While there have been many famous wrestling schools throughout history such as the Monster Factory and the Funking Conservatory, arguably no school is more notorious than the Hart Dungeon. The school was opened up by the patriarch of the Hart family, Stu, in the late 1940’s. The Dungeon was actually just a room in the Hart House basement with a gigantic gym mat on the floor.
It was in that dark, scary room that Stu would push wrestlers to their limits. It may have seemed like torture at the time, but in hindsight seeing all the future legends who graduated from the Dungeon, it clearly worked. By the 1980s Stu was too old to train wrestler’s from A to Z himself and eventually his sons took over the training. Even though Stu was no longer able to be put the wrestlers through their paces anymore, the school continued to crank out many wrestling stars in the 1990’s. If the Hart Dungeon had never existed, you can bet wrestling history would look a lot different.
Here are 15 wrestlers who spent time in the famous Hart Dungeon and what they are up to today.
15. Billy Jack Haynes
Billy Jack Haynes was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to professional wrestling. The Oregon native didn’t start training in the Dungeon until he was twenty-eight years old. While Haynes did train a bit with Stu Hart, he learned most of his wrestling skills from a bunch of the Hart brothers.
The bulk of Billy Jack Haynes’ success in the wrestling world came in during his tenure in the WWE from 1986 to 1988. By far the highlight of his career was when he faced off against Hercules Hernandez at WrestleMania III. Haynes was forced to retire in 1996 due to numerous nagging injuries. In recent years, Haynes has battled numerous heath problems including liver and kidney problems. He has also been a part of a couple lawsuits against the WWE regarding concussion-related issues.
14. Tom Magee
The name of Tom Magee may not be familiar to you, but there was a time where Vince McMahon though he was the second coming of Hulk Hogan. Magee was a martial artist and a professional body builder. He had the perfect look of a 1980s wrestling Superstar. He starting training with Stu Hart back in mid-1980’s and just a couple years later he found himself in the WWE. Magee would go on to have a tryout match wth Bret Hart. Even though he was still green, the “Hitman” made Magee look like an absolute can’t miss prospect.
Magee would go on to wrestle a bunch more house show matches for the WWE. However, he was now facing wrestlers who didn’t have anywhere near the talent of Bret Hart. His matches looked sloppy, and to makes matters worse he had absolutely no mic skills. Vince McMahon and the WWE gave up on Magee in 1990. He tried starting an acting career, but after that didn’t take off he became a personal trainer. Magee currently works at the world famous Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, California.
13. Steve Blackman
Before Steve Blackman started his career as a professional wrestler, he was a competitive weight lifter and body builder. That background came in handy when decided to give wrestling a try in 1986. After wrestling in Connecticut for a bit, he came to Calgary in order to develop his skills further. Although Blackman did train in the Dungeon, he was mostly trained by Owen Hart. He did occasionally get on the mat with Stu because the two men had a love for submission moves.
Steve Blackman would go on to have most of his success with the WWE during the Attitude Era.”The Lethal Weapon” is probably best known for his various Hardcore Championship reigns. After leaving the WWE and wrestling altogether in 2002, Blackman opened up his own self-defense school. Today he keeps busy as a bail bondsman as well as a part-time bounty hunter.
12. Jushin Thunder Liger
While Jushin Thunder Liger is considered a legend in his native home of Japan, his career almost never started to begin with. At just 5’7″ tall, Liger was considered too small to become a wrestler. He wanted to train at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s dojo, but he actually didn’t meet the company’s height requirement at the time. He wasn’t willing to give up on his dream of becoming a professional wrestler, so he headed off to Mexico. After learning the Lucha Libre style, Liger was looking to learn more, so he decided to take his talents to Stampede Wrestling in 1987. While there, he was also able to spend time in the Dungeon with Stu.
After being pretty much told he didn’t have what it took to be in the business, Jushin Thunder Liger has had a career that has spanned over three decades. Even though the high flyer is 52-years-old now, he shows no signs of slowing down. He continues to wrestle all over the world, and by the way he still moves in the ring, you would think he’s half of the age he actually is.
