Owen Hart died on May 23, 1999 after a descent stunt at WWF’s Over the Edge pay-per-view. The tragedy sparked controversy and a quest for justice that was the feature in the season finale of Dark Side of the Ring‘s ‘The Final Days of Owen Hart.’
The first portion of the season finale focused on a biography of Owen Hart leading up to his death. From the Hart Family and Stampede Wrestling into the WWF, Owen was presented as a prodigy, but more importantly, a family man to his wife Martha and children Oje and Athena. The WWF was an avenue for Owen to get paid and leave wrestling early to spend more time with his family.
That was all cut short after a rigging accident caused Owen to fall to his death on May 23, 1999 at the WWF Over the Edge pay-per-view in Kansas City. Coworkers and eyewitnesses Jim Ross and Jim Cornette describe the scenes the day of the tragedy and in the aftermath. Ross revealing Owen’s unease with the stunt and hearing executive producer Kevin Dunn’s blunt reveal of Owen’s death before counting the commentary team back highlight the section and paint a foreboding picture in this section.
The last half of the documentary in dominated by Martha Hart and her search for justice after the death of Owen. Visiting Kemper Arena in Kansas City and meeting with police, Martha discovers the rigging change from a full body harness to a quick-release mechanism made for sailing masts. Martha files a lawsuit against the WWF, subsequently alienating her from most of the Hart Family. After a settlement for $18 million, Martha goes on to establish the Owen Hart Foundation and pursues charity work in her late husband’s name, while the family promises to never let Owen go into the WWE Hall of Fame after his death.
This episode was far and away the second centerpiece of the season behind the Benoit double-episode to kick it off. It went back to what it has done well, by giving the affected a platform to tell their stories in a genre where WWE usually dominates with their homespun storytelling. More over, allowing people outside of the direct connection to the world of wrestling really helps to highlight the way the exploitative show goes on even behind the curtain.
Utilizing the likes of Jim Ross and Jim Cornette as eyewitness accounts with background on the incident provided great insight and concise storytelling without allowing them to spin their wheels for too long as well.
Though not without faults this season, Dark Side of the Ring hit peaks in their opening and closing episodes that proved it can be an illuminating show that pulls the curtain from the world of wrestling in a really refreshing way without the watered-down and sanitized WWE production lens.