Tragically, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart passed away yesterday morning after a fall in his Florida home. TMZ reported that Neidhart went to adjust the thermostat and abruptly found himself on the floor, struggling to maintain consciousness. Emergency dispatch services reported that Neidhart suffered a seizure and died before emergency crews could assist him. He was 63 years old.
The passing marks the end of an era. Bret Hart is now the only surviving member of the famed Hart Foundation stable. Owen Hart, "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith, and Brian Pillman precede Neidhart in death. The passing stirs memories of the golden era of tag team wrestling, an era Neidhart flourished in along with his partner Bret.
The two, clad in pink and black, were better known as The Hart Foundation. Once managed by Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart, the team is known as being one of the very best tag teams in an era of legends. The duo feuded with the likes of; Demolition, The British Bulldogs, The Rockers, The Fabulous Rougeaus, and The Nasty Boys, all legends in their own right.
Neidhart will be remembered as a staple of what is arguably the greatest era in tag team wrestling and should one day be forever memorialized in the WWE Hall of Fame. He was also a Hall of Fame family man.
Neidhart, a former NFL player for the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys, found himself pursuing professional wrestling at the conclusion of his football career. It was in his pursuit of wrestling superstardom that he found a family. He was a sensation in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling where he met and fell in love with Ellie Hart, Stu's daughter and Bret Hart's sister. The two married and have three daughters including WWE Superstar Natalya.
Neidhart is deserving of memorials and this will only be one of many. As one half of the Hart Foundation, Neidhart was the powerhouse to Bret Hart's technical prowess. It was Neidhart who cut the better promo, stroking his trademark goatee, as he struck fear into the hearts of opponents and fans alike.
As a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, there was a time when Neidhart was arguably the more popular of the two. He succeeded where Bret often failed, with loads of charisma, charm, and personality. After all, Bret Hart had not yet had a singles run and the Hitman character was years away from fully developing. In terms of personality, Hart was often dwarfed by his larger than life and raucous tag team partner.
When the words Hart Foundation were uttered, two iconic images came to mind: Bret Hart's shades and Jim Neidhart's goatee. It shouldn't be understated that it was also Neidhart who introduced the iconic pink and black colors to the Hart Foundation, a move that withstood the test of time and is now forever etched in wrestling lore.
No memorial will ever truly capture Neidhart's full glory. How can one accurately and fully depict the life of a legend? We can only hope to try in short segments, giving a frustratingly fragmented look into the soul of a man larger than life and mere words. This particular memorial will focus on Neidhart's WWE moments. It was in the WWE after all that Neidhart became a household name among wrestling fans.
Whether he was teaming with Bret "Hitman" Hart, Owen Hart, or the Hart Foundation stable, The Anvil's WWE career isn't short on moments. We do our very best to narrow it down to the top 5.
#5 Neidhart's Teaming With Owen Hart
Owen Hart was every bit as talented as his older brother Bret "Hitman" Hart and arguably more charming, charismatic, and all around better on the microphone. However, when Owen first came to the WWE, the company inexplicably put a mask on his handsome face and labeled him The Blue Blazer. When that forgettable era ended, Owen was known as The Rocket, a high flying in-ring stunt man of sorts; but, still couldn't find a way to get over with the WWE Universe.
The powers that be in Stamford decided to do for Owen what they once did for big brother Bret Hart and teamed The Rocket with The Anvil. The newfound team was conceived as the next generation of the Hart Foundation and aptly named The New Foundation. While the New Foundation didn't exactly translate to championship success, it allowed for Owen Hart to develop his skills under the tutelage of a familiar and trustworthy mentor, Jim Neidhart. The move allowed for Owen to take the very first steps of development into becoming one of the greatest all-time wrestlers.
After the New Foundation reached its conclusion, Owen was a well rounded WWE Superstar and found himself primed for a major feud with his brother Bret. The two put on two of the best matches of 1994 at WrestleMania X and SummerSlam. One can argue that neither would have been possible if Owen didn't have time to develop at Neidhart's side.
As the feud between the two brothers continued to intensify, The Anvil rejoined Owen Hart and added logs to the proverbial family fire when he too turned on the Hitman. In a stunning move, Neidhart chose Owen Hart and sanctioned him as his preferred tag team partner. The move shocked the WWE Universe and added intensity to the already deeply personal feud between Bret and Owen.
#4 Winning WWE Championship Gold For the 1st Time
The Hart Foundation would go on to capture the WWE Tag Team Championships twice; but, nothing is ever quite like the first. Hart and Neidhart, under the tutelage of Hall of Fame manager Jimmy Hart, would feud with then WWE Tag Team Champions The British Bulldogs. The Hart Foundation were familiar with Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid, having come up in the business together in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling.
