It's a happy 49th birthday for Darren Kenneth Matthews. Wrestling sometimes as Steven Regal, Matthews is known these days as on-screen NXT commissioner William Regal.
Born in Codsall, Staffordshire, England, Matthews began wrestling at age 15 for promoter Bobby Barron at the Horseshoe Showbar at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. By his mid-20s, Matthews would be well traveled, competing for All Star Wrestling in Britain as one half of the Golden Boys with Robbie Brookside, as well as in singles in Germany, South Africa, and Wales. He wrestled under his real name, Steve Regal, Roy Regal, and Steve Jones before heading to the United States in 1992.
Initially joining WCW as babyface Steve Regal in 1992, his first serious push came the next year as the arrogant Lord Steven Regal, a direct descendant of William the Conquerer. Seconded by Sir William (played by famed Scottish-Australian wrestler Bill Dundee), Regal would win the WCW World Television Championship in 1993 and 1994. He teamed with another arrogant aristocrat in Jean-Paul Levesque, then later Bobby Eaton when Levesque left for the WWF.
Regal would teach Eaton the ways of the high life, including proper dining and "speaking the Queen's English" (mind you, Eaton's from Alabama). "Beautiful" Bobby became "Earl" Robert Eaton. With Squire David Taylor, the three would be known as the Blue Bloods. They would come close to winning the WCW tag team titles, but never win them. Regal notably faced puro legends Antonio Inoki in August 1994 and Shinya Hashimoto for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in 1995.
In August 1996, Regal defeated Lex Luger for his third WCW World Television Championship. He would defeat the likes of Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Dean Malenko, Bobby Eaton, and Psychosis. He would hold it until the following February when he was upset by Prince Iaukea. Regal would go into a slump following the loss, but would regain the TV title at Slamboree in May 1997 from Ultimo Dragon. He would lose it back to Ultimo Dragon two months later on Nitro. Regal would spend the remainder of the year and early 1998 teaming with former Blue Blood David Taylor.
On February 9, 1998, Regal lost to Goldberg. He was released following the match allegedly due to making Goldberg look bad by making the match competitive and not a squash like other Goldberg bouts. Regal himself has disputed the allegations both in his autobiography and in an interview on The Steve Austin Show podcast.
Matthews would join the WWF in June 1998 as Steven Regal. He would wrestle just two matches on television before being sent to Dory Funk Jr.'s training facility to get in shape. In his final day of training, Regal twisted his ankle in a bout against future ECW star Rhyno; upon returning home, he fell on his bathroom floor and aggravated the injury, breaking his ankle and leg. While he was away, Regal became addicted to painkillers Renewtrient and valium.
He would return in October 1998 as "Real Man's Man" Steven Regal, a spoof of The Brawny Man (of the paper towels of the same name). His only notable bout came in the first round of the tournament for the vacant WWF Championship at Survivor Series in November; he went to a double countout with X-Pac, resulting in both men getting eliminated. Regal would feud with The Godfather before checking himself into rehab in January 1999; he would be released from the company in April without making a return to television.
After checking himself out of rehab, Matthews returned to WCW as Lord Steven Regal. It was as if he never left, as fans chanted "USA! USA! USA!" upon his return. He returned at Bash at the Beach in July in the infamous Hardcore Invitational match. The next night, he was accompanied by Dave Taylor and Fit Finlay against Billy Kidman, with Kidman winning. Regal competed mostly in tag team bouts until his release in February 2000 when he was defeated in a career versus career match against Hacksaw Jim Duggan on WCW Saturday Night.
That spring, Matthews returned to the WWF and was sent to one of their developmental territories, Memphis Championship Wrestling. His first match back with the company was at the Brian Pillman Memorial Show in May 2000 against Chris Benoit.
That summer, he re-debuted as stereotypical English snob Steven William Regal, which would be shortened to William Regal soon after. Success came quickly for Regal; he would win the WWE European Championship twice in late 2000. Around that time, he would become the on-screen commissioner and self-professed "Goodwill Ambassador" of the WWF.
He briefly turned face in the early days of the Invasion, but would turn heel once again when he cost Kurt Angle the WWF Championship and sided with the Alliance. He wound up picking the wrong side; just over a month later following the Alliance's dissolving at Survivor Series, Regal was forced to become the first member of the Vince McMahon "Kiss My Ass" Club in order to keep his job.
After a brief absence to get surgery on his nose, Regal feuded with Edge over the Intercontinental Championship. He won it from Edge at the Royal Rumble in January using brass knuckles. The knuckles would become common with Regal, using them to win matches often. He defeated Edge in a rematch at No Way Out in a brass knuckles on a pole match, but the knucks would be his undoing at Wrestlemania X8 when he was defeated by Rob Van Dam for the title. Just two days later, he defeated Diamond Dallas Page to win the European Championship.
