The Hart Family’s effect on professional wrestling stretches far and wide. It can be argued that the family’s most famous member, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, popularized the technical style in the World Wrestling Federation and convinced Vince McMahon once (though maybe not for all) that smaller guys belong in the main event. Other members of the family have made their mark on the wrestling business in different ways, and today the Hart family has members competing not just in WWE, but all over the world.
Like all large families, however, the Harts have experienced their fair share of controversy and disagreements, many being caused in some way by Vince McMahon and the WWE. Most people will immediately think of the infamous Montreal Screwjob, in which Vince McMahon and his associates forced Bret Hart to surrender the WWF Championship by calling for the bell the moment Shawn Michaels placed him in a sharpshooter, despite the fact he never tapped out.
However, the issues surrounding the Screwjob have since been resolved and everybody seems to be on the same page – or, at least, in the same chapter. Nowadays, Vince McMahon and the Hart family use the interest surrounding the Montreal Screwjob to sell books and DVDs and just generally turn a profit. That being said, there are a number of incidences which neither party is so eager to talk about, especially not on WWE television.
Here are 15 things WWE wants you to forget about the Hart family.
Next to the Montreal Screwjob, this is the incident people think of when somebody mentions the Hart family and controversy. In 1999, at an event titled Over the Edge, Owen Hart, performing as The Blue Blazer, was booked to take on The Godfather for the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
As Hart was playing a superhero gimmick, Vince McMahon and his team of writers wanted him to make a dramatic entrance, descending from the ceiling of the arena, much like WCW star Sting. According to multiple sources, Hart didn’t want to do the stunt, but agreed to it because he didn’t want to let the company down.
That night, something went terribly wrong just before Owen’s entrance and he was released from his harness while at the very top of the building. He fell over 70 feet into the ring, with his chest colliding with the top rope and throwing him to the canvass. He died shortly after. The fans watching at home did not witness the accident as a pre-taped promo was being aired at the time, and the dimmed lights in the arena meant few people in attendance saw what really happened. Footage of the accident remains in WWE’s video vault, with instructions to never be watched or destroyed.
As anybody in her situation would do, Owen’s widow, Martha, sued WWE , claiming their failure to plan the stunt properly and lack of safety precautions had been responsible for the death of her husband. She also sued the company who provided the harness for the event.
WWE is generally fairly successful when it comes to court cases, and their go-to lawyer Jerry McDevitt has a great record of getting a victory for his clients. However, this was a case which Vince McMahon was bound to lose, and he knew it. The usually stubborn McMahon admitted defeat and the company reached a settlement with Hart in November 2000.
In his autobiography, Bret “The Hitman” Hart claims to have seen his brother in a dream after the settlement was reached. According to Hart, Owen was furious that the case had been abandoned for the sake of the $18 million which Vince agreed to pay to his widow.
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, father of current WWE superstar Natalya, had an odd career in WWE. He experienced his greatest success in the company during the eighties, when he teamed with Bret Hart as part of The Hart Foundation. Pairing with Bret, Neidhart won the WWF Tag Team Championships on two occasions.
For a brief period during his WWE run, Neidhart wrestled as a masked competitor named “Who?” It certainly wasn’t Vince McMahon’s greatest idea and the majority of Neidhart’s matches consisted of commentators saying “Who is in the ring” in a cheap rip off of a sketch that was funny in the 1930s. In later years, Neidhart would refer to the gimmick as “real BS” and now believes that it was forced upon him as punishment for violating an early incarnation of WWE’s wellness policy.
Among the many unflattering stories Bret Hart tells about Vince McMahon in his autobiography, is one about how McMahon cancelled what could have been Hart’s first big break.
Hart was due to perform at Madison Square Garden, where he would be wrestling in the main event. It was still the early days of his career, and he had not been in such a high profile match before. As a young man who wasn’t quite as pessimistic as he would become in later years, The Hitman was so excited for his first major bout that he couldn’t sleep in the lead up the match.
However, just as he was leaving the hotel to go to Madison Square Garden, Hart was met by an official who informed him that he would not be wrestling that night. According to the messenger, Vince McMahon felt that Hart was not a big enough name to headline the most famous arena in the world. As Vince McMahon is an out of control egomaniac, it is unlikely that he is eager to recall the time he pulled Bret Hart from a card because he doubted his drawing power.
Even though Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels supposedly buried the hatchet several years ago, Bret continues to take digs at The Heartbreak Kid on podcasts and in shoot interviews. The Hitman also does not allow the fact that he is currently under a WWE Legend’s contract prevent him from taking shots at Triple H, who pretty much owns the company at this point.
