In the annals of professional wrestling, few incidents have left as indelible a mark as the tragic death of Owen Hart, a promising WWE superstar, whose life was cut short in a horrifying accident during a pay-per-view event on May 23, 1999. This comprehensive article delves into the life and career of Owen Hart, the circumstances surrounding his untimely demise, and the profound impact it had on the world of wrestling.
Owen Hart: Born To Wrestle
Owen James Hart, born on May 7, 1965, into the legendary Hart wrestling family, was destined for a life in the squared circle. The Hart Dynasty, known for its monumental contributions to the wrestling world, was spearheaded by Stu and Helen Hart, parents to 12 children, eight of whom became wrestlers. Owen, the youngest of the siblings, initially didn’t plan on making wrestling his career but found himself training in the famed “Hart Dungeon” under his father’s strict and disciplined guidance.
Owen Hart should have been WWF Champion pic.twitter.com/PUJL4Df0Cq
— Just Talk Wrestling (@JustTalkWrestle) November 18, 2023
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By 1987, Owen Hart had emerged as one of the hottest talents in wrestling, earning the prestigious title of Rookie of the Year from Pro Wrestling Illustrated. His journey in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) began when he joined Vince McMahon’s promotion as The Blue Blazer, a masked superhero persona that aimed to add a layer of theatricality to the wrestling mythos.
The Rise of The Blue Blazer:
Owen’s initial stint as The Blue Blazer had its highs and lows, with the character often relegated to defeat against more established stars. In 1989, Hart left the WWF after a match against Mr. Perfect, only to make a triumphant return in 1993, sparking a family feud with his brothers that would captivate audiences and set the stage for some of the most memorable moments in wrestling history.
The Hart Brothers’ Rivalry:
The most iconic chapter in Owen’s career unfolded as he engaged in a year-long sibling rivalry with his brother, Bret “The Hitman” Hart. This captivating storyline, beginning at Survivor Series 1993, saw Owen transform from a masked superhero to an embittered villain, culminating in a victorious showdown against Bret at WrestleMania X, marking Owen’s greatest career triumph.
From Hero to Villain and Back Again:
Owen Hart’s career took a villainous turn as he aligned himself with Yokozuna and joined the “Camp Cornette” faction. His heated feud with Shawn Michaels added another layer to his villainous persona, showcasing the versatility and depth of his character. However, by 1999, Owen decided to revive The Blue Blazer gimmick, a decision that would ultimately lead to tragedy.
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The Fatal Night:
On May 23, 1999, during a pay-per-view event at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, Owen Hart prepared for a stunt entrance from the rafters. Intended to be lowered into the ring by a cable, something went terribly wrong, and Hart fell 78 feet to the ring below. The live audience initially thought it was part of the act, only to realize the gravity of the situation moments later.
Witnesses reported the cable snapping, while others suggested that Hart was never properly hooked in. Medics rushed to the scene to perform CPR, but Owen Hart was pronounced dead at Truman Medical Center at the age of 34.
Investigation and Fallout:
The subsequent investigation into the accident revealed a potential failure in the quick-release harness. Whether due to a subtle movement or a technical failure, the result was the tragic loss of one of wrestling’s most beloved performers. WWE president Vince McMahon called Owen Hart’s death “the worst thing to ever happen in the business.”
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Owen Hart’s death left an indelible mark on the wrestling world, prompting changes in safety protocols and bringing a somber reality to the often theatrical and scripted world of professional wrestling. To this day, Owen Hart is remembered as one of the industry’s all-time best performers, a tragic figure whose legacy extends far beyond the squared circle. His impact on the wrestling community continues to be felt, and his memory lives on as a stark reminder of the risks inherent in the pursuit of entertainment and athletic excellence within the world of professional wrestling.