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World Wrestling Federation fans knew Owen Hart as "the Rocket" or "the Blue Blazer." He died tragically during a pre-match publicity stunt when he fell 90 feet.
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Owen Hart was born on May 7, 1965, in Calgary, Canada, into a large family with 12 children. His father, a professional wrestler, trained him in a basement studio. Hart, a champion college wrestler, joined his father's professional team in 1986 and 1988 entered the World Wrestling Federation. He died on May 23, 1999, when he fell 90 feet during a pre-match publicity stunt.
Professional wrestler Owen Hart was born on May 7, 1965, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The youngest of 12 children, Hart was one of six brothers and four brothers-in-law in the Hart family to become professional wrestlers. The Hart boys studied wrestling from an early age in a basement studio under the watchful eye of their father, Stu, himself a talented wrestler.
Owen wrestled at the amateur level and became a Canadian college champion before making his professional debut in 1986 as part of his father's Stampede Wrestling tour. After touring in Europe, Japan, Mexico and Canada, Hart entered the World Wrestling Federation in 1988.
As "the Rocket" or "the Blue Blazer," Hart became a popular fixture in the WWF. His fierce, although staged, rivalry with his older brother, the five-time WWF champion Bret "the Hitman" Hart, attracted viewers, as did their teaming up to form "the Hart Foundation" in 1993. Individually, Owen won the King of the Ring title in 1994 and the Intercontinental title in 1997. After Bret unofficially retired in late 1997, Owen was the only remaining Hart on the professional wrestling scene.
Over the years, Hart became disenchanted with the outrageous character of the WWF and especially with federation owner Vince McMahon. In early 1999, he was reportedly preparing to retire and spend more time with his family—he had a son, Oje, and a daughter, Athena, with his wife Martha. He thought of beginning a teaching career.
An accident during a pre-match publicity stunt on May 23, 1999, at Kansas City's Kemper Arena put an abrupt and tragic end to those hopes. In front of more than 16,000 fans, most of them totally unaware of the chilling reality of what they were watching, Hart fell some 90 feet when a release mechanism disengaged on a cable affixed to the ceiling from the safety vest he was wearing, hitting his head on one of the wrestling ring's padded turnbuckles. He was later pronounced dead of internal bleeding.
The circumstances surrounding Hart's death sparked much discussion about the increasingly dangerous nature of the WWF's publicity tactics and provoked calls for some action to be taken by the federation to protect its wrestlers. A wrongful death lawsuit filed against the WWF by Hart's family, who accused the wrestling organization of making dangerous demands on Hart in pursuit of money and television ratings. They reached an out-of-court settlement in late 2000. The WWF is pursuing its own lawsuit against the company that manufactured the equipment used during the deadly stunt.
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