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Wrestling / William Regal

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William Regal (born Darren Kenneth Matthews on May 10, 1968 in Codsall Wood, Staffordshire, England) is a retired English professional wrestler best known for working for WWE as the general manager of NXT, and is arguably the biggest British wrestling star since the heyday of Davey Boy Smith. With a career spanning three decades all over the world, he gained the most fame and success in WCW in the mid-1990s as Lord Steven Regal and later WWE, which he joined in the final year of the famed Attitude Era and has remained since: first (and briefly) as Steven Regal the "Real Man's Man", and later (and since then) William Regal. For a long time he was the most senior member of the full-time talent roster going by ring experience, having been in the business longer than several prominent WWE Superstars (such as Cody Rhodes) have been alive.

Regal has seen quite possibly everything there is to see about the wrestling business, being one of the few wrestlers active today to have started his career as a legitimate submission wrestler on the British carnival circuit. He's one of the best in the ring, best on the mic, and knows how to tell a story in the ring. However, he's also seen the darker aspects of the business, particularly an almost crippling drug addiction that's unfortunately common in the wrestling business. He has since cleaned up and is arguably the greatest success story of WWE's Wellness Policy. Due to these facts, he's a favorite of diehard fans and smarks.

While William Regal was never a world champion, he has extensively trained several future world champions employed by WWE. You might have heard of them. Regal's final match came in 2013 against Antonio Cesaro on NXT, after which he became the General Manager of the black and gold brand.

After 9 years in the position he was released at the start of 2022. He debuted for All Elite Wrestling at Revolution 2022, becoming the mastermind of the Blackpool Combat Club. At the end of 2022, he amicably returned to WWE in a backstage role in order to work closer with his son.

Among his in-ring achievements, he is a 4x WCW World Television Champion, a 4x WWE European Heavyweight Champion, a 5x WWE Hardcore Champion, a 2x WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion and a 4x WWE World Tag Team Champion, holding the belts twice w/Lance Storm, 1x w/Eugene and 1x w/Yoshihiro Tajiri.

"Regal Tropes":

  • Accidental Misnaming: Mispronounces wrestler names like Youmanga (Umaga) and Triple Haitch (Triple H) - although the latter is actually a common pronunciation of the letter H in parts of the UK. During his feud with The Great Khali, he referred to Khali's translator Runjin Singh alternately, as "Dungeon", "Bunion", and "Onion".
    • Might be a bit of Genius Bonus in there with how he pronounces "Umaga." In Samoan, the letter, 'g,' is used for the 'ng' sound. In other words, Regal's pronunciation of "Umaga" was close to how a Samoan-speaker would pronounce that name.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: In a match against Daniel Bryan, as a rib, his usual music was switched to his old "A Real Man's Man" music. Regal chuckled good-naturedly about it on his way to the ring.
  • Affably Evil: Such as what Matt Striker dubbed his "ruthless roundtable" which was out to give "class" to ECW. Besides the goal itself, he was pretty forgiving of Ezekiel Jackson and willingly stepped aside so he could compete for the ECW Championship after several failed attempts against Christian. Another, he was very encouraging to CM Punk during their feud on Raw.
  • Alliterative Name: His trio with Ezekiel Jackson and Vladimir Kozlov: Regal's Ruthless Roundtable
  • Anti-Hero: Self identifies as a Nominal Hero. Actually a Pragmatic Anti Hero as a face.
  • Arch-Enemy: Larry Zbyszko, The Nasty Boys, Fit Finlay, Dustin Rhodes/Goldust, Chris Jericho, Christian
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Despite being a "Goodwill Ambassador".
  • Badass Boast: From his dueling promo against MJF, when calling him out for having to use the Dynamite Diamond Ring to get cheap knockouts:
    "I didn't need a ring to knock people out; when I used these-" <shows brass knuckles in his pocket> "-it's because I just like hitting people with them!"
  • Badass Longrobe: See the page photo. Sometimes when he was teaming with Dave Taylor in WCW, while walking to the ring, he would take the opportunity to ham it up, pulling up on the top of the sleeve to make it look like he had bigger biceps than he actually did.
