When debating the greatest wrestler of all time, the usual suspects come up: Bret Hart, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Nick Bockwinkel, Mitsuharu Misawa, John Cena, Chris Jericho and The Undertaker spring up amongst others. However, when looking at the all-round best worker in the history of wrestling, William Regal poses a strong case. To analyse this claim, it is important to look at factors such as character, wrestling ability, comedy factor, promo ability, and those he has aided.
Regal certainly has one of the strongest characters in all of wrestling.
The idea of a snooty foreign heel, or even an aristocratic Brit, is nothing new, but Regal has taken it to great new heights.
Regal first created the character to gain attention in WCW. Pitching the idea to booker Dusty Rhodes, he created a character descended from William The Conqueror. The snooty character wore ornate ring attire, held himself with bombastic posture and even had his own butler, Sir William. He also had stereotypically British attributes, only adding fuel to the fire for American fans to further despise the character such as incorporating the Dutchess of Queensbury, using an umbrella as a weapon, and drinking tea.
Yet, this character was more advanced than that. Regal had a mean, sadistic streak in which he was ruthless. He was not above tactics such as outside interference, grabbing the tights, or use of brass knuckles just to secure a win. Regal was untrustworthy and deceitful when he needed to be.
Despite his devious heel antics, Regal had a lovable charm when a face that made you drawn toward him. With an infectious smile and with determined pride, the veteran could get fans on his side as well as he could get them to boo him.
Regal was always innovating his character. In the WWF, he became a power-abusing General Manager, later becoming a scared tag partner of Tajiri, a server of King Booker, a short-lived king in his own right, and a rarely-seen NXT General Manager.
Regal’s character work has to be up there as some of the best of the 21st century, if not all time.
The Brit was brought up as a shooter. Growing up in some of the roughest towns in the UK, Regal fought for real at carnivals and holiday camps, having debuted in pro wrestling aged 15 in Blackpool. Regal is a submission expert but is no stranger to a brawling style of match.
With an already extensive knowledge of grappling, Regal blended these technical mat skills in the ring. In combination with these were stiff strikes and attacks, both in full display during his infamous match with Goldberg. If Regal wanted you to submit, he could damn well make you submit or he could choose to knock you dizzy with heavy strikes—as a true professional though, he would have never done either, even if he could have.
Regal could run circles around anyone in the ring, with very few knowing the ropes as well as Regal, who has dedicated his life to the sport.
His signature moves too, are reflective of this. Grappling manoeuvres such as the Regal-Plex and Regal Stretch display the rabid dangerousness of the technically-sound side of Regal, whilst striking offences such as the Knee Trembler and Power Of The Punch are illustrative of the explosive and deadly strikes William can unleash.
Regal has had great encounters with various styles of wrestlers, from Finlay to Ultimo Dragon, Chris Benoit to Dean Ambrose, Ricky Steamboat to Ric Flair, and Daniel Bryan to Edge. Regal has had some tremendous encounters (revealing on the AEW Unrestricted podcast that his favourite was against Terry Rudge in 1990), and even those not-so-regarded have nothing to do with Regal’s in-ring work.
Plus Regal has done stellar tag work with a plethora of talents: Lance Storm, Bobby Eaton, Tajiri, Dave Taylor, Christian, King Booker, Finlay, Eugene, and Triple H just to name a few.
You can have the best character and be the best wrestler in the world but without a promo, that can mean diddly squat. Now, Regal’s promo ability is not what you first think about when thinking about Regal, and he is not the greatest all-time promo, but he is a bloody fine worker of promo.
This is proven by his very first AEW promo after helping create The Blackpool Combat Club, in which he did an amazing job hyping the talents of both Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson.
Another great promo of note was his face promo against Triple H after HHH had attacked Eugene, all hammered home with the line “If you want to fight, look no bloody further.” This passionate and enflamed promo showed face Regal at his most sympathetic.
Regal’s snobbery also comes across so naturally in his promos, best illustrated during Regal’s time as Commissioner. Whether he was trying to read Hamlet to the unwilling crowd, besmirching Mick Foley and branding him a “dirty, foul, insignificant, pathetic pillock!”, or bashing the concept of Thanksgiving on a literal Thanksgiving episode of SmackDown (a holiday not celebrated in the UK), Regal’s ability to draw the ire of the crowd was simply sublime. He was more than just a foreign heel, with his English-speaking origins adding a greater dimension that other foreign talents may have lost out on.
