#OwenWeek: Difference of Opinion

It's #OwenWeek, our celebration of all things King of Harts, and the 23rd installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. And enough is enough and it's time for a change! To the name of this feature, because as usual, we're just talking about how great Owen was.

Dave: Hey, buddy.

Nick: Hello, David!

Dave: How are things back home?

Nick: Good! The train ride wasn’t as good going down, as the Wi-Fi was not working, but I listened to a lot of Yeezy.

Dave: Wow, that stinks. I’m sorry to hear about the lack of tubes.

Nick: It’s fine, the seats were comfortable, and my Lunchables smoothie was DELICIOUS.

Dave: Comfy seat. Delicious Lunchable. What else is there in life? Let’s DoO this Owen Hart deal.

Nick: Oh, yeah. #OwenWeek has been fun, but it’s also sad and depressing, but in a completely different way than #BulldogWeek or #PillmanWeek.

Dave: Yeah, we need, like, kicklines and show tunes between now and ‘Mania to raise the mood at JMS. We’ve been dwelling on the dark side of pro wrestling, but the Owen death isn’t even “dark,” it’s just unbelievably sad.

Nick: It’s simply a tragedy in every way that something could be. There’s no moral ambiguity about what happened to him and who was to blame: he died doing his job and it was the WWE’s fault.

Dave: There’s no disputing that unless you are a WWE apologist to the degree of actually being one of their lawyers.

Nick: Speaking of lawyers, though, it’s hard to talk about Owen without talking about Camp Cornette, Clarence Mason and his time with Bulldog and even Yoko. For such a lame era, those guys — and Owen especially, obviously — were just so damned entertaining. We talked about it extensively during Bulldog week, but those guys just seemed like they were having fun.

Dave: Owen just emoted fun, whether it was as the goofy Blue Blazer, the tongue-in-cheek race traitor, or anything in between. He played to entertain himself, his friends, and the audience in a way that predicted how “WWE Superstars” largely go about their business today.

Nick: Exactly, his work, much like Pillman’s, would be progressive right now. He’s very similar to Daniel Bryan in the ring, actually. Like, obviously Daniel is more technically gifted, but Owen and he have the same “joie de vivre” when it comes to their in-ring goals and entertaining fans.

Dave: I think Owen looked even more conspicuously like he was having fun, though. But, with that said, I think that’s one of the qualities that held him down for actually breaking into the main event. It’s hard to see someone as a top babyface when they whistle through the graveyard — they can’t just smile and shrug everything off. Unless they’re John Cena, of course.

Nick: Yeah, though I think if he would have went longer, we were seeing that being, both literally and figuratively, beaten out of him. Like Pillman, it’s clear he would have at the very least been a member of the company for years longer than he ended up being.

Dave: Right, the character would have continued to evolve. Even more so than Pillman, though, I don’t think we ever saw Owen in full bloom, pulling out every stop. As we wrote last week, we saw Pillman in his working prime and Pillman in his character prime — they just didn’t occur at the same time. With Owen, I feel like there was better in-ring work coming and better character work. So, once again, we come back to the idea that his death is extra upsetting.

Nick: Yes, totally, but we have a lot to enjoy from him. Though looking back, it’s honestly less than I thought it would be. He was very prominent for a couple of years and worked a lot of matches with a lot of people, but it’s remarkable how much different people’s beginnings and endings are in terms of who they run against. Owen never got to the “work your way up and down the high-mid card/lower main event” stage that a guy like Jericho had.

Dave: No, he didn’t! You’re right.

Nick: Jericho has worked with EVERYONE, and a lot of that happened in the latter half of his career when in comes to feuds and matches of significance.

Dave: So, you’re hinting at a question that I know I wanted to put to you: Is Owen really just a midcarder who we remember bigger and better than he was because of Bret’s conspicuous efforts to elevate his profile and his tragic death?

Nick: It’s hard, because unlike much of the history of wrestling, he was bogged down by considerable politicking for a number of years.

Dave: So you’re saying that Bret’s political enemies prevented us from ever seeing the true potential of Owen?

Nick: Yes, but not just that. It’s not like, for instance, Bulldog, where he’s got a great look and can go in the ring, so we have to put him in the main event and see if he’ll catch on. Owen was a good hand and a mechanic, so you could keep him on the card wherever you wanted and he would be fine.

Dave: Right, which was the prevailing logic of the ’90s, especially.

Nick: But, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a “main event talent”, just that he wasn’t needed in the main event at the time to “maximize his value”. They didn’t need to put the ball in his hands, because they had other people who could do that slightly better than he could. BUT, they didn’t have as many people who could make EVERYONE look good.

Dave: It’s funny how in wrestling, being reliable and versatile can actually keep you right in the middle.

Nick: Exactly. To put it in other sports terms: he’s a really good two-way center, but they weren’t going to run the offense through him because they had guys who could score more goals if put in the right positions, but he would have certainly received MVP considerations had he been able to work long enough to grow into the “wily veteran carrying his team”. The narrative of Owen is mid-card, but the talent was definitely “main event”.

Dave: So, is Owen the best “other brother” of all time?

Nick: Haha, well, do you mean the people on the Top 10 list? Or actual brothers?

Dave: I mean actual brothers. Did he “step out of Bret’s shadow?”

Nick: Because he’s not as good as Kane, but other than that, he’s the best, real or fake. The thing with Owen is that he wasn’t just able to step out of his brother’s shadow, he was one of the key components in making that shadow as big as it was. Bret Hart looms large in the hearts and minds of most WWE fans — as well as wrestling fans all over the world — and that’s in large part to the fantastic periods he had working with his brother, whether it was the feud or the Hart Foundation run. I wouldn’t say Owen “made” Bret, but he is definitely the one that made Bret transcendent.

Dave: During Davey Boy week, I alluded to Bruce Hart at one point, and I think you’re right that being from a family of good wrestlers of whom he’s the best is a really important part of the Bret Hart story. And the presence of Owen on WWF TV was a big part of that. So, being Bret’s brother was a rub for Owen, but having Owen as a brother also helped tell Bret’s story.

Nick: It’s just the biggest bummer in wrestling history that we didn’t get to see Owen tell his own story.