RINGSIDE REMEMBRANCES — THE HART DYNASTY

Posted April 14th, 2010 by admin

Ringside Remembrances

The Hart Dynasty

A late night run down to the local Superstore allowed me to pick up Hart and Soul, the new Hart family documentary from the WWE. It was a well-made. touching look at one of the biggest wrestling families of all time. I learned a ton of new information about the Calgary Clan. I wanted to share some of the interesting facts that I learned, plus a few things that I’ve come across from other sources and my own experiences.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family” — Anthony Brandt

The first generation of Harts

Stu Hart (05/03/1915-10/16/2003)

The patriarch of the Hart family started out very poor. On the Hart and Soul DVD, the kids talked about how he would scrounge through garbage cans, just to find food. Stu’s escape from his hard life was the Y.M.C.A. It was at the “Y”, during the 20s and 30s that Stu began to mold his body into the physically fit specimen that would later impress so many promoters. He began to wrestle in the late 1930s, through the “Y”. In the late 30s, Stu also had a short-lived football career. Stu’s sports career came to a halt, thanks to World War II. Stu went into the Canadian Navy. While in the Navy, Stu became the Director of Athletics for his base. There were several working professional wrestlers serving in the Canadian Navy, at the same time, and they introduced him to Toots Mondt, who was the promoter in the Northern U.S. and Southern Canada territory. Stu was sent to the New York area, which would change his life in two major ways.

Stu’s wrestling career sky-rocketed from almost day one. He became one of Mondt’s top draws. During one of Stu’s rare days off, Stu was walking down a New York beach when he noticed a young lady who had gotten tar on her foot. He stopped and used a Popsicle stick to remove the tar. That woman was Helen Smith, who would become his wife for more than 50 years.

In 1948. Stu used the money that he had earned under Mondt to purchase the Stampede promotion in Western Canada. The show quickly became a popular television show, until a local guy produced a petition to shut down the promotion, due to the large amount of traffic created by Stu’s promotion. While the male was not identified on the B&S DVD, his 100-signature document closed Stampede and nearly bankrupted the Hart family. Stu would eventually sell the video library and rights to Stampede to Vince McMahon for a healthy sum. McMahon would allow Hart’s sons to use the Stampede name in a pair of company re-launches.

Stu would retire from active competition and open his own training facility. The training camp was located in the Hart House basement. Stu’s rough style of training garnered the facility the nickname of “The Dungeon”. Hart trained all eight of his sons, his four son-in-laws, and dozens of top stars (Brian Pillman, Iron Sheik, Chris Jericho, Edge, Christian, etc…). Stu passed his training onto his sons as his health began to fail. Stu went into Rockview General Hospital on October 3, 2003 for an elbow infection. Within 13 days, Stu came down with pneumonia. The pneumonia, mixed with his diabetes, combined to cause a stroke that ended Stu’s life on 10/13/2003. He was 88 at the time of death. Stu received many posthumous awards, including induction into the 2010 WWE Hall of Fame.

Helen Smith-Hart ( 02/16/1924 — 11/04/2001)

Helen Smith was born to a wealthy New York family. That wealth vanished during the stock market crash that kicked off the Great Depression. As mentioned about, Helen met Stu Hart on a beach and Stu was immediately infatuated with the lovely girl. Helen held down the house and raised the kids as Stu worked inside and outside the ring. Helen also helped with a lot of behind-the-scenes work with Stampede. Helen also became the unofficial “den mother” to dozens of wrestlers from around the world. She and Stu were married for 53 years, until she passed in 2001.

The Second Generation of Harts

Smith Stewart Hart (1949) — Oldest Child

The eldest Hart offspring began his wrestling career in 1973, working for his father in Stampede. He also worked in Puerto Rico, alone and with his brother, Bret. The two brothers held the WWC Tag Team titles on one occasion. Smith actually moved to Puerto Rico, several years ago. His son, Michael, currently wrestles in Ontario but may join his father in Puerto Rico in the near future.

