WWE – Owen Hart – Hart Of Gold (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD/2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 67 minutes approx.
This is probably one of the hardest retrospective releases the WWE has put out, due to the controversy stemming from the tragic passing of its subject, Owen Hart. As we know Owen died after falling seventy feet from the ceiling of the Kemper Arena during a live PPV in May 1999 aged just 34, and while Owen was never considered a top tier star in the WWE, he is still fondly remembered by his peers.
Because Owen’s career isn’t as rich as those enjoyed by others, a somewhat potted history is being presented here, largely due to the lawsuit from Owen’s widow, Martha, over the usage of Owen’s likeness for pure profit by WWE and the staunch distance she has kept between herself and the company.
Sadly this also extends to the rest of the Hart family, who have since made peace with the WWE which Martha resents. Thus the reins have been tightened on how much depth Owen’s life and career can discussed with Bret Hart himself suggesting in interviews that it doesn’t do his brother justice.
That’s the unfortunate part of this release, let’s focus on the positives. For the first time we get to learn a bit more about the guy who began and ended his WWF career as the masked Blue Blazer, yet for many was considered the most gifted wrestler of the Hart family. It’s been well documented that Owen was the last of twelve siblings and while he didn’t initially want to be a wrestler he ended up following his brothers into the ring anyway.
Through interviews with Bret and the other Hart brothers we learn that Owen was breaking out as the top star of the floundering Stampede Wrestling while other family members – Bret, Jim Neidhart, Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid – were making waves in the WWF. From the footage provided we can see that Owen was much more athletic and adopted an aerial style that was parts Lucha Libre and parts Japanese wrestling, along with the mat fundamentals found in amateur and British wrestling.
Very briefly mentioned is how Hart left for New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1987 where he became the first gaijin to hold the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title – defeating no less a man that Hiroshi Hase. A year later he eventually joined the WWF as the Blue Blazer but despite his impressive in ring credentials and exciting highflying manoeuvres (many of which are commonplace today) the character never caught on and by mid 1989 Owen was gone.
A stint in Mexico is glossed over but we do have mention of Owen’s cup of coffee with WCW in 1991 where once again they didn’t anything with him but this was at the end of the Jim Herd era when the company was in a bit of a mess (quelle surprise). By the end of the year Hart was back in WWF and teaming with Jim Neidhart in the New Foundation but The Anvil was soon to be gone from the company and after treading water for a few months, Owen was put into another team, Hi Energy, with Koko B. Ware.
It appears that the central theme for Owen’s career is always the bridesmaid and never the bride. With ringing endorsements of his ring work from Bret, his brothers and other wrestlers both past and present, it seems a mystery that Owen wasn’t more successful than he was; conversely it would seem he was ahead of his time and the rest of the WWF wouldn’t catch up with his style for another few years.
One of the more surprising revelations from Bret Hart is that Bruce Hart was originally to be the brother to turn on Bret at Survivor Series 1993, which is incredulous considering Bruce wasn’t well known to the WWF fans and Owen was the superior worker, not to mention already under contract. Owen was actually about to leave again until Bret talked him into staying to participate in this angle, and you know the rest.
With just 67 minutes to tell the story it moves at a brisk pace with many gaps in Owen’s history while paying lip service to others. The 1994 King Of The Ring win and the unlikely partnership with Yokozuna are both featured (a contribution from Jim Cornette here would have been awesome) before jumping ahead to the great team of Owen and Bulldog which lead to the reformation of the Hart Foundation in 1997.
Discussing Owen’s death is hard for those being interviewed – Natalya has trouble speaking without crying – and while not deliberately manipulative it is hard not to have a lump in your throat during this section. Perhaps tellingly the chosen contribution from Bret Hart here is “it was an accident”, a sly defensive statement by WWE on the dispute between Martha and the company over culpability.
Owen’s legendary sense of humour and practical jokes are a common thread in both the main feature and the stories included in the extras, with a cavalcade of people each with a story to tell. Because of the spectre of Martha’s enmity towards the WWE looming over this project, the whole tone is nothing short of a glowing eulogy with nothing of any contention discussed at all.
There is a fine selection of matches to highlight Owen’s in-ring skills, dating back to Stampede Wrestling, where one opponent, Makhan Singh was Wrestlecrap legend Mike Shaw aka Norman The Lunatic in WCW and Friar Ferguson/Bastion Booger in WWF. The five star Wrestlemania 10 match against Bret is included along with Owen’s KOTR win and a rare Blue Blazer match against Mr. Perfect.
Had Owen Hart retired in 2000 like he aspired to this would have been a very different DVD release. With the restrictions against them the WWE have done as good a job as they could have, serving as a fine reminder as to how underrated Owen was.
1st WWE Match
Bad News Prank
Blue Blazer is Owen
Hacksaw Gym Call
Hundred Dollar Goulet
Getting Pulled Over
Wrestlemania 12 Fan
European Title Match
Spirited Scottish Call
Embracing the Nugget
Venis Super Fan
Stampede Wrestling – December 5 1986 – Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championship Match – Owen Hart (c) vs. Viet Cong Express #1
Stampede Wrestling – May 1988 – North American Heavyweight Championship Match – Owen Hart (c) vs. Makhin Singh
WWF Wrestling Challenge – September 10 1988 – Blue Blazer vs. George South
Meadowlands Arena – May 8 1989 – Blue Blazer vs. Mr. Perfect
World Championship Wrestling – March 16 1991 – Owen Hart vs. Mark Kyle
WWF Wrestling Spotlight – August 28 1993 – WWF IC Match – Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Owen Hart
Wrestlemania X – March 20 1994 – Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart
King of the Ring – June 19 1994 – King of the Ring Finals – Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon
Portland ME – August 17 1994 – WWF Title Lumberjack Match – Bret Hart (c) vs. Owen Hart
Wrestlemania XI Public Workout Times Square NYC – March 28 1995 – Exhibition Match – Owen Hart vs. Nick Barberri
In Your House 2 – July 23 1995 – WWF Tag Title Match – Owen Hart & Yokozuna (c) vs. The Allied Powers
In Your House 6 – February 18 1996 – # 1 Contender for the WWF Championship – Owen Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Monday Night RAW – January 6 1997 – Owen Hart vs. Mankind
Berlin, Germany – February 26 1997 – WWF European Championship Tournament Finals – Owen Hart vs. British Bulldog
Monday Night RAW April 28 1997 – WWF IC Title Match – Rocky Maivia (c) vs. Owen Hart
In Your House 16 – Canadian Stampede – July 6 1997 – The Hart Foundation vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust & Legion of Doom
Monday Night RAW – January 26 1998 – WWF European Title Match – Owen Hart (c) vs. Goldust
WWF Fully Loaded – July 26 1998 – Dungeon Match – Owen Hart vs. Ken Shamrock
WWF Breakdown – September 27 1998 – Owen Hart vs. Edge
MSG December 30th 1988 – Blue Blazer vs. Red Rooster
King Of The Ring – June 19th 1994 – Owen Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid
WWF Monday Night RAW – May 24th 1999 – Tributes to Owen
Rating – ****
Man In Black