Pulse Wrestling’s Top 100 Wrestlers of the Modern Era: #90 – Sabu

90. SABU

Real NameTerry Brunk
Aliases – Sabu the Elephant Boy, Terry Essar, Terry Snuka
HometownDetroit, Michigan
Debuted1985
Titles HeldNWA World Heavyweight; ECW World; ECW Tag Team; ECW Television; UWA World Junior Light Heavyweight; XPW World Heavyweight; 3PW Heavyweight; USPW Heavyweight; WWC Universal Heavyweight
Other Accomplishmentsnephew of the Original Shiek; neck was broken by Chris Benoit in 1994

Sabu began training under his uncle at a young age. His uncle was the unpredictable madman known only as the Sheik, who had pioneered the hardcore style and terrified audiences for decades. By 1991, Sabu was traveling to Japan’s FMW, where his familiarity with the hardcore style fit in perfectly with partners like his uncle, Tiger Jeet Singh, and Horace Boulder.

In 1993 Sabu had a fortunate break as he met a man named Todd Gordon. Gordon, of course, was the promoter for Eastern Championship Wrestling, who soon had Sabu strapped to a gurney and wheeled to ringside while Sabu tried to break free. The fans took to the Arabian madman and he soon began to climb the ranks. In October of 1993, Sabu defeated Shane Douglas for the ECW World title. In addition to this, Sabu won Terry Funk’s ECW Television title a month later. In December, he lost the World title to Funk, although he held onto the Television belt until the following March.

Sabu would spend much of 1994 out of title contention, and went out of action temporarily in November after an infamous neck injury from Chris Benoit. Despite the apparent severity of the injury, Sabu was soon back in action.

Going into 1995, Sabu allied himself with Taz and the two set their sights on Public Enemy’s World Tag Team titles. Although they were defeated at December’s Holiday Hell show, Taz and Sabu defeated Public Enemy and won the belts in a double tables match at February’s Double Tables. They would hold the titles for about three weeks before losing them to Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko.

As 1995 wound down, Sabu left ECW and headed to WCW in a legendary mismatch of styles. Sabu immediately kept wrestling his ECW style in his debut and was disqualified after the match for putting Alex Wright through a table. Sabu’s style was not long, but was notable for his appearance at October’s Halloween Havoc, where he faced Mr. JL (better known as Jerry Lynn) and was accompanied to the ring by his uncle. After Sabu won the match, the Sheik threw fire in JL’s face – an action that did not endear Sabu and the Sheik to the WCW higher-ups. Sabu had returned to ECW by the end of November.

Sabu’s 1996 was focused around fellow Sheik trainee Rob Van Dam. After facing (and defeating) Van Dam at April’s Hostile City Showdown and May’s Hardcore Heaven, Sabu formed a briefly-lived team with Mikey Whipwreck to try and regain the tag belts only to be stopped by the Eliminators. By November, Sabu and Van Dam had come to terms and formed a legendary alliance.

Although Sabu and Van Dam had been unable to capture the tag belts going into 1997, another legendary event was about to occur. At Barely Legal, Sabu and Taz faced off. This match had been built over a year as Taz had been calling Sabu out only for Sabu to ignore him. Taz won the match, and then was attacked by Van Dam after the match. In a shocker, Taz’s manager Bill Alfonso also turned on his charge and joined Van Dam and Sabu in the attack.

Also that month, a short-lived WWF/ECW partnership had seen Sabu appearing on Raw. This helped to aggravate Jerry Lawler’s antagonism of ECW’s Paul Heyman, which led to Lawler soon appearing on ECW television and allying with Sabu and Van Dam.

As Lawler kept Tommy Dreamer busy, Sabu made the most of his opportunity and defeated Terry Funk in August to win the World title. He kept the title for eight days before losing it to Shane Douglas.

In June of 1998, Sabu gained gold again as he and Rob Van Dam defeated Chris Candido and Lance Storm to win the tag team belts. They soon found themselves embroiled in a feud with the Dudley Boyz and lost the belts to them in October.

The Dudleys didn’t keep the titles long as they transitioned to Masato Tanaka and Balls Mahoney, then back to the Dudleys, before Sabu and Van Dam won the belts back in December.

