The season finale of Dark Side Of The Ring focusing on the Owen Hart tragedy airs tonight in the US. In the run up to that broadcast, Martha Hart has been conducting a number of prominent press interviews to promote the documentary which tells the story of the night Owen died in a manner that his widow believes to be fair and accurate.
One of those interviews was with CBS Sports where Martha went into significant detail on her understanding of the details of the night. Her stance, that WWE were negligent in the incident has not wavered in the 21 years since. The interview was extensive and contained a significant amount of quotes from Martha, inculding:
First of all, the stunt itself was so negligent. They hired hackers they knew would do anything they wanted when they knew that proper riggers they had hired in the past had told them, ‘We won’t do this kind of stunt, it’s not safe.’ Everything about that stunt was done wrong. The entire set-up was wrong. The equipment was wrong — the harness, for example, was meant for dragging people behind a car. It was a stunt harness, but it wasn’t meant to suspend someone 80 feet above the ground.
With all the public discussion these quotes have caused, long time WWE Jerry McDevitt has released an extensive rebuttal to the story including strong verbiage that makes some strong claims against the Hart legal team’s conduct during the case:
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.
Furthermore, in response to Martha’s claims that WWE deliberately campaigned to turn the wider Hart family against them, McDevitt’s take is somewhat different:
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.
The most explosive part of the rebuttal may well have been the final section. When discussing Martha’s claims to seeking justice over financial gain, McDevitt made some extremely hard hitting accusations about his opposition’s conduct during the trial that took place in 2000. He said:
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.
This whole situation surrounding the documentary release is certainly taking a very ugly side.
Contradictory accusations from both sides make for an unsettling situation whereby Owen’s memory is being overshadowed, for now at least, by further mud-slinging over the cause of his death, including definitive confirmation that Martha will not permit WWE to iduct her husband into their Hall Of Fame.
One can only hope that Martha and her family can find a sense of peace once the furore over this release has died down.