INTERVIEW: Daniel Makabe talks winning wXw’s AMBITION tourney, Timothy Thatcher

Andrew Thompson chatted with Daniel Makabe and they discussed Makabe's return to wrestling in October of 2020, working with Fred Yehi & more.

 

Throughout Daniel Makabe’s career in pro wrestling, his talents have been able to take him across the map to perform. On top of wrestling, Daniel is a musician and has traveled outside of his home country of Canada and outside of the United States to play music.

Daniel was one of many talents in wrestling that had a four-to-five-month layoff in 2020 stemming from the Coronavirus pandemic. Due to strict travel restrictions in British Columbia, Canada, Daniel did not wrestle until October of 2020 and he took on Lee Moriarty for SUP Wrestling during The Collective weekend. Throughout that period between March and October, Daniel admittedly faced bouts of depression because he was not able to wrestle and restrictions for wrestling were tight where he resides.

“My last matches were in March overseas and then I didn’t wrestle for almost seven months and then came back and had the one match in October as a part of The Collective against Lee Moriarty, which got a lot of people talking again and then it was kind of radio silence for me because we have very strong restrictions here, especially here in British Columbia so, not only can you not promote shows currently, you can’t even train currently. The gyms are all closed and I can’t — I mean I can cross the U.S. border but it’s not easy. It’s quite difficult so, not being able to wrestle for the majority of the year, right as things started to really seemingly happen for me, definitely caused some stress and I like to think I’ve kind of adapted and I’m in the new routine, whatever the new normal is. That’s a term people have been throwing around a lot in 2020, the new ‘normal’. But… it’s definitely led to some down moments and some bouts of depression because it’s such a huge part of my life and I was really kind of getting into a groove of every weekend, going somewhere new whether it’s all over the U.S. or as far as the east coast to Canada or the east coast to the U.S. or to Europe and my weekends were kind of full with seeing all these familiar faces and meeting new faces and new fans and so yeah, that’s been an adjustment for sure and kind of having the self-realization of like, ‘Wow, this has become a really important part of your life in the last few years’ as things have started to happen for me so…”

A week before the pandemic, Makabe worked a number of shows in Germany for wXw. He took on Eddie Kingston in the first round of the 16 Carat Gold tournament and went on to defeat Chris Ridgeway in the finals of the AMBITION 12 tournament. Daniel detailed the vibe and atmosphere at 16 Carat week/weekend and how that crowd was one of the biggest he’s worked in front of when it comes to independent wrestling.

As he was speaking about his tournament win, he mentioned the signature shirts that were given to the competitors in the tournament that had the faces of past winners on it. He’s hoping to see his own face added to the next batch of shirts for the next 16 Carat Gold tournament.

“So it was my second time going over for wXw. It was actually my first 16 Carat weekend so, and 16 Carat is their biggest weekend of the year. I guess it’s comparative to a WrestleMania weekend where you can go to shows all day for like four or five straight days, you know? So they run this big building in — it’s kinda in the middle of nowhere. It’s this big kinda warehouse looking thing called the Turbinenhalle. They do such a good job of the lights and the set and the stage and the video screens that it feels like this massive event and they were the biggest crowds I’d ever worked in front of. There was like 1,100 each night and I think the Saturday night was 1,600 people which for independent wrestling, that’s pretty big, when I’m used to working in front of maybe 200 people so, and yeah you’re quite right, I did win the AMBITION tournament that weekend. AMBITION 12, which was huge. It was my third time doing an AMBITION tournament for them, which for those not aware, it’s more of a shoot-style wrestling, kind of like a UFC. It’s submissions and amateur wrestling and hard strikes. You can only win by submission or knockout and to win the tournament, you gotta win three matches back-to-back-to-back like the old school one night eight-man tournaments so, the fact that they had the confidence in me to go all the way and win the thing was amazing. As someone who’s such a fan of the style and the amount of people — we all got a shirt at the beginning of that weekend with the AMBITION logo on it and they go, ‘Okay, can you wear this during the pre-show ceremony where you all [are] gonna come out?’ The faces on this shirt, it’s like Tim Thatcher, WALTER, Zack Sabre, Bryan Danielson. I’m trying to think of some other ones but all previous winners of this tournament and now it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m one of those guys too.’ Maybe next year, they come out with a new shirt, my face will be on it, right? That’s crazy. To be in the same kind of ballpark as those guys is humbling.”

