When it comes to the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Wichita Falls, Texas, their main goal is to preserve wrestling history. This year, the tag team being honored at their 2017 induction ceremony on May 18th through May 20th, will be Larry “The Ax” Hennig and Harley Race, and the Hall could not have gotten it more right.
“We made a great team because we didn’t do any of the same things,” said Larry Hennig. “He was a specialist in some areas and I was a specialist in other areas.”
Hennig was a little bigger and he was very strong. Being a Minnesota State Wrestling Champion in high school, Larry’s amateur background would show up in his pro career when he would keep the match on the ground. Race had the speed and the endurance, he liked using the ropes, flying around, and he didn’t mind taking a bump when he had to.
“He did every part of the wrestling that I didn’t care to do and I did the parts that I liked to do, and that was how it went,” said Harley Race. “You had to be fairly tough and we could both handle just about anything.”
When the two wrestlers met in the early 1960’s, Larry weighed nearly 340 pounds and Harley weighed around 280 pounds. Their wrestling styles complimented each other while they were competing against other teams in the ring, but that wasn’t the only thing that made them successful.
“We had good attitudes, we worked hard, and we made all of our events,” said Hennig. “We were a good combination. There wasn’t anybody better than us.”
The two captured their first AWA World Tag Team Championship together on January 30th, 1965, when they defeated Dick the Bruiser and the Crusher in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The two teams would battle each other on countless occasions over the next couple of years throughout the Midwest.
“They were two of toughest guys at that point in time,” said Race. “When you would put yourself in the ring with those two guys you were in a hell of a mix.”
Race and Hennig dominated the Tag Team Division, not only in the Midwest, but all over the world. The two traveled together to wrestle in countries such as Japan and Australia. Their skills and abilities in the ring proved them to be successful there as well. The two men were a match made in heaven. Not just in the ring, but also in life.
“I don’t think I can ever remember the two of us ever having an argument,” said Race.”We liked each other.”
Whether it was an understanding or just a mutual respect, what it boiled down to was they were loyal friends.
“I liked the guy and he liked me,” said Hennig. “When Harley told you something he kept his word.”
They would hold the AWA World Tag Team titles together a total of three times. Unfortunately in 1967, Larry would seriously injure his knee during a match. He would return to ring action a year later and work alongside his friend and tag partner. Later that year, Harley would leave the AWA for the NWA to pursue a singles career.
On May 24th, 1973, Race would defeat Dory Funk Jr. to become the NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion, which would be the first of his eight title reigns for the wrestling promotion throughout his lengthy career. On that special night, Race didn’t have his former tag team partner in his corner, but he was in the crowd.
“I was there and I was very proud of him,” said Hennig. “He was the man. He had it all, he was the full package.”
Both wrestlers went in different directions, but ironically, both of their careers lasted for about 30 years. They have maintained their friendship since they first met. They wrestled together, they made money together, they traveled together, and now they are going into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame together.
“Me and Larry had a great tag team together,” said Race. “Being honored with him is great for me and for wrestling too.”