It’s 5 o’clock in Tijuana, and one of Mexico’s premier wrestling promotions is readying for a press conference. On the eve of any event, the Crash Lucha Libre has a tradition of wrangling a handful of reporters to get wrestlers’ pre-match sound bites, plus another hundred fans to get their autographs. Soon the room will fill with boys and young men – most too poor to afford one of tomorrow’s 5,000 tickets – eager to meet the masked legend Taurus, high-flying brothers Fénix and Pentagón Jr. and a cult favorite unseen for years: the troubled Teddy Hart.
Heir to the Hart Dynasty, his uncle Bret “The Hitman” once called him “the greatest wrestler to never make it.” At 18, Teddy was the youngest wrestler to sign a World Wrestling Entertainment contract. Evidently, he was the youngest wrestler ever fired from one, too, let go just weeks before his scheduled debut. While his acrobatics and unbreakable gimmick are unmatched by most of his cohorts, so are his brash and belligerent antics. He’s earned enough heat to burn basically every professional wrestling bridge on both sides of both borders: the U.S., Canada – where he lives – and Mexico, where fans still know his name.
The last time he was fired from a Mexican promotion (it’s happened more than once) was 2012. “He’d show up late for work,” says Carlos Santiago Espada Moises, a.k.a. Konnan, co-founder of the country’s top-rated promotion, Asistencia Asesoría Administración (AAA). “He’d go into business for himself [wrestling lingo for going off-script]. He would leave in the middle of a match. He was smoking pot everywhere. He always had chicks around him, but they didn’t know what they were doing, so he was bringing untrained amateurs into a professional setting. He’d bring cats backstage with the litter box and it’s, like, ‘Bro, what the fuck?'”
According to Teddy, the cat, Mr. Money, is an emotional support animal that was licensed to him after psychiatric evaluation. He also breeds Persian cats and sells weed, and over the last few years has made more income from these endeavors than from the indie wrestling circuits that still welcome him.
Difficult as Teddy is, Konnan – the former WCW wrestler who launched his career in Western Canada working for Teddy’s legendary grandfather Stu Hart – has a soft spot for him. So he recently offered Teddy another shot with AAA’s partner the Crash Lucha Libre, at a show on Februry 12 in Tijuana. “He’s on probation,” Konnan says. “The only thing that makes me think it’s going to be different is he’s definitely hit rock bottom.”
In November 2014, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police issued an arrest warrant for Teddy on charges of sexual assault, unlawful confinement and assault, based on the allegations of two women that were known to him. Teddy denies the charges and claims the women conspired to ruin him after he led them to invest in a botched marijuana grow-op. He also claims the charges were retaliation for a dispute that arose out of a reality show based on his wild life. The series, Hart Attack, was scrapped following the allegations.
“He knows this is his last chance,” says Konnan, who gave Teddy very clear directions to redemption today: Show up to the press conference on time, don’t bring an entourage and leave the cats at home.
But with an hour till showtime Konnan still hasn’t heard from him. So where is he?
Stuck in San Diego traffic, with an entourage and four cats.
It would be technically untrue to say Teddy Hart never fought a WWE match. In 1996, when the former World Wrestling Federation came through his birthplace of Calgary, young Edward “Teddy” Annis and his cousin Harry Smith (son of the late Davey Boy Smith, a.k.a the British Bulldog) wrestled in a tag team “dark match” against two relatives, including TJ Wilson. Wilson is now WWE superstar Tyson Kidd, but they were all kids then: somewhat unbelievably, the youngest, Smith, was 11; the oldest, Annis, was 16. Backstage, his uncles Owen Hart and the British Bulldog – the Tag Team Champions of the world – were watching, along with 6,000 fans in the Saddledome stadium.
The match was a bittersweet tribute to Annis’ younger brother Matt, who died tragically earlier that year. “I know he’d be really happy to see all these people turn out,” he told the Calgary Herald. “And I like to think he’s got his cat, Coffee, in his lap.”
Twenty years later, Teddy recalls his first pro match with a tiny white Persian named Persephone in his own lap. “You don’t get a bigger high than that,” he says, taking hits off a blunt. “It’s why I love Vince McMahon. He made a bunch of my dreams come true.”
