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Owen Hart was a professional wrestler, a dedicated family man, and a good human being.  When he died in 1999 at 33 years of age, he was survived by his wife Martha and two small children, Oje (7) and Athena (3).  He was one of the Hart clan--son of Stu Hart and Helen Hart, brother of Bret Hart.

Shortly after finishing high school, Owen began to train with his father in the Hart Family Dungeon in Calgary and started wrestling in Stu's promotion (Stampede Wrestling) shortly thereafter (1986).  He also began doing some tours of Japan, becoming the first North American wrestler to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title in May of 1988.

When he returned to the United States in 1988, he was signed by the World Wrestling Federation.  His brother Bret was already in the WWF, and because they didn't want to team the two up Owen became a masked wrestler--the Blue Blazer.  He had a memorable match with Mr. Perfect at Wrestlemania V but otherwise failed to do anything notable during his short stay--he left the WWF in late 1989.

He returned to Japan and the independent leagues for the next two years and also had an extremely brief tenure in World Championship Wrestling during this period.

The WWF re-signed Owen in late 1991, this time bringing him in with his real name and no mask--acknowledging his relationship to his brother Bret.  Owen bounced around between several short-lived tag teams--with Jim Neidhart in the New Foundation and with Koko B. Ware in High Energy.

In 1993 he was sent down to the USWA ( sort of a WWF minor league) to retool and gain some experience in preparation for a big singles push back in the WWF.

Returning to the WWF prior to Survivor Series '93, Owen first teamed with his brother Bret (along with other Hart brothers) and then viciously turned on him, setting up a brother vs. brother match between the two at Wrestlemania X.  That match, which Owen shocked just about everyone by winning as the heavy underdog, is widely considered to be one of the best North American matches ever.

Next, Owen was the winner of the 1994 King of the Ring, using it as a stepping stone to another match with Bret at SummerSlam '94--this time with Bret's WWF Championship on the line in a steel cage match.  He didn't win the title, but it was the first time Owen had really been seriously considered as a contender for the belt.

He'd go on over the next several years to alternate between being a tag and singles wrestler, most frequently teaming with Bob Backlund, Yokozuna, and the British Bulldog.

Fast forward to the Spring of 1997, when newly-heel Bret Hart asks Owen and Bulldog to join him in reforming the Hart Foundation.  This was the most successful angle for the WWF in all of '97, as Bret, Owen, Bulldog, Jim Neidhart, and Brian Pillman would become violently anti-America and pro-Canada.  They claimed that the American fans were cheering for the wrong people--most notably Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bret's archnemesis and one of the premiere babyfaces in the federation at this point.  This unique angle saw them as hated heels within the US while being incredibly popular in Canada and other foreign countries--at a Pay-Per-View taking place in the Harts' hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Canadian Stampede '97), the Hart Foundation is given the ovation of a lifetime while Austin and his American partners are nearly booed out of the building.

Owen's career as a singles wrestler also rose as a result of his association with the Hart Foundation, winning the WWF Intercontinental Championship from The Rock and going on to feud with Steve Austin himself.  At SummerSlam '97 Owen nearly crippled Austin legitimately due to a botched piledriver, driving Austin's head into the mat and temporarily paralyzing him for about thirty seconds.  Austin would be put on the shelf for months.

After Bret's departure from the WWF under dubious circumstances (see The Montreal Incident for that tangent), most reports claim that Owen wanted to leave the WWF to join Bret in WCW but that Vince McMahon wouldn't let him out of his contract.  As Neidhart and the British Bulldog left the WWF to follow Bret, however, it remains unclear whether Owen was really forced to stay or if he chose to.

After a token feud with WWF Champion Shawn Michaels to "avenge" Bret's loss, Owen found himself back in the midcard.  He joined The Nation in mid-1998, which was a pretty obvious attempt by the WWF to dissuade any notions of the Nation portraying a black supremacist group (which it most certainly had been up until that point).  The Nation was almost dead by the time Owen joined, however, and upon its dissolution he was back on his own.

Hart moved into a heel tag team with Jeff Jarrett along with Debra as their manager.  That teaming was pretty successful, winning the WWF Tag Team Championship in January of 1999 and holding it for the next three months.

After the team broke up (amicably, as Jarrett simply moved into a feud with The Godfather), Owen donned the Blue Blazer costume and started making appearances again, insisting that the WWF needed a superhero to make us eat our vitamins and drink our milk--a rip on Hulk Hogan's tired '80s routine.  It is believed that the Blazer gimmick was punishment for Owen not wanting to do a more risque storyline where he'd have started having an affair with Debra.

Nevertheless, the Blazer gimmick was becoming moderately successful when all hell broke loose.

May 23, 1999

In preparation for an Intercontinental Championship matchup against The Godfather on the Over The Edge '99 Pay-Per-View, Owen (as the Blazer) was going to repel down from the rafters of the Kemper Arena to make a "superhero" entrance.  He was hanging 50 feet above the ring waiting for his cue to drop when his harness failed and he plunged all 50 feet down into the ring.  His head slammed against one of the ring turnbuckles on the way down.  Paramedics rushed the ring to assist Owen as Jerry Lawler left his announcing position to assist and 20,000 fans in the Kemper Arena looked on in horror.  Owen was taken by ambulance to Truman Medical Center and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. About an hour after the fall, Jim Ross announced to the TV audience that Owen had passed away. The live crowd was never informed, and were in fact not told any details whatsoever about what had occurred.

It is believed that the "quick release" catch on Owen's harness was accidentally triggered, immediately letting Owen out of the harness and sending him into a free fall.  It is unknown whether Owen unknowingly triggered the release himself or whether the catch simply failed.

The RAW broadcast the next night was dedicated to Owen. There were matches, but with no angles or storylines. Any WWF wrestler who wanted to--face or heel, place on the card, it didn't matter--was interviewed backstage and just said whatever they wanted to say about Owen. Jeff Jarrett, among others, broke down in tears.


Every single interview I've seen with someone from Owen's life paints him as a dedicated family man who loved his wife and his two children more than anything else in the whole world.  Fellow wrestlers marvelled at how his face would simply light up whenever he spoke about his family--something he did at every opportunity.  He also had a reputation as a prankster, always willing to do something to make his peers laugh and brighten their day.  He took his job very seriously, although it was not his true love-- it was just something he did to make the best possible life for his family.  They were about to move into a new house in when Owen died.

He was one of the genuinely good people in the entire wrestling industry.

He is sorely missed.

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