This week on 205 Live, a return was promised. The wrestling world demanded Neville but in truth, the return was far more low-key than that. Back at 205lbs, Buddy Murphy’s admittedly brief absence from the Cruiserweight division had now come to an end. Now in fairness, it may not have been the kind of grand comeback story that some had hoped for, but beneath the initial speculation, this was indeed a key re-addition for the up and down purple brand.
Interestingly, that’s a bizarrely accurate metaphor for much of Buddy’s time in WWE thus far. Rarely at the forefront, often underappreciated but consistent in quality nonetheless. It’s pretty crazy to consider that Murphy’s first real success under the WWE banner came well over 3 years ago. Alongside Wesley Blake, Buddy won the NXT tag titles in a victory that came without great build or pomp. Instead the relatively new team simply won the belts in a pretty short TV match, all as fired up, enthusiastic babyfaces.
As champions, Blake and Murphy soon made a transition to the villainous side, becoming a throwback heel duo that served as ideal opposition against any popular babyface act imaginable. Their work may not have brought them widespread acclaim but it was admirable in its commitment. Add in Alexa Bliss and their act only became stronger. There wasn't much to like about Blake and Murphy as tag team titleholders. They wasn't cool or flashy but instead just wholly unlikeable guys led around by a woman that with just her presence, elevated their ability to get heat.
Looking back now, it’s quite incredible to consider how much Buddy’s style has developed since then. For a variety of reasons, we now know what he’s capable of…or at least we think we do anyway. On 205 Live, we’ve seen Murphy play both dynamic acrobat as well as unparalleled powerhouse. To me that makes his approach back then all the more impressive. As NXT Tag Champ, Buddy wasn't looking to wow you with athleticism or skill. Instead he was trying to make you hate him and doing so, he (and his team) only strengthened their foes’ babyface status.
However, Blake and Murphy were soon overtaken by tag team contemporaries and with that, lost their way. In many ways, the approach they’d taken had been both a blessing and a curse. It had served a purpose for those in charge but for the two talents involved, it had almost made them an afterthought in NXT’s rapidly growing product. Couple that with Alexa’s rising star and Blake and Murphy were somewhat dismissed in favor of other acts. One thing then led to another and before long, Buddy vanished from television, not appearing on NXT TV for well over a year.
In hindsight though, that time off-camera may have been a blessing in disguise. Wrestling a ton amount of singles matches against a range of opponents, Murphy built some almost underground momentum. His stock was rising due to the mystery, with high praise coming consistently for his in-ring performance on NXT live events of all sizes. We’d only seen glimpses of his ability on TV but in fairness, that was enough to make the relative hype understandable. It was quite stunning to see a guy with such talent so aimless, almost non-existent as far as profile and promotion.
With that peculiar status came the moniker of ‘Best Kept Secret,’ a nickname at the forefront of Buddy’s social media posts as people continued to question his absence from all things NXT TV. Thankfully, in February 2018, things would change. Announced as a part of the 205 Live Title Tournament, Murphy was reintroduced with a video package and quite frankly, he hasn't looked back since. Whilst his spectacular matches with Mustafa Ali and Kalisto stand out most generally, it was Buddy’s debut opposite Ariya Daivari that for me, best encapsulated his quite unique skill-set.
It may not have been anything that’ll stick with people for years to come but it was sharp, logical and intense. Murphy’s offense was crisp and explosive while his selling was committed and measured. In the wild world of Cruiserweight chaos, that match may have been understated but to me, that’s Buddy’s strongest asset. He has all the athletic tools to match any wrestler in the world but his real ability comes in his understanding of when and where to use it. Buddy’s matches are generally hard-hitting and exciting but truth is, they often come across rather considered too.
There’s some detail to the danger and it’s that trait which has made Murphy such a tremendous addition to the 205 ranks. There’s no knowing what the future holds for the former NXT Tag Champion but one thing is for sure, his time as wrestling’s ‘Best Kept Secret’ is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Whilst it may be going fittingly under the radar, this is currently one of wrestling’s finest success stories. Away from the limelight, Buddy Murphy continued to master his craft and now with the ball firmly in his grasp, he’s running with it, this time quicker than ever.