It’s November and Teddy – in perhaps the best shape of his life – is three months from his Mexican comeback. His goatee is shaved into claws, like an inverse of the three scars on his head from an old hardcore match. Sitting at a dining table with a mason jar of weed and a wrestling belt in need of a paint job, he speaks gently, politely, yet incessantly, breathlessly and often nonsensically. It’s as if he’s cutting a promo at all hours of the day. A typical minute of Teddy Hart tape sounds like this:
“God has put me through some funny stuff, because he’s given me some unbelievable gifts. My luck has been tremendous, my health has been tremendous, never been injured wrestling in all these years, when all the guys said my career would be done the fastest of anyone who’s stepped in the ring because of the crazy stuff I do – especially a third-generation [wrestler] with a last name. I don’t have to do fuck all, but my moves are a testament to my religion and God. You guys don’t live a clean life and that’s why you’ve got knee braces on, because you sucked a guy’s dick for a job. I only got on my knees for God and maybe to lick a girl’s pussy.”
Beside him, Sam Fiddler, his wrestling-student-cum-girlfriend, rests sleepily in a XXL purple fur robe, one of the many outlandish wrestling costumes her mentor-cum-boyfriend has at hand. The mother of three has just put her kids to bed after filming scenes for a pair of documentary filmmakers following Teddy. Although his criminal charges precluded the comedic Hart Attack series from being realized, the producers, Frederick Kroetsch and Kurt Spenrath of Open Sky Pictures, rechristened it a documentary called Hart of Darkness after it transpired that what they really had was a tragedy.
“He was a genetically engineered third-generation wrestler, who was the heir apparent to the Hart Foundation,” says his father BJ Annis, who, along with Stu’s daughter Georgia, literally raised Teddy and Matt in their downtown Calgary gym. Their home was in the back of the building, with pro football players and athletes training for the ’88 Olympics passing through the front. Without a yard to play in, the kids visited their grandparents a lot and took full advantage of the ring erected outside every summer. They formed the KWA – Kids Wrestling Association – with belts cut from cardboard.
“Both my sons were wrestlers from the days of cognition,” says BJ, himself a former fighter in Stu’s Stampede Wrestling. “It was an integral part of their lives.”
He says Teddy was an incredible athlete, winning provincial awards in hockey, boxing, wrestling and even badminton. Classes in gymnastics and trampoline built his agility and balance. And he was highly intelligent too, once scoring 160 on an IQ test according to his dad. But Teddy was also hyperactive and rambunctious. “He was a bit of a wild child. You couldn’t really tell him anything,” BJ says.
The one person who could? His baby brother, Matt. The boys – two of Stu’s many grandchildren – dreamed of forming the next Hart Foundation together. The dream faded when Matt contracted a progressive bacterial infection causing toxic shock syndrome with associated necrotizing fasciitis. Flesh-eating disease. Doctors planned to halt it with multiple amputations, but Matt was dead in two weeks.
In 1998, Teddy signed a developmental contract with WWE and was sent to train with Dory Funk Jr. That same year his best friend, a star high school athlete, committed a highly publicized suicide. Months later, Owen Hart, 34, fell to his death while performing a stunt from the rafters during a live show. Three years after that, Davey Boy Smith, 39, suffered a fatal heart attack blamed on steroid abuse by his family. “He lost so many people I’m surprised he hasn’t hung himself,” says BJ, who credits Vince McMahon’s early dismissal of his son for saving Teddy’s life. “He would have had access to the drugs and lifestyle of that world, and he’d be dead. Now he’s 36 and I’m just glad to hear him.”
Teddy’s contract with WWE was terminated because he was a liability – always sleeping in, always late, always stoned. He was acting out at the overwhelming pressure. “It was so fucking scary,” he recalls. “I had no life experience. I didn’t know if I wanted to get up at five in the morning for the next 20 years.”
Tensions between the Harts and McMahons didn’t help, following the infamous 1997 fight that saw Bret, set to join the WCW competition, unwittingly lose the World Heavyweight Championship to Shawn Michaels in a match forever known as the Montreal Screwjob.
Teddy continued to wrestle with Harry Smith and TJ Wilson as the Hart Foundation in increasingly popular promotions like Ring of Honor and TNA Wrestling, and briefly went solo overseas in England’s One Pro Wrestling. His next big break came with Wrestling Society X, MTV’s hybrid show/promotion that treated him as a top talent, until it was abruptly canceled. Had it stuck around, it’s a safe bet Hart wouldn’t have.
There’s no shortage of Teddy Hart “shoots” collected from wrestlers who’ve shared the ring with him. An altercation with Kurt Angle almost halted one Jersey All Pro Wrestling match, supposedly because Teddy changed script in the middle of it. Pro wrestling yakker Don Tony has laid into him several times on his wrestling radio show, calling him a liar, a loudmouth and someone with “more than just a couple of screws loose.” But the most talked about incident occurred in a 2003 Ring of Honor cage match, wherein Teddy repeatedly jumped off the top of the cage, putting the other wrestlers below him in danger and ignoring all professionalism. Even after opponents tried to wrestle him down, he continued. Backstage, ROH officials had to stop his colleagues from beating him up and Teddy was eventually tossed from the premises.
