AS I SEE IT - 11/02/2000
Since 1997, wrestling has been forced to witness a real life multi-part
family tragedy, with elements including professional betrayal, hatred among family
members, drug use, marital discord, tragic accidents, and domestic violence. All of these
events occurring within the last three years, happening to one family, are elements of a
very real-life Greek Tragedy.
We could call it Hell at Hart House.
What has become a seemingly endless series of tragedies began in 1996a year; when Matthew Annis, the 13-year-old grandson of patriarch Stu Hart, succumbed to necrotizing fasciitis, the so-called "flesh eating disease".
But for most people outside the family or outside the Calgary area, it seemed to begin with the infamous "Doublecross in Montreal".
There are very few wrestling fans who have not either seen for themselves or heard about the events of November 9, 1997 in Montreal; where Bret Hart was doublecrossed by Vince McMahon out of an agreed-upon DQ finish in the main event at Survivor Series, with the WWF Heavyweight Title being put on Shawn Michaels.
We've all seen the aftermath..and the chaos involving Michaels, Levesque, Hebner, McMahon, Hart and others. We've seen Vince McMahon being spit upon by Hart, Harts destruction of ringside TV equipment; and seen portions of what happened backstage. We've heard of the physical altercation backstage where Vince McMahon was punched by Bret Hart, landing on the floor backstage.
But the path to this moment actually began before this, all quite unintentionally taped for the consumption of the public by High Road Productions, one of Canada's leading independent production houses. Founded in 1980 by Canadian film makers Paul Jay and Joan Hutton, their programming can now be seen throughout the world; with broadcast partners including CBC, CTV, The Discovery Channel, A&E Network, BBC, Baton Broadcast Systems, Life Network, Radio Canada, TVOntario, and La Sept Arté.
High Road Productions had decided to give an honest, landmark portrayal of wrestling entitled "Wrestling With Shadows". The film gave an unprecedented look at this last year within the WWF for Bret Hart. It showed the duel heel/face turn of Bret Hart and Steve Austin, the "Team Canada" program and the buildup to the infamous match in Montreal. It also showed Hart's doubts about it, and the ways he saw the turn affecting his family, especially his youngest son.
"Wrestling With Shadows" showed sides of the business that surprised casual fans, as well as aspects of the personalities of members of the Hart family that were real, but not always flattering. The most notable of those is of the legendary Stu Hart and his "Dungeon". The sadistic side of Stu Hart was shown, with him stretching young trainee Carl Le Duc, as well as an audio tape played of Stu Hart stretching other young trainees.
But what most remember is the footage from Survivor Series. After seeing this part of the film, one can understand why Vince McMahon finally had to publicly admit that he lied to Bret Hart; footage such as that of McMahon confirming the original finish that Bret Hart wanted, with Pat Patterson informing the Hart family of the same.....or the widely reported Shawn Michaels denials of advance knowledge of the double-cross in the locker room.....or wife Julie screaming at Paul (Hunter Hearst Helmsley) Levesque backstage.
Most people believe that Bret Hart never got over Montreal, including me.
The events of Montreal cast him into a bitterness that may or may not have played a part in the dissolution of his marriage to his wife, Julie. But as time would go on, those events would play a much larger role in his life.
Bret Hart went to WCW...angry over what he saw as betrayal by Vince McMahon, a man that Hart viewed at one time as being like a second father, and hoping for a new beginning. But he had yet to face his worst tragedy: the death of a brother and the splintering of the Hart family that would result from it.
In December 1997, Bret Hart arrived on Nitro, and was announced as the referee for a match between Eric Bischoff and Larry Zbyszko at Starrcade for "control of WCW". In what will be one of a seemingly endless succession of reenactments of Montreal by WCW over the coming years, Bret says that "he knows what it's like to be screwed by a referee and he won't let it happen during any match he officiates."
During 1998, WCW did a horrible job of using Bret Hart, with little or no sense of direction in programs involving Sting, Booker T, and Diamond Dallas Page. Many pairings that would have created money matches that in turn would have garnered fan interest were ignored by Eric Bischoff.
