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Slam and sleaze is Diana's expertise
By MICHAEL JENKINSON -- Edmonton Sun


 As a long-time fan of professional wrestling, I approached the new book on Calgary's Hart family, Under the Mat: Inside Wrestling's Greatest Family, with some trepidation.

After all, it's written by Diana Hart, the ex-wife of British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith and the youngest living child of Stu and Helen Hart. The advance buzz on the book from people in the wrestling business was that it would only deepen the well-publicized rifts in the family.

To that end, Under the Mat doesn't disappoint. But because of that, the book is a huge disappointment if you're looking for any kind of redeeming social value in what is essentially a gossip and scandal book - and a legal minefield. I can't imagine that Under the Mat is going to do anything but drive the Hart family even further apart - and that is so terribly sad.

THE BOOK GRABS YOU RIGHT AWAY

That said, the book grabs you from the opening paragraph and doesn't let you go. I read all but the final 25 pages in one four-hour sitting and was left stunned by its contents. After I finished it, I was left thinking that I hope Diana Hart has a good lawyer. She's going to need it.

Her late brother Owen's widow, Martha, who won a huge settlement from the WWF stemming from Owen's death, serves as one particularly huge target for Diana.

Only Owen, WWF head Vince McMahon, and to some degree, her father, Stu, are spared her barbs. Everyone else in the family gets their reputations shredded.

Even if you can somehow rationalize the need for Diana to expose the sundry sins of her own family, she occasionally name-drops other non-family wrestlers and starts talking about the terrible things they did on the road.

She very casually brings up one former WWF wrestler by name and states baldly that he was portrayed as a real family guy on WWF television but had girlfriends on the road.

And to what purpose? The guy gets mentioned just that one time in the book, and then never again, and the only lasting imprint he apparently left on Diana is that he had flings on the road. So she decides to share that little bit of gossip with the world.

OWEN'S DEATH RIPPED THE FAMILY APART

But that's the question that can be asked about this entire book: to what purpose? Why was it written?

Owen's death ripped the family apart. Any illusions long-time Stampede Wrestling fans may have had about the Hart family and their legendary Sunday dinners at the Hart mansion were shattered in the aftermath of Owen's 27-metre plunge from the roof of a Kansas City arena to his death during a WWF pay-per-view event in 1999.

The bitter lawsuit Martha launched against the WWF further divided the family into essentially pro- and anti-Vince McMahon camps, with the parents, Stu and Helen caught in the middle.

Diana's disgust with big brother Bret and widow Martha is obvious in the book - but it wasn't exactly a big secret before either. Which again begs the question, why did she feel it necessary to share her family's closet full of skeletons with the world?

The tragedy of her sharing her family's turmoil with the world is only compounded by the fact that Hart takes little if any time in the book to actually step back and look at the big picture.

The closest she comes to any kind of realization of how disturbing are the stories she's telling is when she talks about her brother Dean, who died of kidney failure. She writes that Dean must have wondered why, with so many siblings, no one donated a kidney to him. Diana admits that everyone was so wrapped up in their lives, they didn't realize how grave was his condition.

But that's not even the saddest part of the book. That dubious honour is for the penultimate paragraph, where Diana talks about how her two children are already planning careers in the WWF.

If nothing else is made obvious by Under the Mat, it is that professional wrestling didn't make the Hart family. It destroyed them.

That another generation of Alberta's most dysfunctional family wants to take up the profession that has brought the Harts as much pain as it has success, suggests there are more troubled times ahead for the Harts.


Michael Jenkinson can be reached by e-mail at mj@the-newsroom.com.
His homepage is at http://www.the-newsroom.com.
Letters to the editor should be sent to letters@edm.sunpub.com.

Related stories


  • Nov. 5: Explosive tell-all book brings on family feud
  • Nov. 4: Diana Hart chat transcript
  • Oct. 26: Diana Hart book will shock
  • Oct. 4: Mother's health, book on Diana Hart-Smith's mind
  • June 5: Diana Hart book out this fall

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