Posted on 05 March 2010.
By Gordon Holmes
Special to Canadian of the Week
From Alberta’s Hart Family to Quebec’s Rougeau Brothers to Ontario’s Edge and Christian, the tradition of Canadian wrestling is full of larger-than-life personalities and unforgettable matches. Join us every week as we count down to Wrestlemania XXVI by taking a look at the Great White North’s finest contributions to the squared circle.
Editor’s Note: The “Modern Era” is defined as the period of wrestling that exists from
SummerSlam 1988 to the present day. Why 1988? Because that’s when I started watching wrestling. I know, I’m lame.
10. Andrew “Test” Martin
9. John “Earthquake” Tenta
8. Lance Storm
6. Chris Benoit
5: Trish Stratus
4: Owen Hart
Weight: 227 lbs.
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
Greatest Match: Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart – Wrestlemania X
If this list was about the most beloved Canadian wrestlers of the modern era, you’d have had to wait three more weeks for the Owen Hart article.
Sure, some will say that people view Owen with rose-colored glasses since his unfortunate accident in May 1999, but I’d disagree. In a business fraught with con men, carnies, and creeps (how’s that for alliteration) you never really heard a bad thing about Owen Hart.
Maybe it was his legendary sense of humor. Seriously, if the WWE released a three-DVD set of former superstars telling Owen prank stories, I’d buy it in a second.
Maybe it was because he was a family man. In his book “Have a Nice Day,” Mick Foley tells stories about how Owen rarely went out after shows so he could save money. Apparently the only reason Owen wrestled was to make enough money so his family could live comfortably. Owen’s goal wasn’t championships or magazine covers, it was early retirement so he could spend his days with his kids in Calgary.
In fact, if the pay at the fire station had been equal to that of a WWE superstar, Owen would have rather done that and stayed home.
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But alas, this list is more based on a person’s in-ring work, microphone skills, and overall influence than it is on their behind-the-scenes attitude.
As luck would have it, Owen excelled in all of those areas too.
In-Ring Work: Anyone who’s ever seen Owen’s matches with his brother Bret Hart, his brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith, or his family’s natural enemy Shawn Michaels will attest that Owen was in the upper echelon of workers in the ’90s. Tippity top on the list of Owen’s best matches would have to be his Wrestlemania X classic with Bret and his European Title tournament final against Davey Boy. Both matches are excellent examples of flow and storytelling without having to lean on gimmicks or weapons.
Microphone Skills: Owen may be responsible for one of the most memorable slip ups in interview history with his classic “Kick your leg out of your leg” miscue from the ’94 Royal Rumble, but other than that he was usually very solid. Both Bret and Owen had to walk a very fine line in their feud so as not to make Owen look sympathetic to his more successful brother, but they both pulled it off perfectly. And then there were the Slammy Awards…
Championships come and go, but once you win a prestigious Slammy Award they can never take it away from you. When Owen claimed his second award (I say claimed, he didn’t technically win it, he just took it) the bragging speech that followed was pure gold.
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Overall Influence: Owen very well could have been the prototype for the geeky heel characters that were later perfected by Edge and Christian. You could even make the argument that the Blue Blazer persona that Owen was developing before his tragic accident (“I always take my vitamins, say my prayers, and drink my milk!”) was a big influence on Shane Helms’s Hurricane gimmick and Kurt Angle’s World’s Toughest Nerd character.
More important than that is Owen’s influence on North American wrestling. Owen helped usher in a style that was more focused on technical wrestling and highspots after the steroid trials forced out the muscle-bound brawlers of the ’80s. In fact, Owen helped pave the way for such smaller, Japanese Junior-inspired wrestlers such as Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and Eddie Guerrero.
Not bad for a guy that would have rather have been a fireman.
Now, normally I put my pithy ending at the end of these posts and call it a day, but writing this has made me realize how much I truly miss Owen Hart. If you were a fan back in 1999, do yourself a favor and dig up the clip of Vader trying to keep a straight face after Owen knocked a waiter onto him at the 1997 Slammys. If you weren’t a fan back then, break out a copy of Wrestlemania X and discover for yourself what the fuss over Owen Hart was all about.
Gordon Holmes is the wrestling correspondent for Comcast.net’s SlamCast wrestling coverage and the “Survivor” correspondent for Fancast.com. He was also trained to take a beating by WWE Hall of Famer Afa “The Wild Samoan” Anoa’i. You can follow Gordon on Twitter at twitter.com/gordonholmes.