April 30, 2003
Carrying on the family business
By TJ MADIGAN
"The Dungeon is a dangerous place to take bumps. There's pieces of padding missing all over the place and parts of the floor are exposed. You have to be careful but I think that's all part of the allure."
Nattie Neidhart is excitedly talking about learning the ropes of the grappling game in the infamous Hart family 'Dungeon', or as she affectionately describes it, "at Grampy's house."
The 20-year-old bombshell, now two years into her wrestling training, has been paying her dues on the hallowed ground where superstars such as Bret and Owen Hart, Chris Benoit, Lance Storm and Chris Jericho all honed their mat skills.
Nattie, the granddaughter of Stu Hart and daughter of Ellie and Jim (The Anvil) Neidhart, is the world's first third-generation female wrestler. Originally hoping to make a career for herself in acting, Nattie began working as a ring announcer for Eric Bischoff's Mat Rats project and eventually got talked into working out in the ring with future superstar TJ Wilson.
She discovered she had a natural flair for the family business and began training with the boys to develop her skills. She made her debut in a Stampede Wrestling tag match last year and hasn't looked back.
Nattie is fronting the next generation of the Hart wrestling dynasty, along with two of Stu's other grandchildren, (Terminator) Ted Hart and Harry (Bulldog) Smith.
All three cousins are anxious to continue the Hart legacy established by their grandfather and each is bringing far more than just name value to the table.
Take Harry Smith, for example.
At just 17 years old, Smith is a 6-ft. 5-in. 220-lb. powerhouse, the youngest third-generation grappler in the world.
He was also the youngest wrestler to ever set foot in a ring, making his pro debut at just eight years old. The son of Diana Hart and the late British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith, Harry has developed into an awesome worker with a stiff, power-based ring style. He lists his father, Bret and Owen Hart, Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit as his influences and it shows.
Like most graduates from the Stu Hart school of hard knocks, Harry's ring psychology is far more advanced than typical mainstream material, utilizing the intensity encouraged by Benoit, the mat-based arsenal of moves the Hart family is famous for and sealing the deal with sharp power finishers.
As soon as he completes high school next year, Harry is almost guaranteed a WWE contract, which means witnessing his matches over the next few weeks will give you "before he was famous" bragging rights for years to come. He stole the show on the WWE's last visit to Calgary, scoring a pinfall over his cousin Teddy Hart, who incidentally is another name that'll almost certainly be flashing on WWE marquees someday.
Ted, the son of Georgia Hart and fitness guru BJ Annis, is one of the most versatile workers on the scene but he possesses a rare humility for a high-flying wrestler. He can perform the most awesome high-spots imaginable but chooses to work a submission-based mat psychology, saving the crazy flips for the big finale. Instead of churning out a lucha-style spot-fest like most flyers do, Ted works a logical well-developed match so that when he finally pulls out the big moonsault, it means that much more.
He was the youngest worker ever signed to a WWE developmental deal but I think Ted's biggest achievement is his attitude. In conversation, Ted regularly makes reference to advice given to him by experienced wrestlers and how it changed his perspective. He knows he's got the goods, yet he constantly acknowledges his faith in God and the support he's received from his family, his friends and the WWE. He teaches kids to wrestle and lives by the same principles he tries to instill in them.
In a business where talented young guys get so much, so quickly, it's refreshing to see such a down-to-earth attitude -- one which will prevent Ted Hart from self-destructing on the road when his career takes off like so many other wrestlers before him. He has the look, the talent and the charisma to walk out on Raw tomorrow and jump right into the mix without appearing even the slightest bit green, so expect Ted to be joining Harry in the big time sooner than later.
In a family that has already produced so many legendary wrestlers, there are high expectations for the three Hart cousins but it's a challenge they're ready to take on.
"People have a very mixed perception of the Harts," said Nattie Neidhart. "We have a lot to live up to but we've also had a lot of negative press and we've lost a lot of family members. Now it's up to us to get things going again. We're going to keep my grandfather's legacy alive. It's the least we can do after all he's done for us and after all he's done for wrestling."
All three of Stu Hart's grappling grandchildren will be performing at the Stampede show in the Ogden Legion this weekend. Ted Hart will be challenging the suicidal Sabu in a hardcore match, Nattie Neidhart will be butting heads with her career-long rival Belle Lovitz and Harry Smith will be teaming with TJ Wilson to do battle with AJ Styles and the Black Dragon.