A little later, Harley Race would move into a promoter role in the Kansas City and St Louis territories. It was 1984 when WWF owner Vincent Kennedy McMahon began to raid talent, which Harley wasn’t too fond of. He even once confronted WWF Superstar Hulk Hogan at an event to express his displeasure with the situation.
However, Harley Race, 43 at the time, officially inked a contract with World Wrestling Federation in 1986. He would initially compete under his “Handsome” moniker, and would be managed by one of the greatest ever, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
Eventually, Harley Race won the 1986 King of the Ring. As a result, he would once again be known as The King.
Now being dubbed as The King in WWF, during his matches he – along side Bobby The Brain – would force his opponents to kneel before him. Harley would then move on to WrestleMania III, where he’d conquer Junkyard Dog.
After all that, he’d feud with Hulk Hogan in 1987. While in a match with Hogan himself, Race would encounter a horrible table accident. He went for a headbutt on Hogan but Hogan would get out of dodge, resulting in the medal part of the table causing damage to the abdomen of The King (see below, around the 5:35 mark). A hernia forced him out of action for a number of months, ultimately ending his career on a full-time basis.
The King would make a brief comeback in 1989 at the Royal Rumble PPV, at which he would face one tough, badass dude, Haku. Race was defeated. Later on, he would depart. Left the company.
Harley would return to NWA, AWA and other notable promotions in the early 90’s. His last big match as a competitor, in the summer of 1990, was a world championship match pitting himself and Larry Zbyszko against one another. The bout would result in a double count-out. A few months later, Race retired from competition due to a nagging shoulder injury.
In 1991, Race would transition into a manager role. He would manage the likes of Lex Luger and Vinnie Vegas, but none as memorable as when he lead Big Van Vader to the WCW Title in 1992. In 1993, Race would make another brief in-ring return, replacing an injured Vader, to battle Ric Flair in a series of matches in Florida. He would continue to manage Vader until the mid-90s hit. When the issues due to a car accident snuck up on Mr. Race, hip replacements were required. His motivation, his grind, his miles in the business caught up to him. All that combined with the injuries sustained over the years and the surgery put his in-ring career to an ultimate end.
Following his retirement, he not only opened his own wrestling school but started his very own promotion in Kansas City, known as World League Wrestling. Both the promotion and the school would later relocate to Missouri.
King Harley Race was not only one of the finest, peerless workers, not only one of the toughest SOBs the industry had to offer, but his motivation to be the best, his everlasting drive…his story in its entirety was quite interesting. Anyhow, he was just an awesome, bright, rough and tough human being, one of my absolute favourites.
Here, before you go, enjoy a fantastic promo of his. Loved this. Harley Race was the man.
Well, that’s #20. See you next time for #19. I appreciate your time. Goodbye, for now.