by "Rockin" Robin Drodge
Date: August 19, 2004
Stu Hart is famous for starting wrestling in the early days. He and his wife Helen had twelve children; some of whom got involved in wrestling. Two of their sons, Bret and Owen, decided that their career would be in wrestling. Their father, Stu, had a promotion called Stampede wrestling and this is where they started.
First, at an early age, Bret was a referee and then they got in the ring and wrestled for various titles. On September 14, 1984, Stu sold his stampede promotion to Vince McMahon and the name changed to World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Some of the talented wrestlers that followed Vince to the WWF at that time include: Bret, Owen, Jim the “Anvil” Neidhart, the British Bulldog, and the Dynamite Kid.
Bret started his career as a singles wrestler but not many people knew who he was so they decided to tag him up with his brother-in-law Jim Neidhart to form a tag team called the Hart Foundation. They had a lot of success and they won two tag team championships while they were together. Later, Bret went on his own and became a singles wrestler again, this time he had a lot of fan support and recognition.
Owen started his career as a character called the Blue Blazer. He had some success wrestling as a masked person. Finally later on in his career they took the mask off him to inform the fans that this was Owen Hart. So people then found out that he was the brother of Bret. Owen went on to wrestle for a while as a singles wrestler and then later in his career he was teamed up with a series of partners. In 1992 he was teamed up with Jim the “Anvil” Neidhart, and they called themselves the New Foundation. This was a good team and after this he went back to wrestling for a while as a singles wrestler.
Bret was on top now with the Intercontinental Championship for two times and at the first King of the Ring pay-per-view he won the crown in 1993 so his career was going in the right direction. He was given the World Wrestling Federation championship — the company had faith in him that he could be the best person as their champion. At the 1993 Survivor Series they had an elimination match between the team of Bret, Owen, Bruce and Keith to take on the team of Shawn Michaels and his three knights. Owen was the only member to be eliminated from his team; Bret had hit him by mistake. After the match when Bret and his team, along with his father were celebrating, Owen got back in the ring and was not happy with Bret. They were having problems and Owen was blaming Bret for eliminating him. It seemed that they were setting Owen up for a “heel” turn; resulting in two brothers battling each other.
Bret tried to work on the situation and then revealed that at the Royal Rumble™ in 1994 they would team up to take on the Quebecers for the tag team championship. They had worked out their problems and were going to work together as one team to win the championship. In the match, Bret had his knee injured and when he tried to put the sharpshooter on, his knee blew out again causing the referee to stop the match in which the Quebecers retained the tag team championship. Bret had a hard time getting up but once he did Owen kicked him in his bad knee, which he was happy about. He had turned “heel”. In an interview he said that he was sick of being in the shadow of his big brother Bret, and it was time for him to make it on his own. Owen wrestled Razor Ramon in the 1994 King of the Ring tournament finals, and thanks to the help of Jim Neidhart, Owen won the match and was crowned the King of the Ring winner. He was very happy and later that year he challenged his brother Bret to a match at Wrestlemania 10 that took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Bret did not want to wrestle his brother but Owen did everything he could to provoke Bret into accepting this challenge. Finally, Bret had enough and accepted the match for Wrestlemania. Bret had to do double duty at Wrestlemania. The reason for this is that Bret and Lex Luger had won the 1994 Royal Rumble match. Bret returned that night from his knee injury to participate in the match, both him and Luger went over the top rope at the same time so they were both declared the winner for that year. At Wrestlemania 10, the first match to take place was between Bret and Owen, and the final match would be Bret and Yokozuna for the WWF championship. Owen won the match between him and his brother Bret. He pinned Bret to the mat for the three count. After the match, in an interview Owen said he was very happy about defeating his big brother Bret. Later in the night, Bret wrestled for the World Wrestling Federation championship and won the title. Owen came out from the dressing room area and made his way down to ringside in which he displayed his displeasure over Bret winning the championship.
The situation did not end at that time.
