William Regal Nearly Became WWE Champion After King Of The Ring Win

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Hamish Woodward

When you look at lists of “the best wrestler to never be WWE Champion”, William Regal is inevitably on the top of it.

The English wrestler has the potential to be an all-time great in the WWE. He was one of the best technical wrestlers in the world. He could brawl with the best of them. The Englishman could do angry, sad, funny or downright sadistic. Few men were as versatile in the ring and on the mic as Sir William Regal in his pomp.

He should have been the WWE Champion. He had the means, the support and the push to do so. 2008 was meant to be his year, but he ruined his chances and cost himself a world championship run in the WWE after his King of the Ring victory of CM Punk.

This began in 2007. After being drafted to Raw in the draft following WrestleMania 23, William Regal was just one of many stars competing in a Battle Royal. This match was to determine the new General Manager of Raw after Jonathan Coachman left that role just weeks earlier.

Regal won the match and the role as the matchmaker on Raw. This was the obvious choice for the next general manager, given his history as the commissioner of Raw under Vince McMahon in 2001. While that role was more comedic, with the Japanese star Tajiri as his assistant, this run in 2007 was much more sinister.

William Regal Became A Mad Tyrant As Raw General Manager

Jonathan Coachman was made General Manager of Raw in the middle of 2008. He got the job due to nobody running the show, following a power vacuum and series of interim general managers since the firing of Eric Bischoff in 2004.

WWE Chairman Vince McMahon wanted to elect a new permanent General Manager. Unusually, he did so in the most wrestling way possible – in a wrestling match.

On August 6th 2007, a battle royal took place on Raw. The winner of the match would be the new man in charge of Monday Night Raw.

Stars like Umaga, Mr Kennedy, Cody Rhodes and William Regal all competed for a chance to win. While it looked like The Sandman had won the match after eliminating everyone else, Regal snuck back into the ring and won the match, earning the role of Raw General manager.

Regal had the experience for the role. He was previously the WWF commissioner in 2001 in one of his most popular roles, with his personal assistant, Tajiri. This run showed not only his serious side, but also allowed him to work on his comedy performance.

The Englishman has been quoted as saying the comedy stuff he did in the ring was his favourite, owing to the fact that his dream professions were all to do with making people laugh.

“It was three things: I either wanted to be a wrestler, a clown, or a comedian. And that was it. And I’ve always thought I got to do all three doing this”

Regal’s reign as General Manager started out fun, but soon turned very dark and sinister. The Englishman turned nasty and viscous, brutally attacking his foes with brass knuckles.

He became drunk with power, scheduling matches at a whim and ever shutting raw off early, during a Triple H vs Randy Orton match. Uttering the immortal line, “Take it off the bloody air!”.

And by uttering, I mean ferociously screaming at the people in the production truck.

His Feud With Triple H Hinted At A Future WWE Title Reign

The biggest feud Regal had during this time period was with Triple H. The pair had previously battled when Regal was commissioner several years prior.

The Englishman saved Eugene from an attack by HHH’s faction, Evolution. It led to one of Regal’s best ever promo’s, which can be seen here.

The feud began when Triple H faced Ric Flair on Raw. Flair was put under the stipulation that the next match he loses, he had to retire. To up the stakes for his Evolution team mate, Triple H was told that if he did not win, then he would not be able to enter the 2008 Royal Rumble.

William Regal cost HHH the match when he punched Flair, brass knuckles in hand, causing him to win the match via DQ and banning him from the Royal Rumble.

The mini feud came to an end on an edition of Monday Night Raw, when The Game faced off with Regal in a special edition of Raw called ‘Raw Roulette’.

They faced off in a ‘First Blood’ Match. The match wasn’t a long one, but told a great story. Triple H won but both men came out looking good, and The Game was eventually was allowed back in the Royal Rumble. He finished 2nd, last being eliminated by the returning former WWE Champion John Cena.

William Regal didn’t have a marquee match on WrestleMania 24. Triple H challenged Randy Orton for his WWE Championship, whilst Regal didn’t even wrestle at all.

