Wrestler of the Day – May 7: Owen Hart

Today is someone who truly did die too young: Owen Hart.

Obviously Owen got his start in his dad’s company and would become the North American Heavyweight Champion. Here’s a title defense against Bad News Allen from some point in the mid-80s.

North American Heavyweight Title: Bad News Allen vs. Owen Hart

We’re joined about ten minutes in (a common practice for Stampede) with Owen hitting a flip splash for two and cranking on Allen’s neck. A legdrop gets two on Allen and Owen stomps away but gets caught in the ribs to knock him into the ribs. Hart gets two off an atomic drop and drops an elbow for the same. We hit a Boston crab on Allen as this has been one sided so far.

Allen powers out and hammers away but a single uppercut drops him for two. The announcer tells us that Owen was dominated the first few minutes of the match but has been in full control ever since. A tombstone plants Allen but he gets his knees up to block a top rope splash. Allen comes back with a slam but gets tossed off the top. Hart nips up but gets caught by a belly to belly suplex. The fans are entirely behind Owen here and he comes back with a spinning cross body off the top but Makhan Singh (a monster) comes in for the DQ.

Rating: C+. Nice match here with Owen’s high flying being complimented by some surprising power. Allen was on defense far more than I was expecting here and the inconclusive ending keeps the door open for a rematch before Owen goes after Singh, which would be a huge feud.

Owen would head to the WWF soon after this and be put under a mask as the Blue Blazer, a superhero. From Superstars in 1988.

Barry Horowitz vs. Blue Blazer

The Blazer backflips into the ring and actually impresses Ventura. A springboard hiptoss puts Barry down and an armdrag sets up an armbar. Vince: “Jesse your career was mediocre at best.” Jesse: “At least I had one.” Barry comes back with a running knee to the ribs and a knee drop for two but the Blazer gets the same off a cross body out of the corner. A missile dropkick sets up a belly to belly which sets up a moonsault to pin Horowitz. Too short to rate but the Blazer looked AWESOME.

The Blazer would face newcomer Mr. Perfect at Wrestlemania V.

Mr. Perfect vs. Blue Blazer

That would be Owen Hart in a kind of superhero gimmick that eventually led to his death. Perfect is pretty new here too and I believe is debuting his singlet look. Hennig hits a quick hiptoss that doesn’t do much at all. Blazer blocks a slap and takes Perfect down to stagger Hennig a bit.

They slightly botch a flip out of a hiptoss and Blazer dropkicks Perfect to the floor. Blazer hits a quick hiptoss (why is that so popular here?) of his own and a dropkick for no cover. A modified northern lights suplex gets two for Blue but a top rope splash hits knees. Off to a reverse chinlock for a few moments by Perfect but Blazer fights up and hits a standing powerslam and a belly to belly for two each. A crucifix gets two more but Blazer spends too long arguing with the referee and the PerfectPlex ends this clean.

Rating: C+. This match is popular for some reason but it’s only pretty good. Owen would get to show off a lot better later on and the Blazer gimmick didn’t stick around that long. The ending here was clean too which is what Perfect would get quite often around this time. He wouldn’t really do anything of note for about a year though until having a house show feud with Hogan.

After doing very little in 1990, Owen would head to WCW for a short run in 1991, including this match on Worldwide on March 30, 1991.

Owen Hart vs. Pat Rose

Some hiptosses and armdrags set up a dropkick to send Rose to the mat. Rose cranks on Owen’s arm but Hart does the spin up to take over. The springboard hiptoss followed by a gutwrench suplex have Pat in even more trouble. Owen enziguris him down and it’s a missile dropkick into a bad looking top rope spinning cross body to complete the squash.

Owen would head back to the WWF in 1992 and hook up with Jim Neidhart as New Foundation. They had a match at Royal Rumble 1992.

Orient Express vs. New Foundation

It’s Owen/Neidhart as the Foundation here. Owen and Kato start thing off here. All four guys look like they’re in pajamas here. Owen takes him down to the mat by the arm before climbing up the ropes (not in the corner mind you but just the ropes) to backflip into the ring for an armdrag. A rana puts Kato down and it’s off to Neidhart vs. Tanaka. Tanaka gets run over as well, so here’s Owen to beat him up.

Tanaka gets caught by an enziguri and it’s back to Neidhart. The Express gets clotheslined down by Jim and Owen adds a double cross body for two. A spinwheel kick gets the same for Hart so Kato tries to come in sans tag. The distraction lets Fuji hit Owen with the cane to finally give the Express control. Tanaka hooks a chinlock as this isn’t exactly as fast paced as last year’s opener.

Owen gets to do Bret’s chest to the buckle bump before charging into a superkick in the other corner for two. After Kato comes in and does nothing, here’s Tanaka again for a headbutt to the abdomen. A chinlock goes nowhere but a headbutt gets two on Owen. Neidhart gets the tag but the referee doesn’t see it of course. The distraction allows Fuji to put the cane on the corner and Owen’s shoulder goes through it in a loud crunch.

