For the last four months, a common request has surrounded Buddy Murphy’s name: if nothing else, just let him wrestle. The rest? Well that’d be a bonus at this point. After all, Murphy had basically vanished since joining SmackDown Live, rarely appearing and even worse, not wrestling once until only last week. It was a bizarre trend, especially considering the basis for Murphy’s move in the first place. As Cruiserweight Champion, ‘The Best Kept Secret’ had been a revelation, producing multiple in-ring thrillers in a quite remarkable 14 month stint.
By its conclusion though, the natural next step felt necessary. It was time for Murphy to move on but with that adjustment, caution came. On 205 Live, Murphy’s strengths were perfectly accentuated, spotlighting his physical ability with simple stories that allowed the action to speak for itself. That felt unlikely to continue on the blue brand however, as SmackDown’s contrasting approach would likely demand different elements from Murphy’s skill-set. That challenge was unavoidable though and frankly, the least of anyone’s concerns. Instead, much of the wariness surrounded Murphy’s presentation in general.
As a Cruiserweight, ‘The Juggernaut’ had been the biggest fish in a wildly talented but admittedly small pond. That couldn’t be further from the reality that awaited though, as Buddy suddenly stood alongside some of the industry’s largest names. With that transition, expectations had to be tempered slightly, as Murphy was understandably unlikely to remain the dominant powerhouse that fans had become familiar with. That much made sense but even still, people were rightly protective of this character, a central attraction for the somewhat forgotten but often remarkable 205 brand.
Though they were officially apart of the main roster, that underestimated perception left the Cruiserweight stars feeling far more perilous than any NXT call-up ever has. They didn’t enter with the same anticipation and in reality, wasn’t even new to begin with. SmackDown crowds had been watching the 205 Live talent every week and they’d even been a staple of WWE’s PPV pre-shows. For those of us watching weekly, these extraordinary talents may have been stars but to the general viewer, they were just vaguely familiar faces. In that sense though, Murphy was the perfect symbol of the brand’s underdog essence.
Discarded from NXT TV, Murphy had become a genuine secret, almost forgotten while plying his trade on the brand’s local live events. 205 Live gave him an opportunity to change that though, a lifeline that in just a few months, would truly transform his career. Generally speaking, he may not have been as revered as those headlining TakeOver events but on output alone, his consistent quality was staggering. He wasn’t alone in that regard either, combining perfectly with the division’s finest as together, 205 Live’s talent turned silent apathy into genuine excitement and admiration.
That trait provided some optimism to Murphy’s upcoming cause. Though there was certainly no guarantee that Murphy would be portrayed as important, as long as he got an opportunity to perform, success of some kind would almost certainly follow. Thankfully, that much at least felt inevitable but in reality, quite the opposite would occur. That brings us back to the aforementioned request that frustrated fans in the months following Murphy’s move. Once again absent from TV, Murphy hadn’t been provided a chance to sink or swim but thankfully, that meant he hadn’t been minimized either.
That proved important, as while some fans may have forgotten about Murphy, that was far better than them watching him halted him at the first hurdle. Instead, some mystery could remain around Murphy’s presence, a mystery that’d soon provide the opportunity he’d been waiting for. After becoming unexpectedly embroiled in the saga surrounding Roman Reigns, Murphy would finally have an opportunity to wrestle, first facing Apollo Crews on the SummerSlam pre-show. Nine days later and incredibly, Murphy’s career had changed yet again.
Following the contentious fall-out of his tilt with Crews, Murphy took on Roman Reigns in a simply enthralling encounter. ‘The Big Dog’ was selfless, allowing Murphy to flourish in his SmackDown Live debut and elevating him along the way. That much is a credit to Reigns but in truth, Murphy’s execution elevated himself, with the former Cruiserweight Champion’s crisp offense shining through in every exchange. He still performed with that familiar desperation too, the same recklessness that once made Murphy stand out even within the spectacular 205 ranks.
In one match, Murphy had climbed quite a distance but just one week later, he’d already surpass that showing. Opposite Daniel Bryan, Murphy personified the traditional wrestling protagonist, selling vividly while fighting uphill with sheer vigor and verve. Though still as explosive as the villainous destroyer that sat in the Cruiserweight throne, this was a reminder of Murphy’s versatility, yet again reiterating his in-ring range. The crowd’s organic support of Murphy was ideal acclaim for the match too, rooting him to the ropes as drama unfolded with each moving moment.
Eventually, Murphy would do far more than just reach the ropes too, defeating Bryan and reaching a new height in his still young main roster career. Truthfully, Murphy never required that much, the match itself had an effect on its own. With that being said, it’s a credit to creative and Bryan himself that Murphy was given this much anyway, taking a great moment and making it even more special. It’s unclear what the future holds for Buddy Murphy, whether this forecasted what’ll follow or will soon be rendered just another false dawn.
After this last two weeks though, it’s hard to have any questions remaining about Murphy himself. He really and truly is that good, even among a roster this talented. No matter how special those surrounding Murphy are, it seems that he’ll stand out regardless. Why that is? Well I’m not sure it’s as simple as just a single sentence or skill. Instead, it’s a combination of elements that are so rich within each and every Buddy Murphy match. For whatever reason, they just feel slightly different and thankfully, Reigns and Bryan were willing to make that matter.
Fans may have just wanted to see Murphy wrestle but in truth, it was worth the wait as in the end, they got that and then some.