It's a royally sad day in the world of wrestling: Harley Race, better known as the "King of the Ring," has died. The 76-year-old World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer, who won the National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship eight times, died of complications from lung cancer, the WWE said in a statement. "The tough-as-nails Race was so universally respected that WWE, despite having seceded from the NWA and having its own World Heavyweight Champion, chose to recognize Race's title status as well," the WWE said. Race, who called himself "the greatest wrestler on God's green earth" and competed under nicknames including "Mad Dog" and "Handsome Harley" in the '70s and early '80s, donned his signature purple robe and crown after switching to the WWE from the NWA and winning the King of the Ring tournament.
Race, the son of sharecroppers, was born in Quitman, Mo., in 1943 and started wrestling at carnivals when he was 15, the Washington Post reports. He almost lost a leg in a 1960 car accident that killed his pregnant wife, Vivian Jones. Doctors told him he wouldn't walk again, according to autobiography King of the Ring: The Harley Race Story, but he was back in the ring just 18 months later. After another car accident ended his career in 1995, he founded World League Wrestling and started his own wrestling academy in Troy, Mo., reports CNN. Today, "we lost the man that fought up until the very last of his existence," his son, Jason, posted on his Twitter account. "More information will be released soon, but just know that he loved pro wrestling and the fans that loved him. Harley Race, we love you." (Read more wrestling stories.)