It only gets two though as Owen gets a leg over the rope. Kato channels his inner Anderson with a hammerlock slam before it’s back to Tanaka. Owen finally escapes and things break down for a bit, resulting in a double clothesline for two on Hart. A superkick to the chest doesn’t put Owen down, but Tanaka jumping over Kato to land on Hart’s back does. Hart comes back with a dropkick to take out both members of the Express at once. There’s the hot tag to Neidhart and house is cleaned. Owen dives onto Kato before a Rocket Launcher gets the pin on Tanaka.

Rating: B-. Decent match here but it felt like they were trying to do the same match that worked so well in 1991. The problem was the Express wasn’t anything that good anymore and the team was gone almost immediately after this. Either way, the match wasn’t bad and it’s fine for an opener. The New Foundation never quite did anything until 1994 when Owen was a heel.

Later in the year, Owen would start teaming with his brother Bret as an occasional tag team. From November 14, 1993.

Bret Hart/Owen Hart vs. Well Dunn

It’s Timothy Well and Steven Dunn because the WWF was stupid in this era. Dunn and Owen get things going with Steven easily being taken to the mat. Off to Bret who hammers away on the arm. JR and Heenan talk about Jerry Lawler getting destroyed at the Survivor Series, though this was probably taped well in advance of the change to the match. Well comes in and gets hammered by both Harts with Owen working over the arm. Dunn makes a blind tag and clotheslines Owen down before choking away.

We take a break and come back with Owen in a chinlock. That of course doesn’t last long as Heenan talks about Owen being tied up on a leash when the Hart Family dog ran away. Owen cleans house and dives over for a tag off to Bret. Everything breaks down and the Five Moves of Doom take care of Dunn for the submission.

Rating: D+. This was exactly what you would expect which means it was rather dull. Well Dunn stuck around for awhile and never got past this level. To be fair though, when your name makes Pretty Wonderful look good, you can’t really expect to get that high up on the card. Nothing match.

Next up is Wrestlemania X, due to all of the issues with the Hart Brothers and Owen thinking he was stuck in Bret’s shadow. This is Owen’s crowning achievement.

Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart

For reasons I’m not clear on, the Fink isn’t the announcer tonight. They lock up to start and Owen shoves Bret away, earning himself some celebrating. Bret takes him down to the mat but Owen escapes and celebrates again. Back to the mat for some amateur stuff but Owen grabs the rope. Owen tries to take it to the mat but Bret easily counters to send him out to the floor. Back in and Owen slaps him in the face to fire up his older brother.

More amateur stuff ensues and Owen gets to do his spinning counter to a wristlock, only to pull Bret down by the hair. Bret channels his inner Shawn and nips up before getting two off a rollup. Bret takes over with an armbar and a clothesline to send Owen out to the floor. Back in again and Bret slaps the blonde Hart before rolling him up for two. Bret hooks the armbar again before getting two off a crucifix. We’re about five minutes into this now and there is absolutely nothing to complain about. They get up again and Owen hits a sweet spinwheel kick to take over before stomping Bret to the floor.

Owen rams Bret back first into the post as the anger is starting to seep out. A backbreaker sets up a camel clutch back inside as Lawler is loving this. Owen yells at his brother in a great touch to the evilness. Bret breaks it pretty quickly but walks into a belly to belly suplex for two. A cross body by Owen is rolled through by Bret for two but Owen goes straight to the back again. Owen hits a German suplex for two and drops a leg on the back of Bret’s head for two more.

Bret tries to spin out of a suplex but gets caught in a tombstone. Owen goes up top but misses a swan dive, giving Bret the breather that he’s been needing. Bret starts firing back and gets two each off a clothesline and a Russian legsweep. There’s the backbreaker followed by the middle rope elbow for two more. It’s Sharpshooter time but Owen pops up and hits the enziguri to put Bret down.

Another Sharpshooter attempt is countered by Owen and a rollup gets two on Bret. This is very fast paced stuff. Owen heads to the floor and we get LUCHA BRET as he takes out his brother. He hurts his knee in the process though and Owen is very happy. Back inside and Owen goes for the leg, wrapping it around the post a few times because that’s what villains do. Off to an inverted Indian Deathlock by Owen but he lets it go before too long.

There’s a yet to be named dragon screw leg whip followed by a Figure Four (wrong leg of course) as Bret is in big trouble. Bret reverses and rolls into the ropes to break the hold but his knee is gone. An enziguri finally puts Owen down and buys big brother a breather. A headbutt puts Owen down again and there’s the chest first into the buckle bump for Owen. A bulldog gets two on Owen as does a sweet piledriver.

There’s a superplex for a delayed two as Jerry Lawler is freaking out. A sleeper is quickly broken up by a hidden low blow from Owen and it’s time for the Sharpshooter on Bret. The older Hart slaps the mat but it doesn’t mean anything yet. Bret reverses into a Sharpshooter of his own but Owen is right in front of the ropes. Owen charges into a boot in the corner so Bret loads up a rollup, but Owen counters into a cradle for the 100% clean pin.

Rating: A+. If there’s a better opening match anywhere, I’d love to see it. This was Owen’s coming out party and he looked excellent in doing it. Bret has no shame in losing here as he didn’t so much get beat as much as he got caught. This set up a great feud over the summer for the title between these two, but it never reached this level again. There was some DEEP psychology going on out there with Bret being hesitant to fight his brother and Owen using the advantage to catch Bret in a wrestling move, all on top of the leg injury. Excellent match and one of the best ever.

