Episode: NXT #80 – Rewind
Recorded: 21 November 2013
Aired: 25 December 2013
“If this is the end, I honestly can’t think of a more noble way to go than being beaten by the ultimate competitor.”
Sometimes life is quite ironic, isn’t it? And cynical and diabolically laughing right into your face while you clung to the hillside, simply begging for your counterpart to end your own misery. The end to William Regal’s in-ring wrestling career was ironic because during his feud with Dean Ambrose he was totally focused on Ambrose being the man who would finish him off for good. William Regal said this for numerous times while being on commentary during Ambrose’s matches in FCW.
During this almost one-year-long feud William Regal had two matches against Dean Ambrose. He won the first one clean with injuring Dean Ambrose’s left arm. And he didn’t lose their second and final match. This one was declared a no-contest after Dean Ambrose used the exposed turnbuckle to his advantage. The match was abandoned and only after the last gong to FCW, Dean Ambrose was able to put William Regal into his very own Regal Stretch and to finish him off with his Knee Trembler.
But it wasn’t the end. Dean Ambrose wasn’t the one who finished off William Regal’s in-ring wrestling career. He still had a few other matches, against Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero) and a few tag team matches. But there was another man. A rather silent one. A man who once sat side by side with William Regal on commentary during one of Dean Ambrose’s matches. While William Regal was talking on and on about Dean Ambrose would be the man who would finish him off, the man who would indeed finish him off, was sitting right beside him, picking his brain, discovering his weaknesses.
This man was (Antonio) Cesaro. And the very match I was just referring to was the last match Dean Ambrose had before squaring off against William Regal for the second time. It was his match on 24 June 2012 against Seth Rollins and one little conversation between William Regal and Cesaro during that fight always springs to mind when you’re looking for some kind of destiny:
Cesaro: Now, William, let me ask you, did you have fun when you dislocated his shoulder?
William Regal: Of course I did.
William Regal: I thrive for such moments.
Cesaro: I expected nothing less from you. I would’ve had the same pleasure.
You’ve got to have this in mind when you watch the last match of William Regal. It is this beauty of storytelling and heartbreaking little details that made the whole feud of William Regal against Dean Ambrose together with his last match against Cesaro a unique experience and a wrestling classic for the ages.
This last match of William Regal was shown as the last match of the NXT Rewind show of the year 2013. During that show first Cesaro had a last promo on this match, then William Regal had his final say, and then there was the match. Like you are already used from me, I have transcribed the very promos and then you’ll get the match description from Wrestling Inc. and last but not least (I hope!) my own analysis and interpretation on this match. It took me almost two years to finally watch this match. But now, since I’ve seen it once, I’ll probably see it for a couple of times now. Like William Regal said in his promo for this match, it’s a good way to go. And some older wrestlers should take William Regal’s example and make place for the younger generation.
Promo: Antonio Cesaro
“William Regal, out of that small crop of world class technical wrestlers that I admired, you are the only one I ever truly respected. See, your… your ruthlessness and your evil genius was an inspiration for my whole career. See, I was so happy when you reached out and you helped me get my job here in the WWE. And I truly thank you for that. But just because you did that and because you got to know me very well, you know and you always knew that this day was gonna come. The day when there’s only room for one of us. And that’s the younger, that’s the stronger, and that’s the far, far better man.”
Promo: William Regal
“I’m in the late autumn of my thirty-year career and recently I’ve been pondering over the legacy of William Regal. What’s all been about. I’m a vicious and sadistic and spiteful fighter. I’ve been a unique entertainer. I never achieved the one thing that I coveted the most, and that was to become the World Heavyweight Champion. But that’s my fault because I have a wonderful knack for getting myself in a lot of trouble. But to the people who really know, I’ve always been a second to none world class technical wrestler. That was until Antonio Cesaro came along. Because I know even on my best day he’s ten times the man and the wrestler that I’ve ever been, and he knows that. And that’s what this is really all about. He has an intense desire to prove it. And I truly commend him for it. I’m going into this match knowing that the only chance I’ve got of surviving, let alone winning, is a miracle. And that’s not coming to a faithless, old villain like myself. I’m not worried or scared of my plight, in fact I’m relishing the thought. I’m going to compete with every drop of vile and venom that I’ve got left! And if this is the end, well, I honestly can’t think of a more noble way to go than being beaten by the ultimate competitor.”
