"It about killed me and I didn’t realize it!" exclaimed Sabu when recalling a dangerous incident with FMW in Japan.
Baring his heart for one of the first times, Sabu spoke of his uncle (The Original Sheik, Ed Farhat), his thoughts on why he and Ric Flair never got along, his problems with Vince McMahon, and the tragic passing of his long-time girlfriend, Melissa Coates.
"I can deal with pain, but I don’t like it. It’d be crazy to say that I like it, but I can just deal with it. I have a high threshold for pain, I guess. I got that from my mother’s side [of the family], the Arab side."
Sabu – His Story, in His Words
"I have been better," said a somber-sounding Sabu to Michael Monte Jr. and Jimmy Pharaoh in a September 2021 interview on The Monte and The Pharaoh Pro Wrestling Broadcast.
As was usually the case, Sabu wore a turban over his head that draped over one shoulder and wrapped halfway around his body — a body scarred from years of hardcore wrestling matches.
Showing a steely determination in his eyes, Sabu seemed to gauge his surroundings like a captured wild animal, waiting to pounce when needed.
Wrestling for decades tends to do that, and it’s not uncommon for wrestlers to become guarded in interviews with people they’re not much familiar with. This initially seemed to be the case with Sabu in the studio with Monte and The Pharaoh.
Like his uncle, The "Original" Sheik Ed Farhat, Sabu has always had an intimidating presence, and he’s patterned his persona around mystery while rarely speaking. Instead, he lets his (often violent) actions do the talking. But on this occasion, revealing stories came straight from the hardcore legend’s mouth.
Sabu on the Passing of his Long-time Girlfriend, Melissa Coates
Opening up, Sabu began talking about his recurring back pain and the recent tragic loss of his dear girlfriend, former bodybuilder, model, and wrestler Melissa Coates on June 23rd, 2021.
"She was a great person. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know where I’d be today. She saved my life a few times. And I couldn’t save hers. I tried."
Sabu, who has some difficulty speaking after years of abuse and concussions sustained in and out of the ring, emphasized that Melissa "was a great person. She was great."
He continued, "I met her about fifteen, twenty years ago in L.A., in passing. I then met her again in 2007 in WWE. I met her again six years ago when these guys were bullying her on the internet, talking s*** about her and saying she had sex with me twenty years ago, but we didn’t.
"We got stuck in the same hotel room, but I was the perfect gentleman, and she even said I was. I let her sleep on the bed. I slept in the chair.
"The guy who put us in the room together tried to say that we had sex together and tried to stir some s***. And so, they were bullying her twenty years later about this. So, I got there and said, ‘Hey guys, this ain’t true. It’s bulls***. Leave her alone.’ And they did, and we became friends. Soon later, we started dating."
When asked what he thought about the internet, where anybody can just hop on a keyboard and say whatever they want, he replied, "I resisted it for so many years, but now I’m with it. About two years ago, I said some s*** on Twitter thinking, ‘Who’s going to listen to me?’ They listened to me and got me suspended off Twitter for a little bit!"
Sabu then dove into the controversial opinions he shared on the platform before being suspended and his unique way of seeing the humor in those powder keg topics.
"I got suspended over racist, homophobic comments, or something like that. And who doesn’t have those? Or thoughts of those? Anybody who says they’re not a racist or a little bit of a racist is lying. Everybody is a little bit of a racist. "
Sabu continued, "When you go to jail, if you’re not a racist, you’re dead. [In jail], you gotta go to your own race: Mexican, Black, White, whatever. You can’t stick alone. You have to choose a side.
"Most of my racist thoughts are jokes because they’re so ignorant, it makes them funny. I learned most of my stuff from Dave Chapelle. He’s so funny. The racist comments he made and what I copied from him, are so ridiculous. Who would believe him? Or who would really have serious thoughts about it? I just find it funny how ignorant some people can be about race."
His History with Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam, accompanied by his girlfriend Katie Forbes, had recently been on Monte and the Pharaoh. During this interview, RVD had nothing but positive things to say about Sabu.