Owen was officially on a roll as he entered the 1994 King of the Ring. Here’s the final.

King of the Ring Finals: Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon

Like I said, the finals were about as predictable as you ever could imagine. Only the Harts can manage to make pink look cool. I think Razor has worn different color tights in every match which someone always does. Ok, right there, Razor shows that he’s at least somewhat intelligent as he does something very smart. Owen goes for a crossbody and Razor was supposed to catch him for the fallaway slam that he does.

They botch it as Owen either doesn’t get high enough or Razor couldn’t get him up enough, but one way or another they messed it up. So what does Razor do? Does he complete the spot anyway but make it look like crap? Nope, instead he sets Owen down and does a regular slam. See, that right there is what you call intelligence and being on your game in a match. See, if they had done the spot anyway, it would have looked bad.

Instead we get a much more basic, yet still completely believable and FAR better executed spot that worked just as well. Razor was smart there and it made things look much better. That’s a great sign. In kind of a tell tale sign, we can see the announcers and Gorilla and Savage are looking down at the monitors as most commentators do while Donovan is looking at the ring.

If nothing else he’s trying. I can’t fault Donovan for not trying. He’s done what he could all night, but it just isn’t working. He’s simply too old and confused here without having enough on camera presence to pull this off. I will say this though: he doesn’t sound bored or miserable about being there, which makes up for a lot. I’ve said this many times: if you don’t want to be there, leave.

The best example of a guy that clearly wanted to be there and was having a lot of fun doing this is Ray Combs from Survivor Series 93. He was a horrible announcer with some of his jokes and misunderstanding of the rules, but dang he was having a blast out there and he didn’t get in the way of the match at all. That’s how you do guest commentary. He added stuff where he could and he made the match a bit more fun.

The key though: he was having a good time, or at least made you believe he was. That’s all I ask. Owen puts on an abdominal stretch and two things come to my attention. First of all, he grabs the rope for additional leverage. The thing is, to me it looks like that’s taking pressure off of Razor. Owen is less than a foot from the ropes as he doesn’t even have to extend his arm to get to them, so how much help is that giving him?

Also, in something that actually made me laugh out loud, he hooks the toe around Razor’s leg which is the common criticism from Gorilla. Ok, so for once we have the perfect abdominal stretch. Gorilla should be happy right? I quote, “This is a mistake by Owen because this hold isn’t going to work on a guy like Razor no matter how well you put it on.” It’s official: Monsoon can never be satisfied, period.

He spends nearly 20 years complaining about no one ever hooking the leg around and the first time anyone does, the hold is worthless anyway. That’s just awesome on about a million levels. After Razor makes his comeback, Jim Neidhart makes his second run in of the night and beats up Razor. A top rope elbow from Owen gives him the win. A Hart Attack follows and Owen is crowned King. He names himself the King of Harts which was his nickname for a very long time.

Rating: C+. Eh, this was ok I guess. Both guys were a bit tired, but the biggest problem was that I don’t think anyone believed that Razor was going to win this. It was always going to be Owen and that was clear for weeks leading into this. The match was ok enough but it still wasn’t great. For a final though with a given ending, this was ok. Both guys were fairly sharp in the ring, so I’ll let this one get by. It wasn’t great, but I’ve seen far worse matches.

Owen would pick up the feud with Bret again at Summerslam 1994.

WWF World Title: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart

It’s escape only to win. Owen jumps him as soon as Bret is inside the cage, raining down right hands in the corner. Bret comes back with an atomic drop and a clothesline as their parents are watching in the front row. Owen pulls Bret down as he tries to climb out before going for a climb of his own. Bret pulls him back down and goes for the door, only to be pulled back in as well. We’re still very early in the match at this point.

Bret keeps lunging for the door but Owen keeps pulling him back in. They swap the roles for the next turn but Owen still can’t escape. With the door closed Bret tries to climb out, only to be slammed off the cage wall. Owen climbs up and manages to get all the way out but he can’t get down on the floor before Bret makes a save. Owen is pulled back in and they fight on the top rope with Bret being knocked back into the ring. Instead of climbing out again though, Owen dropkicks Bret down and climbs again.

The champion makes another save before climbing up to the top of the cage, straddling the top of it. Owen pulls him back in and they continue slugging it out on the top rope. Bret rams him into the cage wall but loses his balance in the process, putting both guys back down. Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith, both brothers in law of the two in the ring, are watching in the crowd.

Bret punches Owen down again and drops an elbow but Owen makes another save. This time as Bret comes down though, he slams his knee into the mat to put him in real trouble. Neidhart, who has since turned on Bret and sided with Owen, is very pleased. Even though Bret is down, he isn’t down enough to stop Owen from leaving. He gets slammed down off the cage but Owen grabs a climbing Bret’s leg, pulling him back inside.

Owen is up first but Bret makes about his 49th save of the match. Bret rams him face first into the steel and goes up again but Owen reaches through the bars to bring him back in. Back in again and Owen plants the champion with a piledriver but Bret still makes a save. Owen throws Bret down off the cage but Owen falls as well. Bret crawls for the door and gets the upper half of his body out, only to be pulled back in again by his younger brother. The drama on these near escapes is getting higher and higher.

