Part 1 of Chris Jericho’s “Talk Is Jericho” interview with AEW’s William Regal. Regal went in-depth on his health issues.
Here is a snippet from the first part of the interview. Part 2 will be posted next week.
Regal said, “Since 1998, I have had pericarditis. Pericarditis is an inflammation of the sack around your heart. What it does is scar that sack so your heart can beat, but that sack can sort of lockdown, but because I always did all the squats, always breathing, and taking bumps in wrestling, it kept that from locking down and going solid, the skin has a skin around your heart.”
“I’ve been wrestling with a broken neck since 1993. There’s a match, the first time I won the WCW television Title against Ricky Steamboat, and I was 25 years old. You can actually watch this. The finish is me giving him a German suplex. I land and you can see clear as day if you watch this right now, my head hits my neck, goes to the side and it goes crack. All my arms went dead, and it was never right after that. It was never right, but it got better and went away. What I used to get a lot was all this spasm in my left track and my neck would get stiff. I ended up having my neck done in 2004.”
“In 2013, I had my last match. There were a few people close to me. Obviously, Bryan Danielson, and then I met Claudio, Cesaro. Along the way. I happen to meet Jon Moxley. So by fortune, we were together at the right time and the right place and Dusty Rhodes went, ‘What about you two (Regal and Moxley) doing something together?’ and I was doing commentary on FCW. So we ended up having, which is a lost little thing, but we had a one year program program. If you actually put that story together, it’s probably the greatest thing I ever did as far as a story.”
“I tore my pec in my other bicep which I never got fixed because I had one torn bicep from 2000.”It was the only time that I wrestled a singles match against Kurt Angle. We were supposed to go into a program together. That was the first match we did. I did a thing where it was outside the ring, and I used to grab somebody by the back of the trunks and the neck and I would throw them against the bottom rope from the outside so they could spring towards me and I could nail him. As I did that, the right bicep just went pink. So I got through that match, but that gave me two or three weeks off. I wouldn’t get it fixed. We got back from Europe. Now I could have this in a bit of the wrong order, but when I was on Raw in a Battle Royal, and it was Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase, and I had to knock them both out. I never clothesline people, and I clothesline both of them out. I felt my left pec rip and my left bicep rip.”
“Once I tore my meniscus in my right leg, but the next night, I was with Bryan, and they were going ‘No, you can’t wrestle.’ I said ‘No, I want to put him over because this is the person who stuck around me and listened to all my nonsense. I’ve sent him to places and put good words in for him and whatever else. If there’s one person I want to have my last match with, it’s him. So if you watch that match, you will see me walk down to the ring, and then they actually played a rib on me and played my old ‘Man’s Man’s’ music halfway down the ramp. I’m glad because he was there to help me in the building that day. I couldn’t walk. If you watch that match, it’s 17 minutes of him carrying me because I can’t walk. He did a masterful job. He actually even did stuff on my leg without bending it. If you know that, you can watch what a masterful job he did of carrying me. He looked like he bent my leg around the corner post. We came out there and I was happy I put him over, and hopefully somebody was going to pay attention to this because this lad is something special, which they already were. I came back and Mr. McMahon was there. He watched Superstars. He was right and he shook hands. When Brian walked off, he said, ‘Thank you very much. That was a good old proper wrestling match. That lad is going to make a good villain.”
“There came a point where I got to wrestle Cesaro. Going into that, I didn’t look great, because again, I’ve got withered arms by then, and knew I had a bad neck, but I didn’t realize how bad it was. I’m the only wrestler in the world as far as I know who’s got four discs fused.”
“I was taking photographs with people. As another person was coming up, my legs just went from under me. Luckily, there was a wall behind me and I just stopped myself, and I went, ‘Oh, that was weird.’ I just stood up again like nothing happened. But, you know, looking back now there was plenty happening, and I was just ‘Well, yeah, it’s going to be like this’, although I could still do 300 Hindu squats. Sometimes I was dragging my legs and they were swelling up. I thought it’s just because I’m a wrestler, knowing also that I have a bad heart, but they’ve told me it’s okay. Two weeks later, I was down in Florida. We got out of the car. My wife just before we went in, she just said something to me. She put her hand on the shoulder and I fell against the car. My legs completely went from under me and I just fell. I thought when I get to NXT, I better mention something about that because that’s definitely not right. Of all the things I’ve gone through, that’s two times in two weeks.”
