WWE Hall of Famer and nine-time World Champion Harley Race died on August 1st at the age of 76. Race was one of the landmark figures in the NWA and is just one of six people to be inducted in the Hall of Fames for WWE, NWA, Pro Wrestling and Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
In 2015, Race spoke with Wrestling Inc. President Raj Giri and the audio will be released for the first time on today's episode of our WINCLY podcast.
Race is best known for his feuds with the likes of Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair, the latter of which he wrestled at Starrcade '83. Race was asked if it was true that Vince McMahon tried to sign him to WWE and not show up to Starrcade.
"He was asking me about coming up there, and trying to avoid that part of it. I had been involved in wrestling for a long time and the NWA World Title was what I had my heart and mind set on doing since day one," stated Race. "I wasn't going to get involved with Vince until I was through with the NWA side. That's what I wanted to do, and that's what I did."
Race did eventually go to WWE, despite there being a story of Race confronting a young Hulk Hogan with a gun at a house show. When Race was asked about the story, he opted to discuss his feelings of Hogan at the time.
"You run into people that invent that they can do a 'better than you' type of thing," stated Race. "I knew that if I really put my mind to it, I could beat Hulk Hogan."
He then detailed why he left for the WWE after being with the NWA for 14 years.
"Once [NWA President] Sam Mushnick was out of it. He was losing his capabilities to be who he was and do what he was doing. Without him being the head of the NWA, I think everyone knew it wasn't going to be long before it was over. I started looking for the opportunity to go in with Vince, and when it arrived I took it and ran with it," said Race.
Soon after joining WWE, Race won the King of the Ring tournament and started referring to himself as "King" Harley Race. This was done to recognize Race's past accomplishments in NWA without explicitly stating them. Race was asked if the King gimmick was a Vince McMahon idea.
"Pretty much," replied Race. "Being a King was the next step past being the champion that I was. They just ordered that being the King would override being the 8-time world champion."
Race also detailed his reaction to being presented with the "King" gimmick.
"Once I got there and realized that [McMahon] had a hell of an organization, I was going to their worldwide thing and that I'd made the right decision," said Race.
The then-WWF style of wrestling was a bit different than what Race did in the NWA. He was asked if he enjoyed this style as ordered by Vince McMahon.
"I didn't work a whole heck of a lot different," stated Race. "When you get down to it, wrestling is wrestling, and when you get in the ring and start performing it's up to you and the guy you're in there with to do it and perform it."
Race was in his mid-40s when he joined WWE and pro wrestling is a young man's game. He said his age played a factor when asked why he left WWE in 1989.
"Time and stuff was starting to catch up with me. I started wrestling when I was 15 years old, and back when I was world champion, I was wrestling seven nights a week. I would have a complete week off every four weeks. With Vince, there was no time period off, just every day," revealed Race.
The WWE was going through its national expansion during the 1980s and Race described what it was like working for them and Vince McMahon back then.
"Back then it was pretty tough, because he was in the process of trying to take wrestling over on a worldwide basis," said Race. "The only place he wasn't was Japan or China, because he had nobody who spoke those languages, and you had to have somebody who did to be able to get in there and to that to help take it over. "
Our full 2015 interview will be included in today's episode of the WINCLY podcast on Wrestling Inc. audio. Subscribe to Wrestling Inc. Audio on iTunes or Google Play. Listen to the show via Spotify here or through TuneIn here.