For the past several years of Chris Brookes’ in-ring career, he has been wrestling in Japan, primarily for DDT Pro. Brookes has been wrestling for over a decade and has now established himself within the nucleus of DDT.
He is a former two-time and the first-ever DDT Universal Champion and as of this writing, he is currently holding the Asia Dream Tag Team Titles for the Gatoh Move promotion alongside his partner Masahiro Takanashi.
When Brookes came over to Japan, Takanashi was one of the first people to greet him and asked if he wanted to hang out outside of the workplace. Brookes told me during our interview that he’s appreciative of Takanashi for welcoming him into his circle.
Masa [Takanashi], he was like one of the first people who extended the hand of friendship unnecessarily when I first came to Japan and I think if you look at Gatoh Move and the history of different wrestlers that have come in, I think you can see instances in where he’s done that with a lot of people. He’s just an outgoing, nice person… Obviously, I was in DDT, but in the beginning I didn’t know anyone, especially on my first tour and he was one of the first people despite the language barrier, which especially on my first tour because I spoke no Japanese and at that time, Masa didn’t really speak much English at all but he would always make the effort to be like, ‘Oh, I’m going out with some people this day. You wanna come along to visit with whatever we’re doing or whatever? Or you do you wanna come to Ichigaya and watch a Gatoh Move show?’ So he’s just a nice, outgoing dude and I think if you just look at the people who are kind of in his bubble, they were in that Gatoh Move, Choco Pro bubble… he just surrounds himself with good people so I think that’s a good sign that he’s a nice person to be friends with. His circle is like a bunch of good people too.
In 2018 during PROGRESS Wrestling’s U.S. tour, Brookes’ partner in C.C.K., Kid Lykos, suffered an injury so Brookes suggested that the promotion bring in Jonathan Gresham who had teamed with Brookes before on a handful of occasions.
They went on to have a match with Santana and Ortiz that all four men recount as a memorable match along with their follow-up bout later that year. Chris dove into his friendship with Gresham and stories from their travels together and then went to discuss the matches they had with the former LAX.
In terms of Jon [Gresham], Jon used to come over to England and Europe really frequently around 2011, ‘12 and we ended up just hitting it off with each other. I think the first time we ever spoke was like at a Fight Club: PRO practice and we just got along really well and then it got to a situation where whenever he was staying in the U.K., he’d always just stay at my house and we’d just hang out together and Jon is like… or at least, especially he was then, I’m sure he still is the same today; he’s obsessed with wrestling. I really like wrestling but Jon is like obsessed. I won’t call it an unhealthy obsession [Brookes laughed]. I think it’s fine but my God, I remember we’d stay up late, order food, watch wrestling, hang out, you know? And then you pass out on the couch, go to sleep and I wake up the next morning and he’d already be awake watching wrestling again. He’d be up and his laptop in his — on his laptop, he had all his favorite matches saved and he’d just be up the next day just watching it again and he’d just go through matches over and over and over again. There’s a lot of people who watch a lot of wrestling and they’re like, ‘Oh, I love wrestling. I watch loads of wrestling’ or whatever but Gresham absorbs wrestling, he studies it. He’ll find a match that he likes and just over and over and over again and he breaks it down in his head. He’s like, why did they do that here? Why did they do that here? Why did this work? And like, he’s just obsessed with it and it makes sense that he’s such a great wrestler because he really is completely consumed by it and then the matches with L.A.X., I think if I’m not mistaken, the first one was a part of the PROGRESS Coast to Coast tour when they were doing the America tour I think. I believe it was that tour. Yeah, it must’ve been and I think that first one initially was supposed to be me and [Kid] Lykos and then it got changed during the course of that one week or two week, however long it was — America tour — because one of the first shows we did was in Boston and Lykos broke his collarbone in a match there so I think we were scheduled to tag most of that tour and then he broke his collarbone and PROGRESS were freaking out about it because obviously, they’ve flown everyone in, they have a limited roster and they were like, ‘Oh no. What are we gonna do?’ And I was like, ‘Well, Gresham’s in America since he lives there. We were the original C.C.K. before Lykos. You could try and get a hold of him and get him in.’ I don’t know if they had even used him at all up until that point and they reached out to him, it turned out that he could do it. They got him up to New York and then yeah, what a crazy, out of the blue kind of experience.
I wasn’t, prior to the match, too familiar with L.A.X. at the time. I actually remember, yeah, that match had some crazy energy about it. Sometimes, it always creeps up on you when you never expect it. You’ll get these matches where there’s just that energy and especially in the arena, the crowd’s just insane and that was one of those times where I don’t know if at that point, I’d ever wrestled at La Boom. I think it’s ‘La Boom’ in New York… yeah, the match happened and people just went ape sh*t for it and we ended up doing the sequel first in Manchester, England and then we did one in London as well and just every time, it was super cool. We just really clicked with L.A.X. right off the bat. I don’t think… I’m sure Gresham and L.A.X. have met previously and stuff but I don’t think they particularly have a connection as such until those matches happened either and just went great and now, I think when you have matches like the ones we had together, you’ve suddenly got this kinship, this friendship and now, whenever I see those L.A.X. guys, it’s like I’m seeing great friends that I’ve not seen in a long time but it feels like yesterday. We don’t keep in touch most of the time, you know? I’ll follow their socials and see what they’re up to but every time we’re in the same place, it’s like, ‘Oh!’ Yeah, those guys, those guys, they are crazy. They’re all good. So, so good. They blew my mind that day in New York. I was like, ‘Holy sh*t. These guys are insane and intense.’ I couldn’t — the speed of their — the speed and intensity of which they do things, they pull things off together is nutty so, I’m very happy for all the success they have. I think they really deserve it.
