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  May 24, 1999

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Stu Hart wants answers

By BOB WEBER and WILL GIBSON -- Canadian Press

EDMONTON -- The patriarch of Canada's most famous professional wrestling clan is looking for answers after his son died before thousands of fans in a pre-match stunt.

"Somebody slipped up," said Stu Hart, whose son Owen died Sunday in a freak wrestling accident in the Kemper arena in Kansas City, Mo.

The Calgary-born Hart -- married, with two children -- was to be lowered to the ring on a wire and fell 18 metres, hitting his head on a turnbuckle.

"You don't get up 60 or 70 feet in the air without being properly anchored down," said Hart from the family home in Calgary, where many members of the large clan -- which also includes wrestling star Bret (The Hitman) Hart -- had gathered for Sunday dinner.

"I haven't talked to (WWF promoter) Vince McMahon yet, but somebody was careless or missed something or else Owen would still be here."

The Harts were just sitting down to eat when they got the news, said Owen's sister Alison.

"Some wrestling fans called and we didn't believe that. Everybody kept calling because they thought it was a wrestling hoax.

"And then his wife called and confirmed he was in trouble and then about 10 minutes later they called to tell us he was gone."

Owen Hart, 33, the youngest of Stu and Helen Hart's 12 children, grew up with wrestling.

"He was born into the sport," said Stu, 83. "He was a pretty damn good amateur wrestler, a Canadian college champion. He was also an excellent professional wrestler."

Owen Hart wasn't interested in getting into professional wrestling initially but bowed to pressure from his father.

"I wanted to be a phys ed teacher," he told Saturday Night magazine in 1993.

"I wrestled only to appease my father. I was compelled to get into the ring. Once I started there was the pressure of having the Hart name -- I was expected to be good," he said.

At 5'10", 227 pounds, he entered the World Wrestling Federation in 1989, the last of Stu Hart's seven sons to do so.

Over his 10-year career, wrestling under his own name and as the Blue Blazer, Owen won several WWF titles, including four tag team champions two intercontinental championships and a European championship.

His finishing move was known as the Sharpshooter.

Still, he never managed to attain the renown of his brother Bret. The two began feuding -- in the ring, at least -- in 1994 and Owen even pinned his brother in Wrestlemania 10.

Much was made of the fact that Owen didn't follow Bret when his brother left the WWF for World Championship Wrestling.

Owen recently said on an on-line chat that he and Bret were still estranged.

"I spoke to Bret in Germany after he lost to me in a tournament and it brought on new problems."

Family friend and longtime wrestling promoter Ed Whelan praised Owen.

"It's god's truth that this was a terrific young man. He was totally devoted to his family. And you know, in an era like today he didn't even swear -- he was such a clean-living guy."

Despite Owen's successful career, he was planning his exit from the ring.

"When my contract is up, I'm out of wrestling," he recently told Slam! magazine.

"I've been smart with my fiscal affairs. At the end of the tunnel, I've kind of made plans. Financially , I'll be set."

"If I continue for five more (years), that's 17 years working at a pretty good clip.

"I think at that point my family, my wife and kids, have been compromised enough. I need to start focusing on my family and letting go of wrestling."

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