Deserving of the Hall of Fame!
July 28, 2006 by Steven Matthews
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The wrestling roots of Owen Hart can be traced back to his father, Stu Hart, and the infamous "Dungeon." Owen Hart, the youngest of the Hart kids, had different expectations than most of the family. Stu Hart openly felt that Bret and Owen would be the two best wrestlers of the entire family. Without question, I believe that they were. Owen Hart was the perfect performer. He was the perfect heel and the total opposite in his real life. Owen didn't want to wrestle but did and when he was set to retire, tragedy hit the wrestling world and sucked the life out of it for a long time.
Owen, of course, wrestled in his father's promotion, Stampede Wrestling. Not long after he started, Vince McMahon bought the promotion, only interested in two guys, The Dynamite Kid and Bret Hart. Owen had a job with the WWF in the 80s that carried with it a very embarrassing gimmick. He was masked and dressed in blue. He was appropriately named The Blue Blazer. He was a buffoonish superhero like persona that didn't sit too well with Owen. He was so disgruntled that he even approached management with it. Owen also didn't want to be overshadowed by his brother, Bret, who was becoming one of the biggest stars in the promotion.
Eventually, Owen was released and worked in Japan for a while. In 1991, Owen Hart returned to the WWF after a very short stint in WCW. He was paired up with Koko B. Ware to make the team, High Energy. This team also had difficulty getting over and was scrapped.
However, thankfully for the fans and for Owen, his big break came at the 1993 Survivor Series. The Hart Family decided to have four representatives in the ring. Jerry Lawler and his "colorful" Knights made the challenge. So, in a Survivor Series match, Shawn Michaels, filling in for Jerry Lawler, teamed with The Black, Red and Blue Knights to battle Keith Hart, Bruce Hart, Bret Hart and Owen Hart. The only elimination on the Hart side was Owen. The other three were the survivors of the match. Owen confronted Bret about it and it all came to a head at the 1994 Royal Rumble.
At this event, Owen and Bret were on the same page and challenged for the WWF Tag Team Championship. During the match, Bret injured his knee and eventually it cost the Harts the belts. Owen then flipped, blaming his brother for the loss. Owen assaulted Bret not once, but twice that night. Owen destroyed Bret after their match and while Bret was heading to the ring for the Royal Rumble match. Bret won the match with Lex Luger. Bret was going to be in the main event to challenge either Yokozuna or Lek Luger.
However, the feud between Bret and his brother, Owen was stronger than ever. So, Bret was going to wrestle twice at WrestleMania X. He would wrestle in the
first match, and the last match. In the opening bout, Bret and Owen did battle and really put on the match of the night. It was classic technical match with a little brawling as well. In what was the most shocking moment of that event, Owen countered a victory roll attempt by Bret and cleanly pinned his older brother to "jump out of his shadow." The feud continued and got even more emotional when other family members got involved, mainly Jim Neidhart for Owen and Davey Boy Smith for Bret. Bret and Owen had an intense Cage match at Summerslam 1994 for the WWF Championship and it proved to be another classic. Bret won and from there, Owen really took matters into his own hands, going for some other gold. At WrestleMania XI, Owen and a partner of his choosing would battle The Smokin' Gunns for the WWF Tag Team Championship. Owen's partner was none other than Yokozuna, and the duo defeated the reigning champions to win the straps. Owen and Yokozuna dominated the tag team division and by the time WrestleMania XIII came around, Owen had another partner to share the Tag Team Championship with, The British Bulldog. However, there was soon to be a reunion that nobody could have expected.
Owen Hart and The British Bulldog were getting into an intense rivalry over the new championship in the WWF, the European Championship. The finals took place in Germany and The British Bulldog defeated Owen Hart to win. Owen then wanted a rematch and a real feud started to come together. The most unlikely of people ended that battle from happening. It was Bret Hart who said that it was the American fans were turning them against each other. They stopped fighting and The Hart Foundation was reborn. This version consisted of Bret Hart, The British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart, Brian Pillman and of course Owen Hart. The five men had taken over the WWF and made a couple of goals, mainly to rid the wrestling world of Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels. In the main event of one episode of Raw, The British Bulldog and Owen Hart defended their Tag Team Championship against Austin and Michaels. The dysfunctional team of Austin and Michaels won the straps, but the feud between The Hart Foundation and the Tag Team Champions was far from over.