11. Justin Credible
In 1992, P.J Polaco traveled to Calgary in order to train at the Hart Brothers Wrestling Camp. While his main teacher was Keith Hart, Polaco would actually also be trained a bunch by his future tag team partner Lance Storm. Only a couple years after his training, Polaco signed a contract with the WWE. He would spend three years with the company, mostly wrestling under a mask as Aldo Montoya.
After being nothing but enhancement talent in the WWE, Polaco went to ECW in 1997. This is when he took on the moniker he is known for today, Justin Credible. Since ECW closed its doors in 2001, life hasn’t been too kind for Polaco. For years he battled an addiction to painkillers. Fortunately, Polaco entered WWE sponsored rehab in 2013 and has been sober ever since.
10. Tyson Kidd
While Tyson Kidd may not be a member of the Hart family by blood, he’s as close as you can get. As a child, Kidd could often be found hanging out at the Hart house in Calgary. From a very early point in his life, he had already decided that becoming a wrestler was all he wanted to do. He started training in the Dungeon when he was barely a teenager. The last ever graduate of the Dungeon started his wrestling career in Calgary, but it wasn’t too long before he caught the eye of the WWE.
After signing with the WWE in 2007, it took a couple of years before Kidd made it to the main roster. Arguably the most success Kidd had in the WWE was when he teamed up with Harry Smith and his wife Natalya to form the Hart Dynasty. Kidd was finally starting gain some traction when in 2015 he suffered a near life ending neck injury. It has almost been two years since the injury occurred and it is looking more and more life his in-ring career is over. The fact that Kidd is so passionate about the business means he should still find a role with the WWE in some capacity.
9. The Iron Sheik
You wouldn’t think a person from Iran would come all the way to Calgary to become a professional wrestler, but that is what exactly what The Iron Shek did. He actually fled from his country in 1972 because he feared for his life. The former amateur wrestler was recruited by the AWA’s Verne Gagne, but the promoter decided it was best for him to cut his teeth in the Dungeon.
The Iron Sheik joined the WWE in the early 1980s. Not only did he win the WWE Championship, he became one of the greatest wrestling heels of all-time in the process. Sheik’s wrestling career started to wind down in the mid-1990s. Today, The Iron Sheik keeps busy by appearing at various wrestling conventions. If you go to his website, you can even book him for your next birthday party.
8. Harry Smith
Harry Smith followed in his father Davey Boy Smith’s footsteps and entered the wrestling business. Harry was just eight years old when started to train in Calgary with his father and Bruce Hart. At just eleven years old he got the chance to wrestle at a WWE house show. After a brief stint in Japan, Smith signed a developmental deal with the WWE in 2006.
Besides his time spent as a member of The Hart Dynasty, Harry Smith just wasn’t able to climb the up ladder in the WWE. When he got his walking papers from the company in 2011, he headed back to Japan, and he hasn’t left since. Unlike his time in the WWE, Harry Smith has found a ton of success in Japan, winning multiple titles in various promotions.
7. Lance Storm
Throughout his career, Lance Storm has never been shy about telling people that he trained in the Dungeon. However, when he went to Calgary in 1990 to train, the Dungeon had actually been replaced by the Hart Brothers Pro-Wrestling Camp. Storm wanted to train at the camp because other wrestlers who were on the smaller side like him still went on to have a ton of success.
Although Storm may not have achieved the same level of success of other Dungeon graduates like Owen Hart or Brian Pillman, he still had a more than solid career. The high point of his career was arguably his three-plus year stint with ECW. In 2005, Storm stopped wrestling full-time in order to run his own wrestling training school. In 2016, Storm also started his own podcast alongside fellow ECW alumni Cyrus, entitled Killing the Town.
6. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
One would think that since Greg Valentine was the son of a legendary wrestler, Johnny Valentine, that his dad would have been the one to teach him all there is about professional wrestling. While his father did train him a tiny bit, “The Hammer” got most of his training done down in the Dungeon. Valentine was just nineteen years old when he came to Calgary. Making the trip up north ended up being a great decision, as he went on to have a Hall of Fame career in the WWE.
By the mid-1990s, Greg Valentine’s in-ring career started to slow down. Even though he is he’s in his sixties, he still wrestles the rare match on the independents. When he isn’t making an appearance at a wrestling convention, the born again Christian occasionally speaks at schools alongside fellow Christian Ted DiBiase.
