EJ Nduka didn't get to make a name for himself as Ezra Judge in WWE, but he's determined to within the wrestling world as "The Judge" EJ Nduka.
Nduka was released on May 19, and said that the move came as a surprise to him. At the time that he spoke with Fightful, he was still reeling.
"I still feel kind of blindsided, but at the same time I feel full of faith. I know the future has a lot and is very promising. I'm still processing things and it's fresh. Feeling blindsided is an understatement. How everything happened was out of nowhere," Nduka told Fightful.
Five of the last nine WWE Champions have been released by WWE at some point, and another left for years. This shows Nduka that the path isn't over. In addition to getting help from several coaches you'll read about in upcoming articles, he mentioned Santos Escobar, Montez Ford, Angelo Dawkins, Omos, Ricochet, Reginald, Kofi Kingston, Kevin Owens, Santana Garrett as being helpful and supportive after his release. Nduka said that this helped fuel a passion to continue wrestling that he already had.
"I fell in love with this business in the last 20 months. This business is unique, amazing, and captivating. It's something I've fell in love with. I love going to practice, going to weights, watching film, skull (sessions), all that stuff. There's so much detail and so much to it. I was telling my buddy, 'If I have to go to war, I'm bringing a wrestler with me.' Wrestlers are some of the most phenomenal athletes in the world and you have to ben mentally sharp and cognitive," Nduka said.
Being a football player and bodybuilder moving to the pro wrestling world, there's a stigma associated and fans, coaches and many others will naturally question passion. Nduka was asked of a situation early where that seemed to be the case. Fightful reported shortly after Nduka and referee Drake Wuertz were released that a confrontation took place between the two. Nduka confirmed as much, noting that it happened way back in 2019.
"This happened two weeks into my tenure in WWE," Nduka clarified. "I'm greener than money and putting my best foot forward. We're on the road and doing live shows. The rookies, it's an unsaid thing, a respect thing, where you put the ring together and let the vets and the guys who have been there take care of their business, handle the matches, do what they have to do. I came from football and bodybuilding, so I understand the hierarchy. I'm there with my new class, we're setting up the ring, and I had never set up a ring. It's probably my third or fourth time. Mind you, I didn't even have to be there because the first four weeks of being in WWE, you don't have to go on the road. You can take your time to find an apartment and settle down. Me being who I am, I wasn't going to stay at home and twiddle my thumbs, I'm going get in the mix. There was one other person who went as well. Ashantee Thee Adonis (went). He was showing me how to tie the ropes. Drake was in the middle of the ring and there was something on the other side of the ring, a turnbuckle pad or something, Drake being Drake, he was yelling, 'We need somebody here right now!' Me and Tuhutti (Miles), we're tying the knots and he looks at us and says 'You two get up here right now and put the pads on the turnbuckle.' I slowly turn and look at him and said, 'We're doing this right now. We're going to finish this and then we'll get to that.' He snaps, just yelling at the top of his lungs, 'No, you get in here right now!' I slid into the ring, everyone is watching, me being who I am, I got up and in his face and said, 'Don't ever talk to me like that again. Not even my father talks like that to me.' He had said 'boy' or something like that, something that triggered me. I don't know anything about him. I don't know him from the next man. I know that he's different so I got in the ring, looked him in the eye, and he took a step back and started yelling again. I slid out of the ring and said, 'Let me talk to you outside.' Everyone is like, 'Ohhhh.' I walked outside, he came out and we talked like men. I said, 'Look, I know you've been here for a while. You're a man, I'm a man too.' I asked him, 'Do you think you were respectful? Even if you thought I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing, do you think you respectfully asked me to do what you wanted me to do?' He was like, 'No man, you're right.' I'm the type of person that will nip it in the bud right there. If I feel like you're being disrespectful, I'm not going to continue to allow you to be disrespectful to me because I've shown you nothing but respect. We had an eye-to-eye and that was the last day Drake did that to me. I didn't have an issue with him. It was one of those things where after it happened, I walked back to the locker room and everyone was like, 'Good on you. That's how you stand up for yourself. You weren't doing anything wrong. You were doing what you were asked to do.' Sometimes, you have to check somebody because they'll keep walking all over you and talk a certain way. That's not how I operate."
Nduka was adamant and specific in saying from that moment on he never had any issues with Drake Wuertz. Billed as 6'6", 265 pounds by WWE, Nduka said that not only did he avoid any heat, it actually impressed a specific NXT Performance Center coach
"Right after it happened [Robbie] Brookside was there and he said, 'Good on you' and that was it. He saw the whole thing and he understood that there was no reason, especially in front of my co-workers and me being new, I don't know if [Drake] was trying to set the tone or....I don't know what his thought process was, but I know what my thought process was. I'm going to respect everybody in the room and I feel like that should be returned," Nduka said.
Despite his release, Nduka isn't looking back, and knows the competition is high. In addition to those that he mentioned reaching out to him, there were several coaches he pointed to helping out.
"The Performance Center is filled with elite, high-level athletes. You walk in there and got people like Reggie, Oddysey (?) a 330-pound man that moves like a cat. You have some elite-level athletes. Excellent coaches that are constantly giving you feedback. I used those opportunities. Every time I talked to a coach, whether it be Norman (Smiley), Scotty (2 Hotty), Terry Taylor, I was getting positive feedback. It wasn't making a lot of sense when I walked into that room to get released because it was constant positive feedback and constant, 'You're going to make a lot of money in this business.' The Friday before I got released, I had training, and after training I go straight to weights. After weights, I sat in the CWC and watched Terry Taylor's class, just watching and learning. They got to break and Terry walked up to me and was like, 'Heard a lot of good things about you, seen a lot of good things, you're going to make a lot of money in this business.' I nodded and went back. You don't take those things and get big-headed or anything, I just keep my nose down and keep grinding and continue to watch practice. Four days later, I got released,"
Looking ahead, Nduka is able to take bookings towards the end of June, and has already heard from promoters.
"I believe June 19 I can technically start working and get back on the scene. Yeah (I've had offers). It wasn't even in two hours after I got released, my DMs, all these promotions asking me (to work). I wasn't really familiar with the non-compete clause, I didn't know if it was 30 days or 90 days. Main roster is 90, NXT is 30. Originally, I was like, 'Ah man, I can't do anything from three months.' They were like, 'No, check that again.' We looked at the contract and saw it was 30 days, so we answered accordingly. I just want to say that the positive feedback...Twitter is normally the world of trolls, but I haven't received one bad message or comment. it's been supportive. I'm like, 'Where were yall when I was there? Why are you giving me my flowers now?' It's one of those things where you get your flowers when you pass away. I'm here now, let me get my flowers," Nduka joked.
You can see our full interview at the top of the page.