When WWE legend William Regal toured India for the first time
Recalling wrestling legend William Regal's three week trip to India in 1992.
Darren Kenneth Matthews, better known as William Regal, is one of the few men in the world of professional wrestling who is highly respected among his peers as well as his fans. Being a big fan of British wrestling on World of Sports, he left his home at the age of 16 after completing his high school in 1983 to become a pro-wrestler.
Regal started his career performing in carnivals and learning side-by-side from legends like Marty James. He refused wrestling on ITV alongside Big Daddy (who could be considered the Hulk Hogan of British Wrestling), in order to travel the world and wrestle guys better than him for the sole purpose of learning.
After years of hard work, his dedication towards his art opened new doors for him in the United States of America. He started wrestling for WCW under the name Lord Steven Regal, a villainous British aristocrat who claimed to be a descendant of William the Conqueror.
Regal made his WWF debut in 1998, where he had a short stint before joining full time in 2000. Throughout his career, he won several accolades including the prestigious ‘King of the Ring’ tournament, which he won in 2008 by defeating CM Punk.
This ‘Real Man’s Man’ had many great matches with the likes of Fit Finlay, Chris Benoit, Larry Zbyszko, Ricky Steamboat, ‘The Great Muta’ Keiji Mutoh and many others, earning him the reputation of being one of the greatest in-ring technicians in the world.
Here’s a classic match featuring William Regal against Dave Taylor:
What separated him from rest of the mat based technicians was his natural ability to entertain the crowd and tickle their funny bone. And not to forget, he played a huge role in Daniel Bryan’s career, mentoring him as well as many other promising wrestlers.
Wrestling fans today see him playing the role of general manager of NXT. Alongside this, he also scouts new and exciting talents all across the globe for WWE. As a part of his job, he visited India in November 2014 in order to scout some promising names.
Before that, he came to India in 2002 as a part of WWE Raw crew that performed in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. But that wasn’t the first time he visited the world’s largest democracy either.
Before Regal gained fame in WCW and WWF, he would make a livelihood by wrestling in various wrestling circuits throughout the United Kingdom and occasionally going for foreign tours, which brought in a great deal of exposure in those days.
In his autobiography, ‘Walking a Golden Mile’ he recalls getting the opportunity to tour various countries in the year 1992, including Germany, South Africa, Austria, Egypt and not to forget, a three-week trip to India.
He was being paid 800 pounds per week which he considered to be a good amount for him in those days.
Regal wrestled against prominent names like Asian Games gold medalist Kartar Singh (whom Regal thought was a 1984 Los Angeles Olympics silver medalist in freestyle wrestling, though he finished 7th in the event) and Baljit Singh, who is the nephew of the legendary grappler and cultural icon, late Dara Singh.
What amazed him the most was the popularity of wrestling in India. He writes:
”All over the city, I was dumbstruck to see 15-foot-high handpainted pictures of me, announcing that I was going to appear. There were life size pictures of me on the sides of the scooters and rickshaws they used as cabs.”
He then started wondering how big and over the native wrestlers must have been among their home crowd. Regal expresses his views about his bout with Kartar Singh as follows:
”One night I wrestled a guy who was not only a policeman in New Delhi, but also a silver medal winner in Los Angeles Olympics, so you can imagine just how big a hero he was.
I beat him in the eighth round by kicking him in the bollocks-it was the only way I could beat him. I half-expected a riot that night.”
Apart from all the wrestling, Regal had the following to say about India as a country
”India was like and they all said the same thing (referring to his peers who had visited the country prior to him ) – you cannot put it into words. And that’s the truth. I saw some of the most beautiful and some of the worst sights I have ever seen.”
Regal was upset by the poverty and dreadful living conditions of people that he saw. He described Taj Mahal as the most unforgettable thing he had ever seen in his life.
In all, Regal described India as a country of great opportunity which was fascinating and overwhelming in equal measures. One particular incident that stood out in this trip, as explained by him, was:
”There was a tailor underneath the hotel and I took him two pairs of my trousers and asked him to run up some copies. I asked him for five pairs and he quoted a ridiculously small price, something like 12 pounds for the lot.
He dropped to his knees and started kissing my hand for asking him to do the work. He can’t have earned very much if that was what my commission meant to him.
So I had some shirts made, some leather jackets for me and Chris and some clothes for the kids.”
Regal considered this trip to be one of the most amazing experiences of his life.
In today’s world of the Internet, where fans are aware of even the smallest of stories, tales like these are nothing less than hidden treasures. We can only imagine how many other such stories are still there to be explored in this magnificent world of professional wrestling.
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