Despite being an eight-year veteran now, “Mr. 5K” Nate Bradley of the Texas regional circuit is confident his big break will come in only a matter of time.

The current Texas All-Star Wrestling Heavyweight Champion had lots to chat about with regarding his career thus far, goals and aspirations, some of his fondest wrestling memories, and even some bold opinions on the state of wrestling today.

Nate Bradley poses with the TASW Heavyweight Championship. Photo courtesy Dylan Kingsbury.

“Mr. 5K” is actually 28-year-old Dylan Kingsbury of Mandeville, Louisiana. The 5-foot-8, 167-pound Kingsbury originally studied at Southeastern Louisiana University, however, he made the switch to online learning at the Rochester Institute of Technology to devote more time to his pro wrestling training. Some of his favorite songs to get pumped up include “Warrior Inside” by Leader, “Stronger” by Through Fire, and “Frontline” by Pillar.

His “Mr. 5K” moniker is certainly a cool name; Bradley went into detail on how that persona came to be. “It’s gone through a series of transformations, so my early days were with a company called WildKat Sports and Entertainment, which is based out of New Orleans, LA, and run by Luke Hawx. I was put into a tag team and we were supposed to be the rich guys, wealthy guy gimmick, but it almost became a parody in a way… We weren’t a Fortune 500 team, we were a Fortune 5000,” Bradley said.

“So, it became this ongoing joke but when I moved away from that, sorta branching out on my own, you know ‘5K’ as like a shortened form… It kinda stuck. People twisting it and tweaking it to match more or less how they see me in the ring… Ultra-athletic, fast-paced, nonstop. It’s funny cuz the origins of it had nothing to do with how it is now, but it still stuck and now it has a double meaning.”

Bradley said that his relationship with Hawx got off on the wrong foot. but grew to the point that Hawx praised “Mr. 5K” in an X post, calling him “the future of wrestling.”

“I think Luke was happy to have me there [in WildKat], he definitely saw potential in me and whatnot. But, I was mentally ahead of what I should’ve been at that point… I wanted to do this, I wanted to do that. But you hear it all the time, it’s a marathon not a sprint. But, everyone that’s fresh in the business treats it like a sprint. It’s super hard for you to just take a step back, but Luke was the tough love I needed,” Bradley explained.

“Any time I started doing a cool move or whatever, he’d be like ‘That’s cool, but where are your fundamentals at? Let me see you work a headlock, how do present yourself when you work at other companies?’ Luke really pulled me down to earth like, ‘Dude, just breathe. You gotta take it step by step. You are walking and talking, ten years ahead of your time. Just breathe.’ And so, we kinda had a weird relationship, but he’s done a lot for me. He had got me backstage work with WWE, got me on Monday Night Raw, work with Ring of Honor before, and more to come. But those were just the highlights of a sorta rocky relationship for a while, for the first three or four years. It was a whole lotta scoldings and heads butting.”

Although Bradley sensed a bit of a sour start to his relationship with Hawx, his hard work over the years and going off to the Texas scene to hone his craft, has largely impressed Hawx to the point where he had very high praise for his former pupil.

“I think Luke is very happy to see someone like me come out, and not like I’m majorly successful or whatever, but to see me handling it and presenting myself where people don’t see me badly and want to work with me and think of me as a good person in the locker room… He gets to see that and go like, ‘Phew, I produced a really good one,'” he said, doing the ‘OK’ sign on the video interview. “That’s why I think that tweet has actually more to it than just that. That’s like him finally patting me on the back after all these years like good job for not going out there and making us look bad, you know?”

A bloodied Nate Bradley lies in the ring. Photo courtesy Dylan Kingsbury.

Bradley’s trainer is certainly pleased about the evolution of his ex-trainee. “Nate’s talent and abilities may seem easily executed by him, but the truth is, his work ethic stands above his talent and abilities,” said Hawx. “That’s why he’s so good. I watched him come into WildKat as a young man growing into his adult life and as he matured, his willpower, confidence, and work ethic excelled… He trusted the process and didn’t cut corners. Then, he decided to move out of state to pursue more independent wrestling so he could get more experience. He makes me so proud.”

