by Lee Hazell
William Regal and Robbie Brookside have presided over the blossoming development of the IWC’s favourite American brand, NXT (sorry ROH), for the last few years of its roaring success. They’re here in London for a face to face interview where we got to talk about the WWE Network’s latest tournament, The WWE UK Championship, which will crown WWE’s first ever UK Champion.
What is the significance of Blackpool to the United Kingdom Tournament?
W: It’s significant for us just because that’s where we started to wrestle, but after doing NXT last year in the Empress Ballroom, it was the best wrestling venue I’ve ever been in. My favourite venue was The Blackpool Tower Circus, and after being in Madison Square gardens and all these big places, I’ve never been in a venue that’s had that kind of reaction. It’s also because it’s all gold leaf and it’s going to look so grand. Plus I get to go home.
How long have you been scouting for this tournament and is it safe to say that the likes of Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll and such came up in the discussion?
W: Of course they did. For the cruiserweight show as well. But a lot of them are doing other things. That’s just the nature of the industry. Some people you can get, some people you can’t. People like those guys are doing incredibly well. Jack Gallagher though, nobody had heard of him. But I knew about him and then because of the match he had with Pete Dunn [qualifying for the cruiserweights], one of those guys lost the match and look where it got him on this programme? And that’s the guy that everyone’s talking about. No doubt they’ll come to work for WWE one day when they finish up doing whatever they’re doing. It gives a lot of people great opportunity.
You look on that stage there, I don’t know what people think of the standard of British wrestlers are, but here we’ve a team of proper hard-looking fellas, which is one of our things. Triple H’s biggest thing, whenever I mention somebody to him, he says, “Do they look like they could they could actually beat somebody up?” Because that’s part of our job. Wrestlers should look like fighters. Because at the end of the day that’s what we are. We’re trained, professional fighters. Some people can get away with anything, they don’t have to have the look. But that’s the exception to the rule. Most people who want to look at wrestling, unless you’re a die-hard fan, want to look at it like a fight scene in a movie. If you put it on and it’s two people who look like they live next door to you, you don’t really want to watch it. Some people just have an incredible skill set. But as it’s a tournament you don’t have to look at it like that, you can look at it like it’s the cruiserweight show, which came off like a sporting event.
A lot of thought on my part went into thinking about who’s the best we can get for this. Not just the people who can do a lot of moves, but people who can actually fight and look like they hurt people. Nobody’s going to go say that no one here don’t know what they’re doing. That’s what we’re trying to do going forward.
Was this in response to ITV bringing back World of Sport?
W: I can tell you that I heard about that product at the same time as you. It wasn’t hard to look up while I was here in the summer scouting people. I’ll leave it at that. This [the UK Championship] isn’t something that’s just come up right? We know what we’re doing. I maybe knew about World of Sport about a week before anybody else knew because I knew somebody involved in it. But knowing people is why I’ve been able to put this together and get this team. Not just me, all of us. Robbie’s part of this as well.
We’ve scouted these fellas, we’ve put them through try outs. I’m happy to give you our try out list. You can even look at it from November when we were in Glasgow, you’ll see most of these fellas were on it, or they were on the one in April, or they were on one before or they were on shows we saw in July. So it was very well thought out. You can’t just throw things like this together, you have to plan them out and put it all together. I hope this works as well because that’s another group of fellas or ladies that will get a chance. We’ll go from there. That’s more people we can keep an eye on and we hope the best of them will come up working for us anyway. That’s the whole point of this. You want the best of the best.
The Cruiserweight Classic had a massive impact on WWE. Do you expect the UK Championship to do the same in the coming months?
W: Certainly hope so. You can’t tell. We didn’t know what we were going to have with the Cruiserweight show. We were all a big part of that and from the first night you just went, “This is something special.” Knowing the production team that we have, which are the best of the best, you know that this is going to be as good as it can possibly be, especially with the talent. Every one of them is a hard hitting competitor. So there’s not going to be anyone going, “Oof, these don’t quite look right,” because they just wouldn’t be in the tournament. There’s some great wrestling going on. This country’s on fire with wrestling. But a lot of these fellas are working for the companies that are doing really well. So [as far as impacting WWE] we can only say we hope so.
Me and Robbie were the last of the classically trained British wrestlers from that British wrestling style. We’re the last two around. There’s nobody else left. There’s nobody that came after us that stayed in this job. There was an influx of guys in the 90’s but …
R: They weren’t wrestlers.
W: That’s when wrestling schools came along. It’s a weird thing for us. There was no such thing as a wrestling school until ten years after we was already wrestling. Me and him wanted to go down and batter everybody there, because we thought how dare they be able to pay to know wrestling when we’ve had to get our heads caved in to get into this business. People talk about passion for wrestling, we earned our passion. To stay in this job was a hard thing to do in those days. But in the last few years, the wrestlers have started wrestling again. They’ve really took a lot of that old style and added it to the Japanese style and to the highflying style. Everything’s come together, so we just want it to get going. That’s what we love. We love wrestling.
R: I think also when we started the older people, our peers, used to warn us and threaten us, telling us that we had to fight. If a fan got in the ring, then we had to take care of it. So coming form that kind of background, it’s refreshing and exciting to see this lot who’ve got the look, who can tango, who’ve evolved a little bit. This lot here look like they can have a scrap. If you can’t scrap, you might as well forget it. This is fighting, not tiddlywinks. What we’re trying to do in NXT is bring technique, but also the hard hitting styles of the different genres around the world. So it’s extremely exciting to see this bunch here.
Catch up with the rest of this interview in the last VultureHound Magazine of 2016 where you can read William Regal and Robbie Brookside talk more about the history of British wrestling and its influence over the current landscape. We also have an interview with former WWE Universal Champion Finn Balor.