On May 23, 1999 I was 11 years old and I remember my friend’s mother broke the news to me that Owen Hart has passed away at a live show. To my knowledge I assumed this was an untelevised event and that due to the tragedy the show has not been promoted or even broadcasted. It wasn’t until much later as an older teen that I learned the difficult circumstances. I am not here to debate whether the show should have gone on, instead I’d like to share some of my favourite Owen Hart moments and pay tribute to his memory.
My earliest memories of Owen Hart date back to his feud in 1994 with his brother Bret Hart. I also remember the day Owen debuted his new haircut and remember thinking I was glad to see a competitor who had short hair for once instead of the long hair which I couldn’t (and probably shouldn’t) grow.
Owen Hart did in fact debut as the Blue Blazer early in his World Wrestling Federation career. On the Wrestlemania V card there are three matches that I remember and enjoy: Savage vs. Hogan, Rude vs Warrior and Mr. Perfect vs. The Blue Blazer. As the Blue Blazer in this match Owen Hart utilized a series of moves and high spots that made for an entertaining bout with Hennig. I’m not sure if the two ever got to work together again but it was a match you’d expect given the talent of both men. Later Owen would team with Jim Neidhart forming the New Foundation, sporting these awful outfits. Despite the checkered and neon coloured tights, Owen’s talents shone through much brighter. Owen was so technically sound and utilized a variety of wrestling styles that his matches were rarely predictable and all the moves were so crisp and on point. Owen Hart was on the Royal Rumble 92 card and I highly recommend checking out his tag match versus the Orient Express to see just how good Owen was early in his career. Owen would also team up with Koko B. Ware forming the team of High Energy, essentially a jobber team, so needless to say Owen paid his dues.
Let’s jump straight to 1994 where Owen would compete in a series of fantastic matches with his brother Bret. Owen vs. Bret at Wrestlemania X was a classic. If Steamboat/Savage was the best Wrestlemania match, Bret/Owen is #2. I think its important to note that of the two brothers, The match was just a piece of art as both men were able to use psychology, storytelling, technical wrestling, brawling, and high flying for a captivating match. Owen winning the match without using a patented finisher just added to the aura of the match. I remember watching that match for the first time and being so blown away that Owen picked up the victory. On that night Owen showed just how capable he was beating the best the WWE had to offer, ironically against a man who prided himself of being the BEST.
Later on in 1994, Owen would go on to win the King of the Ring Tournament and would also compete in a classic Steel Cage match with his brother once again, this time with the WWE Championship on the line. It was again another classic and allowed fans to witness a steel cage match that was so intense without it being bloody or unnecessarily violent.
Owen would later move on to form a tag team with the British Bulldog. As I reflected on the tag teams of the past, I never really understood just how great these two men were as a tag team. You had the powerhouse in Davey Boy Smith and you had the luchadore style of Owen Hart. It’s no surprise that they would go on to hold tag team gold numerous times–a very underrated tag team indeed. I loved how comical Owen would be at the expense of the reputation of the Bulldog. Owen would put himself over instead of the team and then explain that we didn’t understand his point. I would love to see Owen Hart and Bobby Heenan have a conversation because they are two comedic legends in wrestling.
It’s no secret how beloved Owen Hart was by his peers. There are probably so many great ribbing stories out there that would take up hours of your time, which is time well spent! Even through our televisions, you could see Owen was a mischievous troublemaker, just by the grin on his face. I think back to the Slammy’s where Owen pushed a waiter into Vader and runs off, just simply great stuff to watch. This is not going to be any news, but many of Owen’s peers have reinforced the fact that Owen was just one of the good guys of pro wrestling, just a genuinely good guy.
I think if Owen were still with us today, he may be retired by now but I believe towards the end of his run he’d be doing what Chris Jericho is doing today and that is helping the future superstars of the wrestling industry, competing for the fun of the business while helping make new stars. Owen just appeared to have that genuine desire to make others happy and a heart of gold. I think this is what made his death so difficult for his peers and fans alike because in this world we need more people like Owen Hart; someone who loves his family, loves his co-workers, loves his supporters and in turn allows others to pour out love to him as well.
We miss you Owen and we’ll never forget you!
List of Owen Hart’s accomplishments:
- 1x European Champion
- 2x Intercontinental Champion
- 4x World Tag Team Champion
- 1994 King of the Ring
- 2x Slammy Award Winner