Owen James Hart was born on May 7th, 1965 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He was the youngest of Stu and Helen Hart’s twelve children. The Hart children grew up hearing the screams of hopeful wrestlers coming from their parents’ basement, otherwise referred to as The Hart Dungeon. It was within those hallowed walls that Owen Hart also learned the tools of his trade.
Owen gained wrestling experience as an amateur wrestler in high school. He made his professional wrestling debut on May 30th, 1986 for his father’s wrestling promotion, Stampede Wrestling. While in Stampede Wrestling, Hart won the Stampede Wrestling International Tag Team Championship with Ben Bassarab. In 1987, his tag-team success and in-ring presence garnered him the title of Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Rookie of the Year. In that same year, Owen ventured to Japan and wrestled for New Japan Pro Wrestling on several tours. On May 27th, he defeated Hiroshi Hase to become the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.
In the fall of 1988, Hart inked a contract with the World Wrestling Federation. In August of that year, he made his debut at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. He wrestled under a masked character named Blue Angel. Instead of being promoted as Bret’s younger brother (Bret was a mega star in the WWF at this point), he was given the superhero gimmick of The Blue Blazer. Blazer was eliminated at Survivor Series. Then he lost to Ted DiBiase on the March 11, 1989 edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event and was defeated by Mr. Perfect at WrestleMania V. Unhappy with the way he was being booked, Owen left the WWF shortly after WrestleMania.
Following his departure from the WWF, Hart toured the world with and without his Blue Blazer gimmick. He returned Stampede Wrestling and worked for the promotion until it was closed in December of 1989. In 1991, he lost his Blue Blazer mask in a Mask vs. Mask match against Mexican wrestler El Canek; thus, ending the Blue Blazer gimmick. In that same year, Hart began making appearances on World Championship Wrestling shows.
Owen had discussed signing a contract with WCW; but he was not willing to move his family to the company’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. So those negotiations fell through. He then signed with the WWF for a second time. By this time, the popular Hart Foundation, comprised of Bret Hart and Owen’s brother-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, had split up. Bret had embarked on a very impressive singles career; and “The Anvil” was barely used. When Neidhart returned from a storyline injury, he and Owen teamed together to from The New Hart Foundation. The duo first feuded with the Beverly Brothers. In January 1992, at the Royal Rumble, The New Hart Foundation had their only pay-per-view match together. They defeated The Orient Express. Shortly after that, Neidhart left the company. So Owen was thrust into the realm of singles competition for a very short period of time. He had a match against Skinner at WrestleMania VIII. Shortly following the aforementioned WrestleMania, Owen teamed up with Koko B. Ware. The duo became known as High Energy. Like The New Hart Foundation, High Energy only had one pay-per-view match together, which was at Survivor Series. They lost to The Headshrinkers. The tag-team quietly disbanded at the start of 1993; and Owen embarked on a singles career once again.
In the middle of 1993, while Bret was feuding with Jerry Lawler, Owen stood by his brother and fought against Lawler in the United States Wrestling Association. From there, Owen defeated Papa Shango to become the USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion; but his participation in the WWF vs. USWA feud stopped abruptly when he suffered a knee injury that summer.
Hart returned to the WWF later in the fall. Bret, Owen, and their brothers Bruce and Keith were supposed to face Jerry Lawler and his team at Survivor Series. However, Lawler couldn’t make the show and was replaced by Shawn Michaels. During the bout, Owen and Bret accidentally bumped into one another, which caused Owen to be eliminated from the team. After the match ended, Owen came out and confronted his brother. Things became heated, which resulted in Owen being jeered as he left the ring. The following night he adopted Bret’s signature pink and black tights, sunglasses, and Sharpshooter to send a message to the elder Hart. Sick of being in his brother’s shadow, Owen challenged Bret to a match, to which Bret declined. By the holidays, the two seemed to be on the fast-track to reuniting.
Owen teamed with his brother on a regular basis; and Bret managed to get the duo a shot at the WWF Tag-Team titles. In January 1994, at the Royal Rumble, The Harts faced the Quebecers. During this match Bret hurt his knee and the referee was forced to stop the match and reward the Quebecers the victory. Owen was irate and yelled Bret for not tagging out of the match. He proceeded to kick his brother’s injured leg. Afterward, Owen belittled his brother. He accused him of being selfish and of holding him back. At WrestleMania X, the two brothers faced off against one another for the very first time. This match was arguably one of the greatest matches in professional wrestling history; and Owen won it with a clean pin. Later that night, Bret defeated Yokozuna to become the WWF Champion. Owen came out during his brother’s celebration. He glared at him with envy. In June, Owen won the King of the Ring Tournament with help of his former tag-team partner Jim Neidhart. After this victory, Owen adopted the nickname “The King of Harts.”
Owen continued his feud with Bret throughout the summer of 1994. The pair engaged in several singles matches and later tag-team matches. Two more outstanding matches resulted from this feud: The Steel Cage match at SummerSlam for Bret’s title (Bret won) and the lumberjack match took place on August 17th. Owen won this bout and was announced the new WWF Champion; but the match was ordered to continue due to interference and Bret regained the title. At Survivor Series, Owen conned his mother into throwing in the towel for Bret; thus, causing Bret to lose his title to Bob Backlund. On January 22nd, 1995, at the Royal Rumble, Owen prevented his brother from regaining the title from the current champion Diesel. Following the Rumble, the two brothers continued to butt heads for several weeks until Bret finally defeated his brother. Their feud was temporarily placed on the backburner.
