Exclusive: “Make yourself undeniable” – Bodyslam speaks with Walker Stewart of NJPW

​In the realm of professional wrestling, I wear two hats – one as a wordsmith for, the other as a voice that brings the action to life as a commentator. Just recently I had the honor to call a match for Taiwan’s Puzzle Dojo. My commentary partner for that match was the velvet voice of NJPW, Walker Stewart.

Walker is the youngest signed professional wrestling commentator in our industry. His deep knowledge of pro wrestling combined with that million-dollar voice makes me believe that he will be in the same ranks as the likes of Jim Ross and Gordon Solie one day. We sat down after our commentary session for an interview.

Q: Growing up was it your goal to be a wrestling commentator, and how did you start in the industry?
A: My favorite story my mom likes to tell about me is that I was 7 years old sitting in front of the television watching WWE going “I want to be like them!” any time they give Michael Cole, Jim Ross or Jerry Lawler on-camera spots. Any time someone asked me what I wanted to do as a dream job, I’d always tell them I wanted to be a musician, a YouTube content creator, or a pro wrestling commentator… and somehow, the first two sounded more realistic to me than the one I found myself doing in the end.

In March 2021, when I was 18, I went off to college at the University of Oklahoma and was a Vocal Music Education and Vocal Performance dual-degree pursuant. To fill some time and to chase a passion between classes and video game streaming, I volunteered as a writer, much like yourself, working for any online publication I could find. I met some fantastic people while doing that (they know who they are). One publication I wrote for asked me to cover my local independent scene, so I attended an event with 35 people at it and wrote a glowing review of what was – in hindsight – a very rough show.

The promoter would find the article, gleefully invited me to another show, and I told them I would write another article if I could be involved with the event. July 2021 came around, and I debuted in a three-man commentary booth with two of my good pals, Mike Andrews and Floyd Johnson Jr, and I’ve been traveling the world ever since!

Q: Who are your mentors that you’ve learned from and what lessons did they teach you?
A: One thing I have always prided myself on is that I refuse to stop learning, and I’ve never discredited anyone’s opinions in this industry unless they’ve proven themselves wrong before. My biggest mentor has to be a man who many could claim as an influence, that being former ROH wrestler “Brutal” Bob Evans. Evans currently works up in the Northeast U.S. at various independents and is a heavily accomplished trainer and mentor for many of the independents. His fingerprints are felt heavily in WWE and AEW, and I guess they’re felt in New Japan Pro-Wrestling now, haha!

Bob was the first person I met with years and years of experience in this business who didn’t try to quiet me or stifle my growth. Sometimes in wrestling, if you’re the young, hungry kid that I was (and still am), people will side-eye you and do what they can to try and “put you in your place”. Bob didn’t do that, but rather encouraged me to travel and to invest in myself in ways that many called a waste of time. One of the smartest men I have ever met in professional wrestling, and one of my closest friends.

James Southard, an announcer, commentator, producer and… well, pretty much anything you can do in the business, has to be one of the people who pushed me the hardest. Despite us being so close in age, James got into the business when he was a freshman in high school, and I didn’t have that same experience. James and I immediately bonded over being displeased with the complacency a lot of people had in our hometown wrestling scenes, and there came a moment where we looked at each other and said “Well… why don’t we just leave and do it together?”. From then on, nearly every trip I took for any independent booking was done alongside James. The best riding partner a man could have (even if he won’t let me drive anymore). My deep knowledge of the territory days, lucha libre, and anything outside of mainstream wrestling came from James, and I wish someone would hire that dude immediately. Everyone considers him a massive asset who meets him, and he continues to do great things down at Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling in Texas.