Recently, when asked about the latest WWE video game, Hart voiced his displeasure with the fact that Triple H has a higher ranking in the game than he does. Said The Hitman: “Triple H could never lace my f**king boots up.”
Tom Billington, otherwise known as “The Dynamite Kid,” is considered by many to be one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. However, very few wrestling fans realize just how good Billington was as he never really got the chance to prove it on a larger scale.
After traveling from territory to territory and country to country to make a name for himself, Billington signed with the World Wrestling Federation in the early 80s. He competed alongside his cousin, Davey Boy Smith, before locker room problems lead to him leaving the company. Kid, having made excessive use of growth hormones throughout his career, lost the use of his left leg in 1997. Since then, he has been confined to a wheelchair and has suffered a number of strokes, the most recent of which occurred last year.
In 2015, Billington joined a group of former WWE superstars who are suing the company for failure to adequately treat concussions. This is despite the fact he spent only four years of his 20 year career with the company.
Natalya Neidhart is an extremely talented professional wrestler and probably the best performer in WWE’s women’s division. A couple of years ago, though, during a period many fans feel the WWE creative team had pretty much lost interest in their job, Natalya was given a gimmick which would see her unable to control her bowls. Usually, Nattie would be talking to somebody backstage only to bring an abrupt and awkward to the conversation by breaking wind, which caused Santino Marella to throw up on more than one occasion.
The gimmick continued for a couple of weeks before eventually being dropped, proving there is a God. It should be pointed out that Natalya never actually farted during the storyline. Being on WWE’s pre-taped show Smackdown meant WWE could edit add farts in editing (along with some laughter).
After the Montreal Screwjob, the vast majority of fans assumed that they would never again see Bret Hart inside a WWE ring. However, The Hitman returned to in-ring competition with World Wrestling Entertainment at WrestleMania XXVI, in a match against the mastermind of the Montreal Screwjob, Vince McMahon.
The match was, as most expected, a lackluster affair. Rather than donning his trademark pink ring gear, The Hitman chose to perform at the biggest event of the year in a t-shirt and a pair of jorts, a common choice of attire among aging wrestlers who just don’t care anymore.
Had Bret just left it at this performance, the WWE Universe probably could have overlooked his disappointing return as an active competitor. But he continued to wrestle on Raw, where he won the WWE United States Championship from The Miz with the help of the Hart Dynasty, because he really needed somebody to take the brunt of the work.
Bret Hart’s final match came in September of 2011, when he teamed with John Cena to take on Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez. Hart scored the victory for his team by making Rodriguez tapout to the Sharpshooter, bringing an underwhelming end to a legendary career.
WWE like to portray Davey Boy Smith “The British Bulldog” as one of the greatest superstars to never win the WWE Championship. They also like to portray the Hart family as a dynasty of wrestling gods, incapable of producing anything other than gold. However, John Laurinaitis, WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent Relations, wasn’t thinking like that when he phoned up Smith’s son to wish him the best in his future endeavors.
Harry Smith signed his WWE contract in April 2006 and made his television debut the following year. Prior to his debut, he adopted the name “DH Smith,” which instantly made him a source of ridicule from the Internet Wrestling Community.
After some time as a singles competitor, during which he achieved nothing, Smith began teaming with Tyson Kidd, and managed to capture the WWE Tag Team Championship. Their reign was short-lived, however, and the pair eventually entered the typical former tag team partners feud, in which Kidd was victorious.
After not appearing for several months, Harry Smith was released from his WWE contract on August 5, 2011. The following week on Raw, CM Punk, just beginning his run as WWE’s resident anarchist, expressed his displeasure with Smith’s dismissal and the company’s failure to do it face to face. That was the last time Harry Smith was mentioned on WWE television.
Chris Benoit is without a doubt one of the greatest performers to ever lace up a pair of boots. He worked his ass of for years and spent time in ECW and WCW before finally making his way to WWE. All of Benoit’s hard work paid off in 2004, when he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of WrestleMania XX. Of course, Benoit’s legacy is overshadowed by that time he, you know, murdered his wife and child before taking his own life.
During the early days of his time in professional wrestling, Benoit, a Canadian native, sought out only the best training, and he found it at the infamous Hart Dungeon. Though The Rabid Wolverine was originally trained by Bruce Hart, he eventually became a student of Stu Hart and began to work for the Hart family’s Stampede Wrestling promotion in 1985.
