Brother of wrestler who died in stunt criticizes lawsuit against WWE, Conn. Senate candidate

Friday, July 2, 2010

Brother of dead wrestler criticizes WWE lawsuit

HARTFORD, Conn. — Pro wrestler Bret “The Hitman” Hart said he supports World Wrestling Entertainment’s release of a new video featuring his late brother, Owen, despite his sister-in-law’s lawsuit against the company and its leaders, including Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon.

In a telephone interview Friday with The Associated Press, Hart said the video that prompted Martha Hart’s lawsuit is a tribute to his family and its long history in professional wrestling.

“It was done with really good taste,” he said from his home in Calgary, Canada. “As a family, we’re really proud of it and Martha’s lawsuit sort of makes it seem like there’s something bad or wrong about it. It’s just a bunch of brothers and sisters celebrating the memory of the whole family.”

Last month, Martha Hart announced she had filed the lawsuit claiming that Stamford-based WWE, McMahon and her husband Vince used images of Owen Hart in at least 37 videos, including “Hart & Soul: the Hart Family Anthology,” without her knowledge or permission.

She said she had made it clear she did not want her late husband’s likeness associated with WWE.

Owen Hart died May 23, 1999, after falling from an apparatus about 80 feet high before a crowd of 16,500 people at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo. Hart, who was making an aerial descent into the ring, fell after the device that connected his body harness to the rigging malfunctioned, according to WWE.

A WWE attorney has called Martha Hart’s lawsuit “a political stunt” coming as Linda McMahon campaigns as the Republican Party’s endorsed candidate to replace U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd.

Bret Hart, who returned to work for WWE about six months ago, said he didn’t know Martha Hart was planning to file the lawsuit. He said they don’t speak and he hasn’t seen his brother’s two children in 10 years, “for what reasons, I couldn’t begin to tell you.”

In a posting on his website this week, Bret Hart said his brother “would turn in his grave watching Martha erase every single thing he ever did, all for spite.”

A representative for Martha Hart said Friday she was not available to comment on Bret Hart’s remarks.

At a June 22 news conference in Hartford, she accused the WWE of seeking to profit from her husband’s death, calling it “morally, ethically and legally wrong.” According to her suit, Owen Hart’s estate is seeking any profits due from the late wrestler’s appearances on any videos and other materials.

Martha Hart denied her lawsuit was politically motivated but said Connecticut voters should question Linda McMahon’s moral character.

McMahon stepped down as CEO of the WWE last fall to run for the Senate. Her opponents, both fellow Republicans and Democrats, have made controversies surrounding WWE an issue in the Senate race.

Bret Hart said believes his sister-in-law was treated fairly by the McMahons and doesn’t think WWE has misused his brother’s image. He said he hopes his brother’s career “is opened up and people can see it, remember it, enjoy it again.”

“As much as I sympathize with Martha, I also think time’s gone by enough that it’s time to start celebrating what my brother Owen was,” he said.

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