EJ Nduka reflects on his coaches at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, and receiving special advice from names like The Undertaker and other big men throughout history.
Ezra Judge was with WWE for a short amount of time but in that time, he absorbed all of the knowledge that he could from many of the prestigious coaches and legendary names in WWE history and received High Praise from all that he worked with.
Speaking with Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp, EJ Nduka touted several of his coaches that he felt helped him along and noted several of the guest talents like Undertaker and John Cena that would come to the WWE Performance Center and passed along nuggets of knowledge that he was able to learn from.
“From coaches, I would definitely say Norman Smiley, [Scotty 2 Hotty], [Robbie Brookside], [Steve Corino], Scott Armstrong, Matt Bloom. Bloom just drops nugget after nugget. Sometimes you have to sort it out yourself because it's vague, but as you grow, you're like, 'Oh, this makes sense now.' Before COVID, we'd have the legends come down. Undertaker, John Cena, Mark Henry, Edge. We'd get all this wealth of knowledge from people in the industry that are where we want to be. They'd come and talk to us and it was phenomenal.
“When Undertaker or Bloom or anyone big, when they came with advice, it was totally different than what I'd get from another coach because they are 6'8'' or 6'7'' and they know how to work as a big man. They know the things to look for and they know what I can do, what I shouldn't do, how I should do it. It's all a bowl of soup. There's no one way to make soup. It's all these ingredients and different minds and different advice. Ultimately, you make your own soup. The best advice I got was from Cena, who told me, 'When you first get into the business, you want to take three of the most influential wrestlers you know and think about their moves and how they are and create yourself based off of that and those influences.' I ultimately chose Randy Orton, The Rock, and Bobby Lashley with a little bit of Kevin Owens because I love those guys' intensity and fearlessness. That was the direction I went and started to cultivate Ezra Judge.”
EJ explained that before his first tryout, he went to the same training facility in San Diego where Dominik Mysterio trained. From the beginning, he was touted as a quick learner and that was something Nduka took pride in.
“Before I had my tryout, I went to Level Up in San Diego where Dominik had trained. That's where I met Dominik and we trained together for a few weeks before my tryout. I was told that I was picking it really quickly. That was one of the things I heard over and over in the beginning, how fast I was picking it up and how proud of me they were. I took pride in that and kept diving in. It was not only reps but watching film, skull, picking the minds of the greats around me because the worst thing you can do is to come in and thinking you know it all because there are so many layers. There are people who have been doing this longer than I've been alive. Being in the room with them and picking their minds and understanding how this works is incredible.”
Continuing on, he would describe his first tryout as an event where he gave his best effort despite the fact that he felt as though he had two left feet.
“My first tryout, I was green. I had two left feet and didn't know what was going on. I gave it 110% and the feedback I got was that the coaches loved me but they wanted to know how much I loved the business. Coming from an athletic background, there is a stigma where athletes come in and feel entitled and have this expectation. The PC is a family and that didn't mesh well with what was going on. They didn't get that from me, but they wanted to make sure I loved the business as much as I said I did. They challenged me and said, 'if you really want us, show us.' I didn't even get on the plane and I had already found a wrestling school and was setting up my schedule. I was running a business at the time, I just started a family and had gotten married. My wife just started law school. We had one source of income and it was that business, so I had to gamble on myself. I gamble on myself every day and twice on Sunday. I gambled and I got a call maybe two weeks later. I was training and would send my film to Bloom and Canyon [Ceman] and I wouldn't hear anything, then finally two or three weeks later, this is when Paul Fair was still there and he was like, 'We don't normally do this but we want to bring you in for the next tryout.' I told him my situation about running a business. I know they're running a business as well, and that I couldn't afford to keep coming back and forth. 'If you guys are really interested in me, I'm working.' He said, 'You did great on the first tryout. You got an A. You saw the test, now you have all the answers. Come back and do exactly what you did, show them you want this, and I'm telling you you'll get an opportunity and a job.' That second tryout, by the second day, I got the nod.
“When you first get there, there's a separation between the worker and the athletes. They look at us athletes like, 'you have a long way to go and a lot to learn.' Some people get discouraged by that, fold up, and get in their own head. I use it as fuel. Challenge accepted.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Nduka discussed his issues with former WWE official Drake Wuertz. You can read his comment about that at this link.