wrestling / Columns

411 Exclusive Interview: Martha Hart on Dark Side of the Ring, Showing the ‘Real’ Owen Hart, If She Would Speak to Bret Hart Again

May 18, 2020 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Dark Side of the Ring - Owen Hart Poster, Kevin Dunn

Later this week, VICE TV will premiere the season finale for Dark Side of the Ring, which will be “The Final Days of Owen Hart.” At long last, the story of Owen Hart and the night of his tragic passing will finally be told. One of the subjects for the upcoming finale is Owen Hart’s widow, Doctor Martha Hart, along with their children, Oje and Athena Hart. Owen Hart was not only a gifted, tremendous wrestler, but he was also a loving father and husband, which is a major part of this episode.

Martha Hart is a doctor of the University of Calgary and Alberta Children’s Hospital. She is the founder of the Owen Hart Foundation, which was founded in tribute to her late husband in December of 2000. Dr. Hart and Owen also had two children, son Oje and daughter Athena. Recently, 411mania got the chance to sit down and speak with Dr. Hart about her involvement with the docuseries, what happened in the aftermath of Owen’s tragic passing, and what took place for her to work with the show’s creators, Evan Husney and Jason Eisener, and provide them with unprecedented access and footage for this episode. Here is what she had to say on appearing in the series and being sought out by Dark Side of the Ring Husney and Eisener:

Jeffrey Harris: What was your initial reaction when you were contacted by Evan Husney and Jason Eisener?

Martha Hart: Well, Evan had gotten into contact with me through the Owen Hart Foundation. And you know, I do get requests from time to time. I’m always open to the requests, and I look at them. I provide at least giving people my time to see what the project is about. And so I did the same with Evan, and I looked at his request, and I thought, “Hmm. This looks kind of interesting.” So I put forth 10 questions to him to see how will he answer these questions. And they were pretty thought-provoking questions, and he responded and his answers were very good. And I thought, “Oh, this is interesting because I wasn’t expecting to get the responses that he gave me.”

So then I thought, “OK,” and then he asked — he was in Toronto, I think at TIFF or something, and he said, “Gee. I’m in Toronto. You know, I can fly to Calgary and meet. Maybe we can talk about it more?” So I said, “OK,” and he came to Calgary, and we had dinner together. I asked him more questions, and you know, to my surprise, he answered very truthfully, but he wasn’t sure of the answers that I wanted to hear or was hoping to hear. He just was straight up with me, very honest. I could feel that he was such a genuine person and that he really wanted to take this story where I always hoped it’d be taken. He didn’t know that he was giving me all the right answers, but he was. And then that really sealed the deal for me because I just — I really felt this level of trust that I could trust Evan, I could trust Jason. And I thought, “This is really a project that I should get involved with and I should do.”

I also wasn’t aware of the Dark Side of the Ring, I have to say. I didn’t know anything about the series, but I did know that VICE Media was a big powerhouse in the entertainment world. And that did help because I knew that not only did this fellow have good intentions, but he also had the means to do the project. And so I thought, you know, “I’ll give him a chance, and we’ll do it together. And let’s hope for the best.” And I must say, I am so incredibly pleased with the episode that they put together on The Final Days of Owen Hart. It’s a story I’ve always hoped for, and they told it so well. And I feel really blessed actually that I met them, and we were able to do this project finally and the way I always hoped it’d be done. That said, I wish we could’ve done a more detailed, longer version, but it definitely covers everything I hoped would be covered.

Jeffrey Harris: When I interviewed Dark Side of the Ring producer Evan Husney, and he told me about the questions you sent him, he said he was really impressed. He said, “No one’s ever really put us to that before. And I just thought that was incredibly thoughtful. And it was also incredibly helpful, I think, for us to really be like — OK. Because we know the Owen Hart story; the big, big story in the world of wrestling. But it kind of forced us to really hone in exactly how we wanted to tell the story, and the way we wanted to approach it.”

Hearing that, how does it feel to know that process of exchanging questions helped the filmmakers in the process of making this project?

Martha Hart: Well, I was actually so pleased that Evan took my questions to heart, and that it really helped Evan in the evolution of the thought process on how to take the story. I think he’s a bright guy, and I think he knew what I hoped would be told. And so, I think it really did shape the story. And as we got to know each other, and I introduced him also to some other people that I thought might be helpful in just relaying the story, so that he wasn’t just hearing it from me. And I think he started to get a sense of the story behind the story. And I think that’s what this episode really tells. It shows Owen the person, and of course, that’s the person that I love. I love the real person, the person that I shared my life with. And so, I think that’s what’s nice. I think that viewers are gonna enjoy that they are really gonna get a sense of who the real Owen Hart was, the man, not just the persona. And it’s something I’ve said in the past. Yeah, he was a wrestler, and that’s how people knew him. And that’s OK, but there’s so much more to him than just that. He was such an incredible person, and I’m really happy that people are going to get to see that side of him.

