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DRAGONGATE’s Braveheart: A Candid Conversation With U-T

U-T shows off his tag team title belt

DRAGONGATE’s Braveheart: A Candid Conversation With U-T

U-T is seated at a table, donning casual clothes, with a potted plant beside him

Text & Photos by Issa Marie

IN ALL ASPECTS of life, representation matters!

Imagine being a nine-year-old child attending a pro wrestling event and seeing a wrestler who personifies who you are in size and stature—inspiring a small fan to become the athlete they believed they could never be, due to their body composition.

That child, U-T, remembers seeing Dragon Kid wrestle live for the first time, being mesmerized by his athleticism, his grit, and immediately adoring the man who, most importantly, reminded him of himself.

“Throughout my career, my opponents have always underestimated me, my abilities due to my size,” says U-T. “They see me as the target, the weakest link of a unit that can be bullied, even when I have shown time and time again that is not the case.  My drive, heart, and passion more than compensate for the perceived lack of height and strength.”

U-T throws a dropkick

These sentiments were shared most recently in an online exchange with Shun Skywalker, in which U-T, member of the “Good Vibes Only” unit NATURAL VIBES and one-half of the Ryukyu Dragon Souryu-Ou champions with Kzy, admitted he has envied Skywalker’s physique, strength, and the potential he showed since his debut. However, U-T would never compromise himself—his soul—to achieve any levels of results.

Interestingly, it was a match against Skywalker where things first clicked into place for U-T.  “On December 4, 2018, at Korakuen Hall, Shun and I had a special singles matches,” recalled U-T. “Even though I was the senior wrestler, Shun had been showing that he indeed had ‘Star Power’ and that he would soon be at the top of DRAGONGATE. While everyone expected Shun to beat me, the match ended in a 20-minute time-limit draw.  This match allowed me to show the fans the wrestling style that has defined me since—[that of] a llave technician. The match also gave me confidence as a wrestler, something I was missing at the time.”

U-T uses a llave-style hold

And, now that the rivalry between Z-Brats and Natural Vibes has reached an end—at least for the time being—U-T will shift his focus back to the Open the Brave Gate championship.

“Before I can challenge, I need to achieve some results,” he said. “Get the wins that will set me on the path to the title.” U-T last challenged for the belt, which is DRAGONGATE’s equivalent to a junior heavyweight title, on December 19, 2021, in Nagoya (U-T’s and SB KENTo’s hometown). That was a hard-hitting match, which showed us a ruthless side of DG’s “Braveheart.”

U-T is passion personified.

He has earned his place in DRAGONGATE, regardless of other’s opinions that he cannot be “saved” (according to Shun Skywalker and H.Y.O).

Dragongate's U-T shows off his tag team title belt

U-T has proven that his style of wrestling can stand on its own against any opponent.

To the fans, whether you are new to DRAGONGATE or you have been with the company for the long haul, U-T wants you to know that. “I will always give everything that I am, everything that I have in every match I wrestle,” he said. “Thank you very much, and I look forward to your continued cooperation!”


Z-Brats vs NATURAL VIBES 4 Singles Match Series, October 7, 2022

NATURAL VIBES (Susumu Yokosuka & U-T) vs MASQUERADE (Shun Skywalker & Jason Lee), April 9, 2021

Open the Brave Gate Contender Battle Royal, Ultimo Dragon’s 35th Anniversary Celebration, July 30, 2022

His singles bouts with SB KENTo (December 19, 2021), Shun Skywalker (December 4, 2018), and Yuki Yoshioka January 16 and April 16, 2019) are MUST-WATCH matches … and are all available at!