Owen wanted to be the champion so he challenged Bret again at SummerSlam™ for the title. A match was made between Bret and Owen for the title, it would be a steel cage match to finally put this feud to an end. Bret won this match. In this match it saw the return of Bret’s brother-in-law, the British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, as he was at ringside for the match. Owen and Jim Neidhart both locked the cage and beat up on Bret, resulting in the British Bulldog climbing the cage to attack Owen and Neidhart.
Sometime later, a tag match took place between Bret and Smith against the team of Owen and Neidhart. Hart and Smith won the match. Later, Smith turned “heel” and he was feuding with Bret over the title.
In 1996, Owen wore a cast on his arm, in which he claimed he was injured. However, this was not the case, he used the cast to his advantage to help win his matches. Owen lost a qualifying match for the 1996 King of the Ring tournament because he had used the cast in his match resulting in a disqualification (DQ), he didn't get a chance to compete in the tournament. In 1996, Bret took some time off to focus on his future. He had to make a decision whether to sign a new contract with the WWF or to sign a contract that he was offered from World Championship Wrestling (WCW™). After deciding that he would stay with WWF, he returned to start a feud with the 1996 King of the Ring tournament winner, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin was just starting to get over as a guy who could be a champion one day. He was a “heel” and he was doing everything possible to have Bret return and wrestle him. Bret did and he wrestled Austin at the 1996 Survivor Series. Bret won the match; this now would set up a series of matches between both of them. Owen had won various titles, such as the tag team titles with Yokozuna and the British Bulldog. They were all “heel” and worked together well, but over time problems arose and they each went their separate ways.
Finally in 1997 on RAW™ in a match between Owen and the Bulldog, Bret had enough and came out and broke up the match. He said he did not want to see them fighting each other and wanted both of them to join him as a group. They did and the match ended. Bret was turning “heel”, he was forming a group called the Hart foundation consisting of Bret, Owen, the British Bulldog, Jim the “Anvil” Neidhart and Brian Pillman. They were bashing the United States; they were a real hated faction in the United States, however in the United Kingdom and Canada they were loved.
A few weeks leading up to the 1997 SummerSlam™, a match was getting set to take place between Bret and the Undertaker for the World Wrestling Federation Championship, with Shawn Michaels as special guest referee for the match. In the meantime, another match was in the process of taking place at SummerSlam™ between Owen and Austin. Owen was the champion and Austin wanted the title. At Summerslam, in the match between Owen and Austin, Owen hit a tombstone piledriver in which Austin injured his neck. Owen was worried about Austin but Austin continued the match and picked up the victory to win the title. However, he would be out of action for quite some time trying to determine the severity of his neck injury. Bret won the title for the fifth time defeating the Undertaker; thanks to Michaels. This was setting up a match at the Survivor Series between Michaels and Bret in Montreal.
The Survivor Series took place on November 9, 1997; this would be Bret’s last match with the WWF. Bret had made the decision to leave the WWF to go to WCW™ because the company could not live up to the contract they had offered him when he returned in 1996. Bret was told to negotiate with WCW™. Bret did not want to leave the WWF but he decided to accept the offer from WCW™, at which time he gave his 30-day notice.
The decision was made that he would keep the title by disqualification (DQ) and then he would give up the title the next night on RAW™ in Ottawa and say some positive things about the WWF. This did not happen because Vince thought that Bret would take the title with him to WCW™. So he made the decision to do a “screw job” in which Bret lost the title without submitting to his own move, the sharpshooter. Michaels put Bret in the sharpshooter and then Earl Hebner said to ring the bell, Vince also said to the timekeeper to ring the bell. After this because of what happened with his brother, Owen left the Company and went home to Calgary. No one knew if he was returning or what he was doing. Later he came back to the Company and was put into a feud with Shawn Michaels for the WWF championship. He was referred to as "The Black Hart". Owen wrestled for the title, each attempt he made he was unsuccessful in winning the championship.