5. “Superstar” Billy Graham
Prior to stepping into the squared circle, Billy Graham was a prolific bodybuilder. At one point in time, he was able to bench press 605 lbs, which was just 11 pounds shy of the world record. While competing in bodybuilding competitions, Graham learned how to be a showman. So when Graham wanted to take up professional wrestling he already had a solid foundation. While he may have already known how to engage a crowd with his natural charisma, Graham’s in-ring skills all came from Stu Hart.
Thanks to Stu Hart and the Dungeon, the “Superstar” went on to have a phenomenal career wrestling for the AWA, NWA, as well as multiple stints with the WWE. By 1988, Graham’s body was starting to fall apart and he was forced to retire. He would be inducted into the WWE in 2004 and would make multiple television appearances for the company. Now in his seventies, Graham’s heath has deteriorated in recent years. He did sign a WWE Legends contract in 2015, but besides that, the only income he gets is through disability checks.
4. Nikolai Volkoff
Nikolai Volkoff had the honor of being one of the very first wrestlers to be trained by Stu Hart in the Dungeon. As a teenager, he immigrated to Canada from Croatia in 1967. After a few years of training up North, Volkoff would eventually make his way to the WWE. He probably best remembered for his longtime partnership with the Iron Sheik in the 1980’s.
After a spending a decade-plus with the WWE, Volkoff went into semi-retirement in 1995. Although he rarely wrestles now, he continues to make many cameo appearances with the WWE, most recently appearing on RAW in 2014. When he isn’t busy singing the Russian National anthem, you can catch Volkoff volunteering at after-school programs in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.
3. Ken Shamrock
When Ken Shamrock joined the WWE in 1997, he was already considered a legend in the world of MMA having competed at UFC 1. A fact that is not well known is that prior to his MMA career, Shamrock actually had a brief but successful pro wrestling career. However, when he joined the WWE in 1997, he needed a refresher when it came to professional wrestling. The WWE decided it would be best for him to go to the Hart House in Calgary to train.
Although Shamrock’s second run in pro wrestling was brief, he still had a ton of success. Not only did he win the Intercontinental Championship, but he was also the winner of the 1998 King of the Ring. Shamrock signed with the upstart TNA in 2002, and was actually the promotions first ever World Champion. After leaving the business in 2004, Shamrock went back to MMA. Even though he’s now in his fifties, “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” has competed in the octagon as recently as February of 2016.
2. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Jake “The Snake” Roberts actually began his career in the early 1970’s as a referee. It wasn’t until the second-generation wrestler made the trip up north to Calgary that his career started to take off. Under the tutelage of Stu Hart, Roberts would become one of the top stars in Stampede Wrestling. In 1979, he won the promotion’s top championship belt.
Robert’s time spent in Calgary proved to be a great building block for the rest of his career. He would go onto to have a Hall of Fame career in the WWE. While Roberts had a great life in the ring, outside of it was a different story. He suffered from terrible drug and alcohol problems that would put an end to his career, Fortunately for Roberts, he found a godsend in Diamond Dallas Page who miraculously helped Jake get his life back together. Today Roberts takes his gravelly voice and travels around telling stories from his life and his wrestling career.
1. Jim Neidhart
Jim ‘The Anvil” Neidhart was actually the last wrestler that Stu Hart trained in the Dungeon from start to finish. Neidhart was a former high school track and field star who also spent a brief amount of time in the NFL. After his football career failed to take off a friend of his recommended he gave Stu a call. Neidhart did just that and it was a decision he was glad he made. Alongside Bret Hart, he would go on to form one the greatest tag teams of all-time in The Hart Foundation.
Once Bret Hart’s started to gain traction as a singles competitor in the WWE, Neidhart kind of faded into the background. He would follow Bret to WCW in 1998, but was barely used in anything of significance. Besides a couple of cameo appearances with the WWE and TNA, Neidhart wrestled the remainder of his career on the independent scene. In recent years Neidhart has battled drug addiction, which even led to some brief jail time. However, Neidhart has since gone to rehab and it looks like he has gotten his life back together.
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