Wrestler of the Day – November 11: Harley Race

Today we’re looking at the greatest wrestler on God’s green Earth: Harley Race.

Race started in 1960 but we’ll pick things up with him as NWA World Champion and wrestling at MSG for NWA member the World Wide Wrestling Federation on December 19, 1977.

NWA World Title: Harley Race vs. Rick Martel

Martel is about 21 here and the announcers are Australian. This has to be the forerunner to OCW. Crowd is INSANE here and we keep hearing the announcer say World Championship Wrestling which is weird as all goodness. The turnbuckles are HUGE. This is just odd to see but rather fun. A hiptoss and backdrop into an arm drag and armbar warrants a slow motion replay in the middle of the match.

This announcer is really good. No clue who he is but he’s quite engaging. Race was fairly awesome at this point as he was still young at 34. Martel gets out of a hammerlock to a nice pop. He’s quite popular here. I wonder if he has an enormous schwanzstück (rep to whoever gets this reference first).

Race gets a nice gutwrench suplex to take over again but Martel starts the comeback. The punches are let loose but Martel misses a cross body off the middle rope and Race hits a British Bulldogesque delayed suplex to get the pin. It was a very different time back then and winning with a move like that was perfectly acceptable at this point.

Rating: B-. Very fun little match here as Martel did his thing but Race just outsmarted him to get the pin. Race in his prime is a sight to behold as he really is as good as he’s made up to be. I’m not a big Martel guy but this was a good match and the crowd being very hot helped a lot. Who would have expected that from Australia?

From two years later in the same building on December 17, 1979.

NWA World Title: Harley Race vs. Dusty Rhodes

Why am I not thrilled to see this? Race is champion here. Rhodes is listed as 261 pounds. That’s just hilarious. Race had the title and then Dusty beat him for it and vice versa, leading to the rubber match here. Dusty hits his elbow drop for two because it’s not the end of the match and since IT’S AN ELBOW DROP it doesn’t work here. This was back in the final days of the WWF being in the NWA so these wouldn’t happen much more often.

This is fairly basic and Vince keeps trying to tell us how great Rhodes is in the ring. On the mic yes but in the ring not so much. They fight over a suplex and this is definitely a different style than the rest of the show has been as it’s a more NWA style of slow building. Race is bleeding from the head. Race gets launched to the floor as this thankfully picks up something resembling steam.

Dusty hits a piledriver but the feet are on the ropes again. Race comes back with his standard stuff as this is pretty clearly coming to a close. Dusty makes his comeback which lasts about 8 seconds. Race drops a bunch of knees and Dusty is busted open too. His is a lot worse than Race’s though. Dusty makes his real comeback but the referee stops it because of his cut for a CHEAP finish. LOUD bull chant afterwards.

Rating: C. This was boring as all goodness for the most part but it picked up a lot near the end. The finish was clearly going to be screwy but I can live with that as this was just a token title defense. Also that means Race wins here instead of a draw or a no contest. Nothing great at all here but pretty watchable.

Off to Texas Stadium at some point in 1982.

Kerry Von Erich vs. Harley Race

The winner gets a title shot against Ric Flair. Kerry uses his speed to start and hits a nice dropkick but gets small packaged for two. Off to a headlock on the veteran but Race slams him down and tries a headbutt, only to have Kerry just hold up his hands to block it. The Claw goes on and Race is suddenly screaming but he’s able to send Von Erich to the floor. Kerry slams him down on the concrete though and calmly waits in the ring.

Back in and Race easily takes him down with a chinlock but Kerry quickly fights back up and nails a discus punch. The referee goes down in a rare sight at this point, meaning Race’s piledriver only gets two. They fight to the floor again with Race in full control and ramming him into various metal objects. Some knees to the head have Kerry in even more trouble but he’s able to post Harley for a breather. Back in again and Kerry hammers away before putting on a sleeper.

Race is bleeding from the eye and sends Von Erich into the buckle to escape. A nice suplex puts Kerry down but Harley can’t follow up. Another headbutt misses and Kerry gets two before slamming Harley off the top. They collide again and fall out to the floor for a slugout with Kerry taking over. Back in and Race goes up top for a cross body but Kerry rolls through for the big upset.

Rating: C+. This was the stadium match style played very well and it worked like it was supposed to. For a show in this big of an area, you have to do stuff that is going to get noticed very easily. Almost everything here was a big move that could be seen from a long way off and the match worked well. Also notice that Race, nearing the end of his time on top, is putting young stars over clean. That’s what aging veterans are supposed to do.