“You’ve really got to have a lot of heat for this to happen,” Konnan says. “They kicked him out of the dressing room and threw his luggage out.”
Teddy later apologized and blamed it on a concussion. CM Punk wasn’t buying it. The 25-year-old indie wrestler, who would go on to become WWE champion, wrote on his Livejournal: “This business is dangerous enough…[Y]ou put some of the boys in a really horrible, potentially dangerous position, and then you cry about being ‘blackballed’. You whine about ‘not being able to compete on an equal level,’ and truthfully, that’s nobody’s fault but your own. Learn some etiquette.”
Though his infamy followed him everywhere, so too did his spectacular abilities. Teddy has the technical skills of a true Hart, plus the high-flying agility of a luchador and theatrics of an American superstar. “He has more charisma than just about any three guys you can put together,” Konnan says. “He looks like a star, he acts like a star, he’s an incredible wrestler. The fans love him.” But the problem is Teddy either can’t turn off the gimmick or chooses not to.
For all the heat Teddy gets backstage, though, wrestling aficionados can’t get enough of him and have cut together popular YouTube reels dedicated to his crowd-pleasing dives, rope-work and strength. Not many wrestlers can toss, flip and pile-drive an opponent in one gesture. Fewer wrestlers would trust another to even try. Headlocks and sluggish “Killer Kowalski” maneuvers bore Teddy, making him all the more appealing to a generation of fans demanding believability. “I meet wrestlers who can’t bear to be in the same room as Ted,” says filmmaker Spenrath, who’s followed the troubled wrestler since 2013. “But when I ask, ‘Would you wrestle him?’ They say, ‘Oh, God, yeah, absolutely.'”
In 2007, Teddy was gradually invited back to the WWE, along with the “Next Generation Hart Foundation” – Smith, Wilson and Nattie Neidhart (now WWE Diva Natalya). But by the end of the year, Teddy was again terminated for his unchanged attitude, though he says it was retaliation following Bret’s damning tell-all book, in which the Hitman calls Vince McMahon “the Grim Reaper of wrestling” in the preface. However, that wouldn’t explain why the rest of the Next Generation kept their jobs.
Having burned through every American pro wrestling brand, Teddy had only one reasonable offer left, from Konnan, in Mexico. If his outlandish behavior belonged anywhere, it was there.
Konnan keeps his distance from Teddy when he finally arrives in Tijuana on February 12, the day of his match. But the owner of the Crash Lucha Libre, Ignacio Delgado, remains thrilled to have him in the main event fighting with five of AAA’s biggest names. So is the masked Pentagón Jr.
Teddy helped train him and his brother Fénix during his first Mexican foray, when Fénix was still a teenager. Their real identities are secret, as per luchador tradition, so Teddy has no idea that they’ve made it big, even when Pentagón comes to greet him. Watching from his hotel balcony, the young luchador recognizes Teddy as he pulls into the hotel courtyard in a $100,000 Jaguar – driven 22 hours from Alberta. Teddy – followed by his “valet” Sam Fiddler, his “bodyguard,” the filmmakers, the handler Konnan hired to hold his leash and the cats – exits the driver’s side and exchanges hugs and a few words in English with Pentagón. After they say goodbye, the handler, Ruben Zamora, reveals his identity and Teddy is, for a change, almost nonplussed. “It’s such a nice sign of respect that a guy that good learned from me,” he says. “Those guys are now as good or better than I am today and that’s a hard thing for me to say.”
While Teddy knew the brothers as poor kids who spent their free hours at El Apache’s gym in Mexico City, the brothers knew Teddy as a superstar.
In late 2007, Teddy made a sensational debut in AAA and quickly joined a badass stable led by Konnan, who remained generous to Teddy and forgiving of his faults. As the lead booker for AAA, Konnan put him on the annual Triplemanía cards, before crowds of nearly 20,000. Teddy was part of AAA’s plan to cultivate American audiences by recruiting English-speaking talent, as well as by sending luchadors to promotions up north to get U.S. fans interested. Thanks in part to this strategy, it’s now an equal rival to CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre) – Mexico’s premier wrestling promotion and the world’s oldest. “If you go to Mexico as an international superstar, you are a God,” says Teddy.
