Over the Edge 1999 is a notorious PPV in wrestling history, not because of the matches, but because Owen Hart tragically fell to his death in a horrific accident before the PPV went on the air. WWE decided to go on with the PPV, citing that Owen would’ve wanted the show to go on. WWE was HEAVILY criticized for this decision in 1999 and is still criticized today. The tragic events of Over the Edge left such a lasting scar on WWE that the PPV name was retired and the PPV itself was never released on video, it wasn’t available for viewing until WWE Network launched in 2014.
So the debate has been raging for almost twenty years: Should WWE have continued with the PPV after Owen’s accident or should they have stopped the show. For a very long time, I thought the Intercontinental match that Owen was supposed to be competing in was the first match and was surprised to discover that Owen’s match was higher up on the card, which makes the decision less clear cut. The show had already started and was two matches in (five if you count Sunday Night Heat, which served as a pre-show back in the day).
The reasons to stop the show and either give people refunds or reschedule the show are pretty obvious: Someone just fell to their death, even if the fans in the arena were unaware that Owen had died. The wrestlers in the back had just seen someone they liked and respected have a horrific accident and sending them out to continue like nothing had happened seems cruel. It just seems like stopping the PPV and giving people refunds is the common sense thing to do, even for just the optics of showing that the wrestlers’ lives have some value.
Except that it wasn’t that easy. WWE was in the midst of the Monday Night Wars with WCW and though WWE was starting to turn the tide, the fight was nowhere near over. Cancelling the PPV and giving refunds could mean that Superstars would miss out on a night’s work and a night’s pay. Even though I would like to give the fans the benefit of a doubt, there is a good chance that some fans would not have understood why WWE felt the need to cancel the show over an accident.
The reasons to go on with the show are a little less clear cut. Bottom line, the show had already started and was about two hours in, if we count Sunday Night Heat. Sure, they probably could’ve rescheduled the remaining matches for RAW the next day, but considering that they were criticized for doing RAW, even though it was dedicated to Owen, I really don’t see how basically using RAW as the unofficial PPV was going to be seen any better.
A lot of wrestlers then and now have said that they wouldn’t have gone out there and performed, but it stands that everyone went out there and worked and the show did go on.
So, should WWE have gone on with the show after the accident or cancelled? Now, as then, it’s really up for debate. I spoke to a person who watched the PPV live and he said that while he fully supported WWE’s decision to continue with the show back then and still does, he would’ve understood if they’d cancelled. Me personally, I wouldn’t have, but I can see why the decision was made in the heat of the moment to keep going with the show. What Owen would’ve done or wanted in this situation is impossible to say, though many people, including his own family, have claimed to know, but only Owen can say what he would’ve done or wanted, and he can’t tell us, so let’s not try to put words in his mouth.