Harley Race is one of the most legendary and decorated athletes of all-time.  He was an eight
time former NWA recognized World Heavyweight Champion during a time in which it was the
most prestigious championship on the planet.  It was a coveted strap which had been worn by
the likes of Orville Brown and Lou Thesz.  The NWA World Title was unified back to the likes
of John Pesek and Everette Marshall.  Race also held the NWA Central States Title eight
times, NWA Missouri Heavyweight Title seven times and the AWA World Tag Team Title, four

Standing 6’1’’ and weighing in around 250 pounds, Race was originally from Maryville,
Missouri.  He wrestled in high school before going to Northwest Missouri State College.  
Harley entered the pro-ranks under Gust Karras out of St. Joseph and made his debut in
1960 at the age of 16 in Waterloo, Iowa.  Early in his career, Race worked in the Memphis
Territory with John Long as the “Long Brothers.” He used the name Jack Long.  Several
months later, Race suffered serious injuries in an automobile accident, delaying any further
progress in the sport.  He needed two braces and twelve pins in his left arm and four metal
screws in his right knee.  Doctors said he would never wrestle professionally.  Well, to say the
least, he proved them wrong.

Race traveled through Texas and California before finding a new home in Minnesota.  He
settled into the American Wrestling Association, wrestling for Verne Gagne and Wally Karbo.  
Harley formed a successful tag team with Larry Hennig.  They captured the AWA World Tag
Team Title on January 30, 1965, beating Bruiser and the Crusher.  Race and Hennig lost the
belts on July 24th in Minneapolis to Gagne and Crusher, but were quick to regain the title in
early August.  Recovering from the local suspension by officials in Denver, Race and Hennig
returned to the ring November 26, 1965 to take on the new tag team comprised of popular
Bob Ellis and Verne Gagne.  AWA Tag Title on the line.  On top of that, Race was to fight
Ellis in a special singles contest.  The tag match ended two-falls to one, the champions
prevailed when Ellis and Gagne were disqualified before an estimated 4,000.  In the other
match, Ellis defeated Race.  Harley went one for one, but still remained co-holder of the tag

On a double billing of World Title Matches in Denver on December 27, 1965, Race and
Hennig did not come off as good as Maurice Vachon had.  Their opponents were Verne
Gagne and Igor the Strongman and the card drew more then 7,000 fans to the Auditorium
Arena.  Harley scored the first fall for his team over Igor in 9:03.  Igor went on a rampage.  He
pinned Hennig for the second in 7:49 and again in the third at the 3:34 mark.  The AWA had
new champions.  This title change has not been on record with many sources and has been
documented directly from the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado.  Page 63,
Tuesday, December 28, 1965.  They won their third tag title in early-1966 or had the belts
returned to them by AWA Promoters.

On May 28, 1966, Crusher and Bruiser beat Race and Hennig in Minneapolis and scored the
belts.  The duo won their fourth and final tag title on January 6, 1967 in Chicago.  Race and
Hennig lost the belts in November to Pat O’Connor and Wilbur Snyder.  Harley departed from
the AWA.  He began wrestling more often in the Central States Region, an organization he
would later have a stake in.  Bob Geigel and Pat O’Connor were running the day-to-day
operations from their Kansas City Headquarters.  Race captured the Central States Title from
Danny Little Bear in 1971.  On January 14, 1972, Race pinned Johnny Valentine in 23:42 at
the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis.  He returned to St. Louis to a crowd of 7,051 at the Kiel

Race wrestled Jack Brisco in the main event of the April 21st card.  He took the opening fall in
7:25.  Brisco won the second in 7:05.  The third fall ended as most hoped it wouldn’t.  Both
men were counted out and the bout failed to deliver a conclusive victor.  Race was lying on
the ring’s floor and Brisco was out cold on the Kiel’s floor.  On May 12th, Race pinned Don
Curtis in St. Louis.  He was eliminated during a six-man contest at the Kiel on September 8,
1972.  His teammates, Baron Von Raschke and Pak-Son, did not fair any better.  Both were
also discarded and the Mongolian Stomper won.

