Owen James Hart. Ten Years On.
I begin my contributions to this site in perhaps the most unfortunate of ways. In the two months I have been a member of this network, I have often felt I should sit down and share with the world, but nothing has really compelled me to do so. That is, of course, until this weekend.
Saturday just passed, the 23rd of May, the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of Owen Hart. In most cases, the loss of human life is a tragedy, I think that is taken for a given, but the weight of tragedy in terms of personal grief and, of course, shared grief, is sometimes different.
On May 23rd, 1999, for the first time in my short life, I felt true grief. I was nine years old back then and my uncle used to tape the Wrestling PPVs and let me watch them after school the next day. I'm sure most people know how Owen's life was taken from this mortal realm, but what many people have difficulty with is expressing their feelings of when Jim Ross broke the news.
As a small boy, I felt my little heart break instantly.
Jim Ross had called some of Owen's very earliest TV matches in America in 1991 with WCW and had become friends of the Hart family over the years and I could sense in Ross' voice that his heart had broken, too.
Before he'd even finished the word 'died', I pressed the "stop" button on the remote control and broke down in tears. I'd never met Owen Hart personally, but he'd been a part of my life in a big way since I was four years of age. I felt I did know him.
Owen was the only reason I continued to watch the (then) WWF, having stayed up to watch Survivor Series 1997 in Montreal and not wanting to continue support for a company that could do that to anyone, let alone Bret Hart. But, I loved Owen probably as much as I did Bret as a child that I continued to watch in support of him.
In 1997, just after the Canadian Stampede PPV (the first ever Wrestling video I bought myself), I asked my mother to take me for a hair cut because I wanted to look like Owen Hart, as both had blonde hair and blue eyes.
He first swaggered into my life, with a big cheeky grin and a child-like innocence in his big, blue eyes as the younger brother of my favourite Wrestler Bret Hart. This was in the run-up to the 1994 Royal Rumble (If you remember, they had Owen turn Heel and beat Bret cleanly at 'Mania X) and I soon adopted Owen into my small circle of 'favourites'.
Despite his heel turn, I still 'marked' for Owen, and would cheer for him, even against the true babyfaces (bare in mind, I was a true mark til about '97, so that was not a luxury afforded to many, if any, others).
Owen continued to entertain and educate me as I continued to study wrestling throughout my formative years. Owen was smaller than most of his opponents, which is something I expected to be if I was ever to be a Wrestler. Therefore, like his brother, I studied the younger Hart's matches closer than most others, as I felt it would be in those matches that I would learn how to work a match against bigger opponents.
Owen was a true Pro; he really made opponents look like a million dollars - or, if he felt, cheaper than spit, done well, so that only 'the guys in the back' would notice, for their amusement.
Mick Foley and The Rock both wrote warmly and, often, humourously about him in their autobiographies and there are literally websites full of amusing Owen Hart tales; from prank phone calls to 'borrowed' watches, bad matches to good parenting, Owen was much loved and respected by, it seems, everyone who ever came into (even partial) contact with him.
In recent times, people have began to push for Owen's induction into the Hall Of Fame and some people have (wrongly) criticised Martha for her alleged part in the lack of such a ceremony.
In fairness, and truth, Martha disliked Wrestling as a profession for her husband, so it is only natural she isn't going to be happy about the manner of which her young, healthy husband was taken from her.
But, let us fans not be selfish; Owen was on the road in the 90's when the WWF did more overseas tours, more TV Tapings, more House shows than at any point in their history. As fans, it wouldn't be flippant to assume we saw more of Owen on TV than his wife and children did at the dinner table; Martha had to share Owen with us in life, the least we owe her is some private grief in his death.
A Hall Of Fame induction won't bring Owen back, nor will a lack thereof take away our memories of Owen; if it isn't to be, it just isn't to be. Owen will continue to live on in our hearts regardless and there is no doubt in my mind that Owen is currently having five- star matches in that big 'sqaured circle' in the sky with Davey, Brian, Chris Benoit, Stu and so many other brothers who left before the part is over. No doubt, either, that he has pulled a few ribs on them in the last decade.
I would like to point readers towards YouTube and the Raw Is Owen that aired on 24/05/99 and listen to the truly heartbreaking and, pardon the pun, raw feelings expressed by Owen's peers for an indication of the man we still miss to this day.
I think Kevin Nash put it best when he said "Heaven must have been looking for a first- class angel, because they sure got one in Owen".
Sleep well, Owen. We still love you. x
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