Bruce Ambrose Edwardious Hart (1950) — Second Oldest

A change of plans by Bruce created the wrestling career of his younger brother, Bret. Bruce was scheduled to go to Puerto Rico with his brother, Smith. Bruce didn’t want to go and when Bret showed some interest, the family let him go. The plane ticket was under the name “B. Hart”, so Bret got to go. Bruce formed a great tag team with Brian Pillman, known as Bad Company (not to be confused with the Paul Diamond/Pat Tanaka duo from the AWA. Bruce made several appearances in the WWE during 1993 and 1994. He was one of the four Harts to battle Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series. As mentioned during that Survivor Series match, Bruce was a trained teacher. Bruce still substitute teaches. He actually married one of his students in 2007 (his second marriage). Bruce wears very unique cowboy boots to his teaching assignments as an ice breaker with his students.

Keith William Hart — (1952) — Third Oldest

Keith did a lot of in-ring work for his dad, Stu Hart. Like the other brothers, he also worked behind-the-scenes to help promote and produce the show. Keith would join his brothers, Bruce, Bret and Owen to face off against Shawn Michaels and his Knights (Red – Barry Horowitz, Blue — Greg ValentineBlack — Jeff Gaylord). Keith left wrestling to become a firefighter, working with his brother-in-law, B.J. Annis. He retired from that in 2007 to take up substitute teaching.

Wayne Hart — (1953) — Fourth Oldest

While Wayne did some wrestling when Stampede first started up, he found his way into the much-more comfortable role as referee.

Dean Anthony Harry Hart — (01/03/1954 – 11/21/1990) — Fifth Oldest

De am\ was the first of Stu and Helen’s children to die an early death. Dean had chronic kidney disease (Bright’s Disease — nephritis aka acute or constant inflammation of the kidneys). Before his death in 1990, Dean worked for both his dad and Peter Mai via in Hawaii. Dean, according to Hart and Soul, also promoted rock concerts in the Calgary area at a very young age.

Ellie Hart-Bedhead — (1955) Sixth Oldest/Eldest Girl

She’s the wife of Jim Neidhart and the mother of Natalya (Nattie Neidhart). Ellie was very vocal on the Hart and Soul DVD.

Georgia Hart-Annis — (1956) Seventh Oldest

Georgia is the mother of Teddy Hart. After her family’s wrestling organization ended it’s run. Georgia drew up one of her main loves, cooking. She currently works for the Calgary company, The Cookbook Company. She does quite a few interviews on Body and Soul.

Bret Sergeant Hart — (1957) Eighth Oldest

It could be argued that Bret was the most successful member of the Hart family, so far. He held the Tag Team, Intercontinental, and WWE (then-WWF) World title, numerous times. Bret was one of the biggest faces and heels in the WWE. When Bret took on his pro-Canada stance, he became almost as big as heel as “Hollywood” Hogan. Bret left the WWE in 1997 after the infamous Montreal Screwjob. While in WCW, Bret was injured by a Goldberg Enziguri. That Enziguri was a contributing factor to the stroke that Bret had, later on. A very bitter Bret went into seclusion after the injury. Numerous stories about why his marriage to Julie fell apart surfaced during this time, including rumors of an affair between Bret and Sunny (which was denied by both parties). Bret was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. The issues between Bret and Shawn Michaels were still unresolved and Bret would only agree to induction in the Hall of Fame if Shawn was not at the ceremony. Hart also refused to attend the following day’s Wrestlemania, because Shawn was in action. Bret finally buried the hatchet on January 4, 2010, when he was set as the Guest Host of Raw. Well, he buried the hatchet with Shawn Michaels. Vince McMahon swerved on Hart, which was the catalyst that would result in their classic battle at Wrestlemania XXVI. It is unclear what Bret’s future plans with the WWE (and wrestling in general) are.

