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Cucch's Book Review: Broken Harts: The Life and Death of Owen Hart

Sunday Night, May 23, 1999. I had just returned home from a couple of tough weekend shifts at the restaurant I was working. 12-12, followed by 9-6. I was exhausted, sore, and in need of some frosty liquid refreshment. I did have small solace that night in the form of a WWF PPV I was not particularly forward to. Over The Edge 1999. I was at the peak of my wrestling fandom at that point, but truth be told, I was not thrilled with the WWF product in 1999. As someone who always enjoyed a really good match, the WWF wasn't providing many of those at that point, instead focusing on risque and insidious storylines, slaves to the almighty Neilsen Ratings. The era was deemed "The Monday Night Wars" and never has there been a more apt name for an epoch in wrestling history. By the end of the wars, the body count would be staggering. Great wrestler after great wrestler, mid carder after mid carder, jobber after jobber, all lost their lives in the war to make money for themselves and organizations, to put their bodies through inhuman torture which could only be sustained night in and night out by copious amounts of pain killers and PED's.

Back to the original point. I fixed myself a small snack, cracked open the first of my six pack of Rolling Rock (Oh, those days when, not only did underage me drink Rolling Rock, but could get TIGHT on a six pack) and proceeded to lay in my recliner and watch the latest offering from the high rolling WWF.

The card looked completely unspectacular. The Main Event was a WWF Championship Match between champion Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Undertaker (part 423 in a series of 1,295 matches, approximately) with Shane and Vince McMahon as the guest referees. Other sure to be classic matches on the card were Val Venis and Nicole Bass facing off with Jeff Jarrett and Debra, The Union vs. The Corporate Ministry, and the blow up of the wildly popular, wildly overrated New Age Outlaws. Fans, like myself, who were looking for some great in ring action, were almost certain to be disappointed with the card that had been outlined. There was another match, almost an afterthought, especially to me, for the Intercontinental Title. It would be the Godfather defending against the mysterious Blue Blazer.

Now, anyone who knew wrestling at that time knew just who damn well the Blue Blazer was. It was the alter ego of Owen Hart (Although, sometimes his tag partner, Jarrett, would dress up in the masked outfit to try to throw people off of Owen's scent). As a longtime Hart family fan, I was always interested in seeing what a Hart would do in the ring. Granted, I was always more of a Bret and Davey Boy guy, but that didn't stop me from following the great heel stylings of  Owen throughout his WWF tenure. He was tremendous fun to watch, just a great chickenshit wiseass heel. Owen also was probably one of the most naturally gifted wrestlers to ever grace the squared circle, so he had that working for him as well. He was an absolute joy to watch, but I wasn't holding out much hope for his match with the Godfather.

Owen had always been great as just plain Owen Hart. Much like Chris Candido in ECW, there were no gimmicks needed. Sure, the monikers of "Rocket", "King of Hearts", and "Two Time Slammy Award Winner" didn't hurt. But all of that was attestable to the genius of Owen Hart. His Blue Blazer gimmick was certainly silly, harkening back to his early days in WWF in 1988 and 89, as a masked babyface JTTS. Owen had recently revitalized the gimmick, and, while may smart fans hated this treatment of one of their heroes, some, like myself, saw Owen putting 100% into the gimmick, as he always did. Whereas in 1988 it was meant to be almost a form of hero worship to Tiger Mask (maybe the wrong choice of words...but its my article, deal with it), Blue Blazer v. 1999 was mostly a parody. It was a parody of WCW superheroes like Sting. It was almost certainly a parody of his own brother Bret, who detested the filth WWF was devolving into. But some would also say it was a parody of Owen himself, who also, like Bret, hated the direction of the WWF, and had refused some risque storylines simply because he was a family man with young, impressionable children whose minds, along with countless other children tuning into WWF broadcasts, he did not want to warp.

So the Over the Edge PPV begins with a fairly nondescript tag match of Kane and X-Pac vs. D-Lo Brown and Mark Henry. Smell the workrate. It was followed by a hardcore match between Al Snow and Bob Holly. That wasn't a bad match, but certainly not a good one either. The third match on the card was scheduled to be the Godfather vs. The Blue Blazer. Here is where that PPV becomes indelibly etched into my psyche.