On Saturday, September 16th, Race defeated Pak-Son in a tournament final to capture the
initial NWA Missouri State Heavyweight Title.  The final was held on the broadcast of Sam
Muchnick’s Wrestling At The Chase.  He gave Dick the Bruiser a shot at the championship on
September 22nd at the Kiel Auditorium.  Race won the opening fall in 9:22 and Bruiser won
the second in 4:14.  Bruiser hurt his knee in the third fall and Race was victorious by
countout in :51 seconds.  A match between Race and Johnny Valentine was filled with
controversy on December 16th in St. Louis and NWA Officials held the title up.  A tournament
was scheduled to determine a new champion.  Valentine beat Race in the final on January
19, 1973 in St. Louis.

After 13 years in the business, Race achieved the pinnacle of success on May 24, 1973 in
Kansas City.  Race beat Dory Funk Jr. in a two-of-three-falls match to capture the NWA
World Heavyweight Title for the first time.  Jack Brisco took the NWA World Title from Race on
July 20, 1973 in Houston in two-of-three.  He appeared on October 13th in St. Louis to beat
Gene Kiniski for his second NWA Missouri Title.  He had a long reign.  Race endured many
challengers until the 24th of May, 1974 when Dory Funk Jr. beat him in St. Louis.  Race beat
Dory Jr. to regain the NWA Missouri Title in St. Louis on February 21, 1975.  He traveled to
Florida.  Race defeated Dick Slater and Johnny Weaver in Miami with a longtime friend,
Roger Kirby, and captured the NWA Florida Tag Team Title on April 16, 1975.  He received a
World Title shot against Jack Brisco on April 23rd at the Miami Beach Auditorium and lost by

Race remained strong on the Floridian circuit and on April 30, 1975, Race was defeated by
Brisco in a “Texas Death Match” in Miami.  He was pinned by Terry Funk on May 14, 1975 in
a one-fall match at the Convention Hall in Miami.  On May 28, 1975 in Miami, Race lost a
“Lights Out” Match to Terry Funk.  Harley lost the NWA Missouri Championship in St. Louis to
a young Bob Backlund on April 23, 1976.

At the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Race won his second NWA World Title with a victory
over Terry Funk.  The date was February 6, 1977.  Harley used his Indian Deathlock to force
Funk to submit.  Race became the first man to defeat two different brothers for a major World
Championship.  10,500 fans packed the Kiel Auditorium to see him defend his NWA World
Title against Dick the Bruiser in St. Louis on January 6, 1978.  Referee Joe Tangaro
disqualified the challenger after Race was tossed over the top rope in the first fall.  Brusier
won the second by pin and Race took the final with a pin of his own.

Race went to Miami for an important bout with the WWWF Heavyweight Champion, Billy
Graham on January 25th at the Orange Bowl before an estimated 10,000 fans.  The match
ended in a two-of-three-fall draw.  He competed with a newly crowned Bob Backlund, WWWF
Champ, on February 23, 1978 in Jacksonville, Florida.  Race was originally scheduled to
meet Graham in a rematch of their Orange Bowl contest but Graham had been beaten by
Backlund in New York three days earlier.  Race and Backlund drew in 60-minutes.  It was one
of recent times’ best matches.  A scientific classic.  In July 1978, Race suffered a near loss to
Ricky Steamboat.  The two went to a 60-minute draw when both wrestlers agreed to go
another five-minutes.  Steamboat was able to pin Race in that extra time and was handed the
NWA World Title.  Promoters and officials of the Alliance stated that the contract was for only
60-minutes and anything extra was done on their own time.  Officially, Race remained the
champion.  Steamboat, on the other hand, established himself as one of the champion’s
biggest threats.