Alison Hart-Bassarab — (1959) Ninth Oldest

Alison did not appear on the Body and Soul DVD but she was talked about quite a bit. She was married to and divorced from Ben Bassarab. They had two girls. Neither of the girls followed in the Hart family tradition of pro wrestling. Alison, from all reports, lives a quiet, low-key life with her kids in the Calgary area.

Ross Hart — (1961) — Tenth Oldest

Ross did a little bit of wrestling in Stampede but his main duties were behind-the-scenes. He was the producer of record for the Stampede shows. After the ending of the Stampede organization, Ross went to work doing a lot of production work on Calgary television.

Diana Joyce Hart-Smith — (1963) Eleventh Oldest

Diana is the mother of David Hart (Harry) Smith. She is the ex-wife of Davey Boy Smith. Diana was a key player in the Summerslam 1992 program between Davey and Bret Hart. Storywise, the family was divided as to which man should win the Intercontinental championship. Diana, of course, stood beside her husband, while most of the rest of the family was split between the two brothers-in-law. Following Davey Boy’s death, Diana became one of the most vocal members of the family, as it relates to the various in-laws. She was quite critical of her brother-in-law, Ben Bassarab, as well as her ex-husband. On the Hart and Soul DVD, Diana was a lot less critical of her ex-husband than in the past.

Owen James Hart — (05/07/1965 – 05/23/1999) Youngest Child

Owen was exactly two months, to the day, older than me. He was the baby of the Hart kids. Owen was a dedicated family man who loved his wife, Martha, and his kids. Every interview that I’ve ever seen about Owen always talks about how much family meant to him. He was also a notorious practical joker. His jokes, however, were never mean-spirited. Like all his brothers, Owen started in his father’s promotion. He worked in the WWE as both Owen and the Blue Blazer. Owen was incredibly popular in Japan, as well. Owen was under his Blue Blazer persona when he was scheduled to repel from the ceiling at a Pay-per-View in St. Louis. Some kind of harness malfunction caused Owen to fall about five stories into the ring. Fortunately, most of the fans in attendance were watching the Titantron when Owen fell. A Blue Blazer promo was running. The home audience never saw the accident. The WWE took a great deal of heat for going forward with the PPV. That In Your House PPV has never been (and will likely never be) released on DVD or VHS. His death caused a major rift in the Hart family that has yet to be 100% healed. Owen’s Tribute Show was one of the most touching programs ever to be broadcast.

The In-Laws

Davey Boy Smith (11/27/1962 — 05/18/2002)

Davey Boy Smith was beginning his wrestling career in England, when he got a call from his cousin, Tom Billington aka the Dynamite Kid. Davey was offered the chance to come to the states and join Dynamite as a new British-based tag team. Davey received invaluable training from Stu Hart and several of the Hart boys. Davey met and fell for Diana Hart and the two eventually married. Their son, Harry, would start wrestling at a very young age. Davey got addicted to painkillers following a severe back injury. Davey went back and forth between WCW and WWE. It was in WCW that he landed on a trap door in the ring, that drove the hinge of the door into his lower back. Davey tried to work through his injury, becoming more and more addicted to painkillers and other assorted drugs. In 2000, Diana divorced Davey due to his addictions. Davey went into a drug rehab and was on the road to recovery. Davey was on vacation in May of 2002 with Andrea Redding-Hart, estranged wife of Davey’s ex-brother-in-law, Bruce Hart. Andrea was, at the time, Davey’s girlfriend. Davey died on May 18, 2002 of a heart attack. The autopsy suggested that Davey’s years of steroid and painkiller abuse had weakened his heart.