But in March 1998, Bret Hart and the family had more on their mind than WCW's booking ineptitude. The Hart family, and Hart House itself seemed to be at risk as the result of a controversy over land associated with the Hart family.
In 1963, Calgary bought several acres of the Hart family's land for Sarcee Trail near Calgary's Broadcast Hill. The sale separated a portion of the site from the homestead. The Hart family stated that family patriarch Stu had been assured that the land parcel's value would increase as time went on. Stu Hart was said to have viewed this land and the promised increase in value as his "pension plan".
Calgary developers offered the Hart family nearly $750,000 Canadian for the land, in order to build 15 homes. The city, however, offered a mere $25,000, and initially didn't want to allow the development.
Eventually, after public pressure the problem was resolved.
Then came May 23rd, 1999.
As I said in the AS I SEE IT column about that night:
"....Along with millions, I watched the Over the Edge pay-per-view that night at home. It was a pay-per-view starting out pretty much like many WWF pay-per-views, with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler trading their usual entertaining banter.
Then, as a video package promoting the match between 'The Godfather'and Owen Hart for the Intercontinental Title began, I could hear Jim Ross say 'something's gone wrong...'. When the video package finished, the camera was showing a crowd shot. At first, I didn't understand what had happened. Then the faces and the words of Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross made it clear that something had gone horribly, tragically wrong.
Ross, stunned, said over and over again that what had happened was 'not part of the storyline' and not 'a wrestling angle'; trying to communicate to the world-wide PPV audience what had just happened: Owen Hart, while attempting a ring entrance in his 'Blue Blazer' character descending on a wire from the ceiling, had fallen approximately 50 feet to the ring, hitting his head on a turnbuckle, breaking his neck.
Hart was given CPR in the ring in front of the live audience at Kemper Arena and then taken to Truman Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Shortly afterwards, Jim Ross made the announcement of Hart's death to the PPV audience."
A clue as to what was to come would be found in Bret Hart's Calgary Sun column on May 31st:
"Owen, you have all the answers now. I remember always being your protector. Looking out for you.
I feel my heartache and my eyes begin to sting when I think, why wasn't I there to protect you in the Kemper Arena in Kansas City last Sunday.
To question if this was really necessary.
Shame on you, Vince McMahon.
Owen, I loved wrestling with you. You were a great wrestler from start to finish and millions of your fans all around the world will never let that be forgotten.
Maybe it's not important, almost kind of meaningless, but I know you were proud of your accomplishments, as I was, and you were one of the greatest athletes to ever set foot in a wrestling ring.
Everyone has a song in their heart. My family's has always been professional wrestling. The hardest aspect of it was always the never-ending loneliness.
In reflection of that, both you and I understood from the very start that we were singing a very sad song. But neither of us, even at this dark hour, are ashamed at having sung that song."
Honest people may disagree about the circumstances of Owen Hart's death. But it is certainly true that Owen Hart was a rarity within wrestling. Other than Brian Hildebrand, I've never seen anyone who was so universally held in high regard among those working for any company anywhere.
It's been speculated by some that Owen felt that he was under pressure to bend his well-known ethical code, and to work angles that fit into a product that employed sex and violence to a far greater degree than had previously done; and that he was ready to leave wrestling to live in his dream house with his wife.
But there's no question that on that tragic night in Kansas City, a man known for tremendous talent, for a sense of humor legendary within the wrestling business, and known for his great love for his wife Martha and his children Oje and Athena was taken from this world far, far too soon.
In many ways, a man like Owen Hart who so strongly believed in family would be heartbroken to see the forces that were shortly afterward put into motion as a result of his death.
On the night after Hart's death, the staff and workers of the World Wrestling Federation dedicated their two hour Monday Night RAW to their fallen friend and co-worker in a moving tribute at the Kiel Center in St. Louis. The irony of the location had to be painful for the entire Titan crew, as only 18 months previously, Brian Pillman was mourned by the WWF and the fans after his death earlier that day alone in a hotel room hundreds of miles away in Minneapolis.
