Welcome to part seven of whatever-the-fuck-we-are-calling-this. As with most “difficult” topics, Blair A Douglas (of Interinactivity and mydaughtersfuckinghulkhogan.com fame) jumped into the revolving hot-seat.
KON: Do you remember the first time you seen Owen?
BLAIR: I seen him… that is to say I SAW him, in 1991 right around the beginning of the year when my Grandpa got me into wrestling. At the time, Bret had just started a singles run and Jim was on commentary. Before too long, he started teaming with Owen in the WHACKY BAGGY SUSPENDERS OF FUN. When I got into wrestling I started watching older events as well, but of course, back then, no one had any idea that the Blue Blazer was actually Owen Hart.
KON: Yeah, High Energy was how I was introduced to Owen. It wasn’t that bad, considering some of the other gimmicks flying around back then.
BLAIR: Absolutely not. I don’t remember that much about the tag-team, besides the baggy suspenders. I’m just realizing how much of this is going to repeat a lot of what I said during my “Hart Family Legacy” articles, but what I remember happening right after that was Owen teaming with Koko B. Ware, and a 30-second match against Skinner at WrestleMania 8.
KON: It’ll repeat a lot of what I did with Zork as well, like the feud with Bret…
BLAIR: I was a bigger fan of Owen than I ever was of Bret, so I was pretty stoked when Owen started feuding with Bret. It was probably one of the first times I liked a heel wrestler, aside from Ted DiBiase (the good one). I got right into Owen’s side of the argument and everything. I was even disappointed when Bret and Owen mended fences and went for the tag-titles, which of course, only led to my excitement being tripled when Owen turned on him and a high-profile match was set for ‘Mania 10. All that being said, you can imagine how stoked I was when Owen got the clean win.
KON: And then he went on to win King of the Ring.
I’m really surprised that WWE don’t bother with that concept, especially now that they have 3 hours of RAW to fill each week. Antonio Cesaro got nothing out of beating Santino for the US Title on a dark-match, but if he’d won KotR? Hell, TNA seem to be getting a good response to the Glory Series (or they were, before Hardy won)…
Obviously, Owen was following in the footsteps of Bret (maybe a little too much) and got help from Anvil (who interfered in about 70 matches during that PPV), so it wasn’t like he did it all on his own. Still, he went on to challenge Bret for the title in a few gimmick matches before settling for tag-team gold with Yokozuna at Mania XI.
BLAIR: I thought having Anvil come back to help Owen was great, especially when Bulldog came back and stood up for Bret. The series and the slowly-built story that Owen and Bret had that involved some others is something that WWE is lacking these days as well. I thought Owen fit in well in the Camp Cornette quite as well too.
KON: Loved the Cornette stuff. I liked the run with Bulldog, thought they did a really good job of making people care about the European title as well.
BLAIR: Then… Bret turned heel and the Hart’s mended fences. What did you think of that?
KON: The New-Hart Foundation made a lot of sense. They were a Horsemen type group when it came to titles and achievements, they were part of a big family and that kinda boosted the fact that there was something real going on between Bret and Shawn…
They were over as fuck here. Any group with Bulldog would’ve been, but the anti-American thing was kinda easy to get behind if you lived outside that bubble.
As a Canadian, were you loving it?
BLAIR: As I was never a huge fan of Bret, this was easily my favourite thing, storyline-wise, that he ever did. A lot of it had to do with a “Canadian pride” thing, especially after he uttered the famous “I’m not so much anti-American, I’m just really pro-Canadian” line. I went to “Canadian Stampede” PPV when it was here in Calgary, and you’ve never seen as a big a riot as you saw for the Hart Foundation. They beat the shit out of and handcuffed Austin, and he flipped off the crowd as cops took him up the ramp. I swear to God I thought the crowd was going to jump the barricade and lynch him. Austin played it to a tee.
And as well as it worked where I’m from and where you’re from, I think it worked equally well in the US – people HATED the Hart Foundation for being anti-American and being pro-wherever else. I thought it was great – again, it was a unique storyline with geographical factors – how likely we are to see that again in modern-day pro wrestling?
KON: We’d see it again in the early 2000′s over on Nitro, with their biggest storyline culminating in the defection of “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan to Canada (much like Sgt. Slaughter’s Iraqi sympathiser storyline during the Gulf War). TNA had their own Team Canada in ’04, and Mexican America was their most recent attempt at the angle. The “evil foreigners” routine has played out a ridiculous number of times since then (and before), but never reached the same level (aside from Slaughter vs Hogan, which is probably the most successful portrayal of anti-Americanism in the history of pro-wrestling).
What made the Hart story work so well, aside from the family aspect, was that they actually went to Canada. Sheik and Nikolai worked well in their time, but the WWF never did a PPV live from within the Soviet Union, or anywhere in Iran. Again, with the Slaughter thing during the Gulf War, WWF never had any plans to do a tour of Iraq. Having shows in Canada removed the cartoony aspect that prior versions had, and showed that Bret and Co. weren’t just stereotypical heels.
BLAIR: I would have LOVED to see a show live from the Soviet Union or anywhere in Iran back in the day.
KON: A month after Canadian Stampede, Owen botched a piledriver and injured (the kayfabe line was “broken neck”, but who knows?) Austin’s neck. “Owen 3:16: I Just Broke Your Neck” was coined and the two had a really good storyline, where Austin helped Owen capture and hold on to the IC title because he wanted to beat the shit out of him and win back the gold when he was 100%. Austin would do just that at Survivor Series, the night of the Montreal Screwjob…
BLAIR: That story with Owen was an odd one – basically it consisted of one match, Austin getting hurt, coming back, and beating Owen with no issues. It didn’t really go anywhere after that after Montreal. I thought Owen played a great heel and all, I just didn’t think they climaxed the angle very well. After Montreal was when Owen started spiralling through gimmicks like fanboys go through loads when thinking of AJ.
