Walker Stewart opens up about signing with NJPW.
Stewart signed with NJPW and replaced Kevin Kelly as NJPW's lead English broadcast commentator. The 21-year-old has worked for GCW, Reality of Wrestling, Mission Pro, and Future Stars of Wrestling. "The Velvet Voice" Walker Stewart made his NJPW debut at NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed on October 28. For Stewart, whose career in wrestling began in 2021, signing with NJPW was the opportunity of a lifetime.
Speaking with Fightful's Scott Edwards, Stewart recalled getting the offer and speaking with Kevin Kelly.
“I remember, some of this is a little foggy because even though it wasn’t that long ago, there came a point where Kevin had called me and said, ‘Hey, you’re the guy, and if you want this, it’s yours.’ It was said so much that I just didn’t believe it because it didn’t seem like it could be real. I did not believe I was going to be signing with New Japan Pro-Wrestling. They sent me the contract and I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t make myself, convince myself, ‘Hey, this is a real situation that you have earned and put yourself in, and now it’s paying off.’ Yeah, I got the call from Kevin, who basically had, at first, he was like, ‘Hey, send me a highlight reel, send me this, send me this, send me this.’ I said, ‘Sure, I will send you whatever you need.’ No idea what he did with that. No idea who it was shown to, what the situation was, who had made the final decision. But basically, there came a time when he was like, ‘Hey, this is yours,’ and contract was sent over," Stewart said.
Stewart continued by describing how he always wanted to be like Jim Ross, and becoming a commentator has been his dream. He admitted that he may have been trying to talk himself out of signing with NJPW, as he was dealing with imposter syndrome. However, Stewart stated that none of the doubt would deter him from accepting the opportunity.
"The hardest part for me, my biggest goals in life, ever since I was seven years old, I didn’t want to be a wrestler, I wanted to be Jim Ross. I’m an Oklahoma guy, Jim Ross is an Oklahoma guy. I listened to a lot of his stuff growing up because of the Network, and him just being an Oklahoma legend. I go to college that’s on his tron when he makes an entrance. So I’ve always wanted to do this. I think in the back of my mind, as many situations or reasons I could come up with to not sign, to not take on this ordeal, none of them would have been enough for me to not do it. In a sense, I felt like I was maybe trying to talk myself out of it at first, like a little bit of an imposter syndrome. ‘Oh, this isn’t for you, you don’t know anything about New Japan Pro-Wrestling outside of Omega, Okada, all the stuff that was talked about in the pseudo-mainstream sense of what professional wrestling, when things start to break out of that eastern hemisphere into the west.’ So I think I was just trying to talk myself out of a lot of situations," Stewart said.
Stewart went on to describe some of the challenges he dealt with as he contemplated the offer. he noted that, given his size, international travel is difficult. Stewart also explained that he intends to fulfill his promise to finish his college degree
"The hardest thing definitely was figuring out the travel, I’m six-foot-six, 320, I'm a big guy, don’t do well on domestic flights, let alone international 14-hour flights. That’s going to bring me down, but I’m going to enjoy it every step of the way. I think the hardest thing for me was figuring out, A, the college situation because I have determined what I’m doing. I’m putting my degree with the University of Oklahoma on hold, most likely transferring to a fully online institution and getting it out of the way, or given how the next couple years go, maybe I come back here. I’m getting that degree. That’s number one. That was a promise I made to the parents. I’m gonna keep true to that," he said.
Stewart also highlighted how Kevin Kelly was honest with him throughout the process. He detailed how Kelly was upfront about the challenges involved in being far from home. Stewart noted that this initially scared him, but now that he has experienced it, he knows how to deal with it. He then expressed his confidence that he can navigate the fear that he won't be good enough, as he battled that on the independent level.
"I love Kevin because he’s been super honest with me about a lot of the process, and I’m sure some of the boys that travel internationally to go to New Japan can express this, but it might be a little different for them because they’re the locker room, they’re the boys. Kevin would, and he was open about this, so I’m not revealing anything crazy, he would travel on the bus with the boys, the only non-wrestler really to do so. There’s a point when you’re in these small hotel rooms and you start to feel this loneliness, your 14-hour, 13-hour difference from your family, from your friends, and Kevin was super upfront about all that stuff with me. But I think it scared me more than it should have. Because I’ve experienced it now, I know how I can handle it. I was never not going to take it on, this was always going to be what I was going to do, no matter what. But those fears were there. But this whole journey, this whole career I decided to embark on, these moments where I would drive 16 hours round-trip because the promoter messages me back and goes, ‘Hey, show up and maybe we have something for you,’ there’s fear in that too because there’s the fear of rejection. There’s the fear of, ‘What if I get there and I mess up? I’m not good enough, I’m this, I’m that, I’m the other?’ I’ve been able to look past all that on the independent level. On a contracted level, I should be able to do the same thing. That’s what sealed the deal for me," Stewart said.
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