In one of the few dramatic attacks at a professional wrestling event that actually wasn’t orchestrated in advance, a 26-year-old fan rushed the stage and tackled WWE legend Bret “The Hitman” Hart while he was delivering a Hall of Fame speech Saturday.
The incident took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Saturday. While Hart, 61, was giving his speech — the second time he has been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame — a male fan wearing a rastacap jumped over a barrier, leapt onstage, and tackled Hart. Handlers quickly rushed the guy, resulting in a chaotic mob on stage, and punches thrown.
“As Hart was accepting induction for the second time — this time as part of the tag team The Hart Foundation, along with the late Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart — a fan rushed into the ring and punched him,” ABC News reports. The out of control fan was subdued, promptly removed from the arena, and taken to the 78th Precinct.
Videos of the incident have been making the rounds online. Deadspin posted the following footage taken by a fan that shows the full attack and quick response from those nearby, which reportedly included Hart’s nephew Davey Boy Smith Jr. and MMA fighter Travis Browne, Ronda Rousy’s husband (warning language):
Footage of the immediate aftermath of the punch was posted online by Sports Center. “The scene after a fan jumped the barrier and attempted to tackle Bret Hart during the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony,” the show tweeted.
As Deadspin highlights in another fan video, the WWE Network’s live broadcast aired the first split-second of the fan making contact with Hart, but quickly cut away, going to black before broadcasting footage of fans’ reactions:
In a statement to ESPN, WWE described the incident as the result of an “over-exuberant” fan. “An over-exuberant fan surpassed our security at ringside and made his way briefly into the ring,” the organization said. “The individual has been turned over to the proper authorities.”
Hart was standing next to Neidhart’s daughter, wrestler Natalya (real name Natalie Neidhart), when the attacker rushed him. After the event, Natalya posted a comment on the wild incident.
“I’m so proud of my uncle @BretHart tonight during our HOF ceremony,” she tweeted. “Bret is a cancer survivor, a stroke survivor and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. He didn’t deserve to be attacked or have his moment or my dad’s diminished. We got it back on track. Thank you, guys.”
In a statement to his fans posted on Facebook on February 1, 2016, Hart announced that he was facing the “toughest battle” of his life: prostate cancer. In the statement, he also cited his 2002 stroke, also referenced in Natalya’s tweet. Full post below:
It is with great remorse that I feel compelled to speak truthfully to my friends, family and my millions of fans around the world. In the past few years, I’ve spent more than enough time paying the price for all those years trying to be the best there ever was as a professional wrestler. I executed excellently and my proudest claim was that I never seriously hurt or injured another wrestler in my 23 year career. I’ve paid a price for all that “fake” wrestling. Aside from a devastating career-ending concussion and numerous surgeries when I was younger, in recent years I’ve had two knee replacements, two hernia operations, surgery on my right elbow, and, just a few months ago, I underwent a four-corner fusion of my right wrist that even now makes it most difficult to write or type.
Mark Helprin wrote: “We are all perfect clocks that Divinity has set to ticking when, even before birth, the heart explodes into a lifelong dance.” I’ve had a great lifelong dance and I’m a survivor of many hard battles. I now face my toughest battle. With hesitation and fear, I openly declare myself in my fight against prostate cancer. In the next few days, I will undergo surgery with the hope of defeating this nemesis once and for all.
My fans have always looked upon me as a hero and I’ve always done my best to live up to that in and out of the ring. I beat the odds when I suffered my stroke in 2002, but it is now yet again, that I draw upon the many adults and young children I’ve met throughout my life who courageously fought and usually lost in their battles against this deadly disease. One year ago, I watched a brave young man named Whesley fight brain cancer to the end. If I can find even an ounce of his courage to stand unafraid and face the tough road ahead of me, I will march toward this destiny with his spirit chanting in my ear.
I make a solemn vow to all of those that once believed in me, the dead and the living, that I will wage my fearsome fight against cancer with one shield and one sword carrying my determination and my fury for life, emboldened by all the love that’s kept me going this long already. Love is my weapon and I’ve got much of it around me all the time, for which I’m truly blessed and eternally grateful. My children, grandchildren, and my loving wife Steph have been and will constantly be at my side. I refuse to lose, I will never give in or give up, and I will win this battle or die trying.
Most important of all, I hope I can take the fight to prostate cancer. To be a leader in awareness and to set the example for men everywhere who find themselves in my very same shoes, that prostate cancer can be beaten.