KON: In 1997,
Louis Farrakhan Faarooq Asaad delivered a promo about black supremacy and kicked everyone without “African” blood out of The Nation of Islam Domination. A year later, Owen was running it with The Rock.
At some point during ’98, Owen was wrestling Ken Shamrock in a bunch of gimmick matches, with the biggest one taking place in Stu’s Dungeon. WWE were really trying to do UFC type shit back then, I think Brawl For All happened around the same time.
I enjoyed their match in The Dungeon, but can’t remember much of the rest. Shamrock was like a the prototype version of Heel Angle and Owen came out of it looking good, but Vince decided to throw him together with Jeff “ugh” Jarrett instead of pushing him into the role that’d eventually be filled by The Biggest Nose in the Business. According to HHH himself, Owen was originally going to get the gimmick of “The Cerebral Assassin” and use his intelligence to break opponents, but I’m not sure if this was pre-Jarrett or post-Blazer. I guess we’ll never find out.
BLAIR: I remember Owen becoming a “shoot” fighter – was that before or after he became a white black supremacist and joined the militant gang? I suppose that doesn’t matter – either way, WWE was actually well ahead of the UFC bubble on that one. Also, I’d prefer to forget the “nugget” thing, so thanks for not bringing that up And I agree, sending him in with Jarrett and to do the Blue Blazer thing afterwards does seem like ping-pong booking even by WWE’s standards.
Well, we’re about at the end. There’s only one thing left, and it landed on your turn. I’m pretty happy about that.
KON: Oh, thanks…
Over the Edge took place in Kansas City, Missouri. It was the first WWF PPV to drop the In Your House suffix, and was sold around the Ministry storyline (with The Undertaker lifting the WWF Championship in the main event).
Kane and X-Pac defeated Mark Henry and D’lo in the opener. The second match was for the Hardcore Championship and continued that “great line” of Al Snow vs Bob Holly matches that took place in ’99. As a cool-down after the hardcore match, the Blue Blazer was scheduled to replicate Sting’s entrance, but get stuck about 10ft above the ring. Owen was then supposed to hit the quick-release and pratfall into the ring.
Something went wrong.
Something went horribly wrong.
The harness malfunctioned and Owen fell from an astonishing height, bouncing off the ring-ropes before landing in the ring. He was rushed to hospital and doctors tried to revive him. Jim Ross assured people that it was not an angle and that something serious had happened to Owen. The PPV came to a standstill for around fifteen minutes while Vince and co decided what to do, then Jeff Jarrett and Debra (who had been working with Owen for the past year or so) faced Val Venis and Nicole Bass in a mixed-tag match. Roughly an hour later, Jim Ross informed viewers at home that Owen had died.
I did not watch the PPV, I had school on the Monday and these things start at 1am GMT. People knew it had happened though, they must’ve searched for PPV results when they got up in the morning or something. It’s the kind of thing you hear and think “No way, that’d never happen”, but then the newspapers ran the story and we knew it wasn’t someone on the internet making things up.
Owen was 34 years old at the time of his death. He had won the King of the Ring tournament once, the European Championship once, the IC Title twice and the World Tag Team Championship four times.
BLAIR: I read it in the paper the following morning, and watched the tribute show the following night. It was very well done, and the first of it’s kind. Looking at his title history you mentioned, I always thought that there were a couple occasions where Owen should have been World Champion. One was during the height of his feud with Bret, where I felt that he could have won it and lost it back to his brother. The other would be after Bret left the WWE – it would certainly have been interesting. More than that though, much like Mr. Perfect, I just felt he was way too good a wrestler to not have had it at least once.
KON: Although the WWF was moving in that kind of direction over the last 5-10 years, it wasn’t until 2004 or so that they’d let a little guy lift the main title(s). It’s a shame we never got to see Owen v Eddie, Benoit, Jericho or Angle. When you think about all the talent WWF/E hired in the years following the tragedy, his best matches really were ahead of him.
Two children lost their father that night, and a wife, her husband. A lot of people lost a very good friend as well. You’ll struggle to find a harsh word about the man in any books or interviews featuring wrestlers from that era.
BLAIR: I say that if Bret and Shawn were champs, Owen could have been too. I also would have loved to see Owen against all those names you mentioned. No question at all that his best years were ahead of him.
Next time I vote we do a subject that’s not depressing on this level. I mean, it’s not even like we’re doing just dead wrestlers. That would be depressing or not. We’re doing the tragic death broadcast on PPV and the murderer. Anyway, thanks for having me, Mr. Shaw.
KON: Thanks for taking part, Blair.
Snap into a Slim Jim! – With Gepp and KON (Randy Savage)
****** – With Blair A. Douglas and KON (Chris Benoit)
Rest in Peace – With Gojira and KON (The Undertaker)
Hulkamania – With CB and KON (Hulk Hogan)
Destrucity – With CB and KON (The Ultimate Warrior)
Tags: Blair A. Douglas, Bret Hart, Brian Pillman, Davey Boy Smith, Faarooq, Jeff "ugh" Jarrett, Jim Cornette, Jim Neidhart, King of the Ring, Koko B. Ware, KON, Over The Edge, Owen Hart, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Nation of Domination, The Rock, WWE, Yokozuna