Sunday Night, May 23, 1999. I had just returned home from a couple of tough weekend shifts at the restaurant I was working. 12-12, followed by 9-6. I was exhausted, sore, and in need of some frosty liquid refreshment. I did have small solace that night in the form of a WWF PPV I was not particularly forward to. Over The Edge 1999. I was at the peak of my wrestling fandom at that point, but truth be told, I was not thrilled with the WWF product in 1999. As someone who always enjoyed a really good match, the WWF wasn’t providing many of those at that point, instead focusing on risque and insidious storylines, slaves to the almighty Neilsen Ratings. The era was deemed “The Monday Night Wars” and never has there been a more apt name for an epoch in wrestling history. By the end of the wars, the body count would be staggering. Great wrestler after great wrestler, mid carder after mid carder, jobber after jobber, all lost their lives in the war to make money for themselves and organizations, to put their bodies through inhuman torture which could only be sustained night in and night out by copious amounts of pain killers and PED’s.
Back to the original point. I fixed myself a small snack, cracked open the first of my six pack of Rolling Rock (Oh, those days when, not only did underage me drink Rolling Rock, but could get TIGHT on a six pack) and proceeded to lay in my recliner and watch the latest offering from the high rolling WWF.
The card looked completely unspectacular. The Main Event was a WWF Championship Match between champion Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Undertaker (part 423 in a series of 1,295 matches, approximately) with Shane and Vince McMahon as the guest referees. Other sure to be classic matches on the card were Val Venis and Nicole Bass facing off with Jeff Jarrett and Debra, The Union vs. The Corporate Ministry, and the blow up of the wildly popular, wildly overrated New Age Outlaws. Fans, like myself, who were looking for some great in ring action, were almost certain to be disappointed with the card that had been outlined. There was another match, almost an afterthought, especially to me, for the Intercontinental Title. It would be the Godfather defending against the mysterious Blue Blazer.
Now, anyone who knew wrestling at that time knew just who damn well the Blue Blazer was. It was the alter ego of Owen Hart (Although, sometimes his tag partner, Jarrett, would dress up in the masked outfit to try to throw people off of Owen’s scent). As a longtime Hart family fan, I was always interested in seeing what a Hart would do in the ring. Granted, I was always more of a Bret and Davey Boy guy, but that didn’t stop me from following the great heel stylings of Owen throughout his WWF tenure. He was tremendous fun to watch, just a great chickenshit wiseass heel. Owen also was probably one of the most naturally gifted wrestlers to ever grace the squared circle, so he had that working for him as well. He was an absolute joy to watch, but I wasn’t holding out much hope for his match with the Godfather.
Owen had always been great as just plain Owen Hart. Much like Chris Candido in ECW, there were no gimmicks needed. Sure, the monikers of “Rocket”, “King of Hearts”, and “Two Time Slammy Award Winner” didn’t hurt. But all of that was attestable to the genius of Owen Hart. His Blue Blazer gimmick was certainly silly, harkening back to his early days in WWF in 1988 and 89, as a masked babyface JTTS. Owen had recently revitalized the gimmick, and, while may smart fans hated this treatment of one of their heroes, some, like myself, saw Owen putting 100% into the gimmick, as he always did. Whereas in 1988 it was meant to be almost a form of hero worship to Tiger Mask (maybe the wrong choice of words…but its my article, deal with it), Blue Blazer v. 1999 was mostly a parody. It was a parody of WCW superheroes like Sting. It was almost certainly a parody of his own brother Bret, who detested the filth WWF was devolving into. But some would also say it was a parody of Owen himself, who also, like Bret, hated the direction of the WWF, and had refused some risque storylines simply because he was a family man with young, impressionable children whose minds, along with countless other children tuning into WWF broadcasts, he did not want to warp.
So the Over the Edge PPV begins with a fairly nondescript tag match of Kane and X-Pac vs. D-Lo Brown and Mark Henry. Smell the workrate. It was followed by a hardcore match between Al Snow and Bob Holly. That wasn’t a bad match, but certainly not a good one either. The third match on the card was scheduled to be the Godfather vs. The Blue Blazer. Here is where that PPV becomes indelibly etched into my psyche.
They went to a video package, highlighting the fact that everyone was in on the Blue Blazer joke, that everyone knew it was Owen Hart. Even the announcers. It was a fairly quick package, Pimp against Superhero looking for justice and morality, more or less. That is when shit got weird.
The camera panned back to a wide angle of the audience, while Jim Ross was struggling to collect his thoughts, it seemed, and he kicked the feed back to the dressing room for a pre taped Blue Blazer interview. But not before he stammered out “We have big problems out here.”
The promo that followed was classic Owen, declaring that his “arch nemesis” The Godfather made his “blue blood boil.” Owen finished his Blazer interview with his Hogan rip off credo: “Say your prayers, take your vitamins, and drink your milk. WHOOO!”
It was sadly the last words we would ever hear from Owen James Hart.
