May 23, 2019 marks the twentieth anniversary of one of professional wrestling’s greatest tragedies, the death of WWF Superstar the rocket Owen Hart. Hart was only 34 years old at the time of his passing. A stunt gone horribly wrong. Owen was to portray his Blue Blazer alter-ego character and propel from the rafters in a super hero style entrance. WCW wrestler, Sting had made numerous similar entrances over the previous two years without incident. However, Hart was very hesitant to the extent of even trying to avoid rehearsals telling a friend that if he wasn’t there WWF would have no choice but to cancel the stunt. Owen’s friends and family have claimed that WWF Chairman Vince McMahon threatened to terminate Owen’s contract if he didn’t perform the stunt. While this was most likely an empty threat, it convinced Owen to perform the stunt albeit with great hesitation.
Owen Hart was scheduled to wrestle in the third match of the night’s WWF Over The Edge PPV event. The camera was to show him mid-entrance repealing from the ceiling. However, as WWF lead announcer Jim Ross was previewing Owen’s upcoming match he stated on the air, “We have serious problems out here folks.” Owen had fallen approximately 65 feet to his eventual demise. The camera was focused on a stunned live audience as Ross explained to the television audience that Hart had fallen and this wasn’t part of the show. Approximately 90 minutes later, Ross had the heartbreaking task of announcing to the television audience that Owen had died.
Owen’s death still causes controversy today as his widow Martha will not allow WWE to profit off of his likeness in anyway including inducting Owen into the company’s Hall of Fame. Regardless of his tragic death, Owen Hart leaves a legacy that no wrestling fan or colleague at the time will ever forget.
For those wrestling fans no familiar with Owen’s work, here are five matches to check out that really showcases Owen’s brilliance.
1. The Hart Family vs. Shawn Michaels & his Knights (Survivor Series, November 24, 1993)
The match that started one of the best WWF feuds of the 90’s. It was a traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match pitting Owen Hart teaming with brothers Bret, Bruce, & Keith against Bret’s rival Shawn Michaels and three masked knights. The Hart family dominated the match; however, one mistake by the Harts seemed to confirm the talks of Owen being in Bret’s shadow, at least in Owen’s mind.
2. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart (WrestleMania X, March 14, 1994)
One of the greatest matches in WWF history, the Hart Brothers proved why they were two of the best wrestlers in the world. The storyline going into WrestleMania was that WWF Champion Yokozuna was scheduled to defend the WWF Championship twice. First against Lex Luger, then against Bret Hart in the final match of the night. Since the match against Hart would be Yokozuna’s second match of the night, WWF President Jack Tunney ruled that Hart must have a first match as well and named Owen Bret’s opponent. Regardless of the setup, this is a match any wrestling fan needs to see.
3. WWF Champion Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart in a Steel Cage Match (Summerslam, August 29, 1994)
This was the highly anticipated rematch from WrestleMania. After Owen defeated Bret in the opening match, Bret went on to win the WWF Championship in the main event. Owen Hart would go on to win The King of the Ring tournament in June and christened himself The King of Hearts. Owen would finally earn his WWF Championship Match against Bret, but WWF officials decided to make it a Steel Cage Match. The Hart Brothers went on to produce another all-time classic that some would say was the best steel cage match of all time.
4. The British Bulldog vs. Owen Hart in the finals of The WWF European Championship Tournament (RAW, March 3, 1997)
This was the finals of a tournament to crown the WWF’s first European Champion. Owen Hart would do battle with brother in law and Tag Team Championship partner, the British Bulldog. The two men put on an all-time classic that several people feel is the best match to ever air on Monday Night RAW. Regardless of being interrupted by commercials, this match was still a classic.
5. The Hart Foundation vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Golddust, & The Legion Of Doom (In Your House Canadian Stampede, July 6, 1997)
In 1997, the WWF was positioning the Hart Family as heroes in Canada, and internationally, and villains in the United States because of the Harts disdain for the fans thinking Bret was becoming a cry baby. Bret realized that he was no longer going to give the American fans the satisfaction of seeing his family fight, so Bret, Owen, and Davey Boy reconciled their differences to from The New Hart Foundation and would later be joined by Jim Neidhart and Brian Pillman. This match was the main event of the In Your House Canadian Stampede PPV in Calgary Alberta, Canada. The Harts were hometown heroes took on five of America’s best, and after being injured at the beginning of the match, Owen Hart would return and pick up the win.
Rest in Peace Owen Hart, you will never be forgotten.