pocket. He was really ill, he is lucky he didn’t die.”
Each of the talent is donating their time at for the show, in addition to a number of promotions donating items to be auctioned off. “Everything’s been donated: the building, the lighting and sound equipment, and a ring. The talent, contradictory to what’s been written elsewhere, is all paying for their own travel. The goal is that every dollar will go to help Sabu,” said D’Amore.
Team Canada member “Hotshot” Johnny Devine first made waves in 2000 when he took Sabu to the limit in a Stampede Wrestling show. Sabu has been a big influence on Devine and “Hotshot” is all too familiar with what Sabu’s bills must be like as he recently spent time in the hospital after being stabbed. “His medical bills must be through the roof. My five-day stay in the Nashville hospital with surgery was 20 grand. I am a big Sabu fan and he is a good friend. I wish him well. I am hoping I can be a part of it. Lots of top guys are going to be on the card and all of the money is going to him.”
Since the beginning, Sabu has been an innovator and a man who has influenced a generation of current stars. Many of the participants on Sunday’s shows talked candidly about the impact he has had on them.
“He has done so much for the business, because he has put his body through everything. Some people are blessed to be 6’8″ and weigh 300 pounds and some aren’t. He did what he could do best, and that was being hardcore. He and Terry Funk are probably the innovators of that style,” said Hart. D’Amore agreed.
“He’s given so much to this business. He really helped shape what the business is today. He was the first guy in North America to do the table breaking. He took things from Japan and Mexico and introduced them here,” Team Canada’s ‘Coach’ said.
Mick Foley, who took “Hardcore” to a national level has also been influenced by Sabu, their ECW battles are the stuff of legends, and is proud that he too can contribute as well.
“I feel like Sabu is a guy who has been much better to the business than the business has been to him. Now that he is in a bit of trouble it is up to the guys in the business to try and help him out as much as they can. His contributions to wrestling have been terribly underrated, and it is a tribute to him that so many guys in the business would try and help him out. We appreciate all his sacrifices.” Foley said.
“He may not have been the big WWE or WCW star, [but] he is a superstar in the business and his ability transcends the business. There are a lot of guys who when they look back they will tell you they either watched, learned or emulated what Sabu has done,” said TNA star Monty Brown.
“I’ve faced him a few times. He is the type of guy who puts his body on the line and really raised the bar on death-defying moves and excitement,” said ‘The Fallen Angel’ Christopher Daniels. “His philosophy is ‘anything for the sake of the match.’ There are a lot of things of his that I have tried to emulate. He has influenced a lot of people in wrestling.”
Daniels will be facing AJ Styles, a match that has happened many times in many promotions and is a classic every time. Daniels looks forward to tearing it up with Styles in one of the most anticipated matches on the card. “AJ and I have had the opportunity to work each other all over the United States and know each other very well. We are going to go out there and put on a match that is worthy of being on a show that has Sabu’s name on it. Sabu is one of the pioneers of the style that AJ and I can do, so we are going to have a good time in tribute to him.”
Styles is also excited to face Daniels as part of the benefit. “Who knows what is going to happen in that match. I’ve faced Christopher Daniels quite a few times and we know each other fairly well, so the match that we will have will be one you will never forget. That’s another match I hope to see in TNA at some point soon.”
Monty Brown feuded briefly with Sabu in TNA and as someone who is still relatively new to wrestling, credits Sabu as a major influence. “I have learned a great deal from him, because he is such a great worker. You have to be very spontaneous when you are working with a guy like Sabu, he didn’t get the nickname ‘Homicidal, Suicidal, Genocidal’ title for nothing. He gets in there and sometimes you don’t know what he is going to do. But you do know he is going to work hard and push you, and I really learned to pace myself working with him. I learned from him how to wrestle someone and adapt to their style. There are a lot of people who do things that Sabu can, but that acrobatic wild chair throwing style is all his. You have to adapt to that in the ring and perform accordingly.”
Brown will be facing Abyss in a rematch from Turning Point. That match was a wild brawl featuring tables, thumbtacks and two big men beating the hell out of each other. Expect more of the same in Belleville, he warned. “Abyss is a big boy and I don’t hold anything back when I am going against him, we both let it fly. It’s all for the fans and hopefully they enjoy what we’ve been doing and will do. I am still sore from the match at Turning Point and I will be for a while, but when its time to go out there we turn it right back up. It’s for a great cause to appreciate somebody like Sabu, a guy I have had the pleasure of working with and against. The match is going to be another drag out, slap ’em down, last man standing Serengeti-type thing.”
Raven is also looking forward to his match with Douglas. “The Franchise” has retired from the sport and is now an agent and commentator for TNA. It speaks volumes about Douglas’ respect for his fellow ECW alumni that he is lacing up the boots. “As long as Shane doesn’t throw up on me again that will be perfect. I love Shane, he is one of my all-time favorite opponents to work with. I miss the fact that he doesn’t work anymore so I am glad he is tying up the boots for one last shindig.”
