The Von Erichs. The Funks. The Anoai Samoan Clan.
All families that have made a major impact in the history of pro wrestling. For decades, wrestling families has been an important part of sports entertainment.
And he’s right.
No family made a bigger impact in wrestling than those rowdy, scrappy kids from the Prairies of Alberta, Canada.
The Hart Family.
In Stu Hart’s wildest dreams, never did he probably imagine that his sons, grandsons, granddaughters, and son-in-laws would dominate the wrestling scene like no one else. They not only were stars in the local Stampede Wrestling promotion, but eventually, they became champions in WWE & WCW.
In this 3-disc collection, WWE chronicles the life of the Hart clan, and their rise to prominence. The first disc is basically a documentary on how Stu battled poverty, met his beloved Helen in New York in the 1940’s, and raised a huge brood of kids all the while running one of the most successful wrestling promotions in Canada from the 1950’s through the 1980’s.
Everyone remembers the ones who made the big time like Bret, Owen, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Dynamite Kid, and his granddaughter, WWE diva Natalya. But other siblings like Bruce, Keith, Wayne and Ross were integral parts of the business.
In this terrific piece, they talk about the struggles of being poor, and how they would just try to stay alive while Stu’s territory was not doing good business. It’s truly a story of rags to riches to rags.
Also, the documentary touches on the tragedies the family has had to endure, like the death of brother Dean in 1990, and of course, the unfortunate accident that took the life of Owen Hart in 1999. This family has definitely been through a lot throughout the years.
What I liked about the documentary was that the Harts aren’t afraid to touch on some of their personal struggles, and talking about how they had to stick together during the lean times.
“There were sometimes where we wore hand me down clothes. That’s how bad it got”, Keith Hart remembers.
The family also recollects about the holidays and how there were not a lot of gifts under the tree.
“Sometimes my dad would fill up the gas tank, and the stations would give ya free hockey pucks when you filled up”, said Ellie Hart. “Well my dad kept those pucks, and gave them to the boys on Christmas as gifts.”
But despite the hard times in the 1970’s, the family stuck together as a unit, and got through the troubled waters.
The whole pace of the territory picked up in the late 70’s, when older guys like Dave Ruhl, Ripper Collins, Curtis Iaukea and Big Bad John were replaced by up and coming high flying talents.
Never a fan of light heavyweights, Stu Hart changed his mind when Stampede brought in a new wave of fresh faces from all over the world. Dynamite Kid, from Manchester, England, made his debut in Western Canada in 1978, and quickly became, pound for pound, one of the best wrestlers in the entire world.
Soon after, his cousin, Davey Boy Smith would show up on the Western Canadian prairies and both feud and team with Dynamite. They quickly set the territory on fire with some of the fastest pace matches wrestling has ever seen.
Stampede Wrestling mixed styles, by bringing in Southern stars from Memphis like “Dr. D.” David Schultz (known famously for slapping John Stossel on an episode of 20/20 in 1985), The Honky Tonk Man (who later became the longest reigning WWE Intercontinental Champion of all time), “Rotten” Ron Starr, and young talents from Louisiana like Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Sylvester Ritter (who later became the Junk Yard Dog).
“For a while, Stampede Wrestling had some of the best action in North America”, Dave Meltzer, creator of the Wrestling Observer would remark. “They had low production values, but they had some of the best action”.
In late 1983, Vince McMahon, looking to expand his empire globally, bought out Stampede Wrestling, which gave him free reign to start running WWE in markets like Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, parts of British Columbia, and other Western Canadian cities.
As part of the deal, the WWE would hire Bret, Dynamite, Davey Boy, and Jim Neidhart. Quickly after, the Stampede boys would thrill audiences all over North America with some of the best tag team and singles matches ever.
“As soon as we started having those matches, you could see the pace of the territory pick up”, says Bret Hart in his 2005 documentary, “The Best There Is, Best There Was, and Best There Ever Will Be”.
He was absolutely right.
In 1986, Owen Hart made his debut in the new Stampede, and became one of the brightest young stars in both the United States and Canada.