Back in and Bret slingshots his brother into the cage, rattling his brains even more. They both slowly get up and Owen is rammed face first into the cage. The problem is that as Bret rams him in, Bret rams his knee into the cage and injures it. The champion tries to get out but can’t climb that fast, allowing Owen to make ANOTHER save. Owen makes another attempt to get out but his exhaustion slows him down and lets Bret stop him.

They slug it out on the top rope with both guys being rammed face first into the cage. Bret knocks Owen down but gets pulled back down as well. A double clothesline puts both guys down one more time and it’s Owen going up first. He climbs to the corner though, allowing Bret to catch up with him and superplex Owen off the top of the cage. Bret crawls for the door but Owen makes the save and puts on the Sharpshooter.

There aren’t any submissions in the match but it can make it impossible for Bret to climb. However Bret, the master of the Sharpshooter, counters into one of his own and Owen is in trouble. Bret goes for the escape but he STILL can’t keep Owen down long enough. They ram each other into the cage and both fall down before Owen climbs again. Both guys climb to the outside and it’s a race to the bottom. Owen is rammed into the cage though and gets his legs caught in the cage bars, allowing Bret to drop down and retain the title.

Rating: A+. This match was all about drama and they certainly gave us that. The match ran over half an hour and had nothing but near escapes the entire time. Bret didn’t so much win this match as he did survive it. This match has been called the last great cage match and it’s really hard to argue with that. Excellent match with great drama throughout.

Post match Neidhart jumps Davey Boy, throws Bret back in and locks himself in with them. A huge beatdown of Bret ensues as the Hart Brothers try to get in the cage. Davey Boy FINALLY gets in and the other brothers follow to save Bret.

In the back Owen says Neidhart is his real family. A series of great tag matches followed.

And this is one of them.

Bret Hart/British Bulldog vs. Owen Hart/Jim Neidhart

Ok, this HAS to be good right? Bret is world champion here so this is probably around August of 94 as that was the top feud around that time. Still in Albany and likely at the same show. Apparently this was October 19, 1994. I’ve always wondered which shows they picked to film and how they were chosen. Bret and Owen start so we’re guaranteed a good start at least. Granted after that last match anything sounds great.

I love Owen celebrating while doing absolutely nothing. Lots of chain wrestling to start as you would expect. Bret works on the arm and gets a crucifix for two. They speed it up a bit and Bret gets a clothesline to put Owen on the floor. Back in and Bret taunts Neidhart, saying he wants the Anvil.

Now here’s a match I don’t think I’ve ever seen. Bret tries his usual stuff but Anvil catches him in a bear hug. Hart bites Anvil’s head to escape and it’s time for power vs. power. Ok never mind as it’s time for Owen vs. Bulldog. They’re getting in and out of there rather fast. Stan Lane continues to be underrated at the announce table. Owen gets caught in the semi-delayed vertical for two.

We hit the chinlock again even though I thought we had hit the quota of chinlocks in the first match. Spinwheel kick puts Bulldog down for two and it’s back to Anvil who puts on a chinlock of his own. The fans are chanting for Owen actually. Owen comes in again and drills Bulldog with some European uppercuts in a nice bit of irony. Shawn Killer Kick makes Smith flip forward and the double teaming commences.

Neidhart back in there now as the heels are working well together here. Bret chases Owen but the referee stops him. This stopping though allows the New Foundation (Owen and Neidhart of course) to hit a Hart Attack on Bulldog for two. Neckbreaker by Owen gets two and we hit the chinlock one more time. This is very much a stop and go kind of match as they’ll get going and then stop for a chinlock etc.

Bulldog fights up and they hit head to head. There’s a tag to Hart but Neidhart had the referee distracted. Heel miscommunication puts Anvil down and there’s the tag to the champion. He beats up both guys while Bulldog just watches on. What a nice partner he is. Russian Leg Sweep gets two on Owen and it’s Five Moves of Doom time. He actually gets the Sharpshooter but Neidhart makes the save. Off to the Bulldog again and everything breaks down. Bulldog gets a small package, Neidhart turns it over, Bret turns it over again and Bulldog pins Owen to end it.

Rating: B-. If you cut out a lot of the rest holds and give it a bit better ending then this would be a much better match. Still though not a bad match at all and I thought it was pretty good. With these four it’s hard not to have a good match. Neidhart was the worst of these four but he’s certainly watchable in the ring. Decent match but could have been much better.

Owen would get away from Bret and the Harts soon after this and enter Wrestlemania XI with a Tag Team Title shot. His partner was announced at the show.

Tag Titles: Owen Hart/??? vs. Smoking Gunns

Owen introduces Yokozuna as his mystery partner. The Gunns are defending here and say they’ll win. Owen and Billy start things off with Hart trying to speed things up. That goes badly for him as Billy slaps him in the face and brings in Bart to work on the arm. Owen fights back though and brings in Yoko who misses an elbow drop. Back to Owen as we’re firmly in the Colossal Connection formula (Owen does the wrestling, Yoko comes in for a few seconds to destroy whoever he’s fighting).

