William Regal was a recent guest on Chris Jericho’s podcast Talk is Jericho. On the show, Regal discusses multiple health issues that he has suffered recently, including some that could have been fatal if not for some amazing work by doctors, loved ones and being in the right place at the right time. William Regal also praises Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley and Cesaro, a surprising last match and more. Yhe recap can be found below:
Was joining AEW something that you were thinking about for a long time?
“No, once I was released, I went home 2 weeks before Christmas. The reason being, which we might get to, the last time that my family were all together was 2018 for Christmas, and I was in hospital for 8 weeks. I insisted, I was given one point 24 hours to live. I had sepsis in my leg, they were going to cut my leg off. This was January 4th 2019. So I insisted on going home for Christmas, you know I have been through a lot. I had a hell of a year in 2018, keep me on track here. 2018, I had a lot of heart trouble different times, they keep [returning]. Since 1998 I got pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the sack around your heart. What it does is it scars that sack, your heart can beat but that sack can lock down. Although it didn’t look like I trained as hard as I did, I always did all the squats, always breathing and always taking bumps in wrestling, it kept that from going solid. There’s a skin around the heart. Well I went to India and I got really sick and I was off for a year, it came back a few months later and I got really sick. And so I had bouts on and off, at the same time I found out that I had been wrestling with a broken neck since 1993. From the first year I came to America, there’s a match where I won the WCW Television Title, I was on my Ricky Steamboat. I am 25 years old and the finish is me giving him a German Suplex. If you watch, you know I can fall into a bridge. I land and you can see clear as day, you see my head hits and my neck goes to the side and goes crack. My arms went dead and it was never right after that. What I used to get a lot was this spasming in my left trap and my neck would go stiff.”
“I ended up having my neck done in 2014 and that was the end of my wrestling career. Eventually 2013, I wasn’t wrestling that much and winding down and doing commentary in NXT, which was all great, I was beat up and I knew my time [was up]. If you take away the last few years of my career, from 1994 to when I was finished, apart from a year being out and a few times being off, and I took little time off for injuries, a couple of suspensions, I wrestled solidly of 150 days a year minimum for 26 years. I always thought that if I could get a 20 year career I was in wonderland. Other people would be moaning but I was just happy being a wrestler. It was like being a bricklayer, that was my path and that was what I was going to be. I was lucky enough to live in a nice house in England, but I am from a very working class family. I never saw my dad out of a pair of overalls covered in cement. He was in construction and we had a nice house, because he saved every penny and added to it and built it. My life was to be a bricklayer, and I always knew that I wasn’t cut out for that. Once I got into this job, and I always wanted to do this, it was very hard. There was no such thing as a wrestling school, you had to find a wrestler who would give you a chance to get in. I was happy being a wrestler, every day was a bonus for me. My dad still probably thinks that I am going to go back, he worked until he was 82. Still every week I speak to him, and he regrets that he can’t work, he’s 87.”
All these things add up though.
“Right, so let’s go forward. I had a quite a bit of things with my neck. In 2013 I ended up having my last match. I sort of made a thing in my head, there’s a few people close to me, obviously Bryan Danielson one. I had met Claudio along the way, I happened to meet Jon Moxley, so by fortune we were in the right place at the right time. Dusty said ‘What about you 2 doing something together?’ I was doing commentary at FCW. So we ended up having a whole year, which most people never get, we had a one year programme. There’s a few little things that are put together, but if you put that story together, it’s probably the greatest thing I ever did as a story.”
Is this the 4 of you?
“Just me and Jon.”
Oh sorry I thought it was all 4.