“After a month you can tell he was going be good”, said Meltzer. “But after two months, he was like one of the best in the world”.
This 3 disc set features Owen in his WWE tenure, but it would have been nice if they included more of his Stampede days. As a matter of fact, there is only one match in the entire DVD set of Stampede stuff. They do show clips but if you want to get a true feel of how good these guys were early in their careers, you must find some of their early matches in Stampede.
In terms of books, there are two great reads on the Harts and Stampede. “Pain and Passion” by Heath McCoy, is such a good, in-depth look at the promotion and the Hart family, I read it 3 times. It’s an absolute must. And the Bret Hart book “Hitman” was such an interesting read, I got it in both hardcover, and Kindle version. You can get both books on Amazon.com right now.
The Hart family has long served as Canada’s first family of Sports Entertainment, from patriarch Stu and his Stampede Wrestling and Dungeon, a training site that has produced multiple Hall of Famers, though sons Bret, Owen, on to a new generation of WWE Superstars, The Hart Dynasty. But the family’s journey was never a smooth one, as their accomplishments were often punctuated with devastating tragedies and loss. Now for the first time ever, fans can learn the entire story in Hart & Soul: The Hart Family Anthology. A brand new documentary chronicling more than 5 decades of family lineage is filled with never-before-seen Hart family interviews and supplemented with a dozen matches featuring Bret, Owen, Keith, Bruce, The British Bulldog, The Dynamite Kid, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, The Hart Dynasty, and more!
Falling in Love
Riches to Rags
All in the Family
Hart Foundation / British Bulldogs
* Stu the Athlete
* Helen’s Car Accident
* Terrible Ted the Wrestling Bear
* A Letter from Dean
* Stu vs. The Tiger
* A Hart Family Thanksgiving – 1987
* Helen Throws in the Towel
* Owen the Prankster
* Chris Jericho’s Flight with Owen
* The Uninvited Guest
* Bret “Hit Man” Hart Returns to WWE
* Post-Raw Celebration (Raw – January 4, 2010)
Introduction with The Hart Dynasty
6-Man Tag Team Match
Keith Hart, Bruce Hart & Bret Hart vs. The Kiwis & Dynamite Kid
Stampede Wrestling – May 1979
Stampede Arrives in WWE
World Tag Team Championship Match
Hart Foundation vs. British Bulldogs
Boston Garden – November 1, 1986
An Unforgettable Match
Intercontinental Championship Match
Bret “Hit Man” Hart vs. British Bulldog
SummerSlam – August 29, 1992
The Hart Family in a WWE Ring
Family Feud Match
Bret “Hit Man” Hart, Owen Hart, Bruce Hart & Keith Hart vs. Shawn Michaels & His Knights
Survivor Series – November 24, 1993
Brothers vs. Brothers
Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Owen Hart vs. Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner
Florence, SC – January 11, 1994
Ripped Apart at the Seams
World Tag Team Championship Match
Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Owen Hart vs. The Quebecers
Royal Rumble – January 22, 1994
Steel Cage Match for the WWE Championship
Bret “Hit Man” Hart vs. Owen Hart
SummerSlam – August 29, 1994
The Hart Family Settles It in the Ring
Bret “Hit Man” Hart & British Bulldog vs. Owen Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
Raw – November 7, 1994
Decorated in Gold
European Championship Match
Owen Hart vs. British Bulldog
Raw – March 3, 1997
Front and Center
10-Man Tag Team Match
Bret “Hit Man” Hart, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart & Brian Pillman vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust & Legion of Doom
In Your House: Canadian Stampede July 6, 1997
6-Man Tag Team Flag Match
Bret “Hit Man” Hart, Owen Hart & British Bulldog vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Undertaker & Dude Love
Raw – July 21, 1997
Passing the Torch
WWE Unified Tag Team Championship Match
The Hart Dynasty vs. D-Generation X
SmackDown – December 25, 2009
The Best is Yet to Come
You can get this DVD set on Amazon as well, but if you can get it used. It simply doesn’t warrant buying new if you don’t have to.