The release of Vice's documentary Dark Side Of The Ring shed light on the tragic death of Owen Hart. Widely regarded as one of the most controversial incidents in WWE history, Hart's fatal fall during a live pay-per-view and the company's handling of the tragic incident is criticised by fans of pro wrestling till date. The ripple effect of the accident is seen even today as Owen Hart's widow, Martha and the Hart Family refuse to be associated with WWE in any shape or form.
At the 1999 PPV Over the Edge, Owen Hart was scheduled to face The Godfather for the Intercontinental Championship. Hart, who was performing as the Blue Blazer (a superhero-inspired character) chose to enter the ring by descending from the arena rafters. Expected to be a dramatic entrance, an equipment malfunction caused him to suffer a fatal fall just before he could successfully descend into the ring. Owen Hart reportedly fell from a height of 78 feet and landed chest-first on the top rope (near one of the padded turnbuckles).
The Owen Hart fall was not seen by television viewers as the company showed a pre-recorded interview video during the entrance. Later, WWE Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross, who was one of the commentators on the night, informed the viewers at home that Hart had fallen from the rafters and that it was not part of the entertainment. Seriously injured and subsequently transferred to the Trauma Medical Center in Kansas City, he was later pronounced dead. The Owen Hart autopsy report confirmed that Owen Hart cause of death was internal bleeding resulting from blunt force trauma.
Despite the tragic accident, WWE chose to go on with the event, which was heavily criticised by fans and experts. Over the Edge 1999 saw a minor 15-minute halt before the scheduled matches were conducted as usual. Fans at the Kemper Arena, Kansas, remained oblivious to the death of the wrestler for the entirety of the event.
Iconic photo from Owen Hart's Funeral. pic.twitter.com/EW0N09liMc— Jay Alletto (@JayAlletto) May 20, 2020
The aftermath of the incident saw Martha Hart file a lawsuit against WWE claiming wrongful death of her husband. The lawsuit was reportedly settled out of court for $18 million. The Hart family used the money to create the Owen Hart Foundation. Martha filed a second lawsuit against WWE in 2010, which was also settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
One of the most notable repercussions of the accident was the fractured relationship between Owen Hart's family and WWE. Martha Hart expressed disgust at how the WWF (now WWE) handled the situation on the day of the incident. “The fact that Vince discarded Owen like he was a piece of garbage, scraped his dead body off the mat and sent the wrestlers to wrestle on a ring with his blood on it. His fall had broken some of the boards, so they could’ve felt where he fell. This was a potential crime scene, they couldn’t let the show go on,” Martha Hard said in the documentary.
While Martha Hart maintains she has forgiven WWE, Vince McMahon and others for the loss of her husband, she remains against the inclusion of Owen Hart in WWE Hall of Fame. Martha feels WWE's Hall of Fame is nothing but a scripted TV show and does not want her husband's name to be associated with the company again.
I've seen ignorant comments that Martha doesn't want Owen Hart's wrestling career remembered - 100% false. She understandably doesn't want to be involved w/ #WWE. However, Owen was inducted into the Tragos/Thesz HOF in 2018 and she proudly posed w/ the plaque #DarkSideOfTheRing pic.twitter.com/BMxLoe0wRP— Ryan Droste (@ryandroste) May 20, 2020