His WWE release came as a surprise to those inside the building. Now he’s trying to take his career to the next level in a smaller promotion.
A performer with breakout potential is bringing his talents to Major League Wrestling.
EJ Nduka was officially announced as part of the MLW roster Thursday night. The charismatic 6′ 8″, 290-pounder will be making his debut as part of the 40-person Battle Riot on July 10 in Philadelphia at the old ECW Arena, and he is determined to use this new platform as his showcase.
“This is a promotion that believes in me almost as much as I believe in myself, and that’s a recipe to make some magic,” Nduka says. “I plan on shocking the world in MLW.”
Nduka took a unique route to pro wrestling. A former college football player and professional bodybuilder, Nduka signed with WWE in the summer of 2019. Although he briefly worked the NXT house show circuit before the pandemic, the vast majority of his work took place learning and grinding at the WWE Performance Center.
His spirit and determination helped distinguish him. In addition to his intelligence and ability to learn the craft at a rapid pace, Nduka brings a rare combination of an outstanding physique and elite level of athleticism. There is no one else in wrestling with his measurables. At a regional combine ahead of the 2012 NFL draft, Nduka, who played college football at Sam Houston State, posted a 42.5″ vertical jump and 10′ 2″ broad jump. He also recorded a remarkable 33 reps on the 225-pound bench press. Between the end of his football career and embarking on his wrestling journey, Nduka competed as a professional bodybuilder.
While with WWE, there were many within the Performance Center who envisioned stardom for him. But only a week after shooting a SmackDown commercial for WWE this spring, Nduka was one of several trainees released by the company. This was a shock to those inside the PC, as well as a defining moment for Nduka.
“It was my wife that knew this was the catalyst I needed to jump-start my engine,” Nduka says. “I’m not content. I’m not satisfied. I know who I am and what I am going to accomplish.
“I come from two immigrant parents that came to America from Nigeria with nothing but hopes and dreams. I have five siblings, and we grew up happy in a two-bedroom apartment. My parents always said, ‘Something better is coming.’ That’s what this is for me. I’m facing an obstacle, and I am going to use my full force to drop-kick that s— away. I’ve worked for 32 years to get here, and I’m ready to control my own fate.”
A mere three hours after becoming a free agent, Nduka had already received interest from all the major companies in wrestling, including AEW. Yet he believes that not one offers the opportunity he is being given in MLW.
“I’m grateful for the promotions that considered me, but I’m betting on myself in MLW,” Nduka says. “MLW was the right fit for me because they were the most transparent and authentic. They saw untapped potential, and they want to give me an opportunity to show what I can do. I want to use all my resources, work with the best and learn from the best.
“WWE is a machine that will keep going, with or without me. Here in MLW, I can go learn and grow, and I can become ‘The Guy.’ ”
Among Nduka’s most influential supporters in WWE was NXT boss Paul “Triple H” Levesque, making his release even more bewildering. But instead of dwelling on a decision from the past, Nduka’s sole focus is centered around showing the industry that he is a genuine star.
Nduka’s physique sets him apart in the industry, and his charisma on the mike is undeniable. Since his time on-screen has been limited, Nduka’s approach in the ring remains something of a surprise. Sources within WWE indicated to Sports Illustrated that Levesque wanted to wait a few more months before Nduka was featured on television—and that timeline is still in play, except he won’t be making his debut in NXT, but rather for MLW.
Identifying and acquiring the next major wrestling star is a million-dollar proposition, and Nduka believes he is ready to break out.
“It’s going to be unpredictable and it’s going to be different, and I am going to be one of the most entertaining people in the entire industry,” Nduka says. “I plan on being one of the GOATs when this is all said and done, and the next step for that to happen for me is here in MLW.
“I’m carrying the rock and getting an opportunity, and I am going to take advantage.”
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.