SLAM! WRESTLING: Guest Columnist

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Friday, May 28, 1999

SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column

A sad day for Canadian wrestling fans

HART Owen Hart on his way to the ring for his match against Bad Ass Billy Gunn at Raw Is War in Toronto on February 8, 1999. -- Stan Behal, Toronto Sun.
By MATT SHURRIE -- Goderich Signal-Star

More than a decade ago Calgary native Owen Hart pounced onto the World Wrestling Federation scene as a masked character called the Blue Blazer. Sadly Sunday night, Hart made his final entrance at a WWF pay-per-view event.

In an attempt to restore pride into his wrestling character the script called for Hart to be lowered from the rafters in a superhero-like manner at an arena in Kansas City, Missouri.

During his descent something went wrong and the Canadian wrestler plummeted 18 metres to the canvas below. Despite attempts from medical staff to revive the athlete he was pronounced dead on arrival at the Truman Medical Centre. Hart was just 34.

Professional wrestling, whether called sports or sports entertainment, will not go unscathed by this incident nor should it.

Over the last five years wrestling's motto has quickly become more bang for your buck in an attempt to corral more fans and fill more seats. >From the increased use of chairs to scantily clad women, the bars of entertainment and at times good taste have been pushed and on occasion certain lines have even been crossed.

Somewhat appropriate, the event which claimed the life of Hart was titled 'Over the Edge'.

Too many will argue that wrestling did not claim the life of 'The Black Hart' but rather an accident did. My response to that would be that ratings and money caused a 34-year-old man to try something which had nothing to do with sport.

The sport or art of wrestling belongs in the ring, it's not some highwire act that takes place in the rafters of the arena.

For years audiences have watched wrestlers walk, run or ride their way to the ring on the ground, not through the air. The push by promoters to have men act as showstoppers rather than athletes has caused a blurring of the lines.

New to professional wrestling in recent years are hardcore matches. Those events involve chairs, baseball bats and blood. Although fun to watch from a distance, the message sent to younger viewers is that people and wrestlers are indestructible. The Hart tragedy shows that is not true at all.

Behind the glitz and glamour of professional wrestlers are people like you and me. Hart was married with two young children.

When Hart's older brother Bret (Hitman) Hart, also a wrestler, ran into problems with WWF president and owner Vince McMahon he called the treatment of wrestlers like that of circus animals. Perhaps the Hitman had a point that wrestlers have no control over stunts and various situations.

Wrestling is fake, we all know that. The WWF and World Championship Wrestling (owned by Ted Turner) employ writers that plan storylines and feuds. That part of the sport is very enjoyable as a fan because it acts as a weekly soap opera with action in the ring.

Stunts are rehearsed and props are rigged so wrestlers do not receive serious injuries but it's true, accident happen.

During his wrestling career Hart was a two-time Intercontinental champion and a former European champion. Along with his two slammy awards and a King of the Ring winner in 1994, he will be remembered as one of the greatest tag team fighters of all time having won the belts with three different partners.

If anything positive can come out of this sad incident it is the reality that imitating wrestlers can cause physical harm and that we should all think before we act.

Matt Shurrie is Sports Editor at the Goderich Signal-Star, and can be emailed at

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