Historically Speaking: RAW is OWEN


”History is no more than memories refreshed.” – Peter C. Newman

The Opening Chapter
This week I am again short on time and ambition. I am days away from leaving my college home and moving on to something else and somewhere else.

But I did want to drop in quickly to give my two cents on something that is very dear to me as a wrestling fan. Eight years ago this week we all saw the untimely death of Owen Hart. Most wrestling fans have a particular wrestling death that they take especially hard. For a lot of people it was Eddie Guerrero, for others it was Curt Hennig or Brian Pillman or Chris Candido. But for me it was always Owen. The way it happened, the circumstances around it; it was tough.

But I’m not going to give a career overview of Owen because trust me, that is something that will be coming sooner than later here on IP. And I not going to talk about the ill-named Over the Edge PPV that his death happened at. Instead I want to look back at the glorious two hour tribute to Owen that followed the next night on RAW, filled with volunteer matches and video tributes.

So let’s kick open the vault door to look back at the night where RAW was Owen.

RAW emanated live from St. Louis, MO, on May 24, 1999, one night after the disastrous Over the Edge PPV in Kansas City. All staff and personnel stood atop the ramp with black armbands while ten bells sounds and Vince McMahon narrates a tribute video for Owen. The night’s show was celebration of life for Owen with ten matches booked on a volunteer basis and other talent getting a chance to talk about Owen candidly.

Mick Foley spoke first and relates a wonderful story about how his son Dewey idolized Owen and wanted to be just like him. Bradshaw also shared some words before the first match of the night, a bout between Test and Owen’s on-air tag partner and backstage friend Jeff Jarrett. Jarrett, fresh off of wrestling the night before just minutes after his friend fell to his death, beat Test with the Sharpshooter in a fitting tribute. After the match Mark Henry breaks down while reading a poem about Owen, followed by Droz, who says some nice words.

The next match is X-Pac and Kane defending their WWF Tag belts successfully against Edge & Gangrel. After that, Chyna & Triple H, in their happier times, talk about Owen, followed by WWE official Dave Hebner putting in his two cents. Then there is a high-flying tag match between The Hardy Boyz and Kaientai, in a nice nod to the aerial skills that Owen employed earlier in his career. Then Bruce Pritchard gives his brotherly love to Owen.

The show so far has been very light on storyline and for good reason and the next video package is really the only hint of storyline found on the show, as they show video of Undertaker winning the WWF Championship from Steve Austin the night before. Undertaker never appeared on live on the show, as he was much pretty much all storyline and character at this point and perhaps having a guy called The Undertaker on a dead wrestler’s tribute show is a bit much.

Dustin Rhodes tells a funny Owen story about spiking Harley Race’s chili at a cookout in Kansas City one time and Race coming after him with a stun gun. Then there is match between Ken Shamrock and Hardcore Holly, which Shamrock won, followed by words from Faarooq and then Test. In the next match Mankind beat Billy Gunn by count out as both men gave some tribute to Owen in the ring before and after the match, including Gunn modifying his “if you’re not down with that spiel” to honor The King of Harts.

Then there are probably two of the most memorable performer tributes as Jeff Jarrett gives his very heart-felt memories of Owen and breaks down while speaking. Then Edge talks about looking up to Owen and the “Canadian mafia” that all the northerners had backstage. He also mentions that he wrestled Owen in his last match, as he and Christian fought Jarrett and Owen in a tag match on Saturday at a house show, the night before his death. He said that Owen was in a very fun mood that night, wearing his Blue Blazer trunks and wrestling very out of character and trying to get everyone around him to crack up.

D-Lo Brown and Mark Henry then beat The Acolytes in a tag match followed by Pat Patterson’s words about Owen and Hardcore Holly’s tribute, including a story about how Owen put him over on RAW the night they were in Holly’s hometown. The next match between Road Dogg and Godfather never even got started as the two decided to call off the match and go back with the hoes, smoke some pot and tell Owen stories. The tributes continue, with words from Paul Bearer and X-Pac, followed by Triple H beating Al Snow and then words from Road Dogg and Gerald Brisco.

