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Pulse Wrestling’s Top 100 Wrestlers of the Modern Era: #45 – Owen Hart

Owen Hart grew up into wrestling royalty. He was the youngest of twelve children, all of whom ended up having some sort of ties to the wrestling business. Despite being the youngest, Owen Hart may very well have been the best in-ring athlete of the entire bunch, and that’s no knock on his brother Bret.


Aliases Owen James; The Blue Blazer; The Rocket; The King of Harts
Hometown Calgary, Alberta Canada
Debut May 30, 1986
Titles Held IWGP Junior Heavyweight; Stampede British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight; Stampede North American Heavyweight (2x); Stampede International Tag Team (with Ben Bassarab); USWA Unified World; WWF European; WWF Tag Team (4x – 2x with Yokozuna, 1 with British Bulldog, 1 with Jeff Jarrett; WWF Intercontinental (2x)
Other Accomplishments Winner of PWI Rookie of the Year Award in 1987; Back-to-Back Winner of Wrestling Observer Best Flying Awards in 1987 & 1988; Winner of PWI Feud of the Year Award in 1994 (vs. Bret Hart); Winner of Wrestling Observer Feud of the Year Award in 1997 (Hart Foundation vs. Steve Austin); Recipient of PWI Editor’s Award in 1999; Ranked as #66 of the 500 Best Singles Wrestlers During the PWI Years; Ranked as #84 of the 100 Best Tag Teams of the PWI Years (with Davey Boy Smith); Member of Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame

He was the crown prince of Calgary.

Owen Hart grew up into wrestling royalty. He was the youngest of twelve children, all of whom ended up having some sort of ties to the wrestling business. Despite being the youngest, Owen Hart may very well have been the best in-ring athlete of the entire bunch, and that’s no knock on his brother Bret.

Like the rest of his brethren, Owen started out in his father’s infamous “Dungeon” training facility and then began working for the family’s Stampede Wrestling in Calgary. He naturally worked his up through the family promotion thanks to his flashy, high-flying style.

His skills got him noticed worldwide. He picked up the 1987 PWI Rookie of the Year award and soon headed off to New Japan Pro Wrestling. He was instant success in the Orient, and picked up the prestigious IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship quickly. Owen was the first gajin to hold that belt and one of only two Canadians to this day who has earned it.

After his stint in Japan he ended up the World Wrestling Federation. It was in 1989 after his father had sold the Calgary territory to McMahon. His older brother Bret was already an established performer in the WWF at this time so he came in under the masked superhero gimmick The Blue Blazer, so as to not cause confusion or storyline explanation. His unique look and style made him popular with fans but he just didn’t fit with the mold of the top card guys at the time, and he disappeared midway through 1989.

In late ’91, after dropping the Blazer mask to Canek in a mask for mask bout in Mexico, Owen returned to the WWF. He was paired with his brother’s old tag partner Jim Neidhart as The New Foundation. Following the dismissal of Neidhart and a brief singles run, Owen joined up with fellow high-flier Koko B. Ware as High Energy. The pair teamed for the better part of a year before Owen went solo, as “The Rocket.” His relationship with brother Bret, who was now a top star in the WWF, was played up more and they became part-time tag partners.

It was in 1994 when Owen finally turned on his big brother that his star began to rise. Owen played the jealous little brother role to perfection. After pinning Bret clean at WrestleMania X, the pair embarked on months long family feud over the WWF Championship. They put on a tremendous steel cage main event at SummerSlam ’94 and continued their rivalry through 1994. This run against Bret really put Owen on the map as a legitimate superstar finally out of his brother’s shadow.

In 1995 Owen picked up the WWF Tag Championship with Yokozuna and hired Jim Cornette as his manager. Throughout ’95 and ’96 he worked alongside Yoko, brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith and Vader as part of Cornette’s stable. Owen and Davey Boy picked up the WWF Tag Championships in late ’96 and ruled a weak tag division.

But his greatest run came in 1997. He and Davey Boy had started a mini-feud over the fledgling European Championship, but were reunited together by brother Bret. Together that trio, along with Jim Neidhart and Brian Pillman, formed a new Hart Foundation. Owen also picked up the Intercontinental Championship along the way. The group’s status was unheard of at the time as they were clear-cut heels to American audiences, but were wildly popular and over as faces around the rest of the world and especially in Canada.

During this time Owen had a feud with Steve Austin that led to the now infamous SummerSlam ’97 match where Hart dropped Austin on his head during a botched piledriver attempt. Austin’s neck was badly damaged, and that injury actually ended being the catalyst for a lot of changes in the WWF in the future.

After his brother Bret’s “Screwjob” at Survivor Series ’97, Owen became the remaining Hart family representative in the WWF. He adopted “The Black Hart” and then later “The Lone Hart” persona to reflect the changes around him. He went into a feud with Hunter Hearst-Helmsley that transitioned into a DeGeneration X-Nation of Domination feud when Triple H took over leadership of DX and Owen joined The Nation.

After The Nation dissolved, Owen worked with Ken Shamrock and then Dan Severn. They worked an angle with Severn where Owen “injured” Severn, playing off his real injury against Austin a year earlier. This led to Owen “quitting” the WWF and The Blue Blazer returning in his place. The Blazer angle also coincided with Owen “returning” and forming a successful tag team with Jeff Jarrett. The pair, loosely known as “Canadian Country,” won the WWF Tag Championships during their time together.

It was ultimately this comedy angle with The Blue Blazer that led to Owen’s very unfunny demise.

As Owen Hart was preparing to lower from the rafters of the Kemper Arena on May 23, 1999, in preparation for an Intercontinental Championship match against The Godfather he fell 78 feet into the ring. He died right there in the ring during the unfortunately titled “Over the Edge” pay per view.

Owen was only 34 years old when he passed away. He left behind a lot of family and friends that really knew him, but also left behind a void for wrestling fans that only knew him through his work in the ring. His career was become a major case of “what if” for many fans, including yours truly.

As a quick editorial statement I would like to say that to this day, of all the premature wrestling deaths that have happened over the years, his is the one that has affected me the most.

He came from wrestling royalty and died well before his time. His story seems like something found in a Greek tragedy or something. And as a professional he was one of the best. In the ring he was phenomenal as an aerial artist, scientific technician, and he could hold his own in a brawl. He was decent on the mic, but had a wicked sense of humor that helped his in-ring characters. He was the type of in-ring talent that any promoter would dream to have under their employ.

The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.