As you grow older, specific dates seem to stick in your memory. These are the dates where something significant happens, and you always remember where you were on that day. It could be your wedding, a significant other’s birthday party or the day your children were born, among many other things. For me, one of these dates is May 23, 1999. That was the day professional wrestler Owen Hart tragically fell to his death during a WWE pay-per-view in Kansas City, Missouri. Today we are remembering Owen Hart.
My sophomore year of high school had just ended, and my older sister was set to walk the stage at her graduation ceremony. I remember this because two of my friends and I were skipping the big graduation party to attend the WWE pay-per-view event, Over the Edge.
Months earlier, my dad and I camped out at the nearest Sam Goody store hours before it opened. The old record store chain served as a middle man for Ticketmaster, and the chance to attend my very first WWE pay-per-view was something I wasn’t willing to risk missing out on.
Arriving at Kemper Arena that fateful night, we were full of excitement. We were ready to see the stars of the WWE on a stage bigger than any house show or Monday Night Raw we had attended before.
After purchasing some merchandise and grabbing some pre-show treats, we took our seats in the upper level of the arena. Despite our best efforts at Sam Goody, these were the only tickets available for purchase. We sat to the left of the giant Titan Tron, where the WWE displayed each wrestler’s promotional video upon their entrance.
From here, we had a great vantage point to the ring. Any seat in Kemper Arena is a visually viable location. The first two matches on the card went off without a hitch, and then tragedy struck. Owen Hart was wrestling as the Blue Blazer and attempting to make a spectacular entrance lowering from the rafters. He fell 80 feet to his death. Utter confusion came over the audience, and no one was sure whether this was part of the show.
Remembering Owen Hart
My eyes were fixated on the Titan Tron during his pre-match promo. However, when I turned my attention to the ring, did I see Owen hit the mat. It wasn’t until I saw Jerry Lawler leave the announce desk that the thought that something was terribly wrong. That fear crept inside my 15-year old brain. Only after a 15 to 20-minute delay and the EMTs rushing Owen out of the arena did the show start back up. Fans inside Kemper Arena were never told Hart had passed away.
In the days before social media and 24-hour news feeds, I had to wait until I returned home to see on the news that he had died. WWE’s decision to continue the show is still controversial and debated today. Whether it was the right decision or not, the wrestlers who continued the event. While under such horrific circumstances should be commended for their efforts.
The following nights Monday Night Raw, which was entirely a tribute to Owen Hart. This was the most emotionally charged two hours of television I’ve ever watched. A little over a year later, I returned to Kemper Arena for an episode of WCW Monday Nitro. It was on that night that Owen’s older brother Bret wrestling to end the show. This became a tribute match for Owen. It was a privilege seeing them wrestle their hearts out in honor of their fallen friend and brother. It to this day, still the best match I have seen live and in person.