One of the most tragic events in the history of Warsaw and professional wrestling in general is the death of Owen Hart, but the fans not only lost their favorite wrestler that day. It’s also the day that Martha Hart and her family lost a loving husband and father, and fans will see both aspects of Owen’s life in tomorrow’s Dark Side of the Ring finals. The episode The Last Days of Owen Hart talks about life before the crash, the crash itself and what happened afterwards. Recently she had the opportunity to talk to Martha Hart about the episode, the man behind the fight and the fight she will have with the WWE. The documentary says a lot about Owen, and the full text of our conversation can be found below.
Matt Aguilar: The documentary is not only about what happened during the WWE, but also about life outside the ring with Owen, which offers a welcome perspective. That the only thing you want people to leave behind a documentary film with Owen’s knowledge is that they don’t fully understand him yet?
Martha Hart: You know what? I appreciate the way the dark side of the ring has emphasized and revealed Owens’ identity. He was such a sparkling, happy man. He was so sweet, and I know we weren’t really, I wish we could have learned more about his personality, but I think people really feel that he was just a great father, a great husband. He was such a warm and inspiring man. He was the kind of person that only attracts you because he is positive and happy and it is nice to be with him and inspire him. I think people are going to feel this very playful, funny guy, who was just a very nice guy, and he really was. He was just a nice and wonderful man.
(Photo: Martha Hart)
And he was very generous, and I know I didn’t have much time to figure out how nice he was, but he really was the nicest person I ever met. There are so many examples I can mention for his kindness to others. Something else, he may not have been in the right place in this episode, but he really took everyone by surprise, which is a rare quality. He was so impartial, and I think that’s why people always liked him, because they felt really comfortable with him. You never felt he wouldn’t accept it… He accepted them all, he didn’t care. I think he’s always tried to be an example. But he didn’t care if somebody fell or something, he didn’t see it that way. He took them all. I hope this reminds you that he’s such a funny and hospitable person.
Matt: Well, many do, and as you said, Owen speaks in such a positive and friendly way about the people who have had the opportunity to meet him and communicate with him. If you had to remember one memory that really represents Owen Hart, what would it be and why?
Martha: I like to tell this story because I think it’s pretty good and it really talks about all the good qualities Owen had. He left the hotel and he had to leave early and he had a room for, I don’t know, about six more hours and he saw this homeless guy. So he went to the homeless guy and said: Look, here’s my key. Go to your room. I’ll tell you what, sleep in your bed, take a shower. There’s still pizza in the fridge. Take what you want. Just take the room, but don’t break anything, please. And that’s exactly the kind of man he was. He’s always done those things. Always trying to help people. He had such a big and gentle heart, and he was always going back and forth, and it was the only way he could see other people passing by without even thinking about it.
He was just a very nice man and a humanist. He’s done a lot of charity work that people might not know about. He was always in contact with the children’s hospital and always went to meetings and greetings at schools. He visited some sick children, some terminal children. It was hard, but he did a lot of different things like that. He worked with Special Olympics. So there were a lot of things, but they were on an organizational level. He also just saw things in his daily life and just helped people.
He was always a great help and he really had a heart for all those who fought or fainted. He was so nice to him, and he never looked at him, he never fed on fame, and he never looked at people in such a way that, well, it’s us and them. That’s why I think he had a big reaction from his fans, because he never looked at the fans like I was here and you were down there. They were on an equal footing. A lot of fans became very good friends with him, and they even went to pick him up and took him to the airport, and he got them tickets for shows or whatever. He loved people. He was human, and he looked at everyone like we were all human.
It was interesting, because even though he was really different from the other fighters, they liked him because he was funny. And again, because he didn’t care how people lived. He just accepted it, he didn’t care, he just wanted to be accepted. It’s like I’m being accepted for who I am. I’m a straight arrow, but I’m a nice guy, and I don’t care what you do with your life. I’m not judging you. That’s why they loved him, because they never felt that he looked at them differently or anything like that. That’s why I think everyone liked him, because he always had some kind of connection with everyone.
Matt: Well, you have a very good feeling about this whole episode. While you were checking everything, was there anything you noticed after you came back, maybe this time, that didn’t happen in the past?