Masao Hattori began to advise Race.  Harley successfully defended his NWA Title more then
700 times before a fateful tour of the Sunshine State.  During that trip, Dusty Rhodes beat
Race for the NWA World Crown.  It happened on August 21, 1979 in Tampa at the Fort
Homer Hesterly Armory, under Eddie Graham’s promotion.  Only five days later in Orlando,
Race beat Rhodes to regain the title for his third victory at the Sports Stadium.  During a tour
of Japan, Shohei Baba upended Race on October 31, 1979 in Nagoya.  On the 7th of
November, Race regained the NWA Title in Amagaseki.  He lost the NWA Title to Baba again
in Japan on September 4, 1980.  It was a bloody contest between the two in Saga.  Race
regained the coveted championship six days later in Ostu.  His fifth reign began.

Harley took his NWA World Title to New York to meet the WWF Champion, Bob Backlund, in a
special match on September 22, 1980.  The first bout between the two in the latter’s territory.  
Backlund defeated Race by disqualification after Harley began interfering with the referee,
Jack Lotz, in one-fall.  There was no change in either man’s standing.  One of sport’s most
identifiable upsets took place on April 27, 1981 in Augusta, Georgia.  Harley Race was giving
an NWA World Title shot to young and popular Tommy Rich when the unthinkable
happened.  Rich defeated Race and captured the NWA Title.  As in the past, it did not take
long before Race regained his championship.  On May 1st in Gainesville, Georgia, Race
defeated Rich to capture his sixth title.

More than a month later on June 21st, Dusty Rhodes beat Race in Atlanta at the Omni to
score the NWA Title.  Three straight changes in Georgia.  In September of that year, Rhodes
dropped the belt to “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Race eyed the title.  Race reunited with Larry
Hennig in November-December 1981 for the All-Japan annual tag team tournament.  The
legendary tag team came in fourth place.  1982 turned to be a fairly good year.  In
September on the 17th, Race beat Dick the Bruiser in St. Louis to capture his fourth Missouri
Title.  On October 26th in Japan, Harley beat Shohei Baba to capture the PWF World
Heavyweight Title.  Kerry Von Erich stopped Race in St. Louis on January 23rd to take the
Missouri Title, then he lost the World Title back to Baba on February 11, 1983 in the same
city.  Jerry Blackwell beat Von Erich and on the 13th of May, Race beat Blackwell for his fifth
Missouri Title.

Through the Missouri Strap, Race could see the NWA World Title pretty clearly and an
opportunity arose.  In early June, Race beat Dewey Robertson to capture the Central States
Heavyweight Title in Kansas City.  As a double champion, Race traveled east along I-70.  In
two-of-three-falls, Race was able to wrest the NWA Title from Flair to become the sport’s first
seven time NWA World Heavyweight Champion.  The match took place at St. Louis’ rich Kiel
Auditorium on June 10, 1983.  Harley won the first with a pin victory over Flair in 11:10 after a
suplex.  The second went to Flair by submission to the figure-four leglock at the 10:23 mark.  
The third ended up the following way.  A backdrop to the mat, both men’s shoulders were
down and Race lifted his at the last second.  Flair was pinned at the 6:17 mark.

Race made history.  It was something he was used to but being back on top left questions
unanswered.  Could Race possibly dominate the sport as he had in the 1970’s?  Race
proved that he could regain the title.  How long he would remain on the throne remained a
question.  Flair was thirsty and Race knew it.  The Missouri and Central States Titles went up
to vacancy.  Jim Crockett Jr. signed an all-important match for Thanksgiving Night, 1983.  
Race versus Flair.  The first annual Starrcade was held on the 24th of November in
Greensboro, North Carolina at the Coliseum.  Crockett added several added stipulations to
their main event contest.  The first was a cage around the ring.  The second was a third
former NWA Champion would be in the ring acting as the special referee.  It would be none
other then Gene Kiniski, who ruled the Alliance’s rings for three years.  15,447 fans watched
Flair beat Race to regain the title.

