THE KING OF HARTS
Man... it seems like it's been so long since we lost Owen Hart. It's only been a year today, but it truly seems like it's been years since "The Rocket" has entertained us on "Raw is War." Unfortunately, Owen died in the tragic accident on May 23, 1999. I'm not doing this column to decide if it's the WWF's fault, the Kemper Arena's fault, a freak accident -- I DON'T CARE. The point is that heaven obviously needed a superhero right then, and God decided to take the Blazer.
I highly recommend that you drop by the Owen tribute area at WWF.com and watch the many videos of the superstars and WWF personnel paying tribute to Owen. It is very touching to see how many people loved Owen. He was truly a "fan favorite" in the locker rooms.
First, I'd like to flash back to Raw one year ago tomorrow... the Owen tribute Raw. I still can't figure out why anyone would even call this a "ratings ploy." The emotion was clearly there. What were they supposed to do, just follow up with the usual storylines and not acknowledge that Owen died the night before? Owen deserved every minute of the two hour show that the WWF gave to him. Storylines were thrown out and it was just "Raw is Owen." Wrestlers just wrestled, did a little Owen-related mike work, and the WWF aired some of those tributes shot backstage by various wrestlers. I admit it... I freely cried numerous times during the show. It's the only time anything related to wrestling has ever made me cry. I'm just upset that I got my VCR as a graduation present the day after the show aired. I wish I could have taped that show. I did get to tape "LiveWire" that Saturday, which had many of the Owen tributes by the superstars. It's on the same tape as the 1997 Slammy Awards... pretty fitting, huh? I look back at that "Raw" and still see guys like HHH and Mark Henry crying and think, "Wow... Owen must have really meant a lot." A few spoken words spoke a lot for everybody.
First, there was Owen's tag partner, Jeff Jarrett. "Just for the record, Owen never was a nugget!" Then Jarrett won the match with the SHARPSHOOTER. That got the ol' tears flowing. The thing that touched me was in Jarrett's little backstage tribute when he said he would go and visit Owen's kids and tell them all about their dad. I also got choked up after HHH's match when he was again in tears but was able to get out "Owen - we love you, man. We love you." The thing that really sent me into tears was Debra's speech... "you tend to take people for granted because you're always with them ... you know, life is very very precious, and you should really - you know, not take people for granted." She was very emotional as well. JR and The King capped it off... Ross: "I hope that I can be as good as him - so that I can see him again someday." Lawler: "Don't ever leave home without telling the people you love what you think of them."
Some of my favorite Owen moments came from the two '90s Slammys. The first in 1996 when Owen was given Shawn Michaels's award. You might remember this very acceptance speech:
"Woooo! Alright, gimme that! Yes! You know what, I take great pride in receiving this award for just about ending Shawn Michaels' career, and Shawn you know deep down inside I could've done it any time I wanted to. Second of all, I'd like to thank nobody but myself, I did this all by myself, not any people helped me, not you dad, not you mom, and certainly not you my lousy brother Bret. I did it all by myself! And I want to continue the legacy and show you that I am the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be! Yes! Woooooo!"
In 1997, Owen was set to present the "Best Bow Tie" award. Instead, Owen decided that HE was the winner.
"Woooo! I did it again! And you know what? I did it again! And I have nobody to thank, once again I did it all by my sweet little self. Two time Slammy award winner, I knew it. I'm a winner, I did it! Woooooo! Hey Bulldog, you may have two titles but you don't have two Slammys! And speaking of that, Vader and Mankind, this Sunday at WrestleMania, you're gonna be in for the fight of your life because the Bulldog and myself, we haven't been better ever and we're going to beat you and Mankind. And you know what Vader, you don't have two Slammys like I do because your losers and we're winners... me and my Slammys! Wooooo!"
Jerry Lawler had a great Owen saying right after the speech. "You ought to be thankful McMahon, Owen spent a whole year of his life promoting this crummy show."
My favorite match of all-time - yes, even over "Hell in a Cell" and the various Hardys-Canadians matches - is the first one-on-one match between Bret and Owen at WrestleMania X. It's just a classic. They had a twenty minute match with actual wrestling and it was entertaining. I majorly "marked out" when Owen reversed the victory roll into a pin. I went crazy when Owen won the King of the Ring in June '94 as well... he was out of the shadow at last. That lead to the epic SummerSlam cage match between the two.
Another favorite Owen memory is the '94 Survivor Series, as Bret was defending his World title against Mr. Bob Backlund in a towel match. Owen was Mr. Backlund's "towel thrower-inner" and British Bulldog was Bret's. Bulldog ended up knocked out and Owen suddenly began to care for his brother as Bret was in the chicken wing. Owen went over to Helen Hart, who was ringside, and pleaded with her - cried to her - to throw in the towel. She did, and Owen suddenly perked up and celebrated! That ROCKED.
I also cannot leave out the Bret-Chris Benoit thirty minute match from the Kemper Arena. While I do not think WCW should be lowering guys in like they do Sting or even having an angle with a funeral on the night before the anniversary of Owen's death, they did do something right by having that match. It was a great match... pure wrestling.
It is hard to come up with any way to say this - I know I'm having trouble - but I really miss Owen. I think many of us do. Owen was truly my favorite wrestler, as he was that one guy that I cheered for all the time since he officially turned heel at the '94 Royal Rumble. I miss seeing Owen on "Raw" every week, I miss seeing Owen at pay-per-views, and I miss reading about Owen in magazines. Owen, we miss you. It's sad that we don't have you here to entertain us, but I have a sneaky feeling that now you are entertaining on a much higher level. I have a feeling that Owen and Brian Pillman are telling Hart family stories at this very moment.
Please continue to make donations to Owen's favorite charity:
Thanks, "King of Harts." There will always be a Slammy for you.