By Glenn and Jake
I vividly remember receiving a phone call around 10 PM on May 23, 1999,
from Glenn telling me that Owen Hart had died after a mechanism in the harness malfunctioned as he was about to lower himself to the ring as Blue
Blazer in a comedy spot. This was at Over the Edge 1999, a pay-per-view that had floored us the year before. It was with a
heavy heart that I laid down that night for sleep. Was Vince McMahon right to
allow the show to continue or should he have stopped it once Owen was pronounced dead?
Simply put: Vince should have stopped the show. They knew very soon
after Owen fell that he was dead and to make the wrestlers continue with
the show while children were crying in the audience was the height of
moral depravity. “Anything to make a buck!” Vince always says like the
capitalist pig he is. Bret Hart in his book “The Buzz on Professional
Wrestling” talked about how he asked Vince if it was his children who
died in that ring, would he have continued the show? Vince said nothing
and used his long forked tongue to eat a bug that was nearby. He is
McMahon is seen as a Christ-like figure to many marks (wrestling fans).
So, what would Jesus have done? I think he would have booked himself
to win the Royal Rumble, just like Vince did. And he would have
attempted to unseat that “no good S.O.B” Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Nobody backstage at that wrestling show was in the right frame of mind
to make any decisions. Everybody was on autopilot. Jeff Jarrett, a
wrestler famous for coining the term “slap nuts” and a good friend of
Owen Hart, was standing backstage ready to wrestle a match when
paramedics wheeled Owen’s corpse by. During his match he cried. Yes,
everybody was crying, but what could be done? Everybody was in shock.
When people are in shock because of a sudden death(s) it is a good sign
that you need to stop whatever pre-planned event is happening. Should
that theatre in Aurora, Colorado have continued with their screening of
The Dark Knight Rises as my opponent advocated at the time? Should the
Sikh temple in Wisconsin (a lesser tragedy, since the victims were
non-white) have continued with their service? I hate to break kayfabe
here but wrestling is scripted and in “real life” Jeff Jarrett was not
actually angry or wanting to fight Kamala or whoever he was booked to
fight that night. If Vince had told him “we’re canceling the show” he
would have been okay with it and probably less traumatized. I once
heard a great philosopher say about Jeff Jarrett: “He broke a million
guitars and never drew a dime.” Jeff Jarrett was out there breaking
guitars to the silence of the crowd in the years after 1999 precisely because
he was forced to wrestle after Owen’s death. That’s just one more crime
on Vince’s soul.
the little girl died of hypothermia while filming “Poltergeist II” did
they stop making the movie? No. It was released and is the second
highest-grossing film about poltergeists. Did commentator Jim Ross
demand that the show be stopped when he announced that Owen Hart had
died? No, he simply sat there calling the action enthusiastically.
Stopping the show would have been the classy thing to do, but Vince
McMahon is very far from being classy. Wrestling is not a classy
artform. Owen should have never agreed to be lowered from the ceiling
because he was not a stuntman. He was a world class fake fighter.
It sounds like we agree: Vincent K McMahon (also known as “VK
Wallstreet’) is a piece of shit who did the wrong thing on that fateful
date in May 1999. Certainly I grant you there are circumstances where a
death doesn’t stop the “show from going on” but the death of several
actors during the Poltergeist series or the deaths of the
Marshall University football team were events that happened off the
set/field. We’re talking about a live death, witnessed by a crowd of
thousands. It must have been hard for the crowd, but worse for the
wrestlers who knew and loved Owen being forced to go out throw fake
punches and tiger driver ‘91s while their friend’s corpse rotted in the
back. While I understated the WWF “needed” someone to die at that show
and booked it to be Owen, I would have rather seen anyone else die at
that show instead, someone like Val Venis. Finally, Vince knew he was
doing the wrong thing because he purposefully withheld from the live
audience news of Owen’s death, fearing they would leave the show or
cheer the Undertaker character who was a heel at that time. Thank you
and RIP Owen.
Should Vince have stopped the show? Yes, but I do not blame him for
not stopping it. Wrestling in general is a low-class affair--part
ballet, part stunt show, all drenched in camp. Wrestling is a carny
affair, and if a high-wire act falls and dies during a show, it is very
unlikely that the show is stopped. Vince McMahon is a businessman first
and a human being third (asshole is second). Vince screwed Bret in
Montreal and he screwed Owen by killing him and not stopping the show.
Yet, I do not blame him. I blame him for having a tribute Raw the next
night instead of just showing Owen Hart matches and forcing grieving
wrestlers to tell stories for ratings. And I blame him for allowing
replays and DVDs of the pay-per-view to be sold. The person I blame the
most, though, is Papa Shango, who put a curse on Owen Hart, causing
evil goo to seep from his forehead, which is the true cause of the fall.