The sudden death of wrestler Owen Hart shocked the world. How did Owen Hart die?
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The life and career of Owen Hart
Owen James Hart (May 7, 1965 – May 23, 1999) was a Canadian-American professional wrestler who worked for several promotions including Stampede Wrestling, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE), and New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW). Hart is considered one of the best wrestlers of his generation.
Born in Calgary, Alberta, Hart was raised in a wrestling family. His father Stu and his brothers Bruce and Keith competed in the professional wrestling tag team The Hart Foundation. After being trained at the Stu Hart Dungeon by his father and Bret Hart, Owen made his debut in 1986. He gained notoriety in the WWF as Blue Blazer—a masked superhero—and as The Rocket Owen Hart—a gimmick based on his nickname “The Rocket”.
The events leading up to Owen Hart’s death
On May 23, 1999, Owen Hart fell to his death at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri during a WWE pay-per-view event. Hart, who was 33 years old at the time of his death, was performing a stunt where he was supposed to be lowered from the rafters of the arena into the ring. However, something went wrong and Hart ended up falling 78 feet to his death. The exact cause of the accident remains unknown, but it is believed that a failure in the malfunctioning harness that Hart was wearing led to his fall.
The fall that killed Owen Hart
On May 23, 1999, pro wrestler Owen Hart fell to his death in Kansas City, Missouri, during WWE’s Over the Edge pay-per-view event. Hart was 33 years old.
Hart was performing a gimmick in which he was to be lowered from the rafters of Kemper Arena into the ring by a harness and rope. But something went wrong, and Hart plunged 78 feet into the ring, landing chest-first on one of the turnbuckles. He died later that night at a nearby hospital.
The exact cause of Hart’s fall has never been determined. It’s possible that a release mechanism on his harness malfunctioned, or that he somehow slipped out of the harness.
The aftermath of Owen Hart’s death
On May 23, 1999, professional wrestler Owen Hart fell to his death from the rafters of Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, during WWE’s Over the Edge pay-per-view event.
The immediate aftermath of Hart’s death was marked by confusion and chaos. The live broadcast of Over the Edge was immediately cancelled and replaced with a tribute show featuring wrestlers and announcers from both WWE and WCW.
Fans in attendance at Kemper Arena were not informed of Hart’s death until after they had left the arena, and many learned of the tragedy only after watching the events unfold on television.
The death of Owen Hart has been cited as one of the contributing factors to the demise of the World Wrestling Federation’s “Attitude Era”.
The investigation into Owen Hart’s death
In May of 1999, Professional wrestler Owen Hart fell to his death during a WWF event in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 33 years old. The incident happened when Hart was being lowered into the ring from the rafters by a cable, and he plummeted 78 feet to his death.
The investigation into Hart’s death was conducted by the Kansas City Police Department, and it was determined that a device that was meant to release the safety harness that Hart was wearing malfunctioned, causing him to fall to his death. The manufacturer of the device, known as a “quick release device”, settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Hart’s widow for $18 million.
The impact of Owen Hart’s death
On May 23, 1999, Owen Hart fell to his death in front of a live pay-per-view audience while being lowered into the ring from the rafters of Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri. The accident happened during the Over the Edge PPV event. Hart was 33 years old.
An investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that the company who rigged the stunt, Sustainable Set Design Inc., did not properly secure Hart’s safety harness to the ring post. The OSHA report also faulted WWE for not having adequate safety procedures in place.
Hart’s death had a profound impact on both his family and the wrestling community. His widow, Martha, later sued WWE for wrongful death. The case was settled out of court in 2002 for $18 million.
In 2010, Owen Hart was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his brother Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
The legacy of Owen Hart
Owen Hart was a professional wrestler who tragically died in an accident in 1999. He was only 34 years old.
Hart was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1965. He was the youngest of 12 children. His father, Stu Hart, was a well-known wrestling promoter and founder of the Stampede Wrestling promotion.
Owen began his wrestling career in 1986, wrestling under his real name for his father’s promotion. He soon began using the ring name “The Blue Blazer”. In 1992, he signed with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) and debuted as The Blue Blazer, a masked superhero character. He later dropped the mask and became known simply as Owen Hart.
He quickly became popular with fans for his high-flying stunts and technical wrestling ability. He won multiple championships during his career, including the Intercontinental Championship and the World Tag Team Championship (with his brother Bret).
Hart’s life came to a tragic end on May 23rd, 1999 during a pay-per-view event called Over the Edge. While being lowered from the rafters into the ring by a harness and cable system, Hart fell 78 feet (24 meters) to his death after his release mechanism accidentally triggered. The fall caused him to land chest-first on the top rope, causing severe internal damage and resulting in him suffocating to death.
Hart’s death was a huge shock to both wrestling fans and wrestlers alike. The WWF (now WWE) was heavily criticized for how they handled Owen’s death; they continued with the event after Hart’s fall and did not inform the live audience of what had happened until after the event had ended.
In 2000, Owen’s widow Martha filed a wrongful death lawsuit against WWE and Vince McMahon (the owner of WWE). The case was eventually settled out of court for $18 million US dollars.
Owen Hart is survived by his wife Martha and their two children Oje and Athena. His memory lives on through them and through the many fans who remember him as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.