RVD & Sabu—The Extreme Rivalry

The Epic Tag Team

Without a doubt, RVD and Sabu made up one of the most memorable tag teams in wrestling history. Not only did these two share the same love of high-flying acrobatics, but they both had a flare for the “extreme” hardcore attacks. What brought these two together and what impact did they have on wrestling?

Fate Brought Them Together

After Rob graduated high school in1989 while working bagging groceries Tom Bennett, came through. Rob knew it was meant to be. Tom was being trained at The Original Sheiks Wrestling School, and Rob knew he had to go. Luckily it was only 40 minutes from his home. When Rob got there, they brought him out to train with Sabu, the Sheik’s Nephew.

Why Sabu?

Sabu and Rob have been frenemies from day one. There could have been no other teammate closer to Rob’s heart and style than Sabu (a three-time World Heavyweight Champion himself). Sabu, aka “The Homicidal, Suicidal, Genocidal, Death–Defying Maniac,” also used a mixed style of high-flying and hardcore wrestling.

Backyard Beginnings 

In the Legendary Sheik’s Wrestling School, located in his backyard in Detroit, the dynamic duo came together, but not as friends at first. There has never been a more innovative, contentious, and legendary frenemy tag-team than Rob and Sabu. Both equipped with a hardcore wrestling style, they found their own way to ECW by way of Japan. While in Japan they had arguably the most notable feud & partnership in all of wrestling. 

Their Epic First Showdown 

They first clashed in the ECW at Hostile City Showdown (April 1996). Right off the bat, there was an undeniable chemistry between the two “Extreme” athletes. Rob flipped into the ring, as Sabu (Samu as the announcer referred to him) slid in like a snake. The crowd watched on unsure of what to expect from Sabu (aka the mystery man) and Rob (referred to by his last name, Zakowski). The tension was thick, but the pair moved with such lightning speed, if you blinked, you’d miss something. 

 From bell to bell, it was hit for hit, pin for pin. Neither opponent wasted a single second of energy. For every one of Rob’s high flying acrobat attacks, Sabu returned with a double fisted punch.  The energy inside the squared circle was hot.  After a few kicks to the face, Rob climbed up the ropes for his final assault, when Sabu’s partner tripped up Rob’s feet, and he slipped and hit the mat hard. Sabu didn’t waste the opportunity and pinned Rob 

Rob Van Dam & Sabu vs Hayabusa & Jinsei Shinzaki- ECW Heatwave ’98

RVD & SABU Energy, the Secret to ECW Success

Under the management of Bill Alfonso, both RVD and Sabu landed single careers where they fought and won gold. Together they also clawed to a tag-team gold. Side by side, for the first time in the hallowed halls of the ECW arena (1998), they defeated Chris Candido & Lance Storm. The hardcore duo helped push ECW into some of its most exciting years. With their constant feuding with each other and other ECW Legends (like Taz, Bam Bigelow, & Shane Douglas) they helped define ECW as the unpredictable Extreme Wrestling it is still famed for. 

In 1998 they defended their tag team title in one of the most epic matches of all time—Heatwave ’98 (arguably the greatest wrestling show of all time). Rob Van Dam and Sabu against Hayabusa and Jinsei Shinzaki in an epic ECW vs FMW showdown. This memorable match was not only at the peak of extreme, but it went down in history with some of the most epic hardcore feats in all wrestling history like when RVD and Sabu double leg dropped Hayabusa and Jinsei Shinzaki through a table.  

Their Achilles Heal  

With Manager Bill Alfonso’s perfect timing and positioning of the steel chair, RVD & Sabu became one of the hottest tag-teams in North America. They were unstoppable, even when they were at each other’s throats. In constant turmoil, they pulled together a championship win, but as good as they were this dynamic duo’s strength was also their undoing. The two were never on the same page, and their dynamic partnership ended in 1999 when Sabu started to attack Van Dam. Sabu announced at the start of the match if he didn’t win the belt, he would leave ECW. Van Dam defeated Sabu with the Five Star Frog Splash, and Sabu left. 

RVD & Sabu together backstage

RVD & Sabu, Friends for Life

Rob and Sabu will be friends through thick and thin. From the humble beginnings in the SHeik’s backyard in Detroit where they learned the hardcore wrestling style that changed and made the ECW, to the side of the road when the cop pulled Rob over for speeding, Sabu was there. Behind bars, Sabu was there. Through titles and losses, injuries and life after wrestling, this epic pair (though enemies on screen at times) they have been and will be friends for life. Give a shout out to RVD & SABU! Share your favorite dynamic duo moment. Share a pack of gummies with your friend for life.

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