James Henry Neidhart (February 8, 1955 – August 13, 2018) was an American professional wrestler known for his appearances in the 1980s and 1990s in the World Wrestling Federation as Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, where he was a two-time WWF Tag Team Champion with his real-life brother-in-law Bret Hart in The Hart Foundation. He also won titles in Stampede Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Florida, Mid-South, Memphis and the Mid-Eastern Wrestling Federation. He was part of the Hart wrestling family through marriage to his wife Elizabeth Hart, teaming with various members throughout his career, and appearing with his daughter Natalya Neidhart on the reality television show Total Divas.
At Newport Harbor High School, Neidhart first gained athletic acclaim for his success in strength-oriented track and field events. He held the California high school record in shot put from 1973 until 1985. After graduating from high school, Neidhart pursued a career in the National Football League (NFL), where he played for the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys in practices and preseason games.
Professional wrestling career
Following his release from the Dallas Cowboys, Neidhart traveled to Calgary to train with Stu Hart and pursue a career in professional wrestling. He worked for Hart's Stampede Wrestling from 1978 to 1983, and again in 1985, during which time he married Ellie Hart, one of Stu's daughters. He was a two-time Stampede International Tag Team Champion, with Hercules Ayala in 1980 and Mr. Hito in 1983. Stu Hart, seeking publicity for Neidhart, promised him $500 to enter and win an anvil toss at the Calgary Stampede. He did, throwing it 11 feet, 2 inches. This earned him the nickname "The Anvil", replacing his prior nickname, "The Animal".
Stampede had a working relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Neidhart worked on their Big Fight Series tour in 1982, the New Year Golden Series in 1983 and two shows on March 2 and 3, 1984.
Neidhart teamed twice with King Kong Bundy for Georgia Championship Wrestling in 1983 and worked for Mid-South Wrestling from September till February 1984, where he and Butch Reed held the Mid-South Tag Team Championship for two and a half months. From April to August 1984, Neidhart worked for the Continental Wrestling Association. He then left for Championship Wrestling from Florida, winning their versions of the NWA Southern Heavyweight and NWA United States Tag Team Championship, before leaving for the WWF in January 1985.
When Stu Hart sold Stampede Wrestling to Vince McMahon, owner of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), Neidhart and Bret Hart were included in the deal. Initially a singles wrestler, managed by Mr. Fuji, Neidhart debuted on January 21, 1985, in Madison Square Garden, defeating Tony Garea. He wrestled Hart, who had a cowboy gimmick, to a draw twice. Bret, upset with his gimmick, suggested to McMahon that he form a tag team with Neidhart.
The new team was dubbed The Hart Foundation and was managed by Jimmy Hart (no relation to Bret). They made their pay-per-view debut at WrestleMania 2, where they were the last two eliminated from a 20-man battle royal by André the Giant. The Hart Foundation won their first WWF World Tag Team Championship on the February 7, 1987 episode of WWF Superstars (taped January 26) from The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid), with the help of referee Danny Davis, who was continually "distracted" by checking on Dynamite (laid out of the match early by a megaphone shot from Jimmy), allowing the challengers to double-team Smith. Davis was subsequently fired as referee and began wrestling, aligned with The Hart Foundation. They lost the titles on the November 7 episode of Prime Time Wrestling (taped October 27), to Strike Force (Rick Martel and Tito Santana).
The Hart Foundation wrestled in another 20-man battle royal at WrestleMania IV. Bad News Brown attacked and eliminated Hart to win. Neidhart eventually joined Bret's side in the feud with Brown causing a rift between the team and manager Jimmy Hart. This led them to fire him and before starting a feud with The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers. In the fall of 1988, Jimmy Hart began managing the Rougeaus. The Hart Foundation unsuccessfully challenged Demolition (Ax and Smash) for the tag title at the 1988 SummerSlam, when Ax hit Hart with Jimmy Hart's megaphone for the pin (Hart accompanied Demolition's manager, Mr. Fuji, solely to further his feud with the challengers). The Hart Foundation continued feuding with Jimmy Hart's wrestlers for the next year, teaming with Jim Duggan to defeat Dino Bravo and The Rougeaus in a 2/3 falls match at the 1989 Royal Rumble, then defeating The Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine at WrestleMania V.
In April 1989, both Hart Foundation members began wrestling singles matches at house shows. Neidhart also had a few shots at Ravishing Rick Rude's Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship in August.
The Hart Foundation reformed full-time on March 24 in Las Vegas. At WrestleMania VI in Toronto, they defeated The Bolsheviks (Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov) in 19 seconds. They started a second feud with champions Demolition, who at this point added Crush. At SummerSlam 90 on August 27, The Hart Foundation won the title for a second time in a 2/3 falls match.
