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  May 30, 1999

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Scores of wrestling superstars to attend funeral

By CAROL HARRINGTON -- Canadian Press
 CALGARY -- Wrestler Owen Hart will be mourned today by an eclectic crowd -- fans, wrestlers, politicians, musicians, hockey and football players -- and, of course, the expansive Hart family, known as Canada's wrestling dynasty.
 Road Dogg, Gorilla Monsoon, Paul Bearer, Sgt. Slaughter, and Stone Cold Steve Austin are among the scores of wrestling stars expected at his funeral, along with Alberta Premier Ralph Klein and country music singer Colin Ray.
 Hart, 34, a.k.a. The Blue Blazer, plunged nine storeys onto a wrestling ring during a stunt last week in Kansas City, Mo. The husband and father of two young children was instantly killed.
 "He's going to be missed by so many people," Ross Hart said of his younger brother. "We didn't realize so many knew and loved Owen."
 The open-casket service will be invitation-only because the chapel seats 300 people.
 But interest in attending the funeral has spread throughout North America and the Hart family has arranged for fans to gather outside to listen to the eulogy through a speaker system.
 At five foot 10 and 227 pounds, Hart started his professional wrestling career in 1989 with the World Wrestling Federation. He was a four-time tag-team champion, two-time intercontinental champion and a European champion.
 Hart's father, Stu, was one of Canada's most influential wrestling icons. He started as a wrestler and later promoted the sport by packing small-town prairie arenas with tough, spirited crowds.
 Klein's father, Phil -- a friend of Stu Hart, wrestled in small towns and bush camps on the local B-circuit. The premier, who used to watch his dad grapple in the ring, said he personally knows members of the Hart clan.
 Several WWF stars poured out their grief over the loss of their contender and friend by giving brief personal tributes on the Internet at
 "Owen was the leader of the little merry band of Canadians we called 'The Canadian Mafia,' " says a distraught Edge. "The thing I remember most about Owen Hart is the way he made me and anyone else laugh."
 "When I think about Owen's life," says a sobbing Jeff Jarrett, "I think about integrity because in this business it's cold, it's callous, it's selfish, it's self-serving, it's unrealistic, it's a fantasy world.
 "But Owen was real. He was a man's man."
 Police say they may never know what caused the wrestler's fatal free-fall but believe it was an accident.
 Most of the investigation is wrapped up. Kansas City police say Hart likely inadvertently unhooked a harness attached to a cable as he was being lowered from the rafters of the Kemper Arena.
 The harness is being tested to find out how much force is necessary to activate its quick release and to determine its maximum weight capacity, said Sgt. Floyd Mitchell.
 The six remaining Hart brothers -- Keith, Ross, Wayne, Bruce, Smith and Bret (Hitman) -- will be pallbearers at today's funeral.

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