Every young wrestler has to start somewhere. Just like every die-hard wrestling fan, Bradley had fond childhood memories of his favorite larger-than-life characters.

“Right off the bat, man, AJ Styles. He was probably number one, but I know him and Luke [Hawx] can’t stand each other, so there’s always that you know my favorite is Luke’s least favorite,” he laughed. “Chris Jericho is probably what got me watching regularly, there was just something about his character in the early 2000s that I thought was so cool… The smugness, the personality, it was so entertaining. And he was sort of a smaller guy, which I could obviously relate to, there are no bigger guys in my family. But, I think anyone who sees themselves as a smaller guy also says Rey Mysterio… there’s Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, just to name a few.”

As for his style as a professional wrestler, whether he embodies aspects of lucha, strong style, or mat wrestling, Bradley had one word to describe himself.

“I do base it very American-style, it’s also appropriate for the region that we’re in. The same way you see guys go to different countries and then they shift their style a little bit,” Bradley said. “It just makes sense to maintain that here in the States, because I’m trying to get signed somewhere here in the States, and that’s what they want to see. But, I’m kinda like a hybrid, you know what I mean? I don’t do a ton of like the submissions, I don’t do a lot of that. But, I do have some acrobatic offense, but I do do a lot of power moves too. I have a good bit of strikes. And then, I’ll kinda have a little lucha libre in there, from time to time. I’m so mixed up, it’s hard to break down where I really sit, so I’ll just have to say I’m like a hybrid style.”

Nate Bradley dropkicks an opponent as he’s draped on a set of chairs. Photo courtesy Dylan Kingsbury.

And as Bradley sees it, he has certainly done a good job of separating himself from the pack as just another indie guy who can fly high.

“Nate Bradley has been able to transcend beyond just a high-flying wrestler but into a man who brings entertainment, care, and really reaches the fans with his stories in and out of the ring,” said local Texas wrestling announcer and social media personality, Brittani Houghtlen.

When it comes to long-term and short-term goals in wrestling, Mr. 5K says they’ve started to blend as of late.

“I’ve knocked out a lot of the short terms. If you had asked me like three or four years back, short-term goals, I would’ve said, ‘Win my first championship, wrestle so many times a year, wrestle for so many promotions, get out of state.’ Dude, I’ve like knocked all those off now! That’s friggin’ awesome,” Bradley crowed.

“But, that means the short-term has sorta blended to long-term, so what are the steps into those? And obviously long-term, I want to get signed to a major professional wrestling company. The dream scenario for me is main event Wrestle Kingdom, New Japan… Totally,” he mused. “But when you look at how certain areas are getting sucked up by like NXT or AEW… Trying to get with one of them so I can get that mainstream exposure and really start building my name beyond just being like, ‘Oh, red-hot indie guy.’ I want to be a star, I want my face on TV regularly. That is, what was originally long-term, now kinda short-term and long-term together. I want to get with them and then have a lengthy career with them, while I can.”

And interpret that how you will, if you think Mr. 5K is setting lofty expectations for himself, but he explained it very coherently as he added: “It’s honest because at the end of the day, all of us that are in pro wrestling got into it for a certain reason, and they had some image in their head when they got into it of what their perfect scenario is. And I think 99% of us, the perfect scenario is what’s keeping you going. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year. That perfect scenario happened for somebody else, so it could happen to you too… If you fight for it.”

Working the Texas circuit, Bradley tried to explain the state of wrestling in the Lone Star State. “That is tricky. There’s a lot of pros and a lot of cons working the Texas area. I don’t wanna say, cuz I’m telling ya, I’m gonna get attacked for saying what I’m about to say but I’m gonna defend it… It’s kind of a black hole. Kind of. Kind of,” he said, trying to further explain.

