The legendary WWE wrestler Owen Hart will make a posthumous appearance in an upcoming video game for the organisation’s rival, AEW.
In a statement issued by AEW on Monday, the company said it has entered into a partnership with the non-profit charity the Owen Hart Foundation to honour Hart’s legacy.
This will include “the production of unique and original Owen Hart merchandise, including specified retail goods as well as the upcoming AEW console video game”.
Hart tragically died in May 1999 while working for the WWF (as it was known at the time), after an accident at the WWF’s Over the Edge pay-per-view event.
Portraying his Blue Blazer superhero character, Hart was supposed to be lowered from the arena’s rafters on a wire but instead fell 78 feet and landed in the ring. He was declared dead later that night.
The Hart family sued the WWF after the incident and received $18 million in a settlement, but Hart’s widow Dr Martha Hart refuses to allow the company to profit off his name again or place him in the WWE Hall of Fame.
As such, Hart hasn’t appeared in a WWE game since 1999’s WWF Attitude, which arrived just a couple of months after Hart’s death and included an ‘in memory of’ screen when the game booted up.
Since then, Hart has only appeared twice more in wrestling games: in Acclaim’s 2002 title Legends of Wrestling, and again in its 2004 sequel Showdown: Legends of Wrestling.
Should Hart appear in the AEW game, then, as appears to be the case, it will mark his first official appearance in a video game in 17 years.
Veteran WWE game developer Yuke’s confirmed last year that it was working on a new “best in class” console game for WWE’s rival wrestling firm AEW.
During the game’s announcement, it was revealed that genre luminary, Hideyuki Iwashita, the director of classic fighting games WWF No Mercy and Def Jam Vendetta, would also be involved in the AEW title.
Iwashita’s influence can be seen in recent footage of the game, which looks like a modern version of WWF No Mercy, rather than Yuke’s recent WWE games.
Iwashita’s past games were created during his time at Yuke’s’ historical rival AKI Corporation, a fellow Japanese developer which effectively left the genre in 2006. However, Yuke’s senior vice president and producer Hiromi Furuta said it would not be strange working with the director as it had already hired some former AKI developers.
The exec would not reveal specific details of Iwashita’s role on the AEW game, but suggested that his recruitment could have been influenced by Kenny Omega, the AEW executive who spent several years in the New Japan Pro-Wrestling league and is an avid video game player.
“Mr. Iwashita was one of the members essential to assembling the greatest pro-wrestling game team that Kenny Omega had envisioned,” Furuta explained.
Yuke’s had worked with the WWE license since 1999’s Smackdown on the original PlayStation. However, WWE 2K20 saw the studio reduced to a tech support role as 2K studio Visual Concepts took over primary development. The title released to disappointing reviews.
Yuke’s had previously been the sole developer on the series until 2K’s 2013 acquisition of the game rights saw it introduce Visual Concepts as support.
In an interview with VGC in 2019, Furuta revealed that Yuke’s had established a new development team tasked with creating a rival wrestling IP, with the intention of reinvigorating its staff and creating internal competition for WWE.