They went to a video package, highlighting the fact that everyone was in on the Blue Blazer joke, that everyone knew it was Owen Hart. Even the announcers. It was a fairly quick package, Pimp against Superhero looking for justice and morality, more or less. That is when shit got weird.

The camera panned back to a wide angle of the audience, while Jim Ross was struggling to collect his thoughts, it seemed, and he kicked the feed back to the dressing room for a pre taped Blue Blazer interview. But not before he stammered out "We have big problems out here."

The promo that followed was classic Owen, declaring that his "arch nemesis" The Godfather made his "blue blood boil." Owen finished his Blazer interview with his Hogan rip off credo: "Say your prayers, take your vitamins, and drink your milk. WHOOO!"

It was sadly the last words we would ever hear from Owen James Hart.

Now I don't have to tell anyone what happened next. We all know. Moreover, I would be hard pressed to even attempt to match the namesake of this site to write a definitive, tell all story on Owen Hart. So that is not happening. I was shocked at the moment when Ross said there was an accident with Owen, but, wrestling being wrestling at that point, I honestly didn't know WHAT THE FUCK to think. I stayed up for a couple of more matches, all the while recording it on my VCR (I mean....the fuck I did...I did no such thing. That's illegal. Would never do that. Ever.) I conked out for the night, and missed Ross' announcement later in the night. What alerted me to the severity of the whole thing was my mother calling me the next day. Honestly, I thought the accident was real, but every fiber of my being wanted to believe it was a bad Russo stunt. So when my mom called me that morning and said "Did you hear about that wrestler who died last night?", the gravity of all of it hit me. And hard. I immediately turned on CNN, and was shocked to see a wrestler being the lead item on a news network. Owen Hart. Dead. At 34. Unreal.

Enough of my personal recollections of that horrific night. To the book. "Broken Harts" is Martha Hart's attempt into discussing the man that she loved and adored, her attempt to convey just how great a man was lost on that sad May day in 1999. The book's full title "Broken Harts: The Life and Death of Owen Hart," is actually misleading. There is some talk on his life, very little on his career. The book is more about Owen and Martha's almost Thoreau or Emerson Walden type existence together. But, it is less about the life of Owen Hart, and more about the death of Owen and the seedy aftermath of those events in Kansas City, MO.

Martha Patterson and Owen Hart met in high school, as Owen's wrestling team happened to be practicing a few rooms over from Martha's gymnastic squad. It was truly a case of love at first sight, Romeo and Juliet embodied in the flesh as opposed to characters leaping off the page. They began their storybook romance in relative squalor. Owen was the youngest of the Hart children, and, as I am sure many here are aware of, especially if you have read my review on Bret's book, that existence was far from idyllic. Martha grew up in similar circumstances. Her mother had 11 children by two husbands, Martha towards the bottom of the age totem pole. Both families had dysfunctional home lives, both taking in vagrants, the disillusioned, the poor, the destitute, the transient. The Hart family did it with wrestlers, the Patterson family with vagabonds. Martha and Owen were young members of their respective families who yearned for a more simple, structured, normal life. To that end, they began dating, and found absolute true love that neither of their families could understand. Owen never really wanted to be a wrestler, but once he fell head over heels for young Martha, he realized he needed a profession where he could provide a comfortable living for his soon to be bride and soon to be budding family.

Owen was an absolute natural, and Martha was perennially by his side. From Germany to Japan, USA to Ukraine (oh God, I sound like Rod Trondgard) Owen and Martha traveled side by side. They were married in 1989, and it was then that Owen decided to quit wrestling and become a fire fighter. Well, Calgary didn't really give him a fair chance, so, with brother Bret now at the top of the profession as WWF Champion, Owen reembarked on his wrestling career.

People who are looking for inside dirt on Owen's WWF career or his ribs, stop. Martha offers nothing too much in this book. She instead speaks of how proud Owen was at the births of his son Oje and daughter Athena. It is a truly amazing look into the at home psyche of a great family man. Sure he was gone a lot of days because of his WWF commitments, but this is a guy who truly got it. As Mick Foley said in the Owen documentary by Paul Jay: "Some people say they live for wrestling. Not Owen. Owen lived for his family, and used wrestling to help them live." Amen brother.

