There’s a new episode of the “Dark Side of the Ring” series on VICE TV this Tuesday at 10pmET and it’s going to focus on the late great Owen Hart. Sadly, Owen died at the WWE Over the Edge 1999 pay-per-view when he was 34 years old after a stunt went wrong. Owen was going to repel down into the ring from the rafters (while in his Blue Blazer outfit), but the harness broke and he crashed to his death in the ring. It’s one of the saddest things in wrestling history. Owen’s widow Martha Hart sued WWE as well as the company involved in the rigging and even WWE sued her back. It was a messy situation that will be covered in the documentary.
Martha has done interviews over the last week to promote the Dark Side of the Ring episode including as a guest on the Talk is Jericho podcast that I recapped here. Chris Jericho is the narrator of season two of Dark Side of the Ring and he was a big fan of Owen as well. It was a very good podcast.
During that interview, the subject of Owen possibly going in WWE’s Hall of Fame was not discussed, but she did talk about it in an article posted today by Sports Illustrated. Here are some of those interview highlights.
Martha Hart on Owen possibly going into WWE Hall of Fame:
“I’d never want him recognized by a company responsible for his death and that has been so disrespectful to his family. No, never.”
Martha on Owen’s love for his fans:
“Owen really loved his fans. He loved his fans more than the people he worked for, and he spent a lot of quality time with his fans. It wasn’t an ‘us and them’ mentality. He enjoyed getting to know them as people.”
During her podcast appearance on Talk is Jericho, Martha noted there will be some Owen Hart merchandise coming out soon.
Martha expanded on the rigging problem that led to Owen’s death:
“Everything was wrong, nothing was done properly. In our lawsuit, we had every single top rigger in the business give us deposition and they all said how egregious and negligent the set-up was and how inappropriate the equipment was. The clip was meant for the sole use of sailboats. The whole design of it is to release on load, so they used the worst equipment and there was no redundancy. In the past, the WWE had used quality riggers to rig their stunts. The one they used was Joe Branam, who rigged everybody from Elton John to the Rolling Stones to Robin Williams. He did it the right way and Owen had no control over the stunt.”
“They didn’t like the way that he was rigging Owen because they wanted him to be able to release [from the harness] when he dropped to the ground, but that isn’t possible when it’s done the right way. Joe Branam said he would not rig Owen that way, so instead they hired this hacker, Bobby Talbert, who had no business rigging anyone. Owen never questioned his safety because he assumed the company wouldn’t put him in harm’s way. And after he died in the ring, they scooped him up and went on with the show. When fans wonder why I don’t want anything to do with this company, hopefully this Dark Side of the Ring episode will answer those questions.”
In the interview with Sports Illustrated, Martha stated she was happy with the Dark Side of the Ring episode about Owen’s life:
“I am very pleased with the Dark Side of the Ring episode on Owen’s final days. They did an exceptional job telling the story, and it’s actually the story I hoped would be told. The episode is only 44 minutes and there is so much more to cover. Overall, they could not have done a better job.”
Martha also did an interview with CBS Sports where she criticized WWE again while expanding on why she wouldn’t want Owen in the WWE Hall of Fame:
“There’s always been this talk that, ‘Oh, we want to put Owen in the Hall of Fame.’ Their Hall of Fame? They don’t even have a Hallway of Fame. It doesn’t exist. There’s nothing. It’s a fake entity. There’s nothing real or tangible. It’s just an event they have to make money. They put it on TV and have a celebration, and it’s just so ridiculous. I would never even entertain it. It’s garbage.”
Martha was also very critical of WWE continuing the Over the Edge 1999 event after Owen’s death:
“When Owen died, they scooped him out like a piece of garbage and they paraded wrestlers out to wrestle in a ring that had Owen’s blood, where the boards were broken from Owen’s fall and where the guys could feel the dip in the ring from where he fell. Just that disrespect and lack of respect for a human life that had just been lost. The fact that they didn’t stop the show is just appalling. Vince McMahon was a poor leader, and he failed because that talent was looking for leadership and he failed them.”
Here’s the trailer of the Dark Side of the Ring episode featuring the life of Owen Hart.
TJR Thoughts: I feel like Martha is absolutely justified in terms of how she feels about WWE and the way that Owen died. A lot of WWE fans would love to see Owen in the WWE Hall of Fame, but based on Martha’s comments, it’s probably never going to happen.
For what it’s worth, I always felt like Over the Edge 1999 should have ended after Owen’s death. I know “the show must go on” but when something like that happens, they should have stopped the show.