"Handsome" Harley Race

The Greatest Wrestler on God's Green Earth

There aren't too many people alive today that has accomplished what the Greatest Wrestler on God's Green Earth has. Harley Race has etched his name in the record books of professional wrestling and will forever be known as "The King" of the ring.

Over 40 championships obtained

The career of Mr. Race spanned decades, and he won over 40 championships all over the world.

Travelled Globally

Wrestling literally all over the world, Harley Race was one of few that wrestled in nearly every country.

Started his career at 15 years old

Harley Race started his career wrestling for St. Joseph promoter Gus Karras driving Happy Hummphrey from town to town.

Wrestled entire generations

Harley Race had a career that saw many fans watch him wrestle entire families such as the Ortons, Von Erichs, and more.

Race was recruited by St. Joseph wrestling promoter Gust Karras, who hired Race to do odd jobs for his promotion. Eventually, Race started wrestling on some of his shows, and some of Karras' veteran wrestlers helped further Race's training. At the age of 18, he moved to Nashville and began wrestling under the alias of "Jack Long", forming a tag team with "brother" John Long. The duo quickly captured the Southern Tag Team Championship. Race was seen as a rising star in the business with a bright future, until a car accident put him out of action, with his leg coming close to being amputated. Karras heard about this and went rushing into the hospital and blocked the planned amputation, stating "Over my dead body"; by doing this, he saved Race's leg. Although he recovered, doctors told him that he might never walk again, and his wrestling career was over. Undaunted, Race endured grueling physical therapy for several months and made a full recovery. He returned to the ring in 1964, wrestling for the Funks' Amarillo, Texas territory. This time, he wrestled under his own name, after his father told him that he shouldn't work to make anyone else's name famous. Race never used a different ring name again. In Amarillo, Race met fellow up-and-coming wrestler Larry Hennig (later Larry "The Axe" Hennig and father of "Mr Perfect" Curt Hennig). The two formed a tag team and moved to the American Wrestling Association.
In the AWA, Race and Hennig branded themselves as "Handsome" Harley Race (which was actually a moniker given to him by fans in Japan) and "Pretty Boy" Larry Hennig, a cocky heel tag team with a penchant for breaking the rules to win matches. They quickly became top contenders, and in January 1965, they defeated Dick the Bruiser and The Crusher to capture the AWA World Tag Team Championship. Race and Hennig continued to feud with the Bruiser and Crusher and other top teams for the next several years, amassing four title reigns. Verne Gagne, in particular, was a hated rival of the team, and recruited many different partners to try to defeat Race and Hennig during their AWA run. Despite his tag team success, Race left the AWA after several years at the top of the division to pursue a singles career in the NWA.Race returned to the AWA in 1984 to wrestle Curt Hennig. The confrontation was fueled by Larry Hennig confronting his former tag team partner at the end of the match. Race would also wrestle former AWA World Champion Rick Martel at part of WrestleRock '86. Toward the end of his in-ring career, he would challenge Larry Zbyszko for the AWA World title in October 1990 in the main event of an AWA broadcast on ESPN. However, all of these matches were basically just special appearances.
Race jumped from territory to territory in the early 1970s, renewing his rivalry with Terry Funk in Amarillo and winning a regional title. In 1973, Race faced NWA World Heavyweight Champion Dory Funk Jr. in Kansas City, Missouri. Race emerged from the battle as the new World Champion in a stunning upset. Though Race held the title for only a few months, losing it to Jack Brisco in Houston, Texas in July, he became a worldwide superstar and perennial championship contender.
Race was determined to eventually regain the NWA World Championship, often moving between territories and collecting several regional titles, including eight Central States Titles, seven Missouri Titles, the Georgia Heavyweight Championship, the Stampede North American Title in Canada, the Japan-based NWA United National and PWF Titles, and becoming the first-ever holder of the Mid-Atlantic U.S. Title, still defended today as the WWE United States Championship. This kept Race in contention for the World Championship, and Race vowed that he would only need one chance against the champion to regain it.
Race finally got his wish in 1977, facing familiar rival Terry Funk, who had become the champion since their previous encounters, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Race won the title by submission with the Indian Deathlock, a rarely used submission move but one that put great pressure on Funk's injured leg. The NWA World Champion once again, Race this time established his dominance, defending the title up to six times a week and holding it for four years (excluding extremely short reigns by Tommy Rich, Dusty Rhodes, and Giant Baba). At the time, the NWA, AWA and WWF were on good terms, and Race engaged in title vs. title matches with WWF Champions "Superstar" Billy Graham and Bob Backlund, as well as AWA World Champion Nick Bockwinkel. Race toured extensively all over the country and the world, including many stints in Japan, where he was already well known from his visits with Larry Hennig.
Race lost the title to Dusty Rhodes in 1981, and despite many attempts, could not regain it from the popular fan favorite. Rhodes lost the title to up-and-coming star Ric Flair, though, and Race was able to defeat Flair in St. Louis in 1983 for his seventh reign as champion, breaking the record previously held by Lou Thesz. What followed was one of the classic stories of the 80s, which led to the first-ever NWA Starrcade event.
Determined not to lose the title again, Race offered a $25,000 bounty to anyone who could eliminate Flair from the NWA. Bob Orton, Jr. and Dick Slater attacked Flair, inflicting what appeared to be a career-ending neck injury, and collecting the bounty from Race after Flair announced his retirement. However, Flair's retirement was a ruse, and he eventually returned to action, much to Race's surprise. NWA officials set up a championship rematch, to be titled "NWA Starrcade: A Flair for the Gold". The match was to be held in Flair's backyard, Greensboro, North Carolina, which enraged Race. Race lost the title to Flair in the bloody and memorable Starrcade cage match (with Gene Kiniski as the special referee) in November, 1983. He would regain the NWA title for a short two-day reign in New Zealand in 1984 (a change not recognized by the NWA in the US until 1996, making Race an eight-time champion), but his loss to Flair at Starrcade was largely seen as the torch-passing from Race to Flair, who would go on to an unparalleled 20 reigns as World Heavyweight Champion (10 of those reigns as NWA World champion) and largely credits Race for igniting his legendary career.
Race entered the WWF managed by longtime friend Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, bleaching his hair blond and billing himself again as "Handsome" Harley Race. During a time when promotions did not recognize the existence of other promotions and the accomplishments a wrestler made there, WWF officials came up with a solution to recognize his wrestling pedigree by renaming the WWF Wrestling Classic to the King of the Ring tournament and making Race the eventual winner. After winning the 1986 King of the Ring tournament, however, he referred to himself as "King" Harley Race, coming to the ring in a royal crown and cape, to the ceremonial accompaniment of the classical music piece Great Gates of Kiev by Modest Mussorgsky. After winning a match, Harley would make his defeated opponent "bow and kneel" before him. Usually Bobby Heenan would assist the defeated opponent to "bow and kneel" by grabbing their hair and forcing them to bow before King Harley Race.
He participated in a notable feud with the Junkyard Dog, culminating in a match at WrestleMania III at the Pontiac Silverdome. He would spend 1987 feuding with Hulk Hogan and Hacksaw Jim Duggan, the latter of which highlighted by an extended brawl at the 1987 Slammy Awards. While Race never won the WWF Championship (at the time dominated by Hulk Hogan), his career was notable enough to earn him an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. He continued to wrestle until the Spring of 1991, most notably with WWC in Puerto Rico, the NWA, and the AWA. After retiring from competition, Race joined the NWA (WCW) in July 1991 as an adviser/manager to Lex Luger and later Vader.

The King of the Ring

Harley Race Merchandise

Merchandise coming soon!