With a heavy Hart, the show goes on
By GLENN COLE -- Toronto Sun
Wrestling often blurs the fine line between fantasy and reality. Sunday night, fantasy slipped and reality hit with a sickening thud.
Sixteen days after turning 34, Calgary's Owen Hart was dead, the victim of a 27-metre fall.
Many of his fellow performers wept when they heard the news, while authorities continued their investigation into what went wrong at the Kemper Arena during the World Wrestling Federation's Over the Edge event. As a result of the probe, there will be a delay in sending the wrestler's body to his home town.
"Somebody was careless or missed something or else Owen would still be here," Stu Hart, the 83-year-old patriarch of the Hart family, said of the death of the youngest of his 12 children.
Other members of the Hart family were blaming the ratings war between the WWF and World Championship Wrestling for creating an atmosphere in which the performers are asked to perform dangerous feats all in the name of TV numbers.
"What happened was really a mirror image to a circus going wrong, with someone falling off the high wire or falling off the trapeze," Chris Jericho, a star with rival World Championship Wrestling, told Toronto radio station The Fan. "That's the way you can sum up what we do. We're almost a live-action circus act."
The WWF, on its regular Monday Night Raw show last night, featured a tribute to Hart, a veteran of 10 years with the company who had talked about leaving wrestling once his deal expired early in the new millennium.
The WWF called off shows this week in Winnipeg, Ottawa, Hamilton and Montreal. A television re-broadcast of the Sunday night card, scheduled for tonight, also was cancelled.
Hart's brother, Bret, who was to battle fellow WCW wrestler Kevin Nash on The Tonight Show on NBC last night, flew to Calgary to be with his family.
He had been en route to Los Angeles from Ottawa, where he attended the Memorial Cup final on Sunday, when the tragedy occurred.
While Owen seemed to love the wrestling game and enjoyed the camaraderie, family was first and foremost.
He was proud of his accomplishments in the ring and never seemed to carry the ego that some of his fellow competitors have.
One of the most athletic performers in the game, he admitted he was concerned with the direction the WWF had taken and tried to stay clear of it. Unlike some of his fellow athletes, he did not spend recklessly, socking away his money.
"I have looked after my money quite well, so I would be all right financially," he once said, noting that he wanted to be around for the important moments of his two children's lives.