Race’s most famous feud was against Ric Flair in the early 80s. Race had defeated Flair for the title and then offered a bounty for anyone that could take Flair out. Dick Slater and Bob Orton attacked Flair and claimed the bounty, but Ric came back with a ball bat, swearing revenge. Here’s his chance at the first Starrcade in 1983.

NWA World Title: Ric Flair vs. Harley Race

The entrances take a LONG time, especially when you compare them to the other intros tonight. Wait has anyone else had an intro tonight? I don’t think they have actually. Flair has a long light sequence with his legendary music (the song playing in the gorilla sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey) playing in the background. Former world champion Gene Kiniski is guest referee for no apparent reason and this is inside a steel cage. Race is a seven time and reigning champion and Flair is a two time champion so these are both seasoned veterans.

They talk trash to each other to start before Flair takes him down with a headlock takeover. Race sends him into the ropes for a knee to the ribs but Kiniski pulls them apart. Ric snapmares him down into a chinlock which transitions into a headlock. Race fights up and hits a high knee, only to have a falling headbutt hit the canvas. Flair goes back to the headlock and cranks away on it on the mat but has to shift over into a front facelock.

Race escapes but misses a big elbow drop, only to fall on Flair for two during a slam attempt. Race drops a knee on the forehead and it’s Flair in trouble this time. Kiniski pulls Race off again so Harley opts to hit Ric in the ear instead. A piledriver puts Flair down but Race drops an elbow before covering. Race stays on the neck which is logical given the piledriver that put Flair out earlier in the year. The champion drives some knee into the back of the neck before sending Flair head first into the cage. That’s the first time it’s been used and we’re about ten minutes into the match.

We go to that overhead camera shot again as Race hits what looks like a shoulder breaker for two. A falling headbutt has Flair in trouble again as does being slammed face first into the cage. Another shot into the steel has Flair in trouble and Race is in full control. The referee pulls Race off Flair for the third time but this time he yells at Flair as well. Ric is busted open now.

Flair tries a headbutt get gets raked in the eyes to bring him down again. Now Ric blocks a ram into the cage and sends the champion in to get his first advantage in a long time. A knee to Race’s head gets two and Harley is busted open as well. Flair hits a piledriver of his own but Race’s afro protects him, meaning Flair only gets two. There’s a butterfly suplex for two for Flair and he sends Race head first into the cage again.

Race is in trouble but comes back with a headbutt which looked very low and Flair is in trouble as a result. Kiniski interferes AGAIN before Race throws Flair into the cage. Flair loads up a punch but Gene pulls the arm back because that’s illegal. IN A CAGE MATCH. Ric gets ticked off and pounds away on the champion but Kiniski breaks up the strut. Flair puts on the Figure Four but Race turns it over, which is apparently a big deal at this time.

Race headbutts out of the corner but Flair falls on top during a suplex attempt. The champion slams him down and drops a middle rope headbutt but stuns himself in the process. A suplex gets two more for Race and there is blood EVERYWHERE. Race pounds away and Kiniski has a problem with that too. Harley shrugs off some Flair punches and sends him into the cage before choking away with his boot.

Flair counters a suplex into one of his own as the back and forth control continues. A big elbow drop misses Race and both guys are down. Flair has been in such a fight that he’s gone from covered in blood to clean again to bloody again. Race accidentally knocks the referee down and in a famous but odd ending, Flair goes up top and hits a cross body, sending Race falling over the kneeling Kiniski for the pin and the title.

Rating: A. This is the definition of an old school fight. While it was pretty clear that Flair was going to win, it wasn’t a complete lock which made the match that much more interesting. The only slight flaw is the ending as the Kiniski stuff really wasn’t needed and the build wasn’t all that strong. Still though, this was a bloody and violent match between two of the best ever. Great stuff.

Off to the AWA with Race’s career winding down. From SuperClash 1985.

Asian Six Man Tag Titles: Giant Baba/Tsuruta/Genichiro Tenryu vs. Harley Race/Bill Irwin/Scott Irwin

I can find no source claiming that these titles existed either before or after this show. The three Japanese guys are the defending champions but they have no belts. Baba has freaky skinny arms. Scott vs. Tenryu to start. They talk about the two former world champions here: Race and Tsuruta. That’s very interesting that they’re ignoring Baba being a three time NWA World Champion.