The Gunns hit a double legsweep on Hart and a double flapjack gets two. Owen finally escapes a backdrop attempt and brings in Yoko. Billy gets taken down and sat on, giving the foreigners control. Off to a nerve hold which hopefully doesn’t last as long as the ones last year did. After we kill a minute or so in the hold, Owen loads up a missile dropkick but hits his partner by mistake. There’s the hot tag to Bart and house is cleaned, but Billy walks into a belly to belly suplex. The Banzai Drop hits but Bart breaks up the pin. Not that it really matters though as Owen covers Billy for the pin and the title, Owen’s first in the company.

Rating: C-. Another decent but lackluster match here which is the theme of this show. The Gunns losing was definitely the right call as Owen and Yoko made for dominant champions for several months. Other than that though, the match was boring stuff overall. Owen finally getting a title was a good moment though.

Later in the year Owen would kick Shawn Michaels in the head and put him on the shelf. Shawn’s friend Diesel came for revenge at In Your House V.

Diesel vs. Owen Hart

This is a revenge match for Diesel as Owen kicked Shawn Michaels in the head and put him on the shelf as a result. Diesel launches Owen into the corner to start and hits a big side slam for no cover. The arena is full of smoke from Diesel’s entrance. Owen comes back with some right hands but Diesel easily throws him to the outside for a meeting with Cornette.

Back in and Owen scores with a missile dropkick before going after Diesel’s knee to take him down. A spinwheel kick gets two on Diesel but he easily kicks Hart away to break up a spinning toe hold. Diesel comes back with a big boot and the Jackknife (“This is for you Shawn!”) but he takes his foot off Owen’s chest at two. The referee begs him to let it end so Diesel shoves him down for the DQ.

Rating: D+. The match was going along pretty well until the stupid ending. I understand that they’re trying to push Diesel as being more aggressive, but having him lose isn’t the way to go about doing that. This is Diesel’s third straight PPV loss which doesn’t make me think he’s a monster but rather a guy who can’t finish his opponents.

Owen would find a new partner and get another Tag Team Title shot at In Your House X.

Tag Titles: Owen Hart/British Bulldog vs. Smoking Gunns

The Gunns are defending and the challengers have no Cornette with them due to the beating he received earlier. We see Cornette in the back with attorney Clarence Mason having him sign something. Also I have no idea why Owen left ringside after the previous segment when his match was next. Billy walks behind Bart with his arm around Sunny which probably isn’t a good sign. Sunny had a tradition of having a huge poster of her fall down from the ceiling but this time the challengers have painted a beard on it. Nice touch.

Clarence Mason comes to ringside, apparently replacing Cornette for tonight. Owen hits a few cross bodies for two each on Billy before it’s off to a headlock. A small package gets two more for Owen as JR is still playing the heel on commentary, ensuring Vince that the REAL Diesel and Razor are back. Remember that line because it becomes important in a few months.

Off to Bart vs. Davey with the Bulldog hitting a few dropkicks to take over before cranking his arm for a bit. Owen comes back in for a chop block as the target shifts to Bart’s knee. Owen and Bulldog take turns working on the leg with Owen putting on a modified Indian deathlock. A Boston crab doesn’t last long as Bart quickly makes the rope but Bulldog comes in for a vertical suplex to put him down again. Bulldog even throws in a front flip to show off his athleticism a bit.

Back to Owen for more leg work but his spinning toe hold is countered into a small package for two. Owen comes right back with an enziguri for two of his own but Billy finally interferes, pulling Bulldog out to the floor and sending him into the steps. Back in and Bart is able to make the tag off to Billy. The champions take over but Billy almost immediately tags back to Bart.

The Sidewinder connects but Mason distract the referee, allowing Owen to come in off the top with a shot to the back of Bart’s head. Bulldog can only get two though and it’s back to Billy who again only hits a few stomps before tagging out to the weakened Bart. Bart loads up a powerslam on the Bulldog but gets rammed into Billy who wasn’t paying attention. Davey hits the real powerslam for the pin and the titles.

Rating: D+. The title change was the right idea but this was one of the longest eleven minute matches I’ve ever seen. Both teams were heels here so the fans didn’t have anyone to cheer for and the Gunns were boring in the first place. It wasn’t terrible but the match didn’t do anything for me at all.

Hart would join up with his brother again, setting up the Border War. This story saved the company in 1997 and here’s the blowoff from In Your House XVI.

Hart Foundation vs. Goldust/Legion of Doom/Ken Shamrock/Steve Austin

Most of the Americans are booed, but Austin is treated like a bunch of ants at a picnic. The Hart Foundation’s entrance on the other hand is a sight to behold, with each member getting a louder and louder ovation until Owen’s music stops. Bret’s reception is louder than everyone else’s and that’s before his music even comes on. The Harts are a unit, all clad in leather jackets and looking like they’re ready for war.

The match starts with the only possible combination of Austin vs. Bret. They slug it out with Bret taking over and pounding Austin down into the corner to send the crowd even further into a frenzy. Austin comes back with right hands and might as well be pummeling Santa Claus. Bret hits a headbutt and clothesline before raking Steve’s eyes across the top rope. Austin kicks Bret low to slow him down and stomps on him in the corner before slapping on the Million Dollar Dream. Hart climbs the ropes for a rollup for two, which is the same way he beat Austin at Survivor Series.

