On a media call today (Dec. 7) in support of the Ring of Honor Final Battle PPV this Saturday, Tony Khan addressed William Regal’s status with AEW.
Regal turned on Blackpool Combat Club at Full Gear, helping Maxwell Jacob Friedman win the AEW World title from Jon Moxley. In the weeks that followed, Bryan Danielson convinced Jon Moxley not to seek revenge against Regal, then MJF turned the old villain himself with a blindside attack that led to a stretcher job. Reports indicated the scenes were meant to write Regal out of AEW, and that he would be returning to WWE.
Fans and media wondered how that could be possible, given Regal just debuted in the company nine months ago, and was on the record saying he signed a three year deal with Khan’s company.
TK confirmed on the ROH call that Regal will be done with AEW at the end of the year. He framed the decision to let Regal out of his contract with a personal situation — Khan’s mother suffered a stroke in between All Out and Grand Slam, then had another one in October.
The first he heard about Regal’s desire to return to WWE came around the time of the second stroke, on his own 40th birthday.
“I got a phone call saying William Regal had approached [AEW Chief Legal Officer] Megha [Parekh] and said — it was all very legitimate and valid stuff — basically, he has a son who works in another wrestling promotion [WWE] and he really wanted us, at the end of the year when we had the option to renew his contract, he was asking that we would not. Nothing bad.
“We were having a great time working together, but this is an opportunity for him to go back and work in these golden years of his career with his son and do things that he likes to do, coaching, and he has friends that he would like to go back and coach with. It’s a very complex situation for AEW because he’s a huge part of what we’re doing on-screen and we really value him. There are multiple storylines he’s involved in, and as we were going to Toronto that week, obviously, I had a lot on my mind.”
While getting ready for AEW’s Canadian debut the second week of October, Khan’s mother was having heart surgery doctors hoped would prevent further strokes. He was with her at the hospital the following week when Regal reached out directly:
“I got a message from Regal, asking if we could talk. I made time to talk to him. I went outside the hospital — I’m sitting on the park bench in front of the Mayo clinic — and we had this really long and good talk. It was very positive. He really had good intentions for why he wanted to go back, and it made a lot of sense to me why he would want to work with his son, and be with his son.
“He said to me, and it made sense, ‘Given where you’re sitting right now, does it make sense to you why I would want to go back and be with my son?’ At that point, where I was sitting, it really did make a lot of sense and the last thing I wanted to do in that moment was prevent any parent and any child from being together.”
The AEW owner, president & booker told Regal he would think about it. The decision was complicated by the changes it would require him to make to their main event storyline, which had already been majorly impacted by other personnel matters. At the live Rampage on Oct. 21 in Jacksonville, TK told Regal he would let him go.
“I sat with Regal for over 90 minutes in my office after, and this was probably the longest one-on-one in-person talk I’ve ever had with him. We talked and I told him I would make major sacrifices to this company to do the best thing for you and your family, because this is a family-first company.
“The person I’m releasing later this month, who is still with us through the holiday, has been an essential part of major TV stories and is still an essential part of the TV as of tonight. We’ve done a lot of things to help him create the best situation he can for his family.
“For Lord Regal, I’m wishing him the best and he knows I wish him the best. We’ve had conversations even this week, and I think he’s grateful for what I did and I know he enjoyed his time here and I enjoyed the time with him. It’s hard to see him go and it was a challenge to make it compelling and he’s not gone yet.”
So the Blackpool Combat Club story may have a few more twists and turns left before Regal goes back to work with his son (Bailey Matthews, who wrestles as Charlie Dempsey in NXT). As for this possibly setting a precedent, Khan said he won’t be able to make every family reunion happen, but he’s glad he could facilitate this one.
He also said his mom is doing much better, and was with the family for their Thanksgiving celebration.
UPDATE: Later in the call, Khan indicated that the terms of Regal’s release include his not appearing on television in 2023. He also said he was surprised to see Triple H tweet the video of Regal’s signature “WarGames!” announcement before Survivor Series last month, and he didn’t think it was in the spirit of how accommodating AEW was about Regal’s situation.