Most wrestling fans are going to be disappointed with this book, because his entire WWF run lasts roughly, maybe, 30 pages. Its the death and aftermath that dominate it.

As we know, Owen fell to his death, 78 feet, from the top of the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, MO, May 23, 1999. Here is where the book becomes must read. And it pains me to say that. Bret and Martha were absolutely a united front, as those two knew Owen better than anyone. Unfortunately, Diana Hart, Ellie Hart, and Bruce Hart were a united front as well. And they saw Owen's death as cash. Cold hard cash. How? In pity employment from Vince McMahon. Most of this stuff is pretty public domain, especially in Canada, but rest assured, it still remains lurid and detestable. Martha also writes about how awful and pornographic Diana's book was, and how it became her mission to censor it. Good for Martha.

Out of the respect this writer has for the Hart family, well, Bret, Owen, and some...Kieth should be included, I will not give an opinion on some of the shit that appears in this book. That is up to the reader, and in these reviews, I try not to slander too much when its a subject I am intimately familiar with. Sometimes.

The lawsuit is mentioned in full detail here, except for the settlement amount. Based on my limited knowledge of what happened, I believed, and still believe, that Vince McMahon and WWF were grossly negligent. And the tribute show they had the next night? Bad. The fact they kept Over the Edge going after Owen fell? Unforgivable. It shows the true tastelessness, the lack of tact, the lack of sympathy of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon.

There are many other things I could discuss about this book, but, hey, what is the point of writing a review where I ruin everything and you do not seek out and read the fucking thing? The best part of this book is that all proceeds from the sales of the book go towards the Owen Hart Foundation, which Martha Hart founded shortly after the settlement with WWF.

My own conclusion is this: WWF was absolutely negligent in the people they hired, and the devices they used, in the stunt that killed Owen Hart. I leave it to you, the well informed reader, to peruse the book, study the facts on his death, read between the facts that Martha clearly did hate and will always hate, wrestling, and make your own determination. That is the point of all this. Educate yourself.

This book is an absolute must read. As for Owen questions, refer to the man running the blog.


  1. I have owned this book for years. There is one chapter that describes in great detail (even down to what side of his mask was cut to take it off) the events from the moment Owen fell until he was pronounced dead at the hospital. As weird as it sounds (considering Martha is the author and the book is much more than this), it's the best account of what happened that night....anywhere.

    Other things I remember were Vince and Linda actually going back to the Hart house after the funeral, after everything that happened, after Martha basically saying she was going to sue the WWF during her eulogy....I just found that move quite ballsy of Vince to do, and well, almost as disrespectful as continuing the show the night Owen died.

    One of the recent PlaceToBe podcasts has a great interview with Kevin Kelly about that night, and he said that there was no plan for when something like that happened, and they just frantically decided to go to the next match. Even though I think they should have ended the show at least when they got word that Owen died, it kind of made sense that in the chaos they just plowed ahead. He said (and is correct) that if someone died on a show in 2013, it would be all over Twitter in 30 seconds and they would probably stop it. Although Jerry Lawler basically died at the announce table and they went on, so who knows.

    I was there in Kemper Arena that night and of course I'll never forget it. Part of me was horrified that someone had died in the ring, but the smart mark in me kept thinking, "Man, this is going to be HUGE news" and "There goes any chance of Bret ever coming back after this". After reading the book, I felt bad for thinking of it from a inside business perspective, because Owen was truly a great, great guy. And after reading Bret's book (with tears in and all of his extramartial affairs, well, it made me even more sad that Owen never got his shot as a World Champion, because he was as much of a class act as ANY pro wrestler ever will be.

    One last thing: Martha has every right to hate pro wrestling (she makes it very clear that she hated it even before Owen died), but I wish she would just let Owen have his WWE legacy and HOF induction, for us, the fans who did truly love watching him perform. He shouldn't be scrubbed out of history.

