Wrestling World Pays Tribute to Legend Harley Race After His Death at 76

Scott Fishman
WWE

The pro wrestling community mourns the passing of one of its most influential and respected icons in Harley Race. Social media remembrances and tributes began pouring in upon news of the WWE Hall of Famer’s death at the age of 76, reportedly due to complications from lung cancer. 

The Missourian’s career dated back to the 1960s, where he would go on to frequently have gold around his waist — including eight times as the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) world champion.

With his gravelly voice and no-nonsense exterior, Race was known for his toughness and he brought a level of legitimacy to every move or promo. He's someone who embraced being the hated villain and thrived on the crowd’s disdain. 


“Handsome” Harley was part of a truly golden age of the business with pro wrestling expanding across the United States and beyond clashing with the likes of the Funks and Dusty Rhodes. Race is often credited with helping put “Nature Boy” Ric Flair on the map, dropping the NWA’s top prize in a classic cage match at the inaugural Starrcade in 1983. Flair called Race the one and only real world champion. 


The veteran continued to acquire accolades toward the end of his in-ring run, crowned WWE King of the Ring in 1986. It was while under contract with Vince McMahon that gave him the opportunity to work WrestleMania 3 against Junkyard Dog and main event cards alongside Hulk Hogan. 

Despite hanging up the boots in the 1990’s, that didn’t stop his contributions to the industry. He managed the late Big Van Vader during the imposing performer’s dominating WCW title reign and wasn’t above dropping a headbutt or two. Right up until the end, Race never stopped making appearances whether it was meeting fans or lending his knowledge to the future. 

He promoted shows under the World League Wrestling, providing opportunities to up-and-comers including NXT’s Tommaso Ciampa. From Triple H to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, so many have gone on record citing Race an inspiration. Austin went as far to call him the standard bearer for all of wrestling for a number of years.

His memory will live on thanks to a library of matches and moments available through the WWE Network.