“Sorry I have a lot of stuff in my head you have to keep me on track. After my last real run, which was the ECW thing, which I loved by the way. I had an incredible year with Christian, but my body was shot. I am 42 by then and good, I am at peace with it. I didn’t think I would get this far, I thought I would get 20 years, because that’s what everyone’s thing was at that time. I thought I would be done, toast. From day 1, Bobby Baron, the promoter I worked for told me ‘Listen son. You come in with nothing, leave with nothing. You’re going to be crippled up, it doesn’t owe you anything. And don’t forget that you will always be in a bent business. A crooked business.’ All these things, you want to make me this, ok. I can tell you, I won’t say who, but a certain person, but I used to take all these people. The only reason people know me now is because of Bryan really. A lot of young people, how have you got the time and reference to know who I am? At 25, if you watch wrestling all the time, every second there is a new frame of reference, you might have heard my name if you heard it mentioned with his. People think it was a good thing that I trained him. No, the best thing was him coming into my life and wanting to pick my brain, it gave me something. But all these young people that were coming into the job, they realised that I would give them the time of day. So when everybody else used to be [in groups] I don’t play cards, I don’t play dominoes, I don’t do pack mentality, I don’t gossip. I would be out by the ring doing my squats and pushups when I could, well I always did my squats, and then the extras would come up. I used to help them and I used to talk to them, because the best people you could ever have, Fit Finlay, Marty Jones, Pete Roberts, all these people from Britain did for me when I was sticking around, I would do it for them. It doesn’t matter how you start, I was a kid once and I said I want to do this, and that was how I got in. As long as you don’t upset me, I will give you as much time as I could, which turned me into a joke later on. They had to create a job title for me, but I don’t know I just do me. I do a bit of whatever and I do me. So going forward, there’s a few people.”
“I did a match with Bryan, and I don’t know how, because I wasn’t really wrestling. We did a match on Superstars. We wrestled for 2 weeks in England and we tore it up every night. The night before TV, he gave me that dropkick in the corner, and my good knee, I tore the meniscus. But I knew I was on tour the next day, I thought this was it. My neck was not right and before that I tore my pec and my bicep, which I never got fixed. We got back from Europe and I was on Raw in a battle royal. It was Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase, and I had to knock them out. I never clothesline people, you can see that. I clotheslined them both out, and I felt this rip, my left pec and bicep just ripped. I partied a lot and it puts a lot of miles on you. So I tore my meniscus and the next night I’m supposed to wrestle Bryan. They are saying ‘No you can’t wrestle.’ I said ‘No I want to put him over. He’s the one who has stuck around and is listening to all my nonsense for the past however long.’ If there’s one person I want to have a last match with, it’s him. They had to help me in the building that day, I couldn’t walk. That match is 17 minutes and he did a masterful job. He did stuff on my leg without bedding it, it was a masterful job. I’m thinking hopefully someone will pay attention to this, because this guy is someone special. It was my little thing, I’m done now, I was already doing commentary, I was done. I came back and Mr McMahon was there, I thought he never watched Superstars. He shook our hands, Bryan walked off and he went ‘Thank you very much. That was a good old wrestling match. That lad [Bryan] is going to make a good villain isn’t he?’ We were in England, people were giving me reactions, I don’t know why. Well I do know why, they were all in on the ride with me. 2 months later they started turning him villain and they started doing all the stuff with Kane. By then it was 28 years, I am 8 years past my sell by date. I got the 20 year badge, I didn’t care about anything else and didn’t have to be a bricklayer. But NXT started, whatever is going on, I was the first person that H brought in and said ‘What’s your vision for this?’”
We are back with William Regal and talking about your time in NXT.
“We did what we did and it was a great thing for a lot of people. It was a great success and I have no ill will at all. It needed a change because things have changed, this place [AEW] had come along. But for whatever reason, there a came a point where I had to wrestle Cesaro. I didn’t look great, I got withered arms and a bad neck, but I didn’t know how bad. So I had a match with Cesaro, someone I knew for a long time, think the world of, got to put him over, time to go. But that wasn’t my last match. The following year in 2014, we went to Dubai to do a try-out and Sami Zayn came with us. At the end of the try-out, pretty much everyone there, none of them had seen pro-wrestling. I did a lot of that, it’s a strange thing. I did a lot of that, most of the people we went to see, my job was to fill up network content or maybes. TV has just gone up in such and such, we need someone from there. Canyon Semen is a hell of a fella. When he came on board Triple H told me to look after him. I said I would take care of the wrestling and he would take care of everything else. He would take care of the contracts and athletes, I don’t need to know that. I will stop people from taking you for a ride, and there isn’t anywhere in the world that I don’t know somebody. If I don’t know somebody, I know somebody who does. We did this try-out and maybe a couple had actually seen it. WWE is in 180 countries, they only know what they see in WWE.”