When asked about his relationship with RVD, Sabu replied, "I was training this guy Sampson for my uncle, and Rob was Sampson’s friend. So, Sampson brought Rob to meet my uncle to be trained, so we trained him."
Sabu continued, "My uncle made me do all the heavy lifting while he stood outside the ring and told me what to do with him. That’s how it started. That was like 1988."
When asked if he thought the chemistry between him and RVD would take off as it did, he responded, "Yes and no. At the time, I had already been wrestling five years when I started teaching him, so, I was a step ahead of him. But he could do backflips and more acrobatic stuff than me. So, he taught me that.
"I taught him how to be a wrestler, and he taught me how to do backflips and s***. He raised the bar for me because when you’re a first match guy, you stay in first match stuff. Meaning you don’t leave the ring, you don’t use chairs, you don’t bleed, you don’t swear. You stay in the ring, and you wrestled for ten minutes, and usually it’s a draw (with no winner)."
Breaking Into the Business
Sabu went on, "Today, you have deathmatches in the first match. Or tables and chairs and blood and all that in the first match and every match, and that’s not how it is.
"When I started doing the crazy stuff, I worked my way there. I didn’t start out doing cage matches or barb wire matches. No. My first five years I never left the ring, didn’t even go to the top rope. I did in practice, but not when I was a first guy. They tone it down so that the next match can be better than theirs."
Continuing, Sabu said, "In the last match, everything goes loose. You can’t have chaos in every match. There’s no order that way. It’s no fun. Sounds like it would be, but it isn’t."
When asked if having little build-up is part of what’s hurting today’s pro wrestling, Sabu replied, "Yeah. There’s a lot of these deathmatch companies that call me. One thing is, is that they don’t pay s***. The other thing is that they don’t make any reason or rhyme.
"Now, if I have a deathmatch, it’s usually because I wrestled him in a match, and something led to another match, and then to a tag match, and then to a cage match, and then to a deathmatch or something or leads up to a ladder match. Nothing starts out with a ladder match or a deathmatch. That’s crazy, stupid, and they don’t pay for s***.
"You get 150 stitches in your arm, you got to fix it yourself pay for it yourself. They don’t pay for it, and you don’t make enough money to pay for it.
"These guys get paid dirt and they’re out there inhaling light tube dust and s***. You know, the light tubes to me are ridiculous because they don’t hurt. If you’d hit me with a light tube in real life, it wouldn’t even piss me off because I wouldn’t even feel it. Now, what would piss me off is the powder that comes out of it. Inhaling those fumes."
"It doesn’t hurt," Sabu assured. "Why do you think [wrestlers] do it?"
"Why do you think I use a table?" he continued. "It breaks my fall. If I didn’t use a table, I’d smack on the floor and bounce off the cement. I don’t want that. I’d rather bounce on a table that breaks my fall. Everybody thinks that when you hit a table that it hurts more than the floor. It doesn’t."
But what about when a table doesn’t give?
"The more it gives, the easier it is," admitted Sabu.
"In the beginning, I never gimmicked tables. But sometimes, they were gimmicked without my request, and they’d fall before I wound up using them.
"I like a hard table. The harder a table is, the more it breaks my fall. Now, if it doesn’t break at all, then it kicks my a**."
Sabu and RVD changed the way wrestling was looked at, especially at the height of ECW. However, many wrestlers gave Sabu a hard time about his particular style of wrestling.
"Everybody gave me grief, until they wrestled me," admitted Sabu.
"The thing was, I wasn’t killing my opponent. It just looked that way. I knew what I was doing. Other guys who were copying me were killing each other.
"What I would do, after I put a guy through a table, I’d give them an extra $100 if they told everybody that it hurt. I’d say, ‘Here’s a hundred bucks, keep your mouth shut.’ If anybody asked, they’d say, ‘Yeah, that table really hurt!’ This was so they wouldn’t do it.
"One day, Taz put me through a table, and he told everybody, ‘Hey, that s*** don’t hurt!’ [Sabu laughs] And then everybody started doing it!"
Sabu Opens Up About His Uncle, The Original Sheik (Ed Farhat)
Many have asked Sabu over the years how his uncle, The Sheik, felt about his style.