Ok so Scott is in the shirt. Got it. Race comes in to fight Tenryu and never mind as it’s Jumbo. Race is his usual old school heel self and it’s off to Bill. Bill makes a tag as Tsuruta counters a top wristlock. Off to Race vs. Baba as this match is really awkward. There’s no story here so there’s no heat to it. They tag in and out a lot and technically it’s ok, but it’s more like a collection of moves than a coherent match.

Bill gets a boot in and the fans are getting behind the heels. See what I mean about it not making a lot of sense? Tenryu is going to be playing Ricky Morton it seems. Piledriver gets two for Race. The Irwins hit a double back elbow for the same. Tenryu gets a boot up and it’s hot tag to Jumbo. Everything breaks down and Baba LAUNCHES Bill into the corner and to the floor. Back to Tenryu who gets a slam for two. Everything breaks down again and Baba hits a big boot on Bill for the pin to retain.

Rating: D. This show has been pretty meh so far and this match hasn’t helped anything. The fake champions defended their fake titles against guys they have no issue with right? On top of that like I said, there’s no issue here so the match isn’t anything interesting either. This felt off the whole time and it really brought it down. That and the heels being cheered because no one knew most of the Japanese guys.

Race got a shot at a former AWA World Champion at WrestleRock 1986.

Harley Race vs. Rick Martel

This is billed as former champion vs. former champion, which sounds SO exciting doesn’t it? Race grabs a headlock to start as is his custom but Martel whips him in and it’s time for an armbar. This is so common in this company I can’t believe it. That doesn’t last long as Race whips him in and RACE LEAPFROGS MARTEL. And I thought I had seen everything. Martel doesn’t know what to do so naturally, it’s an armdrag into an armbar.

Race takes him down again as neither guy can get a real advantage here. Headbutt sets up a chinlock which isn’t something the people seem all that interested in seeing at this point. Yep there are the boring chants. Martel gets up and there’s armbar #3 five minutes into the match. Race’s counter this time? Slam his head into Martel’s. Well you can’t say he’s not using his head. I’ll give you a minute to roll your eyes at how lame that joke was.

Powerslam gets two for Race but Martel escapes a suplex and throws on a sleeper. Does this guy know ANYTHING besides rest holds? Race rams him into the buckle and hits a neckbreaker to put Rick down. Harley goes up (not as bizarre as you would expect) but gets slammed off. Well his last major feud was with Flair so that probably has something to do with it. They slug it out a bit which should result in pain bruises and agony for Martel but instead he grabs a headlock. Martel hits a backbreaker and slingshot splash for two, which Trongard says Martel debuted five years ago in 1983. Check the date on the show.

Anyway after that warping of time and space, Race headbutts and piledrives him for two. Elbow drop gets two and it’s off to the chinlock. Race sends him into the corner and Martel tries a cross body out of the corner, but Race just casually steps to the side, ala Samoa Joe. After a brief slugout, Martel whips Race into the corner and out to the floor, but it’s not a DQ due to whatever alteration they want to make this time.

Suplex gets two for Rick back in. Shoulderbreaker and neckbreaker get two for Race. They collide and Race is knocked to the floor. He always was great at taking that backwards fall. Back in another piledriver is countered into a gutwrench suplex for two by Martel. Now Rick goes after the knee for some reason. After some knees to the leg it’s off to a leg hold but Race uses his head (as always) to escape. Race pounds on him in the corner but has his suplex countered. A splash by Martel eats knees and they go to the floor off a slam attempt. They brawl even more and it’s a double countout, two minutes before the time limit.

Rating: C+. Pretty decent match here but again the problem is that there’s no story to this. That being said, they were getting close to overcoming that with some solid back and forth stuff. At the end of the day, it’s Harley Race going 18 minutes so the match by default has to be pretty good. Martel was a WAY bigger deal in the AWA than in the WWF.

Somewhere around this time, Race invested in the Kansas City territory and lost a fortune due to national expansion. He had to take a job in the WWF and we’ll pick things up on June 14, 1986.

Harley Race vs. Lanny Poffo

Race is the “newcomer” here, although they openly say he’s wrestled for twenty years. Clipped to Poffo taking something like a brainbuster on the floor. The fans are quiet but this is the old Race, as in the old school style of him. Top rope headbutt (which Race is credited with inventing) puts Poffo down and a regular one puts him on the floor.

Poffo starts his comeback and hits a flying headscissors to bring Race over the top and back in. Race gets him in a fireman’s carry and drops him throat first across the top rope to break up the comeback though. Fisherman’s suplex ends this. Not enough to grade but Race was his usual great self, even though the match was dull.

Off to the Big Event against another legend.