“I would turn up in whatever country and do the try-out. At the end of the try-out, I thought well let’s give them a flavour, I was feeling froggy. Sami Zayn was there to help, because he speaks Arabic. He was a person I took with me and I always got on well with him. But I had a match with Sami in Dubai in front of 30 people, that was my last match. After Dubai I went on tour to the UK to do appearances. We were in Leeds and I was doing an appearance, it might have been a one man show. I was taking photographs and one fella come up, we took the photo and he went away. As the next fella was coming up, I flicked my hair out of my eyes, looked to the side and my legs just went from under me. Luckily there was a wall behind me so I stopped myself, I stood up like nothing happened. Looking back something did happen. Although I could still do 300 squats, I sometimes dragged my legs and they were swelling. I thought it’s because I am a wrestler, they told me that I had a bad heart but it’s ok. All these things are building up and building up. 2 weeks later we are in Florida and went to Gatorland. We get out the car, my wife put her hand on my shoulder and I fell against the car. My legs fell from under me and I just fell flat and hit the car. I got up and went oh this is a bit weird. I thought I should mention this when I get back to NXT. This was 2 times in 2 weeks, that is weird. I get back and get MRIs, give the disc to the doctors. 10 minutes before I go to commentary, the disc goes into the computer. The doctor starts swearing, I have never heard him swear, but he is going ‘eff, eff, eff, eff.’ I say ‘Are you ok?’ He said ‘Are your legs ok? Hang on.’ Next thing you know I am on the phone with Dr. Maroon. He says ‘I am looking at these pictures, can you move your legs?’ I’m like doing the river dance like I’m ok. He’s panicking, but it’s time to go. I come back after 3 hours of commentary and I’m told to get on a place straight away. Whirlwind I am in Pittsburgh, I go in and he [Dr. Maroon] says ‘I don’t know what I am looking at here. I’ve only seen something as bad as this with one person, and they were in a wheelchair. I don’t know how you are walking.’ I’m thinking no, I was just bridging the other day. I go in for surgery and it’s supposed to be an hour, I was in there for 4. Dr. Maroon looks like he has run a marathon. He said we would have to eventually go right in the back, eventually they have found out that I have got a baseball sized calcified jelly holding my neck together. Whatever exploded in my neck and has been holding it together. It took him 4 hours to scrape it away where he could work from the front. They put my neck back together and it was the first time I was sleeping for 20 years.”
I remember you used to pace up and down on international flights.
“The end of 1993 was I really started being like this, and that was what set me off taking pills. I never used to drink until I came to America. I never did any, I maybe did a few Disco biscuits before, but drinking was never my thing, I was about the wrestling. I came to America and I got everything that I wanted. I didn’t think it would last but it did. I was under no illusions, WCW paid a flat rate and there are certain times in that first year where other people telling me I was in quite a position here. But if they paid me then they would have to pay others that, so I get it.”
Well look at Misawa. They said that he was basically decapitated with his neck still attached.
“This might ruffle a few feathers. I thought that when that happened, it would smarten up the industry, but still people are doing that stuff. But I am telling you, there are ways, you don’t need to get dropped on your head. Just ask me what not to do and I will save you 10 years of your career. If you want to learn how to get over, I’ll send them to you. I just do me and react to things.”
On an accident in Costa Rica.
