Larry Hennig Death – Kidney Failure
1936-2018 (Age 82)
Larry “The Ax” Hennig was as destructive and as durable as his namesake, using his size and power to chop down anyone who stepped into his path.
Typically weighing around 300 pounds, Hennig was nonetheless surprisingly mobile in the ring, and his ability to take bumps made opponents look like a million dollars if they knocked him off his feet.
The Mighty Minnesotan
The Minnesota native was born on June 18, 1936, and he would call Minnesota his home for much of his life. Hennig won the Minnesota State High School Wrestling Championship and received a wrestling and football scholarship from the University of Minnesota.
Although he turned down the scholarship to take care of his new family, a future in the pro ranks wasn’t far off. Hennig began competing for Verne Gagne’s AWA, winning the AWA World Tag Team Champion with Duke Hoffman.
“Pretty Boy” Larry and “Handsome” Harley: Don’t Let the Names Fool You
A subsequent tour in Texas followed where Hennig met Harley Race, the two eventually forming an iconic team.
While Harley Race is world-renowned for his eight NWA World Heavyweight Championships, long-time fans will forever remember his team with Larry Hennig. “Pretty Boy” Larry Hennig and “Handsome” Harley Race formed a blockbuster combo, holding the AWA World Tag Team Championship four separate times.
The Race/Hennig team was still a force to be reckoned with, even as Race and Hennig’s careers began to slow down. The two reunited on occasion, including a 1981 tour of All Japan Pro Wrestling.
According to The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams, a knee injury to Hennig split the team up, with “Handsome” Harley becoming one of the greatest singles wrestlers of all time.
Although “The Ax” had a solid singles run, his refusal to leave the Minnesota area for any length of time is believed to have kept him from becoming a world champion.
Despite this, Hennig proved to be box office gold, whether he worked as a heel or a babyface. For instance, Hennig main evented in the WWWF, challenging Bruno Sammartino and later, Pedro Morales for the WWWF Championship.
Larry’s Son Enters the Squared Circle
Larry helped his son Curt Hennig break into the industry, teaming with him as Curt’s skills slowly progressed. The team would face a variety of top AWA tandems including Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens and the Road Warriors (Hawk and Animal).
“The Ax” saw his son Curt become a world champion in the AWA and achieve success in the WWF as “Mr. Perfect.” His grandson Joe would wrestle in the WWE as Curtis Axel.
Upon his grandfather’s passing, Joe wrote:
“No one has had a bigger impact on my wrestlin career than my Papa Axe. He’s been my biggest supporter since day one! Another father when I lost mine.”
Joe Hennig has three sons which means fans may see a fourth generation of Hennig’s wrestling.
Life After Wrestling
In addition to wrestling, “The Ax” was an avid snowmobiler racer and operated a real estate business with his wife.
The Death of Larry Hennig
What are your favorite memories of Larry “The Ax” Hennig? Let us know in the comments below.
Other pro wrestlers who died in 2018 include Big Bully Busick, Brian Christopher Lawler, Brickhouse Brown, Bruno Sammartino, Dick Slater, Dynamite Kid, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Johnny Valiant, Jose Lothario, Masa Saito, Matt Cappotelli, Nikolai Volkoff, Paul Jones, Rockin’ Rebel, and Vader.