Stu Hart

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Stu Hart
Wrestler Stu Hart wearing an amateur wrestling championship belt, sometime between 1933 and 1936.jpg
Hart, aged ca. 18, with an amateur wrestling championship belt.[a]
Birth name Stewart Edward Hart
Born (1915-05-03)May 3, 1915[2]
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Died October 16, 2003(2003-10-16) (aged 88)
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Spouse(s) Helen Smith (m. 1947; d. 2001)[3][4]
Children 12, including
Smith Hart
Bruce Hart
Keith Hart
Dean Hart
Bret Hart
Ross Hart
Diana Hart
Owen Hart
Family Hart
Donald Stewart, grandfather
Harry Smith, father-in-law
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Stu Hart
Billed height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)[5]
Billed weight 231 lb (105 kg)[5]
Billed from Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Trained by Toots Mondt[6]
Jack Taylor[7]
Debut 1943
Retired 1986[8]

Stewart Edward "Stu" Hart, CM[9][10][11] (May 3, 1915 – October 16, 2003) was a Canadian amateur wrestler, professional wrestler, promoter and trainer. Hart founded Stampede Wrestling, a promotion based in Calgary, Alberta, and associated wrestling school "The Dungeon". The patriarch of the Hart wrestling family, Stu was the father of many wrestlers, most notably Bret and Owen Hart.

Hart has been referred to by multiple writers, including wrestling historian Dave Meltzer,[12] as one of the most influential and important figures in pro wrestling history.[13][14][15] His greatest contribution to the art was as a trainer.[16] Along with Bret and Owen, Hart's trainees included future world champions Fritz Von Erich, Superstar Billy Graham, Chris Jericho, Edge, Christian, Mark Henry, and Chris Benoit.[17][18]

Hart was also well known for his involvement in over thirty charities, for which he was given a position in the Order of Canada, the second highest honour for merit that can be given in Canada.[19]

Early life[edit]

Hart as a baby in 1915

He was born in Saskatoon in 1915[5] to Edward and Elizabeth Stewart Hart. He was mainly of Scots-Irish descent but also had Scottish and English ancestry.[20][21] His childhood was impoverished; as a boy, Stu Hart lived in a tent with his family on the prairie in Alberta, living off the land and wild game that Stu took down with his slingshot. In 1928, his father was arrested for failure to pay back taxes, while the Salvation Army sent Stu, his mother, and two sisters, Sylvester and Edrie to live in Edmonton.[22] There, Stu Hart began attending wrestling classes at the YMCA.[23] Hart played football for the Edmonton Eskimos in the 1938 and 1939 seasons.[24] Hart also captained a popular baseball team called Hart's All Stars.[25]

Hart enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy and served as the Director of Athletics.



Stu Hart began amateur wrestling when he joined the YMCA in Edmonton in 1929. Hart was trained in catch wrestling in his youth by other boys. Speaking of it, Stu said that his "head would be blue by the time they let go of him". Stu taught this 'shoot style' to all who trained under him in the 1980s and 1990s with the thought that teaching his students real submission moves would make their pro wrestling style sharper.

By 1937 he won a gold medal in the welterweight class from the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada. His amateur career peaked in May 1940 when Hart won the Dominion Amateur Wrestling Championship in the light heavyweight category.[26]

During the mid 30s Hart also coached wrestling at the University of Alberta.[27][28][29]

All of the wrestling belts that Hart wore were handmade by himself. Making championship belts was one of Hart's many domestic skills.[30]


As a wrestler[edit]

Hart wrestling a Bengal tiger named Chi Chi.[31]

It was during his Army service that Stu was introduced to professional wrestling.[32] Around this time Hart also got to know Al Oeming, fellow future wrestler and nature conservationist, who would help him handle his own promotion.[33][34] After recovering from a car accident, Stu competed in various exhibition matches to entertain the troops. In 1946, while receiving training from Toots Mondt, Hart debuted in New York City. Hart had on occasions wrestled animals such as tigers and grizzly bears.[35]

As a promoter[edit]

Main article: Stampede Wrestling

In 1948, Hart established Klondike Wrestling in Edmonton and in 1952 he brought up the territory of another promoter in Alberta and renamed them to Big Time Wrestling.[36] The promotion would later change name to Wildcat Wrestling and lastly Stampede Wrestling, which was responsible for developing many wrestlers who would later become very successful in other promotions and territories, mainly in the WWF.[8][37] Hart would often let his sons Bruce and Keith handle the booking of the promotion later in his life.

