William Regal talks in-depth about NXT, scouting talent for WWE
NXT general manager and WWE talent scout William Regal sat down with philly.com before NXT's first show at the Tower Theater Thursday. Here's the transcript from the interview.
Vaughn Johnson: What is like being the on-screen general manager of this exploding brand that is NXT?
William Regal: It's easy to throw words around like privilege and honor but it really is because I would imagine to get to watch everybody here develop, and the brand develop the way it has in the past few years, probably have been the best part of the last 32 for me. As much as I've really enjoyed the rest of it, just to watch everything grow so quickly and to have a hand in creating some of this, and have found people to bring here, recommended people is a great feeling.
I try to keep my own career in check, but when I came to America there were very few people wrestling. I think I was the only one. A lot of people get credit for bringing the wrestling back, but I was doing it before Dean [Malenko], Eddie [Guerrero] and all of them fellas, I was doing it. To see that these fellas get to do that now and the ladies get to do that, and to go out and people appreciate the wrestling side of it is fantastic.
Johnson: Even though you've been around the NXT roster and know how talented they, even you had to be surprised just how far this has come?
Regal: It's amazing just to watch it and to watch the creativity that they've got. When you're given all of the tools — you've got everything you could possibly ever need at the [WWE] Performance Center in Orlando — if you've got half a brain, we're going to make it work for you. Even if you haven't, we're going to try and help you in any way that we can help you.
There are so many people here that are so talented and so creative on their own when you get all of that it's like a double bonus. They just flourish. It also goes down to the audience you've been used to working to before. You work for to your audience while the promoter is paying you. A lot of these guys have worked with a certain audience that like a certain thing so some people unfortunately get labeled. If you can make yourself popular in front of any audience, you can use it anywhere. When they get to come here and they see that everyone is here to help, they go, "I can do this here and I can try this here and I can do that," and that's why it's all flourishing. There are no ties on doing things.
That myth, it's a terrible myth that needs putting to bed about their being a WWE style. I've never bought into that because anybody that was any good here never had … did Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, Triple H have the WWE style? They had their own style. Everybody that was any good here had their own style. Yes, there used to be somewhat of a genetic WWE style, but you don't see those people on any of the shows anymore. They just don't fit in, but that myth is still out there. If you watch out show now everybody looks different, whether it is NXT or the main roster. Nobody looks the same. There's not genetic wrestlers anymore, which there was a lot of probably eight or nine years ago. I don't think they watch a lot of the time. They just want to say stuff because they've got nothing else to talk about. Everybody is different as long as you look like you belong and you can fit in, the world is you oyster now.
Johnson: As a native of the United Kingdom, you have to be proud of the influx of talent the WWE has.
Regal: Yes and that's because there's a lot of great talent. There's great talent all over the world. America, Britain and Japan are the three places where there's constant work for people. You can only get good at this if you do this regularly. Some people don't need it. I certainly did. The only reason why I'm sitting here now and you're talking to me is because I was born in the right year when I could still work well over 200 days a year and I got slowly better all of the time. I would never fit in today's world because I have no natural ability for this and that's the truth. Zero ability for this, but I was lucky to be around great people that taught me and I had plenty of times where I could fall on my backside a thousand times, and nobody was bothered about it because it was in smaller places.
Now, you're expected to be good straight away. It's no good of living in the dark ages like a lot of old wrestlers do and it drives me nuts because at this point in my life I've done as much as anybody ever in this business. I've never been a big star, but I've worked everywhere and done everything and I never had that attitude that a lot of old wrestlers have of "Back in my day." It's not that way anymore, so there's no good sitting there being negative about it, and believe me, I'm not one of those positive kind of people. I've always loved to look at this as, "It's different now. Let's make it work." That's my No. 1 saying in life. Whatever you're given, let's just make it work. Let's figure it out. Make it work and make people react to it.
Now we can sort of, "Year, you don't have to go through a lot of what I went through." We can condense that into a few months so you don't have to fall on your backside as many times as us. That's why I think you've seen people come out of there. The ones that are good are going to be there anyway if they figure that out. There's a lot more to being a WWE superstar than just being a wrestler. It's a lot of people will say, "Oh, why are they not doing this for this fella," but when Joe [Villa] asks him to do an interview at six in the morning they can't be bothered. A lot of that goes into this that people don't get. You have to understand what you're getting into when you come here. You have to be ready to do everything that's involved in it. It's not just that 15 minutes in the ring. You find people who can do that, who have all of the talent, that are already out there and they fit in here great. Some people aren't going to fit in because they want to fit into that close-minded stuff. You have to be open-minded to start with, and then you get all of these people to help you.
Believe me, anybody who thinks that people don't want everybody to do well here is mental. If it was your money and had invested in somebody, you'd want it to payoff. That's just a no-brainer. We get everybody to be as good as they can be. Whether they make it or not is a different thing and sometimes it's out of your control. We're all there to help.
Johnson: You still go out to scout talent correct?
Regal: Yes that's my main job.
Johnson: How does that process work for you when you're out there? I only know of how it's done for sports like football when they go out to the stadiums and they watch the games and they take their notes and whatnot. What are you doing when you're going to these different promotions? How does that process work?