Harley Race vs. Pedro Morales

They’re both old and they’re both fat. They’re also rather slow and it’s not interesting at all anymore. The main event is next so this is likely Hogan’s effort to make people forget the previous good match so that he looks good next. He did it to the whole company in about 8 years with WCW. The referees have more or less sucked all night as they never count fast enough. Race gets a double leg trip and uses the ropes for the easy pin.

Rating: N/A. This was just a filler to put some space between the two matches that were good and nothing more.

Here’s a match that had a hand in starting a series. A Survivor Series if you will. From November 24, 1986.

Randy Savage/Harley Race/Adrian Adonis vs. Roddy Piper/Junkyard Dog/Ricky Steamboat

This is elimination rules and it was a brand new idea at the time. They were popular enough that a PPV version was made later in the year. For some reason, Slick is on commentary. These are all matches at Wrestlemania and the last appearance in MSG for Piper so gee, I wonder who will win here. Savage runs and hides from Steamboat but they wind up starting.

Savage tries to roll away and it’s Race in now with no tag. Off to JYD and it’s rolling headbutts time. They look at each other for awhile as Steamboat plays cheerleader. Belly to belly puts JYD down and it’s off to Savage again. He loads up the elbow but stops to yell at Steamboat. Piper shoves Randy into the now legal Steamboat. My goodness I’d love to see Savage and Piper have a feud. Not the kind they had in WCW either.

Off to Adonis and he runs from Piper. Everything breaks down and all six are in there. A double suplex puts Roddy down and Adrian hooks the sleeper on him. That doesn’t last and Piper hooks a sleeper which is broken up just as quickly. JYD is waiting on an opponent now. I know it sounds like I’m skipping a lot but they’re moving in and out of there so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep up with.

Adonis works on the Dog but hits him in the head because heels are stupid. Everyone goes to the floor and Roddy hits Adrian with a chair. Back to some form of sanity as Piper hits a belly to back suplex on Race but Savage breaks up the cover. This has been incredibly fast paced. And there’s a bell. Uh……why? Adonis and JYD were both counted out because they were legal. Ok then.

Piper vs. Race now and make that Piper vs. Savage. Piper blocks a suplex as Gorilla and Slick argue. Savage misses a shot into the ropes but Race prevents the tag. And never mind as he makes it just a second later. Steamboat speeds things up on Race as Slick yells about karate. Everyone gets in again and my goodness is there some talent in there. There isn’t a bad combination at all out there.

Steamboat rolls up Race but Savage reverses it and somehow it gets the pin, after about 15 seconds of Steamboat being down. I don’t think so but whatever. Ok so it’s Piper vs. Race/Savage. Piper of course is all cool with going straight for Race and they go to the floor. Savage tries to hit him with a chair but they get back in and somehow Savage is now legal. Top rope double axe gets two. Powerslam gets two for Race. Piper grabs a gutwrench suplex but Savage makes the save.

Savage goes up but the double axe hits Race, allowing Piper to steal a pin and it’s 1-1. Now THIS should be awesome. And this is how Piper goes out of MSG? This works I’d think. Race won’t leave so Piper throws Savage into him and then bulldogs Randy down. Savage tries to bail but suckers Piper in and gets the first punch in. That weird clothesline Savage does takes Roddy down for two.

They start choking away at each other and this is so awesome. Piper actually shows off his strength and holds Savage up in a choke. They collide and Savage is knocked to the floor. Piper gets up but then lays down and plays possum. Savage goes up for the elbow but Piper moves and a small package ends the Macho Man. TOTALLY AWESOME and vintage Piper.

Rating: A. I had a blast with this. The talent levels out there were completely insane and they gave us twenty minutes of a great match. These matches could work so well if they were done right and this one was, especially when they have the time to put it together. The eliminations were a bit off, but this was probably the first one ever. Great match though and an absolute blast.

Against a bigger name on February 23, 1987.

Paul Orndorff/Harley Race vs. Hulk Hogan/Roddy Piper

These two teaming up together always feels wrong. Big brawl to start until Hogan and Piper clear the ring. The heels come back in so Hogan picks up Piper and uses his feet as a battering ram. Piper vs. Race officially gets us started. Off to Hulk and the place goes manic. They work on Race’s arm and it’s back to Piper for another big pop. Ok make it Hogan http://improvehearingnaturally.com again. You know they work well together for mortal enemies.

They do look at each other with a bit of disdain and a lack of trust but if they didn’t it would be awful. Race headbutts his way out of trouble but still can’t bring Paul in. Back to Hulk and the arm work continues. The place is about to come unglued. Race finally gets in a belly to belly and knee drop to take over. Here’s Orndorff off the top and Piper is in trouble now.