The televised version of Hart's Stampede Wrestling was one of Canada's longest running television programs, lasting over 30 years and remained one of Calgary's most popular sports programs eventually airing in over 50 countries worldwide.[38]

As a trainer[edit]

Three years after founding Stampede Wrestling, Hart purchased a mansion in Patterson Heights, Calgary, The Hart House which is now considered a heritage site. Its basement, known as the Dungeon, provided training grounds for his wrestling pupils. There Hart trained all his eight sons and many others such as Junkyard Dog, Jushin Liger, Superstar Billy Graham and The British Bulldog.[39][40]

Hart's training technique, called "stretching" consisted of Hart putting his trainees in painful submission holds and holding on for a substantial time to improve their pain endurance to prepare them for the life of professional wrestling.[2][41][42] Hart's technique was well known and he would let anyone who wished to let him play one of his holds if they came to his home, Hart's son Bret once spoke about a well known case where he stretched a priest that his father wasn't prejudice, "he stretched a rabbi once too."[43]

Hart was said to have had a special liking for training football players since he enjoyed testing their strength.[44]

Some of Hart's former students, including his son Bret, have mentioned that his stretching would sometimes result in broken blood vessels in the eyes.[45][46][47][48] Something which others have attempted to learn from him.[49]

Some have described his training as torture and have accused Hart of being a sadist who enjoyed inflicting pain on people and was more interested in doing so than teach them pro wrestling.[44][50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57][58] Although many who were close to Hart in his life have denied these claims.[54][59][60]

Stu's son Ross has said that his father was always generous and compassionate with his children in person but added that he was different when training people, believing that there was no easy way to teach wrestling.[2]


Stu made several appearances on WWE television in the 90's and early 2000's. The majority of said appearances involved his sons, Bret and Owen Hart. A recurring staple of these appearances in the 90s was that Stu and his wife Helen would be verbally attacked by one of the commentators, Jerry Lawler, who was in a long running feud with Bret during this point in time.[61][62][63]

At the 1993 Pay-Per-View event Survivor Series, Stu had a physical planned interaction outside of the ring with Shawn Michaels. Shawn was involved in a match with Stu's sons Bruce, Keith, Bret and Owen Hart. Shawn played the part of the antagonist, and when failing to succeed in winning the match, Shawn attacks Stu. Stu responded by knocking Shawn out with an elbow smash.[64] Shawn later stated that he was happy to take the hit as he considered it an honor.[65]

Stu also appeared in WCW at the Slamboree 1993: A Legends' Reunion event.[66][67]

Personal life[edit]

Hart was close friends with Luther Lindsay. Lindsay was one of the few men who bested him in the infamous "Hart Dungeon" and Hart reportedly carried a picture of him in his wallet until his death.[68] Hart was also a good friend of Jack Pfefer, who he asked to be the godfather of his son Ross.[69]

Hart allegedly wrote the foreword to the controversial book Under the Mat which was written by his youngest daughter, Diana Hart. His son Bret has questioned the legitimacy of it, and has stated that if Hart did write the foreword, his daughter probably didn't let him read the book beforehand.[70][71]

A coach and mentor to countless young athletes, and a generous supporter of community life in Calgary, Hart, a loyal benefactor to more than thirty charitable and civic organizations, including the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children and the Alberta Firefighters Toy Fund was appointed on November 15, 2000 to the Order of Canada. He was honored with an investiture on May 31, 2001.[9][10]


Main article: Hart wrestling family

Hart married Greek Irish New Yorker Helen Smith (born February 16, 1924), the daughter of olympic marathon runner Harry Smith in 1947.[72] Stu and Helen were married for 53 years until her death in November 4, 2001.

