Whether it’s somebody you do or don’t know, a new face appearing in any wrestling promotion is always something worth being excited about. When Chris Dickinson made his surprise debut for NJPW on January 9th, social media quickly exploded in shock and delight that the Dirty Daddy was finally stepping foot in the cerulean blue ring. Whether you do or don’t know Dickinson, it became very clear very quickly, that something special had just happened.
To say it has been a long road to this moment for Dickinson would be radically unjust. He briefly began wrestling in 2002, before leaving the career behind until 2008. For the last 13 years, Dickinson has been a constant on the independent scene, but it’s the last few years that he has started to gain deserved attention. Evolve provided him a platform to compete against the best independent stars from across the globe such as Zack Sabre Jr. and Keith Lee, in turn bringing eyes upon himself. His matches in Bloodsport against MMA veterans Dan Severn and Josh Barnett gave Dickinson the chance to prove himself as a fighter. In 2019 alone, through Beyond and GCW, he stepped in the ring with the likes of Daisuke Sekimoto, Timothy Thatcher and Eddie Kingston, and he solidified a reputation as a hard-hitting hidden gem. If you had seen Dickinson, you knew that he was meant for something big, but not everybody had seen him.
2020 was set to change that and be the year for Dickinson. In February he completed his first Japanese tour, competing for GCW, ZERO1 and Pro Wrestling FREEDOMS, including a match in the hallowed Korakuen Hall. His WrestleMania week schedule was overflowing with potential; notably he was scheduled to face Shingo Takagi and Minoru Suzuki in singles matches. However, due to the pandemic, those matches were cancelled and Dickinson was left hollow. “It’s extremely demoralizing, especially for me.” He told Vice. “I had a lot riding on some of these matches and a lot of eyes on me.” It’s easy to believe that if those matches had gone ahead, he would have been showing up in a NJPW ring well before now.
Thankfully the remainder of year wasn’t a complete write off, as Dickinson won GCW’s Acid Cup in March and had the most high-profile match of his career: he stepped in the Bloodsport ring against (at the time AEW World Champion and IWGP US Heavyweight Champion) Jon Moxley! Although it was the biggest match of his career from an outside perspective, Dickinson himself would suggest you watch another match of his from 2020 instead: “If you could watch one match I would go pick up the GCW Japanese tour from February. I wrestled Yuji Okabayashi in my first match and it was a tremendous match” he told WrestleZone. “This was one of those matches where I said ‘this was it’ because it was the culmination of twenty years of working my ass off and living my dream, which is to wrestle in Japan.” Relatively unknown when compared to Moxley, Dickinson recommending his match with Okabayashi speaks volumes to where his intentions have always lain. The dream for Dickinson has always been Japan.
You don’t have to watch many Dickinson matches or be following him on social media long before you quickly realise that he is a huge Japanese pro-wrestling fan. His Twitter is alive with recommendations of vintage matches, spanning NJPW, AJPW, UWFI, and beyond. He even made his NJPW debut in purple gear, a homage to former IWGP Heavyweight Champion and MMA legend Nobuhiko Takada. Every wrestler will make the case that whichever promotion they are competing for has always been their dream, but with Dickinson, it hits differently. There’s an air of authenticity that surrounds him, whether it be on the microphone or when piledriving heads through the mat. It’s something that cannot be taught, and it’s that difficult to manufacture sincerity and honesty that sets Dickinson apart from others. This is a man who loves pro-wrestling, and now that he’s with New Japan he will be able to showcase that love.
Dickinson is a wrestler you would show to those who say “wrestling is fake.” He is a fighter. Everything he does has meaning, and it all hurts – his MMA background and training with Josh Barnett give weight to his aggressiveness. A match with Dickinson is assured war: deadly kicks that would make Toshiaki Kawada proud and chops that would make Kenta Kobashi smile. Dickinson would fit immediately in among the glory days of Japanese wrestling; it’s not difficult to imagine him stepping into a sold out Nippon Budōkan for 1980s or 1990s AJPW. The Japanese influence radiates in all his matches, whether he is hitting a Tatsumi Fujinami dragon screw or throwing up the Keiji Muto hands before hitting a Shining Wizard. Given how much they both hate their necks, I imagine Kota Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito will be giddily awaiting their chance to be thrown around by Dickinson’s savage suplexes.
For now, Dickinson will be making his mark as part of Team Filthy on New Japan Strong. The real fun will begin when Dickinson can get to Japan and step in the ring with the main roster. Dream matches that we are drooling over are likely dream matches for Dickinson himself. A heavyweight beast, he’ll most easily fit in with the hoss-enthused NEVER division, matches against the likes of Shingo Takagi, Tomohiro Ishii and Minoru Suzuki will be guaranteed to turn heads. He’ll likely be eager to step into the ring with the veterans like Yuji Nagata too, a chance to test himself against those who wrote the books he now learns from.
Dickinson is the real deal, and this is hopefully the beginning of something truly special for him. After almost two decades of incremental steps he is where he belongs, finally under the NJPW banner. After the years of non-stop intensity, the final few steps to regularly competing in Japan are now a close reality rather than a dream, and once he gets on that plane there is no limit to what he might achieve. A shot at the NEVER Openweight Championship is the obvious path, the vast majority of fans already declaring him a future holder of that title – beyond that it would be momentous to see him challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight or Intercontinental titles. As a fan, he respects and cherishes the tradition and prestige of New Japan and their titles. Often, the best moments in wrestling are when the lines between reality and fiction are blurred: Dickinson challenging for New Japan titles is guaranteed to be one of those moments.
“When I envisioned the ultimate destination of where I can truly be a professional wrestler, on the grandest stage, and the highest level, the lion mark is the only symbol that calls to me.” – Chris Dickinson