Race’s reign was over.  His career was far from being the same.  In fact, there was another
NWA World Title to be won.  In a result not recognized until a few years ago, Harley Race
beat Ric Flair in Wellington, New Zealand on March 21, 1984 to capture his eighth NWA
World Title.  On March 23rd in Kallang, Singapore, Flair beat Race to regain the belt.  Harley
teamed with former AWA Champ, Nick Bockwinkel in late 1984 for the annual tag tournament
in Japan.  He regained the NWA Missouri Title for the seventh and final time on August 2,
1985, having defeated Jerry Blackwell in St. Louis.  It was a bloody brawl.  He appeared in
Chicago for the AWA’s SuperClash show on September 28, 1985.  There, he teamed with the
Irwins against a contingent from Japan, comprised of Shohei Baba, Genichiro Tenryu and
Jumbo Tsuruta.  They lost.

Race was competing under Jim Crockett’s Promotions Banner in early 1986 before leaving
for the World Wrestling Federation.  He had also made several 1986 appearances in the
AWA.  In the weeks that followed, the Missouri Heavyweight Title was declared vacant by
NWA Officials remaining in the area.  Upon arrival to the new organization, Race immediately
made an impact.  On Monday, July 14, 1986, the second annual King of the Ring
Tournament was held at Foxboro, Massachusetts.  Race was one of fourteen wrestlers to
compete in the event.  He beat George Steele in the first round and advanced through the
second to the semifinals due to a double-disqualification between two other competitors.  Billy
Jack Haynes was his second opponent.  Race won and made it to the finals.  On the other
side of the card, Pedro Morales defeated three foes and the match became stone.  In the
finals of the tournament, Race defeated Morales and was the final victor.

King Race was now wandering the World Wrestling Federation.  Despite the win, he
continued to face mid-card and lower status opponents and was defeated by the likes of Tito
Santana and King Tonga.  He gained several shots at Hulk Hogan’s World Title.  Race
defeated Junkyard Dog on March 29, 1987 at WrestleMania III.  In late 1987, Race and
former UWF World Champion Jim Duggan battled over the Crown.  The latter never took
Race off the throne.  Harley also took Bobby Heenan as his manager.

He suffered a very serious injury in 1988 and the WWF took the Crown off his head and gave
it to Heenan’s Haku.  He returned to action in late 1988 and immediately laid claim to the
WWF King position that he never lost.  Race was pinned by Haku on January 15, 1989 in
Houston, Texas and lost what rights he had to the Crown.  He beat Miguel Perez Jr. to
capture the WWC Caribbean Heavyweight Title on January 6, 1990 in San Juan, Puerto
Rico.  It was his first official title since 1985, not counting the “Crown” he held in the WWF.  
Race suffered a serious rotator cuff injury and retired from the sport.  He was involved in a
boating accident in June 1990 at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.  A woman was injured in
the accident.  A Jackson County jury later found that both boat drivers were at fault.  Race
was ordered to pay $250,000 on Friday, May 15, 1992 to Brenda Willison, but no punitive
damages were awarded.

Race became Lex Luger’s manager in WCW in July 1991.  He appeared prior to Luger’s win
over Barry Windham with a piledriver for the vacant WCW World Title.  Race began
managing Mr. Hughes as well.  Race took a new find in January 1992.  The man was former
IWGP World, UWA World and CWA World Champion, Big Van Vader.  His relationship with
Luger seemed to be fading, although Luger remained the World Titleholder until February
and the SuperBrawl pay-per-view.  In May 1992, Race introduced The Super Invader to
WCW.  The Invader quickly showed his confidence by signing handicap matches right off the
bat.  Between July ’92 and December ’93, Vader held the World Title three-times.

On November 26th and 27th, 1993, Race came out of retirement to wrestle Ric Flair in
Florida and lost both matches.  He was taking Vader’s place in the scheduled bouts.  Race
broke his hip in an automobile accident in late January 1995 while manager of Vader in WCW
and went into semi-retirement, which led to permanency.  He was the special ring announcer
for the “Owen Hart Memorial” match between Chris Benoit and Bret Hart on October 4, 1999
in Kansas City, Missouri.  The bout was shown live on WCW’s Monday Nitro on TNT.

