Owen James Hart
Owen didn't die due to a heart problem likely brought on by the excessive steroid abuse; he didn't overdose on the popular combination of alcohol and pain pills; he didn't die by any fault of his own. Owen James Hart died because he was a company man, a pawn in a ratings battle that had already been over for a long time.
—RD Reynolds, The Death of WCW
(May 7, 1965 – May 23, 1999) was a professional wrestler best known for his work in the World Wrestling Federation
, though he also wrestled for Stampede Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling
, and (for a brief period) World Championship Wrestling
. He held the Intercontinental
, and WWF World Tag Team Championships
, won two Slammy Awards (one of his trademark accomplishments), and was the 1994 King of the Ring. He was also part of the storied Hart family
- one of WWE Hall of Famer Stu Hart's many children, he was the brother of WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart
and the brother-in-law of both "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith
and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart.
Owen's life came to an end on May 23, 1999 at the WWF pay-per-view Over the Edge
. At the time, Owen was in his Blue Blazer gimmick - the Blue Blazer being a pastiche of superhero-type wrestlers - and at Over the Edge
, his entrance was to involve rappelling down from the rafters to a few feet above the ring, then end up falling on his face as he released himself from the harness. Unfortunately, the harness holding Owen malfunctioned, and he fell down into the ring, hitting his chest on the turnbuckle. He was declared dead just minutes later, after being carried out of the ring.Over the Edge continued after Owen's death
, with legendary WWF commentator Jim Ross
informing the viewers that Owen Hart had, indeed, died as a result of the fall; the news was not relayed to the crowd attending the event, though. Over the Edge has never been released on home video in any format
, and the event name was retired after that show. The next night, Raw is War
held a special tribute show that came to be known as Raw is Owen
- the WWF tossed out angles and feuds for a single night and allowed wrestlers to compete in matches to honor Owen, while wrestlers and other WWF personalities relayed stories about Owen in prerecorded interviews (this show would lay the template for the two shows honoring Eddie Guerrero
following his death, and a similar show would be put on for Chris Benoit
on the day of his death, before the terms of his death became apparent). A few months later, when WCW Monday Nitro
came to the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri (where Owen had died), Bret Hart (who had jumped ship to WCW from the WWF following the Montreal Screwjob
in late 1997) wrestled in a tribute match against Chris Benoit, who Bret had handpicked to be his opponent that night.
Owen's widow, Martha, and the rest of the Hart family sued the WWF due to the accident, and eventually, the WWF settled for $18 million (which was distributed amongst the Hart family members). Recently, due to footage of Owen being used in WWE DVDs (specifically, a 2010 DVD set centered around the Hart family), Martha has filed another lawsuit against WWE.
Owen has never been forgotten by the fans: even a quick mention of his name can bring crowds to start a lengthy "Owen!" chant, and every year, fans clamor for WWE to fully recognize his legacy with either a DVD set, a WWE Hall of Fame induction (you can sometimes see "Owen for HOF" signs at WWE events), or both. WWE, to its credit, has mostly respected the wishes of Martha (who wants nothing to do with WWE) - unlike the rampant exploitation of Eddie Guerrero's name and likeness, or the Unpersoning
that Chris Benoit got following his death, WWE has only sparingly used footage of Owen on WWE programming/DVDs, such as Royal Rumbles
he just happened to have matches in. Owen will always be remembered as a loving family man, a great all-around wrestler/performer, and one of the funniest people in the wrestling business.
"THESE ARE TWO-TIME SLAMMY-AWARD WINNING TROPES! THEY ARE WINNERS! WHOO!":
I tried to be a nice guy... I tried to play by the rules...
You turned your backs on me!
I snapped. I was a victim! Well, ENOUGH! IS ENOUGH!