Diana Hart was born to write about wrestling
Cauliflower Heart series telling the tale of a fictional wrestling clan should sidestep more hurt feelings, feuds and lawsuits
It wouldn’t be surprising if Diana Hart had reached the end of her rope, so to speak, when it came to the family business.
As the youngest daughter of legendary pro-wrestling trainer and promoter Stu Hart, sister of superstars Bret and the late Owen and former wife of the late Davey Boy Smith, Diana Hart didn’t so much choose her involvement in that strange spectacle as was born into it. On top of that, in the past 15 years or so, the often turbulent world of “sports entertainment” has seemed an endless source of tragedy, conflict and frustration for her and her family.
Owen died in an in-ring accident in 1999. A few years later, a controversial memoir she wrote with Calgary author Kirstie McLellan Day called Under the Mat set off a storm of lawsuits, feuds and lingering bad feelings that divided the Hart clan.
In 2002, just a few years after their divorce, ex-husband Davey Boy Smith died unexpectedly, another casualty of a business with an unusually high death toll.
Only 39 and the father of Hart’s two children, he had battled addiction to prescription painkillers and abused steroids during his career. He died of a heart attack while vacationing in British Columbia.
By 2008, Hart had decamped to Tampa, Fla., with her children as son Harry Smith embarked on his own short-lived stint with the WWE, the same behemoth prowrestling organization that made stars of Bret, Owen and Davey Boy Smith. But other than offering support for her son’s fledgling in-ring career, Hart essentially found herself isolated from the family business for the first time in her life.
Despite all the conflict and heartache it seemed to have caused, Hart quickly realized she missed professional wrestling.
“I was very lonely for what I was missing in Calgary,” says Hart. “I wasn’t a part of any wrestling anymore. I didn’t have my dad’s house or the family. I think I was very depressed and longing for what I was missing. So I started writing about it as a way to fill the void.”
That writing eventually took the form of a romantic trilogy set in the world of professional wrestling. Part one, Cauliflower Heart: A Romantic Wrestler (Headline Books, 184 pages, $16.95), has earned rave reviews from pro-wrestlers such as Mick Foley and Gail Kim and from Smashing Pumpkins guitarist, and high-profile wrestling fan, Billy Corgan. Earlier this year, it was a runner-up at the Hollywood Book Festival and was awarded a silver medal for sports fiction at the Book Fair International in Miami.
It follows the trials and tribulations of Claudine, a daughter of a wrestling family who marries a superstar grappler named Drew Bellamy. Hit by drugs, politics and the pressures of fame, the fairy-tale romance begins to unravel. Which will sound familiar for those who know Hart’s backstory. But while she drew inspiration from her own experiences, she insists the characters and story arc are fictional.
“I think it is reflective of me and my life but it isn’t necessarily things I have experienced,” she said. “It’s things that I saw happen to other people in my life. It’s fictional but I had a lot of emotion. I felt a lot of empathy and sympathy for my characters. I was crying when I had to let one of them go. They were like real people to me but they’re a culmination of a lot of people.”
While pro-wrestling romance may be a largely untested subgenre, books by former and current in-ring stars offering an insider’s look at the industry have become fairly commonplace. In the Hart family alone there have been at least three memoirs: one by Bruce Hart, one by Owen’s widow, Martha, and a bestseller from Bret.
Chronicling the duelling egos, infighting and backstage politics have become hallmarks of these behindthe-scenes pro-wrestling memoirs, but few proved as immediately contentious as Diana Hart’s 2001 autobiography, Under the Mat.
It promised an inside look at growing up as part of the Hart dynasty but ended up dividing the family. Martha Hart threatened to sue. Bret called it “pornographic.” The book was eventually pulled from the shelves and Diana has since disowned it, although it is still mentioned in her author bio at the back of Cauliflower Heart.
While Hart admits she doesn’t watch wrestling all that much these days — her son, Harry, left the WWE after a short run and now wrestles in Japan — she still speaks fondly about her strange upbringing surrounded by the larger-than-life characters of the business. She was the second youngest of 12 rambunctious Hart children, who grew up outside of Calgary as their father trained future stars in a basement ominously referred to as “the dungeon.”
“We grew up with such an amazing household,” she said. “I don’t know that many people who have had 11 brothers and sisters by the same parents and grew up in the country where we didn’t have any real rules. The things we saw: Andre the Giant was there in the summer. We had a wrestling bear.”
Hart, who studied Fine Arts at the University of Calgary and has hoped to become a teacher, plans to use her background as fodder for more fiction. The next two instalments of Cauliflower Heart will come out early this year and in 2017, respectively, and she is also working on books that feature a female wrestler as the protagonist.
As for the Hart family, Diana says the bad feelings over her autobiography have passed for the most part and she is on good terms with her brothers and sisters. Patriarch Stu Hart, who passed away in 2003, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010. Most of the family went to Phoenix, Ariz. for the emotional festivities and the tensions began to thaw.
“A lot of us hadn’t seen each other in a while. I think it was the mending of all the sadness and madness. It just seemed to dissolve and I’ve been on great terms with everyone.”
I think it is reflective of me and my life but it isn’t necessarily things I have experienced.
Diana Hart’s unusual life growing up in the heart of a large professional wrestling clan helps inspire her new romantic trilogy which has earned rave reviews.