Twenty years ago the biggest in-ring disaster to ever hit the WWE, or as it was then known, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), shook the industry to its core.
Owen Hart, performing as The Blue Blazer, fell 23 metres to his death, live on the Over the Edge pay-per-view at Kansas City's Kemper Arena.
To say it was a dark day would be an understatement — Hart was known as a prankster and some would say the best wrestler in the entire Hart wrestling family, which included his brother Bret, a seven-time World Champion.
Now a new audio documentary by Post Wrestling's John Pollock has brought many of the key players from that fateful day together to discuss how Hart's last hours unfolded.
One of the key voices in the documentary is wrestling fan Treigh Lindstrom, who picked Hart up from the airport while he was autograph hunting and it is his account that revealed the "King of Harts" was uneasy long before the stunt that ultimately killed him.
"When he got off the plane, he walked over and said, 'Hey Treigh, I'm ready to go whenever you are' — I was stunned. I picked him up and headed downtown," Lindstrom said.
It was at Kemper Arena Hart would, like most wrestlers, meet with the producers, the talent he was working in the match — on this occasion fellow veteran "The Godfather" Charles Wright in a match for the Intercontinental title, which Hart was scheduled to win — and on this night, the wrestling promotion's boss Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
Once there they talked about lowering Hart down from the rafters via a shackle and into the ring for his entrance.
According to longtime WWE/F referee Jimmy Korderas, this was as a "rib" at WCW star Sting, who had been famously entering from the rafters at the time.
Hart, though, was apprehensive and shortly after meeting with others Hart found Lindstrom and asked to leave the arena.
ULTIMATUM COST HART HIS LIFE
"He was very apprehensive to do this stunt," Lindstrom said. "He said, 'Let's go grab some lunch, I don't want to be around here to talk to Vince (McMahon) and (son) Shane, if I'm not here they can't do it and we can't do it'.
"So we left the arena to avoid going through with the rehearsal."
It might have been the smart move but Hart could not escape the boss and when he and Lindstrom were leaving Starbucks, Lindstrom said Hart got a call from McMahon that changed his mind.
"We were walking out of Starbucks and Vince called him then Owen said, 'I can either be at Kemper in 15 minutes to go over this or I no longer work for WWF'."
For Hart, a dedicated husband and father, it was no longer a question despite other members of his family including brother Bret and brother-in-law "The British Bulldog" Davey-Boy Smith having gone to work for WCW.
So Hart went to work for what would be his last show.
What he didn't anticipate was the added danger in that they were using a quick release shackle and not a locking carabiner for his stunt.
Hart had used the latter before but the former, according to some, should not have been used at all and Paul Lazenby, a rigger, who had worked with WWE before, felt the danger of someone using it, who was already apprehensive, went up exponentially.
"They usually used a locking carabiner, "Lazenby said. "The issue was the added time it took Owen to unhook himself and they wanted to use a quick release snap shackle.
"I've done stuff like that and if you have got somebody who is not feeling it, it drastically enhances the chances of disaster."
That disaster was about to play out in front of a live audience. As a video was playing to hype the IC title match, horror hit the ring.
Hart's latch came undone and the youngest Hart brother fell 24m at a speed of 72km/h, shattering his left arm and tearing his aorta. He was pronounced dead 33 minutes after the incident.
THE NOTE THAT SPELLED DISASTER
The accounts from there vary but wrestling legend Jerry "The King" Lawler rushed from his spot in commentary to Hart as co-caller Jim Ross relayed the news to the world that this was not part of the show.
Korderas was on the scene. "I saw Owen laying there with his head towards the corner, head up, eyes open," he said.
"As the promo was playing all of a sudden I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was Owen falling — I just heard this boom."
Jason King, a reporter for the Kansas City Star, was in the crowd as a guest of Paul Wight, who he had interviewed earlier that day and went into work mode.
"I called the office and said, 'I think a wrestler just died here'. They said go interview fans and get over to the hospital," King said.
"In hindsight you start to remember things and on the inner part of his forearm there was a huge piece of flesh that I guess hit the rope, it almost looked like someone took an ice-cream scooper and took a bit of flesh from his forearm, but it wasn't bleeding.
"Jerry Lawler I remember running to the side of the ring next to Owen and the look on his face, it was panicked."
If that was panicked imagine how his brother felt. The pair had always been close and wrestled some legendary matches, and in a storyline sense, their sibling rivalry was immense.
Bret, working for rival WCW, was set to make TV history by wrestling Jay Leno. It didn't happen.
"The cockpit door opened and the pilot came out, and I just knew that he was looking for me," Hart wrote in his memoir. "He handed me a note that read, 'Bret Hart, please call home. Family emergency!'"
Heeding that advice got Hart nothing but busy signals, so he checked his voicemail, where he heard a frantic message from Carl De Marco, a Hart fan who later became his business manager, and who had since moved on to running WWE's Canadian operations. Bret's baby brother, Owen, was the lone Hart family member left in WWE; De Marco making such a call had obvious connotations.
Bret tried every phone in first class to no avail until he found the only one that worked. De Marco answered right away and issued repeated "Are you sitting down?" warnings. Bret demanded that he "just spit it out".
"Owen's dead. He got killed doing some kind of stunt in the ring."
If that sounds messy and awful it only got worse.
'WE DON'T WANT YOU IN THE BUILDING'
WWE continued the pay-per-view with Jeff Jarrett, a close friend of Hart and tag team partner, forced to cut a promo as the matches went on.
The show went on, but some would later question why a crime scene was not set up.
Lindstrom says he had an altercation with the McMahons when he wanted to attend "Raw is Owen" the following night.
"Shane and Stephanie came over and said they understood I had Owen's suitcase with his parking pass and all of his belongings," Lindstrom said.
"He goes, 'We need you to hand that over to us and we're going to ask you to leave the building'.
"I asked if I couldn't attend the event, and he (Shane McMahon) goes, 'Tonight we don't want you in the building'.
"I am sure that they knew that there was some stuff to come up or things were going to be said or asked with a lawsuit or something like that."
The lawsuit came not long after from Owen's widow Martha. It was a wrongful-death lawsuit but amazingly WWE countersued in a move that could only be considered cold.
"They countersued Martha because she launched her lawsuit from Missouri, where Owen's contract stated that any litigation taken against the company had to be launched in Connecticut where punitive damages are not rewarded," Pollock says during the audio documentary.
Martha Hart would eventually be awarded $18 million in the settlement and started up the Owen Hart Foundation.