The ten bell count was sounded as the entire Titan staff came out under a picture of Owen Hart on the Titantron. Many of those there were openly weeping for Hart, most notably Brian James, Mark Henry, and Paul (Hunter Hearst Helmsley) Levesque.
Monday Night RAW had numerous segments, with wrestlers and office personnel expressing their feelings about Owen....many of which were humorous, telling of Hart's legendary "ribs" in the locker room and on the road. Other reminiscences were deeply felt, by friends like Levesque, Jeff Jarrett, Debra McMichael, and Brian James, repeatedly breaking down while sharing their feelings with the TV and live audiences.
In between these segments were matches dedicated to Owen Hart, devoid of existing storylines, so that as many wrestlers as possible could work matches to pay tribute to their friend. Special mentions of Hart were done all night by the boys, using special forms of all the traditional tag lines of most of the wrestlers.
The RAW tribute ended with Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross saying their last goodbyes, finally being able to let go after keeping it together for a pay-per-view and international TV/cable broadcast over a 24 hour period. Ross said, sobbing, that "...he hoped he could be as good a man as Owen had been, so he could see him again (in Heaven) some day."
But the remark that got me crying was Jerry Lawler...the same Jerry Lawler who in real life can seem so hard-boiled and old school. He said: "I learned a valuable lesson from Owen Hart last night. As I got into the ring, and held...lifted up Owen's head in the ring...if he could have had one more thing...he would have asked for one more day to tell the people he loved what he thought of them. Never leave home without letting the people in your life know that."
The show then ended with Steve Austin coming out to the ring, with his house show tradition of bringing out two beers, often handed to referee Earl Hebner. In a silent tribute that spoke louder than any words, as a graphic of Owen Hart was shown on the Titantron...with tears in his eyes, Steve Austin opened up his beer...toasted the picture of his friend, then quietly laid down a lone beer on the mat.
In a welcome touch, WCW also paid tribute to Owen on Monday Nitro; where a brief memorial was done for Hart, with Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan speaking briefly, having a hard time keeping their composure while doing so. Several workers wore black armbands, most notably Chris Benoit.
But after the tributes began the controversy.
First, there was a dispute with Owen's widow Martha about a brief segment of footage shown from Owen's funeral. There were disputes as to whether or not the head of WWF Canada had obtained permission from Martha Hart to do so.
This was followed by a war of words between Martha Hart and Vince McMahon in the pages of the Calgary Sun.
Then only two weeks later, Martha Hart, announced on June 15th that the Hart family had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the World Wrestling Federation in Kansas City, originally listing 46 separate counts against 13 defendants, including the WWF, Vince McMahon individually, the Kemper Arena, as well as the individuals who set up the rigging and those who manufactured the system involved in the accident that cost Owen Hart his life.
Allegations in the lawsuit included: "unsafe equipment", "lack of proper training provided for wrestlers doing stunts", "no special precautions taken beforehand", and "knowing ignorance so that wilder stunts could be performed for bigger pay-per-view and arena ticket dollars".
Meanwhile, Davey Boy Smith was going through his own set of tragedies and heartbreak as well, and had been even doing so before Owen's death.
In February 1996, he was forced to fight, and ultimately beat, a charge of aggravated assault resulting from defending his wife at a bar three years previously. He had to deal with his name being dragged through the mud for three years.
In September 1998, Smith was injured as the result of being bodyslammed onto the area of the WCW ring that contained a gimmicked "trap door" used for appearances by the Ultimate Warrior. This injury would begin a two years downward spiral for Smith that he and the Hart family could not have imagined.
Smith had continued to work through the pain, even though injured. He developed an addiction to Demerol and morphine.
By late December 1998, Smith checked into a 28 day rehab program to beat his addiction. Instead of 28 days, Smith stayed seven weeks.
