Former professional wrestler Harley Race died at age 76 reportedly due to complications from lung cancer.
The news came by way of a message on the NWA World Heavyweight Champion’s verified Twitter page just days after a tweet announcing that the star’s condition had improved and he was allegedly going home to continue treatment.
“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,” the tweet reads. “Harley Race, we love you.”
Although Race’s biggest accolades were in the NWA wrestling league, a statement from the WWE notes that he was so respected in the sport that his title and status were recognized even after the organization seceded from the NWA and developed its own World Heavyweight Championship.
He loved pro-wrestling and the fans that loved him
“WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Harley Race passed away today at age 76 due to complications from lung cancer,” the statement reads. “Harley Race captured the NWA World Heavyweight Championship eight times. To this day, only a handful of Superstars can claim to have won more World Heavyweight Championships than Race.”
After an accomplished and storied career, Race joined the WWE full-time during the company’s national expansion in 1986 and was finally inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2004.
The Wrap notes that Race was born in Missouri in 1943 and overcame polio as a child before taking up wrestling. His obstacles didn’t end there. In his early career, the outlet reports he was in a car accident that nearly led to doctors amputating his leg. After months of physical therapy, he got his big break and became the American Wrestling Association’s tag team champion in 1965. He continued to wrestle until he required a hip replacement in 1995.
“Today the world lost one of the toughest men ever to walk God's green earth,” a tweet from the NWA reads. “RIP Harley Race! 8X NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion. The entire sport of professional wrestling and the National Wrestling Alliance sends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Harley.”
Friend and former in-ring rival, Ric Flair, also tweeted his condolences.
“Today We Lost Not Only A Great Personal Friend, But In My Estimation The One And Only REAL World Champion. Without Harley Race, There Was No Ric Flair,” he wrote. “I Tried My Hardest Every Day To Live Up To His Standard In The Ring.”