Ron Fuller’s Studcast – Riding Harley Race
Release Date: 12/12/18
Running time: 1:04
Recap by: Joe Aguinaldo
- On today’s podcast Ron talks about the beginning of 1974
- It’s one of the most important years for him as a wrestler
- He’ll be wrestling some of the greats all over the country and near the end he makes the decision to become a promoter
- His first match in 1974 is a win against Dan Carson on January 2nd. The next day he wins a Battle Royal
- 2 days later he’s in St Louis to wrestle Blackjack Lanza
- Lanza born 1935. During his career, he was 6’2”, 245 lbs. He began wrestling for the AWA and won the AWA Tag Team Titles with Bobby Duncan and managed by Bobby Heenan.
- Lanza goes to WWWF and teams with Blackjack Mulligan as the Blackjacks. They win the WWWF championship
- In a prior match with Lanza, Ron wrestles him to a double DQ so they come back with a death match. This was unusual as Sam Muchnik didn’t book death matches.
- A month prior, Ron had suggested the idea to Pat O’Connor and took a chance to see what would happen.
- It was a long match but finally Ron got the Fuller leg lock and Lanza was unable to get to his feet.
- This is perfect because Ron is going back to St Louis to wrestle Harley Race.
- Pat O’Connor had a lot of trust in Ron and was listening to his ideas at this time.
The Fuller Leg Lock
- Ron used the Fuller leg lock early on his career but later on got away from it.
- He used it in big time events. One night while wrestling Flair for the NWA title he had it on Flair but Bob Armstrong turned on him causing a DQ.
Around The Territories
- In the beginning of 1974 Ron’s schedule was crazy. He was not getting booked in Florida during this period and only wrestled 10 times in that territory.
- Big changes are happening in the Florida and Georgia territories. Watts is coming to book Florida and Jerry Jarrett is going to book Georgia.
- At this point Ann Gunkel is starting to lose some ground in the Georgia wrestling wars.
- Later on in the year, Watts is going to turn Dusty Rhodes babyface, which results in the biggest year in Florida at the box office.
- Jim Barnett comes back from Australia to take over the Georgia territory from Lester Welch.
Mr. Wrestling 2
- On January 11th, Ron defends the Georgia championship against Mr Wrestling 2.
- Ron had worked with Johnny Walker pre mask but this is the first time he’s wrestled Johnny with the mask and he noticed Johnny wrestled differently with the mask on.
- Wrestling 2 is a heel but becomes a superstar when they turn him face which results in big business for Georgia.
- Ron wrestled once with a mask as the Tennessee stud which rejuvenated his career.
- Ron and wrestling 2 have a great match and go almost an hour.
- Wrestling 2 beats Ron using a foreign object and they used a similar finish to the Watts/Fuller match when Fuller won the belt.
- Wrestling 2 goes on to be arguably the greatest Georgia champion.
- Ron was happy not having to go to Atlanta. It was one less territory for him to travel to.
- After the Lanza death match, Ron goes back to St. Louis to wrestle Harley Race.
- Even though Race is a heel, Race is a hometown wrestler.
- This is Ron’s fourth shot at the world title two against Dory Funk Jr. and a previous match with Harley.
- At this point he has also wrestled three former world champions, Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski and Pat O’Connor at 25 years old and three years in the business.
- All NWA champs had different styles. Lou Thesz’s style was solid wrestling. He was a chain wrestler who liked to exchange holds. He was smooth and had skill.
- Gene Kiniski could wrestle a little but was strong and would pound you.
- Ron felt Harley was the best that ever lived. His life and history was amazing and not just in the ring but what happened in his life. Ron as well as others loved Harley. He may not be a Lou Thesz in terms of wrestling but was tough. He had more guts and intestinal fortitude than anyone. He never stopped and you couldn’t hurt him.
- Ron and Harley had a decent relationship. In the beginning Ron didn’t spend a lot of time with him because Ron was babyface and Harley was heel.
- Ron wished he was a heel so he could spend time with Harley on the road.
- Harley was born in 1943 and was very poor. His parents were sharecroppers.
- Harley had polio as a child. It was one of the worst diseases back then but he beat it. He also got cancer but beat that too.
- As a young teenager, he was a big kid. During a fight at high school, the principle tried to break up the fight by kneeing Harley in the back of the head. Harley got mad and went after the principal to the point where others had to pull Harley off the principal. This got him kicked out of school.
- There were two famers who were former wrestlers, Stanislaus and Wladek Zbyszko who were former world champions. They like Harley and his toughness so they start training him. At the time, Harley didn’t know anything about wrestling.
- During his training, they would stretch him and later would introduce him to wrestling promoter Gust Karras. At the time he was 17 years old but the Zbyszkos said he was ready.
- When you’re young like that and dealing with men, it’s difficult to gain respect.
- After working with Karras in Missouri, Harley actually worked for Roy Welch, Ron’s grandfather.
- When he got to that territory, they changed Harley’s name to Jack Long. At the time, they had a star named John Long and paired him with Harley. Harley was very respectful of them giving him an opportunity to tag with a veteran that could teach him. In that territory, Harley won his first championship, the Southern Tag Team Championship at 18 years old.
