The patriarch of one of professional wrestling’s first families, he was, perhaps, the most important person in the history of Canadian wrestling and continues to have a dominant role in the sport.
Real Name: Stu Hart
Calgary’s Stu Hart was one of the most influential and important figures in wrestling during the second half of the 20th century. His many contributions to the sport as a wrestler, promoter, and trainer have been both high profile, as well as very subtle. Although his career in the ring was full of championship accomplishments, his importance to the sport after he retired from the competition and became a promoter/trainer is where Hart made his most influential contributions to the wrestling. The patriarch of one of the greatest families in wrestling history, his influence and style is still being felt to this day, and the world of wrestling is surely better off for having him as one of our own…
After breaking into the business under the tutelage of the great Toots Mondt, Stu Hart began his career in early 1940’s, working the Canadian independent circuits. It didn’t take the competitive young Hart long to figure out that to make real money in wrestling, you had to be a promoter. In 1948, when he started Big Time Wrestling, which became Wildcat Wrestling, and eventually, Stampede Wrestling, Hart employed the same work ethic to promoting as he did to his wrestling. The NWA Stampede promotion reflected the rugged terrain it covered (other Stampede cities included Vancouver and Edmonton) and NWA Stampede Wrestling quickly gained a reputation for tough crowds, an even tougher traveling/working schedule, and a high level of competition. It also garnered a well-deserved reputation among wrestlers as a place hone your skills, and for Junior Heavyweights, to catch a break and be used in the top storylines and feuds.
The crowds may not have been as big, and the paydays not as large as in they were in many U.S. promotions…but if you were looking to break into the sport, or were a veteran looking to advance your career (the old-fashioned, hard way) Stampede Wrestling was one of the best places to do it.
The list of wrestling superstars that Stu Hart has personally trained reads like a “who’s who” of top contemporary wrestlers. Of course, there are the Hart Brothers — Bruce (pictured), Bret, Wayne, Owen, Keith, Ross, Smith. Although Smith, Bruce and Keith’s ring careers did not last as long as many had hoped, they were nevertheless top performers during his time. Ross and Wayne Hart worked behind the scenes for Stampede, and although some of the Harts may have left the ring, they never left the sport, and continue to be a big part of the Canadian wrestling business to this day.
Not much needs to be said about “The Hitman”, Bret Hart. His numerous WWF & WCW World championship reigns, as well as lengthy stints as an World Tag Team, Intercontinental and United States champion have earned him a guaranteed spot in wrestling history as one of the greatest of all-time. But Bret would be the first to admit that “The Excellence of Execution” owes a great deal of his success to the training he received from his father, and without Stu’s influence, Bret Hart would likely never have become “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.”
The youngest Hart, Owen, was arguably even more talented than Bret, and his WWF Intercontinental, World Tag Team, European Heavyweight, and King of the Ring title runs set him among the elite competitors in wrestling. Of course, tragically, Owen’s life was cut short after falling from the ceiling of Kansas City’s Kemper Arena during his descent to the ring as the WWF’s Blue Blazer. The shaken but still strong patriarch of this incredible family of grapplers spoke to the worldwide media immediately following Owen’s death, with Bret by his side, and eulogized his son. As of this writing, the grief-stricken Harts were in the process of filing suit against the WWF.
In addition to training his talented sons for a career in the ring, Stu Hart has helped launch the careers, as well as help hone the skills, of dozens of other wrestling superstars. Top performers like Gene Kiniski, Andre the Giant, Rick Martel, The British Bulldogs (Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith), The Junk Yard Dog, Jim Neidhart, Dick “The Bulldog” Brower, The Wild Samoans, Bad News Brown, “Lethal” Larry Cameron, Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho and dozens more have all advanced (and in many cases, started) their careers by enhancing their skills in Hart’s fabled “Dungeon”.
A longtime NWA promoter (and wrestler), Stu Hart, after basically passing the promotion down to son Bruce, eventually sold his Calgary-based Stampede Wrestling promotion to the World Wrestling Federation in 1984 after a 5-year business partnership, and Stampede was absorbed by the WWF. By 1989, the promotion had closed its doors for good. It marked the end of Calgary’s longtime regional promotion, as the WWF took over the territory once they purchased Stampede.
Through his tireless efforts in the ring, his exemplary work ethic, his unique promotional technique, and his invaluable contributions to the future of wrestling, Stu Hart has placed himself in a place few others in wrestling history can ascend to. We at the Ring Chronicle salute this influential and important figure in the history of our sport, and are proud to induct the legendary Stu Hart — rough-and-rugged Maker of Champions — into the T.R.C. Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame…