-Owen Hart nearly left the wrestling business to become a firefighter.
-Vince McMahon cherished his brother and didn’t think siblings fought.
-The Undertaker hates pickles!
-Owen was considered to hold the WWF Title after WrestleMania X.
-The Blue Blazer was inspired by the Mighty Mouse character.
Conrad says this show will differ from most that focus on an individual since Owen entered the WWF to little fanfare and earned his way up.
The stage is set. It’s July 8, 1988. Our World Champion is “Macho Man” Randy Savage, who’s locked in a feud with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase. Hulk Hogan has taken a break to film No Holds Barred, and Bret Hart is fresh into his first babyface run with the company, having been double-crossed by Bad News Brown in the WrestleMania IV battle royal. The two are now doing battle on the house show circuit. On this night in Redding, CA, Owen would debut against Terry Gibbs.
Conrad and Bruce discuss the name under which Owen debuted. Conrad says it was the Blue Angel; Bruce disputes that and says he was never intentionally given that name, but that a handful of ring announcers screwed up and called him that.
In addition to using reports from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter as the backbone for this episode, Conrad also routinely cites entries from Owen’s widow, Martha Hart, in her 2002 biography: Broken Harts: The Life and Death of Owen Hart.
He starts by saying Martha gave the indication that Owen may not have wanted to be a part of the wrestling industry, that he did not enjoy all the travel and the circus atmosphere that went with it. He then says that in a 1997 interview, Owen referred to his inability to leave the industry behind as “the curse of wrestling.”
Bruce first heard about Owen when he was wrestling for Stampede in Calgary and touring for Otto Wanz in Germany. People told him based on Owen’s then-unique high-flying ability on that tour that he was the worker of the Hart family and he was the one destined for stardom. He says as far back as 1987, he recalls Bret saying he’d lobbied to Vince having Owen come in, that Bret was always a huge fan of his little brother. Bruce thinks the problem Vince initially had with Owen was his size and charisma, even though he was a hell of a worker.
When he did join the company in 1988, Vince didn’t want to introduce him as a Hart, since they already had the Hart Foundation and he didn’t want to confuse things. Instead, Vince chose Owen for a Mighty Mouse superhero that he’d been wanting to use for a while since he loved that cartoon character. That’s how we ended up with the Blue Blazer.
Conrad finds it crazy that Owen could be Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s 1987 Rookie Of The Year and then happen into a kind of generic seeming character. Bruce doesn’t ever recall Owen having a problem with the character. He says it was hard to justify not letting him just be Owen Hart, but that his shyness and lack of charisma made them feel the mask was necessary.
The guys discuss that Vince was at a point where everyone that came in was given a unique gimmick, citing the Red Rooster as another character from the Box of Gimmicks™.
Owen injures his knee during his first week in the company. He wrestles through it and travels extensively. He then starts hitting the circuit in opening matches against Barry Horowitz, which makes Conrad doubt whether the company really saw more in him at that point. He again cites the PWI award and Bruce retorts “I don’t think Vince knew what a PWI Rookie of the Year was.” He feels everyone’s got to start somewhere.
Early in his run, we start seeing Owen performing top rope splashes and moonsaults. They were rare back then, though now everyone busts them out. Bruce recalls a major Stampede feud Owen had with Makhan Singh/Aka Mike Shaw and how everyone told him Shaw was the star, and how wrong that assessment was.
The Blue Blazer
The Blue Blazer makes his TV debut on August 24, 1988 in Harford, CT. The moonsault quickly becomes his signature move. He’s featured from there in TV matches, going over Horowitz, Boris Zhukov, Brooklyn Brawler, Jose Estrada and a series of matches in November with Danny Davis. He debuts at Survivor Series on November 24, teaming with the Ultimate Warrior, Jim Brunzell, Sam Houston and Brutus “the f**king Barber” Beefcake against Honky Tonk Man, Greg Valentine, Ron Bass, Bad News Brown and Danny Davis. Blazer is eliminated by Greg Valentine. Bruce points out that Owen had a history with a lot of guys in that match, including Valentine, Bad News and Beefcake.