U-T attempts a pinfall





常に「Good Vibes Only」であるNATURAL VIBESのメンバやKzy選手と共に琉球ドラゴンプロレスリングの双琉王王者であるU-T選手は最近その心情ではシュン・スカイウォーカー選手とSNSで語りました。スカイウォーカー選手の体格や強さ、そしてデビュー当時から見せていたポテンシャルを羨ましく思っていたことを認めている。しかしU-T選手はどんな結果であっても自分自身の魂を売るつもりはない。





ジュニアヘビー級の同類である「オープン・ザ・ブレイブ・ゲート王座」に最後で挑戦したのは2021年12月19日名古屋でSB KENTo選手との対戦でした。ドラゴンゲートの「ブレイブハート」とも言われるU-T選手は非常な一面でハードな試合を戦いました。





NATURAL VIBES vs Z-Brats シングル4番勝負2022.10.07 –

NATURAL VIBES 横須賀ススム & U-T vs  MASQUERADE シュン・スカイウォーカー & ジェイソン・リー2021.04.09 –

オープン・ザ・ブレイブゲート王座 次期挑戦者決定 時間差バトルロイヤル “ドラゴンスクランブル2022.07.30 –

他シングルマッチ、対SB KENTo選手 2021.1219、対シュン・スカイウォーカー選手2018.12.04,や吉岡有紀選手2019.01.16と2019.04.16は是非!dragongate.liveでお見逃しなく!


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Sobriety and Wrestling: A Place To Belong

Jon Moxley makes his emotional return after taking away from AEW to fight his addiction.

Sobriety and Wrestling: A Place To Belong

Jon Moxley makes his emotional return after taking away from AEW to fight his addiction.
All Elite Wrestling fans warmly welcome back Jon Moxley, celebrating his courage to grapple with addiction. (Photo by JayLee Media)


SIX YEARS AGO, I decided to stop drinking and using drugs.

I spent 15 years (half of my life) wasting any and all potential I had on numbing my emotions and stuffing my pain. Addiction stole everything from me: education, careers, family, friends, freedom, and my future. June 10, 2016—a little over two months after my 30th birthday—I decided I’d had enough loss for one lifetime, and started to rebuild from the bottom up by sobering up.

In the following two years, I still experienced many setbacks. I was selfish and self-centered. And focusing solely on myself created a hole so big I didn’t feel like I could ask anyone for help. The storm kept raging, but, somehow, I kept sober. In AA, they tell you as long as you have your sobriety, anything is possible.

Jon Moxley makes his emotional return after taking away from AEW to fight his addiction.
Jon Moxley addresses AEW fans in his first appearance after working to get clean and sober. (Photo by JayLee Media)

In August 2018, after spending two years of sobriety completely miserable, I decided I had to be honest with myself and everyone else—even if I didn’t think they needed the truth—and the end result was beautiful. I recouped everything I had lost, plus more. I was starting to see the sun behind the clouds. Working a 12-step program while also being miserably sober was not what I wanted out of life … I needed more.

Around the same time I was getting my act together, I started writing for various wrestling websites. I only became a wrestling fan in 2014, through my family’s insistence. And, ultimately, I only started writing about wrestling after being recruited by a friend. But, with my background in sports journalism, I felt at ease writing about the athletes who put their bodies on the line every day for our entertainment—especially the female wrestlers, who, from day one, had obviously been treated as “less than.”

As you can imagine, almost every addict has a story about “not fitting in,” and I am no different. I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere; always on the outside looking in at what addicts call “normies”—people who have never felt the cold draft of addiction, the demon on their shoulder waiting for one false move. However, throughout the past four years or so of writing wrestling news and opinion, I have found myself more and more at home among the fans, media members, and wrestlers.

Creating lifelong friendships, a solid support system, a strong circle of friends, mentorships, and even a romantic relationship, I found a place where I felt like I could be myself and let my guard down; something I hadn’t done in years. In every social sphere, you’ll find hate and toxicity. But I found my crowd.

Still, I had trouble reconciling who I was in the past and the struggles I was facing in the present with those around me. I had told a few friends close to me about who I was back then—most of whom were not able to picture that version of Kristen—and everyone was kind and understanding. But I still felt like I was on the outside, looking in at those who had not experienced the hardships I had.

Most of these friends were either always sober, never had an addiction problem, or couldn’t understand the concept. These were friends, but they couldn’t relate. Most people can’t relate, and it’s never been a prerequisite for new friendships. Still, something was missing: representation and complete understanding.