The heels take turns on Piper and it’s off to a chinlock. This place is going to explode when Hogan gets the tag. Suplex keeps Roddy down and it’s off to Paul again. Race hammers away on Piper some more and headbutts him. Roddy stands still and looks like he’s about to fall down when he dives forward for the tag. That looked great. Race looks scared to death and Hogan pounds away. House is cleaned and he drops the leg but Orndorff saves. Heenan gets drilled and heel miscommunication lets Piper pin Race which counts for some reason.

Rating: C+. This is one of those matches where it’s about the atmosphere instead of the match itself. Piper and Hogan teaming together is still a weird sight and I’m not sure how well I like it. Still though, fun little match that blew the roof off MSG (that thing has to be in disrepair given how often it happens) which is the entire idea.

Here’s Race’s most famous WWF match. From Wrestlemania III.

Harley Race vs. Junkyard Dog

The loser has to bow. Uecker is apparently in love with Moolah and bails out of the booth. Race comes out to either Lawler’s music or the song Lawler’s music was remixed from. Dog says that he wants to take over the spot on the throne. Oh and I forgot to mention the ring carts which only appeared here and at Mania 6. Those things were AWESOME. Dog blocks some punches to start and pounds away but Race trips up JYD to give Race control.

Dog comes right back with a headbutt to send Race to the floor before pulling him right back in. Race gets knocked to the floor again and is in big trouble. Back in and Race tries a headbutt and knocks himself silly. A Flair Flip in the corner sends Race to the floor AGAIN but it still doesn’t last long. Back inside Dog hits some headbutts but has to stop to chase off Heenan, allowing Race to hit a belly to belly for the pin.

Rating: D. This wasn’t that good primarily due to time. The majority of the match was spent with Race on the floor which isn’t what you expect from him. Dog was all about personality and crowd response as most of his offense was a bunch of headbutts. Not much to see here but the crowd was into it.

Race was in the opening match from the first Survivor Series in 1987.

Team Honky Tonk Man vs. Team Randy Savage

Honky Tonk Man, Harley Race, Ron Bass, Danny Davis, Hercules

Randy Savage, Jim Duggan, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake

Honky doesn’t have Cool Cocky bad as his theme music yet which is a shame. It’s amazing how great the music got in the late 80s. After the heel entrances, Team Savage says they’re here to settle scores. This was a different time as almost all of the faces were friends by default as were the heels just because they were faces and heels. The feuds going into this are Honky vs. Savage and Race vs. Duggan. Other than that the guys are just random midcarders who are faces or heels on a team, which is a pretty cool idea.

The place erupts for Savage’s entrance. Even Jesse couldn’t deny how great Randy was and was a huge fan in his own right. It was clear they had to do something with him soon, and they certainly did soon enough. In the answer to a trivia question, it’s Beefcake vs. Hercules starting the first Survivor Series match ever. Beefcake struts a bit and not much goes on for the first 20 seconds or so.

Hercules (guess what he’s known for) runs Beefcake over but walks into Barber’s sleeper but he falls into his corner to tag in Davis, one of the lowest lever guys you’ll ever find who somehow wasn’t a jobber. He’s a wrestling referee. Seriously, that’s the extent of his gimmick. He’s a referee who cheated a lot and got fired. Savage and Steamboat (who are apparently fine after wanting to kill each other about eight months ago) take turns on Davis but Steamboat misses a charge and it’s off to Race, the current King of the WWF.

Steamboat chops Race in the head and man alive how amazing would those two be able to be in a long old school program? Steamboat skins the cat (I’ve asked this many times, but is that really the best name they could come up with for that? I mean, skinning a cat?) and sends Race to the floor before bringing in Duggan to pound away on Race, knocking him to the floor. Hacksaw heads out with him and they brawl to a double countout, making it 4-4.

Bass (a standard old school cowboy) comes in to face Roberts but it’s quickly off to Savage. A knee sends Bass into the corner and Savage is starting to roll very fast. Savage immediately goes after Honky due to the really bad blood between the two of them and it’s lets Bass get in a shot. Off to the IC Champion (Honky) who gets in some cheap shots but like any good heel, he tags out when Savage starts coming back.

