Today brings about some sad news to pass along, as the legendary wrestling superstar "King" Harley Race has reportedly passed away. Widely regarded by longtime wrestling fans as one of the best performers and promoters of all time, Race's passing was officially confirmed on the official WWE website. The iconic wrestler had been in and out of the hospital for various health issues over the past several years, and fellow legend Ric Flair had announced a few months back Race had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Due to complications stemming from lung cancer, Race passed away on Thursday at 76 years old.
Born Harley Leland Race in 1943, Race was one of few wrestling superstars from his era to compete in WWE and other major wrestling promotions using his real name. From a very early age, he knew he wanted to be a pro wrestler. After overcoming polio as a child, Race began his wrestling training as a teenager under former world champions Stanislaus and Wladek Zbysko. After an altercation in high school led to his expulsion, Race pursued his passion full-time, and was wrestling in Nashville by age 18. Wrestling as Jack Long with storyline brother John Long, Race's first title win would be the Southern Tag Team Championship.
However, around this time, Race fell victim to a tragic car accident which changed his entire life and could have put a premature stop to his legendary career. Sadly, Race's first wife Vivian, who was pregnant at the time, was killed in the accident. Race's leg was also seriously injured, and doctors were planning on amputating the limb. When wrestling promoter Gust Karras became aware of the accident, he rushed to the hospital and talked the medical staff out of the procedure. This saved Race's leg, and although he was warned he'd never walk again, the wrestler amazingly made a full recovery after several grueling months of physical therapy.
In the years since, Race would go on to become one of the business's all-time greatests, appearing in promotions like the AWA, NWA, WCW, Ring of Honor, TNA, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Of course, he is perhaps best known for the years spent in WWE, then called the World Wrestling Federation. Initially dubbed "Handsome" Harley Race, the wrestler adopted the "King" moniker after winning the company's King of the Ring tournament. Playing the character to the fullest, Race would come out in a crown and cape, often having defeated opponents kneel before him with the help of manager Bobby Heenan. He later returned to the company to be inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2007.
All in all, Race's legacy left as a professional wrestler is nothing short of impressive. He is just one of six men to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, the NWA Hall of Fame, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame. As he was the very first person to hold the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship, a part of him continues to exist in WWE programming today. After buying out NWA/WCW, WWE adopted the United States championship which is regularly defended at various wrestling shows. A. J. Styles currently holds the title after defeating Ricochet for it at Extreme Rules in July.
It's certainly a sad day for the wrestling business, as the wrestling world has lost another legend. We offer our condolences to the family and friends of the fallen entertainer at this difficult time. The legacy of Harley Race will live on forever, and may he rest in peace. This news comes to us from official WWE.com website.