Owen works Madison Square Garden on December 30, having a 20-minute draw with the Red Rooster. He’s pinned the next day by Rooster and Conrad feels that things were not looking promising for him as his first year closed.
He begins working with Mr. Perfect in January and it’s later announced the two would face off at WrestleMania V, where Perfect would go over in about six minutes.
Bruce discusses some of the things he and Owen have in common with each other with WMV being the first on-screen for both of them. He says they were also the babies of their families with an older brother whose shadow they struggled to come out from under. He says they talked about the moment together at the time and that WrestleMania was always a big deal for Owen.
From Martha’s book, Conrad says Owen went from being the star of the show everywhere he went to being one step above being a jobber and that Owen felt he deserved better, in spite of making decent money. Owen didn’t think it was a big deal to just be working for the WWF. Bruce says they never discussed such feelings at that time.
Conrad says Owen’s last match with the company at that time was June 26, 1989. He then went back to Stampede until December and then hit the independents. Bruce thinks Vince saw the Blazer gimmick had run its course. Though he wanted Owen around, he felt if he was unhappy, he should go back to Calgary.
Owen would then tour internationally and wrestle some big names, even losing the Blue Blazer mask in a match against Mexican star Canek. That would be the end of the Blue Blazer in its original incarnation.
On March 16, 1991, Owen debuted on WCW television, where he would wrestle in a total of five matches against prelim talent.
In regards to whether Bruce ever felt the ball had been dropped on Owen once he left the company, Bruce says the general feeling was the ball had been dropped the moment they saddled him with the Blue Blazer gimmick.
He returns to the WWF in November of 1991, during a time when Bruce was not with the company. Dave Meltzer reports that during his time away, Owen married Martha and bought a home and toured Germany. He tried to join the Calgary fire department and do Japanese tours, but he was unable to get on the tours.
He reluctantly returned to WWF and began teaming with Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart as The New Foundation, a reboot of the original Hart Foundation. The team appeared to be headed towards something big, booked to go over the Nasty Boys, Orient Express, Beverly Brothers and Powers of Pain. However, a few months later, Neidhart was out of the company. He was then briefly given a solo shot and appeared at his second WrestleMania, this time defeating Skinner at WMVIII with a rollup in just over a minute.
Shortly thereafter, Owen was teamed up with Koko B. Ware and they were dubbed High Energy. They would dabble in the undercard for the remainder of 1992 before losing consistently to the Headshrinkers.
Finally, at the start of 1993, Owen gets attacked by Razor Ramon during an interview. This is to build towards Bret’s matchup at the Royal Rumble against Razor, and marks the first time the Hart brothers are worked into an angle with each other. The two would go on to team together to defeat Ted Dibiase and IRS in a non-title tag match.
Bruce calls teaming the two together a “no-brainer.” It was a way to get Owen into a singles role but also get him into the mix.
He runs the circuit defeating Red Rooster and then gets involved with the USWA, eventually winning the title there through a working agreement with WWF. He would drop the title to Jerry Lawler, “who didn’t?” asks Conrad. This would prompt the memorable feud between Lawler and Bret.
Owen would then be booked, yet again, to lose to multiple mid-card names on TV, finally reaching what would be his last inconsequential SummerSlam, defeating Barry Horowitz. He would stay involved peripherally in the Bret-Lawler feud.
This brings us to the beginning of the centerpiece of this episode: Owen vs. Bret.
Bret was originally opposed to the idea. He felt awkward doing a similar angle with his brother-in-law, Davey Boy Smith, a little over a year earlier, even though they did tremendous business, namely the Wembley Stadium classic at SummerSlam ’92. Eventually, he relents and they move forward.
