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Larry “The Axe” Hennig, father of the late “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and grandfather or Curtis Axel (of WWE’s “B-Team”) died today at age 82.
Larry had been in and out of the hospital with some health issues recently, but did appear at this past summer’s George Tragos/Lou Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame weekend in Waterloo, Iowa, which had been a tradition for him over the years and a way to stay connected with wrestling peers and meet new fans. (PWTorch senior columnist Bruce Mitchell and I had the chance to interview him (along with Nikita Koloff) at the official live podcast event at that weekend’s festivities and his sharp humor was on display throughout. VIP members can hear the interview posted this past summer HERE.)
Hennig was in good spirits and mentally sharp a couple weeks ago at brewery, “The Wicked Wart,” in Robinsdale, Minn. with a lot of family and friends. He joked in a speech at the brewery about having so many grand kids that her refers to them by numbers instead of their names. “Come over here, number three!” he said, according to George Schire. His son, Curtis Axel (Joe Hennig), was at the brewery gathering.
After working as a referee and helping build wrestling rings in the late 1950s, Hennig was a mainstay in the AWA, a major pro wrestling territory throughout the 1960s through the 1980s, first wrestling as “Pretty Boy” Larry Hennig. He teamed with Harley Race in 1964 when Race was just 21 years old. Larry was 27 or 28 at the time and he suggested to Verne Gagne, the promoter of the AWA, that he be teamed with Race because he saw something special in him and wanted to help bring him along. They were a top heel tag team in the AWA in the 1960s.
He wrestled in the early 1960s in Amarillo, Tex., had a short stint in the NWA in 1968, and another short stint in the the WWWF in the early 1970s. He preferred to wrestle in the AWA based out of Minneapolis, Minn. because he didn’t want to be away from his family. He turned babyface in 1974 in the AWA when he saved Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell from a beating delivered by Nick Bockwiniel, Ray Stevens, and Bobby Heenan. In the 1980s he teamed with his son Curt Hennig against The Road Warriors; he was a special attraction by that point in his career.
Prior to his decades-long run as a top tier heel and later babyface attraction, he was a Minnesota State High School Heavyweight Champion representing Robinssale, Minn. in 1954. Since his retirement, he was active in a real estate business with his wife.