The inclusion of the late Owen Hart into the WWE Hall of Fame has been one of many fans bones of contention of former (and deceased) WWE Superstars who are long past their due for recognition in WWE’s Hall of Fame. Since his tragic death in 1999 at the age of 34, fans have clamoured for the youngest Hart member’s induction. But any involvement of Owen Hart in WWE productions has long been blocked by his widow, Martha Hart. Initially, the fans seemed to sympathasize with Martha – after all, she’d just lost her long time love. But as we approach twenty years removed from that fateful day, many now clamor for his induction as a tribute to the man that was so beloved, both by fans and peers alike, as well as his legacy. Owen Hart’s high flying style, mixed with the trademark Stu Hart trained technicality, was an inspiration to many of the top Superstars of today, both WWE, NJPW and elsewhere – in 1988 he became the first gaijin to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in New Japan.
On July 3, Owen’s brother, Bret “Hitman” Hart, was a special guest on In This Corner, a podcast hosted by CBS Sports’ Brian Campbell, where he specifically talked about Owen Hart’s blocked induction and the role he perceived Martha Hart playing in the white washing of Owen Hart’s legacy as a professional wrestler. “I think Martha, Owen’s widow, she’s a very obtuse, square-headed person,” Hart said in the interview. “I think she’s done more to erase my brother Owen’s memory than she ever did to remember him. I think it really bothers me that the fans that loved Owen so much didn’t get a chance to remember him. You do these kind of things for people are here–left to remember them. I mean Owen, it would never matter to him if he was in the Hall Of Fame, but I think that you know it would mean a lot to different family members in my family. I know Mark Henry as an example, gave a strong speech or talk this year about getting Owen into the Hall Of Fame and I totally agree.”
Martha Hart broke her long silence on the issues at hand, releasing a statement via The Owen Hart Foundation,
CALGARY, Alberta, July 11, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Dr. J. Martha Hart, PhD, released the following statement today in response to published comments attributed to the former WWE wrestler, Bret Hart:
The suggestion by Bret Hart that I am “erasing” the memory of my late husband, Owen Hart, is reckless, irresponsible, and clearly untrue.
Bret’s comments are rooted in the fact that I have steadfastly refused to work with the WWE to exploit Owen’s image for commercial gain. Owen was an incredible entertainer and I know that his many fans around the world enjoyed his wrestling career immensely. I encourage them to continue to do so. But I am firm in my belief that the WWE was responsible for Owen’s death. As a result, I cannot and will not support any efforts by the WWE to profit from Owen’s memory.
Instead, I, my son Oje and daughter Athena have worked tirelessly to honor Owen through the good works of The Owen Hart Foundation, which has exceeded $4 million in gift giving and contributions toward scholarships, home owner bursaries, and other special projects that have greatly improved the lives of so many in Canada and around the world. We have always believed that this is the most fitting public tribute to a man of profound integrity; a wonderful human being who just happened to wrestle. I know that Owen would be very proud of the tremendous accomplishments the Foundation has achieved in his name.
Bret Hart’s comments are disrespectful and cruel. It is disappointing that so many in the media have chosen to report them without seeking my perspective. Whatever Bret may believe, the fact is that, far from “erasing” Owen’s memory, I have devoted the last 20 years to celebrating his life in a very public way. I can think of very few people who have been remembered so glowingly by their spouse.
For more information about The Owen Hart Foundation, including the Scholarship Fund, the Owen Hart Foundation Housing Program, and other special projects, visit www.owenhartfoundation.org.
Our OHF Mandate is Education: “Helping individuals with limited resources but unlimited potential.”
Martha Hart’s statement struck a chord with the 5x WWE World Champion, who responded in length detail on his Facebook page late last night.
Bret’s comments from his Facebook post in full:
This past week, I have received multiple requests for comment regarding my recent interview on a podcast and the rebuttal made by Dr. Martha Hart. First of all, I want to express my disappointment in both the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald for running a gossip-style article and making it front page news when there are more pressing issues in the world to highlight. You are better than that. I listened back to the interview in question and I specifically want to address Martha’s comments about my words being “cruel, reckless, irresponsible, and hurtful”.
Stampede Wrestling was an institution in the city of Calgary. Wrestling was our family business. My brothers and I either wrestled for my father Stu or worked behind the scenes. Fans packed the Victoria Pavilion every Friday night for decades. Martha has seemed to have forgotten that she attended those same shows before she met Owen. She was, by definition, a wrestling fan. That same group Martha appears to look down upon and ignore.
Earlier this year, Mark Henry took time during his WWE Hall of Fame induction to specifically address Martha. With tears in his eyes, Henry pleaded with her to allow Owen to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. My nieces and nephews were in the audience with tears in their eyes as he expressed how much he deserved to be there with his peers. Fans have told me they had tears in their eyes when they watched the moment on television. Those same fans Martha sat side-by-side with at Stampede Wrestling and WWE events. Those same fans that donate to the Owen Hart Foundation and helped make it what it is today because they remember the joy he brought to their lives and not by how he died. Those royalty checks she receives from the company she says she doesn’t want any part of? Those are also from those same fans. To her, their tears do not matter. To me, that is cruel and hurtful.
It is true that Martha and I were close at one time. I was right by her side after Owen’s death until she received her settlement from WWE and proclaimed me a “pest”. Martha later declared herself and her children Harts in name only, called us all “black sheep”, and ceased contact with the rest of the Hart family. She further isolated from us when we all came together in 2010 to honour our father Stu being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and participated in a DVD that celebrated our family (Hart & Soul). Owen’s children do not have a relationship with his brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and cousins. One of my nieces, in fact, named her son Owen after him. I do not know Oje and I wouldn’t know Athena if she walked passed me on the street. Owen’s children only know of their father’s family by what is told by their mother, whatever that may be, painting us all with one broad brush. To block Owen’s children from knowing their father’s family, to me, is cruel, reckless, and irresponsible.
Owen’s tragic accident almost 20 years ago changed our family forever. Martha lost her soulmate and her children lost their father. You have to remember, however, that I also lost my brother. My children lost their uncle. My grandchildren will only know him through pictures and stories. His peers lost a close friend who filled them with endless laughter through long periods on the road. The fans lost someone that they lovingly connected to. Martha is not alone in her loss and grief.
The Owen Hart Foundation is a wonderful charity that has raised millions of dollars and has helped many people in its 19 year history. I am not disputing or denying that whatsoever. I disagree, however, that it should be the sole outlet to remember Owen by. This is not just about Owen being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. This is about his wrestling career, his wrestling legacy, his contribution to the business that he loved and honouring that contribution. Owen Hart was a world-renowned professional wrester, and a damn good one. He was part of the foundation that our family name was built on not just in the city of Calgary but all over the world. For Martha to want to rewrite history, to refuse to acknowledge or recognize his great wrestling career, to brush off what he, myself, and my father did as “that fake stuff” is wrong.
Owen Hart was a wrestler. The next generation deserve to know how great he truly was.
I am happy to hear that my brother Owen will be inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame on July 28 in Waterloo, Iowa. My father and I are past honourees. While I will not be in attendance, the Hart family will be well-represented with my brothers Ross, Bruce, Keith, sister Diana, and my nephew Harry Smith accepting the honour on his behalf. Thank you to the Board of Directors for recognizing his wrestling career, his contributions to the wrestling business, and his legacy. I’m sure the event will be filled with laughter, tears, and an overall appreciation for the man that he was. I can only hope that this is only the beginning.
With the feud between the Hart family and Owen’s estranged wife now becoming more public than ever, one has to hope that it does more to endure Owen Hart’s legacy in the end, rather than damage it.