I was in the gym the other day, trying to complete my gym requirement. The class ahead of ours is 'ropes,' and a couple people were standing on a platform 40 feet up, attached to rigs. Its the gymnastics room, so the floor beneath is slightly springy. Even after both individuals had safely made it to the ground, I kept hearing a body fall, smacking into the mat with a sickening thud. Yes, I'm prone to fits of morbidity, but for the rest of the day I couldn't get the story of Owen Hart out of my head. (I didn't see it, but in a moment of excitement started reading one of our texts, only to be... surprised.)
I don't really know what to make of it. It's not just that he died in the ring, it's not just that it was live, in front of so many people. It's not just that I haven't a clue where the potential for real injury and real injuries are exciting. Real blood and bruises- if anything they're exciting because wrestlers endure them with panache. Like the Wildman's constant pain, his synergy with his body in a time when, for so many of us, pain means wrongness, time for the doctor and a sick day.
They are superheroes. It's not just that he was dressed in an absurd costume from a time when wrestling were, almost literally, superheroes from the comic books. Captain America was just killed off. He took punches from the Iron Sheiks of the super villain world, kept trucking. Until Hart fell, Cpt America was shot, a family who would tightrope walk without a net slowly – toppled – and...
Heels keep winning. There's something about the narrative of the fall of the hero that is satisfying. In stories, but in real life? It's not just tragic. Is it? Senseless death? We construct stories and meanings to deal with the senselessness of life, our fundamental lack of control. Wrestling is scripted, but part of it is ad libbed, changes in an instant to deal with the realities of an injury or an acquisition. It's liminal, it's ruthless. In this context, what does Hart's death mean?