The same year those matches with Santana and Ortiz took place, Brookes was supposed to make his PWG debut as a part of their B.O.L.A. tournament. He had to pull out due to an undisclosed injury. Chris said that making his PWG debut is still on his bucket list and hopes to make it a reality one day.
I guess I think that was what? 2018 [was when I was supposed to debut for PWG]. So in ‘19, around the same time that PWG’s B.O.L.A. would have been happening because it’s always like September-time. I think around that time, I was getting ready to go to DDT again for the whole latter half of 2019 and that was when I did the first D-Oh Grand Prix for DDT and then every September following that has been Corona world so it’s not been possible so I mean, it’s still a bucket list thing, I’d like to do it one day. I think, like you said, there’s — not a ‘notch’. There’s that mark on your — you have your board of achievements for your entire career and there’s B.O.L.A. on there still with a question mark next to it because it never got to happen so, of course I’d like to do it. I mean, PWG now is a completely different kettle of fish to what it was years ago, especially when I started watching it because PWG was one of the first indie companies I watched back in like 2005, ‘06 and I mean, that was when they were still running — it was like a sports hall, before they had even gone to Reseda. So yeah, it’s very different but still obviously something I’d like to do at some point.
Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling is under the CyberFight umbrella which includes NOAH, DDT and Ganbare Pro Wrestling. Chris has had the opportunity to work with International Princess Champion Maki Itoh on multiple occasions.
He told the story of when Itoh was trying to teach him a dance for their tag match at DDT Ultimate Party 2019. Itoh felt that Brookes was not picking up the steps quick enough and grew frustrated with him. A fellow talent from DDT had to calm the situation down.
I remember the first time we [Brookes & Maki Itoh] ever teamed was — well not the first time but the first big match we had together was DDT’s Ultimate Party in 2019. It was almost like a very unfortunately, frequently used GIF of me doing Maki Itoh’s entrance dance that still three years later refuses to go away. But I remember I was trying to learn that dance before the show and it’s like my first time at Ryōgoku Sumo Hall so I’m like so nervous about that but then, before, I find myself not nervous about the match whatsoever. I’m just nervous about nailing this dance routine and trying to get it right and she keeps going through it and through it and through it and I’m like, I’m not a dancer so I’m struggling to pick it up and I remember at one point, she gets really angry with me. She’s like, ‘You’re not trying hard.’ I’m like, ‘I am trying hard. I’m not a dancer’ and she gets like — she was hot and it took Yuki Iino, DDT wrestler to come in and calm the situation down. I was like, ‘Enough of this. I’m doing my best. [Chris laughed]. I don’t need this stress today.’ She was like, ‘You need to try harder.’ I was like, ‘Why are you so mean?’
Before Chris became a constant in DDT Pro, he was presented with the opportunity to be part of WWE’s NXT UK brand. He opted not to accept and explained that Japan was always his goal and going to WWE was not something that peaked his interest.
Brookes recalled people saying he made a mistake by not joining WWE. He also spoke about a WWE tryout he participated in-in 2017 that Butch a.k.a. Pete Dunne convinced him to do.
For me, WWE was never my goal in wrestling. I think I watched WWE when I was a kid obviously and then when I was like 10 or 11 years old, I kind of had that period where I fell out of interest with wrestling for a little bit and then what got me back into it was there was a TV station called The Wrestling Channel for a short while in the U.K. and they would show a bunch of indie wrestling. It was the first time I saw Ring of Honor and CZW and they would show Pro Wrestling NOAH and stuff on there which kind of led me down the rabbit hole into discovering all the indie companies in Japan and me becoming a fan of Big Japan and DDT and stuff like that so, I don’t know if it’s necessarily — I think I just — I guess I just have a different perspective to a lot of people but I think sometimes people’s judgment gets stuck in one place in terms of goals maybe? Obviously, there’s a lot of my generation that came up watching WWF, WCW or in the Attitude, Monday Night Raw era or whatever and I think for a lot of people, they have the same story as me in like they found other things and they watched other things and that took their interest but, for whatever reason, their goal stays fixated on that one thing being WWE because it’s like, ‘Oh, I watched it when I was kid. That’s my dream, I wanna go there’ or whatever but I think you have to realistically look at it in a sense of even if that was what you loved growing up, it’s so different these days to what it was when you were a fan of it, when you were a kid or whatever and for me especially, I just look at WWE now and then a few years ago, it was just never a goal for me. My goal was always to go to Japan and do stuff over there and I never really had any interest in not even just going but like, I remember around the same time, there was a lot of people who like, they wanted a tryout so they could try and get an opportunity. It just never — even that didn’t appeal to me. I got offered the tryout I think in 2017… so I got offered the tryout thing first and I remember when they called me, I was like — I think I spoke to maybe Pete Dunne about it at the time and I was like, ‘They’ve offered me a tryout thing but I don’t think I’m gonna go.’ He was like, ‘What do you mean you’re not gonna go?’ I was like, ‘…There’s nothing that I wanna get out of it. It doesn’t feel worthwhile going’ and I think he convinced me. He was like, ‘Even if you don’t wanna get anything from it, you should still go just to get the experience’ which he’s right. I’m glad I got to do it and have that tryout [at] The O2 [Arena] and stuff. It was a cool two days and whatever and then when they decided they wanted to start the U.K. brand, I guess maybe a year or so after, they offered me a position in it, but they offered so many people contracts and whatever but like, they really cast a wide net at the time and they offered me one of the deals, same as the other guys and I thought about it.