“I end up going to have MRIs. I get the disk and I give it to the doctor there. I’m not exaggerating when I say this. Ten minutes before I’m going out to do three hours of commentary, the doctor puts it into his computer. He puts it on, and this doctor was very stoic and didn’t say anything, and then he starts swearing. He said, ‘Your legs are ok.’ Next thing, he hands me the phone. It’s Dr. Maroon in Pittsburgh. He says, ‘I’m looking at these pictures. Can you move your leg?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I went and did three hours of commentary. I came back on the phone. Dr. Maroon said, ‘Get on the plane. I can’t do it till Monday.’ This is Thursday night. He said, ‘Get on the plane on Sunday. Bring a family member with you. Do not do anything. Don’t sneeze, don’t move. Get up here straightaway.’
“I get to Pittsburgh and Dr. Maroon said, ‘I’ve only ever seen something as bad as this once before, and that person was already in a wheelchair. I don’t know how you’re walking.’ I’m going, ‘No, I was just bridging the other day. I do a three minute bridge every day with my nose touching the mat.’ So it’s supposed to be an hour. They’re going with the first one in the front. They go in. I woke up. My wife sat by the bed. I look at the clock and it is six o’clock. He went there for four hours. Dr. Maroon comes in and he looks like he’s run a marathon. He starts with, ‘If I would have known what it was, I would have gone straight in the back. We’re going to have to eventually go right in the back.’ They found out, and you can’t see it on MRI, I have got a huge big, like baseball sized ball of calcified jelly stuff holding my neck together.”
It’s been like that, after talking, probably from that match with Steamboat. So he said ‘Once I opened it up, I saw this mass, so it took me four hours to scrape that away so we can fix it from the front. When my neck got put back together, that was the first time I was sleeping in 20 years.”
“So eight months later, they have to go in the back. He said, ‘We don’t have anything to judge this against. This is four discs. Luckily again, this is all very grateful to him for me, he said, ‘There is a surgeon in New York that has come up with a new kind of treatment. It’s titanium and it’s flexible.’ Otherwise, he could only do two rods and you’re completely fused. That’s what four discs is, two rods, which is still what most people would get if they got that. Very few people can still do this thing eight years later, because there’s not enough people that learn this technique or can afford this technique. That’s where WWE comes in. They paid for this form. It is hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of 1000s of pounds. They paid for this for me. So he said, ‘I can’t do this, but I want to learn how. If you don’t do anything for six weeks and not sneeze, I want to be able to watch him so I can learn. It’s going to take six weeks for him to be able to come and do it.”
“It was a long recovery. My heart was also getting worse. This was because I stopped wrestling and because I’d slowed down. This sack around my heart locked down, basically, the scarring locked down and it started to calcify inwards. Slowly I was having more and more things of my heart going out a rhythm and my legs swelling up. It was just building up. I was going from doctor to doctor and getting all these different things. But I just got through. I kept going and somehow managed to keep doing my training, whatever I could. Whenever NXT did the show in London, we were on the NXT tour. I just had the surgery, but I insisted on going because it was in Blackpool and it was the first NXT show in Blackpool, and I wanted to see my dad.”