On October 30, 1990, The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) defeated The Hart Foundation in a two out of three falls match in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to seemingly win the title. During the match, the top rope broke by accident, and the match did not air on television. The Rockers defended the WWF Tag Team title against Power and Glory (Paul Roma and Hercules) on November 3, 1990. Shortly after November 3, the WWF decided to not air the title change and that the title would revert to the Hart Foundation. In his book, Shawn Michaels claims that the Hart Foundation had politicked to keep the title. The WWF has never officially recognized The Rockers' reign.
The Hart Foundation reigniting their feud with Jimmy Hart via his team, Rhythm and Blues (Honky Tonk and Valentine). Jimmy Hart once again cost The Hart Foundation the tag titles at WrestleMania VII, in a match with his new team, The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags), when he distracted the referee, allowing Sags to knock out Neidhart with his motorcycle helmet. Hart and Neidhart again split up, though they reunited for a title rematch with The Nasty Boys on the July 29 Prime Time Wrestling, losing by disqualification when Bret hit both champions with a helmet, again introduced by Jimmy Hart. Neidhart also commentated on Wrestling Challenge alongside Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan from March until August 1991.
He returned to TV action on the November 9 edition of Superstars of Wrestling against Ric Flair, who continued to apply his figure-four leglock after winning the match, beginning a series of Flair vs Neidhart matches that have continued into a second generation. While hobbling away to the back, he was attacked and further injured by The Beverly Brothers. He was thus replaced in the 1991 Survivor Series by Sgt. Slaughter (who became the team captain).
He returned on the December 1 edition of Wrestling Challenge, teaming with Owen Hart (Bret's younger brother) as The New Foundation, defeating Barry Horowitz and Duane Gill. Clad in bright parachute pants with checkerboard designs, The New Foundation's highlight was a win over The Orient Express (Kato and Tanaka) at the 1992 Royal Rumble. Aside from one match against The Barbarian and Warlord, they wrestled The Beverly Brothers exclusively at house shows in 1992. He was fired on February 16, 1992 after refusing to take a drug test and throwing a television monitor backstage.
After three matches in Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW), Neidhart had three tours with New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1992: The G1 Climax in August (losing in the first round to Kensuke Sasaki), the Super Grade Tag League II in October (teaming with Tom Zenk and finishing with 0 points) and Battle Final in December.
He debuted for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) on the May 15 episode of WCW Worldwide, beating a jobber. After defeating another jobber on the next episode, Neidhart teamed with The Junkyard Dog for the next, again beating jobbers. Neidhart and The Junkyard Dog beat Paul Orndorff and Dick Slater by disqualification on the June 5 WCW Saturday Night. Eleven days later, he beat Shanghai Pierce in a dark match before Clash of the Champions XXIII. After losing to Maxx Payne at a house show in Kokomo, Indiana, on October 7, Neidhart left WCW.
Neidhart returned to the WWF at King of the Ring in 1994, as Bret Hart's cornerman for his WWF World Heavyweight Championship match defense against Intercontinental Champion Diesel. After Diesel hit Hart with his Jackknife finisher, Neidhart interfered to prevent the pin, and disqualifying Hart but allowing him to retain the title. After the match, Diesel and Shawn Michaels beat down Hart, and Neidhart didn't intervene. Later that night, Neidhart reappeared at ringside again during Owen Hart's King of the Ring tournament final against Razor Ramon. He attacked Razor outside the ring, behind the referee's back, before Neidhart throwing Razor back for Hart to elbow drop and pin to become "The King of Harts", turning heel for the first time since 1988.
Owen had been feuding with Bret since the Royal Rumble. Neidhart, believing Bret had held Owen back from his potential, sided with Owen, and usually cornering him in matches through the summer. Neidhart claimed he'd only helped Bret keep the WWF World Heavyweight Championship at King of the Ring so Owen could take it from him. This opportunity came in a steel cage match at SummerSlam. Neidhart sat in the third row during the match, behind other Hart family members. After Bret won the match, Neidhart entered the cage, locked it and helped Owen beat him down, while the Hart family members tried to climb over it and save him.
Neidhart joined Owen on Shawn Michaels' team, The Teamsters, to face Razor Ramon and The Bad Guys in an elimination match at Survivor Series. After they eliminated every Bad Guy except Razor, after Michaels inadvertently hit Diesel with the Sweet Chin Music. This caused an argument and the tag team partners split up, before Diesel chased Michaels down the aisle. As the other Teamsters tried to intervene, and all were counted out.
Because Diesel and Michaels were WWF Tag Team Champions when they split, the title was vacated and a tournament held. Neidhart and Hart lost to The New Headshrinkers (Fatu and Sionne) in the first round on the December 31 Superstars, by disqualification. By the time it aired, Neidhart had left the WWF. Bret Hart wrote in his autobiography that the original plan was for Owen and Neidhart to win the tournament and the WWF Tag Team Championships but Neidhart was officially fired due to no-showing events. Owen wound up winning the WWF Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania XI with new partner Yokozuna and years later with fellow brother-in-law The British Bulldog.
