Harley Race, a professional wrestler and “legitimate legend” in the industry has passed away at the age of 76 after a battle with lung cancer, according to reports.
The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Famer, from Missouri, passed away on Aug. 1, a statement on his official Twitter page says.
“Today at 12:50, we lost the man that fought up until the very last of his existence,” it reads.
“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.”
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
— Harley Race (@8XNWAChampion) August 1, 2019
WWE said in a statement that it was “saddened” to learn that Race passed away “due to complications from lung cancer.”
News of his death came weeks after Race’s health declined while on his way to Knoxville for Fan Expo. At that time he “showed some signs that needed to be checked out,” a statement on his Twitter page said July 12.
Race was hospitalized last month, and updates about his condition were being posted on his Twitter page.
“Just a quick update on Mr. Race, he is still at the hospital under doctor’s care. There isn’t any time table for any situation as his health is of utmost priority,” a July 15 statement read.
Past couple of days had no news – sometimes no news is good news though.
He had a bit of an increase in health today, but still not out of the woods yet. He was World’s Champion for a reason, not just because his ability to wrestle.
— Harley Race (@8XNWAChampion) July 19, 2019
Just four days later, Race appeared to show some improvement in health, a Twitter post said, but added that he is “still not out of the woods yet.”
“He was World’s Champion for a reason, not just because his ability to wrestle. [sic]”
On July 23, Race was transported back to Missouri to “continue care and treatment.”
Race’s son, Jason, told CNN the 76-year-old was surrounded by family and friends, and his partner, Rose, at a hospital in St. Charles when he passed away.
“He kept fighting till the end,” Jason told the outlet. “He is the most genuine human being, I know. I don’t even think he knew the impact he has had on others.”
The eight-time National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) world heavyweight champion kick-started his wrestling career as a teenager in the 1960’s. He began his training then, before starting with promoter Gus Karras.
He won his first NWA World Title in 1973 in Kansas City, Kansas when he beat Dory Funk Jr.
Race, also known as “King,” and who referred to himself as “the greatest wrestler on God’s green earth,” wrestled all over the globe in a career that spanned over 30 years before he retired in 1991.
“Tough-as-nails” Race performed against other greats including the Funk Brothers, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Dory Jr., and Terry, and was NWA’s “most dominant champion” during the 1970s and early 1980s, WWE said.
Today the world lost one of the toughest men ever to walk God’s green earth.
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. pic.twitter.com/rEiHknbYn1
— NWA (@nwa) August 1, 2019
He then joined WWE in 1986, during its national expansion.
“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,” Flair wrote in a tweet. “I Tried My Hardest Every Day To Live Up To His Standard In The Ring.”
“To this day, only a handful of men can claim to have won more World Heavyweight Championships than Harley Race and none would dare claim they are tougher,” the WWE said in a statement.
WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Harley Race passed away today at age 76. WWE extends its condolences to Race’s family, friends and fans. https://t.co/lO4OimLsSd
— WWE (@WWE) August 1, 2019
Race’s son told CNN dates for his memorial services will be announced in the coming days.