Bret drags Austin to the corner for a tag off to the raw power of Jim the Anvil Neidhart. Austin takes him down with a Thesz Press and right hands before bringing in Shamrock to easily kick Neidhart down. Pillman comes in to break up an ankle lock attempt so Shamrock takes Neidhart down with ease again. Brian comes in legally now to bite Shamrock’s face and fire off chops in the corner. A backbreaker puts Shamrock down again so Pillman grabs his hand and slaps the mat, claiming a submission victory in a funny bit.

Ken comes back with a nice belly to belly suplex and it’s off to Goldust vs. Owen. Goldust scores with a backdrop but Owen comes right back with an enziguri to take over again. The fans are all over Austin here, even though it’s Hawk in to beat Owen up. A top rope splash gets two but Hawk misses a dropkick, allowing Owen to put on a Sharpshooter. Anvil makes the save, only to have Bulldog come in with the delayed vertical suplex and the powerslam but Goldust makes a save.

Bret comes back in (crowd erupts) to face Animal and gets up a knee in the corner to slow Animal down. Off to Goldust who is immediately tied up in the Tree of Woe and quintuple teamed, drawing in the rest of the Americans for the save. Owen comes in legally but misses a charge into the post, allowing for the tag off to Animal. Owen is fine with that and hits an enziguri followed by a missile dropkick to fire up the crowd even more. Animal will have none of that and counters a hurricanrana into a powerbomb.

The Doomsday Device hits Owen but Anvil makes the save, drawing in all ten guys for a huge brawl. In the melee, Austin wraps Owen’s knee around the post and hits it with a chair before beating up Bret and Owen’s brother Bruce, who is sitting with the rest of the Hart Family in the crowd. Things calm down with Anvil vs. Austin as medics come out to check on Owen. Neidhart sends Austin into the corner for a big beating and Owen is being taken to the back.

Pillman comes in but gets dragged over to the American corner and taken down by a Stunner. Bret makes the save by wrapping Austin’s leg around the post and blasting it with a fire extinguisher. He throws on the Figure Four around the post until Hawk makes the save but the damage has been done to the leg. Austin is able to tag in Hawk but Bulldog crotches Hawk on the top rope to take him down again. Austin limps to the back again, leaving us with just four guys per team in the match.

Neidhart and Animal have a test of strength with Jim taking over and driving Animal into the Hart corner for a tag off to Bret. The original Hart Foundation (Bret and Neidhart) take over on Animal to give the crowd a nostalgia pop. Shamrock comes in again and grabs Bret’s leg but just stands there, allowing Pillman to sneak in with a clothesline. Shamrock grabs the leg again but Bret gives him a stern lecture from the mat, which actually makes Ken let him up. I wish I could make that up.

Bret sends Shamrock to the floor where Pillman throws him over the French announce table. Back inside and it’s Bulldog slugging Shamrock down in the corner to send the crowd right back into a frenzy. Ken hits him low, allowing Goldust to come in with a bulldog to the Bulldog, but Pillman breaks up the Curtain Call. Goldust goes up but gets crotched, allowing Bulldog to superplex him down.

Austin stumbles back out to the ring and it’s a double tag to bring in Bret vs. Stone Cold. Bret is sent chest first into the buckle and suplexed down for two, only to come back with a DDT. A backbreaker and the middle rope elbow are good for two and it’s off to a sleeper hold. Austin jawbreaks his way to freedom but has to have Animal save him from the Sharpshooter.

Now it’s Austin putting Bret in the Sharpshooter but Owen comes back out for the save. Owen comes in legally but gets clotheslined out to the floor and stomped against the barricade. Austin goes after the other Hart Brothers at ringside but Bret makes the save and sends Austin back inside so Owen can roll him up for the pin, sending the roof into orbit.

Rating: A+. Do I really need to explain this one? Not only is it a great match with everyone working very hard, but it’s a great story and the perfect way to blow off the feud. Austin could have been in there with any four guys, but the match ended perfectly and gave Owen a big rub in the process. Excellent match and the best multi-man tag match of all time.

The fight continues post match with the Harts cleaning house thanks to their brothers coming in to help out. The Americans are finally dispatched as the Harts are announced as the winners. Austin eventually tries to charge back in for one last swing at Bret but literally about 15 members of the Hart Family beat him down until security takes him away in handcuffs. Austin, ever the rebel, flips off the Calgary crowd behind his back as he leaves. A huge celebration with all of the Harts, including parents Helen and Stu, ends the show.

Owen wouldn’t be done with Austin and would start a feud with him for the Intercontinental Title. After pretty much breaking Austin’s neck (and still getting pinned by him), Owen would enter a tournament for the vacant Intercontinental Title. Here are the finals at In Your House XVIII.

Intercontinental Title: Owen Hart vs. Faarooq

This is a tournament final to crown a new champion since Austin has to forfeit the title. Owen has an Owen 3:16 shirt, with “I Just Broke Your Neck” on the back. Before the match, here’s Austin to do commentary. This might not be the best idea given that he and Pillman were best friends. Austin rings the bell as Vince freaks out, so Austin takes his headset.