Bass comes in again but a blind tag brings in Barber (Beefcake for you younguns) who hits a high knee for the elimination. Hercules comes in and the bad guys start working over Beefcake’s arm. Off to Honky with an armbar and then right back to Herc. Wisely they’re keeping that schmuck Danny Davis out of there. I guess he’s there because he works for Jimmy Hart but other than that there’s no logical reason for him to be there.

Beefcake tries to punch his way out of trouble but Honky stays on the arm. To say Honky wasn’t much on offense is an understatement as he barely looks to be cranking on the hold at all. Beefcake fights out of the hold but won’t tag because he’s kind of dumb. Davis adds the only thing he’s going to add the whole match and knees Beefcake in the back so that Honky can hit the Shake Rattle and Roll (swinging neckbreaker) for the pin on Beefcake to tie us up at three.

Off to Savage vs. Hercules with the power guy taking over. Davis comes in and things suddenly go downhill for Honky’s team. Yeah, a referee beating on Randy Savage doesn’t work. Who would have guessed? Honky comes in and gets elbowed in the head which lets Savage tag in Jake to pound away. The comeback doesn’t last long though as Jake charges into a boot in the corner and it’s off to Herc. That goes nowhere so here’s Davis and since his offense sucks (BECAUSE HE’S A REFEREE) Jake shrugs it all off and DDTs him to death, making it 3-2 (Savage/Steamboat/Roberts vs. Hercules/Honky).

Herc comes in and takes Jake down and Savage tries to come in for a save, which just allows the heels to double team Jake. Savage isn’t thinking here because of his anger, almost like…..a savage. Oh you’re very clever WWF. Honky hooks a chinlock and Hercules comes in to do the same. Jake hits a jawbreaker to escape and there’s the hot tag to Steamboat who cleans house with chops.

A top rope chop has Herc reeling and it’s off to Savage for the elbow. It’s just Honky left and Savage explodes on him, only to miss another charge (third one for Savage’s team) and let Honky get in some offense. That lasts all of six seconds as the beating continues. Jake comes in and pounds away on him, followed by Savage dropping a double ax. An atomic drop sends Honky to the floor and he’s like screw this and takes the countout. Can you blame him?

Rating: B. This was a really fun match with a good story to it. The fans HATED Honky and the idea of getting him caught at the end with no one to defend him had the fans going nuts. Honky vs. Savage was a great feud but it never had a blowoff due to a bunch of backstage stuff. Honky would somehow hold the title nine more months before perhaps the greatest end to a title run ever at Summerslam. This was a great choice for a first match ever for the concept too as it showed how the idea worked and gave the fans something to cheer about too. Really good stuff.

Here’s Race in a dream match at SNME XV.

Hulk Hogan vs. Harley Race

HOLY CRAP THEY KEPT IT RIGHT! What I mean by that is Hogan’s shirt is torn both in the interview and in the intro. See, back in the day these interviews might be taped 4 months in advance in multi-hour long sessions. This would result in problems such as titles being different and clothing changing. In his interview, Hogan ripped up his shirt and he came out with a ripped shirt again. Most impressive indeed.

Hogan beats the heck out of Race before the bell rings. Cheater! They start brawling and Race takes over like he should be doing the entire time. It’s sad to see Race having to do this as he was a better worker than Hogan could ever dream of being. This is far closer to a brawl than an actual match which I think was the best choice in this case. Race hits the belly to belly and doesn’t even cover here. Good.

That is a terrible finisher no matter who uses it. This is your run of the mill Hogan match so there you are. What else do you expect here? Hogan is laid on a table and Race dives at him, missing though. The important thing here though is that the table spiked up and went into Race, injuring him and more or less ending his in ring career. The headbutt from the top hits but it’s Hogan in the 80s. What do you think he’s going to do? The usual ends it with what looked a lot like an edit. Heenan comes in and gets beaten up. Oh wait no he doesn’t as he DIVES over the top rope. That looked awesome.

Rating: B-. Pretty solid brawl here but nothing amazing. Race vs. Hogan is something close to a dream match but not from this era. Still though it’s cool to hear names like that announced as opponents given what they mean to the business as a whole. That being said, this was a decent match for Hogan’s standards.

Race also appeared at the second Survivor Series in 1988.

Team Jake Roberts vs. Team Andre the Giant

Jake Roberts, Ken Patera, Jim Duggan, Scott Casey, Tito Santana

Andre the Giant, Rick Rude, Dino Bravo, Mr. Perfect, Harley Race

Casey is a jobber who is here because B. Brian Blair left the company. Blair was on the team because JYD left, so Casey is the third string guy. Rude and Patera start things off. This would be around the time when Gorilla suggested that Patera retire because he wasn’t any good anymore, so you can tell what kind of stuff we’re about to get. Rude gets thrown around a bit and it’s off to Bravo, as Gorilla implies Patera made him retire. Now there’s a trivia answer for….somebody I guess.

