Where Are They Now?: Trevor Murdoch
He may not have had the physique of a Greek god, but Trevor Murdoch knows that hard work, along with some sweet karaoke skills, matters more than a six-pack in the long run. The Harley Race-trained trucker-turned-tag team champion takes the work ethic he picked up in the squared circle into his current gig in his home state of Missouri.
Murdoch’s road to the ring began in tiny Fredericktown, Mo., a town of fewer than 4,000 people in the Ozark Mountains. He was a wrestling fan almost from the beginning.
“My brother would wake me up on Sunday mornings to watch World Class Championship Wrestling,” he told WWE.com. “I grew up on the Von Erichs and ‘Gentleman’ Chris Adams. I loved how they competed in the ring and controlled that crowd, how they were able to bring them up and back down. The whole thing really amazed me.”
Like many kids, Murdoch dreamed of stepping into the ring himself. However, training for the squared circle wasn’t as accessible as it is today.
“I always had it in the back of my mind, but it was one of those things that you really didn’t know how to get into,” Murdoch said. “It was kind of a big wish.”
After high school, he planned on joining the Marines, but instead went into the Job Corps and became a certified welder. Before long, he found himself in Athens, Ga., building railroad cars. He soon came back to Missouri, where his brother was working with a small independent wrestling organization. Murdoch finally had his opportunity to step in the ring.
“I was really just a tackling dummy for everybody,” he said with a laugh. “I was a young guy, 6-foot-3, I was good to beat up.
“In the beginning, it was very nerve-wracking, because number one, he’s ‘Handsome’ Harley Race, eight-time NWA World Champion, ‘The King’!” he said. “But I knew in the back of my head if I could get through [Race’s training], I would have the reputation of at least being a good, tough wrestler. I wanted that.”
Murdoch got the chance to fine-tune his skills in the ring while Race figured out what the best curriculum was for teaching future classes. The burly grappler recalls six- and seven-day-a-week training with calisthenics, matches and learning a move or two from “Handsome” Harley. Though he picked up plenty of knowledge from Race, Murdoch holds three lessons from Race very dear.
“First and foremost, you always need to be a man of your word. If you don’t have your word, people can’t trust what you say and you’re nothing in this business,” Murdoch recalled. “Secondly, the cream will rise to the top. This business isn’t fair, but if you work hard, they’ll eventually have no choice but to put you in the top position. Number three, be tough. Don’t let them see that they’ve hurt you.”
That advice stuck with Murdoch as he traveled to Japan, spending six months in Pro Wrestling NOAH’s dojo. He endured grueling training that included 500 squats, 300 push-ups, extended neck bridging sessions, in-ring drills and more. He didn’t know it at the time, but this excursion would change his life the next time Race sent him to Raw to work as a local talent.
“WWE had never really paid any attention to me,” Murdoch explained. “I was just game for going up there to meet the guys, have some good catering, collect $250 and go home.”
However, once he got to the ringside area to work out, his Japanese-style stretching routine caught the attention of some Superstars. After talking about his experience overseas, Murdoch had the support of a few wrestlers, who got him a tryout match that night. He impressed and earned another match the next night. After that, he found himself in the office of then-WWE Talent Relations head John Laurinaitis.
“He said, ‘Kid, what are you doing nowadays?’” Murdoch recalled. “I said I was a bartender and he asked if I wanted a job [with WWE]. All I could do was nod my head yes.”
Unlike most Superstars, Trevor Murdoch did not end up in WWE’s developmental system. Instead, the redneck brawler almost immediately found himself trying out to be Lance Cade’s tag team partner. The handsome cowboy had non-televised matches teaming with Murdoch and another potential Superstar and opted to run with Murdoch. The two clicked both inside and outside the ring almost immediately.
“After our first match on the road, he and I had a long talk during that first car ride,” Murdoch said. “We told each other that we both wanted to be successful, that we knew eventually that we’d probably split up. But, we didn’t want any bull crap between us. We always wanted to be honest. The one rule we had is we never complained or got mad in front of anybody, it was always for the car.”
It was that upfront honesty that made Murdoch & Cade more than just on-screen partners.
“We were similar in our personal lives in a lot of ways, too,” he said. “We both had young children and idolized the same people in the business. WWE was putting a tag team together to make money, but they ended up putting together friends. Brothers.”
“To walk through that curtain and see all those people, your chest is pounding, you start to breathe harder,” he said. “You try to look into the eyes of every fan, but you can’t because there’s so many. When you slide into that ring and feel the heat of the lights, you know it’s game time.”
In their debut, Murdoch & Cade shocked the WWE Universe by defeating then-World Tag Team Champions The Hurricane & Rosey. The trucker and the cowboy earned themselves a title opportunity several weeks later at Unforgiven 2005. The new tag team emerged with the championships after Murdoch pinned Hurricane. The feeling after he was handed the title was indescribable.
