I watched the Life and Death Of Owen Hart documentary last night. It is only a little over 40 minutes long. Much of the footage appears to be from the acclaimed Wrestling With Shadows Bret Hart DVD. It is a supplement of sorts to that movie. Although, of course, there is original footage from after Owen Hart’s tragic death. It’s heart wrenching, too.
It has now been over a decade since the horrible accident that took Owen’s life. Owen Hart died on May 23, 1999 due to an equipment malfunction during his entrance from the rafters of Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri during the WWF’s Over the Edge pay-per-view event. He was 34 years old.
I actually still remember that night in May 1999 very well. If you were watching the PPV, you didn’t see much of anything. Owen’s fall was not shown. And, while Hart was being attended to by medical personnel inside the ring, the PPV broadcast showed only the audience. During this time announcer Jim Ross explained what happened moments ago, and urged that this is not a wrestling angle. Being at ringside, and seeing the fall, you could tell Ross knew that Hart was hurt badly.
As far as the actual fall; you can read that Hart fell anywhere from 70 to 90 feet. Some say he hit his head on one of the ring’s turnbuckles. Others say that he was more than a foot from then nearest turnbuckles when he made impact with the ring’s ropes, after the fall. Regardless of the details, after being transported to Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, Hart was pronounced dead onarrival.
I also still recall the next day. The news of Owen’s death was a huge topic in our 8th grade class. I remember that one of my friends mothers even cried over the tragedy. This was real. That night the WWF aired “Raw Is Own”, a tribute to Owen Hart during the normal Raw Is War time slot. The special episode received a mammoth 7.2 Nielsen rating. This incident that went way beyond the reach of the young WWF fan demographic.
If the actual tragedy isn’t enough; then you get the back story about how unhappy he was with the direction of the WWF, the treatment of him brother and the wrestling industry in general — it breaks your heart. By all accounts Owen would have likely finished out his WWF contract and then retired to Calgary to live a more normal existence with his wife and two kids. Owen was never really seeking out the spotlight. Admirably, he only sought a way to provide for his wife and kids.
A few weeks after the incident, the Hart family sued the WWF. They alleged that the stunt was poorly planned, and that the harness system was defective. One year after Owen’s death Martha wrote a piece for a Canadian newspaper. And, in November of 2000, a year and a half after the incident, the WWF reached a settlement with the Hart family. However, a new suit was filed more recently. Unfortunately, even as recent as earlier this year the battle between the WWE and Martha Hart has continued.
The Hart family is littered with tragic stories. However, none are more difficult to stomach than Owen’s.