"Do you know what my New Year's resolution is going to be? To wake up a half an hour earlier so I can hate you more."
The brilliance of this line in a wrestling promo is overflowing. Such a line can seemingly only be muttered by one with the ability to “speak”, in wrestlingspeak. Some, like Benoit, were incredibly gifted in the ring but a veritable train wreck when cutting a promo. I remember many a time I would cringe when hearing him try to talk. Mick Foley, while a bump machine and great match storyteller, would not have been nearly as memorable if it was not for his cerebral promos. I’d venture to say, however, that there has rarely been someone as gifted on the mic as Darren Mathews a.ka. William Regal, a.k.a. Lord Steven Regal. In addition to the line above, he has countless other priceless moments on the mic, delivered in his trandemark snotty British accent. And the guy could fucking work, in every way possible.
With a refreshing change of pace in a European based mat wrestling and striking style, Regal was stiff. He used different moves, like European uppercuts, suplexes, and more believable rest holds. ( “That’s just a wear down hold Gorilla.”) But he wasn’t sloppy and he had the ability to make everything he did look real. He has tons of street cred, starting up at age 15 wrestling at the carnivals in Blackpool, England. Adding to this, the guy was entertaining as hell in the ring. From holding his hand behind his back THE ENTIRE MATCH as a showing of pomoposity, to his fiery eye movements and hilarious grimaces, Regal was truly dedicated to his craft. Round that out with dignified classical music enveloping a grand ring entrance, accompanied by his butler! (Sir William used to umbrella to help Regal get the win!) He was having good to great matches during some AWFUL times for WCW, around 93 and 94. He had a best of series with Flair during this time that I highly recommend trying to find on you-tube. Great matches as well during this period with Johnny B Bad, Sting, Steamboat, and Luger (well, good anyways).
Unfortunately, Regal had some alcohol and substance abuse problems that derailed his career. Soon after taking Goldberg further than anyone had during his big push, much to the Savage’s delight, he went to the WWE in 1998. It was hilarious to hear Fat Tony trying to cover up for it. The “Man’s Man” gimmick was suitably awful, it just was totally not what he had built his character up at that point. He was only there for a few months until he left, returning briefly to WCW before seemingly disappearing. Thanks goodness he signed with the WWE in 2000 where he continues to this day. One of my favorites, and although his body has broken down a bit the guy just know what it takes. He gets people over while the crowd boos the shit out of him.
Recently, Regal has some kind of fire lit under his ass, as he took Randy Orton to the limit a few weeks ago on Raw, just recently won King of the Ring (!?) and looks to be starting up a fued with a returning Mr. Kennedy. At 39, much to my surprise actually, he’s getting by far the biggest push he ever has. In this writer’s opinion, he totally deserves it. Here’s to one of the greatest heels in the history of our great sport, ladies and gentleman, the master of the Regal Stretch, King William Regal.
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