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Surviving the Dungeon: The Legacy of Stu Hart

A documentary by Black Norton
reviewed by Brad Dykens for OWW

Every wrestling fan knows about the universally famous “DUNGEON” located in the basement of the Calgary-based home of the legendary Hart family. The WWE has given us brief glimpses into the facility, but to my knowledge, has never gone into extreme detail as to the nature of what goes on down there. Many wrestling books have described the legend of Stu Hart’s training methods, but never has there been a true visual documentation of what it meant to be trained by Stu Hart, and earn the right to tell everyone that you SURVIVED the Dungeon. Blake Norton is one of those lucky few, who can lay claim to surviving the Dungeon. A lot of the footage for this DVD was shot over the past ten years, and includes clips of a young trainees paying their dues in the Dungeon. There are plenty of interview clips from most of the Hart family members, not notably Stu Hart, Helen Hart, Bruce Hart, but not Bret.

Viewers first get to meet the patriarch of the family, Stu Hart – a seemingly gentle old man, with an obsession for stretching the life out of young wannabes to test their thirst for survival. Next viewers are introduced to the Dungeon itself, a cold unforgiving basement facility soaked with the blood, sweat, and tears of countless men and women – some of whom made it into the business, some of whom lasted only five seconds before voiding their bowels and rushing out the door, never to be seen or heard from again. Of course the documentary talks about the Hart kids growing up as marks, surrounded by beefy wrestlers every day. The main topic of the story was the Stampede territory, but the focus was on the infamous Dungeon. I guess since the Hart mansion was recently sold, it was finally time for the Dungeon to relinquish all of its secrets to the world.

Disc number two includes some bonus material, like four excellent matches from the Stampede era.

Dynamite Kid vs. Bruce Hart (1980)
Hubert Gallant vs. Keith Hart (1981)
Mukhan Singh vs. Owen Hart (1987)
Lance Storm vs. Chris Daniels (2001)

They have also included some additional interview footage with Bruce Hart, talking about how to break into the business, respecting our forefathers, and international influences. Perhaps one of the most interesting segments on this DVD is a training match that took place in 2000 in the Dungeon between a young Harry (DH) Smith and T.J. Wilson (Tyson Kidd). The kids go through the motions of a full match, while their famous trainers offer them advice from the sidelines. What a unique perspective on, not only what it was like to train in the Dungeon, but also what it was like to be a third generation Hart family member.

Finally, I have to give some praise to the director of “Suviving the Dungeon,” Blake Norton, for producing this wonderful DVD. I had heard of Blake through his website, The Wrestling Dungeon, but did not know much about him. I incorrectly assumed that he was just one in a million Internet geeks, not unlike myself, trying to parlay their passion into making a significant mark on the wrestling world. Come to find out, Mr. Norton is also an accomplished wrestler (legitimately trained by Stu Hart in the Dungeon) in Dublin, Ireland, where he founded a promotion called Celtic Pro Wrestling and managed a wrestling school. He had some extra space on the DVD, so he included some footage from his CPW of a particularly dramatic storyline that he was involved in. Blake’s passion for pro-wrestling is evident by his strong dedication to the craft. Cameras followed Norton as he led a training seminar, talking about psychology of the squared circle, and you quickly realize this guy is the real deal. Well done, Blake Norton, and good luck to you.

You can purchase your copy of Surviving the Dungeon: The Legacy of Stu Hart 2-Disc DVD at www.TheWrestlingDungeon.com or http://www.rfvideo.com.