He brought the title with him when he was drafted to RAW in the Brand Extension draft a week later. He held the title until early April when he was quickly defeated by Spike Dudley. Regal would win it back in a similar flash fashion just a month later; the win tied him with D-Lo Brown for most European title reigns with four. Regal lost the title to Jeff Hardy in early July after a seven-week run; the title was retired later that month. He would also have three brief reigns as WWE Hardcore Champion in 2002.
That summer, Regal joined the anti-American stable, the Un-Americans, a group that included Canadian wrestlers Test, Christian, and Lance Storm. The group wasn't together long; after going 0-3 on a late September RAW, the stale splintered; Storm and Regal stayed together, while Christian began teaming with Chris Jericho. Test would branch off into singles competition. Storm and Regal would win the World Tag Team Championship from Booker T and Goldust in late 2002, but would lose them briefly to the Dudley Boyz at the Royal Rumble; Storm and Regal regained them just a day later. A stomach virus, later an undiscovered heart problem, would cause Regal to forfeit his half of the tag titles and step away from the ring.
Told initially he would never wrestle again, Regal returned to WWE programming in August 2004 as the babysitter for Eric Bischoff's storyline nephew, the mentally-challenged Eugene. Initially not warming up to the idea of playing babysitter, he grew fond of Eugene, essentially turning him babyface. Regal was told by the then-general manager Bischoff to make Eugene lose to drive him away from the WWE. After failing to cost him a bout with Robert Conway, Regal was put back on the active roster. In November 2004, Regal and Eugene would win the World Tag Team Championship from La Resistance.
At New Year's Revolution in January, Eugene would injure himself following a botched dropkick. Jonathan Coachman, who would substitute for Eugene at a house show, would cost Regal the tag titles to La Resistance later in the month. In February, Regal would team with former ally Tajiri and win the tag titles from La Resistance. They held them until Backlash in May, when they were defeated by La Resistance in a tag team turmoil match (Rosey and The Hurricane would go on to win the match and the titles). The duo split up shortly after the loss, with Regal aligning with a group of wrestlers that were against ECW and their reunion show, One Night Stand.
On June 30, 2005, Regal was sent to Smackdown as part of an eleven-person trade. His first match with the blue brand came the next week against the soon-to-be exiting Matt Morgan. It never took place as it was interrupted by the Mexicools. His first proper match came against former world champion Chris Benoit later in the month on Velocity, which was won via submission by Benoit.
In August, Regal turned heel in a tag team match on Scotty 2 Hotty when he refused to tag in during a match against Psicosis and Super Crazy of the Mexicools. Regal later said he returned to his roots, calling himself a scoundrel and a rogue. A bout between Regal and Scotty never took place as Scotty was jumped by fellow countryman Paul Burchill. The alliance never achieved any notable success; their biggest bout was a defeat in a handicap match at Armageddon to Bobby Lashley. The duo split in February 2006 and would feud with one another. Burchill defeated Regal in a pair of bouts, the second of which per prematch stipulations forced Regal to dress as a "buxom wench". Regal, or Lady Regal as the Smackdown announcers called him, had to continue dressing up that way until Burchill lost a match. The loss didn't come until Burchill abandoned Regal in a bout against the Gymini in April.
Regal soon joined Booker T as the "town crier" of King Booker's Court. Regal often teamed with Finlay against Bobby Lashley. Regal would be knighted by King Booker and was soon referred to as Sir William Regal. The alliance ended at No Mercy when he was defeated by a returning Chris Benoit; post-match, he was called useless by King Booker. Regal KO'd Booker and walked away. However, he's probably best remembered that night for his moment of accidental nudity in a backstage segment with Vito.
Regal, tired of being a doormat for other Smackdown superstars, teamed with former Blue Blood Dave Taylor. The duo portrayed themselves as sadistic fighters rather than their aristocratic gimmick back in their WCW days. In just their second match together, Taylor tore his left meniscus, putting the team in jeopardy. Taylor would heal, and the Englishmen would continue to team through the spring of 2007, but would never win the WWE tag titles together.
Regal returned to RAW via the supplemental draft in June 2007. Regal served as interim general manager and introduced the Beat the Clock Sprint, a match where a series of set contenders had to win their match in the shortest possible time. Regal would become the permanent general manager when he won an over-the-top-rope battle royal in August. In September, Regal was assaulted by John Cena after Randy Orton was awarded the #1 contendership for the WWE Championship despite Orton kicking Cena's father in the head. In reality, the attack was a cover to explain Regal's absence; he was one of about a dozen people suspended for violating the WWE's Wellness Policy for securing performance-enhancing drugs through an online pharmacy.
