It was good to see him on Raw – getting a good pop, trading barbs with revitalised big boy HHH, challenging him a match, getting a jump on him early on, blading and juicing like a geyser and taking both knucks and sledgehammer. It was quite clear – Regal is back and being pushed.
There was enough heat between them on Monday night to develop into an excellent programme. Of course, that won’t happen; the not-as-over-as-they-would-like-to-think, one man walking offence to intelligence Eugene has that spot reserved. But it is heartening to see Blackpool’s finest regarded as a safe pair of hands, mixing with the top guys and keeping the ball in the air.
But of course he did. Steven/William Regal has always been as safe as houses – and I don’t mean those pokey wattle and daub “affordable” houses for key workers that fall down after a good sneeze. He’s like turn of the century stock, when they made ‘em to last.
I remember seeing him first in WCW, and particular remember his work in the Blue Bloods. Although he had to carry stiffs “squire” David Taylor and “Earl” Robert of Eaton, a man who’s IQ was just a little lower than his shoe size, he created something of brilliance. Given the opportunity to do all the stick work, Regal made the tag team work with hilarious condescending rants and a face that like a bulldog licking piss off a thistle. I knew that he would go far.
He’s gone through a lot in the WWE. He thankfully had enough quality to overcome his appalling introduction as “The Man’s Man”, complete with toolbelt and hardhat – a gay man’s wet dream if ever there was one.
Once allowed to revert to his supercilious (out comes that dictionary again!) sneering Englishman act with the Sean Bean posh-Northern delivery, he began to relish his role. He’s has some Hardcore Champ success, and a bit of tag glory, but will probably be remembered for his non-wrestling role as Commissioner, giving full rein to his pompous character and putting everyone associated with him over in the process; particularly the pee in the tee episode, and his “that’s a bit tart!” outburst.
And yet, he has never really caught the fans’ imagination as he should. They don’t like his mat-based grappling style, super-stiff though it is. He doesn’t fly, isn’t lightening-quick and doesn’t leave many memorable high-risk spots. He is truly a WRESTLER, it’s all about the whole style. He would truly be appreciated in the 70’s, and has a similar style to the Nature Boy – back when Ric wasn’t a pale imitation of himself. In the locker room, only Chris Benoit, who offers an adulterated, high-impact version, surpasses Regal’s grasp of holds and chain wrestling. Like Lance Storm, a brilliant wrestler has been ignored – but not by the WWE.
To give the WWE it’s due (and you won’t hear that very often from me), they stuck by Regal during his mystery virus, which attacked his respiratory functions and could have ended his in-ring career. But then, Vinnie knows he can always use Willie in some way; it’s rare to find a wrestler with intelligence, one who can play characters and emotions as well as Regal can. He was used at the beginning of the Eugene story arc because the writers, knowing it was a fine line between verisimilitude (it’s under “V”) and caricature (just keep that big book on your knee), and also knowing that Nick Dinsmore couldn’t be trusted to see the line, let alone walk it, needed Regal to inject some seriousness into the angle; the seeming reality of his care for the boy and his outrage at his treatment, grounded Eugene. Regal made him more real – a shame the writers ruined it.
Regal will probably never rise above mid-card status, but he will always be important to the brass because of his skills. He can turn his hand to any angle, no matter how outlandish, and give it some value. When we need laughs (and boy, do we often need laughs!) he can provide them. Foley does it, and he’s celebrated. Regal does it, and we instantly forget. It’s a rare commodity, and much prized – allied with his consistency, it becomes a bit of a diamond.
Steven William Regal may well be the elusive complete wrestler we all keep blathering on about. Of course, no-one will call him that now – he’s a man out of time, his style is not trendy, but that doesn’t dim his fantastic talent. Long may he reign. Quality never goes out of style.