After getting clean, the pain returned. Doctors claimed they could find nothing wrong. During his last week in rehab, Smith collapsed and flew back to Calgary. Smith went to various hospitals, once having to travel by ambulance. Many believed Smith was trying to get painkillers again, and that there was no physical problem at all.
Smith first feared cancer, since cancer has run in his immediate family and taken the life of his sister Tracey that year at 27. Then, when a chiropractor friend suggested a bone scan, it was discovered that Smith indeed had something physically wrong.
It turned out to be three crushed discs in his back, and a virulent staph infection that some feared was life-threatening.
In the midst of all this, WCW fired Davey Boy Smith while injured with their one of their infamous Federal Express packages.
Then, after his recovery, the WWF made Davey Boy Smith an offer to return in July 1999, a deal ironically brokered months earlier by Owen Hart himself.
Rick Bell of the Calgary Sun interviewed Smith in July, with what would prove to be an answer that would start a family war: "I lost my brother-in-law and lost one of my best friends. Martha and Bret have the right to do what they want with the lawsuit. But I don't point fingers.
"I am still on good terms with both the WCW and the WWF. There is no personal animosity. I have nothing against Vince McMahon. I never badmouth a promoter. It's not my style. I never burn bridges."
As a result, Bret's bitterness over Montreal, then his pain over the death of his brother exploded. Hart was furious, and used his July 10th column to attack Smith:
"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."
Then in the following week's column:
"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 mini donuts. Kind of reminds me of ... er ... I won't go there this week," Bret also wisecracked.
It got worse. Davey Boy Smith was shortly afterward interviewed in the Calgary Sun, and stated that Bret went so far as to say that "...if he saw Diana Smith strolling down the street while he was driving he would run her down...."
Smith and his wife Diana Hart Smith appeared at the WWF studios shortly thereafter to film a sit down interview with Jim Ross that was set to air on WWF television, before WWF lawyers recommended that the piece be pulled due to the Owen Hart trial.
Smith did comment to other sources about his anger over Bret's reaction, saying that he didn't understand Bret's reaction, given the fact that he left the WWF to go to WCW, damaged a long-term relationship with the WWF, and even bought out his contract for somewhere between $100,000-150,000 to support Bret. So when WCW fired Smith as a result of their own negligence, Smith took the opportunity given him by McMahon.
Bruce Hart even weighed in on the situation in his "From The Hart" column on the Stampede Wrestling website:
"...Even though most of us in the family knew that Davey had agreed to return to the WWF prior to Owen's death and knew that it was Owen who had helped arrange for Davey to return, my brother Bret chose to write a very critical and denunciative article on Davey in the newspaper. In it he condemned Davey as an insensitive, materialistic traitor and made some reference comparing his returning to the WWF to a dog rolling in s#@t. Because of that, many people began perceiving Davey Boy to have been an insensitive, callous mercenary who didn't give a damn about what had happened to Owen, and who had turned his back on his family strictly for monetary gain.
That really wasn't the case, and I, frankly, think Bret was out of line for putting forth that type of perception, especially since he knew all along that the deal between Davey and the WWF had been ratified before the accident and, ironically, had been brokered by Owen himself.
The consequence of all this is that it caused Davey to be unjustly vilified and has also made his life a lot more stressful - a factor I suspect in his recent difficult battle with drug addiction. I might add, in Davey Boy's defense, that in addition to his nearly fatal battle with bacterial infection and Owen's tragic death, Davey Boy also had to deal with the death of both his mother and his sister last year as well - which made for a very difficult time for him.
So, to answer the question, 'Do I hold it against Davey Bay for having returned to the WWF?' No - he did nothing treasonous, insensitive or disrespectful to Owen or anyone else in the family. It's a shame that my brother Bret's almost obsessive hatred toward the WWF is such that he would choose to utilize Davey Boy as a means to fuel that fire.
In my mind, and in the minds of most in our family, Davey Boy's been a pretty damn loyal and trusted and true member of the clan, and has been unjustly maligned and made to look bad."
