Harley Race, a prominent, storied professional wrestler passed away in Troy on Thursday, Aug. 1. Race started a wrestling academy that has been operating in Troy since 2014, offering this community high quality wrestling experiences.
A post was made on Race’s official Twitter account, saying, “Today at 12:50, we lost the man that fought up until the very last of his existence. More information will be released soon, but just know that he loved pro-wrestling and the fans that loved him. Harley Race, we love you.”
Race was born in Quitman, Missouri in 1943.
As a teenager, and after overcoming polio as a child, he began training with famous wrestlers and strong men, Stanislaus and Wladek Zbyszko, to be a professional wrestler.
“Handsome” Harley Race graced arenas across the United States for the better part of the 60’s all the way through to the late 90’s, early 2000’s in a wrestling career that spanned nearly four decades. He won his first National Wrestling Alliance title in 1973 in Kansas City, where he was based out of at the time.
He went on to win seven titles with the National Wrestling Alliance, work for WWE, manage professional wrestlers and promote events.
A shoulder injury in 1990 and car accident in 1995 forced Race away from the ring into the more peripheral roles he ended up occupying.
In 1999, Harley started World League Wrestling, an independent promotion that ran shows all over Missouri, but was based in Eldon.
A year after World League Wrestling was formed, Race started Harley Race’s Wrestling Academy, which was set up to train up-and-coming wrestlers who could benefit from Race’s unique experience and perspective on the wrestling business.
Race’s events were always family-oriented, and usually raise funds for local charities.
The Harley Race Wrestling Academy is still operational today.
In 2014, Race and World League Wrestling relocated to Troy. Along with relocating his wrestling academy and promotion, Race also built the Race Wrestling Arena
According to a statement made by WWE, “The tough-as-nails Race was so universally respected that WWE, despite having seceded from the NWA and having its own World Heavyweight Champion, chose to recognize Race’s title status as well. As a result, Race was the first NWA Champion to engage in title unification match ups against WWE Champions like “Superstar” Billy Graham and Bob Backlund.”
Some of his biggest competitors and rivals were well-knowns such as Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Dory Funk and Jack Brisco. Since his passing, wrestling world has taken to social media to remember the WWE All-Star and offer their condolences.
Dustin Rhodes, a professional wrestler known as Goldust wrote on Twitter, “RIP to one of the greatest performers there ever was. He was a friend. You will be missed.”
Retired pro wrestler William Regal wrote, “On January 25th 1993 in met a great man who became a great friend and mentor. A proper man in and out of the ring. One of the true greats. Harley Race passed today. I will be forever grateful for the time I’ve spent with him.” Cody Rhodes said, “Thank you Harley. So many legends in the industry will tell you he was the toughest to ever do it. He never stopped giving. I remember when he managed Vader in WCW, he would still try and scare me backstage. Ten pounds of gold never looked better on anybody.”
Canadian pro wrestler Lance Storms, on Twitter, said, “Harley Race. This is why we should not throw the term Legend around freely. It needs to be saved for people like Harley who truly are.”
After the responses his passing has received on social media, from not only pro wrestlers but also fans whose lives he touched, it is abundantly clear that the wrestling world loved and respected the legend that was Harley Race.
Race’s legacy lives on in Troy, where his arena at 198 Cherry Blossom Way, remains active, giving wrestlers of all levels, aspiring or experienced, a chance to live the life he did.