Finally, the man who was willing to take a chance on a 21-year-old kid who he’d never met before based on one audition tape and a resumé – Kevin Kelly. Kevin has always been good to me. As smart as he is to the business, he and Bob also forced my wit to grow too. Maybe it’s being a Northeasterner or his 30 years of experience that I don’t have, but man, I had to grow the “gift to gab” super quickly when talking to Kevin, haha. Highly intelligent, and a massive asset to the industry. Kevin cares so much about New Japan Pro-Wrestling, even still today, and it was incredibly difficult for him to leave the company. I know there was a lot of anxiety that he had regarding his choice for a Play-by-play replacement, and I’m blessed he was willing to invest in me and allow me to prove myself on the stage I wanted from the beginning.

Rapid-fire round of people who have absolutely shifted my career for the positive: Texas-based independent wrestling referee MJ Bell, Gabe Sapolsky, the crew at Reality of Wrestling (Booker T, Kevin Bernhardt, Sharmell & Chris Russo), and my current broadcast partner Chris Charlton.

Q: What are your favorite matches that you have commentated on?
A: It feels like every single series that NJPW puts on, the answer to this question changes. If I had to give my Top 5 unranked:
• Shota Umino vs. Will Ospreay for the IWGP U.S./UK Heavyweight Championship at Power Struggle 2024.
• Bryan Danielson vs. Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 18
• Bryan Danielson vs. Zack Sabre Jr. at New Beginning in Osaka 2024
• United Empire vs. BULLET CLUB War Dogs in the 10-Man Dog Pound Cage Match at New Beginning in Osaka 2024.
• Yota Tsuji vs. EVIL in the Semi-Finals of New Japan Cup 2024

Q: Where were you when you got the call that you were going to become the English commentator for NJPW?
A: It was a very slow build. It started as “Hey, maybe we’ll consider you for this… send in the info that we need.” I sent in the info, and then suddenly, it was a call I received saying “Hey, we’re going to send you a contract”. I was working the 3:00 a.m. shift at a 7/11 gas station in the freezer stocking energy drinks. I often took freezer duty at the gas station because I could just put my headphones in and have phone calls with James and Bob, talk pro wrestling, strategize for my next move on the indies, watch wrestling I missed over the week, etc. Suddenly, my few freezer stocking adventures I had left in me were all spent watching NJPW’s G1 Climax 33 in preparation for my start with the company! Definitely my best memory from working as that gas station, haha.

Q: Your first trip to Japan must have felt magical. What places in the country do you enjoy visiting?
A: My first time in Japan was absolutely crazy. For comparison, 5 months before I went to Japan, I went to Las Vegas for the first time to work a bunch of independent wrestling events, and I had a “culture shock” feeling when I arrived. 5 months later, and I find myself in a foreign country for the first time? It was an absolute overload. I remember sitting in the taxi for the first time going “Everything is so tall… everything feels very colorless… everything is so busy!” Of course, that ‘colorless’ thought disappeared once I started hitting the heavily populated areas. My first time in Japan, I flew into Tokyo, spent one night there, and then took the bullet train (shinkansen) to Osaka. So far, Osaka is my favorite place in Japan. There is a huge gaming/anime influence in the area, and I loved going to random tech stores. An 8-story gaming store?! I was in awe. Beyond the big lights of Osaka, I’m actually very preferential to my brief time in Yamanashi. It was very pretty to me, and I enjoyed how simple it felt. It reminded me of home in the best way possible. Overall, Japan is my favorite place in the world to visit, by far.

Q: What advice would you give to up-and-coming commentators?
A: My advice to current commentators? Take my seminars/coaching calls! Joking, mostly. No, obviously, the biggest advice I can give to up-and-coming wrestling commentators would depend on the direction they want to go. Generally, I’d advise getting official broadcast training, either at a special school or college in some form. Learn to call other sports, and get experience in high school/collegiate/minor league sports. Aesthetically, appearance matters. Around 2022, I started growing my hair out and had this horrendously unkempt look between my hair and beard. It was atrocious, and I’m embarrassed looking back on it. I know it’s ironic for me to say (the guy who wears the same blue jacket, blue tie, and white shirt combo for every major show), but invest in your look. Professionalism is key. If your one-time being seen by a scout in some capacity is when you’re wearing gym shorts and a backward hat, it doesn’t matter how good your announcing is, first impressions matter and they could cost you. The biggest piece of advice is easier said than done but do your market research and pitch to be every single place you can be as often as possible. Never have a free weekend. Travel, learn, work for free in the beginning to get the experience and the reputation. If you’re chasing the dollar in the beginning of your career, you will be chasing the dollar your whole career. There’s much more I could go into, but that’s a bit of the advice I’d give to anyone on the independents today.

