Catching up with Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart

By: Lennie DiFino
Written: June 27, 2007

The Hart Foundation as World Tag Team Champions.

An amateur record-holding shot-putter. A devoted family man. A former NFL player. Those are a few of the things you could call Jim Neidhart, but most would call The Anvil one of the most intense sports-entertainers of all-time. Intensity is an attribute that many Superstars go their whole careers attempting to perfect in the ring, but for this former WWE Superstar, it was a trademark all his own, although he is quick to point out his beginning in the business was extreme enough.

After an outstanding high school shot-putting career at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, Calif., and after being cut by the Dallas Cowboys, Neidhart ventured north to Calgary, Alberta, and Stu Hart’s infamous dungeon for professional wrestling training.

“Stu broke me in personally,” said Neidhart. “He was 63 years old, and here he was almost crawling down the stairs to me, when I was in the best physical shape of my life.”

"All I could think was, ‘I am going to kill this guy,’ but I was so wrong; he took me to the breaking point with the submission holds and I would be screaming and ready to pass out. And after these sessions, I was on the circuit.”

Once Neidhart began traveling with Stampede Wrestling, he was on the road seven nights a week, with 10 others in a van traveling across Canadian territories, pulling the ring behind them.

“We’d set up the ring, wrestle, take the ring down and drink beer,” he said. “I did that for three-and-a-half years, and even tried to get back into football with the Oakland Raiders during that time. I was cut by them, and returned to Stu who sent me down Bill Watts in Louisiana.”

But this was not before he was given the nickname he still carries to this day.

“I had just come off the road, and Stu barged into my room and told me about an anvil throwing contest. I told Stu, ‘We just drove 500 miles, I’m not doing it. Absolutely not doing it, Stu.’ He said he’d give me $500, so I did it,” Neidhart said with a hearty laugh. “I won the contest, and Helen Hart gave me the nickname, and obviously it stuck.”

During the time he was in Louisiana, The Anvil was teamed with Butch Reed, and then moved on to Memphis to work with Jerry Lawler. After six months there, Neidhart went on to the Florida territory, where he learned from the legendary Eddie Graham. It was also in Florida that former WWE Superstar Barry Darsow convinced Neidhart to shave his beard down to the trademark goatee. After all his time in the territories, Neidhart and others in the sports-entertainment world began to see changes in the industry, and that is when he made the biggest decision of his career.

“While I was in Florida, I had heard that Hulk Hogan had gone to New York and business was going crazy,” Neidhart recalled. “So I went up to New York, and in my first match I wrestled Tony Garea in Madison Square Garden. What a trip that was, starting off in The Garden – it was like being in the Super Bowl; nothing even comes close to it at all.”

Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart then became a mainstay with WWE in the ’80s, one-half of the legendary Hart Foundation with Bret “Hit Man” Hart. The two men were on top of the tag team world for much of the decade, either holding the World Tag Team Championship or battling over the titles. Neidhart looks back at his time in WWE fondly, citing a few moments that stand out.

WrestleMania III was a real moment for me,” he said. “And another great moment for me was being able to work with Andre the Giant. Man, he was great.”

After the Hart Foundation went their separate ways, Neidhart began to team with another Hart.

“Owen was up-and-coming, and everyone who had trained in the dungeon – myself, Bret, Davey Boy, Dynamite – we all agreed Owen was doing some amazing things in the ring,” he continued. “Owen took a back seat to nobody. It was always fun teaming with Owen; he loved the outfits, not so much me.”

These days Neidhart has given up the baggy green pants and checkered jackets, but not his passion and love for sports-entertainment and his family. Now away from the ring, Neidhart takes a great pride in his family. His daughter, Jenny, is a master gourmet chef and caterer for one of the most prestigious companies in Calgary.

“Jenny can go out and cater a party for 1,000 people and she wouldn’t blink. I wish I could go out and get a normal job like that.”

Neidhart’s youngest daughter, Muffy, was married in early June.

“It was quite the experience for the first marriage of one of my children," the ever-honest Neidhart said. "All I did was pay bills and get yelled at. But she is doing well and the whole family is happy and healthy, and I couldn’t ask for more than that.”

Following in her father’s footsteps is Neidhart's middle daughter, Natalie. Recently signed to a WWE developmental contract, Natalie is carrying on the great legacy of not just Neidhart, but the entire Hart family. The young up-and-comer’s venture into sports-entertainment was first met with resistance from The Anvil.

“Nobody wants to see their daughter involved in sports-entertainment, but that was many years ago. With the opportunities WWE is giving everyone on their roster with in-ring exposure and outside projects, it’s tremendous," he said. “Up in Calgary she wasn’t going to have those opportunities, so this is the right move for her, and I am so proud of her.”

Watching his daughter has lit that fire within Neidhart.

“I could definitely give it a go again. I am benching 425. I am in great condition. Life in the ring can take a toll on people, but not me – I still feel thirty years old,” he said. “A lot of former wrestlers claim they could have one more run with hope, but I say it knowing I could still make an impact.”

When questioned if he could see a tag team partner with the same last name, Neidhart’s excitement couldn’t be contained.

“I would love to tag with Nattie. We have before and it was amazing; she picked everything right up. Even if I was her manager I would love it.”

And as for a message to the fans of The Anvil? Well don’t hold your goatee waiting.

“I spent so long being hated by the fans, I don’t know what I would say to any fan, other than to keep your eyes peeled for The Anvil, I am definitely not done yet," he said. “The Hart Foundation might even one day hopefully find its way into the WWE Hall of Fame, something I would consider the highest accolade.”

It’s that intensity that brought Neidhart the acclaim he deserved during his career.