JR and Jerry can barely get a word in as Austin rants about Owen using the 3:16 shirt for cheap heat. Austin steals Lawler’s headset as Faarooq grabs a headlock. The boring match drags on as Austin has a walkie-talkie to mess with security. He knocks JR’s hat off as Owen spinwheel kicks Faarooq down and goes after the knee. Austin jumps on Spanish commentary and doesn’t like the trash he thinks the commentators are saying about him.

Owen stomps away in the corner and Austin has switched to French. Faarooq kicks Owen shoulder first into the post and gets two off a backbreaker. He misses a middle rope legdrop though and Owen goes after the leg. The Sharpshooter is broken up again and Faarooq gets another near fall off a powerslam. Jim Neidhart comes to ringside but Austin uses the distraction to knock Faarooq out with the title, giving Owen the title.

Rating: D. The match was just a backdrop for Austin’s antics and the ending would make more sense after the explanation. The idea was simple: Austin wanted the Intercontinental Title back, but he only wanted to beat Owen for it to prove he was the better man once and for all. Owen and Faarooq weren’t great out there, but there was only so much they could do in these circumstances.

Then Montreal happened and Owen was suddenly a face. His first feud was with HHH, setting up this very interesting moment on Raw, January 26, 1998.

European Title: Owen Hart vs. HHH

HHH has a horribly messed up leg. And it’s Goldust and Luna disguised as HHH and Chyna, fooling no one. Hunter-dust (not calling him that again) beats up Owen for awhile and then pulls the wig off to reveal his blue hair. Owen gets a spinning cross body off the top out of nowhere to get two. It’s weird seeing someone else doing HHH’s stuff. We hit the chinlock as this has been mostly one sided. Owen gets a cradle for two. We take a break with Goldie working over the knee.

Back with Owen making his comeback with spin kicks and kicks/punches in the corner. Enziguri knocks Dustin’s fake nose off which was kind of funny. Owen goes up and hits the dropkick but Luna drills him with the crutch to break the momentum. Pedigree is countered into the Sharpshooter for the tap.

Rating: C+. Basic match here between two talented guys. The HHH vs. Owen feud would run up to Mania and it still never was fair to Owen in the slightest as he would wind up in the black supremacist stable somehow. That sounds like something off Arrested Development. Anyway, this was fine and not bad all things considered.

Post match we see DX talking about how smart they are and bragging about the whole thing. Owen is mad about this. Was he fooled or something and this is the big shock? Slaughter comes out to talk to Owen. He grabs a mic and says that Goldust was playing the role of HHH which the future Game agrees with. Slaughter says that Goldust did such a great job that Slaughter is awarding Owen the match, a win against HHH, and the European Title! DX is PISSED of course but Owen gets the last laugh.

Owen would lose the feud with HHH for no apparent reason before joining the Nation of Domination to find a new family. He would fight one of their enemies, Ken Shamrock, in a very interesting match at In Your House XXIII.

Ken Shamrock vs. Owen Hart

There isn’t much of a backstory here other than they’ve both won King of the Ring and Owen challenged Shamrock to a fight. This is a submission match in Stu Hart’s basement, more commonly known as the Dungeon. Shamrock’s entrance is through a door from what looks like the kitchen, giving this a very low rent feel but in a good way. Dan Severn, former UFC Champion and rival of Shamrock (though he doesn’t like Owen either) is referee.

Owen takes him down to start but Shamrock reverses and pounds away with right hands. Shamrock throws him around and slams Owen against the wall, only to be kicked low and then in the face. Owen rams him head first into the wooden wall before suplexing him down. Ken reverses and slams Owen’s head into the wall but Hart grabs a water pipe to pull himself up for a hurricanrana. Owen swings a dumbbell at Ken’s head but gets kicked back into the corner. Ken Irish whips him into the wall and tries the same hurricanrana using the water pipe but Owen powerbombs him down.

In a spot you don’t see that often, Owen lifts him and rams Shamrock’s head through the ceiling to set up the Sharpshooter. Ken rolls through but can’t hook the ankle lock. Instead he fires off a kick which accidentally takes out Severn, allowing Owen to hit Shamrock with a dumbbell to knock him cold. Owen puts on a kind of armbar and slaps Shamrock’s hand on the mat for a submission with Severn waking up in time to see it, giving Hart the win.

Rating: C+. This was different to put it best and in this case it worked. The match was kind of a hybrid between MMA and a stiff wrestling match and it came off pretty well. MMA hadn’t hit the mainstream yet so this wasn’t something most people had seen before. It was very clear that this was pre-taped and edited due to the people being in slightly different places after some camera cuts but that’s not the worst thing in the world.

Owen celebrates and walks up the stairs like he’s probably done a thousand times. That’s cool in a unique way.

Here’s another odd rematch with the same opponent at Summerslam 1998.

Owen Hart vs. Ken Shamrock

This is in a theater adjacent to MSG. You win by submission or knockout I believe but JR isn’t really clear on it. It’s a cool visual if nothing else. Shamrock rams him into the cage before taking him down to the mat where we start trading submissions. Ken pounds away at the head and suplexes Owen down before choking away. Owen hits a legal low blow to escape but Shamrock clotheslines him down with ease. I think that passes the point of logical no selling.

