Harley Race, widely regarded as one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time, died Thursday, according to multiple news reports. A cause of death has not been released, but he had been battling lung cancer.
Race was an eight-time National Wrestling Alliance world heavyweight champion between 1973 and 1984. He was also billed as the “King of Wrestling” in the World Wrestling Federation from 1986 to 1989. After winning a match, Race would make his opponent bow and kneel before him. After his in-ring career ended, he became a manager of wrestlers such as Vader in World Championship Wrestling.
“Race was very much a symbol of pro wrestling in mid-America and Japan during the 70s and early 80s as NWA world champion,” wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer told The Times. “He was a great performer, a tough guy, one of the most-traveled world champions of all-time who took his craft and his world championship very seriously. He had immense respect and lived hard and fast, had no fear and was one of the guys who created a template for the modern version of a classic match. In Japan, where wrestling was huge mainstream entertainment, he was known as Mr. Pro Wrestling.”
Before his run as NWA champion, Race and Larry “The Axe” Hennig were three-time AWA tag-team champions.
Race is one of only six men in the WWE, NWA, Wrestling Observer, Pro Wrestling and Tragos/Thesz halls of fame. He is also a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, the St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Reaction to the news around the pro wrestling world was swift:
On January 25th 1993 in met a great man who became a great friend and mentor. A proper man in and out of the ring. One of the true greats. Harley Race passed today. I will be forever grateful for the time I’ve spent with him.— William Regal (@RealKingRegal) August 1, 2019
You can read more on Race’s life by clicking here.