I think the initial one was like a year or two years thing and I guess if that’s 2018, I was 27-ish around that time and my mentality towards it was like, of course it’s only two years or whatever but no one knew how it was gonna pan out, no one knew what the exclusivity to it would be and I didn’t feel done by any means with doing indie wrestling and stuff that I wanted to do and my goal was always Japan and I was like, if it’s two years, I’m 27, 28 now. By the time it ends, I’ll already be 29, 30, which is not old or near the end of your career but, I looked at those two years and I thought those two years, that period from 28 to 30, whatever it is, I think it’s important. Those are gonna be critical years to your development as a wrestler and you know, what you wanna do and I was like, I don’t wanna spend those years potentially in a situation that I don’t wanna be in or not enjoying it and my goal was Japan and I said no to the thing, which a lot of people at the time told me I was crazy, that I had like — at the time too, I had no in to Japan in any way. It was still a very unattainable thing. It was kind of like one of those quiet goals that you don’t wanna — I didn’t say to people at the time. I said no because I wanna go to Japan because it seemed like going to Japan — I couldn’t imagine it being a thing that would happen. It was just in the back of my mind. It was like, I’d love to do that one day and I don’t wanna potentially not be able to do it because of doing something that I really don’t wanna be doing and then everyone was like, ‘Oh, you’re an idiot, you’re stupid. Why did you say no?’ Blah, blah, blah… all that kind of jazz and I was like, ‘Eh, it’s fine, whatever.’
Following up on the quote above, months after he turned down the NXT UK opportunity, Chris worked a show for Trent Seven’s Fight Club: PRO promotion and Trent informed him that they would be having a show at Korakuen Hall in the new year.
Initially, Brookes did not believe it but when the time came, the show was held in Tokyo, Japan and it was there that Chris was seen by CyberFight President Sanshiro Takagi and Konosuke Takeshita which led to his first tour with DDT.
Maybe five or six months after [I turned down the NXT UK opportunity], everything was starting to move with that and then there was like a Fight Club: [PRO] show one time before, we arrived there and Trent Seven was like, ‘Big news.’ I was like, ‘What’s that?’ He was like, ‘Next January, Fight Club: PRO show at Korakuen Hall’ and I was like, ‘F*ck off. You’re not doing a Fight Club: PRO show at Korakuen’ [Brookes laughed]. Well Trent Seven would always have these ideas of these grand things that were gonna happen. I was like, ‘Yeah, bullsh*t. I’ll believe it when I’m on the plane’ and then January 2019, I was on the plane going to Tokyo, we did the show at Korakuen and it kind of worked out to be kind of like a festival show in itself where there was people from every company on the show. Because of that, a lot of prominent people in the Japanese indie scene and whatever came along to watch and it turned out Sanshiro Takagi came and watched, I met him backstage. I think Konosuke Takeshita went and watched it and he liked me and [Kid] Lykos and then we did that show in January. In maybe February or March, pretty soon after, [out] the blue one day, get an email that, ‘DDT wants to bring you over for a tour.’ So, it all worked out in the end, fortunately.
For the first time since February 2020, Brookes will be back in PROGRESS Wrestling this coming September. Chris is excited about heading back to the U.K. and mentioned that he has not seen his family in two years.
He added that he’s heard the U.K. scene is in much better hands now so he’s eager to see how things are and what new wrestlers have come forward.
Yeah, very excited [about the return to the U.K. for PROGRESS Wrestling]. More so just interested as well to see what’s going on there and now and what’s happening. Obviously, the scene’s very different to how it was a few years ago and from everything I hear from the people I’m still close to, the scene seems to be in much better hands now so I’m excited to see how it’s doing. Of course I’m excited to see what new people are coming up there.
Next up for Brookes is the 2022 King of DDT tournament and his first-round match takes place on June 16th.
Brookes can be found on Twitter @OBEYBrookes and on Instagram @christofarr. Our interview can be watched via the player at the beginning of this article or on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.