Jim “The Anvil ” Neidhart (James Henry Neidhart — 1956)

The barrel-chest battler has always been listed as coming from Reno, NV. He spent a great deal of his youth in the Calgary area, training under Stu Hart. Neidhart actually worked in the late 70s as a member of the Dallas Cowboys football team. Jim was introduced to Fritz Von Erich, who contacted Stu about taking on Neidhart as a traineee. Neidhart made his wrestling debut in 1979. When Vince McMahon acquired Stampede and it’s talent, Bret and Jim were brought into the WWE, along with the British Bulldogs. The original plan was to put Neidhart on a fast track to the Intercontinental title as a major heel, under the guidance of Jimmy Hart. Bret was slated to play up the Calgary Stampede western angle and basically do what Billy and Bart Gunn did, years later. Bret wasn’t happy, at all, with the cowboy angle and talked with Neidhart about it. Jim suggested to Bret that they team up. Bret came up with the heel angle. The WWE Creative Team hated the idea, initially, but Vince ok’d it as a thank you to Stu, Bret and Jim. Jim married Bret’s sister, Ellie, and they have several children, including Natalya (see below). Jim worked several singles and tag team programs after the initial Hart Foundation were split up. Jim would leave the WWE in 1992 for a tour of Japan followed by a unremarkable stint in WCW. He would return to WWE in 1994 to aid Bret. The two would reform a new Hart Foundation stable that also included Davey Boy Smith, Owen Hart and Brian Pillman. Jim would follow Bret to WCW after the infamous Montreal Screwjob. Neidhart would join Davey Boy Smith as an ill-fated team. Davey ended up taking a Back Body Drop that injured Davey’s back. That injury led to the painkillers that kick-started his drug abuse problem. Jim went into semi-retirement after his second run in WCW, making appearance on Raw and in TNA in recent years.

B.J. Annis

Annis is married to Georgia Hart. They have several children, including Teddy Hart (see below). Annis ended his wrestling career and moved into a much more dangerous line of work. B.J. Annis now works as a firefighter in and around the Calgary area, along with his brother-in-law, Keith Hart.

Ben Bassarab

Ben was trained by Stu in The Dungeon. He would hold the tag belts with both Chris Benoit and brother-in-law, Owen Hart. Bassarab was nearly killed in 1986 by a stabbing incident at a local Calgary bar. While Ben fathered two children with Alison, he has very little, if any, contact with his children. After his wrestling career ended, Ben moved on to a stint as a truck driver and construction foreman. In later years, he started up a pair of businesses in the Western Canada provicnes (one a vending machine company, the other dealing with landscaping). His sister-in-law, Diana Hart-Smith, was very critical of Ben in an autobiography she wrote. She accused him of criminal dealings and being “a deadbeat dad to his children”. The criminal allegations have never been proven.

Dynamite Kid (Thomas Billington — 1958)

Tom was a top draw in England when Stu Hart found him. He invited Tom to come to Canada for further training and to become one of his top stars. Eventually, Tom would call back to England to bring over his real-life cousin, Davey Boy Smith, to become his tag team partner. The two became known as the British Bulldogs. Tom would become an “official” member of the Hart family when he married Bret Hart’s sister-in-law, Michelle Smadu. Tom and Davey would get called up to the WWE in the mid-80s and would feud with The Hart Foundation for some time. Tom’s years of physical abuse to his body, along with a major drug problem, degraded his body to the point where he is now wheelchair-bound. Tom divorced Michelle and eventually married a woman named Dot, who now cares for him. In numerous interviews, a very bitter Tom Billington blames wrestling and espcially Vince McMahon for his current condition. There were no interviews with him on the Body and Soul DVD.

The Third Generation of Harts

Teddy Hart (Ted Annis — 02/02/1980)

Teddy earned himself a horrible reputation as being difficult to work with. He is the son of B.J. Annis and Georgia Hart. He was booted out of the WWE Developmental system for having an attitude of entitlement. He also lost a position in TNA for basically the same reason. His first big national exposure came as part of the WSX program on MTV. After that program folded, Teddy floated around the indies until heading down to Mexico. In Mexico, Teddy has slowly built back his reputation. He was mentored by Konnan in AAA. He joined Konnan’s Foreign Legion stable (Legion Extranjero). He has also teamed with former WSX buddy, Jack Evans, to form The Hart Foundation 2.0. With his new attitude, Teddy (along with Jack) have been scouted by both TNA and WWE in recent months. There is rumor of the possiblity, down the road, of a Hart Dynasty v Hart Foundation 2.0 war in the WWE. That is just in the earliest of rumor stages, currently. Teddy has also done quite a bit of work in Japan, where he is very much respected by the fans and the other wrestlers.

