I was never really a fan of Owen Hart.
I know that will sound sacrilegious to most of you reading this in 2017, but you have to keep in mind that I was a typical young wrestling fan that didn’t read the newsletters or hang out on the message boards. You might even say I was a mark. Still am, really. Just a little older & wiser.
I was a kid that loved him some Bret Hart. The Hitman was my guy when he was working his way up from the tag team titles to the Intercontinental title and finally the WWF Championship. I recognized Bret’s talent, his sense of fair play and his personality as a “good guy” as qualities worth emulating.
I was a kid. I thought everybody should be good to each other. Somehow our tune changes on that when we get older.
Owen was just kinda there in the shadows for awhile. Kind of like Michael Waltrip to his big brother Darrell. He would have decent matches, but was never really featured. He would get beat up by Razor Ramon to get heat for Razor’s match with Bret. He had tag teams with Jim Neidhart & Koko B. Ware that were fun but didn’t get any type of a serious push. He wore baggy Hammer pants for awhile, then switched to blue Bret-style attire. He wasn’t on Bret’s level in my eyes, and I have to say I never did see him on that level.
His turn against Bret at the 1994 Royal Rumble was shocking, but his win over Bret at WrestleMania X was even more shocking. My parents didn’t think PPVs were worthwhile investments, so when I found out the next day that Owen had actually won, I was more shocked than people in the Allstate Arena were on Sunday night. Owen had never really done anything of note other than turn against his brother. He hadn’t beaten anybody. How could this have happened?
My suspicions that the matches were predetermined grew even stronger.
Owen gained more credibility over the next few years and I eventually accepted the idea that he was a really good wrestler. I never liked him, though. Making Shawn Michaels collapse in the middle of the ring due to an enziguri kick really didn’t help his cause with me. Owen was that annoying POS that would hide behind more fearsome tag team partners like Yokozuna & the British Bulldog. I just couldn’t get behind that. Even making up with Bret didn’t get Owen any points with me. I was solidly in Stone Cold Steve Austin’s corner by the time that happened.
The Hart Foundation angle was one of the most fun periods of wrestling for me, and I was pretty solidly against them…except Brian Pillman, who I always had a soft spot for due to the Bengals & the Hollywood Blondes. I was against Owen the most though, especially when he broke Austin’s neck and had the nerve to brag about it.
…I thought the “nugget” thing was funny. Hey, I was 13 years old, that kind of humor is right in that age group’s wheelhouse. Jason Sensation’s Owen impression was the funniest thing I had ever seen. (Did we ever get a proper explanation on why Owen dressed like a road sign during this time period?) I also thought the Blue Blazer angle was funny. I’ve always liked angles with masked people who are obviously somebody already known but needs to conceal their identity for one reason or another. The hokeyness Owen displayed in the role was also good stuff. He had finally kind of won me over. Its weird what will turn you on a person, isn’t it?
Over the Edge 1999 was to pit the Blue Blazer against the Godfather in a match for the Intercontinental Title. That match never happened, as a malfunction during Owen’s planned Stingesque entrance from the top of the building led to him falling from the rafters to his death. The fall wasn’t shown on television, as it happened while a pre-taped Blue Blazer promo was airing. My reaction was that of complete and utter shock. I knew right away that this couldn’t be part of the show. The camera shots of the audience & the demeanor of Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler showed that something had gone horribly wrong.
I’ve never come down one way or the other on the debate of if the show should have continued or not. I can’t imagine having to make such a decision, and I can’t criticize Vince McMahon for the decision he made. I do know, that as a fan that was super excited to have a black box and be able to watch all the PPVs, that it was one of the first times that I had absolutely no interest in the rest of the show. It was on, but I can’t tell you a whole lot about it. I couldn’t have cared less. I do still question one decision, though in the grand scheme of things it’s kind of pointless…Undertaker going over in the main? Really? That’s how they wanted to end that show? I’ll never understand that one.
The next night was the infamous Raw is Owen show, when many of us found out what a great guy Owen Hart really was. Keep in mind that before this point, we knew Owen as he was portrayed on television. We didn’t know that he was one of the biggest family men in wrestling that constantly played jokes made everybody laugh backstage all the time. It was then that we really understood what pro wrestling and the world had lost.
One of the good guys, even if he was a better bad guy on television.
I realized after Owen’s death that the reason I disliked him so much was because he was so good at his job. He was a heel for most of his career in WWE, he wasn’t there to get applause and accolades from the fans. Even as a fan that supported a fair share of bad guys from the first time I watched wrestling, I couldn’t get behind Owen. He was that freaking guy.
I remember scanning the Internet for news on Owen’s death the day after it happened. There were articles all over the place including CBS Sports’ website, which linked me to something called Wrestleline. I had never ventured past official promotion websites before. WWF.com, WCW.com, ECWrestling.com…stuff like that. I read Pro Wrestling Illustrated and all the Apter mags, but I never realized there were websites that talked about pro wrestling from a quasi-inside perspective. I sure hadn’t heard of the newsletters.
The desire for more information on Owen’s death and how the WWF would handle it led me to these websites and articles from the likes of Scott Keith, CRZ, Rick Scaia and Chris Hyatte, among many others. Within a few years I would be addicted to the point where I realized that the most realistic way for me to have any involvement in pro wrestling was to be one of the people writing on the Internet. Without a huge story like that, I don’t know if my life takes the path it’s taken. I don’t know if I would have met most of the people I consider my closest friends in 2017.
It’s been eighteen years since Owen died. Many young wrestling fans have never even seen one of his matches. A lot of them probably couldn’t tell you who he was. The anniversary of Owen’s death passes each year with no mention on WWE television because they don’t like to dwell on such things. (And his widow doesn’t like it when they mention him, so it’s tough to blame them.)
Those of us that did see him won’t forget him.