The New Japan Pro Wrestling star prides real fights over theatrics.
Standing at 1.81m tall and weighing 110 kg, Togi Makabe has the ideal build for a professional wrestler. Not only that, his fierce fighting style, which earns him the stage name “unchained gorilla”, also makes him a perfect fit for the theatrical nature in his field.
But the veteran of 19 years stressed that professional wrestling is more than mere entertainment.
“Wrestling is not just entertainment. It is real,” the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) star told The UrbanWire through an interpreter. “It’s the real fight that we want to show the audience of Singapore.”
Mr Makabe was in town in Nov 2016 for the Wrestling World tournament with his fellow NJPW crew.
Founded in 1972 by Antonio Inoki, NJPW is the 2nd largest wrestling organization in the world in terms of attendance and revenue – just behind the United States’ World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
NJPW has hosted tournaments such as Wrestle Kingdom and World Tag League. Its live shows are available on television and online. Many international pro-wrestling superstars such as Brock Lesnar and Shinsuke Nakamura have competed at their events.
Winner of the 2010 International Wrestling Grand Prix (IWGP) Heavyweight Championship, Mr Makabe shares what it takes to be a NJPW wrestler.
Urbanwire: What made you go into pro-wrestling and this industry in particular?
Makabe: When I was in primary 4, about 10 years old, the popular show on Friday nights was wrestling. I grew up watching Tiger Mask, Inoki as well as Choshu. I got inspired by how they were like on TV.
UrbanWire: What do you think are the top 3 qualities that a NJPW wrestler must have?
Makabe: A wrestler should reach 180cm and 90kg. Those are the basic requirements. On top of that, you need to have a very pure heart. If you don’t have a pure heart, you wouldn’t have the ambition to be a wrestler, then it’s not going to work out. It’s best if you are interested in wrestling too.
You have to be very straight forward and know what you want, or you won’t be able to know when you can have your debut match. You have to invest a lot of emotions in wrestling. It is going to be a tiring and arduous journey.
UrbanWire: Do you have any figure of inspiration in wrestling?
Makabe: Currently, I don’t. But when I was younger, I looked up to Antonio Inoki. His fighting spirit is something that really inspired me.
UrbanWire: How do you prepare for a big match or event?
Makabe: For me, my training regime stays the same, whether there’s a match or not. Everyday is a serious day for me, there is no such thing as training half-heartedly. If we are half-hearted, it will not work out well when we go for matches.
On bad days when we are not able to train as (intensely as) usual, we would get scolded by our seniors. Wrestling is not just entertainment, it is real.
Only if you’re whole-hearted can you be a wrestler who’s trusted by the company. This is when you get to go for the big matches. If you don’t show this constant conscientious effort everyday, you might not get selected for the big matches. It is about creating trust with your company.
UrbanWire: Which is the most memorable match in your career?
Makabe: My most memorable match would be the one against Shinsuke Nakamura where I brought him down to win the championship title.
UrbanWire: How is the response for NJPW in Singapore? What are some of NJPW’s future plans?
Makabe: The response in Singapore has been very good. What NJPW and I aim to show Singaporeans is the real fight style – the strong fight style in New Japan Pro Wrestling. You would notice that there is not so much of entertainment and it’s the real fight that we want to show the audience of Singapore. As compared to other styles of pro-wrestling, this is different and will display the authentic side of NJPW.
Wrestling World 2016 In Singapore featured a star-studded line-up consisting 24 of Japan’s finest pro-wrestlers including wrestling legend Jushin Thunder Liger, popular heel group Los Ingobernables de Japon and rising star Kazuchika Okada.
The event, which was held at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, attracted 1,300 spectators.