“So 2018 started and I was having all this swelling in my legs. I go on a scouting trip to Costa Rica. Canyon Semen, he would get these instructions and would organise these incredible trips and give them an incredible experience for 3 days. It was wonderful to see all these people gather in one place and bring them together to give them a wonderful experience. In between that I am doing my thing and then there was the UK tournament. We cut the tour short, we are announcing it in 2 days, I am Australia in December, and in 2 days I need to get 16 wrestlers for this tournament in Blackpool that starts in January. I was on the phone in the car park after the show in Australia, I am there not really know what is going on. I turn up a day later, somehow I manage to get to England and there were 20 fellas there looking like real professionals, I couldn’t have been any prouder of being a British wrestler. It was like being in Peaky Blinders. There were all these incredible things we could pull off with just a few people. So beginning of March, I get off the plane in, I feel a bit dizzy but otherwise alright, no drinking. As soon as you get off the plane, there is a rush of people getting to the escalator. I am there with my carry on, I am at the top of the escalator, and going to watch a South American wrestling tournament. It felt like something caught the escalator rubber thing, next thing I feel a smash and that’s all I remember. I fell down the escalator, hit the rubber rail, shattered my left eye socket. I had 3 weeks of amnesia after that happened and was in the hospital for a week in Costa Rica. I shattered my eye socket, lost 40% vision, which I still haven’t got. I can still see, but it’s all grey. I have no recollection of the next 3 weeks, me nearly bleeding to death at one point and losing 2 pints of blood.”
“After 3 weeks, and WWE got me into the Shepard Center in Atlanta, one of the top places in the world for brain injury. People have to wait years to get in, and WWE got me in. People needed it more than me, but I got in and got through in 6 weeks. At the same time, my legs are swelling up and I’ve got a bad heart. Eventually I got back to work and I got to watch a lot of great wrestlers do their thing in a different country. I just like wrestling, as long as you are putting the effort in, there is no right or wrong. If you can connect somehow, the extra stuff is whatever you want to make out of it. I was at a show and stood up for most of it, I was struggling. My wife was at the hotel and we tried to walk to the local shopping centre, but I couldn’t walk there because I was so out of breath. I always stood at the shows at eye level, because that is what the cameras would pick up. A few months later they send me for a scan on my abdomen. Again, fortunately for me there was a cardiologist in the room, this lady saved my life. She said ‘Hang on, there’s something there.’ They couldn’t scan there because I had already been injected with the dye, we can only do one. I come back Monday and I get a scan I’ve never had before. I go home and within an hour I’m told I’ve got less than 6 months to live. This sack around my heart had completely calcified, my heart was like a goose egg. It was completely constricted and grown into a lump of solid rock. They were tapping with a scalpel like a goose egg, peel it off and it looks like a beating heart. If they didn’t take this off, I would have 6 months to live, they had to take it off. Fortunately WWE got me a doctor in Atlanta that could do this. I was 8 weeks in hospital after that, this was November and I insisted on coming out by Christmas. My son Bailey was home for Christmas and I needed to see him, but I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I was cramping from head to toe, but I insisted on going out. By New Year’s, I woke up in bed and insisted on staying out of hospital, but they were insisting I go back in. I try to get out of bed, collapse, my wife can’t move me, I am completely cramped up. They get me in the ambulance and back to hospital, but I thought I was going to die. January 4th I got sepsis in my leg. I don’t believe in anything but something gets me through this stuff. My wife gets a call at 3am on January 4th that I’ve got sepsis in my leg and they are going to cut it off. I have 24 hours to live if they don’t.
How the leg was saved:
“This is like madness. The doctor who is looking after me, his wife is a doctor. She is on call and she overheard the conversation that someone who has had a pericardiectomy, you don’t normally see this thing. She called her husband and said they are about to chop his leg off. He said ‘Inject him with this and this…’ Somehow [that saved me] they were going to chop my leg off. They did and we get back to Blackpool again. I’m in hospital again, 2 days before the NXT UK show in Blackpool where WALTER debuts. Something in my brain clicked and I think that I am going to be ok. The next 2 weeks was me trying to get out of hospital, you need to get out if you know how to. They would have kept me in there for a long time if I didn’t know how to get out.”
Featured image: The Sportster