Sabu has always been an enigma. He rarely takes pictures and can be an intimidating person. Many of the wrestlers SLAM! Wrestling spoke to commented on the other side of Sabu, that of a respected peer and friend.
“I love Sabu. The first year and a half we were in ECW we spent the entire time walking past each other in the locker room and saying hi and ignoring each other. For some reason we couldn’t stand each other. One day Sandman, who got along well with both of us, took me along when he worked on Sabu’s Winnebago. Sabu and I clicked and have been friends ever since,” said Raven.
D’Amore has known Sabu since 1993. “He’s certainly a friend of mine, he’s been very helpful to me. Especially back in the ’90s. He helped me a lot: getting me booked, giving me advice, and giving support. He’s one of the most generous guys I know. If a guy needs a ride, Sabu will find him a space. If a guy needs a place to stay, he’ll give him a bed. He’s always respectful to the veterans. And once a young guy has earned his respect, he’ll be very good to him.”
Styles recalled his first meeting with Sabu at a WWA pay per view in Australia. “That was the first time I really got to meet and talk to him. He is very down to earth and laid back and I enjoy that about Sabu. To help him out, it doesn’t cost me or hurt me in any way to do a benefit show to help him out. I am sure he would do the same for me, that is what it is all about is taking care of your friends and Sabu is a good one.”
Jimmy Hart recalled a time when Sabu and his wife helped him track down some music he had been trying to find. “His wife is from Japan. There was a group from there I was trying to get some records of. I went to Sabu and told him I was trying to get them. He got a hold of his wife, she looked it up on the Internet and ordered the records for me. Within two weeks I had what I was looking for. Little things like that, lots of guys would say ‘Sure Jimmy, I’ll look into it’ and never do it. That’s just one example of the type of guy Sabu is.”
Everyone hopes that Sabu will make a quick recovery, especially Raven. His feud in TNA with Sabu was just gaining steam when Sabu fell ill. “It’s pretty amazing that up until TNA, Sabu and I had never had a singles match considering we were two of the biggest stars in the history of ECW. A lot of indy promoters kept trying to book us against each other and I refused to do it because I wanted it to be a program and mean something, the first Raven vs. Sabu match should mean something. It’s ironic that it was plagued by so many problems, I got pneumonia and he got hurt. We got one match of it but we didn’t get to make the program mean as much as it should have which is a shame.”
Styles participated in Sabu’s last match, a Tables, Ladders and Chairs bout that included Teddy Hart at Ballpark Brawl III in Buffalo in August. He is confident it won’t be the last we see of Sabu. “That match was wacky. I am not big on the tables and chairs but the ladders don’t bother me. It’s not going to be Sabu’s last match, he’s going to get over it and be back in the ring in no time.”
The general consensus is that every single person stepping into the ring on Sunday night is proud to be there, donating their time and supporting their friend in their time of need. Wrestling can be a cutthroat every man for himself business and it is a fitting tribute that so many people are giving all they can.
“Baseball, football, basketball, the guys are really well taken care of with retirement plans and insurance. In Professional Wrestling everyone is on their own with their own insurance and retirement plans. For Sabu to have this kind of following, with the number of people who have called Scott D’Amore to be on the show it is overwhelming. It’s a credit to him and his impact on the business. The fans have really appreciated him but so have the boys in and out of the ring,” said Hart.
D’Amore concluded by encouraging fans to support Sabu by attending the show, donating money, and buying the DVD release of the event which the proceeds from will also go to Sabu.
“The fans can expect to see a happy locker room, coming together, working hard and having fun — which is rare nowadays — to help out a guy who’s given a lot to the business in 15 years. I think they’ll really enjoy this show. It’s probably one of the best indy shows, with the most star power, that’s been held in the past few years,” he said. “Ever since Sabu heard about the event, it’s like his recovery has improved. I think it’s really touched him.”
Here is the scheduled card for “A Night of Appreciation for Sabu” at Diamondback Saloon 49345 South I-94 Service Drive in Belleville, Michigan on Sunday, December 13th. Belltime is 6 p.m.:
Raven vs. Shane Douglas with Mick Foley as special Guest Referee
Jeff Hardy vs. Kid Kash
SIX MAN TAG ACTION
Insane Clown Posse & The Rudeboy vs. TBD
AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels
America’s Most Wanted vs. Team Canada
X DIVISION TITLE MATCH
Chris Sabin vs. Petey Williams
Monty Brown vs. Abyss
BCW TITLE MATCH
D’Lo Brown vs. A1
Sharkboy & D-Ray 3000 vs TBD
— With files from Bob Kapur.