Larry "The Axe" Hennig (born June 18, 1932) is an American retired professional wrestler. He is the father of "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig and is best known for his work in the American Wrestling Association, National Wrestling Alliance and World Wide Wrestling Federation.
In 1963, Hennig entered the AWA under the tutelage of Verne Gagne. He eventually found some main event success and shared a brief Tag Team Championship reign with Duke Hoffman. But in frequently losing to rougher, more experienced wrestlers, he began questioning the scientific style instilled into him by Gagne and looked toward a different approach (in kayfabe).
During the summer of 1963, Hennig left the AWA for a stint in the Texas territories. While touring Texas, Hennig adopted a more brutal style and won the Texas Heavyweight Title. He also crossed paths with Harley Race. The two young wrestlers struck up a friendship and following their mutual commitment in Amarillo, a new tag team broke out into the Minneapolis wrestling scene. Race and Hennig branded themselves as "Handsome" Harley Race (which was actually a moniker given to him by fans in Japan) and "Pretty Boy" Larry Hennig, a cocky heel tag team with a penchant for breaking the rules to win matches. They quickly became top contenders, and on January 30, 1965, they defeated the legendary tandem of Dick the Bruiser and The Crusher to capture the AWA World Tag Team Championship, becoming, at the time, the youngest tag team champions ever. Race and Hennig continued to feud with the Bruiser and Crusher and other top teams for the next several years, amassing four title reigns.
Verne Gagne, in particular, was a hated rival of the team, and recruited many different partners to try to defeat Race and Hennig during their AWA run. Gagne and Crusher would win the titles from them six months after Race and Hennig's first reign but would lose them back on August 7, 1965. The team would retain the titles until May 1966 where they lost to Bruiser and Crusher. They would then embark on a tour through New Zealand, Japan, and Australia where they became the first Tag Team Champions of the International Wrestling Alliance in June. Just before leaving to Japan, they would drop the titles to Mark Lewin and Dominic DeNucci.
Race and Hennig returned to the US in fall of 1966, starting back at the bottom of the competition. As they climbed the ranks all over again, they finally received a title shot on January 6, 1967 and defeated Bruiser and Crusher in Chicago, Illinois. However, this would prove to be their final reign at AWA Tag Team Champions.
A broken leg suffered by Larry Hennig on November 1, 1967 ended their last title run. The AWA allowed Harley Race to select another partner to defend the championship. Race selected Chris Markoff, who had occasionally appeared in six-man tag matches with Race and Hennig. Race and Markoff dropped the titles to Pat O’Connor and Wilbur Snyder in their first title defense.
In March 1968, Hennig would return to once again wrestle alongside Race. After several years at the top of the tag team division, however, Race would leave in December 1968 to pursue a singles career in the NWA. Hennig was immediately partnered with Lars Anderson for the next three years. In the mid 1970's, while competing in Florida, Hennig teamed for some matches with Race. 1972 had Hennig pair with "Dirty" Dusty Rhodes (then a heel), and in 1973, Larry worked as a singles star feuding with Verne Gagne and son Greg.
Hennig made a face turn on August 10, 1974 at a TV taping in Minneapolis, now sporting a full red beard and calling himself "the Axe" when he saved the High Flyers, Jim Brunzell and Greg Gagne, from an attack. The event had Hennig opposing his former allies, Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens, and manager Bobby Heenan (who Bockwinkel and Stevens hired following their recent loss of the AWA World Tag Team title to The Crusher and Billy Robinson the previous month) as they assaulted the Flyers during an episode of AWA All-Star Wrestling. This moment would be featured in WWE's Spectacular Legacy of the AWA DVD released in 2006.
During this time, Hennig also appeared in the independent film, The Wrestler, where he faced Verne Gagne at the Cow Palace in the opening match. In 1976, Hennig formed a semi-successful team with Joe LeDuc.
Among his famed work with Harley Race, on different occasions, Hennig traveled to New York City to unsuccessfully challenge the immensely popular Bruno Sammartino for his WWF World Heavyweight Championship title. He is also frequently recognized for defeating a 16-year-old "Rowdy" Roddy Piper within 10 seconds in Piper's debut match in Winnipeg in 1970.
To this day, Hennig endures knee problems as a result of a serious ring injury. His son, Curt, died on February 10, 2003 of multiple drug intoxications. Curt left Larry and Irene with four grandchildren. After the highly publicized death of Chris Benoit and his son, Hennig shared a few words with USA Today regarding premature deaths in professional wrestling. He also spoke extensively of his son on the retrospective DVD set The Life and Times of Mr. Perfect, released by WWE in September 2008.
a physical dance; Is it fake or real? That really has become irrelevant as millions flock to watch the staged entertainment of professional wrestling.(VARIETY)
May 30, 1998; We once had, in our house, physical evidence that pro wrestling is fake. In February 1971, Verne Gagne, one of the greatest...