Leland Race Talks Being Harley's Son, Hiding His Identity, If NXT Is An Option, WLW

I recently spoke with World League Wrestling Heavyweight Champion Leland Race, the son of pro wrestling legend Harley Race. We discussed his career, growing up the son of a legend, World League Wrestling and next week's WLW training camp. This training opportunity has over 60 people attending from across the globe to learn from some of the best wrestlers and trainers today. Trainers include wrestlers from New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Naomichi Marufuji from Pro-Wrestling NOAH (sister company of WLW), Dr. Tom Prichard (former head-trainer of WWE developmental territory), and special guest Ric Flair. After the week-long camp in Troy, Missouri, "Night Of Champions" will be held at the Troy Buchanan High School Gymnasium in Troy with Flair and Harley Race reuniting at the show.


You can get more information about the show and the camp at HarleyRace.com. Below is my full interview with Race.

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How is is everything going ahead of the training camp next week?

"It's going great. It's an exciting time for professional wrestling, especially for the company that my dad runs, World League Wrestling. We're about to pick up some major steam over the next week or so. He has me running around like a chicken with my head cut off."

How old are you? I know you've been in the business for a little bit, but you seem younger.

"I'm 31. Started in the business at 18 years old right out of high school. Put myself through college and did the training at the same time. I've been doing it pretty much almost thirteen years."


What was it like growing up the son of Harley Race?

"It's definitely not like any other father-son relationship, because 90 percent of the people go to work, come home that night, and repeat process. There's nothing wrong with that and people have to go out and earn an honest living. That is the way society works, but that's not the way my family works. My dad was gone 8 days a week at the very least. Sometimes it seemed like he'd be gone longer if he were overseas or in Japan or something like that. The time I got to spend with him wasn't every day, but I did cherish the time we spent together. Now that he's retired from active competition, I'm running his office here and being the trainer at his academy, and trying to get out there and wrestle as much as I can so I can live up to a portion of what his reputation is."

Are your early memories of your dad his WWF run, or do you remember his stuff with NWA?

"A little bit of the NWA run. I was fresh off the heels of him wrestling at Starrcade. My brain doesn't work that great today, let alone that long ago. I do remember some stuff. The majority of the time I spent around him in the wrestling business he was on the road, or here in the office running World League Wrestling."


Were you a fan of wrestling growing up?

"Truth be told, he didn't want me involved in this. He didn't push me in this direction. I didn't know what was going on at first, then I picked up things and figured out what he was doing. When I was about ten years old, I started getting into the fact that not only was my dad a professional wrestler, but he was one of the best period of all-time."

Was your dad protective of kayfabe around you, or was he open about the business being a work?

"He kind of kept it off to the kayfabe side. I don't know if people nowadays even know what that is. I'm sure you can read about it on the internet, but what you read versus what it was are two totally different things. I was really young at that point of time, I had school and he wasn't going to pull me out just to do a show. When I was out for the summer I got to go to some shows with him here and there towards the WCW days when he was managing Vader, Lex Luger, and all of those guys. Now we're at the point where he's running World League Wrestling, a smaller independent promotion to keep him involved in professional wrestling. That's what he's done since he was 15 years old, and to provide for us and put a roof over his head, my head, to live a life that is acceptable by his standards."


When did you start really paying attention to the business?

"When I was about 10 or 11 years old. Television was just getting ready to take off. I know it sounds strange, but I was a huge fan of comic books, and when you see the characters of the mid-to-late 90's, Rey Mysterio was one of my favorite. He was so awe-inspiring to me, every time I watched him it made me attached and the overall love just grew from that point from a fan standpoint. Then I'd get the chance to meet some of the guys when my dad would take me to shows."

What were you mostly a fan of when wrestling exploded during that period?

"WCW. Not knocking the Attitude Era, there was good stuff, I was more into WCW for myself. They put on more wrestling and less talking. Then they did a 180 because they were trying to compete with Vince, and that's what got them. The early-to-mid 90s, WCW was my choice. I'm not knocking WWE because they did what they did and they have a global following. They know what they're doing. A lot of the guys I watch today are extremely good."

At what point did you decide wrestling was something you wanted to get into?

"10 or 11 years old. I knew that what I wanted to do. There was no doubt in my mind or second option. My dad told me if I wanted to get into professional wrestling, he would support it. He didn't push me into it at all. He said that I was going to go to college, so that if I didn't want to do it, I'd have something to fall back on."


When did you graduate?

"I started training at 18 straight out of high school. From there I talked to my dad and said it was my choice and what I wanted to do. He said 'if this is your choice and what you want to do, then do it. I just don't want you starting out here in Kansas City. I'm going to get ahold of somebody and see if he can train you.' The guy's name was George South, and the guy was extremely good to me. I can't say enough good things about him. I went out there in March 2003, and lived out there for five years. I was wrestling almost every weekend, every opportunity I could get. While I did that, I put myself through college and followed my dad's requirements to becoming a professional wrestler. After I graduated, I wrestled for another 2-3 years there. I moved down to Deep South Wrestling outside of Atlanta, because at the time they were a WWE developmental territory. I got all my stuff moved in down there, and a month later they shut down. I got my stuff all packed up again and moved to Missouri because my dad said 'enough is enough, let's get you here so I can finish off what I'm trying to teach you.' That's what I've been doing for the past seven years out here now. Not only have I been wrestling, but I've been trying to learn the business side of wrestling. Both my dad and Dr. Tom Prichard, and one of the most important things they taught me was that if you want to be a success in professional wrestling, you have to be able to do everything. Printing the tickets, the flyers, trying to promote the show, in addition to being the best wrestler you can possibly be. I'll never forget that, I'll take that to the grave with me. Learning the business side is much more difficult than in the ring."


