Owen Hart's Death 20 Years Later
Source: WWE via IMDb.com
It's May 24, 1999, and I just got home from school. The channel is set to Global, as I watched the Simpsons the night earlier before I went to bed. I was getting ready to have some dinner as the 6 o'clock news came on. Their top story was the death of Owen Hart. I was shocked and so was my dad. I didn't have the internet and I didn't know what had happened at WWE's (WWF's Over the Edge) pay-per-view the night before, but hearing the death of Owen Hart was hard for me to swallow. At the time of Owens death, I was nearly 8 years old, and I always thought that wrestlers were these invincible beings. That night I watched Monday night Raw like I did every Monday night, but this episode was different.
At the beginning of the show, you could see wrestlers standing at the top of the ramp as they do the 10 bell salute. Seeing wrestlers show their emotions outside of their characters was something that I've never seen before. Wrestlers were talking about Owen Hart from their standpoint as a person and not the character they portrayed on tv. HHH, who for the better part of to two years was one of Owens biggest rival's on tv, it was just little bit over a year when both men faced off at Wrestlemania for the European Championship, his eyes were red and watery and said how he loved Owen and thought he was like a brother to him. The reality was setting in, and as a fan, it was emotional as it could get. Many wrestlers like Jeff Jarrett and Mark Henry said heartwarming things about Owen Hart as well.
He was respected and liked by everyone. You couldn't find anybody talking bad about Owen. The Owen tribute show is one of the most emotional wrestling shows you could ever watch.
He was also a notorious prankster pulling pranks on his colleagues. One of my favourite pranks that I read was Owen bringing the Godwinn's pigs into Vince McMahon's office. Every time I read that story I always laugh and picture Vince McMahon yelling "dammit Owen!".
Owen Hart's passing was one of the darkest moments in wrestling history. At the time of the Monday Night War, both WWE and WCW tried to one-up each other every night for ratings and entertainment. Sometimes the outcome was awesome, other times things were uncomfortable. While the Attitude Era was a hot period in wrestling it also pushed a lot of boundaries in some negative ways. Road Warrior Hawk's character tried to commit suicide on tv, Scott Hall's real life drinking problem was being used on tv in front of millions. The third wrestling brand ECW, who were gaining a lot of attention too at the time, had Sandman crucified on the cross in Jesus Christ-like fashion.
At any rate, it was well known Owen was uncomfortable with heights, but with two years left in his contract and the security of his family on the line, Owen felt like he had to do it. We’ve seen wrestlers harnessed down from the rafters to the ring before. Sting in WCW and Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 12. While it is a spectacle to watch, it's still a dangerous risk for any superstar. Owen's death showed that any small mishap could end somebody's life. While many in the crowd thought it was an act, the WWE knew the severity of the situation and decided to have the show go on. Many felt like it was a poor decision and it's clear to see why.
What’s most tragic about all of this is Owen and his wife, Martha, along with their two kids were going to move into their new house the week after the pay-per-view. He was going to retire after his contract was up and enjoy his life with his family.
In the aftermath, Martha sued the WWE for 18 million dollars. And since then Owen's likeness has been limited within the WWE Universe. Other than WWF Attitude, which was dedicated to Owen, we haven't seen much of him. He hasn't been in any game, movie, or documentary under the WWE banner. If it wasn't for the WWE Network, or the Hart legacy, new fans wouldn't have much access to Owen's wrestling library.
For the most part Martha Hart is in control of Owen's likeness, and you could understand her reluctance to allow the WWE back into her family's life. However, Mark Henry pleaded with her to allow her husband into the WWE Hall of Fame during his induction speech last year, so who knows, maybe we get to finally see Owen inducted. Needless to say he deserves it.
To this day many wrestlers have been influenced by Owen Hart. WWE superstar Kevin Owens has said that Owen was his favourite wrestler growing up and named his son after him. Daniel Bryan has also been influenced by Owen and his brother Bret. To most, Bret vs Owen at Wrestlemania 10 is still regarded as one of the best matches in Wrestlemania history. Owen was a gifted wrestler in the ring. He was a great technical wrestler and was exciting to watch in the ring or on the mic.
Every once in a while I'll watch 1997 and 1998 Monday Night Raw. I'll reminisce and watch Owen Hart and the Hart Foundation in the WWF. I also enjoyed Owen's entertaining feud against Stone Cold Steve Austin and HHH during that time. I still feel like a kid watching those moments. For me it never gets old. If you’ve never watched an Owen Hart match I suggest you should, he had great matches against Shawn Michaels, the British Bulldog, 1-2-3 kid and of course against his brother Bret. The night Owen died wrestling lost a big heart.