It’s the Final Day of #WilliamRegalWeek, a celebration of all things Made in England and the third installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. We started with A Wrestler You Should Probably Know Better, and given you the finer points of the Lord Steven oeuvre with some Essential Viewing. We marched through Hump Day with a GIF parade and made our Amazon.com-on-steroids dreams come true yesterday with “Juice Make Sugar Recommends…“ Now, we finish everything off with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a tea-fueled civil war.)
Nick: I think we can both agree that William Regal is, well, great. Easily the best guy we’ve covered so far.
Dave: Oh, definitely. He has an actual, palpable legacy in the wrestling world.
Nick: He may have matched him crazy promo for crazy promo, but in the ring Ahmed was, uh, well Ahmed. And while Cesaro has the potential to be at least at his level (if not a little better, which is crazy) in the ring, it’s hard to imagine that Antonio will ever be the character Lord Steven is.
Dave: Yeah. Character-wise, Regal has been better established and developed than almost any non-main event star ever.
Nick: Wasn’t he — when he was King of the WWE and GM of Raw — in the main event, though?
Dave: He was knocking on the door, but we’ll never know. I think he would have had a short run in the upper echelon, just to get knocked down by John Cena (or the like). The “turning off the lights” thing was very main event, though. Some of the Triple H COO stuff is reminiscent of that era
Nick: Are you surprised they aren’t using him as some sort of heel authority figure on Raw or even Smackdown?
Dave: Surprised? Not really. They already have at least five too many authority figures. I enjoy his work, so I wish we saw more of him on the big shows, but he’s still a huge contributor to what we will be seeing soon thanks to his role on NXT.
Nick: Is that going to be his legacy, ultimately? Training Punk and Bryan? You know, like how Killer Kowalski’s legacy is now in large part as Triple H’s trainer.
Dave: His legacy stands on its own two feet without bringing in other wrestlers, but people who actually care about the history of the wrestling business will remember him as a consummate contributor. To other guys’ pushes, to establishing the overall tone of shows, to grooming the future of the business. I’ve heard it said of the Greak Kabuki in World Class that he “set the table, but wasn’t there to eat.” I think the same of Regal.
Nick: I know it’s terrible, but let’s pretend for a second that the Hall of Fame was an objective thing, he’s in, right?
Dave: It’s almost too much of a leap for me to even get to a place where I can envision an objective wrestling Hall of Fame. But if we’re grading on match quality, contributions to historically important things, and “doing the right thing” consistently, he’s in.
Nick: But, with the Hall of Fame more of a “cool kids table” thing?
Dave: Well, it’s an odd collection of cool kids, the guys the cool kids looked up to, and guys who are valuable from a marketing/licensing point of view. So if Punk, Bryan, and that crew ever officially become “the cool kids,” Regal’s in by that standard too. If the cool kids are the people who push Ryback and Brock Lesnar and (ahem) Triple H, I don’t know.
Nick: When do you think we get the Ryback-Regal match where Regal makes him do mat wrestling?
Dave: They would just cut to commercial now, I’m sad to say. But if they were going to do some big worked-shoot mess where they tried to replicate that moment (God, I hope we’re not giving them ideas), it wouldn’t be a sixteenth as effective or important as it was with Goldberg.
Nick: Well, in terms of internet wrestling nerds, that’s one of the true “must see” matches
Dave: Rightly so. In an oxymoronical way, it’s the perfect example of how cooperative wrestling really is.
Nick: It metaphysically explains the line between “work” and “shoot”.
Dave: Those of us who aren’t trained will never understand how a match really works, but that match shows you how it doesn’t.
Nick: Though, on some level, it still does. It’s an enjoyable match.
Dave: Oh my gosh, it’s the best Goldberg match. By a lot. Regal has his fun, but he’s still the heel. He still ultimately sets up Goldberg to look good and go over strong. Which I think was part of his point. Let someone who knows what they’re doing do a real job. Don’t just have them get thrown around by a moron with no grasp on psychology.
Nick: Would Regal have worked during Hogan era WWF?
Dave: Yes. A thousand times yes. Can you imagine him as the third British Bulldog? He could have worked with Davey when Dynamite Kid was in Japan.
Nick: Or deteriorating.
Dave: Yeah. Post Wrestlemania II-bump Dynamite Kid. I think he would have been a huge part of that amazing tag team roster they had. And he could have easily been built up for his turn against Hogan.
Nick: Would he have Goldberg’d Hogan?
Dave: Naw. Hogan played ball in the ring. Hogan may have been a dangerous politician, but he treated people with a lot of respect once they were between the ropes. How many times do you remember seeing Hulk Hogan drop someone on their head?
Nick: Not many, but he was also a wrestler and not a terrible animal. Unless you hit your finisher. He’d no sell the shit out of that.
Dave: Or punch you in the face.
Nick: Speaking of that — the finishers, not the punching — which was better: the Regal Stretch or the Knee Trembler
Dave: The Knee Trembler is more “it can come out of nowhere” main event, but the Regal Stretch is one of my all-time favorites. There’s nothing like a wrestler who the announcers portray as a hooker using a move that looks like a hook. If that’s not over with you, then you don’t actually like wrestling.
Nick: He is a “hooker” in the purest sense: everything he does seem real. That Dean Ambrose match in FCW is ridiculous.
Dave: I remember he main evented (I think) against Randy Orton on a UK edition of Raw, and it was just the most realistic-looking main event match I had seen in years. For me, though, that was almost a weakness in Regal. His in ring work made him look so uncomfortably more talented than the main eventers that they couldn’t book him anywhere near them. He was so good it held him back.
Nick: Is that a lesson that Bryan and Punk learned?
Dave: Definitely Bryan. Look at him now. Kick, kick, surfboard, headbutt, Yes Lock, Flying Knee…. Bryan definitely learned how not to be like Regal.
Nick: He seems to be more HBK than Regal in terms of pacing.
Dave: Oh yeah, he’s exciting. Regal is decidedly un-exciting. It’s part of the lost art of being a heel. “Punch-kick-hold on the mat” has a bad rap with internet smarks, but boy does it put the heat on the babyface.
Nick: How much longer do you think he has wrestling?
Dave: Wrestling as in working matches? I couldn’t say. I think he has one more angle putting over the right guy in him. But I think he’ll be a lifer in terms of contributing to wrestlng.
Dave: So, Nick. You’ve allowed me to wander through a largely tangential discussion of one of my all-time favorite wrestlers, so let me ask you: what does William Regal mean to post-Attitude Era WWE history? He’s been there playing largely the same character since 2000.
Nick: It’s hard to compare wrestling to other sports because it’s so cooperative but Regal is the “Mirror, Mirror” version of Mike D’Antoni. The non-goateed part of that equation, of course.
Dave: The guy that everybody loves until they don’t?
Nick: Well, more accurately, the guy who understood a specific part of the business better than anyone: for D’antoni’s it was offensive spacing and game flow. In Regal’s case, a very specific understanding of the level of realism that got people interested. They both missed out on the other half, though: Lord Steven didn’t realize that people only want a certain level of realism before the returns diminished. With D’antoni, he didn’t realize you have to play a certain amount of defense, like, during practice, for instance.
Dave: That’s a really good point. I’ll say this of Regal, though: if wrestling had playoffs, he’d be more successful than Mike D’Antoni.
Nick: Man, why do you have do Steve Nash like that? Even Dave Taylor feels like that was a low blow.