Along with attacks at his own family, the attacks at Vince McMahon by Bret Hart also continued. Hart's September 18, 1999 column featured commentary on the death of 25 year old super-middleweight Randie Carver, who died in a boxing ring, in Kansas City.
"The show did not go on. The fans did not riot.
So much for Vince McMahon's lame excuse that he had no choice but to go on with the show as soon as they wiped Owen off the mat or else the fans would riot.
Only an idiot would believe that.
Vince is a lot of things, but he's no idiot. I don't even think he believes the fans would have rioted It's a pathetic attempt to blame the wrestling fans for his own tasteless decision to continue the show. An insult that the fans don't deserve. I've heard from fans who were there when Owen was dropped to his death and they were revolted that the show went on. In fact, a lot of people left.
And I take exception to Vince's cowardly statement that Owen would have wanted the show to go on. Who is he to talk for my brother? Owen would not have wanted the show to go on.
I applaud the dignified way that the fans in Kansas City handled the Randie Carver tragedy. They've proved my point that McMahon's riot story is a cop out that uses the fans as his scapegoat. McMahon didn't even have enough respect for the live audience to tell them that Owen was dead. They heard about it on their car radios driving home from the matches, while the replay of the show was already on TV.
The show didn't just go on. It went on -- twice.
In October, there was one brief shining moment among all these heartbreaks. On October 4th, Chris Benoit and Bret Hart put on a wrestling clinic in an tribute match for Owen Hart, who had died in the Kemper Arena, that very building, only months before. The match was a fitting tribute to their friend and brother. At the end, both were greeted with a standing ovation. The ovation wasn't just for these two talented wrestlers from Canada... but also for one of their own who wasn't there, and never would be again.
But sadly, that seemed to be the one bright moment out of so many that were so sad for the many members of the Hart family. And there were more sad moments to come.
Bret Hart suffered the first of what apparently were a series of concussions on December 19, 1999 at Starrcade in Washington DC. Hart was in a match against Bill Goldberg, when Goldberg caught Hart with a kick to the head that resulted in the concussion, severe enough to take him out of a major match on the next month's Souled Out PPV. He was then injured again in a hardcore match with Terry Funk. After two minor car accidents, Hart went to a doctor who told him to take an extended period of time off. Hart obeyed his doctor, but clearly had no idea of what the end result of these injuries would be.
Davey Boy Smith's own heartbreak continued, as he slipped back into drug addiction. On February 22, 2000, Smith went to Vince McMahon prior to the Nashville, TN Smackdown tapings, and said that he was afraid that he was going to kill himself or someone else in the ring. His addictions to drugs were reported to have ranged from morphine to painkillers to somas to sleeping pills. McMahon paid the $75,000 tab to check Smith into another rehab program in Atlanta.
In July 2000, Davey Boy Smith was again admitted to a hospital in Calgary, first from a bout with pneumonia, then returned only days later to be treated for an infected shoulder, which nearly cost him his arm. after surgery was done to save his arm. The addiction to painkillers also continued. Graphic pictures of the infected shoulder made their way around the Internet. Further, stories surfaced of Smith having attempted suicide.
In the midst of all this, the guest house at Hart House was gutted in a arson fire that started in a pile of rubbish, mattresses and old fighting-ring frames stored outside the guest-house.
The Calgary Sun reported Calgary Police Arson Unit coordinator as saying "I think it was deliberately set -- it was meant to cause damage but I don't honestly believe anyone meant to burn the house down."
Chillingly, Stu Hart stated in the same article that he thought someone in the family might have been involved: "It's in the family, you might say. But I haven't got the guts to make a big deal out of it." No further investigation was ever undertaken of the fire.
The civil suit by Martha Hart against the WWF continued, with a controversial twist when, on August 7th, 2000, the Missouri Court of Appeal ordered controversial documents in the wrongful death lawsuit of wrestler Owen Hart to be temporarily sealed.
