Exclusive interview: NXT GM William Regal undergoes neck surgery
Six weeks ago, NXT General Manager William Regal went in for a CAT scan to see how he was progressing following a 2014 neck operation. Pain was not the impetus for the checkup; rather, feeling the best that he had in decades, Regal was hoping to step in the ring at the WWE Performance Center to share a few hard-earned tricks of the trade with NXT’s top up-and-comers.
Instead, he received news that nobody was expecting. Not only would he not be cleared to train inside the ring, but Regal would have to undergo a second neck surgery.
WWE’s medical director, Dr. Joseph C. Maroon, and his team performed the second operation Wednesday, Oct. 21, in Pittsburgh, Pa. The next morning, from his hospital bed, NXT’s revered General Manager gave WWE.com an update on his condition, and how it affects his status in NXT.
WWE.COM: How are you feeling?
WILLIAM REGAL: I’m actually feeling pretty good, to be honest with you. It’s just the actual incision, where they went in through the back of my neck, that’s very sore. But that’s to be expected, right?
WWE.COM: Can you explain what the surgery entailed?
REGAL: I had a neck surgery last year and everything was very, very good, and I went in for a follow-up exam six weeks ago. Luckily, we did the exam, because they found there was more damage in the back of the neck that needed to be taken care of as soon as possible. The last surgery I had, they went in through the front of my neck; this one’s in the back, so there’s a lot more work involved and a lot of healing in the muscle in the back of the neck.
It was my C3, C4, C5 and C6 [vertebrae]. I believe the operation is called a laminectomy, where they go in and completely clean out the calcium deposits from the back. Now that I’ve got this done, it’s just a matter of healing up and I’ll be good to go. Dr. Maroon, who is head of the WWE Wellness Program, performed the operation. He said I’ll be good to go for another 50,000 miles, or 50 years. Hopefully, that will cover me for the rest of my time on this Earth, anyway.
WWE.COM: How long did the operation take?
REGAL: Just over an hour, I believe.
WWE: Did you have any idea you were in need of such an operation before you went in for your follow-up?
REGAL: No. To be honest, I went in because I wanted to be doing more physical activity as far as getting in the ring with certain people at the WWE Performance Center; last year, I hadn’t done any of that. When certain people get to a certain standard, I like to show them some things, you know? So, technically, [the follow-up] was to find out whether I was able to do that because I felt really good. But then they found some more calcification. That was the only reason; otherwise, I wouldn’t have known.
WWE.COM: What caused the injury in the first place?
REGAL: I remember the original injury happening in 1993, when I first was in WCW, and I’ve had a few neck injuries since, but with no pain. There was some pain, here and there, but not much. Eventually, it turned into a major problem, with my legs not moving well, so I had to have surgery done.
I hadn’t slept in 20 years. I would sleep a couple hours a night, and I went from specialist to specialist and they could never find out why. I got my neck surgery [last year] and I’ve slept ever since. Something was causing me not to be able to sleep, and then after a while your brain doesn’t want to turn off and go to sleep. And so it was constant battle with that. But as soon as I had the neck surgery, I started sleeping again. I felt like a new person this last year.
I had no problems at all, so that surgery did work wonders. On the worst day now I feel a thousand times better than my best day for 20 years, because I finally get some sleep.
WWE.COM: Have they given you a timetable for your recovery?
REGAL: No. it’s just a lot of doing nothing but walking for the next couple of weeks, and then we’ll go from there. I’ll definitely be on the NXT tour of the UK. Definitely, there’s no question. I won’t be wrestling, but that wasn’t the plan to begin with. I’ll definitely be at all the shows. There will just probably be three to four weeks when I can’t fly long distance. I won’t be able to go on WWE’s November tour, which I normally always go on to do TVs in Manchester, which is a shame. But, as long as I’ll be there for December …
WWE.COM: Now that you’ve had this surgery, is there any expectation of stepping back in the ring?
REGAL: I really don’t know. It’s too early to tell to see whether it’s a good idea or not. I’m not one of those people desperate to get in the ring again. I’ve been in this for 32 years. I haven’t wrestled for the last two years. Including a year off once, when I got sick after going to India, with a couple of suspensions [laughs], I worked a solid full-time schedule for 26 years. Most people don’t get anywhere close to that, especially with the physical style I did. So if I don’t do anything else, I’m quite happy with that. There’s no problem with that, to me.
WWE.COM: Do you have any message for the NXT fans and well-wishers?
REGAL: First off, I just want to thank Dr. Maroon and his staff. They’re absolutely incredible. They did two surgeries on me, and they took care of me and just did a wonderful, wonderful job.
As for the fans, you don’t need to bombard me on Twitter, because my only connection to the outside world is Twitter. I’m not somebody who cares about getting sympathy, so please don’t send me lots of messages because it will just bombard me with stuff. But, thank you anyway.
And to everybody at NXT, don’t think you can take any liberties while I’m not there. I have people that will be watching and taking notes for me!