It’s all fake, right? Professional wrestling, that is. It’s choreographed, and scripted, and the results are determined beforehand. That doesn’t detract from the superb athleticism of the women and men who perform as wrestlers and those who would counter with, “If you think it’s fake, climb into the ring with me for 10 minutes — if you last that long.” Full of stunts, full of drama, full of outlandish behavior and costumes, flash and bang and enormous belts for the winners. Nobody knew all of that better than Owen Hart.
Wrestling was the Hart family business. Owen’s father, Stu, was an acclaimed Canadian wrestler, and Owen followed in his father’s footsteps — as did all 11 of Owen’s older siblings. “All the boys became wrestlers and all the girls grew up to marry wrestlers,” as Cinema Blend quotes Jim Cornette, speaking in the documentary The Dark Side of the Ring. Owen’s brothers racked up significant success in the sport, especially Bret, wrestling as “The Hitman.” The brothers had a rivalry going in the mid-1990s — Pro Wrestling Illustrated readers voted it “Feud of the Year” in 1994. (They also voted Hulk Hogan “Comeback of the Year.”) Owen was voted “Most Hated Wrestler.” And that was before he broke Stone Cold Steve Austin’s neck in the ring. (It’s been described as a “botched piledriver” that took Austin out of action for a few months to heal. It’s also good to note that Austin finished that 1997 match — barely.)
Hart was supposed to be lowered into the ring
Owen Hart was all about the theatricality of wrestling, including the gimmicks. He wrestled in something like a lucha libre costume for a time, with a full-head mask and cape, the “Blue Blazer.” Part of his schtick was being lowered by cable from high in the rafters, down to the ring, where he’d commence to open a can of whatever on whoever.
As CNN writes, the night of May 24, 1999, Owen was supposed to wrestle as The Blue Blazer in a WWF (now WWE) pay-per-view match in Kansas City. Some claim the harness was rigged incorrectly, with the wrong gear. Some claim accident. Some claim negligence. Whatever the cause, the final result was that Owen Hart’s harness released when he was still 70 feet in the air. Sports Illustrated reports that he slammed into the top rope and landed on his back on the mat, his lungs filling from a ruptured aorta. He was pronounced dead at a Kansas City hospital. He was 33, married to Martha, with two children. His widow was awarded $18 million in 2000 after suing the company for negligence, according to The Wrap. She refuses to allow Owen to be inducted posthumously into the WWE Hall of Fame.
After Hart’s body was removed, the evening’s matches continued. Hart’s blood was still on the mat.
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