"He liked it," he asserts.
"The thing was, I learned that style kind of on my own. When we were training in his backyard, we did everything the way you were supposed to do, the way he told us to do it. But when he wasn’t looking, me and Rob would do some crazy stuff, and when he’d come out, we’d stop and get back in line."
"When I went to Japan for the first time, I went, ‘Sheik, what do you want me to do tonight?’ He went, ‘I want you to wrestle like I’m not watching.’ I answered, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘When you’re in the yard doing all that crazy s***, you think I’m not watching, but I was watching. I want you to do that s***.’ And that got over big."
On whether or not he felt any pressure growing up and having The Sheik as his uncle, Sabu replied, "No, not really, because we didn’t tell that many people."
He continued, "He was a heel, and back then, they were hated. They’d follow him home and try and kill him and stuff. So, when we’d go to a show or talked about him, we didn’t tell people we were related to him because they’d take it out on us, or we thought they would.
"They never really did, but they said they would. So, we didn’t really brag about him being my uncle that much. But my close friends and neighbors knew."
Being such a despised heel during the days of kayfabe, it wasn’t always safe for his uncle during his time off.
"When I was a little baby, three or four years old, [The Sheik] used to live close to the street. Later, he got a house half a mile from the street because people drove by, threw firebombs at his mailbox, blew it up, threw firebombs at his house, or they’d follow him home and try to cut him off and s***. Though he was never scared, I was scared for him."
"The more people that got mad at him, the more they bought tickets," answered a smiling and more comfortable sounding Sabu, who seemed to now be enjoying himself a bit more during this interview.
Speaking of kayfabe and his thoughts on the death of it, Sabu shared, "I still don’t like to say it died."
He continued, "I still kayfabe a little bit. I don’t expose myself all the way. I just can’t. Our business is kayfabe. Just like a magician. Even though you know what he’s doing is a trick, he’s not going to tell you it’s a trick. Why would he tell you it’s a trick? That’s his trick."
When the topic of the infamous curtain call at Madison Square Garden came up, Sabu grew a bit peevish.
"Yes, of course, it [pissed me off]. I don’t like people knowing my tricks or knowing that it is a trick.
"When I wrestled with ECW and FMW, I practiced so much to make it look so real, and not be [truly] real… not hurt nobody. And I hurt myself way more than I ever hurt anybody else. I always put myself in danger before my opponent.
"John Cena once said, ‘I’ve heard you’d hurt yourself before you hurt me.’ I replied, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ Then he said, ‘I respect that.’
"Everybody said before I worked with John Cena that he was a crowbar, he was the s***, just hard to work with. That’s not true. He’s excellent and actually let me lead the match."
Why Ric Flair Never Wanted to Get Along with Sabu
During the interview, Monte and The Pharaoh allowed fans to ask some questions to the hardcore wrestling legend.
One fan wanted to know Sabu’s feelings about the Dark Side of the Ring television series and if he was worried about going on those types of shows considering how much grief Tommy Dreamer got for his comments about The Plane Ride From Hell.
"I am [worried] now since the stuff with Tommy and [Rob] Van Dam where people said they should’ve stood up for and helped the flight attendant. But I agree, they should’ve. Someone should’ve helped her."
"F*** Ric Flair," Sabu added in disgust. "I never liked him anyway. He’s a c***sucker, and I’ll say it to his face, and I’ll say it to his a**. I’ll say it to him anywhere I see him. Someone should’ve stopped him.
"That’s the stuff he does. I’ve seen him do that stuff in hotel rooms. As soon as he gets to a hotel, he gets drunk and gets naked. But that’s kind of okay. He didn’t corner somebody who didn’t want to be cornered. Anybody in his room, they deserved to be cornered, but on the airplane, that was different, and nobody helped this woman. I almost cried for her."
When asked how he felt about Tommy’s comments about "boys just being the boys," Sabu replied, "Well, I don’t know. He should’ve done something. If he’s that good of a guy, and I know he is, he should’ve done something. Same with [Rob] Van Dam. I’m disappointed with both."