  • Blue Blood: This was Regal's main gimmick in the WWE, that of a stereotypically arrogant, posh British snob who looked down his nose at the American commoners.
  • Book Ends: His first and farewell promos in AEW had him being interviewed by Tony Schiavone.
  • Bullying a Dragon: An anecdote tells how Van Hammer confronted Regal in a party in 1991, complaining that Regal wasn't selling properly to him. A fistfight started, only to end right there when Regal landed four headbutts on Van Hammer and knocked him out.
  • Calvin Ball: WWE Backlash 2001. Then-commissioner Regal versus Jericho in a "Duchess of Queensbury" match. Jericho tries to pin Regal? Match is divided into two rounds, and round one just ended. Jericho gets a submission? No, submissions aren't allowed. Regal won the match.
  • Canon Name: Some fans of him from his prime days in WCW will still call him Steven as opposed to William. It's this rather than the typical Fanon Discontinuity because when WWF re-debuted him in 2000 they first canonized the Regal character's full name as Steven William Regal.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: He's completely shameless about his evil reputation, calling himself every low name under the sun on numerous occasions—and even as a face, it's the opposite, being complimented as a good person, that offends him. It's not strange to hear him, as an announcer on NXT, make such claims as "I've never had a drop of integrity, what did it hurt me?" as part of his defense for both faces and heels being questioned for doing what they've gotta do within minutes of each other. (To wit, when Tyler Reks defeated Curt Hawkins in a "Loser Gets Fired" match, Regal offered to shake hands with Reks and put their differences aside—only for Reks to say "you're not bad after all." Regal promptly fired him too.)
  • Combat Pragmatist: One of the best cheaters in the business.
  • The Comically Serious: Particularly when trying to maintain his composure dealing with Eugene, Jericho, etc. Has some of the best facial expressions in wrestling.
  • Cool Teacher: A respected coach to many of the wrestlers that came through NXT in the 2010s, he also more personally trained well-known names such as CM Punk, Brian Kendrick, and Bryan Danielson.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Every UK tour he was apart of during the last years of his career. Usually he has a match and then cuts a promo acknowledging his impending retirement.
  • Demoted to Extra: Is today hardly seen on TV, for a while he appeared on WWE NXT as the "match coordinator" and is now an announcer. He had a brief moment of spotlight when he got in the middle of Sheamus's feud with The Big Show. As of 2013-2014 though, his position as announcer at NXT is fairly formalized, serving as a regular announcer signature to the show in the same way Jim Ross is treated. After a distinguished run as the onscreen GM for the NXT brand, he left for AEW, where he's the manager for the Blackpool Combat Club stable, and frequently hops on commentary when one of his boys is in the ring.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In Regal's case, this stands out: During the time Regal was mentoring Eugene, Triple H took advantage of Eugene's "special" nature to try and regain the World Title, and left him beaten and bloodied when it backfired. A week after Eugene comes back and costs Triple H the belt in a Iron Man match, Regal confronts him, revealing (or reminding us) that he mentored Triple H in WCW and said that if it had been anyone else he manipulated, Regal would've been proud. Eugene, however? That was something that pissed Regal off enough to sneak Eugene into the building and cost Triple H the World Title. It also served for a rare Heel–Face Turn.
    • In WCW after Bash At the Beach 1996, he said that even though he was not a good man, he was appalled at Hogan turning his back on the kids who supported him.
  • Every Year They Fizzle Out: Generally considered one of the best wrestlers to never be a world champion. WWE did consider pushing him into a main event role once or twice, but his recurring drug issues at the time prevented him moving up the card.
  • Evil Brit: Arguably the biggest example in pro-wrestling. The trope (at least the wrestling version) could be renamed in favor of him. He gets a lot of mileage out of his perpetual scowl and his condescending, snobbish accent.
  • Evil Is Bigger: Subverted, he is quite tall at 6 feet 4 inches, but he crouches down to look smaller because he wanted fans to think they could beat him themselves, then hate him more when he 'cheated' to win.