David Hart Smith (Harry Smith — 08/02/1986)

His nickname used to be The Canadian Bulldog. He is the son of Davey Boy Smith and Diana Hart-Smith. David, real name Harry, actually wrestled alongside his father when Harry was 15. Harry was originally teamed with Teddy Hart as the New Hart Foundation. Teddy immaturity caused him to be released from the WWE. Tyson Kidd, who worked with Harry in Canada as the Canadian Bulldogs, took Teddy’s spot. They worked their way up to the main roster. Harry first used the ring name “D.H. Smith” but that was expanded to “David Hart Smith”. David uses his father’s old Bulldog Bounce (Running Powerslam) as his solo finisher.

Natalya (Natalie Katherine “Nattie” Neidhart — 05/27/1982)

She was the first third generation Diva (Stephanie McMahon was technically a fourth generation star). She is the daughter of Jim Neidhart and Ellie Hart-Neidhart. Jim wasn’t thrilled with his daughter going into the family business but finally relented. He is now incredibly proud of his daughter for her success. Natalya spend most of her time as the valet/manager of the Hart Dynasty (David Hart Smith and Tyson Kidd). She can and will get in the ring to battle at the drop of a hat. She’s yet to hold either the Women’s or Diva’s titles but she’s a consistent threat to both.

Tyson Kidd (Theodore James “T.J.” Wilson — 07/11/1980)

T.J. first met Teddy Hart at the age of ten. They became good friends and T.J. was eventually introduced to the rest of the Hart family. In November, 2001, T.J. began a long-term relationship with Nattie Neidhart. Wilson was the final trainee of the legendary Hart Dungeon. He is considered “family” by the entire Hart clan. TJ and Nattie have lived together for the past five years. T.J./Tyson has adopted Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter as his finisher, when he flies solo. With David Hart Smith, they use the Hart Attack.

Michael Hart

Michael is the son of the eldest Hart brother, Smith. He works around the Ontario area in a trio known as the Lone Wolves. The other members are Chris Garvin and Joey Valentyne. He has been scouted by other promotions but has yet to venture much beyond his home territory.

A few final bits of Hart Trivia

The Hart family is the largest single family in wrestling.

While Brian Pillman was never an official family member, he was included in the re-formated Hart Foundation stable.

When Jeff Jarrett created the Kings of Wrestling group, he was originally scheduled to be the King of Hearts as a tribute to his late friend, Owen Hart.

Bret’s original gimmick, being a cowboy, was going to be a tribute to his older brother, Bruce.

The In Your House where Owen died has never been released on either DVD or VHS. It is the only Pay-per-View that the WWE has never released in one format, the other or both.

Many of the top stars of wrestling came out of the Hart Dungeon, including: Edge, Christian, Chris Jericho, Brian Pillman, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, the Bushwackers/Sheepherders, the Iron Sheik, Lance Storm, Abdullah the Butcher, Chris Benoit, The Honky Tonk Man, Gene Kiniski, Mark Henry, Fritz Von Erich, “Superstar” Billy Graham, and Gorilla Monsoon, plus dozens more.

In Conclusion:

There are several more Hart grandchildren in the wings. Bret has four. Some of them may end up following their parents and grandparents into the world o wrestling, others will not. Teddy Hart already has a child, so there is the beginnings of a fourth generation of Harts. The name of Hart will likely continue for many years to come, if not forever. Stu just has to be proud, looking down on his successful family. While some have fallen due to poor choices, accidents or illness, many more are still there to take the family legacy on into the 21st century.

Peace

Jay Shannon

Jade89512@yahoo.com

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