Posted by Chris Surrency
I’ve decided to write the latest “Defending” article this evening, making my case for William Regal being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Tonight I planned on purchasing a copy of Walking a Golden Mile, William Regal’s biography as I’ve heard nothing but great things about the book. I planned on writing an article about a man who’s become one of the most respected men in the business over the years, using his book as a source. I searched online and I ran into a problem pretty quickly, apparently the book is so amazing that it’s almost a collector’s item. A quick search of Amazon shows that a used paperback version of the book goes for damn near $35, at the cheapest, what this tells me is that the book is so good that it’s still got a massive demand to this day. I’m actually going to start saving money here and there to get my hands on a copy sometime to get an even better appreciation of this man and the road he travelled to get where he is today.
Like many fans, I really didn’t respect the in ring side of wrestling back in the day, as a child you typically get drawn in by the flashy characters who may or may not be all that great in the ring. As I’ve grown up I’ve been able to gain more respect every day for the great technical workers in the business of pro wrestling, of those names there aren’t too many people I would place above William Regal. I’ve said before, primarily when speaking of Wade Barrett, that William Regal’s one downfall would be that he wasn’t a “character” in WCW, while he could work circles around anyone, he wasn’t flashy enough to keep the attention of the audience. He was a solid heel, just not the biggest personality on the stage, so he seemed to get overlooked in the company. Even during his pairing with Dave Taylor, another great worker who doesn’t get enough credit, he was easy for a kid looking for a favorite to ignore. It honestly seems like William Regal was well ahead of his time.
Regal got a chance to move on to the WWE at one point in his career, unfortunately he wound up with one of the absolute worst gimmicks of all time, the “Real Man’s Man.” Looking back, it kills me to see such a talent with such a horrible gimmick. While the theory of being a “Real Man” is good, they went too far in trying to push that on the audience. The hard hat, jorts (yep, Cena needs to credit Regal for his trademark), knee high socks, and flannel shirt just made Regal come off a bit hokey in the eyes of the viewing public. Unfortunately this didn’t work out for Regal either, as he was unable to get over with the fans, eventually being let go from the company and entering a rehab facility. I can’t say that being saddled with the gimmick Vince Russo gave him wouldn’t have put pretty much anyone into rehab. Regal wound up going back to WCW and recreating his Blue Bloods group with Dave Taylor, adding Fit Finlay to the mix after making his big comeback at the Hardcore Invitational at the 1999 Bash at the Beach, around this time I finally started enjoying technical ability in the ring over flashy appearances.
While the second run in WCW wasn’t too long, the fans acted as if he’d never left the company. I will admit that I didn’t get to see a ton of that run as it was during WCW’s lull, and I had become a diehard WWE fan at the time. Eventually Regal came back to the big time, working for WWE, this time without his ridiculous lumberjack gimmick. This time around he seemed to have added more personality to his arsenal, while his ring work was still stellar the character he portrayed was even more impressive. As the Commissioner, with his sidekick Tajiri, we got to see a comedic villain out of William Regal. That character is still one of my favorites of the 2000’s to this point. Unfortunately the gimmick also gave Regal the distinction of being the first entrant to the Vince McMahon “Kiss My Ass” club. Luckily enough this wasn’t a death blow for this outstanding wrestler. While a lot of people give CM Punk a ton of credit for being a “wrestler” above a “sports entertainer,” I completely believe that nobody personifies that more than William Regal. I’ve become such a big fan of Regal lately, looking at word count this is probably going to be my longest article to date.
A couple years back my brother got Verizon FiOS as our cable and internet provider, my favorite part of this was the fact that we were able to pick up the WWE Classics on Demand “channel.” The brightest spot of this was the old episodes of WCW Nitro that I got to go back and watch something I’d missed for so many years. While watching these episodes of Nitro my respect for William Regal grew exponentially. One match I remember, Regal versus Savage, I sat and watched it a couple times over and even found myself so moved by it that I took to Facebook to say how amazing it was to watch that match and see how great Regal was in the ring. Another bright spot for me was his last match of his first run with WCW, facing off against Goldberg. Regal forced Goldberg think on the fly in the matchup, shooting on him and working stiff, sort of bringing the unstoppable machine into reality. He did the job, as you would expect anyone against the rising Goldberg to do, but he made sure to work the hell out of him, I even had to go back and watch it again when writing about it, that’s how much I love that matchup. A few years later, on, the “Superstars” of that time, Velocity we were treated to Regal versus Benoit in one of the greatest matches of all time.
There have been very few people in this business that I respect more than William Regal in the ring; he’s up there with Curt Hennig, Daniel Bryan, Kurt Angle, and Chris Benoit for my top 5 technicians of all time. While he’s never quite had the chance to carry the big strap during his career, Regal has had plenty of success over the years. Looking at things now you can see his footprint on the business, his ability to bust ass in the ring and lay it all on the line is being carried on through the new generation. William Regal was the “unorthodox superstar” well before CM Punk ever got in the business, and helped to train the best in the world today, Daniel Bryan. Some people would like to say that his lack of main event runs and World/WWE championships is enough to exclude him from the Hall of Fame; I say those people are out of their damn minds. Not only has Regal proven his mettle in the ring over the years, but he’s paved the way for the guys working today and for many years to come in this business. Without Regal we may never have gotten CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, or even Samoa Joe, that would be an absolute travesty. At the end of the day, titles or not, William Regal is a true Hall of Fame talent and I can’t wait for the day he is given his ring and takes his place with the rest of the best in the business, walking one last Golden Mile.
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