This past Sunday, Ben Spindler of WrestleTalk TV, a UK based wrestling talk show created by former British wrestling legend Alex Shane, had the honor of conducting the first ever televised tell al interview with the homicidal, genocidal, suicidal, death defying former ECW champion Sabu. Topics that were covered during the first part of this interview include Paul Heyman, his time in ECW, the origins of the use of a steel chair and table, and the success and failure of ECW. This was a rare opportunity to hear from one of ECW's most influential and iconic superstars and to learn a bit more about what really went on behind the scenes during the original run for the company and stories about Sabu's time in WWE, before he was eventually released by the company in May 2007, only just over a month after inducting his uncle into the WWE Hall of Fame.
One of the first topics covered was naturally the controversial leader of the ECW cult, Paul Heyman. Sabu spoke of Heyman in a positive light when it came to his wrestling mind, saying he was a genius. But as a person Sabu said Heyman was the devil or very close to it due to the way he would sometimes look to exact revenge on others out of spite had they wronged him. There are mixed views about Heyman when it comes to the way he treated talent. Most talent will tell you he could easily convince you to drink the Heyman cool aid and get you to continue doing what he asked, but those who would refuse have been very vocal about the issues they have with Heyman. I would be more intrigued to find out exactly what Sabu meant here as I feel there is something more to this than meets the eye in that Heyman potentially did something to him or someone he was or is close to in the company. Maybe more will be revealed next week or perhaps we will never know.
Sabu spoke with fond memories of his time in ECW, saying the place felt like a family to him by the end but at first he viewed the company as being "just another payday", hence why he ended up accidentally double booking himself that one night to work in Japan at the same time he was due to appear for ECW. Those who have seen or heard about this incident, which is mentioned on the Rise and Fall of ECW DVD, will know Heyman publically addressed the crowd about this and ran Sabu down. Sabu stated that Heyman "cried like a baby" over the issue and that he never actually quit ECW. Sabu said his feelings were hurt by Heyman's public acknowledgement of the situation at the time. Is this perhaps what Sabu was referring to when he spoke about how Heyman would try to spite those who wronged him? Anything is possible and if this was the case I can understand Sabu's frustration regarding the situation as airing his dirty laundry in public wouldn't be something Sabu would be happy with Heyman doing. Sabu believed Heyman would be fine with him working the date in Japan, especially given the pay day was bigger for him but instead Heyman was upset at the situation and humiliated Sabu instead, causing him to go on a seven month hiatus from ECW, which would see him wrestle briefly for WCW, before returning to ECW at the end of 1995.
An interesting fact was bought up during the interview that Sabu was the first wrestler to make the use of a table and a steel chair during a match legal. This was something his uncle, the Original Sheik, pointed out to him and it was also Sabu who first made the use of weapons into something cool. When you think back over to how significant this actually is Sabu really is an innovator who doesn't get the credit he deserves. The use of weapons in wrestling during the 90's slowly became more and more accepted to the point where in ECW it was legal during matches. The impact of seeing Sabu do the Arabian Facebuster or Skullcrusher, and using a steal chair as part of the move was huge at the time but it's something that fellow ECW stars like Rob Van Dam and Balls Mahoney would eventually adopt into their arsenal.
Sabu also spoke about how he felt ECW was successful because it was different to what WWE and WCW offered at the time. While Sabu wasn't crazy about all the story lines that took place, specifically mentioning the pregnancy storyline the company ran involving Stevie Richards, Raven, Tommy Dreamer, and Beulah McGillicutty, he felt the product offered an alternative to the fans who wanted to see a different product. When you look back at the original ECW, both before and after it became known as a hardcore promotion it is clear there was always something different about the product. In my mind ECW was always an ever changing and evolving product back in it's infancy and it became so successful because it was led by a man in Heyman who wasn't afraid to take a risk and try new things unlike WWE and WCW, who were very much stuck being traditionalist companies. ECW's attitude had to be an influencing factor in the change of attitude WCW programming would eventually take and it's clear to me that taking the risks Heyman did with ECW paid off and made it a critical part in the evolution of wrestling history.
When asked why he thought ECW failed Sabu's answer was simple; because he and other ECW talent were not getting paid. He actually went months at one point working without pay due to the amount of bounced cheques he received from Heyman, a fact that many former ECW stars have noted. Sabu also believes the company failed due to the significant talent raids on the roster by WWE and WCW at the time. Sabu even claimed Paul Heyman tried to sue him for breech of contract when he left the company. It is well documented that ECW had financial issues towards the end of the companies original run and while the finger of blame can be pointed in different directions I tend to come down on the side of Heyman in that when your sponsors and pay per view companies are holding back the money they owe you and you have no other income then you are not going to survive for long. There are plenty of former talents from ECW that always talk about pay checks bouncing and working without being paid for long periods and it is interesting to note Sabu, who was one of ECW's top names worked through that time out of loyalty to the company and to Heyman. It's a shame the ECW concept failed because I believe the company could have become one of the top wrestling companies in the world had it been managed better.
Part 2 of this historic interview will be broadcast this Sunday at 11pm on Challenge TV in the UK. Topics that will be covered in this portion include his time in WWE, WWE's version of ECW, the WWE Hall of Fame, and Sabu's wrestling legacy. I will cover this next week and bring my thoughts on what Sabu has to say on these interesting topics. Something tells me this second part of the interview will be controversial and will reveal some things we never perhaps expected to know.