Pro wrestling in America has always had a rich and dynamic history. Numerous stars with unbelievable talents dissolved into nothingness. There were hundreds of performers who would not transcend their time and become immortalized by fans of the sport. One of these amazing talented performers was Owen Hart.
Hart came from a huge dynasty of performers, being the youngest of 12, who were all affiliated with wrestling in one way or another. Owen quickly ascended the ranks of the WWF and carved out a unique place to showcase his talents.
“He was the chosen one,” – Jim Ross
One of the deepest stains on pro wrestling history, Owen Hart tragically fell to his death in front of a full audience on May 23rd, 1999. He had been scheduled to enter on cables (very similar to what Sting was doing at the time), which malfunctioned. Hart plunged to his death onto the ring. This happened in front of all the fans at the ‘Over The Edge’ pay-per-view in Kansas City.
Hart’s wife had a lot to say about the late superstar. In a recent documentary, she said, “Owen was approached to practice the stunt, different from the way he was rigged up previously. Bobby Talbert should’ve never been in charge of the rigging.” Talbert was the rigger who was on the WWE’s payroll on a fateful day.
Former WWE Executive Jim Cornette, who was Hart’s manager at the time, also shared a few thoughts.
“WWF’s decision to continue the show after the fatal accidents is controversial to this day. How did this happen? He didn’t commit suicide. Was there foul play? We don’t know. So let’s just leave everything until we figure this out? No. Let’s just have 4-5 more matches,” a disgusted Cornette said.
Martha Hart had faced so much of the trauma surrounding her husband’s death. She showed particular disgust at how the WWF handled the situation on the day. “The fact that Vince discarded Owen like he was a piece of garbage, scraped his dead body off the mat and sent the wrestlers to wrestle on a ring with his blood on it. His fall had broken some of the boards, so they could’ve felt where he fell. This was a potential crime scene, they couldn’t let the show go on,” she said.
Owen Hart’s death was an indication of the mortality of superstars. The fallout from the tragic incident changed the lives of Owen’s family and friends in the business. Speaking about Hart’s potential, Ross said, “The worst moment of my wrestling career. Maybe the worst moment of my life. Here’s a guy that had to die unnecessarily. Made it with his own style, his own uniqueness, parents were very proud of him.”
AEW Superstar Chris Jericho also weighed in on how great Owen Hart could have been. “Had Owen not died in 1999, think about who was coming into the business at the time, in less than a year, Guerrero was there, Edge, Kurt Angle, Owen would have a huge career resurgence, because nobody could keep up with him in 1999.”
Martha filed a lawsuit against the WWE, which was settled out of court for $18 million. Owen’s family made great use of this money, creating the Owen Hart Foundation.
Martha Hart famously refused to allow her husband to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Owen’s wife didn’t want Owen to be celebrated and glorified by the same company that took him away from her.
Martha faced pressure from her in-laws to not pursue any legal action. All of them had a vested interest in keeping the WWE and Vince McMahon happy, as most of their careers relied on it. The family was not just unsupportive but actually worked against her, “That was heartbreaking for me,” Martha said.
Since his death, Martha and her children have formed a foundation in their father’s name “I would never let WWE put his name on a piece of silver and say that they got that,” Oje Hart said, speaking about why Owen would never be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
“We have built a foundation that helps put people in homes, that helps single moms like my mom was, that let kids go to school. This is all done in his namesake, this has all got Owen Hart written all over it. This is how communities, this is how people and society remember him. And that is how we want it to be done,” Hart further stated.
Today, Owen is more than a wrestler. He is a name that brings hope into people’s lives. This was exactly what his family wanted to happen. The tragic moment of his death had been summed up best by WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross.
“We’ll never know how great he might’ve been, he was just approaching that place, when he fell from the sky in Kansas City. ”