Owen Hart’s widow says she has forgiven promoter Vince McMahon, but she will never forget the way he handled the death of one the of the world’s best-known and respected professional wrestlers.
“At the end of it all, I’ve forgiven all of them, really,” Martha Hart said. “The Hart family, Vince McMahon, I don’t hold any grudges. I hope life has been kind to all of them.”
‘They scooped him out like a piece of garbage’
Professional wrestler Owen Hart, 34, died on May 23, 1999, during a pay-per-view in Kansas City after falling while being lowered to the ring from the rafters before his scheduled match.
Falling from an estimated 70 feet above, Hart hit a turnbuckle on the corner of the ring and sustained serious injuries. Fans watching on TV may have thought that it was part of the script, but event staff and other wrestlers knew immediately that something had gone horribly wrong. Hart was initially treated in the ring and then rushed to a hospital. But it was readily apparent that the injuries were serious if not instantly fatal.
The Owen Hart tragedy was upsetting to the other wrestlers on the card and the production crew. Unfathomably, McMahon made the decision to continue the show after a 15-minute delay.
“They scooped him out like a piece of garbage,” Martha Hart said, “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.”
She called McMahon a poor leader:
“He failed because that talent was looking for leadership and he failed them.”
Owen Hart’s widow accepts a huge settlement
Martha Hart believed that her husband’s death was avoidable, saying that WWE executives hired unqualified riggers after the organization’s own crew said lowering Owen Hart in that fashion was unsafe. In addition, there was no redundancy built in if Hart inadvertently pulled the release lever too soon.
She reportedly sought $35 million in a wrongful death lawsuit that was initially delayed over jurisdictional issues – and caused infighting within the Hart family — and then settled for $18 million in 2000. Martha Hart negotiated another settlement in 2013 for copyright infringement over photos used by the WWE in a documentary about the famous wrestling family.
She saw her original lawsuit as a way to expose the inner workings of the WWE, but the settlement derailed that. Now, more than 20 years later, the night Owen Hart died is the focus of the season finale of Dark Side of the Ring on the Vice network on May 19.
Own Hart will never be part of the WWE Hall of Fame
As a fan favorite as well as a wrestler greatly respected by his peers, Owen Hart would be a natural fit for the WWE Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is traditionally held during WrestleMania weekend and shown live on the WWE’s network.
Martha Hart regards the hall as a sham because it exists in name only. She says the ceremony is another way for the WWE to extract money from the pockets of fans. In her mind, inducting Owen Hart amounts to exploitation and would be in terrible taste considering the circumstances of his death.
“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.”Martha Owen