Wrestling tour goes on after Owen Hart's death
Thousands witness accident; television audience does not
May 24, 1999
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (CNN) -- A World Wrestling Federation tour was set to continue on Monday while an investigation looked for the cause of a fatal plunge by Owen Hart, a Canadian wrestler who went by the name "Blue Blazer."
Hart fell 50 feet, hit his head and died Sunday when a wire holding him in the air either broke or became disconnected while he was being lowered into the ring during a WWF match at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri.
There were more than 16,000 people in attendance but viewers watching the event on pay-per-view television did not see the fall, which occurred about 75 minutes into the show. Recorded highlights of Hart's career were being shown at the time.
As Hart's fellow performers were boarding a plane in Kansas City on Monday for a cross-state flight to St. Louis, WWF President Vince McMahon Jr. said the death had provoked grief among the team.
"Wrestlers were openly weeping last night," McMahon said, his eyes filling with tears.
The WWF canceled the encore and replay Pay-Per-View program that was scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday. The following live events were also canceled: Peoria, Illinois; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Hamilton, Ontario; Montreal; and Ottawa, Ontario.
Hart, 33, the younger brother of Bret (The Hitman) Hart, a star with rival World Championship Wrestling, fell as he was being lowered from the arena's ceiling as his match introduction was about to begin.
It was a stunt he had performed before.
Some witnesses said the cable snapped, while others said it appeared Hart was somehow disconnected from it.
They said his head snapped backward when he hit a turnbuckle, one of the padded pieces of metal that hold the ropes together in each corner of the ring.
Hart was given CPR inside the ring as the ring announcer haltingly told the audience that the incident was not scripted, as professional wrestling matches openly are.
The wrestler was pronounced dead at a hospital.
"He was supposed to be lowered down into the ring," said Michelle Hindorff, a paramedic and dispatcher for Kansas City's ambulance service.
"It didn't get hooked on to him. He thought it was hooked on," she said.
The World Wrestling Federation said it is investigating what went wrong.
"We at the WWF are saddened by the tragic accident that occurred here tonight," McMahon said Sunday. "We have no answers as to how this happened yet. We will shortly."
'We thought they were just playing with us'
Hart was known for his acrobatic stunts and some members of the audience thought his fall was part of an act.
"We thought it was a doll at first," said 15-year-old Robert McCome. "We thought they were just playing with us. We were really shocked when we found out that it was no joke."
"He was moving pretty fast (as he fell)," said Jesse McDonald, who was sitting near the ring. "His chin and neck hit the top rope."
The arena fell into silence.
"I didn't see it, but from what I can gather, somebody slipped up," Hart's 83-year-old father, former wrestler Stu Hart, said from the family home in Calgary, Alberta.
"You don't get up 60 or 70 feet in the air without being properly anchored down," he said. "I haven't talked to Vince McMahon yet, but somebody was careless or missed something or else Owen would still be here."
The WWF is one of the biggest draws on cable and pay-per-view TV. The WWF admits that its events are more entertainment then sport.
Hart's fall happened in the second part of an event called "Over the Edge." The first portion, called "Sunday Night Heat," was televised live on the USA cable network.
The TV audience was being shown a montage of Hart's clips when he fell and the camera panned through the crowd while paramedics worked on him. The show stopped for 15 minutes before Hart was taken away, and the matches resumed.
All seven of Stu Hart's sons entered professional wrestling, with Owen joining in 1989. He had recently told a magazine that he was planning to leave wrestling when his contract was up.
Survivors include his wife, Martha, and two young children.
His older brother Bret "The Hitman" Hart, the current heavyweight champ with the rival World Championship Wrestling, canceled a scheduled appearance on "The Tonight Show" Monday to fly home to be with his family in Canada.
The WCW issued a statement on Owen Hart's death:
"We are shocked and saddened by this terrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bret Hart and the entire Hart family."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Wrestler Owen Hart killed in fall during stunt
World Wrestling Federation
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