Martha: I think the only thing I was really happy with was the story they told and I was hoping they would tell it. The story, I think, even if it’s a difficult story, it’s important to tell Owen’s story. Other people came to see me, but they didn’t want to tell the story the way it really is. I think that’s what I liked about the Dark Side episode so much that they really did it. Behind that story was actually Owen Hart, the man, but everything that happened to him. I think it’s very important that people know everything about the accident, everything that happened regarding the lawsuit. And all that was there, but also what we have lost in mankind, what, what a great man we have lost, and how it has had such a great impact on so many people. I think I’m also very happy that people are seeing all the good work being done on his behalf through the Owen Hart Foundation. I’m very happy about that, too.
Matt: It is also very interesting to see how your children have changed and grown over the years, and that is a really revealing part of the episode. We see that you, Oje and Athena have made progress in your life, and you have done great things with the Owen Heart Foundation, and it has nothing to do with professional wrestling. I was wondering what wrestling generally looks like in your family? Can you still look positively at certain aspects of his career, despite everything that finally happened, or is it something that we just cancel and don’t look at it anymore because of all the memories it brings back?
Martha: I think we should always give back to Caesar what’s his. Owen was an excellent athlete and he was very good at what he did. Probably also for us, because he was born in a wrestling family, his father was a wrestling promoter, but he didn’t really want to make wrestling a career. We were at university together, and he wanted to be a physics professor, and then he was introduced to wrestling, because that’s when Vince McMahon took over all the small estates and his father’s company went terribly bankrupt. The only brother said: My God, can you come help us? And because wrestling and the Hart family were so famous in Calgary, the fact that Owen was Hart and this young, blond, handsome athlete was getting better and better.
He fought to help the family business, but never intended to stay there. It was only once in a while, and he was always trying to save himself. He has applied several times to the fire brigade, which recruits new candidates every year. For years he tried to join the fire brigade every year, because his brother was a firefighter and his brother-in-law was a firefighter. So he knew this way of life and thought it was perfect. He was a big guy, he was strong. He thought it was a good job for him, but the problem was that at the time it was so popular that they only hired graduates and Owen didn’t graduate because he wasn’t working in his father’s company anymore.
This option was therefore repeatedly rejected. He also applied because he was an American and Canadian citizen, as a customs agent, because he thought I was a great guy and that I could work with American customs in Canada, so he thought it was a possibility. He was always looking for a way out of the battle, and maybe people don’t realize that because of these things, he wasn’t at the center of our lives. It was his job, but not our whole life. We didn’t see the fight and we didn’t breathe. For us, Owen was more than just a fighter. And I know the people, they got to know Owen as a wrestler, and that’s good, but now they’re going to see that he was more than he deserved.
Fighting was always plan B, which he eventually wanted to get out of, and he loved to build bikes. Because he was a very sensitive man, and he thought that when he’d finished fighting, he’d go out on his own, because he tried to get out so many times. He was always looking for a way out, but it never happened. And then there was a moment when we accepted that as long as it was our life and he was good at it. He was a good sportsman and when he grew up in this business, he was a natural. He understood the philosophy behind the fight. It was easy for him.
He had the whole mentality in this fight, but as a man he had other interests. He didn’t want to stay there forever. He wanted to get out of there. Yes, we admired him for the athlete and the fighter he was, but I think we know he was much taller. It’s not about throwing them away or putting them in the closet and forgetting, but we don’t have them in our hands either. Kids, you can’t run away from him, he’s everywhere. I’m sure you’ve seen games on the internet or whatever, but we’re not watching them because we never did, not even when Owen was alive.
It wasn’t a big part of our lives, and in fact it’s strange because the struggle was only a small part of my life. We were nervous. He didn’t devour our whole world, and after his death he became a more important part of my life than when we were together as a family. Because then I really had to get to know the company, to fight this giant, the WWE, and to fight my battle with them. I wonder how he could be so small and then, after he died, he got bigger.
Matt: Which brings us to the next question, which has a bit to do with what you’re saying about Owen’s life being more than just a struggle. Their lives have not only been a battle, but it is clear that the battle is a huge platform. And you were right, a lot of people, a lot of fans know him especially as a wrestler, and that’s what makes a documentary really good to show some of these other aspects of Owen. You had no connection with the WWE after his death, and you touch a little why in a documentary. This solution has been carefully studied by some and protected by others. What do you think is the most incomprehensible aspect of your decision to keep Owen’s legacy unrelated and somehow separate from the WWE?
