HOUSTON — The legend of Buddy Murphy continues, as the indomitable WWE Cruiserweight Champion stifled yet another challenge to his crown at WWE Elimination Chamber Kickoff to extend what is already one of the most dominant reigns in the title’s very young history and may well end up being the longest.

Buddy Murphy uses brute force to counter Akira Tozawa: WWE Elimination Chamber 2019 Kickoff Match

WWE Cruiserweight Champion Buddy Murphy uses sheer power to take down Akira Tozawa in a bid to retain his title in a WWE Elimination Chamber 2019 Kickoff Match.

The latest of Murphy’s would-be usurpers was Akira Tozawa, a human missile whose stint with the title was both rousing and brief; he won and lost the championship within the span of a week in 2017. This was his second play for redemption so far this year (Tozawa was part of Royal Rumble’s Fatal 4-Way title clash), and he fought as if it would be his last: Tozawa seemingly defied any sound strategy one might employ against Buddy Murphy, risking both the champion’s ire (a series of open-palm chops to start the match reddened Murphy's chest and his cheeks) and his strength, maneuvering into close quarters by locking in an Iron Octopus designed to sap Murphy’s power and tee him up for a final, breakneck push.

It paid off, to a point. Tozawa’s heart was as strong as any muscle Murphy employed to execute the deciding sequence, in which he reversed a second Iron Octopus into Murphy’s Law. But the champion seems to have long passed the point where anybody can surprise him for long. Either that, or he has at least become uniquely adept at snatching victory from the jaws of defeat: Even as Murphy’s offense awakened The Stamina Monster’s fighting spirit, he held tight with little more than proverbial grit and kicked out of one awe-inspiring maneuver after another (a top-rope hurricanrana, a perfect German suplex and a big senton through the ropes were among Tozawa’s masterstrokes) before finally muscling his way to his notorious finishing maneuver.

Despite an inspired effort from Tozawa, Buddy Murphy remains an unsolvable puzzle for some of the most creative minds in WWE — and with 63 days until he surpasses the longest reign in his title’s history, it’s looking like less of a matter of whether he’ll make the record books as to how high he’ll set the bar.

HOUSTON — The legend of Buddy Murphy continues, as the indomitable WWE Cruiserweight Champion stifled yet another challenge to his crown at WWE Elimination Chamber Kickoff to extend what is already one of the most dominant reigns in the title’s very young history and may well end up being the longest.

Buddy Murphy uses brute force to counter Akira Tozawa: WWE Elimination Chamber 2019 Kickoff Match

WWE Cruiserweight Champion Buddy Murphy uses sheer power to take down Akira Tozawa in a bid to retain his title in a WWE Elimination Chamber 2019 Kickoff Match.

The latest of Murphy’s would-be usurpers was Akira Tozawa, a human missile whose stint with the title was both rousing and brief; he won and lost the championship within the span of a week in 2017. This was his second play for redemption so far this year (Tozawa was part of Royal Rumble’s Fatal 4-Way title clash), and he fought as if it would be his last: Tozawa seemingly defied any sound strategy one might employ against Buddy Murphy, risking both the champion’s ire (a series of open-palm chops to start the match reddened Murphy's chest and his cheeks) and his strength, maneuvering into close quarters by locking in an Iron Octopus designed to sap Murphy’s power and tee him up for a final, breakneck push.

It paid off, to a point. Tozawa’s heart was as strong as any muscle Murphy employed to execute the deciding sequence, in which he reversed a second Iron Octopus into Murphy’s Law. But the champion seems to have long passed the point where anybody can surprise him for long. Either that, or he has at least become uniquely adept at snatching victory from the jaws of defeat: Even as Murphy’s offense awakened The Stamina Monster’s fighting spirit, he held tight with little more than proverbial grit and kicked out of one awe-inspiring maneuver after another (a top-rope hurricanrana, a perfect German suplex and a big senton through the ropes were among Tozawa’s masterstrokes) before finally muscling his way to his notorious finishing maneuver.

Despite an inspired effort from Tozawa, Buddy Murphy remains an unsolvable puzzle for some of the most creative minds in WWE — and with 63 days until he surpasses the longest reign in his title’s history, it’s looking like less of a matter of whether he’ll make the record books as to how high he’ll set the bar.