The familiarity made for a superb feud and classic matches between the two teams. Arguably no match was better than the time the four men squared off on the February 7, 1987 edition of WWE Superstars.
After the referee was distracted, heel manager Jimmy Hart nailed Davey Boy Smith with his infamous megaphone. Jim Neidhart and Bret Hart took full advantage of the situation and proceeded to double-team Smith for a prolonged period of time.
Smith was obviously overmatched and arguably defeated even before he was pinned. When the Hart Foundation hit The Hart Attack, the three count was just a formality. Still, it should be noted that it was the Anvil who covered Smith for the pin, as the legendary team won their very first WWE championship gold.
#3 SummerSlam 1990 vs Demolition
The WWE's two most dominant tag teams of the 1980s met in the first year of the 1990s to settle the hotly debated question once and for all. Who was WWE's very best tag team? There would be no doubt after this classic SummerSlam 2 out of 3 falls match.
It all started after on the April 28th, 1990 edition of Main Event. When The Hart Foundation faced long-time rivals The Rockers, WWE Tag Team Champions Demolition felt left out and decided to storm the ring, causing the match to end in a double disqualification. This led to a feud that would culminate at SummerSlam 1990 when Demolition would put their WWE Tag Team Championships on the line against The Hart Foundation.
At first, the match started off poorly for Jim Neidhart and Bret Hart. Hart was pinned by Demolition's newest member, the behemoth Crush and Demolition needed only one additional fall to retain their tag team gold. Still, the pink and black attack fought through their early adversity and rallied to take the next two falls. For the second and final time, the Hart Foundation were WWE Tag Team Champions.
#2 The Re-Formation of the Hart Foundation
After a lengthy feud with his brother Owen, Bret Hart finally saw the red and white maple leaf light. With a fury of Canadian patriotism and a rekindling of family values, The Hart Foundation were reunited. At least, that's how Canadians tell the story.
Americans have a slightly different point of view, as The Hart Foundation also arguably reunited over their mutual disdain for the United States. In the United States, Bret Hart was seen as a trader and a turncoat, a Canadian version of Sgt. Slaughter.
Bret Hart decried the lack of family values and PG entertainment he saw on WWE television. The Attitude Era was getting off to a start. Gone were the days of wholesome family entertainment and it truly did hurt the Hitman's wrestling purist heart. He found solace in old foes and familiar friends.
The Hart Foundation would reunite; but, this time it would include Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and long-time family friend Brian Pillman. The team was despised in the United States; but, absolutely beloved in Canada. The band was back together and this time their bond was unbreakable. They were truly family once again.
This was never so evident than on July 6th, 1997 when The Hart Foundation teamed up against some of WWE's most beloved Superstars; "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Goldust, Ken Shamrock and The Legion of Doom. The event was aptly titled In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede and took place in Hart Country: Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
After asserting Canadian wrestling dominance, Bret Hart asked for America's five best wrestlers and the team of Austin, Goldust, Shamrock, and L.O.D. answered his call; but, even they couldn't anticipate what was waiting for them beyond their northern border. While The Hart Foundation was hated in the United States, they were beloved in Canada. The American babyfaces were met with intense disdain and the Hart Foundation with adulation and a hero's welcome.
Ultimately, America's neighbors to the north were successful and backed up their claims of Canadian dominance with a hard fought victory. Neidhart was undoubtedly instrumental in the win as he wore Austin down in the bout. The audience appropriately chanted the Anvil's name in one of the powerhouse's proudest moments. Inevitably Owen Hart pinned the worn down American hero Austin, as the Calgary, Alberta, Canada crowd roared in approval.
#1 WrestleMania 2 - Battle Royal
The Hart Foundation made their WrestleMania debut all the way back in 1986 for the second installment of what has become known as the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. Taking part in the NFL vs WWE Battle Royal, the Hart Foundation would cement their legacy as integral players in wrestling history. The Pink and Black attack would inevitably outlast numerous luminaries in the worlds of both professional wrestling and professional football on their way to this unforgettable WrestleMania moment.
Legendary competitors like Bruno Sammartino, Big John Studd, Tony Atlas, Pedro Morales and Andre the Giant clashed with NFL stars like Harvey Martin, Bill Fralic, Russ Francis, Jimbo Covert, and William "the Refrigerator" Perry.
In the end, only three remained; Bret Hart, Jim "the Anvil" Neidhart and Andre the Giant. Wrestling's biggest stage now belonged to the three luminaries. The Hart Foundation double teamed Andre the Giant in an attempt to throw the 500 plus pound gargantuan over the top rope and onto the Chicago arena floor.
While Jim Neidhart and Bret Hart were ultimately unsuccessful in their efforts, they succeeded in making wrestling history and fulfilled their role in one of the most memorable moments in WrestleMania history.