Mustafa Ali and Buddy Murphy: A Hidden Gem of a Rivalry

205 Live is a dead show, and Mustafa Ali and Buddy Murphy were parts of the life that came from it. What was once supposed to be a platform for some of WWE’s most exciting performers saw a slow fall into irrelevance before its ultimate cancellation in early 2022. However, for a short period of time, 205 Live became a secret haven for cruiserweight wrestling.

Between 2018 and 2019, the purple brand took a shocking new direction following the release of Enzo Amore that gave numerous stars the opportunity to do what they are the best at, and tell stories inside the ring. Cedric Alexander’s rise to the top of the division and Drew Gulak’s villainy as an anti-high-flying preacher are fondly remembered by the show’s fanbase, but it’s two key roster members that stood out above everyone else.

Mustafa Ali vs. Buddy Murphy: WWE 205 Live, May 8, 2018 - YouTube
[Photo: YouTube]

Mustafa Ali and Buddy Murphy: A Hidden Gem of a Rivalry

On one hand, we have Mustafa Ali. Originally a last-minute replacement for the Cruiserweight Classic, Ali was the underdog for basically the entirety of his run on the show, starting essentially at the bottom of the barrel slowly climbing up the ranks over the first 2 years of the division.

Ali took a backseat alongside most of his peers during the Enzo Amore title reign, but once the show was left without a champion, it was Ali who got handed the baton, main eventing the first show of 205 Live’s new era. and establishing himself as the Heart of 205 Live

On the other hand, we have Buddy Murphy. A former NXT tag team champion that quickly fell by the wayside once his team was split and his manager was called up. Murphy’s addition to the 205 Live roster in early 2018 felt odd at first but would end up being a move that would revitalize Murphy’s career, allowing him to showcase his craft on a bigger stage after a year missing from TV.

Murphy might not have had the typical look of a cruiserweight, but in a stroke of genius, Murphy’s character leaned heavily on this fact, casting him as a Juggernaut in the land of cruiserweights.

Mustafa Ali vs Buddy Murphy - Cruiserweight Title Tournament Quarterfinal: 205 Live, March 6, 2018 - YouTube
[Photo: YouTube]
Mustafa Ali and Buddy Murphy’s first battle took place in the second round of the cruiserweight championship tournament. This was only the second match in Murphy’s career as a cruiserweight, with a victory over Ariya Daivari in the first round failing to paint Murphy in any remarkable manner.

This was Murphy’s coming out party as he got to showcase his physical dominance against one of the most established names on the brand all while simultaneously showing off his selling skills as Ali took his arm out of commission with a 450 splash. It immediately positioned Murphy as a threat in the division without compromising the title picture ahead of WrestleMania and made “The Best Kept Secret” an accurate moniker.

At WrestleMania 34, Cedric Alexander defeated Mustafa Ali in the battle of Heart vs. Soul, taking the reins of the division in the process. The two remained close friends throughout the entirety of their stints on this show which would play a major role in setting up the second encounter in this series.

In a final pit stop before fighting for Alexander’s belt, Murphy had to go through Mustafa Ali. This time the action took a much different direction, with the better-prepared Murphy not falling for Ali’s usual tactics picking up his biggest singles victory up to that point.

Mustafa Ali vs. Buddy Murphy- No Disqualification Match: WWE 205 Live, July 3, 2018 - YouTube
[Photo: YouTube]
Murphy would come up short in his title match against Alexander, but would pull out another show-stealing performance that would secure him a spot as the number 1 heel on the brand for the foreseeable future.

By this point, it was clear Ali and Murphy had developed a personal rivalry and a third match was purposefully booked as a rubber match to finally settle the difference between these men. Ali and Murphy would go on to have their closest match to date having developed eye-catching chemistry.

Ali was seconds away from winning the tiebreaker, only for bitter heel Hideo Itami to interfere, ending the match in a No Contest. Frustrated with being unable to finish their match, Ali and Murphy would accept to fight in a triple threat match to determine a new number 1 contender. Itami would come out on top once again, leaving Ali and Murphy defeated, without a title shot and without any closure.

After two inconclusive endings to their feud, Ali and Murphy had enough, deciding the only way to properly put an end to their rivalry would be a No Disqualification match. On the July 3rd, 2018, edition of 205 Live, Mustafa Ali and Buddy Murphy wrestled each other with one mission: Make a name for themselves.

This was a masterpiece in mixing one’s moveset with the enviroment of a hardcore, a feat made more impressive by the fact, they were restricted from using any real weapons beyond the steel steps and the commentary table. Highly regarded as the greatest match in the show’s history, this was a PPV-quality main event hidden in the second least-watched program under the WWE umbrella.

Columnist Corner - WrestleRant
[Photo: WrestleRant]
Ali may have picked up the victory, but both men came out of this event with a special connection not only with each other, but with every fan watching this forgotten show. Months later, Ali and Murphy would meet one final time under the purple banner. Going in, Ali was still the same fan-favorite underdog coming off winning a hot feud against Hideo Itami.

Murphy, on the other hand, had risen to the occasion winning the Cruiserweight championship in his home country, becoming the final boss of the division. This wasn’t the most memorable match on their series, but had something none of their previous encounters had.

It took place at Survivor Series, one of the biggest stages the division had gotten up to that point, giving the Los Angeles crowd a taste of what two of the brand’s most gifted superstars could do in front of one of the largest audiences, WWE could offer. Ali put his body on the line to give the division the attention it deserved, putting over Murphy one final time in what would end up being his last singles match as part of the purple brand.

Aside from a tag match in late 2018, two battle royals, and a rare match in the 2019 King of the Ring, Ali & Murphy’s paths wouldn’t cross ever again. Murphy would lose the belt at WrestleMania and move on to short-term partnerships with Seth Rollins and the Mysterio family before getting released in mid-2021.

Ali & Murphy confront each other after their No DQ Match is made: 205 Live Exclusive, June 26, 2018 - YouTube
[Photo: YouTube]
Murphy would go on to find success in the indie scene and as part of AEW’s growing roster, now going by Buddy Matthews. Ali would receive a surprise call-up in the final weeks of the 2018 going on to face then-world champion, Daniel Bryan.

Ali’s tenure as part of the main roster would see unimaginable highs at one point challenging for the WWE championship on PPV, but also deeply frustrating lows including the breakup of the unfortunate Retribution. Ali would unsuccessfully ask for his release in early 2022 and now flounders in the lower midcard, likely waiting for his contract to run out.

Today, they might be in very different places in their careers, but still, in their mid-30s, there’s more than enough time for two of WWE’s most underrated stars to rekindle a hidden gem of a rivalry on a much more appreciated stage.