British wrestling legend William Regal is one of the most important members of WWE’s backstage team, with his role in developmental system NXT helping to bring along the new generation of wrestling talent.
The 49-year-old currently helps to train NXT performers in Orlando, while he is also one of WWE’s chief scouts.
Regal travels all over the world to uncover new talent, and has been praised for his insightful eye in regards to potential.
In part one of our in-depth interview with the multi-time champion, we spoke to Regal about what it takes to get signed by WWE, and which signees he has been most proud of.
In part two he talks about his friendship with Triple H, and which of the current NXT crop we should be looking out for.
Hi William, you live in Atlanta but NXT is based in Orlando. How often do you travel there?
Every TV week at NXT I’m down in Orlando for the week, and then I’m also there for at least several other days a month. Then I’m on the road doing different things, so a lot of the work that I do now is via email and phone calls, keeping up with the different wrestlers and different companies.
I’m also in Orlando whenever we do tryouts, but we also do those in different parts of the world.
Tell us about the trials. Do you have to change up how they’re run depending on which part of the world you’re in?
Everything is completely up in the air and adaptable. If I come to the UK you’re going to look at as many wrestlers as you can, but also those you know will fit the bill. There are certain people you can look into before they even get there and know they’re just not going to be able to work for WWE for whatever reason.
You look for wrestlers, that’s the number one goal, but we’ve only got so many spaces. There are no guaranteed jobs here. I’d rather you do a tryout, make sure you do everything great, and then there may possibly be a job at the end of it somewhere.
There are a lot of younger people I look at where there probably isn’t a chance of them coming in for several years. But once you’ve done a tryout, that’s it, and I know I get to meet them and spend several days with them to find out if they’re the kind of people WWE want.
How important is how the wrestlers come across outside of the ring?
That’s another thing a lot of people don’t get, 15 minutes in the ring is probably the smallest part of your whole day because you’re constantly doing interviews, or you’re out representing the company.
I always say that if I can’t trust that you can be sent by the talent relations department to go and talk to a group of schoolchildren at 8am in the morning, you don’t need to be here, we just don’t need you here in this company at the moment.
We also look at athletes in the UK as well because they bring eyes on us.
Which types of athletes are you looking for?
There is a guy called Luke Menzies who has been trained as a wrestler by one of the guys that trained me but he hasn’t actually wrestled yet.
He was a pro rugby league player and he’s very, very good. He looks exceptional, you couldn’t draw this guy, and he can talk and do exceptional promos and do everything you want. He’s coming in and we’ve signed him, and that’s the developmental part of NXT.
Once people from the rugby league business realise that one of their own has made it in wrestling, it opens up other doors for them. You’re always looking at people who are athletes that can actually do what we do.
What are the biggest misconceptions about WWE tryouts?
There are only so many wrestlers that can actually look and act the part, and do whatever they have to do in WWE, and that’s a lesson to be learnt for a lot of wrestlers, you need to look the part. If you don’t, there is very little chance of you making it here.
It doesn’t matter how big you are, if you think you can act like an idiot and just not go to the gym or do anything, it’s probably not going to work out for you.
People will say certain guys never did this or that, but Kevin Owens did a tryout, Sami Zayn did a tryout. If you go to Japan, you have to do a tryout. There is always some form of something you have to do to get into a company.
There is nobody above doing it.
Is there anybody not signed with WWE right now who you’re particularly interested in bringing in?
There’s a lot but I can’t really say much! First of all because it puts unnecessary pressure on them. I don’t like putting pressure on anyone. I’m asked all the time who the next big thing is in NXT and I always say I’m not going to say because it puts too much pressure on them.
There are a thousand things you’ve got to deal with, you don’t need extra pressure by the fella telling you you’re going to be the next big thing.
Obviously there are people working in other companies that we’d like, there are loads out there who are very good. It’s a matter of the right time, the right place. So much of it is timing.
Do some wrestlers need to learn more on the independent scene before coming in?
A lot of people ask ‘why haven’t you got this person yet?’ Because if I brought him to everyone’s attention now, as long as he’s making a living and doing the right things and I’m keeping in touch with him, if you bring him in now, we’ve only got so much space and so many spots for people, he’d be better off staying where he is and getting more experience.
You can only take so many, and there a lot who already have contracts to other places that you can’t have anything to do with.
They’re all smart enough to get hold of someone when the time is right if they’re interested.
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.
You’ve been instrumental in helping to sign a lot of people to NXT. Are there any particular people you’re most proud of?
I don’t really like singling anyone out, but Sasha Banks. I’ve known her since she was 18, and the previous people that were doing what I’m doing now wouldn’t even give her the time of day.
When I was asked by Triple H to be part of that team, of which there is nobody still here who was in the team at the time, I kept asking to bring her in, to which people replied ‘oh no, there is nothing in her, she’s useless.’
Sasha was the first person I went to bat for, and her development is a great thing to see.
Bayley in a way also because I had the idea for the character but I didn’t have anyone to fill the role.
