AS I SEE IT 6/04/2001
AS I SEE IT adds the Luttemedia website (a French language wrestling website
serving Quebec and France) to the more than 50 websites carrying the column... or as it
might be said more properly to our new readers: "COMME je VOIS IL ajoutons le
website Luttemedia aux plus de 50 websites portant la colonne.".
On to this week's column...
On May 29th, several members of the Hart family met with the McMahon family for the first time since the death of Owen Hart in the tragic accident at Kemper Arena two years ago that took his life before thousands watching live and a world-wide PPV audience; and the subsequent civil trial resulting from it.
20 family members and friends were given front row seats at the show, including Stu Hart, Bruce Hart (and two of his sons), Ellie Hart (and her daughter), Smith Hart (and son Matthew), and Diana Hart (former wife of Davey Boy Smith).
After RAW went dark, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit came over to celebrate with Stu Hart. Then, in a touching moment, Jericho remembered Owen Hart, which understandably drew the loudest and heartfelt reaction of the night. I only wish both of these moments had made the airwaves.
The above members of the Hart family met before and after RAW with Vince, Linda, Shane, and Stephanie McMahon, Jim Ross, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and Sean Waltman.
On May 30th, Stampede Wrestling printed the following:
"'Tonight was a great night for the family,' said Ellie Hart. 'Burying the hatchet with Vince, having Chris pay tribute to Owen and Stu, for the first time it feels like we can get on with our lives. Bitterness has ripped our family apart the last two years. It's time we get past that, and handle the situation like adults. Vince didn't kill Owen. What happened was a terrible tragedy, and everyone is hurting from it. Hating each other for something neither of us wanted to happen is counterproductive. I'm glad we were able to do this, for all of us. I'm sure that Owen would be proud that my dad was honored for his passion for the business.'
'I think this was as important to Stu as anyone else,' commented Bruce. "He has always contended that he doesn't have an axe to grind with Vince. Most of us in the family realize that what happened to Owen two years ago was an accident. We've had a relationship with the McMahons for fifty years, and it's best for everybody that we come together and look towards the future, instead of dwelling on one unforeseeable tragedy in the past.'"
But seemingly, this almost Shakespearean tragedy never ends...
On May 28th, Martha Hart told the Calgary Sun: "If anyone from (the Hart family) were to go to the show it would be disrespectful and disgusting....I don't understand the family meeting with the WWF".
On many levels, Martha Hart's feelings would be understandable, given the loss that she suffered.
But when a version of the infamous "Montreal finish" was done involving Vince McMahon, Earl Hebner, Steve Austin, and Chris Benoit on the May 29th RAW... more fans seemed interested in the fact that this finish was done yet again; than the fact that any peace that may have come to members of the Hart family, or any joy that the 86 year old Stu Hart may have gained by his being honored one final time by the Calgary crowd last Monday night.
Numerous online commentators have claimed that the honor to Stu Hart was no more than an attempt by Bruce Hart to develop a business relationship between Stampede Wrestling and the WWF, and that it constituted selling out both estranged brother Bret and the memory of Owen. Others referred to it as an "ambush" of the Hart family, despite no mention of a feeling of being "ambushed" by any of the Hart family members present at RAW.
Beginning in Montreal, and especially since May 23, 1999...it seems there has been far too much hatred among factions in the Hart family, and between Bret and Martha Hart against the World Wrestling Federation.
While I mentioned my feelings of disapproval about the events of Montreal back in my late 1997 AS I SEE IT columns, it seemed that as years went on, Bret Hart made Vince McMahon a continual obsession.... even more than McMahon's own seeming obsession about Hart. One such example was printed in his Calgary Sun column on November 15, 1997:
"...My career ended with my evil boss, that no-good Shawn Michaels and a cowardly referee, in the saddest way I ever imagined. They killed me. Oh sure, Bret Hart is okay. I always will be. But the Hitman, well, they murdered him, right there in front of the world. I spit in McMahon's face and dealt with him accordingly in the dressing room, but it still hurts a lot..."
Ironically, he couldn't follow his own advice from his April 17, 1999 column:
"How much energy does it take to hold a grudge and what does it get you? Sticking up for your ideals is one thing, but not when it reaches a point where being right becomes more important than being happy."
Then May 23, 1999 happened.
Bret Hart couldn't forgive some of the members of his extended family for any involvement with the WWF....even as a result of contracts that Owen had a part in brokering with the WWF on their behalf. It seemed that almost weekly, we saw the Hart family's dirty laundry exposed for all the world to see, such as in these examples in Hart's column:
July 10, 1999: "...Saw a strange sight yesterday. Dogs rolling in manure and loving every minute of it. For some reason it made me think of how the British Bulldog will do anything to work for the WWF..."
