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Larry 'The Axe' Hennig passes away at 82

Larry Hennig, the father of Curt Hennig and one of the biggest stars in the history of the AWA, passed away earlier today at the age of 82.

Hennig attended Robbindale High School in Minneapolis, the alma mater of Verne Gagne. He was the state heavyweight wrestling champion in high school, and Gagne recruited him into pro wrestling when Hennig had turned down college football and wrestling offers because he already had his first child and had to work to earn money to support a wife and family.

He wrestled in the Midwest most of his career, and eventually was brought into the AWA in 1960 as Gagne's protege. He briefly held the AWA tag team titles with Duke Hoffman, but in 1963, he became a heel, "Pretty Boy" Larry Hennig, forming a tag team with "Handsome" Harley Race, which helped carry the territory for several years, working against all the top area babyfaces. Hennig & Race, taunted as The Dolly Sisters, had one of the biggest feuds in AWA history with Dick the Bruiser & The Crusher, which was really the feud that made Bruiser & Crusher tag team legends.

Hennig & Race were the top heel team in the AWA from 1963 to 1968, and held the tag team titles three times. They were considered among the top tag teams in the world during that period.

Hennig & Race teamed in other parts of the world, including Australia, which was the hottest wrestling market in the world, as IWA tag team champions.

After missing several months due to a knee injury from a match with Johnny Powers, an injury that would plague him the rest of his life, Hennig returned. Eventually Race returned home to Kansas City, where he became that circuit's biggest star. Hennig formed a tag team with "Luscious" Lars Anderson, a former college wrestling star whose real name was Larry Heineimi. They were the No. 2 heel team in the AWA, first behind Mad Dog & Butcher Vachon, and then behind Ray Stevens & Nick Bockwinkel. After Anderson left, Hennig formed a tag team with Dusty Rhodes, which broke up when Dick Murdoch came to the AWA and started teaming with Rhodes.

He had a singles run in WWWF, working against champions Pedro Morales and Bruno Sammartino, where he got the nickname Larry "The Axe" Hennig, dropping the "Pretty Boy" name. His winning move, a clothesline, was called the axe.

In 1974, he made a babyface turn, saving Greg Gagne & Jim Brunzell from a beating from Stevens & Bockwinkel & Bobby Heenan. His explanation was that he had kids, and that he wouldn't want to see people beating on his own kids.

He was babyface Larry "The Axe" Hennig for rest of his career, which ended in early 1986 due to neck and knee problems. His full-time wrestling days ended in 1978 and he concentrated on other businesses. He came back in 1982 to do some bouts in the AWA and work for a time as a tag team with his son in Oregon. He and his son worked as a regular tag team in the AWA in 1984 and 1985, often wrestling The Road Warriors.

At 6-foot-3 and close to 300 pounds and with his wrestling background, he was considered one of the tougher guys in the business.

During the mid-70s, he moved his family to Phoenix to try and start a pro wrestling company there. He also worked in real estate both during and after his wrestling career.

Hennig was a regular at the Cauliflower Alley Club and the Tragos/Thesz Hall of Fame ceremonies, where he had served as an M.C. He was a great storyteller, with his real life hatred of Verne Gagne often being the source of many of his stories. He took the death of his son Curt in 2003 very hard.

His grandson, Joe Hennig, works in WWE as Curtis Axel, with Axel being a tribute to his grandfather. Larry would regularly attend WWE shows in the Twin Cities.

He had another son, Jesse, who briefly wrestled, as well as a granddaughter, Joe's sister Amy, who also wrestled.