  • Fan Disservice: At No Mercy 2006, he had a scene in the locker room after he just had a shower, and his towel fell, exposing his privates. WWE immediately apologized for the unscripted accident.
    • On the 10-07-2002 episode of Raw, Raw Roulette forced Regal to compete in a "Las Vegas Showgirl" match, complete with skimpy lingerie, high heels and makeup.
  • A Father to His Men:
    • As the general manager of NXT, he genuinely cares for each and every person he signs onto the roster as he can relate to the ambitious young blood of the newer generation, and it breaks him knowing that some of these men would one day turn out to be some of the most cold, dangerous men to ever step foot in the squared circle, and like how he once was in the past, they would destroy each other's dreams if it meant accomplishing their own. This is highlighted at Takeover R Evolution when he looked visibly shaken after Kevin Owens assaulted the new champion Sami Zayn.
    • According to a popular story, he once got in The Big Show's face in WCW when Show was badmouthing Rey Mysterio. Regal even said him that "the only difference between Show and Ron Reis was a push". Ouch. He also supposedly beat up Van Hammer with plenty of punches and headbutts because Hammer was insulting Mexican and British wrestlers and decided to got into a fight with him to prove it.
  • Finishing Move: Regal Stretch, Power of the Punchnote , Regal Cutter, Knee Trembler
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: Absolutely. In the mid-1990s, likely his only real rival would have been Yokozuna. On the April 21, 1997 WCW Monday Nitro, he called Americans, "xenophobic, miserable little toads."
  • Friend to All Living Things: Regal owns a crazy number of pets, including two snakes, eight lizards, a tortoise, three cats and two dogs. Typically for Regal, he claims he owns so many because "humans disgust me".
  • Hair Color Dissonance: Some Create-a-Wrestler information websites for WWE games tend to list his hair color as either blonde, brown, or red.
  • Hairstyle Inertia: Maybe not from childhood to adult, but from the mid-1990s to around 2007, he had the same very short, buzzed, slicked-back hairstyle. Later on, he grew it out about several inches or so.
  • Hidden Depths: Growing up, his favorite style of wrestling to watch was the high flying style, when he trained for wrestling he used the mat-based style because he realized he did not have the athletic ability to do the high flying style.
  • Human Shield: Used Layla as one, proving he was full of crap when he promised to defend the Intercontinental Championship with "the dignity of an English man".
  • Hurricane of Puns: One time doing commentary on NXT he did a short monologue where he referenced over 15 different The Smiths songs within the space of a minute.
  • Incoming Ham: In NXT, if a group of wrestlers large enough brawled between themselves around the time of the NXT TakeOver: WarGames event, and Regal made its presence, it was clear enough that the next word to come out of his mouth would be "WARGAMES!"
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: The color it appears tends to vary based on the lighting, length, and dampness of his hair. If it's short and slicked back, and he's in a not so well-lit room, it can look brownish. If it's short and slicked back, but the lighting is better, like in a WWE arena, then it can look like a redhead. If it's long and dry, and he's in a well-lit room, then it can his natural blond mixed with a (now) bit of gray.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Seen in a lot of his matches with Chris Benoit. When caught in the Crossface, Regal will try to block the arm and resist as much as possible, but the moment Benoit has it locked in, Regal taps out to avoid prolonged punishment.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Regal betrayed fellow Blackpool Combat Club member, Jon Moxley, at Full Gear 2022 by providing MJF his brass knuckles to defeat Mox for the AEW World Championship. Two weeks later on Dynamite, Regal would be betrayed by MJF himself who punched him with Regal's own brass knuckles.
  • Large Ham: Regal yells his lungs out each year when he announces a WarGames match.
  • Last of His Kind: He was considered the last champion in WCW by Larry Zbyszko and Tony Schiavone in the face of the nWo takeover. Dean Malenko didn't count in their eyes, being a cruiserweight.
    • He's also the few remaining old-school World of Sport British wrestlers.
