Buddy Murphy recently appeared on the “State of Combat” podcast from CBS Sports and talked about what led to his current run on WWE SmackDown and how he regained his love for pro wrestling. Murphy is set to face Ali on tomorrow’s SmackDown in a first round King of the Ring tournament match, just one week after his clean pinfall TV win over Daniel Bryan.

Murphy and former tag team partner Wesley Blake won the WWE NXT Tag Team Titles back in January 2015, by defeating The Lucha Dragons, and later lost them to The Vaudevillains in August of that year. They suffered a multi-month losing streak after the title loss, until WWE took Alexa Bliss away from their team in May 2016. Murphy and Blake then split up, and Murphy would hit his “NXT rock bottom” as a singles competitor when he went more than 365 days without appearing on TV. Murphy said he was just running through the motions at that point.

“That really got me down because what I see today is what I feel like I always had to offer,” Murphy said. “But I guess maybe some other people didn’t see that at the time. It was a lot of soul searching. I was kind of running through the motions, and to be honest, counting the days left. You can only do so much.”

Murphy said his career-altering epiphany would come at the end of 2017. He was booked to work singles matches against Aleister black during a NXT live event tour, their first matches together. Murphy said he decided to just let it all hang out and worry about the consequences later.

“I was like, ‘I’m going to die on my sword. I’m going to do what I do, and it’s going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, but you might as well go out on your own sword,'” Murphy said about his state of mind going into the matches with Black that weekend.

Murphy said not only did he steal the show for three straight nights on that live event loop, but more importantly his love for the business returned. Murphy said he also rubbed people the wrong way by how he bounced back. He said this was the starting point for the Murphy we see today on the SmackDown brand.

“I rubbed people the wrong way because they wanted it a set way, but I felt like I had to do what I loved and I wanted to bring back what I loved,” Murphy said. “That was the starting point for what you see today. The love for wrestling is back in me, and I think you can see that by the quality that I want to produce. I want to be the best I can be and be known as one of the best in the world and for people to realize that I was always this from the beginning.”

Murphy started thinking that WWE 205 Live was the place for him, believing that the workrate on the show was perfect for is skills. He said others in the company weren’t convinced, but he persisted and relentlessly asked for a spot on the roster, to the point of actual derision.

“They kind of like laughed in my face like, ‘No, don’t worry about it. That’s not happening.’ I asked so many times that I decided to just get in a little bit of trouble because I kept asking the same question over and over again and the answer was already, No,'” Murphy revealed.

Murphy then focused his free time on transforming his body, dropping down from 230 pounds to the cruiserweight limit of 205 pounds. Murphy said he sent a message to WWE Producer Adam Pearce, who heads up the 205 Live brand, and said he wanted to be involved in the tournament to crown a new WWE Cruiserweight Champion at WrestleMania 34. Murphy didn’t make it to the finals, but he had a buzz on 205 Live and said he developed a new new move-set, which CBS noted put him in position as one of the best in-ring workers. Murphy would eventually win the WWE Cruiserweight Title from Cedric Alexander at WWE Super Show-Down in October 2018, in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia.

Murphy was called up to the SmackDown roster in April with the Superstar Shakeup, and said he strategically took time off TV in order to bulk back up. Murphy recently had his first SmackDown TV match with Roman Reigns, a hard-fought loss, and the second match with Bryan, which he won. He talked about working in the current mystery man storyline with Reigns and Bryan.

“Just being in there with Roman, it’s crazy. He’s the Hulk Hogan and John Cena of today, he’s the [Steve] Austin and The Rock,” Murphy said. “To just stand in the ring with him, when his music went off, it gave me goosebumps. I got a little bit nervous but then I just said, ‘I belong here. This is all happening for a reason.’ For him to want to step into the ring with me is awesome, and it’s an honor. It felt like magic happening. And Bryan truly loves wrestling. To do what he did for me and has done for others, it just tells you what kind of person he is in real life, and I can’t thank him enough.”

Murphy also said he has a strong relationship with the boss, Vince McMahon. While he’s heard positives from Vince, he said he would just as well prefer to hear negative feedback from the WWE Chairman. Regarding the King of the Ring tournament and Tuesday’s first round match with Ali, Murphy said he wants to win the tournament but he’s equally focused on getting better in every aspect of being a performer. He realizes KOTR is a huge opportunity.

“I need to hear the little critiques because they are going to make me better,” Murphy said. “I’m all about being the best I can be, and I’m my own biggest critic, so if I do watch some of my stuff back, I’m not looking at what I did good. I’m looking at what I did wrong because that is going to make me better. I don’t want to sound like I have an ego or anything, but I know what I’m capable of and I know I can do that every single night. I just hope that the people can see the passion that I have and get behind me when it comes to that. Whether it’s one minute or 15 minutes or 30 minutes, I’m going out there to steal the show and everyone can get behind me.”

Murphy admitted he has a big chip on his shoulder, and said he’s out to prove to everyone that he’s real and that he’s here to stay.

“I’ve got one big chip on my shoulder to prove to the world. It’s not just to prove to the people of the world, it’s to prove to the people of NXT. It’s to prove to the people in the back when I wasn’t being used what you were sitting on,” Murphy said. “Everyone is jumping on the Buddy Murphy train now even though it was just, ‘This guy still works here? I thought he was released.’ It’s a big chip, and I’m out to prove to everyone that I’m real and I’m here to stay. The character of Buddy Murphy is me but with a huge chip on my shoulder, and I think over the next couple of months you are going to see what I’m truly about.”