Gary Hart

Class of 2009






Member of the Hall of Heroes Class of 2009



Accepting for his late father:




Honoring Gary Hart:

Sir Oliver Humperdink




On the next-to-last day of Gary Hart’s life, he was doing what he loved best – sitting around with some old friends like Skandar Akbar and explaining wrestling. Not “talking wrestling,” mind you – but explaining. Even though most fans knew him only as a sinister manager who directed the fortunes of the Great Muta, George Steele, and King Curtis, Hart was one of the driving, behind-the-scenes forces in wrestling from the early 1960s to the late 1980s. He helped to make Dusty Rhodes a star in Florida, and invented the gimmicks of Muta and the Great Kabuki out of whole cloth. He was the booker for World Class Championship Wrestling during the 1980s, and for the record, was booker in charge of the first Starrcade in 1983, the event that started the pay-per-view phenomenon. “Gary had one of the best wrestling minds of anyone I’ve ever met,” said veteran Texas referee James Beard, a close friend. “Everywhere he went, and he went a lot of places, he brought the business to life.” As Hart, nee Gary Williams, explained it: “My forte was, I had the ability to find and develop talent. That was what I brought to the table more than anything else. I always felt that you could be excellent at interviews, you could be excellent at ideas and finishes and the way to present people, but if you didn't have a good eye for talent, pick the right, you weren't going to be very successful.”

Hart started off under Billy Goelz in his native Chicago, switching his last name to honor a man who saved his uncle’s life in the Korean War. In his early years, he switched between wrestling and managing, most notably guiding Steele as the Masked Student around Detroit. His career really took off when he put a mask on a good-looking wrestler named Don Jardine in Texas, and turned him into the vice-gripping Spoiler. “All Don really needed was some packaging and some direction,” Hart said. “I was the guy who more or less got him through the red tape and bullshit, got promoters to look at him and see what he really was. Once Donald and I hooked up, after that, he was a main event wrestler from then on.” From there, the Hart roster included names like Al Costello, Pak Song Nam, Abdullah the Butcher, and Mark Lewin. Behind it all, Hart imparted a unique sense for a heel manager. It was important, he said, for him and his charges to be convinced of the correctness of their ways, even as boos and beer bottles rained down on them. “I think he was the best of all the managers,” said Texas TV announcer Bill Mercer. “With all respect to the others, God, he could slink around and look like he was always involved in doing something dirty behind the scenes—which he did.”

In the Mid-Atlantic, Hart worked with Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson and later moved on to Kabuki, one of his greatest roles. “I love martial arts and always liked Bruce Lee movies, so I wanted to find the right Japanese wrestler and merge martial arts with wrestling. I also wanted him to have a subtle samurai warrior and kamikaze pilot feel about him,” Hart said in his autobiography. He actually put $4,000 out his own money in the garb and gear for Akihisa Mera, who became the mist-blowing Kabuki in Texas and the Mid-Atlantic, where he won the TV title. Back in Texas, Hart was the brains behind the legendary Freebirds-Von Erichs feud. “With the [Von Erich] boys, you could get a big house with them every week. They were great kids, easy to work with, easy to develop, and do anything in the world to make the match work.”

Fed up with the backstage politics, Hart ended his association with national companies – World Championship Wrestling, in particular – in 1990. He helped his son Chad train to be wrestler and was a fixture at events like Fanfest and the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion. His final public appearance in March 2008 was in Allentown, Pa., as part of a World Class reunion, just before he succumbed to a heart attack at 66. “I just wish people from this generation could see a guy like him work for 10 minutes because then they'd understand how we got so caught up in this business,” Beard said. Gary Hart – gone, but still celebrated at the Hall of Heroes.


- Steve Johnson

Co-Author, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams
Co-Author, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels





© 2005-2009, All Rights Reserved.

Page Designed and Edited by Dick Bourne © 2007-9 Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Neither this website nor NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest nor the Mid-Atlantic Gateway are affiliated or associated with the National Wrestling Alliance.
The NWA name and logo are trademarks of Pro Wrestling Organization, LLC and are being used with permission.