On Wednesday 7th November 2012 a small legion of very loyal wrestling fans witnessed history as some extremely lucky people got to enjoy William Regal's first attempt at standup comedy. No one was left disappointed by the King of British Wrestling, William Regal.
It is worth noting that the gig was held in the same venue that I had seen Mick Foley in earlier in the year. The organization was similar; two of the supporting acts were the same as at the Mick Foley gig. The venue itself actually contains two rooms. Whilst Mick Foley performed in the 400 plus seat main room, Regal talked in the approximately 100 seat smaller room, which was crowded seemingly beyond health and safety limits.
When tickets went on sale they were all snapped up within 30 minutes, suggesting that Regal could easily have filled the main room, but logistics may have made that impossible. There was a comedian in the main room on the 7th already, and the show might have had to take place this night as Smackdown was taped in Birmingham the evening previously. Also, a few wrestling celebrities were present at the show: JR, Gerald Brisco, and Norman Smiley. I did not recognize JR without his hat. Norman Smiley still looks incredible for his age.
On to the show itself, the support acts were clearly star struck by Regal. The host for the evening, Chris Brooker, kept stumbling over his words, but this was not a problem since the crowd was on all of the comedians' sides. We all shared the bond of being professional wrestling fans. There are not many times that this bond is demonstrated in public for most people so it was nice to do so here. Jim Smallman and Billy Kirkwood received decent responses from a receptive audience, but everybody was waiting for one man.
When that man arrived, the crowd burst into almost ferocious applause. More than that, everybody left their seats so Regal could have the standing ovation he thoroughly deserved. It was clear that Regal was overwhelmed by this heroic worship because he was rendered speechless initially. It took Regal about two minutes to remember the purpose of the show and begin trying to make people laugh.
Regal told many stories spanning his long and varied career in the wrestling business, starting from when he was 15 in Blackpool. Regal talked about getting into wrestling, the world of sport days, travelling the world and a lot more on top. His words, along with his stories, were eloquent, but not always politically correct, so some people could take offence. That was not a problem with this crowd however, as each anecdote was greeted with applause and cheers.
Very early into the gig it became abundantly obvious that Regal is not a comedian yet. He struggled to transition between stories. The British Wrestling King's mind is a database of hilarious anecdotes, but at times Regal struggled to choose the appropriate one for the set. Not long into the set, Regal transitioned into the Q and A session. This was useful in helping draw out more fascinating tales out of the main man, although a few of the questions annoyed me, especially the one about Goldberg which did not make sense. Personally I know Regal best from his WWF/WWE days and would have liked more of the focus to have been on that. Chris Brooker ended the Q and A, which drew heat from the audience, so the meet and greet could take place.
Overall the gig was great. The audience rightfully stood up once more as the show ended, humbling Regal a second time. In his first comedy gig, Regal received two standing ovations. Regal obviously has many more funny tales to tell if he was going to continue his standup comedy adventure. The Q and A format works well for Regal. Without that structure he struggled to keep focus. If Regal does decide to perform on a comedy stage in the future, I would happily attend as I reckon most of the other people in attendance would.