The more I watched shows, covered news, and began to personally interact with wrestlers, the more I realized that sobriety was not a new concept in wrestling. In prior generations of wrestling, addiction was so prevalent it killed off countless bright and talented athletes. It cut short so many promising futures. And those who it didn’t kill still struggled with life-long illnesses … a reality I was always one relapse away from.

The wrestlers of today saw that pain, and many didn’t need to learn the hard way to stay clean. Those I related to most, however, were those who, like me, had to go through hell to see the light.

William Regal, a man so many in wrestling fight to call their mentor, wrote the autobiography Walking a Golden Mile, which details his own struggles with alcoholism, describing experience that so closely related to mine that it was like reading my own story.

Eddie Kingston has publicly said in interviews and during promos that he had to fight away his own demons, which threatened to take away his freedom. Man, did those revelations ring true to my own life!

Nick Gage has been to hell and back, including prison. I have my own history of jail time. Seeing how beloved Gage is, how his strength is celebrated, gave me strength.

In Jon Moxley’s autobiography, Mox, the reigning AEW World champion also detailed a family history that looked familiar. And, without even having to say it, I knew he was a kindred spirit. Last November, Moxley checked himself into rehab for alcoholism.

The public nature of that struggle, the positive reaction from fans, coworkers, and Tony Khan, and the triumphant return gave me hope. I had hope that not only was I not weird or different, but that there was hope for me to stay sober and make something of myself.

If Regal, Kingston, Gage, and Moxley could do it, couldn’t I? Couldn’t I stay sober and do great things?

And they weren’t the only ones, were they? Kylie Rae, Saraya, Dustin Rhodes, Shawn Michaels, Alicia Fox: all incredibly public with their struggles, all having the ability to inspire me to do more.

It’s hard to be this vulnerable when writing for a very historic publication. Every wound opened both inspires others and draws ire. But writing this has also opened a flood of emotion that I so clearly needed to feel. Healing starts with honesty. Those brutally honest wrestlers have taught me that.

It took a long journey of searching and scratching before I found a place I called home. Six years after getting sober, I still often struggle with fitting in and finding like-minded people outside of an AA meeting. Wrestling, though, gave me that home. Those who share their struggles and celebrate their victories have given me hope and strength that I didn’t think would ever come from a sport.

This is my thank-you letter to every person I have encountered during my career in wrestling who has been kind, understanding, and supportive. More than that, it’s a letter of sincere gratitude to every wrestler who has had the strength to tell their story. Your truths have given me a place to stay when I feel cold and alone.

I laugh as I write this last paragraph, because I know that if this was hand-written, it would be illegible from the sheer amount of tears I’ve spilled writing this. I’m so lucky to have stumbled onto wrestling. I’m so lucky to know where I belong.

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STRONG MACHINE J: Opening The Twin Gate With Breakdancing Aggression

Strong Machine J poses

STRONG MACHINE J: Opening The Twin Gate With Breakdancing Aggression

Strong Machine J poses with Natural Vibes

Text & Photos by Issa Marie

WHEN YOU ARE a second-generation wrestler, there is often undue expectation placed on you to carry the family legacy … or even exceed it. This also creates an excess level of stress for such an individual to show that they have the potential and ability to succeed on their own merits. Strong Machine J (SMJ) understands this better than most, being the son of New Japan Pro-Wrestling icon Super Strong Machine.

Making his debut in 2019, SMJ quickly showed that he was very much his father’s son by winning his debut match using his dad’s trademark Machine Suplex Hold. He became a champion in record time, maintained an eight-month undefeated streak, and was later named Tokyo Sports 2019 Rookie of the Year.

Unfortunately, a shoulder injury in late-2020 sidelined SMJ for eight months. And his inability to rely upon the Strong Machines once the unit was disbanded served as the catalyst for things to change—arguably, for the better!

He reflected on this during a recent conversation with PWI: “Upon returning from injury in August 2021, failing to capture the Twin Gate titles with Strong Machine K at Dangerous Gate in September 2021, and the disbandment of the Strong Machines at the beginning of the year, I found myself alone … wondering what was next for me.”

