Following the news that William Regal has left WWE, we take a look back at how a man from a small town in England came to help define an entire WWE era.
When William Regal first signed with the then WWF in the summer of 1998, it would have been impossible to predict the impact that the two sides would make on one another. After all, he had spent his entire time in the United States appearing with WCW forging a reputation as a solid, rather than spectacular performer.
Although his move to the WWF had the potential for a new start, things never really got off the ground. Regal sustained an injury to his ankle, and it became increasingly clear that he was struggling with an addiction to painkillers and other prescription substances. This culminated in the star entering rehab in January 1999. Following his recent release by the company, Regal said this period with WWE saved his life.
After a brief foray back with WCW through the summer of 1999 and into early 2000, Regal moved back to the WWF, beginning an association that would endure for another two decades.
Over the next 13 years, William Regal won every title there was to win in WWE aside from the World Championship. He captured tag team gold on four occasions with three different partners, became a five-time Hardcore Champion, four-time European Champion and two-time Intercontinental Champion. He also famously won the King of the Ring tournament in 2008. Outside of ropes, Regal enjoyed a fondly remembered run as WWF Commissioner in the early 2000’s, later becoming Raw General Manager.
By the time that Regal wrestled his last match against Cesaro on November 21st 2013, he was regarded as arguably the greatest wrestler never to hold a World Title.
However, despite the success he experienced as an active in-ring performer, it was what he achieved in the subsequent eight years which truly defined his legacy with the company.
As Regal began to wind down his wrestling career, his involvement with WWE’s developmental system began to steadily increase. In fact, his association with NXT goes back to the creation of the brand initially as a reality television show, where young hopefuls competed to become WWE’s next ‘Breakout Superstar. In season one in 2010, appearing as a ‘Pro’ Regal was paired with Skip Sheffield, who would later become known as Ryback.
A year later, Regal appeared in WWE developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) working as a commentator, before wrestling against Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley).
In the summer of 2012, WWE closed down FCW as a developmental territory and relaunched it as NXT, creating the brand that exits today. The weekly shows were supplemented by the first live special on February 27th 2014 called NXT: Arrival which was quickly followed by NXT: TakeOver on May 29th.
Although Regal had already become ever-more involved off-screen with the next generation of WWE Superstars his role was cemented in August 2014, when he was unveiled as the on-screen General Manager. In the role, Regal excelled, moving away from the traditional McMahon-style authority figure, making the position his own.
He never got involved physically, was used relatively sparingly as an on-screen presence, and remained impartial in his decision making. In many ways he was a throwback to a bygone era, a more reserved and measured figure in the mould of Gorilla Monsoon or Jack Tunny. For fans of all ages it was a breath of fresh air and a welcome change which further marked NXT out from the main roster.
However, it was behind the scenes where William Regal made the biggest impact.
During his time with NXT, Regal rose to become WWE’s Director of Talent Development and Head of Global Recruiting. In short, this meant that the former Intercontinental Champion was now an integral part of Triple H’s team in NXT, and played a huge role in providing the company with the stars of tomorrow.
With a keen eye for talent, and firm footing in the independent scene, Regal helped bring an incredible array of talent into the WWE system. Although not every signing worked out in the long-term on the main roster, the list of future champions and stars that were signed under the British legend’s watch is staggering. A sample of those names can be found below.
- Kevin Owens
- Finn Balor
- Hideo Itami (KENTA)
- Samoa Joe
- Shayna Baszler
- Shinsuke Nakamura
- Aleister Black (Malakai Black)
- Tommaso Ciampa
- Johnny Gargano
- Ember Moon
- Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly
- Andrade (Andrade El Idolo)
- Kairi Sane
- Io Shirai
By their own admission, Regal was also instrumental in aiding the careers of Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. In fact, speaking in an interview in 2021, Regal revealed that he put his job on the line in order to get Banks signed by WWE.
WWE’s former ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ was also key in arranging Jushin “Thunder” Liger’s special appearance at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn.
While it was Triple H who was front and centre of the black and gold revolution, it is impossible to understate how important William Regal was to the entire process. After all, he had scouted and been instrumental in signing the talent, which would have some of the best matches to take place under a WWE banner in the last two decades.
Through the mid-to late 1990’s and into the early 2000’s Jim Ross was tasked with signing the next generation of WWE Superstars. This was initially to see off the challenge of WCW but later became the need to replace legends such as The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Although Regal operated on a smaller scale, his task was comparable. This makes it impossible to argue that he wasn’t stunningly successful in his role, and in the cases of Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch helped bring through two of WWE’s biggest female performers all-time. Two women, when all is said and done, will be held up as legends and take their place in the Hall of Fame.
The departure of William Regal from WWE and NXT is more than a cliched ‘end of an era.’ It’s symbolic of the seismic shift taking place within WWE and it’s developmental system. Both on-screen and off it, NXT has changed beyond measure since September 2021, while the company’s entire approach to signing new talent has switched completely.
Under the watchful eye of the British legend, NXT signed the best talents from the independent scene and across the world, however those days are over.
William Regal leaves WWE as one of the most respected figures in the in the entire professional wrestling industry and a true great of British and European wrestling. While he will be sorely missed by many within WWE, if and when he returns elsewhere, his skill-set, expertise and experience will undoubtedly prove invaluable.