The Hart family and World Wrestling Entertainment has a long storied history together through many generations in professional wrestling and it’s a shame how the entire family/faction hasn’t been inducted to the company’s Hall of Fame.
The death of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart is a sobering reminder this humbling past few weeks in wrestling joining the likes of Brian “Grandmaster Sexay” Christopher Lawler, Josip “Nikolai Volkoff” Hrvoje Peruzović, and Frederick “Brickhouse Brown” Seawright. All spent time at one point in WWE primarily back when the company was still the Federation (WWF).
While WWE has had circumstantial opportunities to celebrate the stars of the past becoming the gold standard of wrestling in the United States, they’ve been fortunate where many recent inductees were alive to address the fans at large on TV and on stage before their passings like Bruno Sammartino and Jim “The Ultimate Warrior” Helwig, who both headlined their respective years they were inducted in.
WWE inducted individual talents, tag teams, managers, stables and even families. One piece of the company’s soul is still missing, the Hart family. The family helped build the McMahon empire from family patriarch Stu Hart to current (and only currently active member) female superstar Natalya Neidhart. Of the family, only Stu and one of his sons, Bret, were inducted. Bret is definitely a no-brainer since he was elevated to main event status following Hulk Hogan’s departure from the company.
Unfortunately, much of Stu’s progeny and extended family is still left on the table as other members of the Hart family and associates are still left out.
The first major presence in the WWF came in the form of the Hart Foundation with Bret and (son-in-law) Jim, who were managed by Jimmy Hart (no relation) in 1984. At the same time, (son-in-law) David “Davey Boy” Smith, came into the company teaming with the Dynamite Kid, his former rival, to form the British Bulldogs. When the team broke up, Smith adopted the team nickname for himself. Bret’s younger brother Owen joined WWF in 1988.
The Hart family legacy experienced numerous changes as Bret embarked on his solo career, while his partner Jim would appear on and off as a singles competitor and even briefly teamed up with Owen as a tag team as the next incarnation of the Hart Foundation/New Foundation. Davey would also embark on a successful singles career despite never winning the company’s top title, the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Davey would enjoy a successful tag team run with Owen. Owen, like Davey, never won the WWF’s top title and at times, he appeared lost in the shuffle despite a memorable match against Bret at WrestleMania X.
What is arguably the biggest defining moment of the family was when the brothers Bret, Owen and in-laws Jim and Davey banded together joining Stu’s Dungeon alumni Brian Pillman to form the reform Hart Foundation as a faction during the company’s Attitude Era. As the company’s top babyface, Bret’s feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin resulted in one of the most bizarre moments in wrestling history where there was a double turn at WrestleMania 13.
Fans were warming up more to Austin’s blue collar anarchic style while supported started to get mixed to Bret. As a result, Bret became far more ruthless and dirty to match up with Austin’s relentless antagonism. The following night after WrestleMania, Bret revealed his “disgust” at fans and embraced anti-Americanism in support of being a patriot of Canada. He intervened in the match between Owen and Davey, who were feuding at the time, and united them for the sake of family.
Returning to their heel roots, the Hart Foundation had memorable feuds with Austin and Degeneration-X (Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna). The group was hated in the U.S. but loved in Canada and vice versa with their opponents. The group broke up following the Montreal Screwjob at the 1997 Survivor Series leading to Bret’s departure from the WWF. Bulldog and later, Neidhart, would join Bret to WCW.
Pillman died tragically from an accidental overdose the month prior to Survivor Series. Owen wanted a release too, but WWF retained his contract.
Owen would continue working for the company joining the Nation of Domination (Charles “The Godfather” Wright, Accie “D-Lo Brown” Connor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Mark Henry). Owen would remain in mid-card status until his death at the 1999 Over the Edge pay-per-view from a stunt gone wrong under his original WWF moniker, the Blue Blazer.
Owen’s death would exacerbate any strained relations between the Hart family and WWE. While Bret and Vince came to a resolution and re-establishing their relationship, Martha, Owen’s widow continues to refuse any association with the company. She doesn’t want her husband’s former employer to profit from his name. Bulldog passed in 2002 from a heart attack at the age of 39.
With Neidhart’s death, this only leaves Bret and original manager, Jimmy Hart to be the only surviving members of the group. The family won many titles across numerous organizations. Between the two major companies in WCW and WWE, Bret won a combined 17 championships, Bulldog and Owen with 7, Pillman with 3, and Neidhart with 2. That’s 36 belts combined including the 2 tag reigns of the original Hart Foundation (Bret and Jim) and 2 with Owen and Bulldog.
If that’s not a celebrated group more worthy of inducting, I don’t know what is. Despite legal and public backlash from Martha, WWE released “Owen: Hart of Gold,” a documentary celebrating the life and career of Owen in 2015 and prior, the Hart family documentary, “Hart & Soul” in 2010.
If Vince wants to continue celebrating the Harts, he might as well induct the entire family/group. Bret hasn’t been at the best of health being a stroke and cancer survivor. Including Jimmy and Brian would be a bonus since they helped build on the legacy. Since Martha’s mind is made up and she’s within her right to blame the company on her husband’s death, WWE will never have her blessing on Owen’s induction. It would also feel cheap to put in him the Legacy wing.
It would provide a mark of closure from fans longing to see Owen in the WWE Hall of Fame even if Bret and Martha couldn’t be further apart about his inclusion. Vince can give Bret, Owen’s HOF ring for when Owen and Martha’s children decide to embrace their father’s legacy in the company.
In the very least, it would also celebrate and provide closure for fans of Bulldog, Neidhart, and Pillman. The induction is long overdue and needed. Do it for Nattie, David Hart Smith and TJ Wilson (Tyson Kidd).