He introduced his representative of Raw, Umaga (or Umanga, as he called him) to face Batista in an Inter-Brand match. To rub salt in the wounds, Raw lost the bout with Batista pinning Umaga. Luckily for him, nobody remembers that match, and it had very little effect on any of the three men’s career.

William Regal Won The King Of The Ring In 2008

Fortunately for Regal, he would receive his biggest ever push after WrestleMania 24. WWE announced the King of the Ring tournament would return for one night only on Raw.

On April 2st 2008, the King of the Ring tournament began and was concluded. Eight WWE Superstars entered the competition, including former World Champions like Chris Jericho, CM Punk and The Great Khali.

William Regal was another entrant. As the Raw general manager, he gave himself an easy match in the opening round. He easily dispatched Hornswoggle, the leprechaun wrestler, in just 18 seconds, before attacking his manager and on-screen father Finlay.

Luckily, Finlay was Regal’s next opponent. After the attack, the Northern Irishman was not at his best. While fans would have loved to see a redo of their classic WCW matches, Regal knocked out his long-time rival in just three minutes to qualify for the final.

The final saw William Regal battling CM Punk. ECW’s Punk beat Matt Hardy and Chris Jericho en route to the final, and was the favourite to take home the crown for the first time.

In another short match, William Regal forced CM Punk to tap out to the Regal Stretch. He became the King of the Ring for the first time, and cut an arrogant figure as he celebrated.

He slumped atop the throne set up on the stage, basking in the glory of his victory. It was a memorable image that is burned into the memory of thousands of fans, and looked to be the start of a huge push for William Regal.

William Regal Was Suspended After Winning The King of the Ring

William Regal used his position as King of the Ring and General Manager to launch himself into the main event. However, this only lasted a few weeks until it all came crashing down.

The week after winning the King of the Ring, Regal his a coronation ceremony interrupted by Mr Kennedy. They argued on the mic, with Regal calling himself “most powerful entity in the entire WWE” (which will not have made Mr McMahon very happy).

The pair brawled, and set up a match for two weeks later. However, this had an interesting stipulation with huge consequences. Vince McMahon declared that the loser of the match would have to leave WWE, due to their antics bringing down the ratings and quality of the show.

William Regal lost. The crowd waved him goodbye as Teddy Long took his spot at the Raw general manager.

Shortly after losing to Mr Kennedy, William Regal was suspended by the WWE. He violated the drug policy, his addiction rearing their ugly head again. He lost his role as the GM of Raw, and he was no longer noted as the King of the Ring.

This was his second violation of the drug policy, which was brought in after the death of Eddie Guerrero. However, the company got even more stringent after Chris Benoit’ death the year prior, so it was really the worst possible time for the Englishman.

This killed any chance William Regal to become the WWE Champion. His May 20th, 2008 suspension was the last chance he had to become a main event star in the WWE.

The teased rivalry with Triple H over the WWE Championship was cancelled, and he relegated to the mid-card when he returned. There was no mention of him being the general manager or King of the Ring when he came back, and fans largely forgot about how excellent he was during this year-long heel run in the WWE.

He went on to win the Intercontinental Championship before going on to become a trainer in NXT. However, he never reached the heights that he could have, and remains one of the best wrestlers to never become the WWE Champion.

The Wrestling Legend Denies Relapsing In 2008

However, William Regal disputes the fact that he relapsed while on his King of the Ring run. During an episode of the Gentleman Villain podcast, he denied taking drugs when he failed the wellness policy.

Regal claims that a trace of drugs were found in his system. He pointed out that when he was using, he didn’t take traces – he took vast amounts that could not be confused with anything else.

“I still don’t know what it was about. Something showed up on my drug test and again there’s been things said about me ‘oh he relapsed’ no, that’s not true at all, Nobody printed anything about what happened to me at that time because nobody knew. It was a fraction of a slight something showed up on my drug test.”

“If you knew the amount of drugs I used to take, I don’t take a fraction of anything. That would be like throwing a sausage up a tunnel. I’m either going proper off or I’m not going in there.”

William Regal added that he tried to take the issue as high up as he could. However, he was still suspended and lost his big push. He called it karma for things he got away with when he was young, taking it on the chin for a company that had been so good to him in the past.

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