Then in 1998, Owen wrestled Triple H for the European championship. Owen won the European title but he did not have it for long. He then joined the New Nation of Domination and wrestled a bit in this faction. Afterwards he got together with Jeff Jarrett to form a tag team. They wrestled for a while and won the tag team championship. They had the titles for a short time and then they lost it. Later the WWF had someone on TV dressed up as the Blue Blazer. The fans thought it was Owen due to the fact that he was the blazer in the beginning of his career. However, they wanted to show the fans that Owen and the Blazer weren't the same person, so they had Owen wrestle in a few matches while at the same time they had someone else appear wearing the Blazer costume. Then in a match on RAW™ between Steve Blackman and Jeff Jarrett the blazer showed up again and got involved in the match. Blackman had enough and took the mask off the blazer; it was revealed that it was Owen. So this went on for a while and then at a pay-per-view called Over the Edge, the Blue Blazer would take on the Godfather in a match for the intercontinental championship.
This event took place on May 23, 1999 in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Kemper Arena. Owen was going to enter the ring from the rafters. This was something that he did not feel comfortable doing but went ahead and did it. While at home with his wife, Martha, and his two kids they discussed what the WWF wanted to do. After some discussion with his wife, she told him to talk to Vince and see if he would reconsider performing this stunt due to the fact he felt very uncomfortable doing it. However, this did not happen and he performed the stunt. Just a few days before this pay-per-view, Owen and his family were supposed to have moved into a new house that Owen built in Calgary.
On Sunday Night Heat they did a promo in which Owen told the fans to say their prayers, take their vitamins and to drink their milk. At the pay-per-view before Owen’s entrance they showed the promo and what led up to the match. Owen was strapped to a harness that would lower him down from the rafters to the ring for his entrance. It was supposed to be a super-hero like entrance. While in the process something went wrong, the harness snapped dropping him right into the ring where he hit his head onto the turn buckle.
The camera crew stopped showing the ring and focused their attention on JR (Jim Ross). Ross told the fans that something had happened and this time it was for real.
He kept on talking for a few minutes while EMT personnel were working with Owen in the ring. Jerry Lawler decided to go into the ring and see for himself how Owen was doing. He came back and announced to the fans that things did not look good for Owen. Owen was carried out of the ring on a stretcher to an ambulance that would take him to the hospital. Vince was now faced with a difficult situation, either to stop the pay-per-view or continue it. He said Owen would want the pay-per-view to continue but also said if the wrestlers didn't feel up to it, he would understand. The show continued but it was easy to see the wrestlers were having a hard time performing their matches due to what had just happened. Later, Ross announced to the fans that he had some sad news, Owen Hart had died on his way to the hospital.
The next night on RAW™ was dedicated in memory of Owen Hart. To start, the bell rang ten times followed by a minute of silence.
The superstars got to record messages back-stage on RAW™ or at the pay-per-view to talk about Owen and his influence on their own lives. The name of the pay-per-view was entitled Over the Edge. It was rather ironic in that the WWF had driven Owen Hart to go over the edge in real life, which resulted in death.
While Owen was alive he could have expressed to the Company how uncomfortable he was in performing certain stunts, but he didn't do this. Now after Owen's death, the Company indicated that if anyone felt uncomfortable in any way to express their concerns and it would be dealt with.
Quite a few wrestlers attended Owen Hart's funeral, some of which included Vince and the entire McMahon family, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and Hulk Hogan, just to name a few. The church was crowded with people paying their respect to Owen and his family. There were also people outside the church standing in the rain to pay their respect to the family.
Martha, Owen’s wife, and Owen's parents filed a lawsuit against the World Wrestling Federation, the Kemper Arena, the city of Kansas City, and the manufacturer of the harness that was used in the stunt. The lawsuit was settled for about 18 million dollars, plus in the agreement, the WWF was not supposed to use Owen’s name or mention it ever again. This may sound rather confusing, however I will try to explain my view point. On WWE™ TV when they showed matches from the past, wrestlers mentioned Owen's name and actually showed matches that he wrestled in. I do believe that in the agreement, they were not to mention Owen's name or show previous matches. Today this has been adhered to.
Owen will always be remembered as a wonderful practical joker, plus his incredible performance in the ring. This is one of the things that his career as a wrestler and as a person that he will be remembered for. Martha is left now to raise two children without their father. This must be real hard on her but I am sure that she is managing.
has been another commentary for The Canadian Connection by your author,
(This page was last updated on 2007-01-01 )
© 2004 Robin Drodge, All Rights Reserved
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