SMJ in action

For the better part of February, March, and April, we saw SMJ team with numerous partners, most of whom he enjoyed great chemistry with.

Heading into King of Gate, we noticed an even greater change in SMJ. He began to show a level of aggression we had not seen before.

“I wanted to show more of who I am,” he said. “So that units in Dragon Gate would notice that there was more to the ‘Strong Machine’ of the past.”

Strong Machine J poses

And the units took notice! HIGH END—most notably, YAMATO, with his “I pay J, I pay!” sales pitch—was the first to publicly show interest in SMJ.

However, unbeknownst to us at the time, there was another leader willing to give SMJ the chance and platform he was seeking, after months where he questioned if he would be able to break through the Machine name expectations that had been placed on him.

“Kzy saved me,” said J. “He saw my potential and has made it possible for me to have opportunities in Natural Vibes, be the truest version of myself. The side I always wanted to show. But, most importantly, who I needed to be.”

When SMJ incorporated his breakdancing into Natural Vibes’ entrance at the King of Gate Finals, it was such a surprise that the audience (momentarily) broke with the staunch no-cheering rule, put in place many months ago to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“Joining Natural Vibes has given me the ability to utilize my strength to enhance the unit and show the world what I am capable of,” J told PWI.  “I have now subtlety changed my image and revealed a side of me that was unknown to the fans. Old-school Strong Machine. Incorporating an aspect of my personal life, breakdancing, [which is] something I have done from a young age.”

Along with the breakdancing, SMJ has continued to display a new fire inside the ring—most recently, during a no-DQ bout at Dangerous Gate. And, after a key win against the current Open the Twin Gate champions, SMJ and BIG BOSS Shimizu will challenge for the title belts at Gate of Destiny on November 6. You can sign up for the network,, to watch.

Stay tuned for part two of this interview, as we discuss the leading role Strong Machine J has assumed and why his words are not always full of “Good Vibes Only.”

SMJ on the entrance ramp


Strong Machine J and Strong Machine K vs KING Shimizu and Yokosuka Susumu, Open the Twin Gate Championship at Dangerous Gate 2021

Strong Machine J vs Shun Skywalker, King of Gate 2022, May 25, 2022 (starts at 15:00)

Strong Machine J joins NATURAL VIBES, June 2, 2022 (starts at 3:09)

Open the Triangle Gate Championship Three Way Match – HIGH END vs NATURAL VIBES vs M3K, Kobe World 2022 (starts at 8:23)

NATURAL VIBES vs Z-Brats, October 5, 2022 (starts at 17:25)

Kzy and Strong Machine J vs KAI and H • Y • O, October 23, 2022 




PWIとの会話の中で振り返りました。「2021年8月に復帰し、デンジャラス・ゲート大会でストロングマシーンKとツインゲート王座を奪取できず。 年明けにストロングマシーン軍対が解散するとになり、一人になりました・・・次はどうなるのかと思いました。」

SMJ poses outdoors

2月から4月にかけて、色んな選手とタッグを組み、KING OF GATEに入るとさらに大きな変化が起きました。これまでに無かったアグレッシブ面も見せられました。

「もっと自分を出したいんだ。ドラゴンゲートのユニットが過去の“ストロングマシーン”と今までは違う。」さっそく注目したのはHIGH ENDのYAMATO選手でSMJ選手にすぐ売り込みに来ました。



KING OF GATEでSMJ選手がナチュラル・ヴァイブスと入場する時にブレイクダンスを披露した結果、あまりにも大きな反響で会場の観客が一瞬応援禁止ルールを破ったのだ。


ブレイクダンスと共にリング上では新たな炎が沸き上がりました。最近ではデンジャラス・ゲートでの活躍やツインゲート王者相手に見事な勝利を収めました。今後の11月6 THE GATE OF DESTINY大会ではSMJ選手とBIG BOSS清水選手がツインゲート王座に挑戦することになりました。「」で見逃すな。