On the rebound from his loss to Bret, Owen captured WWF Tag-Team titles with Yokozuna at WrestleMania XI. The duo defended the titles for five months. Then they lost them to Shawn Michaels and Diesel at In Your House 3. The pair would capture the titles a second time; they dropped them to the Smoking Gunns shortly after. Hart and Yokozuna teamed together off and on until the end of the year.
In the summer of 1996, Owen started teaming up with his brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith. In September, the pair earned a shot at the tag-team titles at In Your House 10. The twosome left the pay-per-view with the belts around their waists and a new manager, Clarence Mason, in their corner. However, conflicts between the two began to arise. At the Royal Rumble, Owen accidentally eliminated Smith. Following the Rumble, Smith fired Mason, which didn’t sit well with Owen. The newly-created European Championship also placed a riff between the two. Both Owen and Davey Boy made it to the finals to crown the first European Champion. Smith won the match.
On March 24th, 1997, on Monday Night RAW, the tension between Hart and Smith reached its boiling point after the pair retained their tag-team titles against The Headbangers. Hart demanded a shot at Smith’s title the next week. So on March 31st, Owen faced his brother-in-law in a match that would undoubtedly sever their relationship as a tag-team. However, it was the newly-heel Bret Hart that became the saving grace. He appealed to both Owen and Davey Boy about the importance of family. Bret, Jim Neidhart, Brian Pillman, Owen, and Davey Boy formed a newer, the anti- American version of The Hart Foundation.
After forming The Hart Foundation, Owen went on to defeat Rocky Maivia for his first Intercontinental Championship. Therefore, The Hart Foundation held every WWF title, except for the WWF Championship. However, Owen and Davey Boy ended up losing the tag-team titles to Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels on May 25, 1997. Owen started to feud with Austin shortly after that.
At SummerSlam in August, Owen was slated to defend his Intercontinental Championship against Austin in a “Kiss My Ass” Match. Austin would have to kiss Owen’s rear, if he lost. During the match, Owen accidentally injured Austin’s neck after executing a Piledriver. Austin won the title; but had to vacate it due to his injury. The WWF decided to turn the whole thing into a storyline. Owen began donning a t-shirt that mimicked Austin’s moniker “Owen 3:16: I Just Broke Your Neck.” Hart was then involved in a tournament to crown a new champion.
Owen made it to the finals of the competition and was slated to face Faarooq at In Your House: Bad Blood. Austin made his return and helped Owen when the match; because he wanted to face Owen for Intercontinental Championship. Hart retained the title twice by disqualification. Then at Survivor Series in Montreal, Austin defeated Owen to win the Intercontiental Championship. On that same night, the now infamous “Montreal Screwjob” took place. Bret left the company afterward. Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart followed suit and joined Bret in WCW. Owen was the only Hart family member remaining with the company; and Vince McMahon would not grant him a release from his contract. Not that Owen wanted to return to WCW.
Owen was not seen or mention during WWF programming for quite some time. He made his surprise return at In Your House: Degeneration-X where he attacked Shawn Michaels. Owen had adopted a new edgy, anti-social persona and became known as “The Lone Hart” and “The Black Hart”. He engaged in a feud with DX and challenged Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship on December 27th, 1997. Triple H intervened. So that Michaels didn’t lose his title. Owen later won the European Championship from Triple H, who won the title back later on after suckering an “injured” Owen into an impromptu title match.
Four weeks following WrestleMania, Owen turned on his friend Ken Shamrock during their tag-team match against D’Lo Brown and Rocky Maivia. Afterward, he became the co-leader, with Rocky, of The Nation of Domination. The stable’s first big feud was with Degeneration-X, which eventually led to the coining of the phrase “I am not a nugget.” The term “Nugget” followed Owen for the rest of his career. The feud with DX was placed on the backburner when Shamrock returned; the Owen/Shamrock feud was never really settled.
Owen remained with The Nation of Domination until it disbanded in 1998. After SummerSlam, Owen began teaming with his real-life best friend Jeff Jarrett. During this time, WWF wanted Owen to have an on-screen affair with the tag-team’s manager Debra. However, Owen turned it down.
After “accidentally injuring” Dan Severn during a match, Hart seemingly quit the WWF; and The Blue Blazer remerged, only he was a bit more self-righteous this time. This actually turned into a pretty comical storyline with Jeff Jarrett. The pair would take turns dressing up as the character. On January 25, 1999, amidst the Blue Blazer storyline, Owen and Jarrett captured the tag-team titles from Ken Shamrock and The Big Boss Man. Owen continued to team with Jarrett until his death.
On May 23rd, 1999, Owen tragically passed away after a stunt scheduled for the Over The Edge pay-per-view went horribly wrong. (Out of respect for Owen’s family, no further details surrounding his death will be listed here. Research them at your own risk.) He was only thirty-four years old.
Owen Hart may have been a reluctant superstar in the world of professional wrestling; but he was indeed a star. Arguably, no performer to date can match Owen’s in-ring presence. He was truly a remarkable athlete and an equally remarkable human-being. His memory lives on in the “harts” of his fans, family, and friends. Thank you, Owen.