Wrestling goes on in St. Louis, day after Kansas City accident
Monday, May 24, 1999
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Tears streamed down the faces of wrestlers, fans, even referees, as 10 bells tolled during a tribute Monday night to Calgary wrestler Owen Hart, killed in a performance accident a day earlier in Kansas City.
About 19,000 wrestling fans jammed the Kiel Center for the World Wrestling Federation's Raw Is War, but the usually raucous crowd was a touch sombre.
Hart, 33, plunged at least 15 metres to his death as he was being lowered by a cable from Kemper Arena's ceiling into the ring during a match there.
WWF chairman Vince McMahon said the St. Louis event went on as a tribute to Hart.
"Out of respect for Owen, knowing the consummate performer he was, I'm sure members of the Hart family would concur with me that he would want the show to go on," McMahon said.
During the show, which was broadcast on the USA Network in the United States and TSN in Canada, a videotape of Hart highlights appeared on a huge video screen. Many of the wrestlers wore black armbands with "OH" on them. The crowd chanted, "Owen, Owen."
The accident remains under investigation, but McMahon said during a news conference in St. Louis that Hart may have accidentally released a safety latch too soon.
It was evident from the start that Hart, who occasionally wrestled under the name Blue Blazer and was part of a Canadian family with a long wrestling heritage, was on the minds of many of the fans.
"I have mixed emotions about being here," said Chris Gegan, 28, of Belleville, Ill. "But I think the fans are paying tribute to Owen and the performer that he was."
Inside the Kiel Center, many fans held signs and banners honouring Hart. "We miss you, Owen," read one. But those signs appeared to be outnumbered by those lauding wrestling superstars such as (Stone Cold) Steve Austin.
Kiel Center special events manager Cindy Underwood said her office received numerous calls Monday, but few complaints that the event was taking place. She said most calls came from ticket-holders worried the show would be cancelled. The event was sold out weeks in advance.
"We decided the show must go on," Underwood said.
Barry Bickel and Chris Hacker, both of Nevada, Mo., said they were seated in the front row at Kemper and saw the fall. They then drove to St. Louis for Monday's show.
"After it happened, it just wasn't the same," Hacker, 19, said.
"It was still tons of fun," Bickel, 21, said. "But that just dampened the whole thing."