Together he and Helen had and raised twelve children in the Hart mansion, Smith, Bruce, Keith, Wayne, Dean, Ellie, Georgia, Bret, Alison, Ross, Diana and Owen. Many of his children went on to become wrestlers or were otherwise involved in wrestling.[73] The couple have around thirty-six grandchildren and several great-grandchilden, including Teddy Annis's son Bradley, Tobi McIvor's three daughters Amanda, Jessica and Isabelle, Kristin Neidhart's sons Locklin and Maddox, Jade Hart's daughter Kyra, Alexandra Sabina's son Grayson and Mike Hart's two children Lakken and Ashwin. Tom and Michelle Billington's three children, Bronwynn, Marek and Amaris are also often included in the list of his grandchildren, therefore Bronwynn's daughter Miami is also often referred to as one of his great-grandchildren.[74]

In 1949 Hart and his wife Helen who was pregnant with their second child, Bruce were in a car accident on their way home from a wrestling match, Hart was unscathed, although he did break the car's steering wheel on impact, but his wife Helen suffered several injuries and had to be held in a hospital for a long time, this led to them leaving their oldest child, Smith, with Helen's parents Ellie and Harry Smith for two years.[75][76]

Hart's son Bret has stated that while his father was hard man he also had a very gentle side and would often be a very compassionate man and an indulgent parent to his 12 children.[77]


Hart was admitted to Rockyview General Hospital on October 3, 2003 for an elbow infection and then developed pneumonia.[78][79][80][81] He also suffered from ailments associated with diabetes and arthritis. He had a stroke and died 13 days later at the age of 88. Hart's funeral service was attended by approximately 1000 people.[82] He was cremated and the ashes were put in a cherry wood box later buried at Eden Brook Memorial Gardens in a plot with his wife Helen, who died two years earlier in 2001.[83][84]


On March 27, 2010, Hart was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.[85]

In the Hart Legacy Wrestling promotion, which is controlled by Hart's relatives and their associates, there is a Stu Hart Heritage Title.[86][87][88]

There is an annual juvenile amateur wrestling tournament named after Hart. Specifically the Stu Hart Tournament of Champions held in Canada.[89][90][91][92][93]

In the City of Saskatoon in the Blairmore Suburban Centre there is a road named Hart Road in Stu Hart's honor.[94]

In 2005 a documentary directed by Blake Norton named Surviving the Dungeon: The Legacy of Stu Hart was released.[95][96][97][98][99][100][101]

As of 2005 Hart is part of a permanent exhibit at the Glenbow Museum.[102]

A Scissored armbar wresting hold is sometimes referred as a "Stu-Lock" in Hart's honor.[103]

In wrestling[edit]

Wrestlers trained[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Amateur Wrestling[edit]

  • Dominion Amateur Wrestling Championship in the Light Heavyweight category (1940)[26]

Pro Wrestling[edit]

Luchas de Apuestas record[edit]

Winner (wager) Loser (wager) Location Event Date Notes
Stu Hart (hair) Towering Inferno (mask) Calgary, Alberta Stampede February 6, 1976 [118][119]

Awards and honors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The belt Hart wears in the picture with his initials SED was handmade by Hart himself.[1]


