The Tragic Real-Life Story of the Hart Family
The world of professional wrestling has featured plenty of family dynasties over the years, from the Flairs, Ortons and Von Erichs to the Samoan bloodline that birthed future superstars The Rock and Roman Reigns. There's one family tree that seems to synonymous with the business, however, and its roots belong to Stu and Helen: The Hart Family.
These two raised quite a large family together at twelve kids, with every single one of them possessing a connection to the pro wrestling business in some fashion. To be honest, it seems as if there was no other industry for Stu and Helen's kids could possibly enter, so close was their father's relationship to the sport. Stu Hart was a wrestling natural with an excellent amateur background, and was a technically skilled grappler throughout the height of his career during the thirties and forties.
It was only a matter of time before someone with Stu's natural ability would begin training wrestlers of his own, and that's exactly what this good looking grappler would do after marrying Helen and moving back to his native Canada from New York city. Calgary, Alberta served and Stu and Helen's home base, and it would be here where Stu would found Stampede Wrestling, Canada's best known and most successful territory promotion.
Stu ran Stampede for almost forty years, and it was during this time that Hart began teaching pro wrestling's young, up-and-coming talent the ropes in a basement facility dubbed "The Dungeon." A veritable "who's who" of wrestling talent passed through Stu's hard and merciless training style, including Chris Jericho, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Edge, Abdulah the Butcher and many, many more. Of course, Stu's wrestling sons also went through the endurance test of their father's "stretching" techniques: painful submission holds which were designed to test and break the student's threshold for pain.
Every wrestling fan is probably aware of Stu and Helen's most famous wrestling progeny, Bret and Owen, but this pair weren't the only Hart children to train and work in the business. Smith, Bruce, Keith, Dean and Ross Hart all performed in the industry, with varying degrees of success. Their job titles included trainer, booker, performer and even referee, but all of them lived, ate and breathed pro wrestling, just like their old man.
The Hart girls also grew up with wrestling, with Elizabeth, Georgia, Diana and Alison all making appearance on WWE television after Stu briefly sold Stampede to Vince McMahon in 1984. They also, perhaps predictably, married into the business and started families of their own with pro wrestlers. Diana would famously bring U.K. wrestling royalty into the Hart family when she married Davey Boy Smith, one half of The British Bulldogs alongside his cousin, The Dynamite Kid.
All of these family ties should've resulted in nothing but joy for Stu, Helen, their kids and grandkids, right? Well, the title of this video should already give you a clue that this wasn't exactly the case, as the expansive Hart family history is nothing if not extremely complicated. The most terrible tragedy associated with The Harts is, of course, the death of Owen at the WWF's "Over the Edge" pay-per-view in 1999. He was scheduled to fall from the arena rafters in an elaborate stunt while performing as the masked "Blue Blazer" character, but an accidental fall to the ring below resulted in Hart's death from internal bleeding and blunt force trauma. Owen Hart was one of the industry's finest in ring performers and best loved personalities, and this was a huge black mark upon the WWF's safety standards, as well as its emergency response, as the show continued on after Owen's fall.
Although the Harts successfully sued the WWF in the wake of their son's death, this served as little comfort for a family who were already bitter with how Vince McMahon and Co. treated their other son, Bret. It had only been a scant two years since one of wrestling's most infamous unscripted moments had given a black eye between The Harts and McMahons. We're talking, of course, about The Montreal Screwjob, which took place at the main event of the 1997 "Survivor Series."
Bret was the WWF's World Heavyweight Champion, but he was about to exit the company for a new home at McMahon's chief competition, World Championship Wrestling. Hart knew he had to lose the title prior to heading to WCW, but he refused to drop the belt in his home country while facing off against "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels, with whom Bret had an adversarial off-screen relationship. This was exactly what happened, however, as a backstage conspiracy between multiple parties resulted in Bret being screwed out of his title when Michaels had him in Hart's own submission hold, The Sharpshooter. Bret didn't submit, but referee Earl Hebner called for the bell, and it was all over: just like that.
Today, there are still those who believe that this was some sort of elaborate hoax, that Bret was in on the whole thing, but it just takes one look at Hart's honest and visceral reaction to this betrayal to realize that this was pro wrestling blurring the lines between reality and fiction. What's worse is that Bret's time in WCW was plagued by early injury, subpar booking and the death of his brother Owen. "The Hit Man's" career with the promotion was further cut short after a match with Goldberg at "Starrcade" 1999, when the latter injured Bret with a brutal kick to the head. This botch resulted in a concussion for Hart, the signaled the beginning of his eventual retirement from active competition.
The Hart family's legal and personal issues sadly don't end there, from the eldest son Smith's damaged reputation to Bruce Hart's wife Andrea being only fifteen when she met the thirty-seven year old pro wrestling trainer. Dean Hart died from a heart attack at only thirty-six, while Georgia Hart's son Teddy-once a promising rookie-has seen his earlier pro wrestling career falter, due to erratic personal behavior, and numerous allegations set against him.
Some of the Hart's grandchildren and extended family work in the business today- including Davey Boy Smith, Jr. over in New Japan Pro Wrestling-but none of them apart from third generation superstar Natalie "Natalya" Neidhart compete in the WWE. Nattie's father Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart was a longtime tag team partner of Bret who became a part of the extended Hart family through marriage, when he wed Elizabeth Hart in 1979. This story is similar to that of "Natalya's" own husband, Teddie Wilson, a.k.a. "Tyson Kid," who was trained in "The Dungeon" and married into the Canadian wrestling dynasty in 2013.
Yet, Tyson's promising career was also cut short in 2015 when he was delivered a life-threatening injury while competing against "Samoa Joe". A nasty bump to Kidd's neck and spine effectively put the kaibosh on a career which was essentially reaching its peak, thanks to an excellent tag team pairing with the Swiss Superman, "Cesaro." Although Tyson, his family and fans are very lucky that he was able to emerge through his injury without any paralysis, he currently works with the WWE as a producer, his wrestling days tragically in the rear view.
So IS the Hart story just that? A tragedy? Well, no, not really. Just like any family, there are some black sheep and some dark secrets, but there's also tons of hope, promise and love. Stu, Helen, their kids, and grandkids have given their livelihoods to pro wrestling, but in the process have amassed an untold amount of memories and accomplishments. This famous lineage will probably continue on down the line, as well, as great-grandchildren grow up and learn about their legacy. Said simply: the name "Hart" MEANS wrestling, and it's doubtful that Stu would've wanted it any other way.