The ruling came after World Wrestling Federation lawyers said the documents pointed to witness-tampering on behalf of Gary and Anita Robb, lawyers for the Hart family.
WWF lawyers accused the Hart family's lawyers of trying to elicit favorable testimony from Hart family members through an agreement that would see Hart's 10 family members get a share of monetary damages from the lawsuit.
Such an agreement appeared to violate Missouri law, since in Missouri, no one but the surviving parents, wife or children of the deceased can be plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit. WWF legal staff argued that because several of Hart's brothers and sisters could be key witnesses, they have no right to share in any money under Missouri's wrongful-death statute.
The Robbs denied the assertions by the WWF and other defendants. However, they did say that they "entered into an agreement to have unity among the family". Apparently, once they discovered that the WWF had found out about it, the Robbs pulled it off the table.
But finally, on October 30th, the Kansas City Star reported a settlement between the Hart Family and the WWF:
"...The family of professional wrestler Owen Hart, who died last year in a stunt gone awry at Kemper Arena, has agreed to settle its wrongful death lawsuit against the World Wrestling Federation, the city of Kansas City and other defendants for an undisclosed sum.
The settlement, which needs court approval before it becomes final, was disclosed in a motion filed by the parties late Friday afternoon with the Missouri Court of Appeals.
The appeals court was scheduled to hear oral arguments today on the WWF's allegation that the plaintiffs' lawyers had sought to influence witness testimony by promising Hart's siblings a share of any damage award in the case. The motion filed on Friday asked the court to continue or suspend the arguments pending approval of the settlement...
...In response to questions from The Kansas City Star, lawyers for the WWF and the Hart family issued a joint statement Monday saying that the WWF and the Harts 'have come to an amicable agreement satisfactory to the parties, and the WWF will now continue the case against the entities which manufactured and sold the stunt equipment involved.
"We are awaiting the court's approval of the settlement, which is expected next week. The terms and conditions of the settlement otherwise speak for themselves."
A WWF attorney, Jerry McDevitt, said, "For the time being, we have agreed to limit our public comment to stating that an agreement has been reached, subject to court approval."
Although the lawyers declined to comment on the settlement's terms, a source close to the settlement negotiations said the WWF has agreed to pay the Hart family $18 million.
Under the settlement, the city -- and taxpayers --are probably off the hook. The WWF's insurance contracts contain provisions calling for the city to be reimbursed if the city is found liable. Kansas City owns Kemper Arena.
The document called for the siblings to share in any verdict awarded to Hart's parents if the siblings cooperated with the plaintiffs. It further provided that those siblings who cooperated with the WWF would not share in any damage award...
...The settlement, if approved, would not end the litigation surrounding Hart's death. By saying that it will "continue the case" against the manufacturers and sellers of the rigging device, the WWF has signaled its intention to sue the companies."
Just before this, another blow to the Harts... one that, while probably not altogether unexpected... was still a shock for longtime wrestling fans.
This past week, WCW's Federal Express package struck again.
Bret Hart received a Federal Express package from WCW, stating the following:
"Based on your ongoing incapacity -- post concussion syndrome -- WCW is exercising its right under paragraph 8(e) to terminate your Independent Contractor agreement effective Friday, October 20, 2000.
"Your contributions to the wrestling business are highly regarded and we wish you only the best in the future."
Shortly after that termination notice, Bret Hart officially announced his retirement on his website, Bret Hart.net.
"Bret Hart's Official Statement
We are never prepared for what we expect.
It is with deep regret and sadness that I officially announce that my career as a professional wrestler is over...forever. Due to the severity of numerous concussions I received in late December 1999 and early January 2000 as the reigning WCW World Champion, my doctors have advised me that any physical return to the ring would hold serious consequences for me. So, after great deliberation, it has become clear that it is best for me, my family and my fans that I say goodbye. I would like to thank every single wrestler I ever worked with. I wanted to thank my loyal fans all around the world. I owe you all for what I am. I never really worked for an honest wrestling promoter except my Dad who I especially want to thank.