  1. ^ Heath McCoy (2007). Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 15 pp. ISBN 978-1-55022-787-1. 
  2. ^ a b c Tributes II: Remembering More of the World's Greatest Professional Wrestlers. Sports Publishing LLC. 2004. p. 96 pp. ISBN 1-58261-817-8. 
  3. ^ "Mavericks: Helen Hart". Glenbow Museum. 
  4. ^ Gallipoli, Thomas M. (2008-02-22). "SPECIALIST: List of Deceased Wrestlers for 2001: Johnny Valentine, Terry Gordy, Chris Adams, Bertha Faye, Helen Hart". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Stu Hart's Hall of Fame profile". WWE. Retrieved April 14, 2011. 
  6. ^ Brian Mlazgar; Holden Stoffel (2007). Saskatchewan Sports: Lives Past and Present. University of Regina Press. p. 169 pp. ISBN 0889771677. 
  7. ^ Aritha van Herk (2002). Mavericks: An Incorrigable History Of Alberta. Penguin Canada. p. ?? pp. ISBN 978-0140286021. 
  8. ^ a b Kristian Pope (2005). Tuff Stuff Professional Wrestling Field Guide: Legend and Lore. Krause Publ. p. 218 pp. ISBN 978-0896892675. 
  9. ^ a b c "Wrestling patriarch Stu Hart dies". CBC News. October 17, 2003. 
  10. ^ a b SANDS, David (April 18, 2001). "Klein sends best wishes to Stu Hart". Slam! Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 2015-01-27. 
  11. ^ Bell, Rick (June 1, 2001). "Nation salutes legendary Stu". Slam! Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 2015-01-27. 
  12. ^ Tributes II: Remembering More of the World's Greatest Professional Wrestlers. Sports Publishing LLC. 2004. p. 10 pp. ISBN 1-58261-817-8. 
  13. ^ "Stu Hart". The Stories Behind the Stars. Professional Wrestling Online Museum. Retrieved 2016-05-30. 
  14. ^ Scott Keith (2008). Dungeon of Death. Citadel. p. 26 pp. ISBN 978-0806530680. 
  15. ^ "Mavericks: Stu Hart". Glenbow Museum. 
  16. ^ "Stu Hart". Photos and Bios. Professional Wrestling Online Museum. Retrieved 2016-05-30. 
  17. ^ "Stu Hart Profile". Online World Of Wrestling. Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  18. ^ James Martin (2001). Calgary: The Unknown City. Arsenal Pulp Press. p. 69 pp. ISBN 978-1551521114. 
  19. ^ Heath McCoy (2007). Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 272 pp. ISBN 978-1-55022-787-1. 
  20. ^ Slamthology: Collected Wrestling Writings 1991-2004. jnlister. 2005. p. 252 pp. ISBN 1-4116-5329-7. 
  21. ^ Heath McCoy (2007). Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. ECWPress. p. 16 pp. ISBN 978-1-55022-787-1. 
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  23. ^ and Passion: The History of Stampede WrestlingPublished 2007, ECW Press Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling Author: Heath McCoy Published 2007, ECW Press 
  24. ^ Brian Mlazgar; Holden Stoffel (2007). Saskatchewan Sports: Lives Past and Present. University of Regina Press. p. 58 pp. ISBN 0889771677. 
  25. ^ Heath McCoy (2007). Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. ECWPress. p. 25 pp. ISBN 978-1-55022-787-1. 
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  30. ^ Heath McCoy (2007). Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 15 pp. ISBN 978-1-55022-787-1. 
  31. ^ Mihaly, John (October 2009). "Hart Exhibition, on page 3". via WWE Magazine. Retrieved 2016-05-13. 
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  44. ^ a b Greg Klein (2012). The King of New Orleans: How the Junkyard Dog Became Professional Wrestling's First Black Superhero. ECWPress. p. 25 pp. ISBN 1770410309. 
  45. ^ Ross Davies (2002). Bret Hart (Wrestling Greats). Rosen Publishing Group. p. 15 pp. ISBN 978-0823934942. 
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  60. ^ "Bret Hart autobiography - My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling". 
  61. ^ Martha Hart; Eric Francis (2004). Broken Harts: The Life and Death of Owen Hart. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 20 pp. ISBN 978-1-59077-036-8. 
  62. ^ Heath McCoy (2007). Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. ECWPress. p. 236 pp. ISBN 978-1-55022-787-1. 
  63. ^ Hart, Bret (2007). Hitman: My real life in the cartoon world of wrestling. Ebury Press. p. 329 pp. ISBN 9780091932862. 
  64. ^ Ben Undelson (2013). Fiction. A Nostalgic Guide to Growing up with the WWF. p. 301 pp. ISBN 978-1-304-10190-7. 
  65. ^ Hart, Bret (2007). Hitman: My real life in the cartoon world of wrestling. Ebury Press. p. 334 pp. ISBN 9780091932862. 
  66. ^ "WCW Slamboree 1993; Vader vs. Davey Boy Smith; Hollywood Blonds vs. Dos Hombres; Nick Bockwinkel vs. Dory Funk Jr.". May 26, 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2016. 
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  68. ^ McCoy, Heath. Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. Toronto: CanWest Books, 2005. (pg. 66) ISBN 0-9736719-8-X
  69. ^ Hornbaker, Tim (2007). National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 252 pp. ISBN 978-1550227413. 
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  93. ^ "Wrestlers show why they're the best in Japan". 
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Further reading[edit]


External links[edit]