WrestleMania weekend 2020, Daniel was scheduled to wrestle Fred Yehi for Pizza Party Wrestling’s show. It was supposed to be a rematch from their bout at Pizza Party’s event in 2019 during WrestleMania weekend. Makabe had high praise for Yehi and feels that he’s criminally underrated and doesn’t get why he isn’t signed to a major wrestling company. Yehi shared similar sentiments about Makabe during our interview.

Fred Yehi has recently been working with Ring of Honor coming out of his performance in their Pure Title tournament. Daniel Makabe credited Fred for being a part of a breakout match in his career.

“Fred Yehi is criminally underrated. The fact that he’s not signed to a major promotion. He’s so good, very smart. He’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever been in there [with]. I’m probably a good four, five inches taller than Fred and he was tossing me around like I was a child and I didn’t have a choice in the matter. So strong, so much energy and just cardio for days so, we did wrestle. That was kind of a big breakout for me actually. Getting to wrestle Fred in New Jersey right before WrestleMania last year in New York, New Jersey area for Pizza Party [Wrestling’s] first show. That was huge and the fact that, yeah, I mean we kind of hit it off real well and he’s a super nice guy and I was really looking forward to the rematch. We were supposed to wrestle this past April in Tampa like you mentioned, for Pizza Party, its like one-year anniversary show. Kind of a nod back to the first time and so yeah, Fred Yehi’s work is so good, it’s so — going back to when I’m talking about guys like Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak and those guys who really had the standout matches for me early in the pandemic, Fred Yehi is the guy like that who works so snug and so realistic and he’s just so good at what he does.”

The 3-2-1 Battle promotion based in Seattle, Washington was home to Makabe for several years. The promotion is no longer running due to internal issues but Daniel admitted that he would not be where he is wrestling-wise if it wasn’t for 3-2-1. It was in that promotion for three straight years that he had three matches with Timothy Thatcher. Makabe looks back fondly on those matches and working with now-NXT talent Tim Thatcher. Their first and third match[es] can be found by clicking on the highlighted text.

 

“Those are huge. They’re easily the most important and best series of matches I’ve ever had in my life. You know, the first one we mentioned was really kind of the catalyst of me getting out of the Northwest and people kind of starting to know the name. The second one was literally — they kind of happened in success of summer so July 2017, 2018, 2019. The first two were the regular kind of venue in Seattle. The third one was actually at The Showbox which it’s like a really famous concert venue in Seattle that like Nirvana and Pearl Jam and all these huge bands played back in the day. It’s like a big, 1,000 cap room and so getting to wrestle there was huge and I wrested Jonathan Gresham in that same room. But getting to have the final match with Tim Thatcher in that room was so important to me, and honestly, getting to work with him I think really helped me develop who I am as a wrestler now and putting more importance on things that I always kind of knew were important but now it’s sort of like, ‘Oh yeah, this is how I want to wrestle. This is who I’m going to be. This is how I’m going to stand out and be different and make my matches feel important,’ and I learned so much just from working with him.”

In early 2020, Thatcher signed with WWE and that was not a move Makabe thought Thatcher would make. He added that he’s very happy for Thatcher’s success, how he’s been presented on NXT programming and the style of wrestling that Thatcher brings to the brand.

“I’m very happy for him [Timothy Thatcher] for where he’s gone and I never in a million years would’ve expected Tim Thatcher to be on NXT, but honestly, you need guys like him. It all comes back to talking about in pandemic wrestling, you need guys who add that level of realism and who add that really hard and really snug [style] with their movements and with their holds and stuff, especially for working in front of small crowds or no crowd whatsoever and I just think he’s a throwback. He’s an easy person to boo or hate in modern wrestling and so, I think he’ll do well there. I just never expected to see it so, and I’m glad I got to wrestle him before he went on to bigger and better things.”

At the conclusion of our interview, Daniel Makabe was sure to mention that whenever he’ll be back wrestling, his Twitter @danielmakabe is the place to keep up with his next move. Daniel can also be found on Instagram @danielmakabe.

The full interview with Makabe can be found at the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel or can be watched via the player at the top of this article.

About Andrew Thompson 1115 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.