chris dickinson

Chris Dickinson: NJPW STRONG’s Growth Has Been ‘Incredible’, There’s No Ceiling

Chris Dickinson has been with NJPW Strong from the start, and now that he’s back in action, he wants to help the brand keep reaching new heights.


“The Dirty Daddy” suffered a severe hip injury at NJPW Battle of the Valley in September, but he recently returned to the ring. Since then, he has continued to shine; most recently, he picked up a win in a 10-man tag team bout at NJPW Windy City Riot on April 16. This event was the latest show in NJPW‘s stateside run in recent months, and it reflected the growth of the New Japan STRONG brand, which began in 2020 as a response to the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, the promotion wanted to expand into the United States, but when travel restrictions limited its ability to do so, the STRONG brand allowed performers based in America to compete under the NJPW banner. Two years later, the brand has continued to evolved, as it has transformed into a touring branch of NJPW within the United States.

In a recent interview with WrestleZone, Dickinson looked back on the early days of STRONG and noted that, from the start, he was excited to be a part of it. He went on to describe how the locker room genuinely feels like a team, and everyone involved wants to keep the brand’s momentum going.

“We started this thing in front of nobody in Oxford, California, in a closed studio,” said Dickinson. Literally if there was no commentary happening during the match, and they piped it in after or whatever, in the middle of a match, if there was a moment of silence or something, you could hear a pin drop. I always looked back to those times as I never cared that wasn’t fans. I just was so grateful to be there in the first place and so excited to be in a New Japan ring. And I thrived in those environments, I always thought with the no fans, because you gotta turn your intensity up like doubled because you have to do everything you possibly can to really punch through that camera lens to the people watching at home. You can’t rely on the energy of the audience.

“And we have a group of guys there from the beginning with a mix of the LA Dojo guys and the guys who were kind of with STRONG from the start, and the guys who have come in [since] It’s such a great environment and a great locker room and such a good group of guys. I’ve never felt more comfortable and grateful for the guys around me and just shared culture and shared goal, and you just really feel like you’re part of a team with the group of guys we got over there. And to see now how it’s just manifesting and now that fans have come back and the shows are doing great, and we’re starting to really get the ball rolling and there’s more coming and more coming.”

When asked about the ceiling of the NJPW STRONHG brand, the reigning UWN World Champion shared his belief that there’s no limit to where it can go because it keeps rolling. He then commended NJPW for adapting to the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and making a success out of the STRONG product. Dickinson then made it clear that he’s proud that he’s played a part in its evolution.

“It just keeps growing and growing right before our eyes,” said Dickinson. “It seems like there really is no ceiling right now, which is exactly what I’m sure New Japan Pro-Wrestling wanted. It seemed like they had a pretty strong idea of this expansion into the United States before the pandemic and I really commend them on just working around the issues and tackling the pandemic stuff and doing their best to really get it together and still continue the expansion and try something different.

“I think New Japan’s done such an incredible job with that. Because they’re a company that exists in a completely different culture in a completely different country on the other side of the world, and they have started this entirely different side of things over here to be able to cater to a lot of the foreign talent that can’t get into Japan because of the visa situation. And that way, they’ll find new guys, they’ll find their new stars and give opportunities for the guys over there to come over here and mix it up. It’s incredible to see it grow and be a part of it and to have a hand in it. I mean that’s the most important part for me, is to look back and say well hey, I had a part in it, I have a piece of that.”

Dickinson also gave NJPW credit for offering fans two totally different brands with its Japan-based company and the STRONG brand, which calls the United States home. He called the company’s wrestling the most “superior” product out there and highlighted the variety it presents.

“They’re going above and beyond to produce two entirely different sections of a company, running touring brands in two different countries during all of this and kind of trying to evolve past it and continue to grow,” said Dickinson, “New Japan, with everything going on, is still putting on the most superior in-ring product and is offering such a huge variety and offering two completely different shows. You have a Japanese version of New Japan Pro Wrestling and you have NJPW STRONG. I mean what more could you ask for? You know, there’s plenty to watch. If you don’t like that, I don’t know what to tell you. Because that’s gotta be something that you like in all that.”

Looking ahead, Dickinson emphasized that his top goal is to wrestle in Japan for NJPW this year, and he suggested several ways this objective could become a reality.

“I really hope we get to go back to Japan this year,” said Dickinson. “That is like my number one goal, that is really it, like you’ll have to kill me man, because I will never stop until that happens. That’s definitely number one. I hope we definitely get to go to Japan in some capacity, whether it’s touring for New Japan Pro-Wrestling, maybe we bring the STRONG brand over there and we do something with that.

“Just getting back to wrestling in Japan, especially for New Japan Pro-Wrestling, that’s a life goal of mine. That is something that absolutely needs to happen. So I’m really looking forward to that becoming a reality.”

Dickinson will face Hiroshi Tanahashi, one of NJPW’s top stars, at NJPW Collision in Philadelphia on May 15. He recently signed a contract with the promotion and commented on the news by saying “the future is brighter than ever.”

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