  • Literal Ass-Kissing: First member of the Vince McMahon "Kiss My Ass" Club.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Regal to Chris Hero to Claudio Castagnoli, though WWE decided not to do much with it when it managed to get all three on one show.
  • Meaningful Rename: When he returned to the WWF in 2000, he went from Steven Regal to William Regal to honor his recently passed grandfather, who helped him get into the business.
  • The Mentor: While he hasn't trained that many wrestlers, those he has trained have gone on to have excellent careers, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe and Chris Hero being the top of the heap.
    • In-Universe, he tried to get Christopher Nowinski to focus on wrestling instead of wanting to devirginize Molly Holly.note 
  • Morality Pet: Eugene, to the point that HHH's attempt to manipulate him brought out a rarely seen Papa Wolf side from Regal.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Listen to JBL on commentary here. It shows how even an insignificant defensive move such as blocking a chop can be an indicator of how savvy Regal is in the ring.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: As a character, Lord Steven William Regal is a stereotypical British gentleman with a mean streak, and could often come across like an Upper-Class Twit, particularly in comedic segments (and most of what he did in WCW). This caused his actual in ring ability to be underestimated, especially in his prime, when he was one of the best wrestlers in the world.
  • Obsolete Mentor: Played straight and subverted with Eugene. As far as wrestling went, Eugene showed he was practically on par with Regal in the first couple of weeks under his tutelage. However, Eugene's "special" qualities would often get him in trouble with some of the other superstars and Regal, a veteran of the locker room, often ended up playing a medium between Eugene and the rest of the wrestlers.
  • Odd Friendship
    • With Sheamus. Yup, the face Irish guy and the tweener/heel Brit. Apparently William is a mentor of sorts to Sheamus.
    • With Eugene as well. Regal only saw Eugene as a hazard to his health and sanity at first, but the "special" boy eventually worked his way into Regal's heart.
    • His first one in WWE was with Yoshihiro Tajiri when Regal was the commissioner and Goodwill Ambassador with Tajiri as his assistant, who by association eventually turned Regal into a face.
    • In AEW, he's seemingly developed one with Excalibur, going by their banter on commentary.
  • Old Master: Regal knows pretty much everything about wrestling, and will eagerly seize the opportunity to pass on this knowledge to anyone willing to learn from him. This was part of his reasoning for becoming the master of the Blackpool Combat Club in AEW.
  • One-Steve Limit: The reason behind changing his name from "Steven" to "William". The then-WWF had Steve Austin and Steve Blackman on the roster. When Regal took some time off, he returned as William to thin out the over-abundance of Steves.
  • Perpetual Frowner: His default expression is that of a pompous, arrogant scowl. Combined with his snobbish, arrogant voice, it makes him very easy to hate and an excellent heel.
  • Power Fist: The so called power of the punch (hit them with brass knuckles while the referee is not looking)
  • Power Stable:
  • Power Trio: Regal's Ruthless Roundtable with Ezekiel Jackson and Vladimir Kozlov. The latter two had been having a contest to outdo each other on WWECW that was bound to end in violence until William Regal somehow convinced them to work for him instead. He later attempted to sell their services out to Chris Jericho, who was on the Raw brand at the time, before ECW general manager Tiffany put an end to it.
  • Preppy Name: When Christian called him "Bill", William went on a tirade about how he was not be called that common person's name. So, Christian proceeded to refer to him as "Bill" for the rest of his ECW run.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: While in WCW, he even had a valet/manager named Jeeves.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: On NXT where was put in charge by Matt Striker. Hell, as far as WWE goes onscreen, he's probably THE Reasonable Authority Figure. It would appear the years have mellowed him since his original commissioner run.
  • Red Baron: Has had a few over the years, the most recent (and definitive) one being "the Gentleman Villain".
  • Retired Badass: He seems to be trying to get out of the wrestling game, and stick to announcing, but jackass young punks keep challenging him to fights. And he seems to be very happy to oblige them, as shown by his response to both Jacob Novak and Kassius Ohno on WWE NXT, and Dean Ambrose in FCW.
    • Seems to have finally stuck, with his battle against Cesaro on NXT at the end of 2013 being his final match to date.