The Match: Antonio Cesaro vs William Regal
(Wrestling Inc.; Gifs: 1 / 2)
They lock up. Cesaro locks in a wrist lock. Regal tries to roll out, but Cesaro keeps it locked in. Cesaro wrenches Regal’s wrist and arm behind his back on the mat. Regal gets to his feet and the crowd chants you still got it. Regal locks in a side headlock, with his wrist still locked in by Cesaro, as things go to commercial.
Back from commercial and Cesaro is on Regal’s shoulders with both a head scissors and his arm locked in as well. Regal tosses him off and Cesaro goes back to work on Regal’s arm. Regal reverses and takes Cesaro to the mat. He keeps Cesaro’s arm locked in and gets a couple of pin attempts. They interweave their fingers and Cesaro powers to his feet. Cesaro forces Regal to the mat, and Regal goes into a bridging position. Cesaro forces Regal’s shoulders to the mat for three pin attempts. Regal springs up and knees Cesaro in the stomach. He wraps Cesaro’s arms around his neck straight jacket style and pushes him to his knees.
Regal puts his feet under Cesaro’s ankle and then drops to his back, stretching Cesaro across his knees with his arms still locked in. Cesaro gets off of Regal’s knees, and tosses him forward, breaking the arm hold. They both get to their feet and circle each other as the crowd chants this is wrestling. They lock their fingers together and shove each other around. Regal locks in a cravat and takes Cesaro to the mat. Cesaro pushes back to his feet using the mat for leverage and flips Regal over his shoulder to the mat (it starts out like a snap mare, but Regal’s body is extended in the air like a vertical Suplex).
Cesaro strikes Regal in the corner. Regal counters out and strikes Cesaro to the mat. He argues with the ref, distracting him, and kicks Cesaro in the chest behind his back as he argues. Cesaro gets to his feet and takes out Regal’s knee. Regal writhes around in pain. Cesaro slams Regal’s knee on the apron as things go to commercial. Back from commercial and Cesaro is working on Regal’s knee. Regal kicks him in the face, but Cesaro drops a pair of elbows across the knee. Cesaro takes off Regal’s knee brace. He drops a knee on Regal’s knee. He kicks Regal in the thigh. Cesaro drops another elbow, and then locks Regal in an Argentine leg lock.
Cesaro powers Regal up into the air with the lock still in. Regal crawls to the ropes, breaking the hold. Cesaro goes for a takedown, but Regal counters into a pin attempt. Cesaro tries to attack Regal again, but Regal counters into a backslide pin attempt. Regal hits a big forearm to the jaw. He hits Cesaro with a pair of uppercuts, and Cesaro bounds off the ropes and hits a huge European uppercut. Cesaro pulls Regal to his feet and hits 10 uppercuts. Cesaro hits Regal with the Cesaro swing. He crouches down next to Regal and mocks him.
Cesaro pulls Regal to his feet and puts him in position for the Neutralizer. Regal counters out and drops a knee on Cesaro’s arm. Cesaro charges him in the corner, but Regal kicks Cesaro’s other arm. He hits Cesaro in the gut, causing him to drop to his knees. Regal goes to work on Cesaro’s arms. He hits Cesaro with an uppercut and then slams him to the mat. Regal looks like he is going to attempt the knee trembler, but can’t finish because of his knee. Cesaro capitalizes with a headbutt. He goes for another headbutt, and Regal hits a kick. Cesaro drops to the mat. Regal locks Cesaro in position for the Regal Bomb, but Cesaro lifts Regal into the air behind him, with his arms still locked in the double underhook position, and drops Regal to the mat for a two count.
Regal rolls Cesaro over when he kicks out and tries to lock in the Regal Stretch. Cesaro gets to the ropes and Regal gets off him. Cesaro hits a dropkick to the head. He bounces off the ropes and hits a double boot stomp to the back of the head. Cesaro stares at Regal with a hesitant look on his face as the ref checks on him. Cesaro pulls Regal to his feet, the same look still plastered across his face, and puts him in the Neutralizer position. Cesaro decides against it, and drops Regal back to the mat. Regal crawls back to his feet. Cesaro hits the Neutralizer for the win.
Winner: Antonio Cesaro
After the match, the refs try to help Regal up the ramp. Cesaro stops them and offers his hand to Regal. They shake hands as the show ends.
