Inside G128 is an in-depth look at the 20 participants of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s 2018 version of the G1 Climax tournament. The G1 is considered to be the most prestigious tournament in wrestling. Every individual in the field has their own unique story, as they prepare to make their claim as the best endurance wrestler in the world.
The 45-year-old “Unchained Gorilla” Togi Makabe is in his twenty-first year as a member of New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). During his long career, he has become an IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 2x IWGP Tag Team Champion, and 2x NEVER Openweight Champion. In 2009, Makabe was able to win the G1 Climax, a tournament he has competed in every year since 2004.
In March of this year, Makabe unsuccessfully challenged Minoru Suzuki [19:04] for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship at the NJPW 46th Anniversary Show. His performance during the match, and his consecutive G1 appearance streak, led to him gaining an entry in the ‘A Block’ this year over competitors David Finlay, Yujiro Takahashi, and Taichi. However, Makabe is going to need a strong performance for this to not be his last ever G1.
Below is a list of Makabe’s G1 opponents, the date he wrestles them, and his G1 record against them:
Yoshi-Hashi, July 14th, 1-0
Minoru Suzuki, July 16th, 0-1
Evil, July 20th, 0-0
Kazuchika Okada, July 22nd, 1-3
Hiroshi Tanahashi, July 27th, 2-7-1
Bad Luck Fale, July 30th, 0-3
Hangman Page, August 2nd, 0-0
Jay White, August 5th, 0-0
Michael Elgin, August 10th, 0-0
His July 16th matchup against the newly crowned British Heavyweight Champion, Minoru Suzuki, could result in Makabe challenging for the title later in the year if he’s able to secure a victory. However, his July 27th match against Hiroshi Tanahashi stands out.
While one of his losses against Tanahashi came by forfeit in 2005, he has only been able to defeat the ‘Ace’ one-time in their nine previous G1 matches. The two wrestled to a draw [30:00] during 2009.
If Makabe is going to have a respectable showing he will need wins over Michael Elgin, Hangman Page, and YOSHI-HASHI. Any other victories for him would have to be considered as a bonus for Makabe and his fans. Although, it wouldn’t be surprising if he were only able to score four points (two wins) during block action.
Perhaps with his Great Bash Heel (GBH) tag team partner, Tomoaki Honma returning from injury in June we could see an inspired Makabe pick up several upset victories.
Makabe has compiled the following record during his G1 entries:
49 Total Wins (47 Total Block Wins
57 Total Losses (55 Total Block Losses)
2 Total Draws
1-1 IN G1 FINALS
45.3 Winning Percentage
Makabe made it to the semi-final round in 2007 and 2009, during the era of the tournament commonly having the extra round of competition. He would lose to Tanahashi in 2007 [15:24]. In 2008 (no semifinal round), Hirooki Goto would defeat Makabe in the G1 finals [22:25]. In 2009, he would defeat Takashi Sugiura (NOAH) and Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE) in the semi-final and finals in 2009.
It’s hard to say just how much fire Makabe has left to keep him competitive in singles competition, yet throughout his career, he has commonly overcome doubts of him not being considered a headliner when compared to other members of the NJPW roster. He faced those same doubts at Wrestling Dontaku in May 2010 when he defeated Nakamura [18:18] for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Does Makabe have another surprise in hand for his doubters, or has the new generation surpassed him?