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Wrestling / Harley Race

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During one of his eight reigns as NWA World Heavyweight Champion

Harley Leland Race (April 11, 1943 – August 1, 2019) was an American professional wrestler, promoter, and trainer best known for his 8 reigns as NWA World Heavyweight Champion from 1973 to 1984. He started in Missouri as a teenager before moving to Memphis and wrestling under the name Jack Long and teaming with his "brother" John Long. Over time, he competed for, obviously, many National Wrestling Alliance territories, for the American Wrestling Association, for Stampede Wrestling, and for All Japan Pro Wrestling, before he started winding down his career in WWE in the late 1980s. He retired from active competition in 1991 and became a manager in WCW, most famously for Lex Luger, and, especially, Big Van Vader. He was also the promoter of World League Wrestling in Missouri. He was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. He is also on the list of wrestlers who had slammed André the Giant prior to Hulk Hogan doing it at WrestleMania III. He passed away at age 76 from lung cancer.

"Handsome Tropes":

  • Afro Asskicker: Sported a pretty impressive afro through much of The '70s.
  • The Apprentice: To Stanislaus and Wladek Zbyszko.
  • Arch-Enemy:
  • As Himself: As the ring announcer in the 2007 film Mil Mascaras Vs. the Aztec Mummy.
  • Awesome McCoolname: His name sounds appropriately badass for a pro wrestler. Better still, it was his real name.
  • Bash Brothers: Larry "The Ax" Hennig, Roger Kirby, Bob Roop
  • Cool Teacher: Some of the wrestlers who have trained under him are Richie Steamboat, Curtis Axel and Ted DiBiase Jr.
  • Dented Iron: A case he thinks could have been avoided. After purchasing the deluxe ring package from High Spots for World League Wrestling, he mentioned he had been researching heavily for the best ring his students could have and that if he had a ring like it when he was active he would have still been wrestling up till that point.
  • Determinator: Early in his career, he was in a car accident that killed his wife, and resulted in the near amputation of his leg. After his leg was saved, he was told that he might never walk again. The rest of the story tells itself.
    • He also battled and survived polio as a child before taking up wrestling.
  • Dirty Coward: In 1983, he tried to retire Ric Flair by putting a bounty on him.
  • The Dreaded: He can get guys like Bruiser Brody and Stan Hansen, who were infamously known to use a stiff style of wrestling to ease up and sell his offense by threatening to shoot on them. He's also one of only two wrestlers that André the Giant was afraid of. (The other being Meng)
  • Drives Like Crazy: Like sixty five MPH in a thirty five swerving around police crazy. It's also the basis for one of Manny Fernandez's stories on how the two escaped Puerto Rico, though it most likely did not actually happen.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the 1960's Race was working a pretty boy blond heel gimmick, which was far removed from the gritty (and not pretty at all) tough guy he was when he began his main event run in the NWA.
  • Expy: Some have compared the pairing of CM Punk and Paul Heyman to that of Race and Bobby Heenan.
  • Finishing Move:
    • Fisherman's Suplex
    • Diving Headbutt - He innovated this, though he later said that he wished he hadn't due to the physical toll it took on other wrestlers who adopted it.
    • Piledriver
  • Grandfather Clause/Signature Move: He didn't innovated nor was the first wrestler to implement the Jumping Knee Lift, but was so unique to him back in the day that now every time you see one in a match your Color Comentator will refer at it as a "Harley Race Knee" in his honour.
  • Heel: His primary role.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: His beginnings were humble even by pro wrestling standards - he started out in the business as the guy who had to drive around Happy Humphrey, a comedy wrestler who's main gimmick was that he weighed close to 800 pounds.
  • I Hit You, You Hit The Ground: "If I hit him with my left [hand] and he doesn't go down, I will walk around him to see what's holding him up."
  • In-Series Nickname: The Crusher would call Harley Race and Larry "The Ax" Hennig "The Dolly Sisters", due to their then-fairly pretty looks, especially by 1960's standards.
  • I Was Quite the Looker: His days as "Handsome" Harley Race, alongside the then-equally good looking Larry Hennig. Ironically, neither man would hit the big time until after losing their youthful looks.
  • Improbable Weapon User: He used a pen to stab on Vader's opponents windpipe in his stint as manager.
    • You can read more about it in the "Stun Guns" entry.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Sort of, as his athleticism often showed by dramatic ways in which he took offense rather than dealt it out. That said, he was pretty good at landing on his feet.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Has gone on record to say that he wished he had never invented the diving headbutt, as it has lead to spinal and brain injuries for those who have used it (Dynamite Kid, Chris Benoit, etc.).
  • Power Stable: The Heenan Family in WWE
  • Red Baron: "Handsome", "Mad Dog", "The King", but perhaps his most famous was "The Master of the Chase".
  • Retired Badass: Needed a cane just to stand by 2014 in Pro Wrestling Noah, but there was a reason they had him announce his seal of approval prior to putting on their GHC Championship matches. Okay, a reason might be that his own promotion WLW and NOAH are both part of the Global Pro Wrestling Alliance but that's not the reason they had him do it in person.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: He and Vader knew better than to stick around when an enraged Madusa started kicking Paul E. Dangerously's ass after he fired her from the Dangerous Alliance and went off on a sexist rant at WCW Halloween Havoc 92.note 
  • The Show Must Go On: Days after his death, his promotion, WLW ran their scheduled Supercard event, turning it into a makeshift tribute.
  • Static Stun Gun:
    • Used one to keep Cactus Jack down for a 10-count in his Texas Death Match against Vader at WCW Halloween Havoc 93.
    • During his stint as Vader's manager, there is a story about Race using a stun gun on a naked Vader to get him to hurry his ass out of the shower so they could hit the road. Even for a man Vaders size, getting tazered while naked and wet must have hurt quite a bit.
  • Wrestling Family: His son, Leland, wrestles in various Missouri-based independent promotions, including his father's. Leland would take over WLW and the wrestling school after his father died.