On Monday, it was reported that Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart had passed away at the age of 63 and POST Wrestling independently confirmed the news following the initial report from former wrestler Brian Blair.
Neidhart was a noted athlete during his days in high school where he participated in track and field, specializing in the shot put, and later pursued football at the professional level. Neidhart attempted a career in the NFL, working in the pre-season camps with the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys, but never played a regular season game.
He was put into contact with Stu Hart and began training with the Hart patriarch in Calgary. When his football days were over, he focused on professional wrestling for his next act. Neidhart would eventually marry one of Stu’s daughters, Ellie, and joined the family.
He worked in Stampede Wrestling from 1978 – 1983. During his time in the promotion, he won the Stampede International tag titles with Hercules Ayala in September 1980 and a second time with Mr. Hito in March 1983. While working in Stampede, he was also sent over to New Japan Pro Wrestling, who exchanged talent frequently.
While it’s his time in the World Wrestling Federation that was most prominent, Neidhart did have stops in the Mid-South territory, Continental, and Championship Wrestling from Florida prior to joining the WWF.
In 1984, Stu Hart agreed to sell Stampede Wrestling to Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation, with the promise that certain performers be included in the deal, including his son Bret and Neidhart. Stu was never paid the full amount on the deal and a year later, Stampede re-opened.
Neidhart would join the WWF with the contingent of former Stampede talent, initially introduced in a singles capacity before being aligned with Bret to form The Hart Foundation.
The two became a prototype for a tag team with opposites that complimented the other. Hart was the technical wrestler with Neidhart serving as the muscle and could fire up when necessary. They began to shine at a time when the promotion had a loaded tag division with talent that included The British Bulldogs, The Rockers, Demolition, Killer Bees, Rougeau Brothers, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard, Jim Powers & Paul Roma, and others.
Their first major break occurred in February 1987 under dire circumstances for Tom “Dynamite Kid” Billington. Billington had damaged his back severely and was hospitalized after a match in Hamilton. The Bulldogs were the tag champions at the time and the company insisted they drop the titles at a television taping in Tampa. Billington reluctantly did the match but insisted they drop the titles to Hart and Neidhart. Billington was removed from the match instantly after being held up by Davey Boy Smith on their way to the ring.
The Hart Foundation held the titles until the fall of 1987 when they dropped the titles to Strike Force in Syracuse, New York.
Over the next two years, they remained a prominent team within the division and won the titles on a second occasion at SummerSlam in August 1990 from Demolition. They would drop them for the final time at WrestleMania 7 in March 1991.
At this point, they were ready to end Hart’s run as a tag wrestler and focus on him as a singles star and would be Intercontinental champion by August. Neidhart was tried out as a commentator during this time while also working singles matches on the road. The two were reunited for one night in July 1991 at a Madison Square Garden house show against The Nasty Boys, which was the same arena Hart would win the Intercontinental title in the following month from Curt Hennig.
Neidhart was not focused on at all as a singles wrestler and by the start of 1992 was put into a tag team with Owen Hart as The New Foundation. Their most notable match came at the Royal Rumble that year, defeating The Orient Express in a great opener on the same show as Ric Flair’s famous Rumble victory in Albany, New York.
Neidhart was gone from the company shortly after the Rumble and went to work on the independents. It was alleged that Neidhart was fired and after receiving the news, he threw a television monitor in the direction of “Chief” Jay Strongbow, missing him and hitting a production member.
This also led to Neidhart returning to New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1992 and working that year’s G1 Climax. This was when the tournament was a 16-person single elimination format instead of a round robin. Neidhart lost to Kensuke Sasaki in the opening round with Masahiro Chono winning the G1, which was also for the vacant NWA championship. He worked sporadic dates with WCW in 1993 in a run that was short-lived, as well as dates with ECW during when they were still aligned with the NWA. This included wrestling The Sandman to a no contest at the “November to Remember” card in 1993 in Philadelphia.
Neidhart returned to the World Wrestling Federation in June 1994 with Bret Hart teasing someone appearing his corner for his title match against Diesel. It was revealed to be Neidhart, who ran in and attacked Diesel, causing a disqualification and left Hart in the ring. Later in the night, Neidhart aligned himself with Owen Hart, who won the King of the Ring tournament. This set up Owen to challenge his older brother for the WWF championship at SummerSlam with Neidhart siding with Owen instead of his former Hart Foundation partner. By January, Neidhart was let go again by the company.
In mid-1996, he was brought back again and was re-packaged under a mask as “Who”, one of the truly awful characters during a time where the company was producing many of them.
His last major run with the WWF was in 1997 as part of The Hart Foundation with Bret, Owen, Davey Boy Smith, and Brian Pillman. The USA vs. Canada program was one of the hottest in years for the promotion with the high-point being a super-heated 10-man tag at the July 1997 Canadian Stampede event in Calgary.
Neidhart left the company shortly after the Survivor Series in November along with Bret and Davey Boy Smith. Neidhart was used on television after the Survivor Series, being humiliated by Shawn Michaels and Triple H on the way out after they pretended to add him to DX, then attacked him. In his final match, they spray painted “WCW” on his back and that is where he went in 1998.
Neidhart was paired with Davey Boy Smith during his WCW run where they were featured infrequently and finished up by the end of September. This was after Smith injured his back at the Fall Brawl event on a mysterious trap door set up in the ring that Smith was unaware of.
Neidhart was arrested in 2010 for possession and trafficking of a controlled substance along with burglary. He was spotted at a gas station opening a bottle of pills and authorities found him with significant amounts of Oxycodone and methadone. The pills were not in his name and it was believed Neidhart had broken into a neighbor’s house and stole them. Over the past few years, he had gone through rehab and was battling Alzheimer’s disease.
Since the launch of “Total Divas” in 2013, Neidhart has been featured throughout the series in scenes with his daughter, Nattie and their family.
Earlier this year, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter had reported that Bret Hart was hopeful of the two being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame with concerns over Neidhart’s health issues that he was dealing with.
Neidhart leaves behind his wife, Ellie and their three children, including WWE performer Natalya.
We send our condolences to their family and friends.