Bruce says the original idea all along was for Bret to feud with Owen. He and Pat Patterson wanted it, but Bret and Vince did not. “Goddamnit pal, brothers don’t fight.” Bruce says, based on his own life experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Vince didn’t know his brother well and cherished their relationship so much that he did not understand the notion.
Bruce Hart then sent in a letter pitching the same storyline, but with Bruce in the place of Owen. Vince liked it, but Bret didn’t. He preferred Owen after all. It came across as Bret’s idea and Pat Patterson and Bruce (Prichard) loved it.
Conrad asks about Vince’s relationship with his brother, Rod. He runs a successful business in Houston. He wasn’t close to Vince for years but now they’re all good.
Rod McMahon, y’all. Rod McMahon.
At Survivor Series ’93, Bret and Owen team with the rest of the Hart Family. Owen gets eliminated after accidentally bumping into Bret. They’d been building for weeks that Owen was jealous of Bret stealing the spotlight, and this was the moment that pushed him over the edge.
Conrad compliments the patience shown in the build up for this angle.
Bret and Owen, still trying to patch things up, team at Royal Rumble to face the Quebecers. Owen made his heel turn official here, by beating down Bret after the match.
They square off at WrestleMania X in the opening match. Owen wins in a surprising moment. It’s a great match. Watch it. Like, stop reading right now and go watch it.
Ok, you back? Good.
Bruce says this match ignited a tour throughout Europe and the summer of Bret and Owen squaring off over the Heavyweight Title.
Then we launch into a segment on Owen being a legendary ribber.
Owen wins King Of The Ring ’94 and becomes the King Of Harts.
The King Of Harts
In July, it’s announced that Bret and Owen will face off at SummerSlam in a cage. The two work all over the horn, particularly through Canada, in preparation.
We then go on to discuss Sean Waltman as the 1-2-3 Kid, including one of Bret’s more famous matches where he defeats Kid in a 20+ minute match on Raw, but also makes him in the process.
Bret and Owen work a series of 60 minute Iron Man matches on the house show circuit leading up to SummerSlam.
And then we arrive at the United Center for SummerSlam ’94.
Conrad recites a Meltzer report which states that the quality of house show matches between Bret and Owen between their classic at Mania ’94 and the follow up at SummerSlam have been a letdown and this frustrates Bruce.
For some reason, Conrad inquires about Bruce’s thoughts on Dave Meltzer’s match ratings. He had to know Bruce would not give a thoughtful response to such an inquiry. Bruce did not. Regardless, everyone loves the SummerSlam match. Watch it! Bruce tries to stress to young talent, stop thinking and start feeling. It’s what made Bret-Owen so great at SummerSlam.
The guys discuss the Bret-Backlund “Throw in the Towel” submission match at Survivor Series ’94. During the match, Owen appears to regret his actions and pleads with his parents to throw in the towel. He eventually convinces them to do so, it costs Bret the title, and Owen then gloats and celebrates. In this viewer’s opinion, it is arguably Owen’s finest moment.
A few months later, Bret finally goes over Owen and the feud concludes.
Owen then jumps back into the tag scene, winning the titles at WMXI with Yokozuna.
The duo would go on to face the British Bulldog and Lex Luger in a series of matches where Owen would bust out his latest rib – cooperating with Bulldog and sandbagging Lex.
They then discuss Owen using various ridiculous things as foreign objects – popcorn, foam fingers, etc.
We then learn that the Undertaker hates pickles. Owen, of course, would have much fun with this discovery, both in the locker room and, ultimately, in the ring.
Owen and Yoko eventually drop the tag titles to Diesel and Shawn Michaels at In Your House in September ’95. Davey Boy joins on as Owens new partner.
From Martha: Owen finally got a great financial deal in 1996 and planned to retire in two years. Bruce recalls the deal but no such retirement plan.
Owen and Bulldog then align with Vader and Camp Cornette.