“You don’t ever expect anything like that to happen,” Murdoch told WWE.com.
More important to Murdoch was being able to show the fruit of his labor to his trainer.
“I came home with the title and laid it down on Harley Race’s desk,” he said. “He just smiled at me and said, ‘I told you the cream will rise to the top.’ It was really awesome to be able to bring it to Harley and also to the guys training [at Race’s school], to show them that it was attainable.”
By November 2005, Murdoch and Cade had split up to focus on their singles career. In addition to going after the Intercontinental Championship, Murdoch also took up a role as the squared circle’s resident movie critic on WWE Unlimited, a predecessor to the WWE App’s second-screen experience.
The break-up didn’t last very long, however. The two were back together and wreaking havoc in Raw’s tag team division by spring 2006. It took them a little while to get back in the title hunt, but they did in summer 2007. Cade & Murdoch soon had a friendly rivalry with The Hardy Boyz over the World Tag Team Titles that turned unfriendly rather quickly after Trevor & Lance dethroned Matt & Jeff on a Raw that June. Murdoch had a blast working with one of the most popular teams in WWE history.
“Even today, I can still hear their entrance music and feel the energy that they brought to the building,” he said. “This business is about telling stories and they could do it in so many different ways. The Hardy Boyz are by far one of the best tag teams in the business.”
Murdoch & Cade held the World Tag Team Titles for nearly the rest of 2007. After they dropped the titles to Cody Rhodes & Hardcore Holly, tensions began to rise between the partners. Trevor and his teammate knew a split was likely on its way, so they began thinking of ways to freshen up their singles careers. Murdoch’s inspiration came from an unlikely source.
“Me and Lance would end up in karaoke bars and I would sing and just have fun,” he said. “Lance told me I ought to do something with singing. I thought about it and was like, ‘Maybe something could happen,’ and he said, ‘Well, you’ll never know until you try.’“
So Murdoch set out to pitch the idea to the one man who could make it happen — Mr. McMahon.
“So I became a stalker,” he chuckled. “I would walk around the arena and see Vince, looking for the opportune time. Somebody’s talking to him, son of a gun. I start chasing him down, getting closer and closer to his office. He’s right at the door and another person goes to follow behind him and I just stick my arm in front of her and go through the door and follow Mr. McMahon right in and lean up against the door.”
Murdoch knew he only had one chance to sell Mr. McMahon on his singing, so he made it count.
“I said, ‘I know Lance and I are going to split soon, but I have an idea. I don’t know what we can do with it, but I like to sing country music. Here I go,’” he recalled. “So right there in his office, I sang a song. I don’t remember what it was, because I was so nervous he was going to laugh and tell me I was an idiot. I get done, and there’s that 10 or 20 second pause. Then, he went, ‘Damn, Trevor, that was great. Why didn’t you tell me you could do this? We’re going to put this on TV.’”
One week later, Murdoch was standing on the announcers’ table after a loss, serenading Cade and the WWE Universe with his version of Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.” The brawler was surprised by the reaction he got.
“I gave it enough time that the crowd started coming along with me,” he said. “By the end, they started cheering. It was a lot of fun.”
Murdoch crooned for the WWE Universe for a few more weeks, but was released in June 2008. Though he hasn’t been with WWE in nearly six years, any time he talks about his run, he smiles.
“I’m grateful,” he said. “WWE gave me an opportunity to do a number of things, to fulfill career goals and dreams, but also the opportunity to get in front of a national audience. I have nothing but good things to say about WWE and a lot of fond memories of being a champion, wrestling overseas and learning about the business from a different perspective.”
After leaving WWE, Murdoch competed in Japan and India, while maintaining a regular schedule on the independent circuit. He still enjoys getting in the ring and passing on the knowledge that Harley Race gave him.
He and his wife also purchased the bar he worked at before signing with WWE, turning it into T. Murdock’s Bar & Grill in Eldon, Mo. It was a perfect fit for him, as he likes to cook and learn about people.
“It was a great business,” he said. “It gave me an opportunity to meet the people in town and spend time with them on a one-on-one basis. That’s what I like to do, meet people and learn about them. It’s amazing how many people out there do such different things.”
He sold the restaurant last year, but Murdoch has a new gig that he enjoys.
“I’m working for a heavy equipment company, installing fiber optic cable,” he said. “I actually drill in the ground all day long. It’s a really nice paced job. I make good money and it keeps me at home, too. That’s what I’m really enjoying.”
Though he may be a surly brawler in the ring, Murdoch lights up when he talks about his family.
“I’ve got a beautiful wife, a daughter who’s 14, a freshman in high school, which I can’t believe,” he said. “And I have an 8-year-old son who’s starting tackle football this year.
“Work and family, that’s Trevor Murdoch today.”
To see what Trevor Murdoch is up to today, follow him on Twitter @RedNeckTMurdoch.