On whether or not wrestlers may have felt fear about speaking up about Ric Flair in the past given his status in the business, Sabu said, "He’s running around the plane naked! You cover him up, put him back in his seat! You chain him down, and you tell him, ‘You can’t do that. You’re in public.’
"[Flair gets drunk and believes his own hype. He believes… well, he’s the best worker there is, but he isn’t the best wrestler. The best wrestler is Kurt Angle. You got to remember working is not fighting. If I resist you, then the working goes to s***."
He added, "Now I consider myself a good worker, but I’m a better fighter. However, I haven’t had to prove that too much because you [rarely] have to. It’s a business. We’re not in the playground; we’re in a ring.
"Even if I don’t like you, I trust you to not hurt me on purpose, but I’ve been hurt on purpose many times. But that’s okay because I can take it!"
The Time He Got Hurt on Purpose in FMW
Speaking of getting hurt in the ring, Sabu shared a story of the time someone hurt him on purpose while wrestling for FMW in Japan.
"It was for FMW the last time before they went under," remembers Sabu. "I dove on this guy, and he purposely moved out of the way. I landed on my head and was knocked out for a month. I didn’t remember a whole month, and every time I sneezed or jumped hard on my feet, or pulled hard, I’d lose consciousness."
He continued, "I didn’t realize how bad he didn’t try to catch me until I seen it on video a year later," lamented Sabu. "I just thought he hadn’t done very good. But I watched it on video, and he moved out of the way, and I couldn’t… I landed straight on my head upside down. It about killed me and I didn’t realize it."
When he first became a wrestler, was "extreme" wrestling the direction he envisioned himself going in his career?
"Yeah, as I said, the first time I broke a table, it was my uncle and me in a tag team, and we lost against two other guys. Of course, it was a work, but [my uncle] said, ‘Get back in the ring and get your heat back!’
"I went, ‘What do you want me to do?’ ‘He quickly replied, ‘I don’t know, think of something,’
"I then told him I’d moonsault a table, and he asked me what that was. So, I said I’d show him. I then moonsaulted a table and that took off ever since. I don’t know what I was getting at, but…"
Sabu laughs because he lost his train of thought.
"When Rob and I were training in my uncle’s backyard, he went, ‘You’re not going to be able to do that to anybody.’ I asked, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well, they’re not going just to lay there and take it,’
"Rob further explained. I went, ‘We’ll change the business and make them take it, or we’ll do it, so it doesn’t hurt them. It’s just going to look like it does.’"
Sabu continued, "I don’t like to pat myself on the back much, but I changed the work rate.
"When I started, it was, ‘Do as little as possible, for as long as possible and get paid as much as possible.’
"I then changed it to, ‘Do as much as possible, in the shortest amount of time possible but for a little money.’ You know? Not do it for the money, but instead do it for the business."
Sabu Shares His Thoughts on Vince McMahon
Changing the subject to Vince McMahon, Sabu, with a pensive expression on his face while holding both hands together, shares, "My problem with him was he wanted to have a personal relationship with me. Well, that’s fine, but he’s not somebody who I’d like to hang out with. I’ll talk business with him during business hours, but I wouldn’t chit-chat with him about something, anything, other than business, and he took offense to that.
"Whenever I’d kind of see him, I’d go in the other direction just so I wouldn’t have to talk to him. I didn’t think you had to kiss someone’s a** to do your job! I figured if you did your job, that’s kissing a** enough."
When asked if he felt Vince McMahon enjoyed this kind of attention from his wrestlers, Sabu answered, "I watched everybody. They’d act big, big-chested, and when they’d see Vince, ‘Boom!’ they’d drop three feet down and start kissing his a** right away, and they’d completely change their whole character.
"It was really disappointing to me, and I wouldn’t do that. I’d get advice from people saying, ‘Fake it,’ and I’d said, ‘I can’t fake it.’ I could do it once, but I couldn’t keep it up."
Sabu continued, "What I didn’t like about WWE was, it was all scripted."
"I understand that for guys who don’t have the right frame of mind to put together a good match. But I did. I had wrestled twenty years when they hired me, so I thought they were hiring Sabu for his twenty years of experience and not for a body. But they wanted me to do what I was told and do it their way.