Today, Harley Race runs a wrestling school known as “Harley Race Wrestling Academy” and
can be contacted at by e-mail at academy@harleyrace.com.  Mr. Race’s official website is
www.harleyrace.com, and is a place where you can get information about his life, see
photographs and much more.

Race began the World League Wrestling (WLW) promotion during the summer of 1999 and
currently recognizes the Drill Instructor as World Champion.  The organization holds wrestling
shows throughout the Midwest in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa.  Many world reknown
athletes have appeared for the WLW including Curt Hennig, Bam Bam Bigelow, Disco Inferno
and Meng.  In 2001, Race formed a working relationship with Pro Wrestling NOAH out of

From the 1960s until the 1990s, Race established himself as one of the best.  His records
are levels above the norm.  His ring legacy will never be forgotten and Harley’s
accomplishments will never be matched.  A simple motto stands for Harley Race’s current
view of professional wrestling, “Shut-up and Wrestle.”

Title History:

     -A three-time co-holder of the AWA World Tag Team Title
             w/ Larry Hennig (1965) defeated Crusher Lisowski and Dick the Bruiser
             w/ Larry Hennig (1965-66) defeated Crusher Lisowski and Verne Gagne
             w/ Larry Hennig (1967) defeated Crusher Lisowski and Dick the Bruiser
     -Co-holder of the IWA World Tag Team Title (1966) w/ Larry Hennig
     -A eight-time NWA Central States Heavyweight Champion
             -Defeated Danny Little Bear (1971)
             -Defeated Bob Geigel (1971)
             -Defeated The Stomper (1972)
             -Defeated Bob Brown (1973)
             -Defeated Bob Brown (1974)
             -Defeated Bob Brown (1976)
             -Defeated Dewey Robertson (1983)
             -Defeated Hacksaw Higgins (1984)
     -An eight-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion
             -Defeated Dory Funk Jr. (1973)
             -Defeated Terry Funk (1977)
             -Defeated Dusty Rhodes (1979)
             -Defeated Shohei Baba (1979)
             -Defeated Shohei Baba (1980)
             -Defeated Tommy Rich (1981)
             -Defeated Ric Flair (1983)
             -Defeated Ric Flair (1984)
     -A seven-time NWA Missouri State Heavyweight Champion
             -Defeated Pak Song (1972) tournament final
             -Defeated Gene Kiniski (1973)
             -Defeated Dory Funk Jr. (1975)
             -Defeated Dick the Bruiser (1982)
             -Defeated Crusher Blackwell (1983)
             -Defeated David Von Erich (1984)
             -Defeated Crusher Blackwell (1985)
     -Co-holder of the NWA Central States Tag Team Title (1972-73) w/ Roger Kirby
     -NWA Australian Heavyweight Title (1970’s)
     -NWA Stampede North American Heavyweight Title (1974) defeated The Stomper
     -NWA Georgia Heavyweight Title (1974) defeated Mr. Wrestling II
     -A two-time co-holder of the NWA Florida State Tag Team Title
             w/ Roger Kirby (1975)
             w/ Bob Roop (1975)
     -NWA Southern Heavyweight Title (1975) defeated Dusty Rhodes
     -NWA United States Heavyweight Title (1975) defeated Johnny Weaver, tournament
     -PWF World Heavyweight Title (1982-83) defeated Shohei Baba
     -WWA World Heavyweight Title (1982) defeated Bobo Brazil
     -NWA Mid-America Heavyweight Title (1985) defeated Koko Ware
     -WWF King of the Ring Crown (1986-88) defeated Pedro Morales
     -WWC Caribbean Heavyweight Title (1990) defeated Miguel Perez Jr.

Research by Tim Hornbaker
Harley Race Wrestling History
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