Shamrock chokes Owen with his shirt before taking him down with an easy throw. Owen finally realizes he can’t go toe to toe with Ken and rams him face first into the cage. Hart pounds away against the cage and lays Shamrock out with an enziguri. A hot shot into the cage sets up a backbreaker but Shamrock backdrops out of a piledriver. Another kick to Ken’s head changes control again but Shamrock wins a quick slugout. He runs up the cage for a back elbow then kicks Owen in the face.

Hart comes right back with a powerslam and a belly to belly sets up the Sharpshooter. In an awesome counter, Shamrock crawls over to the cage and pulls himself up the wall to escape the hold. A tornado DDT off the wall puts Owen down and a spinwheel kick does the same. Owen sends him into the cage and tries a dragon sleeper but Shamrock walks up the cage to backflip out and the ankle lock gets the submission.

Rating: B. This was different than your usual wrestling match but more importantly it was fun. These two beat the tar out of each other and the whole thing worked very well. Notice the main difference here than what you would get today: you never heard the letters UFC here, meaning there’s nothing to compare it to, making this match seem more impressive. Today you would hear UFC and Ultimate Fighting dropped every two seconds and it would just make you want to watch a UFC show.

After all of these feuds, Owen would hook up with Jeff Jarrett and go after the Tag Team Titles with their shot on Raw, January 25, 1999.

Tag Titles: Owen Hart/Jeff Jarrett vs. Big Boss Man/Ken Shamrock

Boss Man vs. Jarrett to start with Boss Man cleaning house. The baseball slide into the right hand has Jeff in trouble (he and Owen are challenging) but he avoids a charging Boss Man in the corner. Owen comes in and stomps away, drawing a nugget chant. A big clothesline from Shamrock puts Owen down as Debra tries to blow kisses at Shamrock. An enziguri puts Ken down as does a powerslam, which gets two.

There’s the spinwheel kick to Shamrock’s jaw but a top rope dropkick misses. Debra gets on the apron and opens her jacket to reveal her bra, but Shamrock suplexes Owen anyway. Debra takes off her top entirely and there’s the ankle lock to Owen. Everything breaks down and cue the Blue Blazer with a guitar shot to Shamrock, giving Owen and Jeff the titles.

Rating: C-. Most of that is for Debra, which says a lot about this match. Nothing to see here for the most part as Owen and Jarrett weren’t that interesting as champions, but they would hold the belts until after Wrestlemania. Tag team wrestling was getting desperate for a new team to take the division by storm, but it would be another seven months before that happened.

They would defend at Wrestlemania XV against two challengers who were the last men standing in a battle royal. Seriously, that’s how they determined the challengers at the biggest show of the year.

Tag Titles: D’Lo Brown/Test vs. Owen Hart/Jeff Jarrett

The challengers fight with each other before the match starts. Owen and Jeff have Debra with them who is in a jacket and bikini. From the neck down she’s not bad at all. It’s a brawl to start and Test hits a fast big boot to take over. Brown and Jarrett get things going officially and D’Lo hits some fast clotheslines. Jeff charges into an elbow and it’s off to Test. He’s part of the Corporate Team while Brown has no connection to them whatsoever. A powerbomb gets two on Owen but he comes back with an enziguri, only to have Brown break up the Sharpshooter attempt.

Brown comes in legally and hits the shaky head legdrop for no cover but Jeff knees Brown in the back to give Owen an opening. A spinwheel kick puts D’Lo down for no cover as it’s back to Jarrett. Brown comes back with a double clothesline to both champions and hits something resembling a Sky High on Jeff. There’s no cover though as the managers (Ivory for the challengers) are fighting. In the distraction, Owen hits a missile dropkick on Brown to give Jeff the retaining pin.

Rating: C-. The match was ok enough but when the challengers are formed into a team 30 minutes before the match, it’s a little difficult to get behind a match like this. The tag division was BEGGING for something to save them here but it wouldn’t be until the fall when the Dudleys finally showed up and made the division worth something for a few more years.

We’ll wrap it up with one of Owen’s final matches, from the Smackdown pilot on April 29, 1999.

Val Venis vs. Blue Blazer

Ok so Jeff was subbing for Blazer who is now subbing for Jeff. Russo was still on the payroll at this point if that clears anything up. Blazer is in the cape mind you. It’s amazing to think that he had less than a month to live at this point. Cornette wonders why if Owen is the Blue Blazer, why doesn’t Jarrett call himself the Tweed Sportscoat? Debra gets on the apron for a distraction and it lets Jarrett interfere for the pin.

Bass comes out to hit on Val and they both run. Then Godfather comes out to claim Debra who he “won” in a match on Heat. She has to be a Ho for an undetermined amount of time. This was a way too complex four way feud that never went anywhere for obvious reasons. Owen and Jeff beat him down and leave with Debra.

Rating: N/A. Way too short to be anything of note here. It wasn’t bad or anything, but it was yet another layer onto this incredibly difficult to comprehend story already.

I’ll spare you the details of Owen’s horrible death less than a month later. Owen Hart was a very talented guy who probably would have gotten a World Title run in the double title era. While I don’t think he was as great as some people say he was, Owen was definitely talented and that’s more than a lot of wrestlers can say.

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