Now I don’t have to tell anyone what happened next. We all know. Moreover, I would be hard pressed to even attempt to match the namesake of this site to write a definitive, tell all story on Owen Hart. So that is not happening. I was shocked at the moment when Ross said there was an accident with Owen, but, wrestling being wrestling at that point, I honestly didn’t know WHAT THE FUCK to think. I stayed up for a couple of more matches, all the while recording it on my VCR (I mean….the fuck I did…I did no such thing. That’s illegal. Would never do that. Ever.) I conked out for the night, and missed Ross’ announcement later in the night. What alerted me to the severity of the whole thing was my mother calling me the next day. Honestly, I thought the accident was real, but every fiber of my being wanted to believe it was a bad Russo stunt. So when my mom called me that morning and said “Did you hear about that wrestler who died last night?”, the gravity of all of it hit me. And hard. I immediately turned on CNN, and was shocked to see a wrestler being the lead item on a news network. Owen Hart. Dead. At 34. Unreal.
Enough of my personal recollections of that horrific night. To the book. “Broken Harts” is Martha Hart’s attempt into discussing the man that she loved and adored, her attempt to convey just how great a man was lost on that sad May day in 1999. The book’s full title “Broken Harts: The Life and Death of Owen Hart,” is actually misleading. There is some talk on his life, very little on his career. The book is more about Owen and Martha’s almost Thoreau or Emerson Walden type existence together. But, it is less about the life of Owen Hart, and more about the death of Owen and the seedy aftermath of those events in Kansas City, MO.
Martha Patterson and Owen Hart met in high school, as Owen’s wrestling team happened to be practicing a few rooms over from Martha’s gymnastic squad. It was truly a case of love at first sight, Romeo and Juliet embodied in the flesh as opposed to characters leaping off the page. They began their storybook romance in relative squalor. Owen was the youngest of the Hart children, and, as I am sure many here are aware of, especially if you have read my review on Bret’s book, that existence was far from idyllic. Martha grew up in similar circumstances. Her mother had 11 children by two husbands, Martha towards the bottom of the age totem pole. Both families had dysfunctional home lives, both taking in vagrants, the disillusioned, the poor, the destitute, the transient. The Hart family did it with wrestlers, the Patterson family with vagabonds. Martha and Owen were young members of their respective families who yearned for a more simple, structured, normal life. To that end, they began dating, and found absolute true love that neither of their families could understand. Owen never really wanted to be a wrestler, but once he fell head over heels for young Martha, he realized he needed a profession where he could provide a comfortable living for his soon to be bride and soon to be budding family.
Owen was an absolute natural, and Martha was perennially by his side. From Germany to Japan, USA to Ukraine (oh God, I sound like Rod Trondgard) Owen and Martha traveled side by side. They were married in 1989, and it was then that Owen decided to quit wrestling and become a fire fighter. Well, Calgary didn’t really give him a fair chance, so, with brother Bret now at the top of the profession as WWF Champion, Owen reembarked on his wrestling career.
People who are looking for inside dirt on Owen’s WWF career or his ribs, stop. Martha offers nothing too much in this book. She instead speaks of how proud Owen was at the births of his son Oje and daughter Athena. It is a truly amazing look into the at home psyche of a great family man. Sure he was gone a lot of days because of his WWF commitments, but this is a guy who truly got it. As Mick Foley said in the Owen documentary by Paul Jay: “Some people say they live for wrestling. Not Owen. Owen lived for his family, and used wrestling to help them live.” Amen brother.
Most wrestling fans are going to be disappointed with this book, because his entire WWF run lasts roughly, maybe, 30 pages. Its the death and aftermath that dominate it.
As we know, Owen fell to his death, 78 feet, from the top of the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, MO, May 23, 1999. Here is where the book becomes must read. And it pains me to say that. Bret and Martha were absolutely a united front, as those two knew Owen better than anyone. Unfortunately, Diana Hart, Ellie Hart, and Bruce Hart were a united front as well. And they saw Owen’s death as cash. Cold hard cash. How? In pity employment from Vince McMahon. Most of this stuff is pretty public domain, especially in Canada, but rest assured, it still remains lurid and detestable. Martha also writes about how awful and pornographic Diana’s book was, and how it became her mission to censor it. Good for Martha.
Out of the respect this writer has for the Hart family, well, Bret, Owen, and some…Kieth should be included, I will not give an opinion on some of the shit that appears in this book. That is up to the reader, and in these reviews, I try not to slander too much when its a subject I am intimately familiar with. Sometimes.
The lawsuit is mentioned in full detail here, except for the settlement amount. Based on my limited knowledge of what happened, I believed, and still believe, that Vince McMahon and WWF were grossly negligent. And the tribute show they had the next night? Bad. The fact they kept Over the Edge going after Owen fell? Unforgivable. It shows the true tastelessness, the lack of tact, the lack of sympathy of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
There are many other things I could discuss about this book, but, hey, what is the point of writing a review where I ruin everything and you do not seek out and read the fucking thing? The best part of this book is that all proceeds from the sales of the book go towards the Owen Hart Foundation, which Martha Hart founded shortly after the settlement with WWF.
My own conclusion is this: WWF was absolutely negligent in the people they hired, and the devices they used, in the stunt that killed Owen Hart. I leave it to you, the well informed reader, to peruse the book, study the facts on his death, read between the facts that Martha clearly did hate and will always hate, wrestling, and make your own determination. That is the point of all this. Educate yourself.
This book is an absolute must read. As for Owen questions, refer to the man running the blog.