Martha: I think a lot of people… I wrote a book in 2001 in which everything that happened with my lawsuit against the WWE is described in detail, because it was so awful at every level. I also understand that not everyone will read my book. I think with an image like Dark Side, people will understand why I don’t want a relationship with this company. Unfortunately we don’t dig deep enough, and I’m telling you it’s such an ugly story that if you look at the incident when it happened, Owen died in the ring, and they just dropped it off like a garbage can, and they sent match after match to a ring that not only had Owen’s blood on it, but it was also broken.
The bottom plates were broken by Owen’s fall, and the wrestlers felt a fall into the ring, and he was the first, straight out the door, who did not respect human life. And when I accused them of wrongful death in Missouri, the WWE even sued my widow because she wanted to turn the case over to Connecticut. Because Owen’s contract states that all claims against him must be made in Connecticut because there has never been a penalty for damages in Connecticut. And they thought they’d ring the bell if the case went through Missouri for the penalty clause. So they sued me in Connecticut, and I actually had two lawsuits at the same time.
I had to hire a law firm in Connecticut to conduct this lawsuit against her, while I was also fighting a wrongful death suit in Missouri. The fact that they’ve sunk so low they’re suing me for breaking Owen’s contract for something so ridiculous. But on the other hand, it was just a tactic to scare me into polluting the water, to make it dirty, because they knew they didn’t belong there. We had all the rigs on our side that had been knocked down or that had sworn to support our fight against them, to say that the trick was shameless and that it was damned of conception, that it was so sloppy that it wasn’t even funny. So we’ve had this whole conflict. Vince also manipulated Owen’s family to play the family against me. Literally stealing my legal documents from the house of heart and giving them to the defense.
So they had our game, they knew what our strategy was, what we were doing. I’ve had two fights. I’ve had a trial in Connecticut, I’ve had a trial in Missouri, and I’m from Canada, so there’s been a lot of fighting across state and country lines. Besides, I knew I would fight the WWE, but I didn’t expect to fight Owen’s family, just because of this betrayal and lack of support. I was just a young mother with two little kids, and I had a lot to deal with, and I was just snooping around and saying I didn’t care, because you know what? I really didn’t care. I felt like I’d lost everything. I thought I was leading this fight, and either you’re behind me or you’re against me. It’s as simple as that.
I think the important thing is that they really underestimated me, and it’s just my determination to end this and make sure I get some kind of justice for Owen. I hope people will find out, and unfortunately we didn’t have as much to do as we wanted, but we had very little time and a lot of people had something to say. I think they did everything they could with the time they had. The good thing is that in a way the whole story hasn’t been told, and I think it leaves just a little secret, and I hope people will dig deeper and investigate it. There are many more things in this story that I hope to tell in the future.
People had no idea what kind of fight I had on so many levels, but I think it’s also a story where you have to be alone, and when something goes wrong, you have to get up and have a good fight. I think if you do, even if it’s very, very difficult, you’ll figure it out. I believe that if you do something for the right reason, without a plan, but because it is the right thing, you always get the best result.
Despite the fact that it has been very, very difficult, I am now, all these years later, looking at myself, at my children. I look at our lives and the life we have created from a phoenix that has risen from its ashes, but in many ways we have emerged as victors. I wouldn’t change the way I handle it. I think I’ve always been guided by my heart, and I’ve always done what I thought was right. It was all selfless, it’s just that I want justice for Owen and he deserves it. So I’m gonna make sure he understands that, and if that means he’s fighting this multi-billion dollar company and doesn’t have the support of the Owen family, then I think he understands.
Finally, I want to say that I really wish everyone the best of luck. I don’t hold a grudge and I hope life has been good for all these people, because life is hard. My life hasn’t been easy either, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I’ve forgiven them all. I hope people, they also know you can forgive people, but that doesn’t mean you have to have a relationship with them, right? An important part of this story is that bad things have been done here and people need to be held accountable, but in the end we have to go in a positive direction, which means that we too have to forget and forgive what is happening, and that is what I have done.
You can see the dark side of Owen Hart’s last days on VICE TV on Tuesday the 19th. May at 22:00 ET/PT.
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