Wrestler Dies In Fall

Officials in Kansas City are investigating the death of a popular professional wrestler. Owen Hart, known as the "Blue Blazer," died after falling 50 feet in a stunt gone bad.

Hart, 33, was planning a grand entrance inside Kemper Arena, reports Correspondent Carolyn Long of CBS Affiliate KCTV-TV in Kansas City. His plan was to fall from the ceiling's rafters down to the ring, attached with a cable and harness.

Apparently, something went terribly wrong with that equipment, and he plummeted down some 50 feet into the ring and to his death, landing on a rope and a turnbuckle there. (A turnbuckle is one of the padded pieces of metal that hold the ropes together in each corner of the ring.)

Hart was given CPR inside the ring and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Owen Hart was no stranger to fans of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). He had been around for about 13 years, and he was probably best known for being a member of a whole family of wrestlers. His father, his brother, and brothers-in-law all are involved in the sport. They call themselves the Hart Foundation, and they are known as the "First Family of Wrestling."

Because Hart was known for his acrobatics and the WWF is known for promoting dramatic antics, many in Sunday night's audience thought the accident was all part of a grand stunt.

"We thought it was a doll at first," said 15-year-old Robert McCome. "We thought they were just playing with us. We were really shocked when we found out that it was no joke."

Commentator Jim Ross repeatedly told the 14,000 fans that Hart's fall was not scripted, as professional wrestling matches openly are.

"I didn't see it, but from what I can gather, somebody slipped up," Hart's 83-year-old father, former wrestler Stu Hart, said from the family home in Calgary, Alberta.

"You don't get up 60 or 70 feet in the air without being properly anchored down," he said. "I haven't talked to [WWF President] Vince McMahon yet, but somebody was careless or missed something or else Owen would still be here."

The WWF is one of the biggest draws on cable and pay-per-view TV, but critics say the matches often are sexist, homophobic and violent. The WWF admits that its events are more entertainment then sport.

Hart's fall happened in the second part of the event called Over the Edge. The first part of the event, Sunday Night Heat, was televised live on the USA cable network.

The TV audience was being shown a montage of Hart's clips when he fell and the camera panned through the crowd while paramedics worked him. The show stopped for 15 minutes before Hart was taken away, and the matches resumed.

All seven of Stu Hart's sons entered professional wrestling, with Owen joining in 1989. He had recently told a magazine that he was planning to leave wrestling when his contract was up.

Survivors include his wife, Martha, and to young children.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

Comments