After Bret Hart left the WWE, Owen Hart was the last of the Hart family members within the company. Unfortunately, his decision to stay would prove devastating, as Owen Hart died doing a stunt in the ring.
Twenty years ago today, Owen Hart fell to his death while rappelling down to the ring. Investigations showed that his harness disconnected during the rappell. Shortly after being evacuated in an ambulance, Owen died of his injuries.
During the pay-per-view, the WWE wanted to avoid the truth and continued the event as planned. However, they were forced to admit Owen’s death sometimes later. The corner of the ring upon which Owen fell remained as a dark omen throughout the event.
Following Investigation And Criticism
The WWE and its chairman Vince McMahon received lots of criticism as a result of the accident. Shortly after the tragedy, McMahon was forced to hold a press conference.
“This is a stunt that’s performed on a routine basis in a number of venues. Owen was simply to descend into the ring in superhero-like fashion.”
When a reporter asked McMahon why no backup line was provided for the WWE wrestler, Vince replied in a snarky fashion:
“I’m not an expert in rigging; I guess you are.”
The reporter would continue to question McMahon and an argument between the two ensued during the conference. Vince McMahon told the female reporter he resented her tone, while the reporter stated she resented his sarcasm. Vince would make the following statement as a retort:
“No, no, I resent your tone, lady, OK?” McMahon continued. “This is a tragic accident. This is a tragic accident. Don’t try and put yourself in the spotlight here, OK? This was an accident. Do you understand what I’m saying? An accident. And everything that should have taken place in terms of rigging, to our knowledge at this moment, did take place. It was rehearsed in the afternoon and everything was fine. That’s all I know.”
To this day, the reasons for the failing harness appear unclear. While the official reason was put down as equipment failure, many fans are still wondering how a major accident such as this one could even happen.
Martha Owen Takes On The WWE For Owen Hart
Since his death, Owen’s widow Martha has sparred with the WWE. She does not want Owen associated with the WWE Hall of Fame, nor did she want the company to benefit from Owen’s death. Martha would also write a book on the case called “Broken Harts”. The book did not sell as much copies as one would expect, but Martha did reveal that the truth behind the accident was not pretty.
Months before his death, Owen told Randy Beckman – the man responsible for his safety during the stunt – not to drop him and that he was scared. While the stunt at the time went well, the same thing would kill him some months later.
The company hired to provide the equipment for the stunt had been under fire after the accident, yet its employees had flagged possible safety concerns to WWE management months before Owen’s death. With allegations of redundancy and budget-cuts, a lot of people lay the blame on WWE management. One thing is certain, a tragedy such as this should have never been allowed to happen.