At Summerslam '97, before Bret Hart became a five time WWF Champion, Owen was involved in a truly frightening moment. Owen wrestled Steve Austin for Hart's Intercontinental Championship. After a short exchange, Owen hit Austin with a sit down Tombstone Piledriver. However, Austin didn't have time to cover up and his head spiked into the canvas. Austin, moving his arms only, was down in the ring for several minutes as Owen paced nervously. Austin eventually pinned Owen with a weak roll up and was later forced to drop the championship to heal as the man was temporarily paralyzed. Owen was thrown into the Intercontinental Championship tournament to crown a champion and was still involved in a feud with Austin.
Owen Hart won the IC tournament finals against Faarooq thanks to Austin. Austin helped Hart win, so he could beat him for it one day. Soon after, at the
1997 Survivor Series, Owen was planted into a terrible situation.
Bret Hart said that the 1997 Survivor Series affected so many people, including Owen. After everything happened, Bret, The British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart jumped over to WCW. Owen tried to leave, but Vince McMahon kept him around, to spite Bret Hart. So, Owen was then thrown into a feud with Degeneration X, more often than not, battling Triple H. Owen became something that was unexpected. Owen finally became a household name and a fan favorite at the same time. He struggled to find that role and was even part of the eight man tag, main event of No Way Out of Texas in February of 1998.
Owen teamed briefly with Ken Shamrock, only to turn on him and join the Nation of Domination. He started a battle with Ken Shamrock that culminated in a match at Summerslam 1998, that pitted both men battling at the Hart Family "Dungeon." Owen won using a barbell against Shamrock. Later that year, Owen Hart battled Dan Severn and did his Tombstone Piledriver. Severn appeared to have been injured and Owen Hart was taken off the storyline because he felt that he was responsible and felt terrible about the incident. This became a lead in to bringing back Owen's first WWF gimmick.
Over the next few months, the WWF brought back The Blue Blazer. The plan was to make the fans feel that Owen was always the Blazer, while some times, Owen would appear with him. The Blue Blazer, Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett would battle Dan Severn, Steve Blackman, Goldust and Ken Shamrock. Several superstars played The Blue Blazer, including Owen Hart, Steve Blackman, Koko B. Ware and Jeff Jarrett, which set up one of the most dominant duos in the WWF at the time. Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett began to form a team and even defeated The Big Bossman and Ken Shamrock in a non-title match on Heat. About three weeks later, Owen and Jarrett won the WWF Tag Team Championship, defeating Bossman and Shamrock. They began battling D-Lo Brown, who had many chances but he and his partner couldn't beat the duo. After Kane and X-Pac dethroned the Tag Team Champions, Owen Hart was scheduled to face Val Venis at the first ever SmackDown program. However, Val didn't face Owen, he faced The Blue Blazer. The Blazer, with Jarrett and Debra at ringside, picked up the win and became the superhero that the WWF needed according to the man himself. The next week, on Raw, Val Venis and The Godfather defeated The Blue Blazer and Jeff Jarrett. Who would have ever thought that Owen Hart would never wrestle on television again"
May 23, 1999 will be, in my mind, one of the most tragic and horrendous days in professional wrestling to say the least. The Blue Blazer was going to battle The Godfather for the Intercontinental Championship. Reports indicated that Owen as The Blazer was going to win the Intercontinental Championship once again.
Owen Hart was informed by WWF officials that he would enter the ring after descending from the ceiling of the Kemper Arena. The day of the event, Owen Hart was told by Vince McMahon that he was to be at the arena site to practice the drill. Owen did it once and then told Vince that he wasn't comfortable doing it. He was convinced to do it and was asked to perform the stunt again before the show started. Instead of that, Owen left the arena and tried to reflect on what was going on and keeping his cool. So, at the time that the second match started, Owen, dressed in street clothes, went through the crowd and ascended a staircase that took him to the very top of the arena. There, he got dressed and got the last minute advice from the officials. When the second match was halfway over, Owen was hanging from the top of the arena, waiting for his cue to descend. The match ended and the crowd directed their attention to the TitanTron, where a pre-recorded interview with The Blue Blazer was airing. At this point, something happened. It is rumored that one of the feathers got in the way and Owen's harness was released. Owen Hart fell somewhere from 75 to 90 feet and up and he collided head first into the ring post. Once this happened, the fans began to cheer, believing a dummy fell. After a few moments, they realized that something was wrong. On the headsets of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, we could feel from their tones that something was wrong. Jerry Lawler left the booth and went towards the accident.