“The day before we left, I’m getting my haircut and something happened. I felt this pop in the back of the scar. This will all tie in later with the heart causing fluid to gather in my liver. My liver wasn’t processing properly, which means I wasn’t processing protein properly, so the scar popped open. I started leaking spinal fluid out of a hole in the back of my neck. I’ve got pictures of that as well. But I insisted and I went on tour. When I got there, they’re like, ‘What are you doing?’ I said ‘I’ve got to make it to Blackpool.’ It was one of the greatest nights of life but also afterwards, I didn’t go out or see any of my friends. I had to go back to the room. because the doctor there was twice a day having to pack this thing because it was just leaking spinal fluid. It got to a point where they just said it’s just too much. We’re going to do a TakeOver in London, which I’m really excited about. But I mean, this is bad. Dr. Maroon again on the phone. I was in Nottingham with NXT right. He said ‘I’m going to tell you this. There’s two things that can happen to you.’ I’m trying to think of the name, and it slips my mind right now, but the infection can go in your spinal column and you wind up in a wheelchair. I did the Blackpool thing and I never got to see my Dad which was bothering me for the whole time. I had to fly back to Pittsburgh. When you have an open wound, they can’t restitch it. It has to heal. With its spinal fluid leaking, the only thing they could do for me, I had to sit upright. They put a spinal tap in the bottom of my back, and for eight straight days, I had to sit there upright, couldn’t lie down, so I never slept for eight days. Every two hours, 24 hours a day, they were coming in, and they would release the spinal fluid. When they do, what your spinal fluid does is it stops any nerves touching your spinal column. So he said, ‘You’re going to be in some kind of pretty bad pain.’ There’s nothing we can give you for it. So I sat there upright for eight days with a drip in my arm and a spinal thing coming out and then every two hours for eight days,, opening this thing, this tap, and for 30 minutes while this fluid drained off, me screaming because it felt like either my toes were getting chopped off, my knees were getting chopped, and my head was getting chopped in half. It was real serious stuff.”
“I just remember being at the top of the escalator. This is one o’clock in the afternoon and I’m going to watch a South American wrestling tournament for three days to try to find guys (for WWE). I just got off the plane. I’m feel not quite right. I felt the wheel of the bag catching the banister, the rubber thing, and next thing I felt, smash. That’s all I can remember. I fell forward. I fell down the escalator. I hit the rubber rail. It completely shattered my left eye socket and knocked me out. I had three weeks of amnesia after that. I have no idea what happened. I was in hospital for a week in Costa Rica. I lost 40% vision in my left eye, which I still haven’t gotten back. I can see, but it’s all gray.”
“I have no recollection of the next three weeks but that three weeks in itself is a full show of insanity and I mean nearly bleeding to death at one point, losing two pints of blood.
“WWE got me into, because it was a brain injury, the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which is the three top places in the world for brain injuries. Poor people have to wait for years to get into there. They got me in there, and I felt bad about it because there were people in there that needed it, and I didn’t feel like I did, but I was there. They recommended I have all these treatments. and I breezed through all these treatments in six weeks. I had to learn my balance, all these things. But at the same time, my legs are swelling worse and all this stuff. I’m just trying to walk and I’m thinking it’s the head injury. I’m gasping for air. Anyway, eventually I came back to work for a couple of months. That year, I went to BOLA, but I was struggling.
“They sent me for a scan because my legs were swelling. They did a scan of my abdomen. Luckily, again, fortunately for me, there’s a cardiologist in the room. This lady saved my life. She said, ‘Hang on a minute, something doesn’t look right.’ But they couldn’t scan there again, because I’ve already been injected Friday and they said to come back Monday. I went home. Within an hour of me being in the house, my cardiologist called me going ‘I’m sorry. You’ve probably got less than six months to live.’ What happened was this sack around my heart completely calcified around my heart. It looked like a goose egg. It was completely constricted. It had just grown into a solid lump of rock. They cut me open and he’s tapping on it at the beginning, trapping on this goose egg with a scalpel, tap tap, tap. Then three hours later, you can see where he’s peeled it all off. You can see a completely beating heart. If they didn’t take this off, I would have had six months to live. It’s a very rare operation. There’s only a few people who can do that. Again. Fortunately, WWE got me a doctor in Atlanta that did this. I was in the hospital for eight weeks. I had insisted on getting out of the hospital. I think about after four weeks, I had leaked, like fluid leaking constantly out my legs. I was swollen up like the Michelin man. I was laying on a bed for a while now for about four and a half weeks. I had a drip in both arms. I couldn’t move literally couldn’t move. I was cramping up because they were giving me diuretics. I’m insisting on staying out of hospital but they’re going, no, you have to go. I just cramped literally from my eyelids to my toes. I fell out of bed and on the floor my wife couldn’t move me. I barely came in and the other son picked me up off the floor and they got an ambulance. The hospital said ‘He has sepsis in his leg again. We’re going to cut his leg off and he’s got probably 24 hours to live if we don’t.’ The doctor who was looking after me, his wife, is a doctor. She was on call. So she overheard this and called her husband at home, woke him up, and said they’re about to chop his leg. He called them and said, ‘Inject him with this, this this this and this. That worked and it saved my leg.”