On New Year's Eve 2007, Triple H was to take on Ric Flair, with Triple H's spot in the Royal Rumble on the line (at the same time, per a stipulation put on all Flair matches, any Flair loss would result in his retirement). Earlier that evening, Regal took on Hornswoggle. After being handed some brass knuckles by Vince McMahon to use on Hornswoggle, Regal took them, but did not use them. The knuckles would come into play in the main event, with Regal nailing Flair with the knuckles, giving Flair the disqualification win, but kicking Triple H out of the Rumble. The next week at RAW Roulette, Triple H defeated Regal in a first blood match.
In July 2008, Regal won the King of the Ring tournament, submitting Hornswoggle, Finlay, and CM Punk in the same night (of note, Regal was the first man to make Punk submit in a match). Regal's coronation was interrupted by a returning Mr. Kennedy the next week. The two briefly feuded, with Kennedy defeating Regal in a "loser gets fired" match. The sudden absence was used to cover for Regal's second violation and subsequent suspension for violating the WWE Wellness Policy. Regal returned as a "free agent" in July, but was defeated by then-World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk.
After briefly feuding with Jamie Noble over WWE Diva Layla, Regal would return to championship glory. In November, Regal won an over-the-top-rope battle royal for a shot at Santino Marella's Intercontinental Championship. The next week, Regal defeated Marella in just 40 seconds for the title. He would then feud with CM Punk, which would extend into the new year. The feud culminated in a no-disqualification match (after a pair of bouts between the two both ended in DQ) in January with Punk winning the title from Regal.
Regal was traded to ECW in June 2009, two months after the annual WWE Draft. In August, Regal aligned with Vladimir Kozlov and Ezekiel Jackson as the Ruthless Roundtable. Later that month, Christian defeated Regal in just eight seconds to retain the ECW Championship. Regal would defeat Christian in a non-title rematch, but would lose again with the belt on the line at Breaking Point with the rest of the Roundtable banned from ringside. The Roundtable continued to attack and feud with Christian, but Christian would continue to get the better of Regal's group. The Roundtable split in mid-December 2009 when Kozlov was eliminated by Regal and Jackson in a battle royal for an ECW title match. Christian would defeat Jackson at the Royal Rumble event, but Jackson with help from Regal would defeat Christian in the final ever ECW match, an extreme rules match, in February 2010.
Regal returned to RAW following ECW's ending, but also serve as a pro for NXT rookie Skip Sheffield. During that season, Regal defeated his former pupil Daniel Bryan. Sheffield would finish sixth in the competition, eliminated during the twelfth week.
In 2011, Regal stepped away from the ring and became the color commentator for NXT's fifth season. He briefly feuded with rookie Jacob Novak, with Novak calling Regal old and washed up. Regal was to face Novak, but Novak's pro JTG stepped in his place. Regal would win the match via disqualification when Novak interfered, essentially turning him face. Regal would defeat Novak by submission the next week. A week following the loss, Novak was eliminated.
That same year, he served as color commentator for Florida Championship Wrestling. While there, he feuded with Dean Ambrose, who attacked him unprovoked. Regal defeated Ambrose in a match in November 2011; for the next eight months, Ambrose would taunt Regal and use his mannerisms and finishers to bait him to a return match. The rematch came on the final FCW TV in July 2012; though Regal gained the early advantage, it would be Ambrose that would be left standing; post-match, the FCW locker room came to the aid of regal as commentators wondered if he would ever wrestle again. Regal continued to provide color commentary for WWE's rebranded developmental territory, NXT.
Regal has occasionally wrestled in recent years, usually on the house show circuit when WWE does their annual tour of the United Kingdom, but has remained in NXT since. Regal's final notable bout to date came on the Christmas 2013 NXT when he was defeated by Antonio Cesaro.
In July 2014, Regal replaced Dusty Rhodes as the general manager of NXT. The move, according to Dave Meltzer, was to move Regal away from the commentary table as they want to concentrate grooming future announcers through their developmental territory. Regal has played a key role in bringing wrestlers to NXT, whether it's through the independent or international circuit, or through other sports. Regal has also become a trainer at the WWE Performance Center following the passing of Dusty Rhodes in June 2015.
Regal, a lefty, has been married to Christina Beddoes; they celebrated their 20th anniversary last November. The couple has three sons, Daniel, Bailey, and Dane. He also owns two snakes, eight lizards, three cats, two dogs, and a tortoise. In his autobiography, Regal said he owns so many pets because "humans disgust me".