He has even cultivated one of the best catchphrases of recent years, only needing to say two words: “WAR GAMES!”
AEW too seem to be aware of the Brit’s promo talent, allowing him to sit on commentary to add more insight and flavour to the commentating team. He also exclusively refers to Excalibur as “man in the mask”, which is very humourous.
We have already touched upon Regal’s magnet-like attraction to the viewer and this is helped by Regal being one of the naturally funniest wrestlers of all time.
William Regal does not have a character as outlandish as The Hurricane, Toru Yano, or Orange Cassidy—for example—but a gimmick that fit his comedy perfectly. The juxtaposition of the astute, snobbish Brit getting into unpleasant or disgusting moments was always fun to watch.
One of Regal’s distinctive comedy aspects is his facial reactions. Growing up in England, a country acclaimed for its comedy, Regal developed some of the best reactions in the business. Examples include his appalled face after receiving The Nasty Boys Pit Stop, Rikishi’s Stinkface, and when met by Tajiri. The most famous has to be his face drinking his cup of tea after it had been urinated in by Chris Jericho.
Elsewhere, Regal is very good at physical comedy. Seeing a middle-aged British man rapping and dancing is very entertaining in its cringe value. Regal is not afraid to embarrass himself and is not too bad a dancer at that. Whether he is accidentally flattened by the Big Show or walking into a tray of sauces during his feud with Vito, Regal’s acting makes him a pure joy to watch. His kiss cam with Zack Ryder is also worth seeking out.
Verbally, Regal is untouchable including a prime example at San Diego’s Comic-Con 2015 in which a fan yelled “You’re so hot!” at Finn Balor to which host Regal replied, “Thank you, dear, I get it all the time.” The room guffawed with laughter.
We would be remiss to not mention Regal’s effort to portray characters. Regal has dressed up as everything from a buxom wench to a Las Vegas showgirl to Goldust, all in hilarious defiance. Very old school but very funny when done by Regal.
Careers Made By Regal
The most notable wrestler who was trained by Regal is surely Bryan Danielson.
Although initially trained by Shawn Michaels, Bryan attributes his success most to William Regal, calling him “the most influential person in my entire career”, as well as a “great mentor for my entire career”. The two met early on in Danielson’s career, with both having great admiration for the skills and talents of the other. The duo have fought multiple times, including a memorable match on Superstars, in which Bryan ribbed Regal beforehand with the Titantron briefly playing Regal’s old “Real Man’s Man” gimmick theme.
Of course, Bryan has gone on to great success as a four-time WWE Champion, a WWE World Heavyweight champion, and Ring Of Honor World champion. Bryan’s style is not unlike Regal’s, so the British brawler is probably most responsible for the success of Danielson aside from Danielson himself.
Elsewhere, Regal recalls helping Jon Moxley with his career. Regal chose Moxley to demonstrate his skills in Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), allowing him to get his foot into the door.
In Ambrose’s first major feud, he was put over big time when tying up with William Regal. One match saw Moxley force Regal to bleed from the ear, permanently injuring Regal. He even used his own Knee Trembler on him.
Regal has now reunited with both Moxley and Danielson in AEW. He is now also working alongside young prospect Wheeler Yuta. After saying he needed to prove himself and his worth, he allowed Yuta into The Blackpool Combat Club, thus he is currently putting over more talents of the future as we speak. In this role, William Regal’s AEW run will seemingly be structured around training, legitimising, and putting over those who will be stars in the foreseeable future.
This is not to mention those Regal has been instrumental in developing such as Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno), Cesaro, Brian Kendrick, CM Punk, and everyone who passed through the Performance Center under his training.
As Regal explained on the AEW Unrestricted podcast: “I would never like there to be a day when there isn’t a wrestling business. Although I’ve worked for other companies, I never just work for a company—I work for wrestling because I would help anyone who was interested…I just want there to be a wrestling business.”
Although he may not be an obvious candidate, in terms of all-round performance few could hold a candle to William Regal in the categories covered above.
A storied career filled with great matches and moments, Regal has proved himself to be the best of the best across wrestling, promos, comedy, character, and the star-studded talents he has trained, setting them up for the next generation. A beloved and tremendous talent, the 54-year-old is, therefore, a compelling candidate to be chosen as the greatest worker of all time when taking these attributes into account.
Regal sums it up himself, saying, in his own words: “Life is just experience; whether it’s good or bad, whatever you’re doing, you should learn from it if you’ve got the right kind of mindset.”