As the calendar flips over to December, along with the cavalcade of festivities comes time to decide our respective Wrestler of the Year. I’ve shortlisted five names who are in the running for my personal Wrestler of the Year selection, with each being featured in their own piece. My third pick is most likely outside the box, as I’m selecting DDT star (and ChocoPro highlight) Chris Brookes.
While he lacks a mass of surefire Match of the Year contenders, Chris Brookes has showcased a consistent quality of sturdy plenitude. My previous two picks, Shingo Takagi and Katsuhiko Nakajima, showcased a host of MOTY caliber outings during 2021. Even though Brookes has had at least one match of that class, it remains a lower overall figure than the rest.
Chris Brookes is still deserving of his spot on my five, because he’s proved an invaluable asset to both DDT and more discreetly, ChocoPro. The latter isn’t a promotion I watch, but from reliable recommendations it seems blatant that his work there is of great quality, even if it’s not to the tastes of all.
Before I swim into the unique waters of ChocoPro, I’ll look at Brookes’ work in DDT over the past 12 months. Shining above all of his other bouts is his Match of the Year level encounter with KO-D Openweight Champion and Ace of DDT, Konosuke Takeshita (Who’s Gonna Top, Sept 26th). They worked a fantastic match, with Brookes placing his attention on the right arm of the champion. As Takeshita does ever so well, he sold the attacks. Eventually, after a to-and-fro battle, Brookes was beaten. He worked solidly, believably and energetically as an underdog against his grand opponent, in what was the brightest highlight of his year.
Brookes’ shine continued into the DDT D-Ou Grand Prix, where he impressed in multiple strong outings against various DDT top-line talent.
The palpable chemistry that exudes through Takeshita and Brookes’ matches was just as clear in their DDT D-Ou Grand Prix face-off (Nov 7th) as it was in their title clash just over a month prior. Brookes has a true desire and passion for pro wrestling, which is delightfully assertive in his work. He’s a determined wrestler – and that shows!
Brookes also impressed in matches against HARASHIMA (Nov 6th), Yuji Okabayashi (Nov 10th) and Kazusada Higuchi (Nov 13th). The three matches dazzled in their own unique ways, with the HARASHIMA match taking on a submission, technical-proficient style. The clash with Okabayashi was a stunning example of brutality in wrestling, as the trading of chops sent gunshot-esque sounds reverberating around the tightly-packed venue. The match with Higuchi showed this same intensity, as arm work, chops and brawling populated a quickly escalating fight.
Chris Brookes is known for his uniqueness in pro wrestling and DDT could be described as the conventional home of the unconventional, so it’s no surprise that Brookes has had some peculiar matches this year.
None reached the level of the extravagance that was his Grand Prix match against rival MAO (Nov 14th). They engaged in a comedic brawl of epic proportions, with a flurry of unique, clever comedy spots. Brookes and MAO didn’t just wrestle inside the ring, being also around the arena and in the car park! It was a laugh a minute – superb comedy wrestling!
Speaking of unique wrestling, Brookes has been a figurehead of ChocoPro in 2021. It’s one of the oddest instances of wrestling, Brookes has shone as a headline figure.
His 30 minute Iron-Person match with infrequent AEW presence LuLu Pencil (July 22nd) has been the highlight of his year in ChocoPro. In his feud with Pencil, Brookes played the core antagonist of what was ChocoPro’s most prominent and well-received rivalry. The rivalry, and concluding Iron-Person match, provided a heartbeat to the year in ChocoPro by reaching beyond the promotion’s small (yet proud) fanbase.
A few years ago, stationed in the polluted BritWres scene, seemingly to be forever connected to his Schadenfreude partners, it looked impossible that Brookes would ever be near anyone’s Wrestler of the Year conversation – never mind my own. Yet, here we are.
Chris Brookes has impressed widely in a year where being outside of the box has become even more important than it was before. He’s not like Katsuhiko Nakajima. He’s not like Shingo Takagi. He’s not like my other two picks. But, that’s why he’s on my list.
Brookes is an especially unique commodity in an industry that demands it, and with a very exciting 2021 in the books, his rise is set to escalate beyond just a few Wrestler of the Year conversations.
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