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  May 24, 1999

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Loss of Albertan hero 'devastating' local fans

By MARTY YASKOWICH -- Staff Writer
  The death of Owen Hart last night hit local wrestling fans like an elbow smash from the top rope.
 "I've followed the Hart brothers since Stampede Wrestling," said fan Bud Tymko, who has a signed photograph of the Calgary-based grappler.
 "It's devastating."
 Hart fell to his death while preparing to enter the ring on a cable during a pay-per-view event in Kansas City last night. Fans watching the broadcast said the accident, and subsequent efforts to revive Hart, weren't shown live but an announcer explained the incident's severity.
 "When (announcer) Jim Ross came on ... He said 'This is not a story line, this is real'," said Sun editorial writer Mike Jenkinson, a shocked fan. "And they never do that."
 Local followers last saw Hart live April 18 at Skyreach Centre, when he teamed with Jeff Jarrett to vie for a tag-team title shot. A capacity crowd of 17,000, including Sun cartoonist Fred Curatolo, took in the event.
 "What a loss," Curatolo said last night. "He was a great athlete - what a tragedy."
 Jenkinson thought of the real-world effects of the death in the make-believe ring. "This is very sad and not just because he was a great wrestler and a great performer," said Jenkinson.
 Jenkinson, a father of two young girls, said seeing Hart in Calgary a couple of years ago with his new baby makes the accident that much harder to accept.
 "I saw that girl with my own eyes and now that little girl doesn't have a daddy any more," he said.
 Tymko said he'd read Hart, a 13-year veteran of pro wrestling, was considering quitting the business to spend more time with his family.
 "That's the most devastating part. He wanted to stay home with his kids," he said.
 Curatolo hoped the accident might bring back the old days of the sport, when the wrestling was the focus, not the entrance to the ring and sideshows like the one that killed Hart.
 "It will probably put a stop to the junk like that," Curatolo said. "It's too bad wrestling doesn't get back to wrestling."

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