William Regal: Plane Ride Scandal that Led to 1997 Arrest

In 1997, behavior on a fateful plane ride led to the arrest and unexpected detour to an Alaskan police cell for William Regal.

Brace yourself for a captivating journey into a forgotten chapter of wrestling’s past that promises a heavy dose of turbulence for the English gentleman of professional wrestling!

Learn what happened on that fateful plane ride that led to the 1997 arrest of William Regal!
Learn what happened on that fateful plane ride that led to the 1997 arrest of William Regal!

1997: A Year of Unforgettable Headlines

Step back in time to the year 1997, a year that witnessed unforgettable moments and headlines that shocked the world.

While the tragic loss of Princess Diana shook the globe, the United Kingdom made scientific history by cloning Dolly the sheep.

Meanwhile, in the heart-pounding world of professional wrestling, The Undertaker delivered an epic defense of his WWF World Heavyweight Championship against the formidable Sycho Sid at WrestleMania 13.

However, amid these high-profile events, a truly bizarre and shocking incident unfolded involving none other than William Regal.

William Regal: Plane Ride Scandal that Led to 1997 Arrest
Photo Credit: WWE.

William Regal: Humble Beginnings

Darren Kenneth Matthews, or William Regal as he is more commonly known, was born in Codsall, Staffordshire, in the West Midlands of the UK, on May 10th, 1968.

His love of British wrestling saw him train under Marty Jones and make his in-ring debut at only 15 at Blackpool’s famous Pleasure Beach.

A young William Regal early in his career.
A young William Regal early in his career. Photo Credit: WWE.

Matthews’s quick grasp of the business and his love of classic holds led to him working the British holiday camp circuit, a rite of passage in the country. He progressed to the UK’s World of Sport, where he would gain more widespread exposure.

Early Years

The future William Regal, Darren Matthews, would soon move on to All-Star Wrestling and made an acquaintance of Robbie Brookside, who would become a lifelong friend and ally in the business.

Brothers in arms. William Regal and Robbie Brookside as The Golden Boys.
Brothers in arms. William Regal and Robbie Brookside as The Golden Boys. Photo Credit: WWE.

At this time, Matthews had come to use the name Steven Regal and would have various tryouts for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, later WWE).

By 1993, Regal had made his debut in WCW and, over time, would develop the British noble character that would stay with him for most of his spell in the company.

Plane Ride Trouble

WCW's "Vicious & Delicious" Scott Norton and Marcus "Buff" Bagwell accompanied William Regal on that fateful flight in 1997.
WCW’s “Vicious & Delicious” Scott Norton and Marcus “Buff” Bagwell accompanied William Regal on that fateful flight in 1997. Photo Credit: WWE.

Now, four years into his career at WCW, Regal took part in a tour of Japan with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), with whom WCW had an excellent working relationship.

Regal was accompanied, on the flight, by Scott Norton and Marcus ‘Buff’ Bagwell (who were known at the time in WCW as the tag team “Vicious & Delicious”), having been invited to New Japan to participate in the G1 Climax tournament.

Regal’s Behavior Leads to Plane’s Emergency Landing?

William Regal.
William Regal. Photo Credit: WWE.

The story had long been told that Regal’s behavior aboard the flight had resulted in the plane’s emergency landing and his subsequent arrest. On his Gentleman Villain Podcast, Regal set the record straight.

“There was an incident that happened on an airplane. I got on a plane in Tokyo and should have landed in Detroit to do [WCW] Nitro.”

“I took some pills,” admitted Regal. “I went to the toilet. The door was one of those old-fashioned planes with a concertina door. I stood there, and my foot was stopping the door from shutting. I hadn’t locked the door.

“A stewardess came behind me and said, ‘Excuse me, sir.’

“I turned around, and nothing funny or clever about it; I peed on the lady’s foot.

“They landed the plane, and I woke up in a jail cell in Alaska.”

William Regal Sets the Record Straight

William Regal, who won the WWE King of the Ring tournament in 2008, sets the record straight on his 1997 arrest.
William Regal, who won the WWE King of the Ring tournament in 2008, sets the record straight on his 1997 arrest. Photo Credit: WWE.

