Jim (The Anvil) Neidhart, who formed the popular Hart Foundation tag team with brother-in-law Bret in the 1980s, died Monday. He was 63. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office in Wesley Chapel, Fla., said Neidhart fell at home, hit his head and “succumbed to his injury.” No foul play was suspected. Neidhart, a native of Tampa who turned to wrestling in 1979 following a professional football career with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys, was trained by WWE Hall of Famer Stu Hart in Calgary.
Married to Stu’s daughter, Ellie, he became a member of the legendary Hart family before joining the WWE with Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith and Bret (Hit Man) Hart. Neidhart wrestled mostly for WWE from 1985 to 1997 and was known for his pink and black gear, maniacal laugh and goatee. Neidhart and Hart held the tag belts for nearly a year after beating The British Bulldogs in early 1987. They enjoyed another long reign as champs after defeating Demolition in mid-1990. Neidhart also teamed with Bret’s younger and late brother, Owen, and wrestled in singles competition. The two Hart brothers joined Neidhart, Smith and Brian Pillman in a re-formed Hart Foundation faction that enjoyed a strong run in 1997.
Neidhart, who earned the “Anvil” nickname after breaking the California high school record in shot put, was initially managed by Jimmy (The Mouth of the South) Hart as the Hart Foundation went on to capture two WWE world tag team championships. Ross Hart, his brother-in-law and a former pro wrestler, told The Associated Press that Neidhart suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and it was believed he suffered a grand mal seizure on Monday. Jimmy Hart said Neidhart seemed in good health when they last saw each other in April on WrestleMania weekend.
Neidhart competed in Calgary Stampede wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling in the early 1980s before joining the-then World Wrestling Federation in 1985. In the ’90s, Neidhart was part of the Hart Foundation group that feuded with Stone Cold Steve Austin. He last competed in the organization in 1997, but one of his three daughters, Natalya, is a WWE superstar. Neidhart wrestled briefly for other wrestling promotions and had brushes with the law and spent time in drug rehabilitation later in life. But he found a second act as comic relief on “Total Divas” and was filmed going shopping with his daughter and teaching wrestlers how to golf.