With great interest I read the autobiography of William Regal (previously available in the United Kingdom and just released here in the United States. The autobiography ranks as the best WWE book since Ric Flair's autobiography last year, following Regal through his training and career in Europe, his moving to the United States to work for WCW, Regal's drug addiction, recovery and runs in WWE, good and bad through present. Regal's well documented health problems of the last several years are recounted as well.
In many ways, the book comes off as a complete opposite of Dynamite Kid Tom Billington's autobiography, in that Regal's story is something of a happy ending and he doesn't hold any bitterness towards anyone, except for himself, for his past transgressions.
I deeply enjoyed the first third of the book, with Regal discussing his exploits working in South Africa, Germany, and Great Britain alongside names like Danny Boy Collins, Giant Haystacks, Dave Finley, Dave Taylor and other British names that I've read about and seen on videotapes through the years. Like every wrestler who truly loves the business, Regal started out as a fan, deciding at a young age he was going to become a wrestler. Like every good worker is often apt to do, he's also quick to note that he wasn't very good when he started out.
"It was true, too. I didn't know where to put myself. So I lost my virginity in the back of a ring truck. It's fair to say my whole life has been entangled in wrestling one way or another." ~Regal on his virginity
The British era is entertaining and honest. By 16 he was getting the hell beaten out of him by British veteran Dave Duran because Regal wouldn't give Doran part of his pay. By 18, Regal was losing his virginity in the back of a ring truck. He recounts with great affection the traveling carnival atmosphere of that era's British wrestling scene, the characters that worked around it including a dwarf who was drunk 24/7, and other colorful characters.
"So now not only did I feel I didn't belong in America, I didn't belong back home in Blackpool either. And the homesickness got worse." ~Regal on realizing he couldn't go back "home again" after stardom in the United States working for WCW.
Regal moves onto his American career, working tryouts for WWF in dark matches prior to British events before being picked up by World Championship Wrestling. In typical WCW fashion, no one is at the airport to pick up Regal his first time in the United States. Regal goes into his relationships with Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and Brian Pillman including his own version of the famous "gay beach" story that Foley told in his first autobiography. He discusses transitioning to life in America. Regal looks at the silliness that pervaded WCW management. He recounts working with Ricky Steamboat, Ric Flair, and teaming with Bobby Eaton and a young Paul Levesque, who Regal says he knew would be a star because of the passion he showed towards learning.
"Months later, after I got my belongings back and my bail money, I discovered exactly what had happened during the flight. Drunk and pilled up, I had gone to the bathroom. I had staggered in but dragged one foot behind me, so the door had failed to shut. I was having a pee when one of the stewardesses came along and tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and, befuddled as I was, peed on one of her shoes. After she had cooled down she realized that it hadn't been deliberate. But I'm not seeking to belittle my actions. I had still been drunk on that plane. I'd still caused it to come down out of the sky." ~Regal on being arrested on a flight from Japan to Detroit, causing the plane to stop in Alaska.
It was also during the WCW era that Regal first began dabbling in drugs, although he is quick to point out that even then he was an addict, and goes down the many ways he used to make excuses to himself to ignore the problems. Regal goes into painfully descriptive details on his use, what he used, when, and why. Reading the book, I was amazed he was still alive. By all rights he should he have been buried a long time ago. Despite many outbursts from his wife Chris trying to get him to clean up, Regal continues to get worse and worse, losing his job with WCW. Hired immediately by WWF, he ends up falling asleep in Vince McMahon's office the first time he visits Titan Tower. His forgettable run as a Man's Man is mentioned with Regal saying he refuses to watch anything from that era.
"For the next seven weeks, I sat at home in a major slump, feeling sorrier for myself than ever before. When I could sneak out, I did so to get drugs. When I could sneak it in, I got some booze. They were bad times. Terrible. We were staring divorce in the face. And it was all my doing. I had three childen, no money coming in, a wife who wasn't speaking to me, and I was a serious drug addict and alcoholic. I didn't think life could get any worse. Guess again." ~Regal on his drug problems.
At WWF's insistence, Regal goes to rehab. For the first time publicly, we get a window into how WWE's Talent Relations department deals with workers who have substance abuse problems. Regal is admitted into the rehab program and there is a lot of brutal honesty in this part of the book, from his refusal to admit he had a problem, how he tried to scheme his way out of rehab, the characters he was living with, his reaction from being recognized as he dealt with his problems, and how his mind would justify his actions whenever he relapsed. As Regal continues to ruin chance after chance, I couldn't help but think that not only was he lucky to be alive, but he was lucky to still have his family intact.
"Doctors and nurses came running in from everywhere. I was lying in the middle of this activity, wondering what it was all about. They told me my heart rate was 180 beats a minute - it had really flipped out and was all over the place. And then they decided they would have to stop my heart and restart it the next day." ~Regal on his cardiac problems
The remainder of the book looks at Regal's return to WCW, then to WWE, his team with Tajiri, the infection he caught on a tour of India, his battle to return to the ring from heart problems after he was told that his career was over, working with Eugene, and more . It's amazing, inspiring stuff, especially when you factor in all the previous issues he's had, self-created and otherwise.
The book is a really great read with lots of funny road stories, very little that feels edited or "missing a piece of the story" (like Edge's bland autobiography). Regal's clear-cut admissions of his drug problems, his mental state, his description of rehab and relapses give the book a very centered tone. The book quickly goes from being about the boy who dreamed of being a wrestling star like his heroes to the addict trying to save his life, career and family from his own worst enemy...himself. When that is accomplished, Regal sets out to bring his career back from the dead. His journey was (and remains) a hard fought battle, but it has become a completely engaging autobiography in the process.
"Walking the Golden Mile" is highly recommended and available now for immediate shipping from the PWInsider Superstore.
Mike Johnson can be reached at Mike Johnson.