It’s no secret that professional wrestling is full of predetermined outcomes and pre-planned match sequences, but it’s still followed by millions of people around the world. Pro wrestling is far from fake, but its distance from reality is what allows it to qualify as a form of entertainment rather than a sport.
However, on the night of WWE’s Over the Edge pay-per-view show in 1999, something happened inside the wrestling ring that evening in Kansas City, Missouri that was very, very real.
Following a match between Al Snow and Hardcore Holly for the Hardcore Championship, WWE superstars known as The Godfather and the Blue Blazer were next to hit the ring and wrestle for the Intercontinental Championship.
In an effort to live up to his current super-hero gimmick, the Blue Blazer was set to drop down from the rafters of Kansas City’s Kemper Arena and into the wrestling ring with the help of a safety harness. Once he landed in the ring, then the match would begin soon after.
Strapped into a body harness, the Blue Blazer took his leap of faith and descended towards the ring as his entrance music began to play throughout the arena. What happened next, however, was an outcome that was far from pre-planned.
After the Blue Blazer leapt from the top of the arena, his safety harness unexpectedly disconnected from the cable that was holding him and it resulted in a landing that closely resembled a car crash. His body landed on one of the ring’s steel posts and he was pronounced dead shortly after.
“Ladies and gentleman, earlier tonight here in Kansas City tragedy befell the World Wrestling Federation and all of us. Owen Hart was set to make an entrance from the ceiling and he fell from the ceiling. I have the unfortunate responsibility to let everyone know that Owen Hart has died. Owen Hart has tragically died from that accident here tonight”
WWE announcer Jim Ross in 1999
Although he wore a mask to hide his identity, underneath the Blue Blazer’s mask was a man the pro wrestling world was very familiar: Owen Hart.
Owen was a the son of esteemed wrestling trainer Stu Hart. A number of wrestlers achieved success in the WWE following their training with Stu, including Owen, Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Chris Jericho, the British Bulldog, and Edge among others.
His death remains one of the most tragic events to occur during the company’s existence. Unsurprisingly, the incident also remains a something that is seldom talked about publicly by both current and former members of the WWE.
What happened that night in Kansas City is something that no one in that arena could have envisioned. Not even the company that makes its money on a predetermined future.