  • Ring Oldies: Debuted in the ring in 1983 and had his last match in 2013 at the age of 45, a career spanning 30 years.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Yeah no. He claims to have one naturally, along with lot of other stereotypically "positive" English traits, but then shows that a lot of things really get to him.
  • Student–Master Team: With Eugene. They even won the tag team titles together in late 2004.
  • Tag Team: The Bluebloods in WCW, with "Earl" Robert Eaton ("Beautiful" Bobby Eaton, an American from Alabama) and "Squire" David Taylor (who is actually British).
  • Testosterone Poisoning: The short lived Real Man's Man gimmick, back around 1998.
  • This Means War!: Gave one to Sting during a contract signing segment in WCW around 1995-1996, sometime before Sting became Crow!Sting. (The contract was for the Television Title.) Legitimately stiff, it caused Sting to shout "SON OF A BITCH", which got bleeped out. View it here.
  • Tough Act to Follow: In-Universe; when Regal tried to bring in Samoa Joe to replace him as the GM of NXT following NXT Takeover In Your House 2021, Joe refused to accept the position, feeling that if Regal stepped down he would be leaving boots too big for Joe to fill. He agreed to be Regal's enforcer to help him restore order to the promotion instead.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Made the mistake of doing this in 2006 when Paul Burchill introduced his "Pirate" gimmick. Cue getting beaten by Burchill for a number of weeks, including a match which losing it meant Regal had to dress up as a...busty wench for Burchill.
  • Underwear of Power: If he's not wearing them, it is a good bet he will not be wrestling that night.
  • Ur-Example: Credited with inventing the Regal-Cutter (arm trap neckbreaker) and the Regal-Plex (bridging leg hook belly-to-back suplex).
  • Verbal Tic: William Regal loves to call/mock his opponents with the word "sunshine".
  • Veteran Instructor: As previously mentioned, he was until his release the single most experienced wrestler on the WWE payroll, with over 30 years in the business, and his main job was recruiting and training the new WWE talent (especially under the NXT brand). There's also the little factoid that he has had a hand in training many of the WWE's biggest, most tenured stars.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With the Burchills Paul and Katie Lea, the vitriol being around Paul's pirate gimmick.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: An an unamerican, he wore the stars and stripes upside down.
  • Wham Line: In 2017, William Regal puts the Undisputed Era, SAnitY and the Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong in a match that hadn't been seen for almost 20 years. WARGAMES!!
    • As NXT GM, this is basically his primary onscreen function. Most of the time he appears on screen during an angle it's to announce a big match between the wrestlers involved.
  • Wicked Cultured: See Red Baron.
  • Worthy Opponent/Always Someone Better: Chris Benoit may have gotten the upper hand in their prolonged rivalry, but it could always be guaranteed that Regal would match him in physicality and brutality, which made their matches all the more thrilling and cringe-inducing.
  • Wrestling Doesn't Pay: His "A Real Man's Man" gimmick appeared to be that of a wrestling construction worker, at least based on the vignettes.
  • Wrestling Family: His son Bailey is also a wrestler who works for WWE as Charlie Dempsey. Initially Charlie cut his teeth in NXT UK, but when that brand shut down and he came to America, Regal (who was working for AEW at the time) asked out of his contract so he could have a more direct hand in training his son.
  • Younger Than They Look: While commonly perceived as one of the premier "elder statesmen" of the wrestling business by the time he debuted in AEW at Revolution 2022, Regal was in fact only 53 years old at the time, only about 2 years older than Chris Jericho (who'd wrestled one of his best matches in years earlier that night) and ten years younger than Sting (who in his match shortly following Regal's debut had leaped off a balcony to splash an opponent through a stack of four tables). However Regal would be the first to admit that he hasn't taken as good care of himself as those two men (in his debut promo on Dynamite he said that it would only be a few more years until he'd be reduced to being pushed around in a wheelchair), and while he doesn't look that old, his active in-ring days are definitely behind him.

Alternative Title(s): Steven Regal, Steven William Regal