Mentioning that stars like Tyson Kidd and Natalya were trained in the Hart Dungeon has been a great way to get them over with the crowd and legitimize them as wrestlers. Mentioning that they also trained in the same place as Chris Benoit would likely have the opposite effect.
During the mid-nineties, an Owen Hart reign as WWF Champion seemed like a sure thing. After turning on Bret Hart at the 1994 Royal Rumble and proclaiming he was going into business for himself, Hart received the biggest push of his career. He wold take on his brother for the title on a number of occasions.
WWF officials were fairly high on Owen at this point, and there were plans in place to have him defeat Bret for the WWF Championsip.
Plans like these are often brought up and agreed upon in WWE creative meetings, only to be changed several minutes later. Owen’s reign as champion, however, was planned for several weeks during his feud with Bret. In fact, Vince McMahon was so set on the idea of Owen defeating his brother that he held a photo shoot in which many promotional shots of Owen with the championship were taken.
However, McMahon changed his mind, as he is prone to doing, and Owen Hart’s title reign never came to be.
Pretty much every member of the Hart family has found themselves in a couple of serious situations, but none more than Teddy Hart.
The son of Georgia Hart and BJ Annis, Teddy seemed bound for great things, and in 1997 he became the youngest ever performer to sign a contract with the then WWF. After spending some time training with Terry Funk, Hart was released from his contract due to “bad attitude.”
Hart went on to sign with Ring of Honor at the beginning of the new millennium, but again was released due to his inability to keep himself in check. Attitude problems became a recurring theme in Hart’s career and cost him multiple jobs.
In 2014, Hart was declared a wanted man by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after multiple women accused him of sexual assault. Thankfully, the charges were dropped early this summer and Hart was able to return to a life of relative normality. Despite the recent dropping of charges, don’t expect to see Teddy Hart mentioned on WWE TV anytime soon.
Stu Hart worked his fingers, and the fingers of his children, to the bone in order to turn Stampede Wrestling into one of the premier wrestling promotions in North America. Bret Hart has recalled the family having a great deal of money in the early years of his life, when the promotion was going from strength to strength. However, things started to change when Vince McMahon Jr. took over the World Wide Wrestling Federation from his father.
Determined to monopolize the wrestling business and earn more money for himself, Vince McMahon abandoned typical booker etiquette and began to take the newly renamed World Wrestling Federation into the territories of his father’s former peers.
McMahon forced the Hart’s to sell their promotion to him in 1984, bringing him one step closer to global domination. VKM raided the roster of its talent and sold it back to the Hart family in 1985, a defeated and deflated promotion.
Since then, numerous attempts have been made to return Stampede Wrestling to its former glory, but it has never been able to recover from the damage caused by Vince McMahon and his insatiable desire to bring the competition to its knees.
When they're not feuding with the McMahon family, the Hart family can be found squabbling among themselves.
After Owen Hart’s death in 1999, his siblings believed Martha Hart’s (his widow) lawsuit against Vince McMahon to be counterproductive. This was because many members of the Hart family were struggling financially and longed to be employed by the World Wrestling Federation.
Bret Hart, who had already made his fortune in the WWF, did not side with his siblings and did all he could to not get involved in the matter. In his autobiography, Bret recalls visiting his father in the hospital to find somebody had written the words “PISS OF MARTHA PATERSON” on the chalkboard in his dad’s room.
Further Hart family drama ensued after Bruce Hart divorced his wife, who he had married when she was still a teenager. At the time of their separation, Davey Boy Smith was also going through a divorce from Diana Hart, and it wasn’t long before he entered into a relationship with Bruce’s ex-wife. Obviously, this did little to ease tensions in the Hart family and the controversial relationship would last until Bulldog’s eventual death in 2002.
Despite mentioning Owen Hart more and more in recent years, WWE still have not inducted the King of Hart’s into the Hall of Fame. For many fans, Owen’s absence in a Hall of Fame which includes Drew Carey and Donald Trump is an absolute travesty which needs to be righted ASAP. Bret Hart agrees with this, as do most members of the Hart family. However – and this is where that Hart family drama comes into play again – Owen’s widow has consistently refused to allow her husband to be honored by the company, which see sees as being responsible for her death.
It has been reported by multiple members of the Hart family that Vince McMahon cannot get Martha Hart to agree to the induction and does not want to reignite an old rivalry by moving ahead with an induction anyway.
While the Hart family have put forth a couple of solutions to the problem – including inducting Owen as The Blue Blazer – McMahon does not believe such an induction to be worth the risk.