As the show nears its end, Big Show beats Blue Meanie and Goldust in a quick handicap match, followed by Debra’s poignant words about Owen and Shane McMahon’s words, including the first reference to Bret Hart all night. The final match of the evening is Val Venis against The Rock. Both give in-ring tributes to Owen followed by a rushed match that Rock wins in about a minute.

The show ends with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler getting a chance to say their goodbyes to Owen followed by Steve Austin coming out to toast Owen’s memory with a couple of cold ones without saying a word.

The Perspective
This was one of the most memorable episodes of RAW ever, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. The show was light on wrestling but that wasn’t the point, it was just a way for the man’s co-workers to express their feelings and maybe release a little of their stress or anger. The true wrestling tribute to Owen came months later in October when his brother Bret and Chris Benoit put on a wrestling clinic when WCW Nitro came to Kansas City. We can sit here all day and debate whether the pay per view should have gone on after his fall but we can’t change things now but I like to look back at this RAW as a fitting way for the millions of wrestling fans who didn’t even know Owen the person to say goodbye to him as a performer and entertainer. Hopefully Owen is up there having five star three way dances with Eddie and Pillman right now.

For this week the vault is closed…

Linked to the Pulse
Scott Keith continues his rants through the ‘80s with this 1987 edition of Primetime Wrestling.

Brashear talks about Hogan’s last days in WCW.

Another edition of VS is up. This time it’s a fantastic battle between Pulse Wrestling’s Eric S. and Shawn Smith from over in Broken Dial.

This Day in History
I figured if we are talking history around here we should pay homage to what has happened on this very day in the years gone by. It will either make you long for the old days or be happy for what we have now.

1973 – Harley Race defeated Dory Funk, Jr. for the NWA Heavyweight Wrestling title
1974 – Dory funk, Jr. defeated Harley Race for the Missouri State Heavyweight title
1984 – Ric Flair defeated Kerry Von Erich for the NWA Heavyweight Wrestling title
2000 – Nick Dinsmore defeated The Damaja for the Ohio Valley Heavyweight title

1948 – Sergeant Slaughter (Bob Remus) was born.

The Assignment
It’s important to know your history to know where you have come from and where you are going. Nova implemented history assignments for the students of the developmental territories months ago so they would know pro wrestling’s history and they would learn just how many moves Nova did create. I feel this is a smashing idea and every week I will assign a book or DVD for you to check out and learn from. They are not only educational but very entertaining.

This past week I picked up the Heroes of World Class DVD directed and produced by long-time World Class fan Brian Harrison. World Class was not an area I was familiar with at all as it was a little before my time and out of my region so I actually picked up a lot of good knowledge about the territory and the Von Erich family. Harrison has interviews with all the big names that are still alive including Kevin Von Erich, Gary Hart, Skandar Akbar, commentator Guy Mercer and Mickey Grant, the guy behind the scenes responsible for their television production and innovative filming techniques. Hearing stories about the Von Erich family and how tough Fritz Von Erich could be are worth the price alone. It was nice that they had footage of their television shows to splice among the interviews as Kevin had yet to sell the footage to WWE at this time. It’s sad to think how many of World Class’s stars are now dead, not just the Von Erich boys but others like Gino Hernandez, Chris Adams, Bruiser Brody and Terry Gordy as well. The “e” is putting out their own DVD about World Class later this year called The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling that I’m sure will be very entertaining as well and will include full matches, but do yourself a favor and pick up this labor of love. It was done on a small budget so the quality isn’t up there with a WWE DVD but don’t let that deter you. There is also a second disc as well with interviews from Jim Cornette and others talking about their time in World Class that just make the whole thing that much better.

Mark was a columnist for Pulse Wrestling for over four years, evolving from his original “Historically Speaking” commentary-style column into the Monday morning powerhouse known as “This Week in ‘E.” He also contributes to other ventures, outside of IP, most notably as the National Pro Wrestling Examiner for Examiner.com and a contributor for The Wrestling Press. Follow me on Twitter here.