Today is the birthday of Owen Hart. If he was still with us, he would have been 50.
On May 23, 1999 at the Over the Edge pay-per-view, Owen was set to descend from the rafters as part of his elaborate Blue Blazer entrance. Tragically, the release on his harness was somehow triggered during his descent, causing him to fall nearly 80 feet onto the ring ropes. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he would pass away from his injuries.
It sometimes seems like the way Owen’s life ended has completely eclipsed what came before. Because of this, the above paragraph will be the only time we discuss the specifics of Owen Hart’s death in this article. Instead, we’ll be focusing on Owen’s life and legacy. I won’t call it a celebration; Owen had his ups, downs and struggles just like everybody else, but it will be a look at a side of Owen Hart too often overlooked. Here are a few things you might not know about life of the Hart family’s high flyer…
1. Owen didn’t want to be a pro wrestler. In 1965, Owen would become the final addition to Stu and Helen Hart’s sprawling family. The youngest of 12 kids, Owen would grow up surrounded by his dad’s wrestling friends. His bedroom was located mere feet above the infamous Hart Dungeon, the barely renovated basement where countless wrestlers were stretched to their breaking points. You’d think having André the Giant as an occasional babysitter would instill a burning desire to become a pro wrestler, but it actually had the opposite effect on young Owen. Many of the wrestlers his dad hung around with, like the terrifying Abdullah the Butcher, freaked out poor Owen, and the constant screams of agony coming from the basement didn’t help matters. Little Owen wanted no part of the wrestling business, and his mind didn’t really change as he got older. He respected what his dad and brothers did, but he had no particular interest in pursuing it himself.
Baby Owen and his posse. Blue shirt in the back is Bret (I think).
Once Owen graduated high school, his plans were to become a teacher, and he worked odd jobs in the oil and gas industry. After temporarily quitting the WWF in 1989, Owen would make a serious run at becoming a firefighter and a border patrol guard.
Ultimately, Owen’s dreams of a normal civilian job kept running into a big, impossible to ignore hurdle; he was just better at wrestling than anything else. In many ways, he was just as good as his brother Bret, despite never putting in the obsessive effort he did. In the mid-80s, Owen’s dad and brothers convinced Owen to try wrestling for the family’s Stampede Wrestling promotion for the summer, just until he went away to college. Owen would never sign up for classes and would, somewhat reluctantly, make his living as a pro wrestler for most of the rest of his life.
2. He turned down his first offer from WWF. Owen would quickly become the top draw in Stampede Wrestling. Before long, Vince McMahon decided he might just want to add Owen to his collection of former Stampede stars like Bret, Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid. In the spring of 1988, Owen had a weekend tryout, and WWF officials were impressed, immediately offering him a job. Much to everybody’s surprise, Owen turned down the offer. He and his fiance Martha had a wedding pending, and he still felt an obligation to help out his dad’s promotion, which was on its last legs at the time. Besides, the idea of following dutifully in his big brother’s footsteps was something that always rubbed Owen the wrong way.
Too busy wearing fur jackets and sunglasses inside to bother with that wrestling nonsense.
Owen and WWF wouldn’t stay apart for long. though. Mere months later, the company would approach Owen again, promising him a surefire character if he signed.
3. The Blue Blazer was Bret’s idea. That surefire character turned out to be The Blue Blazer. Never trust the WWF, folks.
Now, who do you suppose came up with this blue, feathery smudge on Owen’s career? Totally a McMahon idea, right? I mean, the guy’s still forcing Neville to wear a cape in 2015. Well, believe it or not, Owen’s straight-laced brother Bret was actually to blame for the gimmick.
In the ’80s, Owen was doing a lot of high-flying stuff that was still relatively uncommon on the American scene, so Bret thought it would be a good idea for Owen to come in as a masked, Mexican/Japanese style wrestler like Tiger Mask. Granted, the Tiger Mask gimmick is a tad goofy in it’s own right, but it’s also completely amazing. Something was lost in translation, and instead of Tiger Mask, poor Owen ended up as this:
Was this the best shot they could get?
Basically, never pitch an idea to Vince that could be interpreted in a ridiculous way. That’s the route he’s always going to take.