December of 1998 was a golden month for Sabu. Not only did he have tag team gold, but he also defeated old foe Taz to win his FTW title. In March, Taz faced Sabu in a title vs. title match (Taz held the World title at the time). Taz knocked Sabu out to reclaim the FTW belt. The FTW belt then vanished, presumably unofficially unified with the ECW World title.

Also in March, the Dudleys recaptured the tag team titles. This ended Sabu’s final title reign in ECW.

By April of 2000, Sabu had left ECW and began competing on the independent circuit. He had actually been signed to a contract by WCW, but Paul Heyman, still upset over Mike Awesome’s departure and immediate WCW debut, started legal action. That action kept Sabu off WCW television until the company closed in 2001.

Since WCW was no longer an option, Sabu began working for XPW. He worked there from 2000 until 2001 and won their world title.

By 2002, Sabu had joined many other ECW and WCW stars who had not been signed by the WWF in Australia’s World Wrestling All-Stars.

Sabu would compete sparingly for TNA from 2002-2003. He returned full-time in 2004 when he joined Raven in his feud against Julio Dinero and CM Punk. After the former Gathering was disposed of, Sabu began facing off with Monty Brown and Abyss, who gained an easy advantage after Raven kept failing to come to his aid. Finally, Raven began playing mind games with Sabu to get him to agree to a match. Raven and Sabu had never faced off before, and the storyline went that both had made a promise to the late Sheik that they would never fight each other.

Angered by Sabu’s refusals, Raven began dishonoring the memory of the Sheik until Sabu finally snapped and attacked him. On August 4 Sabu lost a match to Raven. A promised rematch would not take place.

On August 14th, Sabu was in a three way match against Teddy Hart and AJ Styles when he suffered a severe back injury. While sidelined, he contracted a serious staph infection that nearly took his life. Fortunately, Sabu would make a full recovery.

Sabu returned to the ring in May and defeated N8 Mattson. In June, he took part in the first Hardcore Homecoming main event as he faced Terry Funk and Shane Douglas in a no ropes barbed wire match. Terry Funk eliminated Douglas, and then Sabu put down Funk with an Arabian facebuster. Cactus Jack counted the three to give him the win.

Two days later, at the WWE’s ECW One Night Stand, Van Dam and Bill Alfonso were conducting an in-ring interview when Rhino came out and gored the injured Van Dam. Suddenly the lights went out in a trademark ECW moment. When they came back up, Sabu was in the ring. Sabu went on to wrestle an impromptu match against Rhino and scored the win.

A month later, Sabu returned to TNA to again ally himself with Raven as Raven faced off against Jeff Jarrett and Rhino. Sabu would return to the land of the extreme at the end of the year as he defeated Abyss in a grisly barbed wire match.

After April 2006’s Lockdown, Sabu left TNA. He returned to the WWE, who were working feverishly on plans to relaunch ECW. Sabu’s tenure soon proved to be an unstable one as he and Van Dam were busted for possession in July. Still, Sabu paid a fine to the WWE and all appeared to be well. Still, by October Sabu had found himself on the losing end of matches almost all of the time.

As 2007 started, Sabu found himself as part of the ECW Originals vs. New Breed feud. He also had the opportunity (with Van Dam) to induct the Sheik into the WWE Hall of Fame. However, Sabu was released in May. He has since begun competing in Mexico for the AAA promotion.

Sabu is a wrestler who personified ECW. He never spoke, yet he still portrayed intensity. His body was covered with scars from his stay in FMW, and he was always willing to put his body on the line. Whenever the lights would go out in the ECW Arena and come back on to reveal him standing in the ring, it was a magical moment.

Although Sabu’s collection of belts is not as large as some, his wrestling style helped to bring the hardcore style into the mainstream almost before the mainstream was ready for it. Sabu had gotten released by WCW because of his brutal style, yet less than a year later they brought in Public Enemy, who got themselves over by putting people through tables.

Just as longtime wrestling fans can think of Hulk Hogan or the Ultimate Warrior and associate them with the WWF or Ric Flair and Sting with WCW, Sabu is truly someone who can be associated with ECW. For all his brawls around the world and innovation in the hardcore style, Sabu has definitely earned his place on this top 100 list.

The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.