- Harley stayed in Nashville for awhile and married a Nashville girl. About five weeks after marrying, he got an opportunity to work at his hometown in St. Joe. While driving he and his wife get into a terrible car accident that was so bad both were pronounced dead at the scene. They were loaded into an ambulance to drive them to the morgue but while in the ambulance, Harley started to move and they realized he wasn’t dead.
- One of Harley’s legs was badly hurt. It was so injured they wanted to amputate his leg but he was unconscious for several days. He also had a bad forearm injury and they put a metal rod in his arm while he was unconscious.
- Gust Karras was able to track down where Harley was and as they were getting ready to amputate his leg, Gust wouldn’t let them. They ended up operating on him and the doctors told Harley he was never going to walk again much less wrestle. But, Harley went through grueling physical therapy and made a full recovery 2 years later. The doctor who operated on him sat at ringside when Harley returned to the ring.
- By the time Harley’s career was near an end, his body was pretty beat up. Harley had hip and knee replacements, multiple abdominal surgeries, fused vertebrae and the metal rod in his forearm from the car accident.
- In 2017, at the age of 74, he has a fall at home and breaks both of his legs. His left leg was shattered in several places and they had to give him 4 blood transfusions during surgery. They had to knock him out in order to get him to the hospital because he didn’t want to go. This just shows how tough he was.
- In 1973, Harley won the NWA championship for the first time from Dory Funk Jr. in Kansas City. He loses the belt later on that year to Jack Brisco. He regains the title in 1977 from Terry Funk and holds the title for almost 5 years. He loses it in three short reigns to Dusty Rhodes, Giant Baba and Tommy Rich. However, he gains the title back from those three within days after losing it.
- Harley also won a number of regional championships as well as titles in Japan. He held the NWA championship 8 times and is only one of 6 wrestlers in history to be inducted into the NWA, WWE, Professional Wrestling and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Halls Of Fame
Ron vs. Harley
- When Harley became champion, Ron would tell the guys they would be riding Harley Race for awhile because the NWA’s success depended on the champion.
- Ron wrestled Harley 8 times in his career. This particular match was the fourth.
- They never worked the same match during their series of matches. You never knew what to expect when you got into the ring with Harley.
- Harley could do it all, he could wrestle, sell, make great comebacks, do a broadway and most importantly make you look great.
- Before the match, Ron was becoming a star in St. Louis but after this match, Ron became a star in St. Louis.
- Ron thinks the NWA could have been successful with a babyface champion. If you went back to the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, it was easier because they mostly did wrestling
- Over time however, the style became less wrestling and more brawling.
- In 1977, Ron had a championship match with Harley. Ron Wright came to ringside saying Fuller didn’t deserve the match. Fuller got out of the ring and went after Wright legitimately breaking his finger in the process. Fuller popped it back into place as good as he could. He worked that whole match with a broken finger. It was a tremendous match and helped build the territory
- After the match, Ron went back to the dressing room and straightened up a little more but never went to the hospital.
- Ron went to the guy who handled the box office and asked for Harley’s payoff. Ron went to the heel dressing room and talked a little about the match. Harley knew Ron had broken his finger and was impressed at how good the match was. Ron wanted to pay Harley personally and paid him $2,000 for the match.
- After Ron paid Harley, Harley told him he would work for Ron anytime he possibly could.
- Afterwards, Ron made it a habit to personally pay any NWA champion that wrestled in his territory.
- Ron says it was difficult to wrestle a match with a broken finger. Everything he did that night, he based it off that injury. He thinks they could have had a better match if it hadn’t been for that injury.
- That night, they had a fantastic audience and a great night for Ron. For years after that match, fans would come up to him saying that was the best match they had ever seen.
On next week’s podcast, Ron will be talking about his first experience with Bobo Brazil, Stan Vachon and Tex McKenzie. Ron also has another match with Harley Race and they’ll be laying the groundwork for the biggest angle in Florida history when they turn Dusty Rhodes babyface.
Rating – 8.5/10
As a very amateur wrestling history geek, I absolutely loved this podcast (it was my Recommend Of The Week on The Pull Apart Podcast). I love learning about the history of the business and this one had a ton of it. The fact Ron wrestled Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski, Pat O’Connor, Dory Funk Jr. and Harley Race by the time he was 25 is incredible. I’ve heard a bunch of Harley Race stories on Austin’s and Flair’s podcasts but those were the road stories. Ron told about Race’s upbringing and talked about wrestling an actual match with him which is something you don’t always hear about. I cannot recommend this podcast enough especially if you are into the old territory days or a Harley Race fan. Definite recommend!
Joe is a long time wrestling fan from Toronto. He is a co-host on the Pull Apart Podcast with Jeff Rush and Caitlin Lavelle as well as a contributor to www.pwpodcasts.com. One of his life goals is to be a guest host on one of Wade Keller’s post-show podcasts. He doesn’t consider himself any sort of expert, he just likes wrestling. Check him out on Twitter and Instagram @ja113.