Pro wrestling legend Harley Race dies at age 76

Photo courtesy of WWE

Legendary professional wrestler Harley Race, a seven-time National Wrestling Alliance heavyweight champion and World Wrestling Entertainment’s first “King of the Ring,” has died, WWE.com announced Thursday.

Race was 76.

During his heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, Race captured the NWA world title a record seven times, winning the sport’s oldest championship belt by defeating the likes of Dory Funk Jr., Terry Funk, Giant Baba, Dusty Rhodes, and “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair.

It was Flair who wound up breaking Race’s record for most world championships in 1991.

Race famously battled WWE icons like Bob Backlund and “Superstar” Billy Graham in the 1970s and early 1980s. He joined WWE full-time in 1986, and won the inaugural “King of the Ring” tournament. One of his career highlights in WWE came in 1987, when he pinned the Junkyard Dog in front of 93,000 fans at Wrestlemania III.

Race died of complications from lung cancer, according to WWE.

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