A look back at the life and times of the late, great Owen Hart on the 10-year anniversary of his passing.
Ten years ago this week, the wrestling world suffered the greatest tragedy to ever befall the sport – the passing of the ultra-talented Owen Hart. It’s awfully hard to imagine that it has been ten years already. As I am sure many of us do, I remember it like it was yesterday…sitting there just hoping that it was a part of some sort of appalling, perverse angle. But it wasn’t. And as I sit here ten years later, it’s even harder to make any sense of it. While it’s true that the wrestling community has had more than it’s fair share of people who were lost before their time, this was different. This never should have happened. This could have easily been avoided. Honestly, it’s distressing to even think about this as I’m typing this. To think that Owen spoke out against the stunt and wasn’t remotely comfortable with it is perhaps the most disturbing part of all. A 34-year-old family man was cut down in his prime due to a horrible accident that should have never happened. Not only were we robbed of many more years of his unlimited, overflowing talent…but more importantly, his family was robbed of a thoughtful, humorous, well-meaning father/husband. I am really surprised and bothered that the anniversary of his passing wasn’t picked up by more wrestling news outlets this week. Owen Hart deserves to be remembered.
Here are some of my favorite Owen Hart moments.
A SETUP…YOU GOT IT RIGHT THAT WAS A SETUP!!!
Survivor Series ’94…Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund…probably the single greatest match in WWE history. Owen’s involvement was impeccable! Between tending to a fallen Bulldog, interfering blatantly and repeatedly every single time the ref was distracted, and his emotional pleas to Stu and Helen…this was Academy Award worthy. As Bret laid in the cross face chicken wing for what seemed like countless minutes on end, Owen sold the crowd on his genuine concern for his brother’s well being, resulting in Helen throwing in the towel. Then the literal second that the bell rang, he grabbed the towel and high-tailed it the hell out of there, laughing all the way to the bank. The look on Backlund’s face as the put the title on him was a classic. Then, to the locker room we go to Todd Pettingal with Owen Hart for the best interview ever! "A setup…you got it right that was a setup! This is the greatest Thanksgiving of my life!!! And mom and dad (diabolical cackling), you fell right into my trap! You threw the towel in and Bret you’re no longer the WWF Champion…Mr. Backlund is." Amazing booking, but it would have been nothing without Owen.
I KICKED YOU IN THE LEG…AND IT FELT GOOD!
The first definitive and ultimate Owen Hart heel turn. This was the culmination to the set up of the year long feud between Bret and Owen, which I feel strongly is amongst the top feuds in WWE history. This played perfectly into Owen’s "living in Bret’s shadow" storyline. "WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST TAG ME?!?!? All you had to do was tag me and stop thinking about yourself! I don’t need you with a bad leg doin’ it, Bret. You’re too damn selfish! And that’s why you’re sitting there with a bad leg. And that’s why I kicked your leg outta your leg!" One of the most hilarious quotes in wrestling history. I was cheering Owen on like a maniac.
CLEAN PINFALL OVER BRET HART AT WRESTLEMANIA X
Smack dab in the middle of the ring in Madison Square Garden, Owen cleanly pulled off one of the biggest upset victories in WWE history. I was in attendance at this event and my entire family marked out so badly it was unreal, hahaha. This was a result that nobody ever expected. The live crowd was STUNNED. Owen, Bret, and Lawler (on commentary) all play the aftermath of the pinfall perfectly. The match was an instant classic and this was likely the biggest win of his career.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH AND IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE
I always loved that theme song and catch phrase. I used it as my own life motto for quite some time and to this day, will often bust out with it when the occasion calls for it.
RAW IS OWEN
Sadly, one of the best wrestling products of all-time came the night after his tragic death. For once, the WWE handled a situation with grace and dignity, allowing a public forum for Owen’s friends to grieve out of character and work matches together with whatever results they saw fit. In his book Heartbreak and Triumph, Shawn Michaels noted that "Owen is the only guy you could have a 2-hour show for and no one would say a bad word about him." The episode was a touching tribute to his life and a rare time in my adult life that I recall being truly choked up. I hate that fact that we wait until after people are gone to celebrate them. Owen deserved to see and experience this tribute. He deserved to hear how highly his peers thought of him. Ric Flair is extremely lucky to have been able to participate in his retirement segment on RAW. Very few people actually get to enjoy those moments as they happen.
OTHER CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
Other standout moments in Owen’s brilliant career included scoring three out of the four pinfalls at Survivor Series 1993 (The Hart Brothers vs. Shawn Michaels and his Knights), feuds with Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Steve Austin, and winning the IC Title from The Rock. That was one of many in a strong roster of titles runs which included the European Champion x1, Intercontinental Champion x2, Tag Team Champion x4, King of the Ring, and several major titles outside of the WWE.
Owen was "The Rocket," "The Blue Blazer," "The Slammy Award Winning," "The King of Hearts," and "The Black Hart." He was a superstar in the world of wrestling, but more importantly, by all accounts he was an even better man.
R.I.P. Owen Hart
May 7, 1965 – May 23, 1999