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Hart fell to his death at Kansas City on May 23, 1999, during the WWF's Over the Edge PPV event. His death occurred while he was being lowered into the ring from a catwalk of the Kemper Arena for a match with The Godfather (a wrestler with a pimp gimmick); later reports revealed that Owen was booked to win the Intercontinental Championship from The Godfather in that match. His entrance was originally planned to be a "comedy stunt" entrance, in keeping with the buffoonish character of the Blue Blazer. Owen, in Blue Blazer regalia, was to be lowered to just above ring level, at which time Owen would release himself from the safety harness, drop to the ring, land on his feet...and then fall flat on his face. Though he had performed the stunt before, Owen was wary about performing the stunt at the Kemper Arena due to the height involved (Owen had a fear of heights). However, Owen performed a practice stunt earlier in the day, the stunt went forward on the show as scheduled. His wife Martha suggests that, by moving around to get comfortable with both the harness and his cape on, Owen triggered an early release and fell 78 feet (24 m) into the ring, smashing his chest on a ring turnbuckle. The viewers at home did not see the incident, as the WWF was transmitting a promotional package for the Blue Blazer/Godfather match, plus WWF pay-per-views are delayed 10-15 seconds in case of emergencies, accidents etc. Upon the return to live action, the cameras focused on the crowd and the announcing team (Jim Ross and a visibly shaken Jerry Lawler) as paramedics tried to revive Owen. The crowd, believing that this was "part of the act" (Ross stating repeatedly on TV that it was not), cheered with a standing ovation as Owen was carried out. Owen was transported to the Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, where he was pronounced dead on arrival (he actually passed away about six minutes after the fall, while still lying in the ring); the cause was later revealed to be internal bleeding from blunt chest trauma. The WWF continued the event despite the tragedy, which drew a great deal of criticism over the following weeks. The next night on Monday Night Raw, the WWF mounted a two-hour televised tribute to Owen (see RAW is Owen), featuring the company's biggest stars (most of whom were in shock or in tears). On this show, Jeff Jarrett would beat Test using Owen's finisher, the Sharpshooter, as a tribute to Owen. The show concluded with a "beer toast" from Steve Austin; many found this controversial, due to the animosity that existed between Austin and Owen after the 1997 piledriver incident. The Over the Edge event name was retired immediately, and the WWF tried to distance itself from the in-ring events. However, the Hart family (as well as sports radio talk show host Jim Rome) was furious with the WWF for continuing the PPV event, with Martha accusing McMahon of murder. In the weeks that followed, much attention focused on the harness Owen used that night, especially on the "quick release" trigger and safety latches. When someone is lowered from the rafters in a harness, there are backup latches that must be latched for safety purposes. These backups may take some time to unlatch, which would have made Owen's stunt difficult to perform smoothly. Therefore, it was apparently decided that it was more important not to have the safety backups, because it would be easier for Owen to unlatch himself. In addition to not having safety backups, the harness Owen used was designed for sailboats and required only six pounds of weight to trigger the quick release mechanism; Owen weighed about 227 pounds. An out-of-court settlement between Owen Hart's family and the WWF has prevented the release of any information about the harness. Owen left a widow, Martha, and two children, Oje and Athena. His widow now runs a charity called the Owen Hart Foundation with the money gained from her out-of-court settlement with the WWF from a wrongful death lawsuit (as a result of the settlement, what truly happened on May 23, 1999 was never revealed). Martha wrote a book about Owen's life in 2002 called Broken Harts. Owen's last match was on May 22, 1999 in Chicago. He and Jarrett won a tag team match against Edge and Christian. On the October 4, 1999 edition of WCW Nitro, Owen's brother Bret wrestled Chris Benoit in an Owen Hart tribute match at the Kemper Arena.

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โˆ™ 2006-02-27 23:01:24
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