William Regal explained that despite waking up in an Alaskan Jail on public disturbance and urination charges, the plane was not diverted due to his behavior.

“A paparazzi guy in the back [of the plane] flipped out and started punching people. That was why they landed [the flight] and threw me off.”

“I’m not going to incriminate anyone, but they threw a couple of other wrestlers off because they were doing things as well. They were like me; they didn’t have any idea what they were doing. WCW investigated this, and I found out what they were doing. They got away with it. I didn’t.”

Results of the Court Case That Followed

Regal continued. “As soon as this went to court, this lady said, ‘No, he wasn’t doing anything malicious. It was just a drunken incident.”

This was undoubtedly an eventful reminder for Regal always to lock the toilet door.

However, it wouldn’t be his last incident involving urine. Any fan of the attitude era might remember a certain Chris Jericho urinating in then Commissioner Regal’s tea cup. This, of course, was kayfabe only.

William Regal after Chris Jericho urinated in his tea to get back at him on RAW is WAR, March 19th, 2001.
William Regal, after Chris Jericho urinated in his tea to get back at him on RAW is WAR, March 19th, 2001. Photo Credit: WWE.

Pills and Spills for William Regal

On his podcast Stand Up For Greatness, Stevie Ray noted that William Regal was suspended for his involvement on the flight pending an internal investigation and hinted that it may have contributed to his eventual firing from the company.

After their internal investigation, William Regal returned to work for WCW but later left to join the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF).

William Regal.
William Regal. Photo Credit: WWE.

Initial Stint in WWE

Debuting in June, he faced off against the late Darren’ Droz’ Drozdoff on an episode of Raw.

Regal would feature in one more match, this time against Tiger Ali Singh, before being sent to a training camp run by Dory Funk Jr. to get into ring shape.

On his last day during his first stint with WWE, Regal would twist his ankle in a match against Rhyno, an injury he further aggravated following a fall in his bathroom, breaking his ankle and leg.

This is often credited with the subsequent addiction to pain medication, as Regal relied on Renertrient and Valium to keep his pain at bay.

Regal would not be seen back on TV until he was famously saddled with the gimmick of “The Real Mans Man.” A gimmick as bad as its theme song was good.

William Regal: A Real Man's Man.
William Regal: A Real Man’s Man. Photo Credit: WWE.

Regal’s Troubles

Regal’s troubles were covered in an article here on Pro Wrestling Stories, and he has also spoken to Sean Waltman on his podcast 1,2,360 about his struggles with sobriety.

William Regal.
William Regal. Photo Credit: WWE.

“I didn’t drink until I was 25,” Regal opened up to Waltman. “It was just not something that I did.

“I left home when I was 16 and was in nightclubs every night after work. I lived in a resort area where, within a mile walk of my house, there were 52 nightclubs and over 300 bars, and I was in one of them every night.

“I never drank. I just liked going out until I came to America, and I sort of started doing a bit of this and a bit of that. I started taking a lot of pain pills and everything else. I coped with it for a while, and then, the last few months of 1997 and 1998 were a complete mess. Then I said, ‘Enough!’ I just had enough of it.”

He’d checked himself into rehab in January 1999 and was released from the company in April.

A Great Comeback for William Regal

From the streets of Blackpool to the ring to VP, William Regal had one wild journey!
From the streets of Blackpool to the ring to today, William Regal has had one wild journey!

William Regal would return to WCW after his rehab release, and ‘Lord Steven Regal’ was born. However, his return to WCW was brief.

In 2000, Regal returned to the WWF as Steven William Regal, which soon got shortened to William Regal.

Thus began Regal’s 22-year-long tenure with Vince McMahon’s company that lasted until his short release in 2022.

Regal returned to WWE following a brief but successful spell in AEW. In the wrestling industry, it seems no door is ever shut. Now sober, William Regal’s career is a prime example of this.

From shows upon Blackpool Pleasure Beach to Madison Square Garden, William Regal has done it all and remains one of the most respected personalities in the business.

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Matt Roberts is a lifelong wrestling fan from the UK. He remembers the golden era with joy and has a particular fondness for terrible gimmicks. If you were a garbage man or a tie-dye-wearing guitarist during the '90s, Matt was undoubtedly a fan! He can be reached on Twitter @24MattRoberts.