Remembering Gary Hart
Gary Hart, who died Sunday of an apparent heart attack at 66, was most known for being one of the top heel managers of the 1970s and ’80s, but he was actually much more than that.
Hart, who worked as a manger in World Class Championship Wrestling in Dallas as well as Southern NWA territories such as Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas, also was a key figure behind the scenes. He was the booker in World Class during the company’s glory days in the ’80s when The Von Erichs and The Freebirds were box-office gold, and he also booked the first Starrcade in 1983, when Ric Flair regained the NWA world title from Harley Race in a steel cage match and Roddy Piper defeated Greg Valentine in a dog-collar match.
Hart never worked in WWE, but he did spend some time in WCW as the manager of a stable that included the legendary Terry Funk, The Great Muta and “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer. He also managed such wrestlers as Bruiser Brody, Abdullah The Butcher and The Spoiler.
The first time I saw Hart as a manager was in 1982, when I watched him on World Championship Wrestling on TBS right after my family got cable television. He managed The Great Kabuki at that time and formed an alliance with Piper, who did color commentary with Gordon Solie. Hart wasn’t as flamboyant, witty or over-the-top as some other managers of that era, but he did come across as an evil genius.
I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but those in the industry who worked with him have said that he wasn’t evil in real life, although when it came to booking, he certainly was a genius.