On the anniversary of Owen Hart’s death, and in the same week his episode of Dark Side of the Ring, we take a look at perhaps Owen’s most infamous match.
I’ve never really had a chance to sit down and digest. I mean, when this match happened, I was only nine, and the Internet wasn’t really a thing…
Anyway, going into WrestleMania X in 1994, there’d been two winners of the Royal Rumble, thanks to Bret Hart and Lex Luger eliminating each other… and since that was the plan (as opposed to, say, in 2005), we ended up with this wacky situation. To ensure some sporting fairness, we had a coin toss to decide who’d get their title shot first. Luger won the coin toss, and since either he or Yokozuna would be going on to a second match later in the night, Bret Hart needed to have a match beforehand, so that both men would be going into the main event “tired”.
Step forward Owen Hart.
In early 1994, Owen had broken up a short-lived team with his brother Bret following their unsuccessful challenge for the tag titles at the Royal Rumble. Yes, it was a busy night for Bret. Yes, that was the show where the infamous “that’s why I kicked your leg out of your leg” promo came from. Before then, Owen had most recently been in the tag team High Energy with Koko B Ware, while also having a rather shaky win/loss record on TV – always winning against enhancement talent (like the wonderfully-named Reno Riggins, Iron Mike Sharpe, and “Carmella’s dad” Paul van Dale)… but against bigger stars, would always come up short.
So, on the back of a high profile split, Owen’s singles career could go one of two ways. Step forward brother Bret to help steer it…
Owen Hart pinned Bret Hart in 20:00 (****¾)
Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart
I loved the tease in the entrance – of course, both Bret and Owen were from Calgary, yet for some reason the crowd were expecting Bret out first.
The crowd’s hot from the start, as Owen celebrated Bret shoving away a lock-up as if he’d won the match. A Fireman’s carry has Bret down, but he quickly catches Owen with some headscissors… that Owen kips up out of, as he again celebrated. Bret’s in with a waistlock takedown, but Owen scrambles to the ropes as things stayed somewhat tetchy, with Owen using a waistlock takedown of his own before Bret charged him to the outside.
Back in the ring, Owen began to match Bret move-for-move, trading hammerlocks on the mat before he rolled free and took Bret down in a wristlock – after a hair pull. Bret gets free and yanks Owen’s arm, before an O’Connor roll out of the corner got a near-fall, as Bret returned the armdrag/armbar combo. Owen elbows out of a hammerlock, only to find himself monkey flipped into the ropes, then clotheslined to the outside.
Owen threatens to walk away, but Bret throws him right back inside as a shoving match leads to a slap and a roll-up, with Bret again then grounds Owen with an overhead armbar. A crucifix pin nearly does it for Bret, who goes right back to the arm, but Owen gets shoved into the ropes, and rebounds with a nice spinning heel kick.
Owen stomps Bret to the outside, then followed him so he could charge him into the ring post, looking to live up to his pre-match threat that “Bret wouldn’t make it to the title match.” Rather than let Bret get counted out, Owen rolls him back inside and hits a pendulum backbreaker before staying on the back with an ol’fashioned camel clutch.
Bret powers free though, but after he elbowed away at Owen, he ran into a belly-to-belly suplex that almost ended it. Owen’s sent into the corner, but his attempt to counter with a crossbody’s rolled through as Bret picked up another two-count, before Owen went back to the grounded chinlock. Owen tries to follow up with a slam, but Bret falls back on him…
Another switcharound led to Owen almost winning with a German suplex, then with a legdrop to the back of the head, before Bret blocked a suplex and rolled him up for another near-fall. An uppercut from Owen led to him getting thrown into the ropes… but he counters a pendulum backbreaker by flipping around and straight up tombstoning Bret… which doesn’t get called by any name.
Owen heads up top to finish of Bret, but the Dynamite Kid-esque swandive headbutt misses, allowing Bret to fight back with an atomic drop and a clothesline. A punch to the gut starts the Five Moves of Doom as a side Russian legsweep gets a near-fall, before Bret hit the pendulum backbreaker… then went up to the middle rope for an elbow drop. Owen kicked out at two, returning fire with an enziguiri before he went for a Sharpshooter…
Which Bret escapes, but his own Sharpshooter was blocked before Bret had to kick out of a Japanese leg clutch pin. Owen rolls outside, and takes a Pescado from Bret, who looked to tweak his knee on the landing – a throwback to their Royal Rumble tag team match. Owen’s back inside, but he’s worn out as he heads to the corner… from where he kicks Bret’s leg out of his leg again!
Bret’s taken into the corner, where his legs got wrapped around the ring post, before he mocked Bret’s newly-gained hobble. A Dragon screw’s next, then an Indian deathlock, before a Figure Four kept Bret on the mat. Referee Earl Hebner counts Bret’s shoulder to the mat, getting some two’s out of it, before Bret rolled over to reverse the hold as the pair ended up rolling into the ropes.
Owen’s back up, trapping Bret in the ropes as he kicks at the leg again, but an enziguiri from Bret buys him time, as he proceeded to throw Owen into the corner. Aw, he took his big brother’s bump! It’s good for a two-count, as Bret came in with a bulldog… which still can’t get it done. A piledriver’s next as Bret began to swing for the fences, but he still can’t get that three-count, so he heads up for a superplex… but took too long to roll over for the cover as Owen got a shoulder up in the nick of time.
Picking Owen up, Bret lands some right hands before he went for a sleeperhold… Owen goes to the ropes and mule kicks Bret to get himself free, which the ref missed, as a Sharpshooter followed. The hold finally gets reversed, but Owen’s right by the ropes and gets a near-instantaneous break.
Another Irish whip follows as Bret’s taken into the corner, but he lifts himself up into the buckles and perches himself on Owen’s shoulders… a Victory roll looks to follow, but Owen sits down on it, and there’s the upset! Madison Square Garden was left shocked, as the “baby brother” Owen snatched the win over his brother… who’d not be sour for long, as he’d leave MSG as champion. A timeless classic, and a match that more than holds up to this day. ****¾