Wrestling legend William Regal on his love for Blackpool and his role working with Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson in AEW

Blackpool’s adopted son William Regal has been back in the news in recent weeks.

Thursday, 31st March 2022, 9:00 am

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The wrestling stalwart, who moved to Blackpool at the age of 16 and still thinks of the town as his home, recently made a shock arrival to All Elite Wrestling (AEW), a rival promotion to former employers WWE.

It’s since been revealed that the 53-year-old will lead a faction involving two of the industry’s top stars in Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson.

Fittingly, the tag team has been named ‘Blackpool Combat Club’ in homage to his adopted hometown.

The Gazette decided to reach out to Regal, real name Darren Matthews, to ask about the faction, why it was named after Blackpool, his son Bailey - who is now following in his footsteps, and much, much more.

Here’s what he had to say:

Whose idea was it to name the faction the Blackpool Combat Club?

William Regal

“I would love to claim it was my idea, but it wasn’t. It was Jox Moxley’s idea.

“I had just come into the company after being asked to come in by Bryan Danielson because it sounded like a lot of fun.

“I was initially planning to take a year off, I wasn’t going to do anything because I haven’t done anything other than wrestling for the last 39 years.

“All of a sudden, I heard Jon’s name was involved which piqued my interest even more and it’s ended up how it’s ended up.

“Straight away there was a chemistry there because in real life there’s a chemistry there. People know a lot about me and Bryan but they might not know as much about me and Jon but these are stories we can tell over time.

“Jon came up to me and said he’s got a great idea for a name, because he had come up with different Blackpool things.

“I told him it’s not about me, it’s about the two of them, I’m just a spare part here and riding on your coattails. But he insisted we called it this.

“That meant a lot because Blackpool has given me everything good in my life and I’ve done everything I can do to make sure that, regardless of where I went, I was always billed from Blackpool.

“I moved there when I was 16, I spent time there as a child on holidays, I started my wrestling career there, I lived in Blackpool for 10 years, I had a house for 12 years, I met my wife there, my first two children were born at Victoria Hospital, everything good in my life came from Blackpool.

“So Jon and Bryan have always heard me telling these stories and they just wanted to use the name because they feel if it wasn’t for Blackpool, I wouldn’t be wrestling and I wouldn’t be in America.

“The way they look at it, they wouldn’t have come around if it wasn’t for me. That’s not the way I look at it though, because I feel I’m fortunate to have them in my life, they think it’s the other way around.

“Bryan has been to Blackpool quite a lot because he wrestled a lot in England for a lot of years, but Jon hadn’t. But he just likes the sound of it.

“I didn’t think it would go any further than that conversation but then we get to television last week and he showed me his phone and he’s got these designs for different stuff. I replied ‘oh, are we actually going to do this then? This is a thing?’

“We went out that night and I had no idea he was going to say it on TV, but he said it and the next morning there are t-shirts out, so I ran with it.

“When you get an opportunity, you run with it. So that was how it happened.”

Have you considered inviting Jon Moxley to Blackpool?

“He would love Blackpool, he would fit right in. It would be his kind of place, definitely.

“Blackpool has never been anything but home to me. This sounds silly, but when I was a child I always said I wanted to be a wrestler, a clown or a comedian and I was going to live in Blackpool. Any of my family will tell you that.

“When I went to Blackpool as a child, I used to see wrestling at the Pleasure Beach, I used to see wrestling at the Tower, but I also saw the circus, shows on the pier and it just seemed like a wonderland to me. It still is.

“I know everyone has a different view on what goes on in that town but I never had anything but good come out of it.

“I went there because I knew it was a great place for me to learn wrestling, because at the time it was one of the few places to get into it because of a wonderful gentleman called Bobby Barron, who used to run the shows at the Horseshoe Bar at the Pleasure Beach.

“A lot of us young wrestlers at the time got in because of the Pleasure Beach and hanging around and finally Bobby took us in, so we finally became apprentices for him.

“Unfortunately it went years ago, I think the last time it was there in 1994 because he sadly passed away, but that was the core of me becoming a wrestler.

“I stayed in Blackpool because I loved everything about it, I loved the 10-minute walk to the sea front, 15 minutes to Stanley Park and I could go to a show every night, I could wrestle locally, whether it be Blackpool, Morecambe or Southport.

“It’s still home today. I’ve lived over here now for 29 years but when I go back, that’s where I base myself. My mother-in-law lives there, my wife’s family all live there, I’ve had friends there ever since I moved there and they’re all good people who I go and see.

“Whenever I’m in England, I’m based in Blackpool.”

Do you have a backstage role at AEW, or is it just an on-screen job?

“I don’t have any role behind the scenes, I’m just there to do my thing with Bryan and Jon.

“Other people are saying all these things because of the job I’ve just had, but I’ve just gone in there as talent. I don’t know if that will turn into something more.

“At the moment, I’m very much enjoying doing what I’m doing.

“Once I was no longer needed at my previous job, I checked out. I was ready to have nothing to do with wrestling.

“I would have kept in touch with a few people, but I needed some time to go home and not do anything, so I really had checked out for a few months.

“But then I get this opportunity at very short notice to be a part of this faction, which sounded fun because it’s two people that mean a lot to me.

“There are a lot of great young talent there and it’s an exciting company to work for, so I’m having a blast at the moment.

“I like being around young talent who like to work hard, because that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. It’s what I always wanted to do.

“Without Bobby Barron in Blackpool, without numerous other wrestlers in Britain, people taking me under their wing and showing me the way and teaching me things, without that the job would become stagnant.

“Now I feel it’s part of my responsibility to pass on that knowledge. I don’t care about me, if you come to my house there’s not one thing to do with wrestling, you wouldn’t know I was a wrestler. That’s for other people.

“But I was privileged to be in the right place at the right time to be given the skillset to work around the world and I like to do that with young talent that like to work hard.

“I never want there to be a day where there isn’t a wrestling business for these young guys and girls to go.

“A lot of it is what not to do, it’s about learning from your mistakes and learning what works and what doesn’t.

“If they want to do this for a living and they’re willing to work hard, I want to give them everything in my brain to help them get through it. But you’ve got to work hard because this isn’t a play-act job.

“I love being in AEW because there’s a bunch of young, hungry people that want to do this, which makes me happy.”

There’s been talk of an AEW show in the UK, I’m sure you’d be all for this?

“Any chance I get to come back is a great thing, because I get to see my parents, I get to go to Blackpool and I get to see my friends.

“I think I need to suggest I come over on a goodwill tour or something for AEW, I need to come back quickly.”

Your son Bailey Matthews is now wrestling with NXT UK, you must be incredibly proud?

“He’s the only one of mine that was born in America, but he’s been living there since he was 20 to train.

“We get on incredibly well, but he wants to do it on his own and not use my name so he doesn’t tell anybody.

“He’s billed from Blackpool as well though because Blackpool is wrestling’s spiritual home.”

Do you follow the fortunes of Blackpool Football Club?

“Football has never really been my thing, but I always like to see them do well, especially after what they’ve been through.

“I actually used to work in the Tangerine Club, where a lot of the players used to go.

“That’s long gone now but it used to be just over the street from Bloomfield Road. I think there’s a hotel there now.

“But I used to work on the door there when I was 17, believe it or not. I lied about my age and nobody asked to check my credentials.

“When I was 18, wrestling really picked up for me and I began working for some of the bigger promotions in Britain and my career went from there.

“I stayed very loyal to the area though.”