Harley Race Passes Away at Age 76

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Dustin Rhodes broke the news on Twitter, but it appears that one of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA)‘s greatest champions, Harley Race, has passed away at the age of 76. Race had been battling health issues for much of 2019.

One of Missouri’s greatest wrestling legends, Harley Race survived polio as a child to become of the greatest NWA World’s Heavyweight Champions of all time. He began his journey into the world of pro wrestling at the age of 17 in 1960, working in the South as Jack Long. In 1964, he began working for the Funk family in Amarillo, Texas, returning to his real name of Harley Race. There he met another young grappler, Larry Hennig, and the two formed a tag team and headed north to work for Verne Gagne‘s American Wrestling Association (AWA).

As “Handsome” Harley Race and “Pretty Boy” Larry Hennig, the duo captured the AWA World Tag Team titles on three occasions and the NWA World Tag Team titles twice, cementing the two youngsters as two of the toughest men in pro wrestling. Race would return to Missouri and became a staple with NWA Central States Wrestling, becoming a 5x NWA Central States Champion. Race’s no-nonsense combination of unbridled toughness and technical brawling made him a regional sensation. It didn’t take the NWA to take notice.

In 1973, he defeated former mentor Dory Funk Jr. for the NWA World title, his first, and the era of Harley Race was under way. He would go on to become an 8x NWA World Champion over the next decade, including a 926-day reign from 1977 through 1979. He faced everyone who was everyone in the 1970s – from Andre the Giant to Dusty Rhodes, Bruiser Brody to Andre the Giant – and set a new standard for World Champions in the NWA.

Photo: WWE

In 1986, having passed the NWA torch to “Nature Boy” Ric Flair a few years previous, Race finally joined WWF, where he entered into the services of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. While his “King” persona was lauded by many longtime NWA fans, Race lasted three years with WWF, and won the King of the Ring in 1986.

After leaving WWF in 1989, he headed to WCW, where he continued to wrestle off and on for two years, before retiring in 1990. He continued to work for WCW for several more years, in a managerial role, before departing in 1995. In 1999, he started his own promotion, World Wrestling League (WWL), in St. Louis, Missouri and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 and NWA Hall of Fame in 2005.

We offer our condolences to the entire Race family and Harley’s friends and peers throughout the industry and around the world.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.

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