Wrestling in Mexico is no doubt a religion, with the people in the pews considered before all else. But eventually not even Konnan could tolerate Teddy’s “bullshit” anymore. “He made me look bad because I believed in him,” he sighs.
Teddy was fired in 2010, rehired in 2012 and quickly re-fired.
He returned to Alberta, where he started commercially breeding cats and working as a security driver for escort services. Teddy’s job was to wait outside until the sex worker inside texted him. Then he’d knock twice on the door and wait for her to exit safely. This is how he met the two women who’ve now accused him of sexual assault and unlawful confinement.
The specifics of the 2013 and 2014 events that led to the charges aren’t publicized, and the identities of the women are under a strict Canadian publication ban. However, the women, who had relationships with Teddy, allege multiple instances where he threatened to kill their pets and family members, physically and sexually assaulted them and confiscated their IDs and phones. They say he filmed sexual acts to blackmail them. One of the women says that she wasn’t a sex worker until Teddy pimped her out, and that he drained her of $229,000 in a matter of months, mostly for weed and cat food.
Hart maintains that the charges are false, calling them revenge for money they’ve lost through his marijuana operations. A preliminary hearing in May will determine whether there’s enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial.
When Teddy turned himself in on July 22, 2015, he had been in the Dallas area teaching private classes. He initially refused to acknowledge the charges, but as headlines of his warrants emerged and the wrestling rumor mill started calling him a fugitive, he decided to contact the authorities. He’s confident he’ll beat the case. (Teddy’s lawyer won’t comment on the accuracy of his client’s claims or any evidence before the courts.)
Even more confidently, Teddy – and his father, BJ Annis – believe he’ll beat the more figurative case that is his under-performing wrestling career. They both still think he’ll get his chance on a WWE program like Raw before he’s 40.
“I’ve lost everything I had, [but] I’ve rediscovered myself as a wrestler. I didn’t love wrestling anymore,” Teddy says. “It was too easy making $800 a night driving girls around and not having to climb to the top ropes and wear the boots for $200. I don’t want anything to do with that lifestyle anymore, which is why I went to Dallas in the first place.”
Since the arrest, Teddy has returned to the indie circuit, performing for as few as 50 people. But it’s made him hungrier and stronger than ever, he says. “AAA is my comeback. This will be my last chance simply because I don’t want to restart again.”
On the night of the show, Teddy Hart marches in front of his own mean-mugging portrait for 5,000 cheering fans. His name on the screen is in the Hart Foundation’s signature pink, but for the Crash he wears a sparkling tracksuit patterned with metallic feathers. He poses with his arms spread, gestures as if he’s slitting his throat, then enters the ring.
He teams with John Morrison and Pentagón Jr. against Rey Horus, Blue Demon Jr. and Fénix. During the match, Teddy shows he’s still got it, hoisting Horus on his shoulders in a fireman’s carry then tossing him over his head, bringing him crashing down back-first onto his knees. His aerial maneuvers are also polished, but a backwards Moonsault off the ropes goes awry when Morrison and Demon miss the catch. The flip was too high and Teddy lands feet-first outside the ring.
He’s groaning and holding his knee. He spits on the ground. Is it “a work”? It’s looking less so as the match continues and Teddy remains ringside, apparently in enough anguish to attract paramedics. As Pentagón wins the match for their team, Teddy’s boosted onto a stretcher and fitted with a neck guard. It’s beginning to look like a real injury, until Blue Demon stomps on the stretchered wrestler. Teddy’s acting skills are as sharp as his moves.
Backstage, he’s released from the stretcher and left with little more than a few bruises, a limp and a huge smile. Konnan is less pleased and refuses to talk about Teddy, let alone his future in AAA. Not only did he miss the press conference, but Teddy brought his entourage and the filmmakers to the wrestlers’ dressing room, where their identities could have been exposed. But is it yet another scorched bridge? “Konnan is a good guy,” Ruben Zamora says. “If it’s good for business and the promoter wants [Teddy], he’s going to build that bridge again.”
As it were, the Crash owner Ignacio Delgado loved Teddy’s in-ring performance. After the thousands of fans empty out of the Auditorio Municipal Tijuana and the dressing rooms clear, Teddy meets with Delgado and a translator at the hotel to discuss future matches. He’s tentatively booked for April, then returns to his hotel room just before dusk, feeling like his career’s been rejuvenated. Only time will tell.
“It was the best feeling in the world,” he says. “I’ve been charged with rape, lost my house, I had nothing but bad publicity, but it’s turned into a good thing. This is the first time I wanted to prove myself.”