May 23, 2009
Mat Matters: Remembering Owen Hart
By JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling
It's a date that certainly snuck up on me, as I'm sure it has done for many of you - May 23 - the anniversary of Owen Hart's passing.
It's hard to believe at first, but indeed it has been 10 years since Owen's tragic death. The King of Harts, as he was once known, died on this day at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City after a stunt that went horribly wrong.
Owen's death and the controversy that arose soon afterward shook wrestling to its very foundation. The WWF, arguably, has never fully recovered from that day, and the Hart Family, who have experienced far too many tragedies over the years, has definitely never been the same.
It's hard even today to properly pay tribute to Owen. Undoubtedly, WWE today would like nothing more than to induct the youngest of the Hart brothers into its Hall of Fame and perhaps create a tribute DVD so that fans can enjoy some of his finest matches; but with the rift being as sizable as it is between the Fed and Owen's widow, Martha, that's not likely to happen.
Rather than dwell on these facets of Owen's passing, though, most fans prefer to look at his career, arguably one of the most successful WWE tenures in the 1990s, and enjoy what they can. Countless times across the 'net, Hart matches rank on "top matches of all time" lists, and fantasy bookers continue to bring about the question of "what if Owen hadn't died? Where would he be today?"
That is all the testament you need to see to know just how popular and genuinely loved Owen was. Too many wrestlers have left the bright lights of arenas and stadiums way too early; but it can easily be argued that none are as fondly remembered or as consistently re-viewed on DVDs and steaming websites as Owen.
He was truly a great person. The worst words anyone will say about him are that they were a victim of one of his legendary pranks, but even those are followed quickly with a smile.
If the true impact that a wrestler has on the industry is the legacy he or she leaves behind, then there is no doubt in my mind that Owen is, in many ways, the greatest wrestler of the 1990s. He was a caring and devoted family man when so many others around him were not. He led a clean life amid an era wrought with controversy. He shook hands with fans and was one of the most likeable guys in any locker room he entered.
Now, 10 years later, those words about Owen Hart mean as much as they did in the days following his tragic passing. It's hard to say, a full decade later, whether we have learned any lessons from Owen's death; but we have definitely learned lessons from his life, the most important being that the true path to being unforgettable is not by stepping on others to advance yourself, nor is it to go behind the backs of your co-workers, family and friends; it is to be noble, to always carry a smile on your face and, more than anything else, be real and be true.
Owen had all of those traits, and for this he will live on in our hearts and
our memories for decades to come.