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Developing Champions: William Regal and Tony Carr on developing superstars in WWE and the Premier League

Tony Carr with the WWE Championship; William Regal
Tony Carr with the WWE Championship; William Regal
Modified 07 Apr 2021

WWE's William Regal and West Ham's Tony Carr are both giants in their respective fields — professional wrestling and football.

Since taking a step back from his in-ring career, William Regal has played a critical role in developing wrestling talent on WWE NXT. While portraying the on-screen General Manager, Regal has helped build some of the biggest names in wrestling today.

Meanwhile, Tony Carr is a former Director of Youth Development at West Ham. During his long tenure at the club, he helped develop a young Frank Lampard, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, and Joe Cole, among many others. For his contributions, he was appointed Membership of the Order of the British Empire.

Be it in football or wrestling, any young star needs guidance to reach the level that they are capable of.

Meanwhile, WrestleMania 37 is only days away and West Ham United are also currently in Champions League positions in the Premier League table. In this context, the combined experience of both men in finding and developing some of the biggest names in the wrestling and footballing world boggles the mind.

William Regal and Tony Carr recently spoke about their experience in finding talented youngsters for WWE and West Ham.

William Regal and Tony Carr on identifying talent in younger stars

(left to right) Glen Johnson, Michael Carrick, Tony Carr, Joe Cole
(left to right) Glen Johnson, Michael Carrick, Tony Carr, Joe Cole

Both William Regal and Tony Carr agreed that a lot of what it takes to spot the talent of a younger star depends on instinct.


As Regal mentioned, for him, it was sometimes easy to spot someone walking through an airport and understand that they had what it would take to become a WWE star. He reiterated that often it didn't matter what accomplishments they had, but for an athlete to become successful in WWE, they had to possess a unique personality.

"Connecting with an audience or connecting with people is what’s important. Sometimes I'll see somebody from a thousand yards away, they can be walking through an airport, and I can think ‘they’ve got it.’"
"I get to meet a lot people who want to try and do what we do, like athletes, for example. It doesn't matter if they've got 10 gold medals around the neck, if they've got the personality of a cabbage then they've got no chance with WWE. But sometimes they have this extra something."

Carr agreed and talked about the same thing from a football point of view. Some players are naturally talented and know what to do, and even children nowadays are found and developed so that they can reach their true potential.

"But it's a slow process. We have them very young in the English Premier League, we're scouting children now seven or eight years of age to look at future potential. And they're signed aged eight and nine on yearly contracts to stay with your club."
"Then it's about developing them over the years and it's that old adage: ‘is it nature or is it nurture?’ But there's no magic formula."

Tony Carr also addressed the stages of development of younger stars and pointed out how it varied for different stars. He compared Joe Cole's first impression to Declan Rice's. He admitted that while Cole was an easily spotted talent at 12-years-old, Rice was not as easily identifiable as the superstar he would become.

"I think every individual is different. For instance, Joe Cole. A scout brought him in and we had a trial game at the training ground. Harry Redknapp was the first team manager at the time and came to watch. So we've got this young kid at 12 years of age who we've heard big things about him."
"Literally, the first thing we thought was: ‘Christ, how are you so far advanced?’ He wasn't just a one trick pony. He grafted, he worked, he lost the ball, ran back, tackled people got up on his feet. Got it again, and took it to the opposition."

William Regal, on the other hand, brought up Daniel Bryan and talked about how they didn't have high hopes for the talented star in his earlier WWE run.

"As I was listening to Tony, Daniel Bryan was popping up in my head. Daniel Bryan is one of the few people I've ever put my card on. I went to the company and said ‘look, I can't promise you he’s going to be world champion, I can't promise you he is going to make a ton of money, but he's 100% professional and he will be an incredible asset to this company.’ He came from a great background because he started with Shawn Michaels at his school, and he was interested in me showing him some stuff."
Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan

With former WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, the story is well-known. He practically revolutionized the wrestling industry, helping slightly smaller wrestlers to be viewed as possible superstars in WWE.

Regal also mentioned Sasha Banks and said that he had felt from the beginning that she could be a top star in WWE.

Importance of identifying talent in WWE and the Premier League

West Ham youth team, Frank Lampard (front center), Rio Ferdinand (back row, right of the goalkeeper), Tony Carr (standing right)
West Ham youth team, Frank Lampard (front center), Rio Ferdinand (back row, right of the goalkeeper), Tony Carr (standing right)

Be it WWE or West Ham United, stars are often identified at very young ages and are developed from the ground up to be superstars in their field. Without someone identifying the potential of a WWE or football star and without the training that would follow, they would never get that critical opportunity. This makes WWE's William Regal and West Ham's Tony Carr's jobs much more important.

The journey of a WWE wrestler to get to WrestleMania from the time they joined as developmental talent is comparable to the journey of a young footballer reaching a top Premier League team. It's rife with obstacles, and one of the most important things at this point in their lives is a guide to help them reach the top.

For their guides, seeing them succeed is a huge moment. Tony Carr and William Regal commented on the feeling of seeing some of their mentees succeed.

Carr mentioned finding Glenn Johnson and seeing the crowd's reaction to his success in breaking down the line with the ball and feeling "immense pride".

"Whenever you see a young player that you've developed make an impact in a team, there’s immense pride, not only for myself because there are a lot of people and staff that have done their bit with him as well. It's not just down to me. I'm just part of the program. It's not ever down at one person. You’ve got to have a belief and you've got staff that can understand the philosophy and try and get across the habits you're trying to develop in young players."

Regal also commented on the number of trials and tribulations the young WWE stars have gone through and what it means for him to see them succeed after learning about their background.

"Sometimes you've been through a lot with these people and you’ve seen the ups and downs. A reason I got the talent development job at WWE is because I've just been around a long time and I've made a lot of mistakes myself. And so I’ve shared by experience to help talent avoid doing something that might take them two or three years to get back on track again. It makes me very happy when they do well."

Regularly, the young players of the Premier League and the football world continue to impress and deliver despite being under immense pressure. West Ham United has moved into Champions League positions, impressing with incredible displays from their talented squad.

Meanwhile, it's currently one of the most important times in WWE's calendar year. WrestleMania, their biggest annual event, is only days away. Most of the Wrestlemania 37 matches are made up of stars who have come through WWE's developmental system as they look to impress with millions watching them on television.

William Regal, for one, will be looking on to see what some of his NXT alumni are able to achieve on WWE's biggest stage.

Published 07 Apr 2021, 19:49 IST
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