"I don’t mind doing things when I’m told, but if they’re things that I wouldn’t do, I’d speak up, ‘Sabu wouldn’t do that, or I wouldn’t do that.’ And they’d say, ‘We don’t care what you would do. We care what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna do it even if you’ve never done it before.’
"So, I would tell them stuff I planned to do during the match, but then I wouldn’t do it. I didn’t like telling people my tricks before I did them, not even Vince.
"They wanted a play-by-play before the match, and I’d give them a fake play-by-play, and I changed in the ring what I thought was right.
"When I started, a good worker was someone who could react on his feet, not how good he remembered something. We didn’t care if you could remember a spot or not, as long as you did the right thing at the right time, that’s what counted. In the ring, many times I didn’t have a plan, but it would come to me as we went along."
At this point in the interview, it’s hard not to think that perhaps Sabu wasn’t as crazy as many still believe him to be. On that note, he shared a humorous story about an inexperienced youngster who committed a backstage indiscretion with Sabu when he worked a show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"I wrestled in Las Vegas for the first time [around 2006]. The promoter came in and asked, ‘How many tables do you need?’ And I told him that I only needed one.
"Then the guy I was wrestling said that he needed a couple. I asked him, ‘For what?’ And he said, ‘I’m gonna give you a piledriver off the ring.’ I go, ‘What the f***?’ And he goes, ‘Well, you’re crazy!’ And I go, ‘That’s a work! You’re crazy thinking I’m crazy! Who the hell’s going to take that?!’"
"That’s out of place and disrespectful," reiterated Sabu.
Sabu Shares His Thoughts on the Passing of New Jack
"New Jack was a good friend of mine and wasn’t as bad as people thought."
The controversial ECW and hardcore wrestling legend passed away on May 14th, 2021.
"He and I have always been on a good level."
He continued, "A funny story was when he was motherf***ing everyone in the dressing room. ‘F*** you, f*** you, f*** you, but not you Sabu.’ And he continued, ‘f*** you, f*** you, f*** you…’"
Sabu stops to laugh.
"And I told him, ‘Alright Jack, I got your back!’
"[New Jack] ’s stuff was blown out of proportion," Sabu maintains. "He wasn’t as bloodthirsty as people thought. It was a work."
"If he really would’ve wanted to stab somebody, he wouldn’t stab them in the forehead. He’d stab them in the stomach and do it in the dressing room."
New Jack was known for ripping Tony Atlas apart on many occasions during shoot interviews. When asked if this was a work, Sabu claimed it was a half work, and it was New Jack "shooting from the hip or shooting on the square. It’s like a joke, but kind of true."
Going back to the topic of Ric Flair, Monte asks Sabu, "So when you say Ric Flair is a piece of s***, is that a little over the top or is that a straight-"
"It’s a little over the top," cuts in Sabu. "I just don’t like him. He didn’t like me, so I don’t like him and that’s it."
So, what happened between Sabu and Ric Flair that caused this animosity?
"I don’t know," admits Sabu. "I’d come into the dressing room and shake everybody’s hand and I’d go shake his hand and he’d turn around. Or he’d come in and shake everybody’s hand and skip me. So, I stopped putting my hand out for him. And that’s fine, but don’t be rude to me either."
Sabu is unsure if it was because Flair didn’t like his wrestling style, but he feels that he was a "jealous prick," even though he says he didn’t need to be because "he’s the best and was on top but he would still cut down the lower guys or not give them a chance."
Sabu further explained that his uncle, The Sheik, had explained that he shouldn’t slack on his spot, but he shouldn’t do anybody wrong to get ahead.
"I want to be better than the other guy on an even playing field," remarked Sabu. "But not if he’s being held back, or if I’m given an unfair advantage."
Thoughts on Paul Heyman
"I first talked to [Paul Heyman] in ’91 or ’92, I think, and he’d seen my stuff in Japan and told me he was starting a new company called World Wrestling Network, and he wanted me to come in for that. I said, ‘Okay, good.’