Regal: I can't give you any set formula to how it works because we're in a different world, in our own unique little world. You find people that learn to connect with an audience with an act. Get up your own backside about what we are, but we're an act. It doesn't matter how good you are, it's about connecting with your audience. It doesn't matter how technically good you are, if nobody wants to watch you then you're no good to anybody. Sometimes it's not about how good somebody is. It's whether they've got that connection with an audience. Sometimes, it's about how technically good they are, they may not have that connection yet, but you can see by talking to them or spending time watching them that you can teach them that or they could learn that on their own if given the right opportunities or given the right structure.
Sometimes it's a physical thing. If you can never find me someone with two heads then what's I'm looking for. It comes in different forms. We've got a huge TV deal in Brazil. We've got nobody from Brazil so sometimes it's just a matter of, "Can we try to find somebody that could fit the bill." There's no real set thing that I'm looking for. I watch out for, as far as the wrestlers go, which is what I do, I watch and know about everybody that's out there. The ones that are doing the right things and making a name for themselves I know about. Most of the names were coming my way even before I had this job over the last 20 odd years I've been in America, they've all come my way anyway at one point or another through people we know or we end knowing each other or through a friend or whatever. That's probably why I'm in the position that I'm in, because I know a lot of people.
Johnson: In football, they have stats. They can say, "We're going to keep an eye on this guy because he has this many yards." How do you say, "We're going to look at this guy?"
Regal: I do have a lot of, "He's OK now, but if we keep an eye on him for the next two or three years he'll be…" There were a couple of fellas the other week, I won't say where because nobody knows I went there, but they're like 19 and 21 [years old], far too young to come here, but they're busy and I know that I'll keep in touch. It's the same thing there with Finn Balor. I met him 10 years ago and I was introduced to him by a mutual friend of ours in Japan and said, "This fella is incredibly good. Is he OK to keep in touch with?" Absolutely and we've been in touch ever since.
I meet a lot of people when they're young and you go, " Well, it may not work out, but I'll keep in touch with me or whatever else and if I can help in any way let me know." There's some of that goes on and there's some people you just see a physical thing that you go, "Whoa!" And it's not always that, but sometimes you see somebody and you go, "I don't know what it is, but they're literally one in a million." They're the kind of people you walk in and everybody stops to look at them." It's just one of those things. They're very few and far between. That might be the case. There's no set criterion to what you're looking for.
There's another myth that's out there that, "Oh, they just sign anybody that's 6 foot, 4 inches. That's absolutely not true. I'm not saying that it didn't used to be like that, but in the last three years that we've been doing this it's completely different with a new structure. If all of the athletes that come and try out … First of all, you get athletes that look the part, they've got great work ethic, but they all bring something else to the table but they all go through the exact same tryout as everybody else. At the end, if they've got no charisma they could have 10 gold medals hanging around their neck, they're not going to get a job here. Or, "Let's bring him back again. There's something there, but he's definitely not showing it yet but let's bring him back again. I'll keep an eye on him for six months." Tell him to go, not on the company's money, but tell him to go to a wrestling school for a few months somewhere else and see if he wants to do this.
Another thing is finding people that actually want to do this. They all think they want to do it until you know what you've got to do. At the end of three days you go, "There's something about him," or "He's got bunches of charisma. If he's just an athlete we can teach him and see how he goes." That's a gamble with the wrestlers that are already wrestling. Then you look for the ones that are good at what they do and they've got charisma and know that they've got no bad habits, and that's coming from somebody like who had loads of bad habits when I was younger, but you can't do that in this day and age. There's a lot of that goes into it, but there's also quality kinds of people that I know you can bring here and even if they're not like that, they can be taught to be able to not only do everything that's needed to be done out in front of the crowd, but could do it behind the curtains as well.
That's a huge part in working for this company and some people just can't do that and they don't want to do it so they're no use to anybody here. That's what a lot of people don't get sometimes. You can't trust somebody to go and talk to a load of children at seven in the morning they're no good to anybody here because that's part of what we do. There's a lot more to it.
I get that everyday. "You should be hiring this person." OK well, you like that person, but I unfortunately know far too much about that person and if you knew about him you wouldn't like him too much. Don't think I don't know about everything and everybody that's going on because people can't wait to tell you that. There's no set criterion. Just find what works. Sometimes people just don't work out. Even people you've got high hopes for and they've got everything working for them, they get here but they're too set in their ways. They want to do it their way. OK, but doing it your way works in front that crowd, but it won't work in front of this crowd. You may think it, and we'll give you the opportunity, go out and do it on some of the shows and it's dying on its backside.
There was a fella a while ago, two years he was here and everybody thought he could be something. He just didn't pan out. If you ask him it was all of our fault and not his. A lot more goes into this. Unfortunately, a lot of the fellas that are out there now, it doesn't work out for whatever reasons. Sometimes they've got injuries and you can't pass physicals or they've got background checks. None of my generation would have ever gotten hired if you had background checks.
It's just the way it is. There's no good worrying about it. There's no good complaining about it. You just make it work. Back to that, always make it work. If you can't hire people because they've got certain things then you can't hire them. There's being hired here and working now on this show that you would have never thought could have possible ever worked here. There are people on the main roster that are on the show now that would have never gotten a look here three years ago. Right or wrong, that's easy for me to say.
Some people may be big stars in NXT and never into the main roster because they just don't have that whatever it is to go up there. They can do great here and as long as they can be good here that's great, but they never make it there. Somebody may not do very well here, but they have something that's marketable up there and go up there and flourish. It's a strange thing.