Q: Advice for wrestlers wanting to wrestle for NJPW?
A: If you have a goal, don’t start tomorrow, or a month from now, start today. Work on your shape, work on your footwork, perfect your basics, and make some noise to get the office’s attention. This isn’t just for NJPW; this is for any major office in the world. You want to wrestle full-time? Look, sound, and act like someone who should be wrestling full-time. This is all easier said than done, but there is a reason why only a small percentage of people who step into the ring make it to the heights of a New Japan Pro-Wrestling or World Wrestling Entertainment. If you make yourself a name that the people beg to see bad enough, to the point where you prove that you are a box office draw, you make yourself undeniable; that’s the goal since day one. Oh, beyond that, social media has made and killed careers. Begging for jobs on social media? Calling yourself the “best unsigned wrestler in the world”… to most talent scouts across the world of professional wrestling, it’s like being the nicest guy in your prison ward. Use your social media to promote the events you’re on and promote yourself. It has never been easier for [talent scouts] to find your content and invest in you, force us to invest by being undeniable. Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, The Young Bucks, Roman Reigns, SANADA… all men who the world didn’t see the vision for initially but continued to bet on themselves and work on their craft, and now look at where every single one is right now – highly successful and world-renown.

Q: What are your goals for 2024?
A: 2024 will see me hit my one-year anniversary with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and that will be a very special time for me. You can already assume my goal is to grow the brand of New Japan Pro-Wrestling worldwide, but I would love to serve the masters of STARDOM in some capacity, whether it be live or in a post-production recording video-on-demand release fashion. I’ve been quietly waiting in the shadows for my time, studying and learning the history of both STARDOM and joshi puroresu as well. Beyond Bushiroad involvement, I would love to open the gates for English-speaking fanbase development in other parts of Southeast Asia. Back in October, NJPW entered into a partnership with multiple Southeast Asian independent wrestling companies (the Asia Pacific Federation of Wrestling) across Taiwan, Singapore, China, Thailand and beyond. A major goal of mine in 2024 is to not only serve as the Voice of NJPW, but the Voice of the Asia-Pacific coalition as well. I’ve already taken part in the recording of some post-production commentary work with PUZZLE in Taiwan, and have had conversations with other organizations in the coalition as well. I’d love to show the world what Southeast Asia has to offer. Extra goals for 2024 would include hosting more seminars in the United States, mentoring announcers on the independents the way I was mentored the same, working for CMLL in Mexico, and figuring out what’s going on down in Uganda. Softground Wrestling in Uganda? Those guys are cooking something special, haha!

Q: Where can fans follow you on social media?
A: I’m easy to find on social media. I’m @VelvetVoiceWS on all platforms. However, more than anything, I encourage everyone reading this to check out New Japan Pro-Wrestling on Twitter and other platforms at @njpwglobal and subscribe to for our upcoming Sakura Genesis event on April 6th at Ryogoku Sumo Hall. I won’t be in attendance at that event due to circumstances outside our control, but I’ll be back in Chicago on April 12th for the Windy City Riot – the biggest NJPW STRONG event in the history of NJPW! It’s been a pleasure, and I hope everyone checks in with, checks out, and supports New Japan Pro-Wrestling throughout the rest of 2024!

Thank you, Walker, for your time.

Fans can follow me on X/Twitter at @JBcommentary

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