Wrestling has been my life forever. I have been extremely fortunate in what I have achieved and what I have attained through wrestling. Wrestling will always be in my blood. I sincerely hope that I can impart some of the lessons I have learned to those now involved and to those on the way up. I hope that by doing so, the wrestling business will be a better business for the people that make it happen. The wrestlers.
Every hero becomes a bore at last."
Then, on October 25th and 26th, 2000, the latest chapter of the tragedy occurred, as Davey Boy Smith was arrested and charged with making death threats to his estranged wife.
Smith had been arrested and charged with two counts of threatening to kill estranged wife Diana, and her sister Elizabeth Neidhart (wife of wrestler Jim Neidhart) according to Calgary Police Sergeant Mike Lamore in a Calgary Sun article.
Calgary Police reported that after Smith was released after the first arrest and charge, he made another threat on Diana's life when she arrived at his house yesterday. Police then arrested him again on October 26th after he turned himself in.
It was reported that Calgary Police have had to deal with several domestic disputes between the Smiths over the past few months.
The Sun article indicated that Diana Smith was said to be afraid for her life, particularly after the second incident when she went to his house to get her daughter, expecting that Davey Boy was still in custody, only to find him in the house. Mrs. Smith sought a restraining order against Davey Boy Smith on October 27th.
After the second threat, Smith was held in police custody over the weekend and appeared in Albertan provincial domestic abuse court on October 30 regarding the charges, where Albertan authorities sought to have Smith's bail revoked. Smith was instead granted bail on five counts of uttering threats to kill.
The story gets sadder yet.
While Diana's brother, Bret, said in the Sun article that he was worried about the situation: "If the police take him seriously, then I take him seriously", he also indicated that he hadn't spoken to Smith or his sisters since Owen's death in the Kansas City accident; stating "I don't have anything to do with the three of them. I don't talk to them."
Then Bret Hart said when asked about Diana getting protection from him: "Diana can get help from the police."
On October 31st, Smith was released after agreeing to again enter into a rehab program, though claiming that "he had no drug problem", as a condition of release.
The conditions of Smith's release include: $20,000 bail and, as the result of a restraining order granted to Diana Hart-Smith, that Davey Boy Smith must have absolutely no contact with his wife or sister-in-law. Smith is forbidden to go near five different residences, including Hart House and his ex-wife's. He is prohibited from consuming alcohol or non-prescription drugs, and must enter a rehab program within 48 hours of his release. Smith will make his next court appearance November 8th.
Before all this heartbreak started, over four years ago, in a WWF storyline built around Bret Hart's return to the WWF in a program mirroring the real-life choice that Hart was making at the time as to whether or not to sign with WCW, or sign a "lifetime contract" with the WWF, Hart made one comment that I remember to this day:
"I'm at a time in my life when my list of memories is longer than my list of dreams".
Sadly, what seems instead to be the truth is that the list of dreams and memories for the Hart family has become not a list of dreams, but instead a list of nightmares...a list of nightmares growing ever longer.
It's probably true that the only family in wrestling history to suffer more agony than the Harts was the Adkisson family, known by all wrestling fans as the Von Erichs; with the death of Jack in 1959 from an accidental electrocution while taking a bath, David Adkisson died from a fatal overdose of Placidyl while on a February 1984 Japan tour, Mike's suicide via an overdose of tranquilizers in 1987, son Chris's suicide by gunshot in 1991, and Kerry's suicide by gunshot in 1993.
The Adkisson family tragedies may have been more painful, but few family tragedies within wrestling have been as public as that of the Hart family; given the growing into the mainstream of the wrestling industry, and the explosion of the Internet, as well as the uniquely public nature of the death of Owen.
And what is even sadder is that these very public problems show little or no sign of ending.
Until next time...
(Thanks to the Calgary Sun, SLAM!Wrestling, Kansas City Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Calgary Herald, Professional Wrestling Online Museum, PWBTS.com, and BretHart.Net for providing resource material for this column)
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)