An insane story involving Jim Cornette, Stu Hart, Bruce Prichard and some extremely inappropriate comments about Stu’s daughter, Diana, is told. I will not attempt to relay this one. Go to the 1:35 mark of this show and have yourself a listen. Unreal.
Owen does commentary for King Of The Ring ’96. This is during a time when Owen feigns an injury and uses a cast as a weapon a la 1985 Bob Orton.
Owen and Bulldog win the tag titles from the Smoking Gunns at IYH Mind Games ’96 and are aligned with their new manager, Clearance Mason. They would hold the titles for 246 days, eventually losing to Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels.
Slowly, things begin to break down between Owen and Bulldog. At this time, in early 1997, the European title is introduced. Bulldog defeats Owen to win the title. After arguing with one another for months, things finally come to blows on the Raw after WM13.
Fresh off his double turn with Steve Austin at WrestleMania, Bret convinces Owen and Bulldog to bury the hatchet. The trio is joined by Jim Neidhart and Brian Pillman and we have the faction known as the Hart Foundation.
The Hart Foundation
The Foundation are heels and, as such are anti-American. They’re embraced by the Canadian crowd, which Bruce says was not the original plan, and they rolled with it, creating one of the most memorable angles of the era.
“You cannot ignore when the crowd is cheering like crazy for your top heels and booing the living s**t out of your top babyfaces,” says Bruce.
You cannot ignore it. Nope. Certainly not.
The formation of the new Hart Foundation culminates with IYH Canadian Stampede on July 6, 1997. Being received as mega-faces, the Foundation would square off against Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust, and the Legion Of Doom. The crowd was insane for the show and the city of Calgary followed suit all weekend. Conrad recommends going out of your way to see this show, and I cannot agree enough.
From there, Owen moved into a feud with Steve Austin. The two would infamously meet at SummerSlam ’97. This is the match where Owen attempts a modified Tombstone piledriver on Austin. Austin’s head is too low and he is seriously injured. The guys discuss the gravity of the scene that night, rumors surrounding the incident and much more. You can go to the 1:54 mark of the podcast to listen in. This is another segment I definitely recommend.
Owen’s character moves on from the issue sporting a T-shirt reading “Owen 3:16 says I just broke your neck.” Austin’s star was on the rise and this was a way to keep him on TV even when he was not able to perform. At Bad Blood ’97, Farooq and Owen battle in the finals of the IC tournament, created when Austin forfeit the title due to this injury. Austin interferes on behalf of Owen to help him win, explaining he wanted to be the one to beat Owen. Bruce feels this greatly enhanced Austin’s character at the time.
This leads us through to Survivor Series ’97 where Austin returns to action, defeating Owen for the title. This is obviously the site of the notorious Montreal Screwjob. Having done an entire episode about this subject already, the guys skip past the details here and focus on the fallout regarding Owen.
Neidhart and Bulldog would be granted their releases to join Bret in WCW. Vince really wanted to keep Owen and offered him a new contract. Eager to show what he could do, Owen ultimately decided to stay.
From Martha’s book: Owen asked for his release, willing to forgo a contract of close to $300,000 per year for 3 years. Owen felt he could not work for a man he didn’t trust. In the end, however, Vince would not agree to a release.
Meltzer concurs with Martha that Vince would not permit a release, seeing Owen as far too valuable in light of the Screwjob.
Bruce tells a great story about Owen working around the company’s No Blood policy in a future match with Shawn Michaels. He further concludes that the two carried on as professionals and left the past in the past.
Shawn would cut a promo talking about flushing a s**t and always having a little nugget float to the top. This is how Owen would earn his new nickname and how we would receive the line of the show:
“It’s crazy how things get a life of their own off of Vince taking a s**t…”
“I’m not a nugget!”
Owen received a match against Michaels in February en route to transitioning into a feud with Triple H. The two would battle for the IC title at WMXIV.