When Lawler came back, the audience can hear him say to Jim Ross "it doesn't look good."
The show from there on was lackluster. Wrestlers like Jeff Jarrett, Debra and Road Dogg broke character, openly saying that they were praying for Owen. Late in the program, Jim Ross told the audience at home that Owen Hart died from the accident. Nobody at the arena was informed about what had happened. The next night, the WWF paid tribute to Owen Hart by speaking about him and just reflecting on his life. The wrestlers on Raw and even Nitro were wearing the "OH" armbands in respect for Owen. Owen Hart died in the wrestling ring in front of an audience of millions around the world.
Owen didn't want to be a wrestler, but was the best wrestler of the Hart Family, next to Bret. Owen Hart was one of the greatest heels in wrestling and one of the best people outside of it. It was heavily rumored that Owen was going to retire the year of the accident. He was one of the best wrestlers that the world had seen and his life ended so tragically and so short. For all of Owen Hart's contributions to the wrestling industry, he should be inducted and immortalized in the WWE Hall of Fame.
By Steven Matthews
Alan Cliff wrote:
You are 100% right on this one my friend. After seeing this column, this makes him the second and one of my favorite wrestlers I had forgotten about (the other being Rick "The Model" Martel). This guy should have been there this year in the Hall of Fame instead of William "The Refrigerator" Perry (how did he get there). Well anyway he was a fantastic wrestler and one of the Greatest wrestlers of all time. Out of all the pure athletes i've seen, lately and at all such as Shelton Benjamin and old skool icons such as Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and "The Macho Man" Randy Savage just to list a few of great pure athletes. To me, Mr. Perfect stood out as THE best pure athlete of all time and one of the greatest of all time. He could match any particular style that his opponent used. One such as technical and submission wrestling with Bret "The Hitman" Hart especially with a great showdown of chain wrestling aswell as technical and submission wrestling at Summerslam '91 and King of the Ring '93. Speed, agility, high flying you name it he could do it. With his way patternted bouncing around the ring very violently when getting beaten when his opponent had the control, he could make even Hulk Hogan look like a good wrestler......if you know what I mean. I think it would've been great to see him inducted into the 2006 Hall of Fame alongside gis great friend Bret Hart, but hopefully we will see Bret return again to induct him next year, that would be brilliant. We love and miss you Curt, you're the PERFECT wrestler and one of the greatest of all time.
Thomas Bradley wrote:
I agree, Owen does deserve to be in the HOF. But this is a Hall Of Fame that inducted that overrated football player William Perry, and will probaly induct Mr. T too. Pathetic isn't it. But the man that should be inducted before Hogan, and even Andre The Giant. Is Bruno Sanmmartino, I hope the WWE will come to good terms and let THE REAL WORLD'S CHAMPION! Into the Hall before Ric Flair does. I think Ol' Brun would kill The Nature Boy any day if he wanted too.
Awesome column. I love it. Owen truly deserves the Hall of Fame, Part of me wants him in there and the other part doesn't. The part that does thinks it would be great just because we would get to see a lot of footage from Stampede and from WWE. The other part of me though, it fears what McMahon's view of Owen Hart was. I could see Vince shadowing Owen in Bret throughout the entire time they talk about Owen. I don't know, I don't want to see them induct Owen The Midcarder as it seems WWE remembers him as. I want them to induct Owen Hart, the awesome Technical Wrestler.
Thomas Bradley wrote:
I think Curt is a legend, he may have commited a big blow in WCW, but it wasn't his fault, it was that fuckin' Eric Bischoff. Curt was a former AWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion, even though he won it when the AWA was on the verge of death. And a two time Intercotinental Champion. That is a resume that no one can take away from him. I idolized Henning, I miss him. I hope he is up in heaven looking at all his fans and telling him that he is THE PERFECT CHAMPION.
What I liked the most about Curt Henning is his finishing manuver. Chris Benoit has the snap suplex and the German suplex, but Henning had the PERFECT PLEX. God Bless You Curt Henning, I miss you.
Jonathan Preston wrote:
I actually think Owen Hart is going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. And I think its going to happen next year. Bret was inducted this year, so I think Owen will be next year. I would be very shocked if the WWE didn't induct him considering all his contributions to the company and also considering he died for the WWE.
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