I saw there was an open market because everything was pushed towards young boys, but we had nothing for young girls. That was a role that could be filled, and finding Bayley helped.
That was one of the first tryouts we did in LA. Seeing her and going ‘she’s the perfect person for that role’.
It’s not an act with her, it’s real. We just had to make it right. She created the character along with Dusty Rhodes, but I had the idea for her.
I always told her to be herself, and sell the way she looked, and that was the role.
Becky Lynch too, she’s just magic. She came to the trial we did in Birmingham years ago, and she hadn’t been in the ring for a long time.
Robby Brookside got in touch with me and said she was interested in coming back, so I told her to come to the tryout. Within five minutes we knew she was magic.
With those three it made me realise not to second guess myself sometimes. For whatever reason, more often than not, I can spot something in someone.
William Regal talks friendship with Triple H and favourite NXT wrestlers
WWE’s developmental brand NXT tours the UK next week, so we sat down with trainer and scout William Regal for part two of our interview to find out just who fans attending the shows should be looking out for.
Regal has been involved in the wrestling business for over 30 years, and during that time has established a close relationship with Triple H, WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative and the head of NXT.
What is your friendship like with Triple H?
We have a very odd friendship in the fact that I probably speak to him less than anyone in the company. He trusts me with what he needs to trust me with. He can literally look at me from across the room, and we know that have the same kind of mindset.
How did you become friends?
He came to WCW and we were put together as a team.
When I was younger wrestling in England, I used to go to a lot of countries on my own a lot of time. There was a four year period where I was constantly traveling the world.
I always remembered the guys who would look after me and the ones that didn’t when you get there. So I’ve always made it a point to try and help anybody that’s new, to try and make them feel settled in because people did that for me.
Without that, I would never have gotten to where I got to.
I’ve been lucky that a lot of good people always looked after me because I was polite or whatever, and they showed me around and let me figure out how the specifics of the company worked.
I do that with anybody, and I did that with him. He came to WCW and he hadn’t been wrestling long.
He was only a year younger than me, but I’d been around for ten years at that time, with the last six of those pretty intensive.
Straight away I asked him if he needed any help, and I’d bring him over to my apartment, my wife would cook for him and we’d help him out.
What happened when you became a tag-team?
We got put together as a team, so we trained together all the time at the old Power Plant in WCW.
I didn’t know how long the British wrestling style would last at that time because it was dying off then, so I started teaching him some of that stuff that I knew.
It just went from there, the team worked well for a short period but his contract was coming up and he got an offer from WWF. I said to him he had to go, he wanted to go anyway, but he asked me and I said he had to because they were working nearly 300 dates a year at that point.
I’d done all my work working every day, and I told him he could only get better doing that. Some people are good from the get go. I wasn’t, and he wasn’t. We had to learn everything that we ever got.
The only place to get better is to work in front of a crowd every night, that’s when you’ll find what really works and what doesn’t.
What happened next?
After he went to WWE we kept in touch a little bit. Then I came back to WWE in 2000 after a few ups and downs, and he was always there for me. We’ve been together ever since, but like I say, we don’t have a lot to do with each other outside of wrestling.
We do all the stuff at NXT because he knows he can trust me to do anything and we’ve always got each others back.
Speaking of NXT, you’re heading over to the UK next week for a tour. How do you feel about that?
It’s exciting because we’ve essentially got a new roster. There is some incredible talent coming over.
Everybody on the card now is getting to the point where they’re really good at what they do.
Who in particular should we be looking out for?
I know people have been seeing Drew McIntyre for the last few years in the UK, and now you get to see him in NXT with the new way he’s going to get presented.
The experience that he has got over the last three years and the confidence he has gained means he’s like a whole new person with how good he is.
Bobby Roode is a star, he’s great for the brand, while Aleister Black is somebody who if you’ve never seen him, you’ve got to see him.
It’s hard to explain, he just has a presence. Some people are great wrestlers and some people just have a presence about them, and he’s got both.
To get to see Roderick Strong and Kassius Ohno as well, they’re exceptionally good pros and they’re going to have excellent matches.
The best of the best keep being brought here, and NXT has its own rawness and special quality to it.
What about the rookies?
With NXT there are always going to be a few people who are still developing because that’s what NXT is, but that’s really exciting because you get to see them thrown into the deep end.
Some of these people who are used to doing the smaller shows in Florida are getting a chance on this tour.
I’m not lying in any way, British fans are the best in the world. They’re going to chant, they’re going to scream, and the talent are going to find out if they’re ready or not for this.
And that’s great because if they’re not, don’t take it as a bad thing, let’s go back to the drawing board if it didn’t work.
But it will work, because we’ll make it work.
Finally, what does the future look like for NXT?
The last few TV recordings we were at, like I say I don’t say much to Triple H, but we looked over at each other, and we just said that ‘everything is starting again now.’
We’re on a new path. With this roster, and we also know what’s going to happen and who is eventually going to be doing this and that, this is a really magic time to be watching NXT.