Following in the footsteps of WWE superstars Mick Foley, Ric Flair and Steve Austin, William Regal is the latest WWE Superstar to release an autobiography, entitled Walking a Golden Mile. The book, co written by sports journalist Neil Chandler looks at the life and wrestling career of Darren Matthews, better known to millions as William Regal. From him breaking into the wrestling business in Blackpool, to him reaching the heights of the WWE, and all the trials and tribulations that occurred in between.
There is no doubt that William Regal is one of the most successful British wrestlers ever to make it big in the United States. His technical skills in the ring are renowned by wrestling critics as some of the best, and his comical and entertaining mannerisms have made him one of the most hated, and one of the most cheered WWE superstars of the modern era. Yet Regal’s path to fame and glory has not been smooth by any means, and he has encountered many pitfalls that have jeopardised both his career and his life. In this book, Regal talks openly and candidly about his career and his life.
So without further ado, here is the review.
Highs and Lows
The book kicks off the prologue, where Regal talks very briefly about his first memories of ITV World of Sport, and he goes on to talk about his troubles and the lowest point in his life, but we’ll come back to that later in the book review. In the first chapter of the book, Regal talks about his childhood, growing up in a small country village in Staffordshire with his father, and his early memories of going to see British Wrestling. Regal notes that contrary to popular belief, his story isn’t a rags to riches story as many people may think, his father was actually quite wealthy and owned a very successful building firm which Regal could have taken over if he had wished.
Regal then goes onto talk about his first break into the wrestling business, while on a Summer break in Blackpool Regal had his first match with Magnificent Maurice and was hooked on becoming a pro wrestler. Regal talks about the early days in his career working for various promoters across the UK, and his encounters with UK Wrestling Icons Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. In these first few chapters, Regal also talks about his personal life, including the birth of his children and his marriage to his wife Chris.
I found it particularly interesting to see Regal’s views on the cancellation of ITV World of Sport by Greg Dyke and the downfall of British Wrestling. Regal mentions that with interest and attendance for British Wrestling shows going down, he was forced to go overseas to wrestle. Regal wrestled in countries such as South Africa, Germany and France, where he gained invaluable experience. During this part of the book, Regal talks about Giant Haystacks who he often travelled with and he makes some very nice comments about the big guy, as well as recalling some very funny Haystacks road stories.
Moving on, Regal talks about his first tryout matches with the World Wrestling Federation during the early 90’s at the Royal Albert Hall, and how he had impressed agents, but they could not offer him anything. He also talks about his first round of try out matches with World Championship Wrestling when they were on tour in the UK. Regal notes that he fought Giant Haystacks and Michaels Hayes on the tour, and impressed WCW Official Grizzly Smith, however Regal was not offered a WCW job at that time.
After Regal’s tryout with the two top US promotions, he continued to work across the UK, and travelled around the world again. It is in this chapter that Regal recollects a hilarious story from a trip to India in which Regal and UK wrestler Skull Murphy were invited to an Indian Strip club, I don’t want to spoil this story for you, so I won’t say anymore.
In Chapter 6, Regal talks about making the move to WCW, and his first impression of the United States and more so, Atlanta. He talks about his initial character in WCW, his relationships with people like Bill Dundee, “Cowboy” Bill Watts and Erik Watts. Regal also mentions Bill Watts being fired from WCW and how he thought this would have been the end of him as it was Bill Watts who was responsible for hiring Regal. Regal goes onto talk about his character’s transformation to Lord Steven Regal and how much this benefited his WCW career. During these chapters, Regal talks about being TV Champion, working with the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Bobby Eaton and a young Triple H. Regal also talks about the now infamous WCW tour of the United Kingdom; you know the tour that involved Arn Anderson and Sid Viscous and two pairs of scissors. Well Regal talks about travelling on the tour bus with the Nasty Boys, and how mad the tour bus was, it makes the “Flight from Hell” sound like a picnic.
Now, if you have read Mick Foley’s first book you will have heard the story about Cactus Jack, Steve Austin and Regal visiting a gay beach, but this time Regal tells his side of the story, and it is as hilarious as it was in Foley’s book. Another cracking story Regal mentions involves The Nasty Boys yet again, plus Eddie Guerrero and the late Art Barr.
These chapters are good and enjoyable to read, they are full of funny road stories including stories about Regal teaming with Bobby Eaton as The Blue Bloods. As well as being funny, for someone who never really watched WCW during this time, its very insightful and interesting to read about how the company operated at that time.
Chapter 9 starts to look at the darker side of Regal’s career .Regal talks about an accident that occurred while he wrestled Chris Benoit in Japan, and how he first started taking vast amounts of drugs to heel the pain from the accident. In addition, Regal started to understand the harsh reality of being a famous wrestler, understanding people started to treat him differently than before. Regal mentions quite a lot of contributing factors to his feelings, including the loss of his travel partner and close friend, Steve Austin who left WCW to join the WWE, and also the departure of Triple H who also left for pastures new at the WWE.. Even though this chapter is quite dark, it has a funny story involving Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton and Regal travelling in a car across a desert , its probably just me, but when I read this story I just couldn’t stop laughing.
