One in particular that stood out was how former pro bodybuilder & football player and WWE developmental wrestler EJ “Ezra Judge” Nduka almost got into a fight with Wuertz. The Nduka/Wuertz confrontation was allegedly one of several instances where a minority had an issue with “the way things were worded by Wuertz.”
Nduka, who was also released last week, has now gone on the record about what happened with Wuertz. Here’s what he told Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp:
“This happened two weeks into my tenure in WWE [which would have been Aug. or Sept. of 2019]. 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 - Ashante The Body [now Ashanta Thee Adonis; real name Tehuti Miles]. 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 Tehuti, 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.”
He also specifically mentioned coach Robbie Brookside offering supports after the issue with Wuertz. Overall, while he said he felt “blindsided” by his release, Nduka’s interview with Sapp was very positive regarding his experiences at the WWE Performance Center. He “fell in love” with the business during his time there. Right now, he has a 30 day non-compete, but is looking forward to taking independent bookings next month.
With regards to the Wuertz confrontation? While you should never call a Black man “boy” (or any man, for that matter, but especially not an African-American given the way the word has been used to demean and diminish Black men throughout this country’s history), I was honestly expecting something more, I don’t know... explosive?
Not that we need that - at all. Assuming that even just a few of the “no fewer than ten wrestlers” who told Fightful they didn’t feel comfortable or safe around Wuertz exists, that’s plenty of justification to terminate an at-will employment contract. And that’s before we even get into his public advocacy against health measures his employer was trying to main at the workplace, while wearing company logo-ed clothing.
Regardless, Nduka seems focused on the future, which is certainly a good attitude for him to take. We’ll look forward to seeing what he does next, and hope that everyone is in a better place following Wuertz’s exit from NXT.