Date: Early 1990s (exact date unknown)
Location: Japan (exact location unknown)
Source: Highspots.com, thesmartmarks.com, Armpit reader Big M
Before he became an ECW icon, Sabu made his name in the Frontier Martial Arts (FMW) promotion in Japan. FMW was run by Atsushi Onita, and Sabu made a name for himself there, often wrestling with his uncle, The Sheik, in hardcore matches that left numerous scars on his body.
FMW, like many Japanese promotions, had ties and connections to the Yakuza. The Yakuza is the name of the Japanese mob in Japan, and they’d often buy tickets to the show in bulk. They’d take up large sections of the buildings for themselves, or sell them to other people. At one particular FMW show, a group of about 50 Yakuza members were sitting in the front, including the mob boss. Onita had warned the wrestlers about this ahead of time, since FMW featured a lot of out of the ring brawling and he didn’t want them doing so in front of the mob members. Onita even told them which section they were sitting in.
Sabu was on the card, accompanied to the ring as usual by Tiger Jeet Singh. During the match, Sabu did one of his dives into the crowd. One version is that he didn’t care the Yakuza was there, and another version (his own) is that he did know but the dive wasn’t intentional. Either way, some of the Yakuza members got in his face. One of them threw a punch at Singh, and that started a mini riot when Sabu went after Singh’s attacker.
We’ve seen no documentation as to whom Sabu was wrestling that night, but the riot/brawl spilled into the locker room. Multiple men were beating on Sabu, when Mike Awesome (who wrestled for FMW as the Gladiator) heard the commotion. At first he thought it was just part of the match and that the brawl went backstage, but he saw everyone beating Sabu and quickly realized what was going on. One of the mobsters was trying to bash Sabu’s head in with a chair, so Awesome knocked him down. He threw a couple of other guys off of Sabu and dragged him quickly to the dressing room area and locked the door.
Awesome was 6’-4” and almost 300 pounds, and very agile. The Yakuza were nowhere near his size, but still, there were dozens of them. Awesome was brave to fight them off, and he claimed he and Sabu had to stay in the locker room for two hours while Onita tried to work his magic and calm them down enough for them to leave. Hayabusa was also on the show and claimed it was four hours, but that may be exaggerated. Security was guarding the door and the Yakuza refused to leave, but Onita had enough clout with them that they eventually backed off.
One report stated that Sabu was wrestling Mike Awesome when this incident happened, but that is not the case. Awesome was backstage minding his own business when the match took place.
It was likely one of the scariest moments of Sabu’s life, but he could’ve avoided it if he had listened to Onita and avoided brawling into the crowd like he had warned him not to.