CALGARY – The so-called Vatican of professional wrestling is back in the ring.
The Calgary mansion known as “Hart House,” which gave rise to some of wrestling’s biggest stars, is up for sale for almost $5 million.
The home’s “dungeon” is the stuff of wrestling lore, a tiny square basement room where patriarch Stu Hart made generations of massive wrestlers scream for mercy as he repeatedly slammed them to the mat.
The three-storey house has been redone almost top to bottom, but the room where Hart schooled dozens of hulking young hopefuls — including sons Bret (The Hitman) and Owen (Blue Blazer) Hart — remains in many ways intact.
It’s now whitewashed and bright, but the original bars still climb up one wall amid pictures of a wrestling dynasty of years past.
“Muhammad Ali was in here, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant,” says real estate agent Gary Cronin.
“It’s perhaps the most famous room in all of Calgary.”
The family sold the house in 2004 after Stu Hart died at the age of 88. The building itself, which was put up in 1905, has a heritage designation and can’t be torn down, although the surrounding land is cleared for further development.
Hart founded Stampede Wrestling, the Calgary-based regional circuit which started in 1948 and flourished for decades before the World Wrestling Federation pushed local promoters out of the picture.
He and his wife Helen raised their 12 children in the home. Seven of their eight sons became professional wrestlers, and their four daughters all married wrestlers.
In an interview with IGN Sports, Bret Hart recalled the dungeon as “a little dingy old room with a dirty mat.”
“If you walked into it, it didn’t look like much or seem like much, but I can tell you, what made the room was the presence and knowledge of knowing what men had suffered on that mat.”
He described holes in the ceiling and cracks in the walls from men being body-slammed into anything nearby.
“These were 250-, 300-pound men charging at each other like rhinos, bashing each other into the wall and cracking the wood,” Hart told the website.
Famous wrestlers to have stomped and smashed around the room include (Superstar) Billy Graham, Greg (The Hammer) Valentine, (The British Bulldog) Davey Boy Smith and the late Brian Pillman and Chris Benoit, who would eventually kill his wife and young son before committing suicide.
Benoit once reportedly said that “going to the Hart family for training was kind of like, if you’re a very religious person, going to the Vatican.”
Bret Hart said fights in the dungeon in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s were not unlike modern ultimate fighting; the pro wrestling training came after that.
And, for those who may be interested in what else the 5,550-square-foot home has to offer, there are six bedrooms, a new kitchen and an attic games room. There’s an attached double garage, as well as a stand-alone triple garage.