The Hart family and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have had a perennially uneasy relationship. From the Montreal Screwjob to the Owen Hart tragedy, things have rarely been positive between the two parties.
One of wrestling’s darkest moments involved Owen Hart, who tragically passed away in 1999 at a live WWE (then WWF) show, due to a horrible accident during an entrance.
Owen Hart is generally seen as one of the most naturally talented wrestlers. So why isn’t someone like this inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame? We take a look.
The Hart Family
The Hart family is one of the most famous wrestling families. Hailing from Canada, numerous generations of Hart’s have engaged in wrestling – and have wrestled for a variety of promotions.
Family patriarch Stu Hart founded Stampede Wrestling – a breeding ground for future talent. He was able to train his sizeable family – including 8 sons!
Bret Hart was without doubt the most famous. He was a multiple-time champion, and was WWF’s biggest star in the 1990s. Owen Hart was more of a mid-card wrestler, but was still among the best-known talents in wrestling.
The first case of infamy involving the WWF and the Hart family came in 1997, when the “Montreal Screwjob” took place. This was an infamous unscripted moment where the WWF reneged on a planned finish and double-crossed Bret Hart, who was due to leave the company.
The moment has gone on to be one of the most notorious in Wrestling history. Bret Hart left the WWF for rival WCW, with relations between the Hart family and the WWF at an all-time low.
Owen Hart remained under contract with WWF. He had requested to leave the WWF following the treatment of Bret, but this was denied.
Relations between the two parties would go from bad to worse within two years, when a horrible tragedy occurred, resulting in Owen’s death.
Owen Hart’s Death
Despite being a highly-talented wrestler, Owen Hart had recently been given the character of “The Blue Blazer” – a comical character that seemed to be well below Hart’s worth.
As part of playing this character, Owen Hart engaged in unusual entrances – typically being lowered from rafters by a harness.
At an event called Over the Edge, Hart tragically died. While he was being lowered into the ring, his harness malfunctioned, resulting in Hart falling to his death. Hart fell from almost 80 feet, and landed chest-first on the top rope, before his body landed in the ring.
Hart suffered major trauma, which led to internal bleeding and death. He was unable to be saved, and passed aged just 34.
For an inexplicable reason, the WWF adopted a “the show must go on” approach, and the event continued. In the years since, this has widely been considered one of the worst moments in the history of the WWF.
Thankfully, the entrance was not seen on live television, nor does any video footage of the incident exist. Many of the fans in attendance thought it was all part of the act.
The WWF were heavily criticised. There appeared to have been a lack of care to Owen in terms of the harness used. It emerged that the entrance had used a different harness to the type used before.
The Hart family sued the WWF over the incident. A settlement was eventually reached in 2000, which saw the WWF pay the Hart family $18million in compensation.
Other Hart family members signed for WWE in the following years, though none have had the same effect that Owen and Bret had.
Bret Hart returned to the WWE in 20XX, in a turn of events that many thought they would never see. He continues, as of 2022, to be signed to WWE under their “Legend’s” programme.
Owen Hart’s wife was Martha Joan Patterson. They had been married for over ten years prior to his death, and had two children.
Martha has heavily criticised the WWE. She is the main reason that Owen Hart has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame. She has said that she never wants Owen Hart to be inducted.
Martha has labelled it as “garbage”, “ridiculous” and dismissed it as “an event they have to make money”. Many support Martha’s decision, while others suggest that Owen’s legacy means that he should be in the Hall of Fame.
Martha excoriated the WWE when appearing on The Dark Side of the Ring. She criticised the way they had managed the situation, and for the lack of care given to Owen.
Martha helped to create the Owen Hart Foundation – which helps provide scholarships to University for children in need. This way, Owen continues to have a positive impact on the world.
From what is known, the WWE will always keep the door open for Owen Hart to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. After all, he deserves to be alongside legendary figures.
But Martha continues to refuse, out of respect to Owen, and her belief that the WWE caused Owen’s death.