  2. Your_Favourite_AssholeJune 8, 2013 at 10:12 PM

    brah did you see it happen? from what i've read the consensus is that most people were watching the tron vid package. what was the crowd temperature like? was it one of those things that you just knew?

    sorry you have to experience it in any way.

  3. They had dimmed the lights and the first video package was playing, so yeah, most people (including me) were watching the screen. I very distinctly remember that Owen fell when they showed him being interviewed saying something like "The WWF needs the Blue Blazer back!" because as he was talking, Owen fell in the arena, and I thought the audio had messed up because he hit the ring as it was playing. I didn't actually see him fall, but saw him in the ring immediately afterward and thought it was a dummy, since in WCW, Sting would sometimes send down a mannequin Sting to distract the nWo and then repel down the opposite side, etc. All of this was going through my mind in about a 5 second span.

    Then I saw Owen was moving, and someone said in some report that he looked like a guy that had done 500 situps and couldn't do #501, and that's exactly what it looked like, and then he stopped. A shitload of referees, paramedics, and police officers ran down, and at one point we saw them giving him chest compressions, and we knew it was really bad then. We knew they weren't showing it on TV (the titantron was exactly what was on TV, including JR at the desk, with no audio). This was normal, so it wasn't like they were intentionally not informing the arena crowd.

    I kept thinking that if he was dead/no pulse, they wouldn't keep working on him in the ring, so I thought they had brought him back because it was about 10 minutes before they wheeled him out. That the show continued made me think he was okay. I remember being floored when I called my dad outside after the show (no cell phone reception and all phones could do back then was basically call, maybe text, and play "snake") and he told me that Owen had died.

    I remember most of the people in my section thought they would announce the show was being postponed/ended right after they took Owen out. It was quite obvious to anyone with half a brain that he was in cardiac arrest in the ring. They were very visibly giving him CPR and even used defibrillator paddles at one point.

    I remember when Austin came out for the match with Taker in the main event, he got about 3/4 of the pop that Gangrel's music got for the dark match to start the show. You could tell the crowd was affected by it. Again, I think most people thought that Owen was okay, or the show wouldn't have continued.

    It really pisses me off when they said "the fans thought it was part of the show". Maybe the idiot mark who thought the Undertaker was really a satanist thought so, but most rational people realized something bad had happened within minutes. It bothers me just like how all of the news media kept calling Owen the Blazer, like he had been playing that character his entire career. I remember walking to my car after the show and everyone I passed was talking about it. Ironically, I was cleaning in my basement today and found the Kansas City Star front page from the day after, I saved it, saying "Pro Wrestler Suffers Fatal Fall."

  4. It's a tremendous book, although I will say that Martha's insistence that Owen was going to retire and become a fireman was probably wishful thinking on her part. I'm 99% certain that if Owen didn't retire in 93, he wouldn't have retired in 99 and probably would have ended up with 2 or 3 World titles in either of the Big Two or at least after the brand split occurred. Like any addiction, Vince would have kept feeding his until something took him out of the sport for good.

  5. Owen being world champion is such revisionist history that people came up with after he died.

    He would've remained in the midcard like he always was, probably getting lost in the shuffle when the Radicalz came in.

  6. Way too many typos. Also Bret and Martha have long since been estranged.

  7. The book is great and quite sad. Anybody that doesnt get why Martha wants nothing to do with Owen being in any HOF or having any videos made about him really should read this book from cover to cover.

    The woman lost the love of her life and her kids lost their father. I really dont think she cares about Owen's fans and it doesnt bother me at all.

    We dont need Owen put into Vince's HOF to solidify what Owen accomplished in his career. After all this is a HOF that has Koko B. Ware enshrined but not Randy Savage....

  8. You're insane if you think Owen wouldn't have got Benoit's spot at 20. And they would have spent millions to get Bret to do a run in.

    If you ever wonder what would have happened to Owen's career if he lived, look no further than Benoit's.

