Owen Hart: Gone but Never Forgotten

In so many ways 1999 seems like a lifetime ago. I was in my early twenties and had not a care in the world . I was the wrestling guy amoungst my friends and would consistently be quizzed as wrestling was HOT at the time. We would all gather at the pub and the place would be packed with people there to watch the Pay Per Views. It was there I watched as Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler made the announcement. I was in shock.

I grew up a fan of wrestling in Eastern Canada but we had access to watching Stampede Wrestling on the national sports channel TSN. I moved to Calgary in time to see Owen Hart in matches live against Makkan Singh and Johnny Smith, amoungst others but it was reading an Apter Mag that Owen Hart became my favorite wrestler. It was in this magazine that I discovered that Owen and I have the same birthday. This was the spark that started my Owen-mania.

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From that point on I followed all of Owen’s career. From Stampede, to Japan, to WCW, and his first run as the Blue Blazer. I loved everything Owen did in his career early on, to the point that I was really looking forward to Owen Hart as The Blue Blazer going one on one with Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig.  In hindsight I should have known better than to think that an undercard match at Wrestlemania 5 would be given more than a few minutes but I was a blind loyalist fan at the time.

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When he returned to WWF as part of the New Foundation, I liked it. Just a lowwer card tag team I grant you, but it was Owen not under a mask.  I took this an an improvement and knew that sheer talent alone would get Owen farther than the New Foundation. Same thing with High Energy. And those gave us the greatest pants in wrestling history!!

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After High Energy quietly went away, Owen coasted along the opening of the cards, I mostly remember him putting over a debuting Bastion Booger and how I was interested to see the Owen-Singh feud reprised a bit in WWF. It was the Survivor Series 1993 that really got me excited for both before and after the match. Thanks to the WWE Network, I have just been able to rewatch the RAWs leading up to and the fallout of the Owen heel turn on Bret from Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble. As a fan, I was excited for Owen’s first big push and when he actually beat Bret at Wrestlemania X, I was in shock. The story of the show was so great with Owen winning the opening match over Bret and Bret still standing tall as the new WWF champion at the end of the show. The run of title matches was a natural and when Owen won the 1994 King of the Ring you could not take the smile off of my face. Well, Art Donovan might have had a little to do with that as well.

King Owen

I won’t go into the great cage match or the rest of Owen’s career moment by moment but they are just so many great things that I can remember. His tag team runs with Yokozuna and Davey Boy Smith were great. Owen’s “I’m the leader, leave us alone” line at Wrestlemania 13 makes me laugh every time I hear or think about it. He was a hilarious promo. In fact, I am staring at two Slammy Awards in my office right now….a direct result of that classic Owen Hart promo. The European Title tournament final match against The British Bulldog is one of my non-Bret Hart Owen matches ever.

As a Calgarian, the reunion of Bret and Owen and the Hart Foundation era is my favorite time in wrestling. Being able to attend In Your House: Canadian Stampede live was awesome and the pop that the Harts received was beyond roof blowing!! The highlight for me, ofcourse, was Owen rolling up Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Hart family all coming into the ring to end the show. The sight of Owen with his family, especially now, is both joyeous and heartbreaking at the same time.

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But my all time favorite memory is the time that I met Owen. It was completely by chance. In 1996 I was delivering pizza for Domino’s and we did lunch orders every Thursday for a local school. Growing up in Calgary, it wasn’t unusual for one of the Hart brothers to be one of our substitute teachers on occasion. As it turned out, one of the brothers was teaching at this school and as I was walking out after dropping off the pizza I opened the front door only to be staring right at Owen! After a 15 second moment of shock I looked back up at Owen’s smiling face. He acknowledge me and the fact that I clearly knew who he was. I told him I was a huge fan and that I loved his work. And then Owen did something that I will never forget. He took his hand off the door, allowing it to close, and shook my hand and said thank you. We talked for 2-3 minutes only, despite it feeling to me like 2-3 hours, about the Blue Blazer, his Stampede Wrestling matches with Mikhan Singh, and his current WWF run with Davey Boy. After that he shook my hand again, thanked me for watching and said “watch me get my hands on that no good brother of mine Bret”, winked and continued on his way.

What struck me most about Owen was his genuine personality. He took the time to have a real conversation and was not put out in the least by this bumbling, starstruck fan standing in front of him. My birthday is generally a joyeous occasion, but there is never a year that goes by that I don’t take the time to sit back and remember Owen. Gone but definately not forgotten. We lost one of the greats not in the wrestling business but in this world. I inspire to be half the family man that Owen was and think of him often when it comes to putting family first.  I always will remember Edge’s remarks on the RAW is OWEN tribute show “When I think of Owen, I smile”. Truer words have not been spoken.

 Rest in Peace and I miss you everyday.

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