Ex-WWE Referee Jimmy Korderas On Being In Ring At Time Of Owen Hart's Tragic Accident

Twenty-five years ago, on May 23, 1999, Owen Hart fell to his death at WWE's Over The Edge pay-per-view. It's a story that's been told and re-told enough times and from enough sides that there are few wrestling fans who aren't intimately familiar with the details, but a perspective rarely heard is that of the referee for Hart's upcoming match, Jimmy Korderas, who was in the ring when Hart fell.


In an exclusive interview with Wrestling Inc., Korderas described what he experienced that night.

"They had had that hardcore match ahead of time," Korderas said. "There was a bunch of debris in the ring. So the crew went out there, and since I had the next match, which was Owen as Blue Blazer against Godfather, I went out there to help them, and I was kicking stuff out of the ring and that sort of stuff, and I had my hand on the top rope ... And it's so weird because I heard a scream, but I just thought, it's an arena full of people. Obviously somebody's going to scream ... And a second or two later, like I said, I had my hand on the top rope, I felt something brush against, believe it or not, against the side of my head and shoulder."


"At the same instance, that rope pulled out of my hand and snapped back and like jammed my fingers," Korderas continued. "So I looked around and I saw that the rope was still there, and when I turned around and I saw Owen just there in the corner laying face up, and I couldn't put two and two together. It just didn't click. So I went over and I called out a few times and it was so weird, eyes wide open, not moving, and I just panicked and I started screaming for help ... It was surreal. Unbelievable."

The fallout from Kansas City

Korderas recalled struggling to calm down after the incident, and was eventually made to get checked out in the same hospital that had admitted Hart, where he was informed that the former Intercontinental, European, and tag team champion had passed away. Korderas then got on the phone with his then-fiancee, considering whether he should come home or continue to WWE's next stop.


"We ended up going to St. Louis the next day for 'Raw,' and I still don't remember getting there, if that makes any sense," he said. "I don't remember driving, flying from Kansas City to St. Louis. It was just that surreal."

Upon arriving at "Raw," Korderas was checked on by locker room luminaries like The Undertaker and Triple H, but it was Jim Ross — WWE's head of talent relations at the time — who offered to fly him home.

"I just told him, 'JR, you know what? I don't know if this sounds weird to you, but I feel I need to be here with everybody, because we're all going through the same thing,'" Korderas said.

It was Ross' partner on commentary, Jerry Lawler, who informed Korderas that he'd come very close to going through something very different.


"He sat me down and said, 'Listen, I don't know if I should be telling you this, but his fall, I saw, I witnessed the last 15, 20 feet of his fall.' He had just caught him out of the corner of his eye, and his first reaction is, 'Oh my god, he's going to fall on the referee.' And apparently that's what I felt brush by my side. And when he told me that, again, I just lost it. I couldn't hold it in. And he consoled me as best he could. And again, they said, you know, if you want to go home. I said no, I think I need to be here with everybody, because like I said, we're all going through this."