As the book continues its starts looking more at Regal’s drug addiction , Regal explains how bad his drug and alcohol addiction was, and how it was starting to affect his work in the ring, but not only that, how it started to really affect his personal life. Regal goes onto to talk about an incident that occurred on a flight to a WCW Nitro show, which subsequently left Regal behind bars and facing criminal charges. I think Regal’s frankness and honesty really makes this book something special, he talks openly about his problems and doesn’t blame anyone else but himself, something which in my opinion is a rare commodity these days, people are always blaming other people for their mistakes.
Anyway, getting back to the book, many people may have heard about and seen a match that Regal had with Goldberg on an edition of WCW Nitro in February 1998. Anyway, the story is that Goldberg was meant to squash Regal in the match; however, it didn’t turn out as planned, as it appeared Regal did not want to lose the match so easily, so worked away from the match plan actually making Goldberg look weaker than he was supposed to be. Anyway, apparently in Goldberg’s book (which I have not read so cannot comment on) he criticised Regal about the match. In this chapter, Regal starts it off by talking about this match, his relationship with Goldberg and Eric Bischoff, and Regal tells his side of the story which is very interesting indeed.
The book continues to look at Regal’s drug and alcohol problems, which by this time were really bad. He talks about his addiction to GHB and a product called Renutrient, and how his addiction to these lead to some horrible events in his personal life, as well as him being released from WCW.
Regal goes onto talk about his signing with the WWE, his brief and unsuccessful stint as “The Man’s Man”, as well as how the WWE possibly saved his career and more so saved his life. It’s intriguing to see how much the WWE wanted Regal to recover from his addiction. People often give the WWE a bad image with regards to releasing workers when they have problems, whether it be drug addictions or injury problems, however in Regal’s case the WWE did every possible thing they could have to get him back on track, which in my opinion shows that the WWE knew Regal was a skilled mat technician who could bring things to the WWE.
Probably one of the most revealing and insightful chapters of this book is entitled Black Hookers and Crack. The chapter title may be off putting but the actual content is insightful in term of how bad Regal was with his drug and alcohol addiction. Once again, Regal talks openly about his problems and in considerable detail, discussing his first stage of rehab, plus a time which he considers he lowest point in his life.
From here on Regal talks about his road to recovery, his time in rehab, and the highs and lows which he encountered in rehab. He also speaks about his return to WCW, the Brian Pillman Memorial Show and his return to the WWE.
Towards the end of the book, Regal talks about the heart defect that once again put his wrestling career on hold, and nearly had him knocking on deaths door. He explains the problems he faced, as well as his road to recovery and his return to the WWE as a Road Agent first, and then as an in ring competitor in 2004, which brings the book to a close.
Since Mick Foley released his first book a few years ago, the WWE and other wrestlers have capitalised on the success of that book with numerous book releases. Some books have been good, and some have been awful, but in my opinion, this book is most certainly in the first category, and in fact, I think it is fair to say its one of the best wrestling books I have read, it certainly should be ranked up there with Mick Foley’s first book.
I think the key to this book being such a good read is the honestly in which it is written. Its written in a way that doesn’t seem to cover anything up, and Regal is not afraid to open his heart and confess his mistakes and problems which he has faced in his career. I also thought it was refreshing because Regal doesn’t really seem to hold grudges with anyone in this book, and he seems quite respectful of most of the people he has worked with, you often get people verbally “bashing” their workmates in books just to try to sell a few more copies.
This was the first wrestling book I’ve read in a long time which made me feel like I couldn’t put it down, I was glued to the book as soon as I got it, and read it pretty much in one full weekend. Its written in a manner which is insightful, enjoyable and interesting, and it flows well, with it pretty much covering all of Regal’s career.
There is a lot of British language and references in the book that may make it slightly difficult for a reader from a country other than the UK to understand, but there is a glossary in the back of the book that explains the meaning for all these words, which will be a help. I really don’t see a problem with people from other countries being able to appreciate this book as much as I did, apart from the UK language and reference barrier, its still a great story for anyone to enjoy, even non-wrestling fans would enjoy this book.
The only major fault I have with this book is not actually anything to do with the content, it is more so the book layout. On every other page of the book, there is text taken from the main body of the book highlighted bold and displayed on a Union Jack background, this is slightly annoying as you may find yourself reading the same stuff again, and it is slightly off putting as you are working your way through the book.
All in all, I think this is probably one of the best wrestling books I’ve read; it’s insightful and brutally honest. Some may think I’m singing it’s praising because Regal is from the UK, but I’m being totally honest when I say this is one of the best wrestling books I’ve ever read.
Points: 10 / 10