Growing up in Central Canada, options were limited for a young wrestling fan in the early 80s. We pretty much just had the AWA which had run forever on one of the local channels. In, or around, 1986, Vince McMahon and the WWF bought the time slot and a lot of the stars I had grown up with in the AWA eventually, and in some cases immediately, made their way into the WWF.
The advent of sports cable television exposed us to many new things and when I subscribed to TSN, one of the shows I watched religiously was Stampede Wrestling from Calgary. I had heard about it in wrestling magazines but was thrilled to actually be able to watch it on a regular basis. My favorite act to watch every week was Bad Company, a tag team featuring Brian Pillman and Bruce Hart, as well as singles star and Bruce’s younger brother Owen.
Owen was a guy I really identified with. He was not much older than me and looked like he was probably around the same size, although with a much thicker build. But he was what I could be if I trained (at least in my mind). He was also spectacular to watch and had something unique about him that I can’t put into words but it definitely drew me to him.
I continued to follow him when he joined the WWF. I wasn’t a fan of his original Blue Blazer gimmick even though I do realize that’s where most were probably introduced to him. I was much happier when he took off the mask and just wrestled as himself In a tag team with Koko B. Ware. When he split up with his brother Bret in storyline and was about to get his first big push in the WWF, I was so happy. I had never really liked Bret as I found his style boring and didn’t like the fact he called himself “the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.” I thought that was arrogant and not only that, I didn’t think it was true.
When Owen beat Bret in the opening match at WrestleMania X, I had never been happier as a wrestling fan. I identified with Owen so much and to have him get such a big win on such a big stage thrilled me beyond belief. When Bret went on to lose his title and then Owen won the King of the Ring and he used the line “Bret, you’re a loser and I’M A KING,”… man, I loved that so much.
A few years later when the Hart Foundation reunited, I became a fan of Bret’s for the first time because I finally felt he was on the right side of things while teaming with his brother. My absolute favourite period as a wrestling fan was mid-1997 when the Hart Foundation was running roughshod over the WWF. It started to fall apart when Brian Pillman died and then Bret left for WCW and it was never the same
When Owen brought back the Blue Blazer gimmick in 1999, I was again not happy. I just wanted him to wrestle as himself. They were always teasing that it wasn’t actually Owen under the mask even though it was obvious it was him. But when he had his unfortunate accident, I was praying that was one of the times it actually wasn’t him under the mask and he wasn’t gone. But it was and he was.
I cried for days and a big part of my wrestling fandom died on that day in May of 1999. I will never forget Owen Hart and until the day I die, he will be my favorite wrestler of all-time.
Owen “The Slammy Award Winning Rocket King of Harts” flies with the angels now.