With DX transitioning after WrestleMania into anti-authority babyfaces, Owen’s babyface push loses steam. He goes on to feud with Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock, reassuming his more natural heel role.
At Fully Loaded in July 1998, Owen would battle Ken Shamrock in a Dungeon Match, which was filmed in Stu Harts “dungeon” in Calgary. Bruce goes on about the mystique of the dungeon and the surreal awesomeness of being there. But Conrad would rather discuss how awkward things must’ve been for everyone considering the Montreal Screwjob was just eight months early. Bruce says the only Hart Vince had heat with was Bret, Conrad counters that Vince would like to continue driving a stake into the family and continue carrying out his role as the real-life Million Dollar Man.
We move on the SummerSlam ’98 where Shamrock gets his win back on Owen. Their “Lions Den” match was held in the Paramount Theater next to Madison Square Garden, where the rest of the show was taking place.. Bruce says it was a cool experience.
Blue Blazer 2.0
Conrad reads a lengthy excerpt from Martha’s book giving her take on the return of the Blue Blazer character. She felt WWF was out of ideas and was humiliating Owen in this role. She feels the business and its followers had really gone dow hill and that Owen was put out there to take the brunt of their sadistic scorn. Bruce confirms that this was a Vince Russo angle.
Martha would write that Owen felt he no longer fit in the new, filthy world of pro wrestling. He was ashamed of his profession and no longer felt good about being a wrestler. Bruce says that Owen never expressed these feelings to him.
They then discuss Owens unwillingness to take part in a love triangle angle with Debra McMichael and Jeff Jarrett, saying he did not want to put his family through such a thing.
According to Meltzer, Blazer was positioned as a “nerd” who represented the uncool enemies of WWF who said that the company had gotten too raunchy. It was also done to mock the 1980’s Hulk Hogan character. This was looked at as punishment (since Vince loves to short term reward in order to long term f**k with you).
Conrad asks if Bruce remembers anyone in the Hart family being anti-infidelity angle. Bruce says, “yes. Owen.”
The guys go over the issue of Owen being in the WWE Hall Of Fame. Bruce then fondly recalls a great memory of Owen, Martha and their children always showing up to WrestleMania parties dressed to the nines and how that epitomizes the family man that he was.
Bruce feels that Owen was once considered to hold the World Title, following WrestleMania X.
Conrad discusses the brief time Owen spent in the Nation Of Domination, nicknamed the Blackhart. Bruce counters with an example of Owen being “given an inch and taking ten miles” and “making something out of nothing.” Conrad further discusses Owen running so hard with what he was given that he eventually became co-leader of the Nation. They mention his calling card at the time: “Enough Is Enough and I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore.”
They close with stories of more ribs, which are worth listening to and can be found in the last 15 minutes of the show.
Conrad mentions that Triple H has said in a few interviews that “The Game” was originally intended as a nickname for Owen and that he uses it in tribute.
Currently, WWE star Kevin Owens named his son after Owen Hart. He subsequently chose to name his WWE character after his son.
Owen met Martha when they were in school, back in 1982. They would stay together throughout his life.
Owen did not like to spend money. “He was cheap”, says Bruce. This would include him getting picked up by fans at the airport and sometimes even staying at their house. Bruce says even these fans were not impervious to an Owen ribbing. This led to one guy calling the cops, claiming Owen was stealing things the guy had given to him. Owen turned it around in front of the cops and had the guy arrested.
Back to the ribs. They were in Hershey, PA and had brought in a couple pigs to be part of a match with Henry Godwin. After the show, while removing the pigs from the arena, Owen redirected the pigs into Vince McMahon’s office, where he’d find them later rooting around.
Running down the feelings a lot of greats in the industry have towards Owen, says Mick Foley: “Owen definitely had his priorities. Some people say they live for wrestling. I think they have it backwards. Owen had his priorities in the right order because he lived for his family and just wrestled to live.”