WRESTLER William Regal's thick Midlands brogue barely rises above a whisper as he catalogues his monumental rise ... and his colossal fall.
Anyone who has seen movie The Wrestler starring Oscar-nominated Mickey Rourke will get the idea.
William began as a fiver-a-fight wrestler at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and had 49st Giant Haystacks stand on his throat on ITV's World Of Sport before being idolised by millions as a superstar in the US.
A life in the ring ... William in Blackpool
Then came the crash in a blur of vodka, painkillers and steroids.
"I got everything I ever wanted then realised it's not what it seems," he reveals in an exclusive interview.
"So you go looking for it in other places. To get through the day I'd take a huge amount of drugs. Some people can stop, I couldn't."
The low point? Perhaps being thrown off a plane for urinating on a stewardess during his substance-induced descent into hell.
Or the harrowing cold turkey in a drying out clinic... or the comeback fight witnessed by a grand total of seven grapple fans.
Former tag partner ... legendary Big Daddy
Most likely it was being told he needed a heart transplant after years of abusing his body.
Now aged 42 and apparently in decent nick, he smiles and tells me: "In this business you need to be larger than life."
In Day Two of our special series about the £300million-a-year global phenomenon World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), we're backstage at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
William is back in the big-time, performing for WWE's Raw format which rolls into Britain next month.
As a Raw "villain" he is greeted by a chorus of deafening boos as he strides towards the ring in green, crushed velvet aristocratic robes.
His gimmick is to play up to the USA's innate distrust of the English fop which stretches back to the American War of Independence.
He studied English comic actor Terry-Thomas who specialized in playing the caddish English gent to build up his ring persona.
In action ... at recent Raw show in Wichita, Kansas
He confesses: "My role is to make people hate me. I'm the only villain in the world who comes out smiling and waving at people. It winds them up even more."
Builder's son William - born Darren Matthews in Codsall Wood, Staffordshire - dreamt of being a wrestler after watching the Dickie Davies-fronted World Of Sport bouts.
He reveals: "In those days you had to have a family connection to get into the wrestling game.
"So when I was 15 I hung around the wrestling booth at Blackpool Pleasure Beach because the fella who ran it took on someone new every year."
After touring holiday camps and the civic halls of Eighties Britain's decaying industrial towns, he finally got his big break on World Of Sport.
It's hard for anyone under 30 to imagine how huge - in every sense - wrestling was in the Seventies and Eighties. The biggest stars were 26st Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, masked and mysterious Kendo Nagasaki, Mick "Not the Ears" McManus and Mark "Rollerball" Rocco.
Shortly before the final football scores, some ten million "grapple fans" tuned in to this national institution, watched even by the Royal Family. ITV pulled World Of Sport in 1985 and wrestling, denied its traditional teatime slot, slowly died.
William remembers: "When they took it off it was still doing six million. They thought it was too working class for their TV station. People would go mad for that now."
Star struck ... our man Oliver
William was Big Daddy's "tag" partner in four-man fights and he says: "He was a proper superstar - for a time he was going to take over the kids' morning TV show Tiswas. It was to be called the Big Daddy Show but he backed out because it was said he didn't like kids."
William was one of the few British wrestlers who made it on to the US circuit, but says: "It wasn't overnight like some of the guys now.
"I went on tours in Germany, Japan - the crowds got bigger and I worked my way up."
But as he hit the big-time in the US, so began his downward spiral into substance abuse.
Drugs of choice included handfuls of Valium, pain killers, steroids and gallons of alcohol. He admits the pills turned him "insane" and that at the time "life meant nothing".
His drinking came to a head on a booze-sodden flight from Tokyo to Detroit in the late Nineties.
Evidently ashamed, William - at the time with rival franchise WCW - explains: "I was rather 'out West' on booze. I went into the plane toilet and I had my foot in the door, which hadn't shut. I was relieving myself when the hostess tapped me on the shoulder and I spun round.
"Next thing I know I wake up in a jail cell, in Anchorage, Alaska, when I should have been in Detroit. I had no memory of why I was there. I was in an orange jump suit and was handcuffed to another guy and taken to court. They were going along the line of prisoners reading out charges. I was laughing, thinking, 'This is all a terrible mistake'.
"Then they read my charge out: 'Urinating on a flight attendant.'"
The dad of three, who keeps reptiles, admits he used steroids in the past to bulk up his physique, but stresses: "It's not my game any more."
When William cleaned up his act he re-ignited his career with WWE, who have strict drug testing under their Talent Wellness Program.
He adds: "I'm very lucky to have my wife, Chris. She went through a lot with me. She still likes to remind me of it every now and then." In 2003 William was told he needed a heart transplant after his knees, legs and waist swelled up.
"I was stunned. They told me I'd never wrestle again," he reveals. "They found only about 15 per cent of my heart was functioning."
He fought his way back on to the WWE roster without having a transplant, saying: "The heart's fine. I don't trust what doctors say now."
Sitting backstage in Kansas, does he feel WWE admitting wrestling is fixed has ruined the mystique?
Heavy ... doing battle with man mountain Giant Haystacks
William tells me: "Look, it's fixed - but not fake. Everything we do as far as the action and the bangs and the knocks is concerned is real." He has agreed a new three-and-a-half-year deal with WWE, but says: "I'm not a millionaire because I've had to spend it all on health care."
William - who keeps in touch with UK events on The Sun's website from his luxury home near Atlanta, Georgia - has learnt to leave his wrestling persona in the ring.
He says: "I don't take it home with me. That's probably why I'm still married after 24 years."
But he loves being a ring hate figure. Laughing as he leaves the room to put on his robe for the show, he adds: "Without dragons, you don't have dragon slayers.
"And I'm one hell of a dragon... "
Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepag...Daddy-to-the-biggest-baddy.html#ixzz13RelbHxa