Harley Race, the former wrestler, and promoter knew for playing the arrogant “King of the Ring,” wearing a royal crown and purple cape and demanding that opponents kneel and bow before him, died on Aug. 1. He was seventy-six.
The cause was lung cancer complications, said the WWE in a declaration without noticing where he died.
The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Race was a ring stalwart-and frequent champion-for decades until a 1995 car crash finished his career, calling himself “the greatest wrestler on God’s green earth.” Bigger names and more charismatic personalities with bulkier muscles sometimes overshadowed him, but his experience and toughness brought him respect among peers.
Leon “Big Van Vader” White, who Race’s tag-team partner for some time, told YouTube’s wrestling channel Hannibal TV back in 2017 that Race mastered “the ability to tell a story with your body physically.”
A ring veteran who wrestled under nicknames like “Handsome” Harley Race and “Mad Dog,” Race entered what was then the World Wrestling Federation in 1986 as the business boomed. At that moment, he was in the mid-40s, and he required a new gimmick.
After his “King of the Ring” win in Boston in 1986, Race was crowned by longtime buddy and manager Bobby “the Brain” Heenan, who led chants of “Long live the King!” To add to the royal spectacle, Mussorgsky’s majestic fanfare “The Great Gate of Kiev” was the Race’s theme music.
He was one of six wrestlers to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of four different companies, including the WWE in 2004, the National Wrestling Alliance, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, and the. Harley Leland Race, the son of sharecroppers, was born on April 11, 1943, in Maryville, Missouri, and grew up in neighboring Quitman. After slapping his principal, he was allegedly expelled from high school.
In his teens, as a carnival wrestler, he became a driver for 800-pound grappler wrestler Happy Humphrey, who taught him the ropes. The pregnant wife of Race, Vivian Jones, died in a car crash in 1960, that nearly cost Race a leg. He said doctors didn’t think he’d walk again, let alone wrestle, but the injury derailed his career for just 18 months.
He was at least four times married and had several kids, but there was no immediate full list of survivors. Race began the Troy, Missouri-based World League Wrestling in 1999 after retiring from the ring and opened a center for training young wrestlers. Reflecting on a lifetime of travel and pushing the body to its limits, Race said he had no regrets