If you thought that dredging up the death of Owen Hart, one of the biggest open, seeping wounds of the wrestling industry second perhaps only to the Chris Benoit murder/suicide, was going to be a peaceful and cathartic examination of a 21-year-old tragedy where everyone is finally able to put the past behind them and move forward, think again. Ahead of the airing of the Dark Side of the Ring season finale, Owen Hart's widow, Dr. Martha Hart, has been making the interview rounds, and there's nothing to hold her back from speaking frankly and openly about how she felt and still feels about the wrestling business and WWE in particular. And it's ruffling some feathers.
Yesterday, we reported on Hart's comments about letting WWE put Owen Hart into the Hall of Fame published in an interview with CBS Sports, and now that same article has been updated with comments from WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt, blasting Hart and giving WWE's perspective on her original lawsuit. Responding to Hart's claims that Owen Hart's death was the result of WWE not hiring proper riggers for his stunt, McDevitt said:
The reality is, we've never told our side of the story of what happened — at least not outside of court. We told it in court, but when she talks about the way the lawsuit unfolded over the years, it really isn't accurate what she's saying. What she did whenever this happened is, she hired a lawyer in Kansas City who we caught essentially trying to fix the judicial selection process to get a judge that was more to their liking. We caught them and went all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court. The Missouri Supreme Court said, 'No, no, no. We're not going to let that happen.' They essentially appointed an independent judge to come in from outside of Kansas City to oversee the proceedings. We were basically trying to find out what happened that night. Martha was not even remotely interested in finding out what happened that night; she just wanted to used it as a vehicle to beat up a business that she didn't like that her husband was in, the wrestling business.
And in response to claims from Hart that WWE manipulated the Hart family into turning against her, McDevitt said:
Her and her lawyer, in reality, had tried to get the members of the Hart family, Owen's brothers and sisters, to sign a document in which they would agree to support Martha and her case and they would not talk to WWE. In exchange for that, they were all promised a share of any verdict or settlement, which is highly illegal, completely improper and you can get in big trouble for that. What happened was some of the members of the Hart family were offended by this because they realized this was wrong. … They knew this was wrong and they faxed me those documents, which I fell out of the chair when I read them. I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me. This is completely illegal, you can't do this stuff.' All of that was then brought to the attention of the judge in Kansas City.
And finally, he added about the settlement of the lawsuit:
She talked about how $18 million settlement, she didn't really want to do that, she wanted justice. Again, that's just not true. There was court-ordered mediation. We went to the mediation, and her lawyers were demanding $35 million and some admission of punitive damages. Vince told her right there, 'Look, Martha, I feel so bad for what happened. I feel responsible because this happened on my watch. I want to take care of you and your family, I loved Owen.' He was almost crying. We offered $17 million to take care of her. How many times does a CEO walk in a room and say he feels responsible? 'I'm not going to argue, I just feel responsible for what happened.' They turned it down; they wanted to go to court for their $35 million. Fine, we'll go and litigate. The next day, I get a call from her Canadian lawyer, saying they didn't want to do it because they knew what they were facing with the other things I talked about. They said, 'If you could put a little more money in. If you can go to $18 million we'll settle right now.' That's how the settlement went down.
Meanwhile, in a different interview with sandwich-themed Hollywood gossip blog The Wrap, Martha Hart said of Owen Hart's brother, Bret Hart:
Bret was supportive throughout the lawsuit, but there were a few things that were a problem with Bret. first of all, when we were going through the lawsuit, he really was hoping that I would be able to help him get his wrestling footage. Because at the time, he had no relationship with WWE and he was hoping somehow — if we ever had a settlement — that we could work it in.
When that didn't happen, he was very upset that he didn't get his footage. It prompted him to befriend Vince [McMahon, the chairman of WWE] again so he could have access to his footage. That was the first fracture in our relationship.
Martha Hart also said that Bret Hart became "nasty" when Martha wouldn't let WWE induct Owen Hart in the Hall of Fame. Bret responded to Martha's comments in a statement which read:
While I am not interested in engaging in any more media mudslinging between Martha and myself especially in light of a global pandemic, I will say that our fallout is multifaceted. To say that it only involved being able to access and use my WWE footage and photos for future projects would merely be an oversimplification and inaccurate. I will not comment any further on the matter.
Yeah. And the episode hasn't even aired yet. Dark Side of the Ring season finale "The Final Days of Owen Hart" is set to air on Vice TV at 10 PM Eastern tonight.