July 17, 1999: "...Then there were these four little pigs in the pig races. The guy there told me they'd sell out their mothers and brothers and sisters to the slaughterhouse just for those little mini donuts. Kind of reminds me of...err... I won't go there this week."
October 2, 1999: "...When I heard the British Bulldog expounded on how it was his dream to come back and wrestle in honour of my brother Owen... I don't approve of anyone who says they are doing something to honour my brother Owen when it turns out they stand to gain from it either financially or through publicity..."
November 27, 1999: "...One thing that didn't turn out like I thought it would, was Dynamite Kid's book. As great a wrestler as he was, I'm saddened to realize that in addition to injuring his elbows, knees, shoulders and back, he's broken his brain, too."
January 8, 2000: "...Meanwhile, I recently turned on Stampede Wrestling on TV. What I saw made me embarrassed for my family name. I was disappointed to see that my sisters, Diana and Ellie, would participate in such a farcical performance. When did they become wrestlers?"
The bitterness continued, when Ross and Bruce Hart attempted to organize a show involving the WWF in May 2000 honoring Stu Hart's 85th birthday... with Stu Hart withdrawing permission after Martha Hart made clear her feelings.
Battles were fought between Martha Hart and much of the Hart family in print as well.
"' This is not a close-knit family and I'm not part of it anymore -- we carry the same last name but that's as far as it goes,' said Martha who praises Bret, Keith, Stu and Helen Hart as the only ones who sided with her in the messy legal battle that divided the family....
They betrayed Owen by working against me and his children and I will never consider myself, or my children, a part of that family anymore. I will respect Owen's parents and I will stay in touch with a select few of them but people need to know that Owen was a white sheep in a black family.' "
Battles were also fought between Hart and her lawyers against Vince McMahon and WWFE lawyers in the Canadian press as well during the Owen Hart lawsuit.
The bad blood was such that Ellie Hart even faxed a document being circulated by Martha Hart's lawyers that she found in Hart House to Jerry McDevitt, WWF lawyer...one that some viewed as offering to distribute money only to Hart family members that "supported her [Martha Hart's] side of the story", a step suggested by legal authorities as constituting witness tampering, during the many reports about the trial in the Kansas City Star.
But even after Martha Hart's lawsuit against the WWF was settled in an out-of-court settlement of $18 million, the Hart family tragedies still weren't over.
July 2000 saw an arson fire that burned down the guest house at the Hart family complex, that Stu Hart stated was "...in the family you might say. But I haven't got the guts to make a big deal out of it."
Then, October 2000 saw the arrest of Davey Boy Smith after two drug-related domestic violence incidents where Smith was arrested for making death threats toward wife Diana. Police had been to the family home several times for domestic incidents over the past few months preceding these arrests.
With those incidents, Bret was still bitter toward his sisters and Smith. The October 27, 2000 Calgary Sun reported the following sad paragraphs:
"...Bret said he hadn't spoken to Smith or his sisters since the death of his brother Owen.... when their reaction to Owen's death upset him. 'I don't have anything to do with the three of them. I don't talk to them,' he said.
Bret said he was sure his sister wouldn't need his protection.
'Diana can get help from the police,' he said."
The situaion has even degenerated to the point of comments between Bret and Ellie Hart wishing the other dead, with Bret over a year ago suggesting he'd "run over her if he saw her" and Ellie telling Bret days ago, just prior to the family appearance on RAW "I hope you die".
Before I get accused of "taking sides" by some, as if there were "sides" in such a multi-dimensional tragedy; I do agree with come of the critics about one thing: it's long past time for an end to "Montreal finishes" in the WWF. Even with the presumed (?) permission or at least acquiescence of members of the Hart family on May 29th, what happened in Montreal isn't the same as a "Dusty finish".
Instead, it's a endless rehashing of a moment that never should have happened to begin with...and a finish that needs not ever to be used again, given the feelings the endless repetitions of it create in everyone.
Now...that having been said...it's time for those who know better to quit making everything involving the Hart family their own political football. If what seems to be the large majority of the Hart family is satisfied with whatever Vince McMahon and his family said to them in Calgary, for whatever reason; then that should be enough for everyone else.
What Vince McMahon did to Bret Hart in Montreal was wrong. What happened to Owen Hart in Kansas City was an accident. Both of those facts should be obvious to any unbiased or disinterested person. Having said that, I hope Bret and Martha Hart as well as the other members of the Hart family get over their bitterness, before Stu Hart leaves this earth, and they don't have the opportunity to make the family as whole as is possible again while Stu Hart is alive.
If they don't, that might well be the worst Hart family tragedy of all.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)