Match Analysis & Interpretation
The very end to this match was quite telling. Cesaro had just dropkicked William Regal onto his head and the older man was out and finished. Cesaro standing, looking down at William Regal and seemed to argue with himself if he should really finish the man off or if he should leave him right there. What a difference to the attitude that Dean Ambrose showed towards William Regal one year ago. Dean Ambrose apparently “won” against William Regal to take over his role as the villain of WWE – but right now, the same mistreating failure that William Regal received by the company years ago, Dean Ambrose is made into a joke as a babyface when he could be the best heel WWE has ever seen. And Cesaro took over from William Regal as the best technician in WWE – just recently he had some of the best matches I have ever seen in WWE but his booking still doesn’t match his potential.
Cesaro isn’t the villain that William Regal was and that Dean Ambrose could be. He is the technician with enormous strength, with pride and dignity. At the very end he showed some glimpse of evilness when he dropkicked William Regal right onto the head. But almost immediately after he seemed to come to his senses. He looked at the old man, beaten down, unable to move. He looked at what he’d done and he seemed to regret it. For just a moment he apparently didn’t know what to do. Beating an already beaten man? Finishing off a man who is laying motionless on the mat? No, that’s not Cesaro’s style. He still wants to finish William Regal off with just a glimpse of competition. For his first attempt to hit the Neutralizer, Cesaro couldn’t see any pride in doing this to William Regal while the man still wasn’t moving. So William Regal helped Cesaro to put an end to his own misery, when he got up himself. Now Cesaro couldn’t wait any longer. He hit the Neutralizer and won the match. For the sake of the legacy of William Regal, he finished him off as quickly as possible.
This is showing respect to a legend, especially with the handshake between these two men that closed not only this show but most certainly the in-ring wrestling career of William Regal.
Now I already talked about Cesaro kind of got into Regal’s brain way before this match was even thought about. He knew about his weaknesses and thought out his left knee as a target, that left knee that Regal always hits his finisher with. So going after that knee was kind of symbolic in its own sense.
But before that we still had the whole match of around 25 minutes. 17 minutes were shown with two commercial breaks in between. So these breaks are always annoying but they still couldn’t take away from the quality of this match. William Regal early on showed not just glimpses of ability and competition. The audience had two chants that made me smile, the first one being “You still got it” addressed towards Regal, of course; the other one being “This is wrestling” towards both of them.
The first part of the match was dominated by both men battling for position, trying to wear the other man down, proving to the other who’s the stronger man of them. It’s always impressive to see that bridge by William Regal, done to avoid a pinning situation; every hold and pure mat wrestling done for just the right amount of time not to become boring. When you’ve got two of the finest technicians out there, you don’t need high flying risky stuff to get one of the best matches of the year. And Cesaro and William Regal demonstrated how exactly you have to do this.
The second part of the match started when Cesaro suplexed Regal and the older man landed on his left knee. Regal for a moment teased it and from there on Cesaro only had this knee as his number one target. Regal tried to be villainous when he backstepped Cesaro while talking to the referee – something we’d also seen him doing against Dean Ambrose. But this time Regal’s strategy immediately hit back when Cesaro came from behind to hit Regal’s knee, now intentionally. Now Regal was in obvious pain while Cesaro had found something to play with. Like Regal targeted Dean Ambrose’s left arm, Cesaro targeted Regal’s left knee. Everything always comes back at you in life.
For the third part, after all the beating he got, William Regal tried to fight back with basically just one leg working – just like Dean Ambrose had tried to fight on with just one working arm left. But with every little blow Cesaro received, Regal was hit harder. He had to take dozens of European Uppercuts as well as the Cesaro Swing. But Cesaro was a little too confident, i.e. arrogant, so when he tried for a first attempt of The Neutralizer, Regal punished the mockery with a great counter and an attempt to make Cesaro’s arms go limp, so he was unable to use them any more properly. Now we had two crippled men trying to take out what was still left into their bodies. Regal tried to go for the Knee Trembler but his knee still wasn’t working for this. So he had just one finisher left and that was the Regal Stretch. But Cesaro overcame and countered himself with a flying dropkick first and then that already mentioned and shown above stomping two-feeted dropkick that finished Regal off for good.
If this indeed was the last match of the in-ring wrestling career of William Regal, than it was a fitting match to go. Like the audience chanted for him, William Regal still got it at this point. And I’m sure that also two years after this, he could have such a quality match in him. But having seen this now, it makes for a fitting final match to close the circle that was once opened with the attack by Dean Ambrose on William Regal in late October 2011. It was the beginning of the end of William Regal and even if it wasn’t Dean Ambrose who finished William Regal off, he still took a part of William Regal with him. If WWE finally comes to its senses for a more fitting character and booking for Dean Ambrose and Cesaro, both men will continue the legacy of William Regal in their very own ways. I very much still hope for it.