Bravo bangs on Patera a bit before it’s off to Perfect (called Curt Hennig as well here) with a double ax off the top. Patera shrugs it off and drags Hennig over to hand him off to Roberts. Jake works on the arm as he was known to do before bringing in Santana. Tito and Hennig have as good of a match as you would expect them to have with Tito getting the better of it, only to miss a charge in the corner. Hennig elbows him down and it’s off to Bravo again. Talk about bringing the talent level down.

Off to Roberts who hits Bravo once and then brings in Casey to really cripple the level. A monkey flip doesn’t work for him and now he gets his first real opponent on PPV: Harley Race. Race beats up Casey like he’s a grizzled veteran who is here because his investment went south and he’s working for the guy who caused him to lose all his money and is now beating up some jobber who got a spot on a major show because there was no one else available.

Rude comes in again and it’s time for everyone to get their shots in on Casey. This has to be some kind of initiation or something. Hennig headbutts him and hurts himself in the process. Back to Tito as the match gets a lot better all of a sudden. Did I mention I really like Santana? Patera helps with a double elbow to Perfect and it’s off to Duggan to fire up the crowd again. Hennig tries various things to Duggan’s head which don’t work at all. See, when Duggan does it he follows up. When Casey does it, he doesn’t do anything. One is a legend, the other is never heard of again.

Off to Casey again for some contractually obligated reason more than likely and he’s immediately drilled by Rude which makes my day better. Casey misses a charge and it’s off to Tito with a cross body. Duggan beats up Hennig as well but he misses an elbow. Duggan and Henig hit heads and it’s off to Rude vs. Patera. Patera throws Rude around but misses a charge and gets Awakened for the first elimination.

Casey tries to come in and jump Rude, only to be sent into the heel corner and beaten up even worse than before. Off to Race who hits a good old man dropkick before bringing Bravo back in. Side slam hits and it’s 5-3. See you later Casey, have fun training that Booker T guy. It’s back to the bread and butter of this match with Perfect vs. Tito…the latter of whom immediately tags out and brings Duggan back in. Ok then.

Hennig kicks Duggan in the face which he sells for some reason, but the punches that follow aren’t sold and Duggan gets all fired up. Duggan, ever the lunkhead though, gets fired up near Andre who chokes him down immediately. Back to Hennig for a second and then Rude comes in for his offensive contribution. Duggan finally clotheslines Rick down and it’s a double tag for Tito and Race.

Since Race is a genius, he moves aside of a charging Tito and slams Tito’s head into Andre’s. Well that’s one thing he’s good for. Dino comes in again but misses a charge into the corner and gets sunset flipped for two. Back to Race for the piledriver for two and he whips Tito in, only to get forearmed out of nowhere for the quick elimination, making it 4-3. Andre climbs in, grabs Tito, chokes him a bit and sits on his chest. For reasons that no one could figure out, Tito tries a freaking sunset flip. Pain immediately comes to his chest and Andre makes it 4-2 (Andre, Dino, Rude, Hennig vs. Duggan and Roberts).

Duggan comes in and clotheslines Andre into the ropes, where he and Jake both get in some open shots on the Giant. Jake chokes away but Andre gets his arms free. Andre, being a smart giant, tags out after getting beaten up that badly and brings in Rude. Rude whips Jake into the buckle a few times as we hear about the Cheryl Roberts story. Off to Hennig with some chops and Andre kicks a bit from the apron because that’s what evil giants do.

Hennig slingshots Duggan throat first into the bottom rope so Andre can choke a bit more. Off to Bravo who gets beaten on by a suddenly fired up Roberts. The short clothesline looks to set up the DDT but Rude leans in to break it up. Rick comes in legally now and stomps away like he’s still in Memphis, which means very slowly with a lot of playing to the crowd in between.

Dino piledrives Jake for two but an elbow drop misses and here’s Hacksaw again. Duggan sends him into the corner and literally throws him out before clotheslining him down. The Three Point Clothesline is loaded up but Frenchy Martin, Bravo’s manager, hooks Duggan’s foot. Bravo slams Duggan on the floor so Duggan hits Bravo with the 2×4 for the DQ, leaving Roberts alone 3-1. Bravo manages to get a tag to Hennig before Jake can pin him so Roberts punches Perfect instead.