"Then, out of the blue, this promoter from New Jersey, Dennis Coralluzzo, called. He told me to call Todd Gordon and that he runs this company called ECW in Philadelphia and he’s a sucker, he’ll give you 500 bucks. So, I called him up.
"He about freaked out. He went, ‘How much you want?’ And I was afraid to say 500, so I said 300. So, he said, ‘Sure, come on in!’ So when I came in, it happened to be the same day he fired Eddie Gilbert, and hired Paul E."
In ECW, Paul Heyman allowed Sabu to work freely, and this freedom bestowed upon many of the talents helped in the promotion’s success. Sabu recalls the fans in attendance rapidly growing whenever he was on a card but just as quickly dropped when he wasn’t.
Unfortunately, when he wasn’t on a show, Paul Heyman allowed other wrestlers to do spots similar to Sabu’s, and he feels that this watered-down his style. Although it got them over, it made him go from looking like a specialist to making it seem like anybody could perform them.
"When you’re in a company, the promoter is supposed to protect you, protect your gimmick so no one else does it. Like when my uncle wrestled, no one else on the show used a gimmick (weapon) or bled or anything before he did [on the card] so his matches were special. Not that only he did those kinds of matches, but that night was supposed to be his special match. So, when I was in ECW, I didn’t want anybody breaking tables, using chairs or blood before my match.
"Paul E.’s solution was putting my match on before everyone else’s. That didn’t make sense and I got ticked off because he didn’t protect me."
According to Sabu, Heyman lied to him on many occasions, which confused Sabu.
Retirement from Wrestling
In a November 5th, 2021 interview with James Romero of Wrestling Shoot Interviews, Sabu announced that he has probably wrestled his final match after his body didn’t hold up during a bout a couple of weeks earlier.
"I’m not doing real good," admitted Sabu. "I hurt my back about a year ago, and it’s still been hurting. I wrestled a couple of weeks ago, but I shouldn’t have. I’ve only wrestled like twice in the last year [and] I only went to the gym a couple of times the last year ’cause I hurt my back.
"I’m probably not gonna wrestle no more… I’m probably just going to do autograph signings and personal appearance-type stuff."
When asked if there was anybody who would inspire him to get back in the ring for one more match, Sabu replied, "I’d definitely get back in the ring for Brock Lesnar. I’d love to wrestle him. Especially if it was my final match, I’d love to wrestle him.
Sabu continued, "[Brock is] the best, he’s a shooter, he’s a good worker, he’s my kind of opponent. I like big guys, I like wrestling big guys. I don’t like wrestling guys like me because it’s not that interesting. It’s more interesting wrestling a guy like me against a guy like Brock Lesnar."
Although he can hardly walk sometimes and suffers great pain, Sabu admits that he would never go back and change his wrestling style even if able to. He’s proud of what he’s done in wrestling.
He then, at the end of his interview with Monte and The Pharoah, breaks down when reflecting back to his girlfriend, Melissa.
"I miss her every second and think about what happened to her every minute. And I don’t deserve to be happy because of what happened to her.
Sabu pauses to wipe his eyes using the white turban that he was wearing.
He continues, "I thought that she couldn’t be in anybody’s better hands than mine, and she died on my watch, so I have to punish myself.
"I think about it all the time and I can’t help it. But even the doctors in the hospital said that she wouldn’t have been able to be saved because her heart was so bad, but we didn’t know that, and I still think I should’ve saved her. I tried, but it didn’t work, you know, the CPR? I tried. I tried so hard I pissed myself while doing it. It didn’t work and I will always punish myself for that. I don’t know why, but I should’ve saved her."
Sabu is a real person in and out of the ring. It seems that no matter how hardcore, not all wrestlers can kayfabe their pain. Instead, they must carry the burden throughout their existence on this planet.
You can listen to the full interview of Sabu on Monte and the Pharaoh below:
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure not to miss the following articles on our site:
- Eddie Gilbert’s ECW Before Paul Heyman’s Revolution
- Melissa Coates – A Champion’s Fight Outside The Ring
- Sandman and the ECW Incident That Went Too Far
- Rob Van Dam | The Arrest That Changed RVD’s Career