I think when they see Owen the man, then they’ll realize everything that happened to him, how terrible it was was. They’ll understand my point of view. They’ll understand like — they’ll get a sense too — I think a lot of people aren’t aware of the full story that this billion-dollar company willfully put him at risk. They hired inappropriate people. They did a stunt that had never been done. Like every rigger in the whole industry that qualified backed my lawsuit, and we didn’t get into all of that in great detail. But you know, they didn’t have a case, and everything they’ve done was wrong on every level. From going on with the show, this is a company that sued the widow. There are just so many things. They manipulated Owen’s family to work against me. It’s just so much, people wouldn’t even believe — they’d think it was made up if it wasn’t the truth. It was just so unbelievable, all the things that had happened. So, I’m glad that people are going to get to see all sides, and I think too, there’s always been a bit of a curiosity [of], you know, what happened to us? Where we did we take our life in the direction? And I think people get like a little bit of a peek on that too, and I think that helps. And also too, I’m really pleased that we will show also the great work that we do through the Owen Hart Foundation, which is really a true vision of Owen’s real personality. So, I’m happy for that too.

Jeffrey Harris: Was there any ever any caution with your family and Dark Side of the Ring creators Evan Husney and Jason Eisener before you got to a point of, “OK. We know we can trust these people,” or did that trust come quickly?

Martha Hart: Well, you know, the trust came quickly, and I will say, what I said to Evan was that I didn’t restrict any way that he wanted to take the story. All I said to him was, “As long as you’re fair, then that’s OK. You know what? Just be fair,” and that’s what he was. And I think once he started uncovering the full story, he could really see what the story was, and that’s the story that he told. And you always do kind of worry, “Well, how will they spin the story? Will they spin the story?” And it’s like, I just want someone to tell the story. Don’t spin it. Just tell it. And that’s what they did. They just told the story. The way it is, the way it happened, and that’s what I appreciated because I didn’t want any — I didn’t need preferential treatment. Just be fair to me, and I can live with that. Fairness is a good thing for both sides, right? And the thing is that — but they could see that this wasn’t an equal fight here. They could see that this wasn’t an equal fight here. They could see where, you know, who was fighting fair and who wasn’t. So, I think they did a good job of being fair, but really telling the story the way it should be told.

Jeffrey Harris: I was very emotional when I got to see all that candid family footage with Owen, you, Oje, and Athena for the Dark Side of the Ring finale. I’m very grateful I got the opportunity to see this side of Owen, and I know that was important to you for people to see that side of him that many fans probably never got to see before. But I wanted to hear your thoughts on all the family footage that was made available.

Martha Hart: Hmm. Well, you know, it’s interesting because I gave Dark Side, well Evan and Jason, all of our family footage. I said, “Here it is. You guys can pick what you want to pick.” Again, I didn’t handpick anything. And the nice thing is everything they picked, I didn’t adjust anything either, outside of maybe the odd photo or something. But all the actual like the footage that they picked, it stuck, and I just said, “Yeah. That works for me.” But you know, I didn’t feed it to them is my point. They picked it, and I thought that they did such a great job really showing — again, it’s just so hard when you have a limited amount of time, and you want to get a lot of perspectives in because it was really important to get Jim Cornette and all the other people Owen worked with.

That was really important. We needed to have that as well to have the balance because you have to have that balance so that people can really hear the full story. And I think it gave them an opportunity to tell their story, and you know, even the one announcer [Jim Ross], I know he wrote a book. I didn’t read the book, but I heard that he talked about the night that Owen died, and he talked about how dark Vince McMahon was. So, I think that was interesting too that he participated in this documentary and was able to give his insight into it.

Jeffrey Harris: If Owen’s brother, Bret Hart, would ever reach out to speak to you, would you ever speak to him again or ever be willing to have a conversation with him again?

Martha Hart: You know, I wish all the Harts well, including Bret. Like I said, I’m not sure if I said it to you or not, but my life hasn’t been easy, and I don’t wish that on anybody. And I really hope life’s been kind to them. You know, I’m a forgiving person, and I’m always open to talking to people. There’s no harm in talking to people, but like I said, once people break the trust, then you can’t have a relationship with them. But you can be polite, and you can be constant. And you know, if he wanted to say something to me, I’m always open to listen to anybody, so sure.

Thank you to Dr. Martha Hart for graciously granting her time to speak with us. The Season 2 finale for Dark Side of the Ring, “The Final Days of Owen Hart, debuts on Tuesday, May 19 on VICE TV at 10:00 pm EST. You can learn more about the Owen Hart Foundation at OwenHartFoundation.org.