“I only say that because a lot of guys get stuck in this trap, and I’m guilty of it too. I understand that people have circumstances that kind of hold you into a certain scenario, certain things being out of your power to do things. But in Texas, even just a few years back, there was a point in time where there was so many companies. It was oversaturated. And it was so outrageously oversaturated. I don’t think it was attractive to sort of seek talent in Texas. There’s so many companies, there was a point in time even just a few years back in Houston, there would be like five or six companies competing with each other on the same night in just the general Houston area,” Bradley added.

“That’s way too much. You’re dividing the people way too hard and it essentially spoiled the Texas crowds, if that makes sense. ‘Well, every weekend we can just get wrestling, so there’s really no need to watch wrestling.’ You know what I mean? It wasn’t hot, it wasn’t attractive. And then you’ll have companies going to the nuanced towns in like the major cities, which sounds kinda weird, but they’re like crazy fat draws with crazy hot crowds because they just don’t get anything out there. And that’s the trick really, unless you’re established like a Texas All-Star, since they’ve been there for so long… They’re fine.”

Bradley takes a lot of pride in being an honorable person in and out of the ring. Despite some aspects of his cocky character, Mr. 5K considered those who might struggle to stay out of character in the real world, or vice versa, let their real-life side take over. “That’s a grey area. I’m not the best at distinguishing that type of thing, I’m just not, that’s a whole other art form in itself. But something that was said to me that I think is a very good indicator of kinda the gauge of when you’re trying to understand at least when you’re going too much, is if the next thing I said would hurt my merchandise sales one day. Like, if what I’m doing right now is all fun and games, even if this guy aggravated me, he wouldn’t lose sleep over it. If what I’m gonna say, it could hurt me in the long run, because it’s especially a dangerous time to try and be a true heel. Everyone gets canceled for anything. And people are looking for a reason to hurt, people are looking for a reason to get you shut down… It’s a fine line, but that’s kind of a good way to look at things. Is this going to hurt me, hurt my merchandise sales, ruin my image? If there’s even a doubt in your mind, you probably shouldn’t do it.”

Nate Bradley poses for a still promo photo. Photo courtesy @lazyeyeofficial on Instagram.

Mr. 5K was asked, If he could go back in time and give a younger Nate Bradley some tips as he is now a veteran, what would he tell himself and what would he tell other rookie wrestlers?

“I think the biggest one, if there’s only one thing I could push, this would be the thing I would harp on… It would be your bodies. And I know that’s another kind of weird grey area, ’cause there’s a lot of guys who like they’re just overweight, but they can really move. There are guys who are skinny, I mean look at Zack Sabre Jr. He’s definitely a very skinny guy, but he’s got what he’s got and he’s got it working for him. But what I wanna harp is look at the guys who weren’t in good shape. I could list any of them and look at when they make a transformation and how it changes how they’re perceived. You can never hurt yourself by getting into great shape. You could always go the opposite,” Bradley explained.

“But if you come in and look great from the get-go, it’s that much easier for people to go, ‘Yeah, I’m not ashamed to put that guy on my poster,’ because he looks like something people in the crowd are not. That matters. Because we’re supposed to be these larger-than-life guys. People that look like athletes. They are special, that’s not what people look like going day to day. If anyone is hearing this and it bugs you, take what I’m saying into consideration. I was that guy. For years! I was. And then, when I got into good shape, people started paying attention! I was still the same wrestler, I didn’t necessarily get better because I was in better shape. But now, I look the part and people can take me seriously. If you can take your nutrition seriously and your fitness, it is just as important as anything else. You can learn how to wrestle, that’s fine, but you better take your butt to the gym, outside of work and wrestling, and look the best that you can. Don’t be ten years in and then your prime years have gone away.”

TOP PHOTO: Nate Bradley works a headlock on his opponent in the ring. Photo courtesy @onefallphoto on Instagram.