  9. I'll take anything Martha says with a massive grain of salt.

  10. Everybody wars back and forth on whether the show should've gone on, whether it was the right thing to do or tasteless or whatever. But honestly, none of that shit is even relevant. It was irresponsible and negligent to let wrestlers continue to work in a ring where someone had just died. Until a full forensic evaluation had been done that ring should've been considered a crime scene, and sending guys out there to bump around in it was basically destroying evidence. Not to mention, the ring had a hole in it and was structurally damaged, so it was an unsafe working environment foe everyone else on the card that night. How Vince and company didn't face some kind of criminal charges is beyond me.

  11. I always wondered why Owen just didn't ask to become an agent? I know he wasn't fond of the wrestling business but until he could get out of it, but it was a better option than wrestling.

  12. I couldn't agree more with you regarding the crime scene aspect. Nobody really knew that it was an accident at the time and police should have been allowed to investigate immediately. He was, unfortunately, dead just seconds after impact (and the wrestlers knew this) so I don't like hearing this bullshit that they didn't know, family had to be called first, blah blah--it was a crime scene that needed immediate investigation.

  13. This is why I hoped that TNA, ROH or another wrestling organization would have popped off. going somewhere with a lesser schedule would have been appealing to a vet that had their money situation secure and just wanted to wrestle.

  14. For some reason, I was shaving when it happened. My brother came and got me and said something serious had happened. I came out to the living room and my mom said that Owen Hart was seriously hurt. Of course, I said it was part of the story line, and not real. She said the announcers sure seem serious, and when I heard them, I knew it was the real deal.

    Which reminds me of how fucking much I loathe Vince Russo. I recently watched the PPV New Blood Rising, in which we see the classic Ms. Hancock vs Major Gunns. Of course, through out the match Ms. Hancock keeps grabbing her stomach in pain. At the end of the match, she's stretchered out, as the announcers sound mournful and break kayfabe, informing us that Ms. Hancock is really named Stacy Keibler, and it appears she may have had a miscarriage. Absolutely sickening.

    There was no right call for the show. Plain & simple. I thought Raw Is Owen was genuine. It also had me bawling like a baby.

  15. Amsterdam_Adam_CurryJune 9, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    Does the TNA title count as a world title? Because I still think that Owen would have gone to TNA and won multiple titles, just because he was so close to Jarrett.

  16. now that i can buy.

  17. What's longer, the book or this review?

  18. Your_Favourite_AssholeJune 9, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    'For some reason, I was shaving'

    i dunno why, this was amusing

  19. RAW is Owen was genuine to a point. The Godfather and Road Dogg and Austin stuff...not so much.

  20. Like what? Yes, she's bitter toward the Harts and McMahon, but the facts about Owen's death are pretty concrete.

  21. I don't believe this for a second.

  22. No. would not have happened

  23. I doubt anyone here has lost a loved one in the way Martha has, Im not sure how she is considered a villain...

  24. Very nice summation there. Fascinating to read.

  25. They SHOULD have ended the show then and there, though I can absolutely buy that they had no fucking idea what to do, and kept going out of inertia and panic. I mean, a situation like that is pretty unprecedented.
    And even from a more heartless, rational perspective, imagine all of the mess that would happen if they had to end the show there and re-do it somewhere else.

  26. The sarcastic "Smell the workrate." when mentioning the D'lo Brown match made me laugh pretty hard. Good review, Cucch.

  27. Koko didn't try to bed the boss' daughter, before it became a way to get a career 5 years later...

  28. I'd like to know what Cucch's issues with the 24th show were...

  29. I hope you are referring to his WHC reign and, well, not what happened 3 years later...

  30. Which leads me to wonder...what would he do when Bret made up with WWE?

  31. The best part of that Bret/Austin match is where Owen claims he taught Bret the Sharpshooter when they were kids and JR says sarcastically "You must have been 7 or 8 years old at the time". Owen responds, "I was 6, actually."

  32. On the totally selfish side, it's scary to think what great potential match-ups Owen had in store if that accident never happened. Owen/Angle, Owen/any of the Radicalz, Owen/Jericho, Owen/Haas or Benjamin, Owen/Mysterio, Owen/Tajiri, Owen/Regal...I could go on and on.

  33. scott do oyu feel marthas comments about martha being told by owen that austin just wasnt a good person are true comments that owen relayed to her?

  34. why would she lie? just because the company negligently killed her love of her life?


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