I think we're seeing that ring true because of the lack of a true number two promotion. I speak to some second and third generation wrestlers who say it's easier to get your foot in the door, but it's harder to succeed because the expectations are greater. Is that something you've seen?

"Yeah. Look at the guys who are second and third generation wrestlers. A lot of the guys who are in the business, their fathers or mothers were great professional wrestlers. Look at Ted Dibiase Jr. His father, grandfather was a professional wrestler. Joe Hennig, too. Ricky Steamboat Jr, obviously his dad was one of the ultimate good guys in professional wrestling. The list goes on and on. It is harder, because as you said, a normal wrestler has enough trouble trying to get in, and we have shoes we have to fill. People will never understand that unless they're in that position. It is harder because you have expectations right off the bat."

I know you use your real name now, but you used another name, Jason Jones. Which did you use starting out?

"It was Jason Jones. One of the things myself and my dad talked about was if I was going to be a professional wrestler, then I needed to prove to the world that I didn't need the Race name attached to me. We wanted to make sure I could go out there and stand on my own two feet. He didn't want it exposed that Harley Race's son was about to come up through the ranks."


So the fans didn't know you were Harley Race's son?

"Correct. There were only two people that knew, that was my dad and George South."

The other wrestlers didn't know?

"No. One of the things my dad instilled in me was that he told George, he was going to train me, and that's it. Not taking anything away from guys who have shoes that are too big to fill, Hennigs, Dibiases, and guys like that. Those guys are really good wrestlers. When you have the shoes to fill of Harley Race, it's a lot. NWA World Heavyweight champion and to many people, the greatest wrestler ever. He takes his career and what he did for his living and life seriously, because that is what he did. He doesn't want his reputation to be tarnished. I understand that and I'm going to give it everything that I can."

When did you start telling people you were Harley's son, and made you switch to your real name?

"It was about two years ago. It came to a point where I told my dad I'm ready to go on and to do this for a living and make this my life. Even back then it was my life. I was working two other jobs, as well as trying to be involved in professional wrestling, and help dad keep this company up and running. I was ready for it to consume everything I did, but even then I was eating, breathing, sleeping professional wrestling. I told my dad and he said the next step was to let people know that another Race is coming through the ranks, and is going to show that the legacy of Harley Race isn't just a one-time deal, that I'd carry on his legacy."


You're the current WLW champion. Tell people who aren't familiar with WLW about it and the school.

"World League Wrestling was started back in 1999 by my dad, Harley Race, because he wanted to stay involved in the professional wrestling business. At 15 years old he started in Missouri driving a guy around who averaged 700 pounds named Happy Humphrey. This is at the point of wrestling where it was actually at the carnivals. This guy needed a driver to take him around from town to town. That's how his career started, and he just wanted to keep that going as professional wrestling being a part of his life, and that happened in the fashion of World League Wrestling. The main thing we try to instill at every show is a little bit of talk and a lot of action. The motto of this company is "shut up and wrestle." Every single show we give 110 percent effort. We just try to keep an alternative for them, we know we're not an extremely large company, and that's perfectly fine with us. We're extremely happy it's still alive, because not a lot of companies have lasted as long as WLW has. In addition to WLW, my dad has the Harley Race Wrestling Academy, we accept trainees from all over the world. Right now we have a guy and a girl from Rome, Italy. They're here for the next two and a half months or so. We have affiliations with New Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling NOAH, as well as WWE because of the close ties my dad has with the company."


The camp next week is for the full week, right?

"That's correct. It runs from August 24-28. It's going to be one of the most star studded trainings that a pro wrestler could ever want. Monday through part of Wednesday we'll have NJPW representatives including Gedo and Hirooki Goto. Also we have Marufuji from Pro Wrestling NOAH. On top of that we have Dr. Tom Prichard Wednesday and Thursday. On top of that, we have the legendary 16-time world champion Ric Flair. On the 29th we have the cap-off show that is going to feature talent from the camp, so you could have a chance to perform at a show that we'll have over 750 people attending. Harley Race and Ric Flair will be in Troy, Michigan at the Troy Buchanan High School Gym, and we're going to sell out."

How can people register?

"You can go to HarleyRace.com, and there's a lot of information in there. Towards the bottom of the page is a link to the camp page, and you can sign up online. You can't sign up on a mobile device, you need a desktop or a laptop. As of right now we only have two or three spots left."

Have you thought about attending an NXT tryout camp, or is that not something that interests you at this time?

"If there was an opportunity, I'm sure I would take it. I'm definitely looking to move forward, not only to carry my name, but to carry on my dad's name on a global basis. I'm going to be going a whole lot of different places over the next three months. It's really starting to pick up, and some people look at second and third generation wrestlers and say we try to live off of our dad's names, but as we discussed a few minutes ago, I used a completely different name for ten years, so I can go out and back up everything I say. As far as a bigger opportunity, who's to say what can happen? Right now, I'm extremely happy with the way things are going, and it can only go up from here."