Stu Hart

Name: Stu Hart
Year Inducted: 2014

Stu Hart

At this point the story of Stu Hart has grown beyond fact and into the land of myth. No man could possibly done so much for wrestling and his city. No man could have possibly inflicted so much pain. No man could possibly have had a hand in training so many superstars. No man could possibly have suffered so much publicly.

Yet, Stu Hart is all of these things and more.  In 2001, he was finally honoured for these traits, both by his peers, with the Iron Mike Mazurki Award, the Cauliflower Alley Club’s highest award, and by his country, with his appointment to the Order of Canada.

Stewart Edward Hart’s story comes out of the depths of the Depression in rural Alberta. Living in poverty gave him a determination to succeed with his life and he chose to start amateur wrestling in Edmonton in 1930. Athletics was a way out for him and he succeeded in baseball and football too, playing for the Edmonton Eskimos. He also excelled in submission wrestling.

When World War II broke out, Hart enlisted in the Navy. He was used to entertain the troops with wrestling exhibitions against the likes of Sandor Kovacs and Al Korman. Hart was in tremendous shape and, in 1946, he went into a restaurant in New York City. “There was a big guy sitting there with cauliflower ears. I went by him and he looked up. ‘You’ve got a big neck on you, kid.’” It was local promoter Toots Mondt. When the war ended, Hart headed back to New York and started his pro career there.

Rough and tough, the late Angelo Savoldi said that Stu Hart “was good right from the beginning. I think he was just born a wrestler.”

Hart wasn’t a top competitor in the wrestling ranks in New York, so he headed west to improve his standing. In the Dakotas, he really started to learn the behind-the-scenes of wrestling and in 1948, he began promoting matches in Edmonton. The promotion was initially called Big Time Wrestling, then Wildcat Wrestling, and when Calgary became the base, Stampede Wrestling. Hart would keep wrestling on a regular basis until the 1960s, but when needed, he would still don the tights later.

Stampede Wrestling had its ups and downs as a territory but Stu’s reputation as a trainer never did. Soon, “The Dungeon” in the Hart House became a badge of honour for those who survived. Promoters were sending raw talent to Hart for training. Montreal stars such as Rick Martel and Jacques Rougeau Jr. were both in Stampede before they were old enough to legally have a drink. Second-generation grapplers Greg Valentine and Jake Roberts were sent north by their famous fathers. The list of the graduates of Hart’s finishing school is not as long as the list that quit, unable to withstand the grip of Old Man Hart.

In 1984, Hart sold the Stampede Wrestling promotion to the expanding WWF . He had planned to retire and take it easy but was soon back promoting, running until 1989. He died in October 2003 and sold the Stampede Wrestling promotion.

- Greg Oliver

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