The DDT is loaded up but Perfect makes the corner and it’s off to Dino again. Jake, likely drunk, tries a test of strength with a guy billed as the world’s strongest man. When that doesn’t work Jake tries another DDT but is backdropped this time instead. Back to Rude and Jake heads to the floor to think. Well he is considered a master of psychology so thinking is what he does. That and cocaine.

Back in and Rude takes over again, hitting a gutbuster on the Snake. Would that even hurt a snake? Off to a bearhug but Jake quickly thumbs him in the eye. Rude hits a top rope punch and swivels the hips a bit, only to have his tights pulled down and DDTed for the elimination. Andre comes in and hammers Jake before choking him in the corner….for a DQ. It’s two on one which means nothing as Hennig immediately covers Jake for the pin and the final elimination.

Rating: C-. The lower half of this match being pretty weak really hurts it. Other than Jake, Andre and Duggan, at this point most of these guys didn’t mean much. Rude was on his way up but he was still a glorified midcard guy here. Just not a very interesting match and it definitely didn’t need to go half an hour.

Race would be injured in a match against Hulk Hogan, mostly ending his career. Here he is on fumes at the 1989 Royal Rumble.

King Haku vs. Harley Race

Race was King (a former title) but got hurt and the crown went to Haku. This is his chance to get it back in a one time only return to the ring. Harley shoves over Haku’s throne to start and the brawl is on. Back in and Race pounds away before suplexing Haku down for two. Heenan manages both guys here but Race is kind of the face by default.

They head to the floor again with Race being sent into the post and chopped a few times. Haku sends him back to the floor after a few seconds in the ring as we stall for a few moments. More chops have Race in trouble as Jesse talks about Hogan injuring Race, which is only kind of true (Hogan was in the match when Race was injured). Race no sells a headbutt and gets two off a piledriver. They collide again and Race falls to the floor as Heenan plays both sides, saying he’s for both guys when the other is out of earshot.

Back in and Race punches some more before getting two off a suplex. Haku gets sent to the floor again as it’s pretty clear there’s not much to this match. Race tries to piledrive Haku on the floor but gets backdropped as is the usual result for that move. A second attempt at a piledriver works for Race but not incredibly well. Back in and a clothesline puts Haku down for two but Haku comes back and misses a top rope headbutt. Race misses a headbutt of his own and charges into the superkick from Haku (looked great too) for the pin to keep the crown in Tonga or wherever he’s from.

Rating: D+. This wasn’t terrible and the ending kick looked awesome, but other than that there wasn’t much to see here. Race was clearly old and banged up and he didn’t have a lot to work with in Haku. The crown was mostly a minor title that was only somewhat official anyway but this was a nice rub for Haku. Nothing to see here, but no one cares about anything but the Rumble tonight anyway.

Here’s his last big time match at Great American Bash 1990.

Harley Race vs. Tommy Rich

After this I’m pretty sure we get to the real part of the show. Race is in a singlet which I’ve never seen him wear before. Rich runs him over a few times and avoids an elbow. Off to a headlock and Race’s arm is rammed into the post. Race comes back with a piledriver which knocks Rich to the ramp. Rich gets suplexed out there as Race takes over.

Tommy comes back, knocking Race over the top and sending his head into the apron in the process. A middle rope elbow gets two. There’s a belly to belly from Race followed by a swinging neckbreaker. Rich comes back and tries a slam and they tumble to the floor. Back in, Rich tries a top rope cross body but Race rolls through for the surprise pin.

Rating: D. The match was boring and again I have no idea why it exists. We’re 45 minutes into a roughly three hour show and the best match has been a long Brian Pillman vs. Buddy Landell match. What’s the point of these things anyway? Wouldn’t they be better suited spaced out a bit? Unless they hope they’re having the best final two thirds ever, I really don’t understand this.

Harley Race is one of the wrestlers on almost everyone’s short lists for the greatest of all time. He’s been called one of the toughest men to ever set foot in a ring and it’s easy to see that holding up. Race is as perfect of a wrestler as you’ll ever find and is in the running for best ever. Not many people can say that but Harley Race can. One of the best ever, bar none.

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1 comment

  1. whosnext98 says:

    I’ll give you a headsup on the WCW reference in the first match: Jim Barnett’s had a promotion in Australia in the ’70s that was named World Championship Wrestling. When he took over the Georgia territory he named his TBS Saturday TV show World Championship Wrestling and the name stuck when JCP took over the timeslot in the mid ’80s. After Ted Turner purchased JCP he renamed the promotion after the TV show.