On the July 6, 1996 Superstars, he returned as the masked heel Who, a gimmick designed for commentators Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler to make "Who's on First?"-style jokes during his matches (most of which he lost). Who last appeared on TV in the "Bikini Beach Blast-Off" party on the SummerSlam pre-show. His last match was a win over Alex Porteau in Miami on September 12.
Neidhart returned to the WWF on the April 28, 1997 episode of Raw is War, and attacking Stone Cold Steve Austin and reuniting with Bret and Owen Hart as part of the new Hart Foundation, a stable of Canadian sympathizers, also including Davey Boy Smith and Brian Pillman. On July 6 at In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede in Bret's hometown Calgary, The Hart Foundation defeated the American team of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust and The Legion of Doom. Neidhart was part of Team Canada at Survivor Series in Montreal, teaming with The British Bulldog, Doug Furnas and Philip Lafon defeated Team USA Vader, Goldust, "Marvelous" Marc Mero and the debut of "The Lethal Weapon" Steve Blackman (Bulldog was the sole survivor, Neidhart was pinned by Vader).
After Bret and Davey Boy Smith left the WWF on bad terms because of the Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series. D-Generation X leader and WWF Champion Shawn Michaels offered Neidhart a spot in the group on the November 24 episode of Raw Is War. Neidhart accepted, only for it to be revealed as a setup as the group assaulted Neidhart at the end of the show. The following week on the December 1 episode of Raw is War, DX member Triple H defeated Neidhart. After the match, DX attacked Neidhart once again and spray-painted "WCW" on his back, and signifying him following Bret Hart to World Championship Wrestling. Sgt. Slaughter and Ken Shamrock saved him, before Slaughter and Shamrock attacked D-Generation X at the end of the show. After Raw is War, WWF announced that Neidhart was released from his WWF contract on December 2, 1997. –
In January 1998, Neidhart returned to World Championship Wrestling, where he formed a short-lived tag team with The British Bulldog, who also departed from the WWF following the infamous Montreal Screwjob. Although this was his first true big-money deal, they were rarely utilized by WCW and achieved little in-ring success. His final match for WCW was on the September 26 episode of WCW Saturday Night where Neidhart and The British Bulldog lost to Stevie Ray and Vincent. Neidhart was released from the company shortly after.
Following his departure from WCW, Neidhart mostly retired from the ring and made sporadic appearances in independent shows. Notably, he was booked as Jake Roberts' singles opponent in the ill-fated Heroes of Wrestling event in October 1999.
On Raw XV, the 15th-anniversary WWE Raw special on December 10, 2007, Neidhart returned to WWE for the first time since 1997, and participated in the 15th Anniversary Battle Royal, eventually making it to the final five before being eliminated by Skinner.
Professional wrestling style and persona
On April 6, 2010, WWE released Hart & Soul: The Hart Family Anthology on DVD, which is a three-disc set featuring a documentary on the Hart wrestling family (including Neidhart) as well as twelve matches. Neidhart's daughter Natalie is featured as a main cast member on the reality show Total Divas, and he made appearances on the show along with his wife.
Neidhart was arrested on September 6, 2010, and charged with two counts of possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute, two counts of trafficking illegal drugs, one count of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, and one count of third degree grand theft for property stolen between $300 and $5,000. He was arrested after becoming aggressive with police after ingesting multiple pills outside a gas station. In March 2012, he was sentenced to five months and 29 days in jail. During his sentencing, he was arrested and held in contempt of court. Neidhart completed two stints in rehabilitation paid for by WWE.
According to TMZ, Neidhart's wife Elizabeth, told investigators that on August 13, 2018, he was having problems sleeping and got out of bed to adjust the thermostat. As he went to touch it, he "turned weirdly as if he were about to dance", then fell against the wall and ground. She immediately dialed 911, believing he was having a seizure, something for which he took medication. He had a four-inch long gash on his face when EMTs arrived. He died at the scene at the age of 63. According to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, the fall killed him. At the time, he had early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
Championships and accomplishments
- Championship Wrestling from Florida NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship (Florida version) (1 time) NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Florida version) (1 time) – with Krusher Khruschev
- Legends Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame (2011)
- Memphis Championship Wrestling MCW Southern Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with The Blue Meanie
- Mid-Eastern Wrestling Federation MEWF Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Mid-South Wrestling Mid-South Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Butch Reed
- New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2014
- Professional Wrestling Federation PWF Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated Ranked No. 61 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1994 Ranked No. 189 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the PWI Years in 2003 Ranked No. 37 of the top 100 tag teams of the PWI Years with Bret Hart in 2003
- Pro Wrestling Ohio PWO Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Greg Valentine
- Stampede Wrestling Stampede International Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Hercules Ayala (1) and Mr. Hito (1) Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Universal Wrestling Alliance UWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- World Wrestling Federation WWF Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Bret Hart WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2019)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Feud of the Year (1997) with The Hart Foundation vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
- Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame Individually With the Hart family