What Regal’s Exit Says About AEW

(Photo Credit: AEW)

Last week, I penned an article about MJF’s promo on AEW Dynamite, where he made several references to WWE. I also mentioned that Friedman attacking William Regal didn’t do much to generate heat, considering that Regal cost Jon Moxley, the top baby face in the company, the championship the week prior. Regal as a character wasn’t a sympathetic figure to the audience and thus there wasn’t any major heat to be generated from the attack. If anything, the Regal persona got a taste of his own medicine so from a storyline perspective, he might’ve gotten what he deserved when he chose to align with Friedman. I discussed the rumors that Regal might’ve been written off the show to open the door to a return to WWE, but didn’t put too much stock in it at the time because there were conflicting reports about his contract status.

Within the past few days, the narrative around William Regal’s future became much clearer, and his decision to depart All Elite Wrestling might speak volumes about the organization.

The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported different versions of the story regarding the British grappler’s All Elite deal as the situation evolved, and eventually it was revealed that when he signed with the organization earlier this year, he had to option to finish his tenure if he was offered a return to the WWE, which translated into the option to exit his AEW contract earlier if Triple H was put in an executive position again. As we know, the misconduct scandal that sent Vince McMahon into “retirement” brought Triple H into the role as the leader of the company. We also know that Triple H and Regal have been close friends for years, with Triple H putting him into a role in the developmental system that he held for years before he was surprisingly released in April.

As I wrote at the time, I didn’t understand why the WWE released him, as I think Regal is one of the most underrated performers of all time and one of the best minds in the history of the business. His value to a developmental system and as a coach can’t be understated. That”s why it was such a stellar signing for All Elite Wrestling since the company has an overstock of young talent with potential, but could use a veteran to help develop that talent to be able to reach their fullest potential.

William Regal should’ve been one of the truly key acquisitions in the evolution of All Elite Wrestling as a company so what happened?

On-screen, Regal was always well-received from the diehard AEW audience because that crowd knows what he brings to the table and all that he accomplished. He formed the Blackpool Combat Club, and while I get what they were going for, I’m not sure the stable was the best choice since it led to Regal and even a few of the members of the stable not being utilized as well as they could be otherwise. Regal has tremendous mic skills, but the argument could be made that Moxley and Bryan Danielson didn’t need someone to talk for them. Furthermore, there was a point during his early All Elite tenure that Danielson was probably the best heel in the business, but Tony didn’t capitalize on it. The American Dragon is a main event performer, not just another member of a faction. If anything Claudio as the guy that Regal could talk for might’ve been the best decision for a member of the stable that could’ve used a manager. On the flip side, if Regal would’ve worked more extensively with MJF, it would’ve made sense because the veteran villain would give his endorsement of the young heel. All things considered, Regal probably could’ve been used better on television.

Behind-the-scenes, Tony Khan had one of the best coaches of the past two decades in his organization to assist the talent, but we never quite saw his influence on the product. While EC3 isn’t exactly the most credible source because he’s too focused on controlling his narrative, he claimed in a recent podcast that the majority of the All Elite roster weren’t interested in Regal’s advice. Justin LaBar from Busted Open Radio tweeted that he heard through the rumor mill that some talent took Regal’s instructions, while others disregarded it. Brian Pillman Jr. responded to explain that while some of the roster didn’t, he and others often listened to Regal’s coaching sessions before television tapings. Obviously, it’s good that some of the roster took the chance to learn from the legendary veteran, but it also confirms that some of the roster didn’t take the time to listen to one of the most accomplished performers in the history of the industry.

Quite frankly, anyone that doesn’t see the value or understand what an opportunity it is to listen to someone of Regal’s level, they are marks for themselves that don’t have any idea what the true point of the business is, and maybe that’s why the All Elite numbers have plateaued.

Former All Elite champion, Adam Page infamously said in an interview that he doesn’t listen to the advice of the coaches backstage because he has his own style, which was something that CM Punk made reference to during the infamous All Out media scrum. Page’s statements lend credibility to the claim that the AEW roster wasn’t interested in Regal’s instructions.

Regal’s departure from All Elite Wrestling might validate some of its common criticisms of the company.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy most of the All Elite product, and while sometimes I shake my head at some of the nonsense on the shows, I legitimately want to see the organization be successful. Its existence has provided a better industry for the talent and the fans. That said, the foundation of the organization was based on the success of a few wrestlers on the independent scene, which is completely different than the scale of national television. AEW can be the “pro wrestling brand” on national TV without the inside baseball indy stuff that the majority of the TBS audience wouldn’t get anyway. Danielson vs. Dax Harwood was pro wrestling on a national level. The Elite playing games in the main event to snicker at CM Punk is minor league. That’s not to take away from the trio’s talent, but to point out that they should realize if All Elite is going to truly get off the ground on a long-term basis, they should be smart enough to put business first,

Keep in mind, Regal had the option to exit his AEW deal early, he didn’t have to leave before his contract expired. The fact that he took the chance to depart the organization early, especially when guys that he publicly endorsed like Danielson and Claudio are on the roster seems to be an indication that he doesn’t think improvements to the structure of the company can be made in the future. Regal’s job for several years in the WWE developmental system was to find talent that had the potential to be major stars and draw money, and then coach them to reach their fullest potential. Either a talent had the ability and the mindset to draw money or they didn’t, and he was a filter of that for the biggest sports entertainment company in the world.

This isn’t meant as a personal jab against The Elite, especially because it’s not their area of expertise, but William Regal knows more about how to develop mainstream stars than anyone in the stable. If most of the All Elite roster thinks that super kicks and referencing reports from The Wrestling Observer in matches are keys to being successful than All Elite Wrestling will remain a niche product.

I’m not saying this confirms that the organization is doomed or anything like that, but the fact that William Regal didn’t see enough of a reason to continue to work there gives the impression the structure of the organization doesn’t have the ability to maximize its assets. At best, Regal thought he couldn’t help the talent develop into major stars, and the worst case scenario is, one of the brightest minds in the history of the sport thought that the company that is the best chance to be competition to WWE in the past two decades is a lost cause. Either way, if William Regal doesn’t want to work someone, it doesn’t create optimism about the organization’s chance to expand to a more mainstream audience.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Instagram @jimlamotta89