Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart passed away on Aug. 13, 2018 at the age of 63, reportedly due to a fall at his home.
A star athlete in high school, Neidhart famously received tryouts with the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys in the '70s, but was unsuccessful in making either team. He quickly pivoted to the world of pro wrestling, and was discovered by Stu Hart in 1978 as a part of Stampede Wrestling and given a minor push there. He began cultivating the “crazy man” gimmick at that point, and also met Stu’s daughter, and his future wife, Ellie.
However, while Jim “The Animal” Neidhart was going OK for himself, Stu Hart entered him in an anvil toss competition at the Calgary Stampede one year, and after winning it, Neidhart had the gimmick that would last him for the rest of his career: The Anvil.
Neidhart bounced around various territories before returning to Stampede in 1984, at this point Vince McMahon purchased the struggling promotion from Stu Hart based on a promise from Vince that he would sign Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Dynamite Kid and Jim Neidhart and give them all pushes in the WWF. He quickly reneged on all aspects of the deal, including paying Stu as promised, and the future British Bulldogs quickly left the WWF, leaving Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart floating in limbo in the WWF while Stu restarted Stampede Wrestling. With nothing better to do with both guys, they were put together as a team and dubbed “The Hart Foundation," which is where Neidhart’s biggest run in the sport began.
The British Bulldogs had returned to the WWF in 1985, having made a name for themselves in Japan as a tag team sensation there, and won the WWF tag team titles from the Dream Team at WrestleMania 2 in a great match, while the Hart Foundation got to be the last guys thrown out by Andre the Giant in the wrestler/football player battle royal earlier in the show.
However, while the Bulldogs were dominant champions, the Hart Foundation proved to be their most persistent challengers, producing some of the best matches night after night on the house show circuit. By the end of 1986, Dynamite Kid’s back was falling apart due to an injury suffered in a match with Don Muraco, and McMahon decided to move the titles onto the team of Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. Dynamite refused to return from injury and lose the titles unless it was the Hart Foundation who won them.
This resulted in the creation of one of the most creative storylines of the time, as the Harts defeated the Bulldogs in a famous TV match in January 1987 to win the titles, with Dynamite so injured that Davey Boy had to literally piggy-back him to the ring and stand him on the apron. The Harts won a short match where referee Danny Davis blatantly favored the heels, resulting in him being “fired” and returning as a wrestler.
As a sidenote, Davis had actually been a wrestler for many years, mostly working opening matches under a mask as “Mr. X”, but never as himself. The association with Davis and ensuing feud with the Bulldogs gave the Hart Foundation molten heat, including a big spot at WrestleMania III in a six-man match where Davis pinned Tito Santana to win the match, and suddenly the Harts were big stars.
By the end of 1987 it was clear that Vince McMahon saw Bret Hart as the bigger star of the team, and after losing the belts to Strike Force (which itself was a large middle finger extended by Vince to Rick Martel’s outgoing partner Tom Zenk) Bret was moved into a singles program with Bad News Brown for most of 1988. Neidhart was supposed to be let go as a cost-cutting measure, but Bret’s push stalled and the Harts were put back together again at the start of 1989, this time as babyfaces, and somehow got even more over than they were as heels.
After a feud where they split with longtime manager Jimmy Hart, they ended up back on top in 1990, winning the WWF tag team titles from Demolition at SummerSlam '90. The idea was to quickly transition the belts to the hot heel team of Power & Glory and get rid of Neidhart again, but that didn’t work out either.
In October of 1990, a 2-out-of-3 Falls match was taped for "Saturday Night’s Main Event" between the Hart Foundation and the Rockers, where the Rockers would win the tag titles and Neidhart could transition to another career. During the first fall, one of the ropes snapped, leaving everyone in a state of confusion and basically killing the match dead. The teams improvised as best they could, with the Rockers getting the planned pinfall to capture the titles, but then fate intervened. NBC decided to cut the show from 90 minutes to 60 minutes at the last second, leaving the WWF in the position of having to cut a match from the show, and the tag title clash was scrapped as a result and never aired.
The “phantom title change” became one of the great legends of wrestling, finally surfacing on a DVD release years later.
Neidhart, who had literally been fired days before the match was taped, was suddenly un-fired and held onto the tag titles with Bret for another five months. Finally, the Harts lost the belts for real to the Nasty Boys at WrestleMania VII, and this time there was no saving his job. Neidhart was moved into a disastrous role as color commentator for a few months and then let go completely from that job.
Amazing, Neidhart resurfaced again a few months later, this time in a team with brother-in-law Owen Hart as the New Foundation, but that proved short-lived as Neidhart was increasingly out of control due to his personal demons and he was fired for good in February 1992.
Neidhart floated around various territories for the next two years, but made a big return to the WWF in 1994 to again team with Owen, this time acting as heel bodyguard for his brother-in-law after turning on Bret.
Neidhart had one very notable title shot against WWF champion Bret at the Jacques Rougeau retirement show in Montreal that year, but quickly self-destructed again and was fired (yes, again) for no-showing a bunch of live events, likely due to his drug issues. According to Bret, Neidhart was supposed to team with Owen and win the WWF tag team title tournament at WrestleMania 11, and it ended up being Yokozuna instead in that spot.
Neidhart had another notable WWF return, of sorts, as McMahon hired him back in 1996 as a “name brand jobber” and stuck him under a mask as Who, in a gimmick literally conceived as a way for the announcers to do bad Abbott & Costello routines on commentary, but thankfully that didn’t last.
Amazingly, Neidhart got yet another shot in 1997, as Bret Hart was suddenly on fire as an anti-American heel on top of the WWF, and he brought in his family members as backup. This became the second version of the Hart Foundation, leading to what was probably the highlight of Jim’s career, main eventing the Canadian Stampede PPV from Calgary as a part of a ten-men tag match where the hated Harts were suddenly the biggest babyfaces in Canada and received a hero’s welcome.
However, as with everything in Jim’s career, that was not to last: Bret’s relationship with the WWF fell apart, leading to a little incident you may have heard about in Montreal, and Neidhart asked for his release so he could go to WCW. McMahon agreed, on the condition that Neidhart would not reference his relationship with Bret on TV in any way. Then, Jim was humiliated and beaten down by the new heel team of Shawn Michaels and Triple H on the way out.
Neidhart’s WCW run was a complete disaster in every sense of the word, and after completely flopping in a team with British Bulldog, he left the promotion and essentially retired.
Later on, he became more well known for being the father of Natalya Neidhart, and started to revive his career as a character on "Total Divas" with her.
Otherwise, a notable 2010 conviction on drug charges ended most of his association with WWE and he went into virtual seclusion while suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He is survived by his three daughters and his wife.
Source : http://www.sportingnews.com/us/wwe/news/jim-neidhart-dead-death-cause-of-death-age-hart-foundation-career-biography/19tnwrxvjq7zj1iqwg4w77zhqg