Monday, January 9, 2017

Owen: Hart of Gold

Just over a year ago at the end of 2015 WWE released, Owen: Hart of Gold (trailer). For newer fans that are not aware, Owen Hart suffered a tragic accidental death at the 1999 Over the Edge PPV. This has lead to a rocky relationship between the Hart family and the WWE ever since. In recent years, the WWE and most of the Hart family has put their differences behind them and have made recurring appearances with the WWE again since 2010. However, Owen’s widow, Martha is still at odds with WWE, and part of me is still surprised this home video release honoring Owen came out after Martha sued WWE in 2013 for claims of unauthorized use of Owen’s likeness in another video release from the WWE in 2011 honoring the Hart family. Both parties apparently have settled their squabbles as Owen: Hart of Gold is a long overdue tribute to the life and career of Owen Hart.

If you are familiar with Owen’s career, than you most likely know he will go down as one of the all-time greatest pranksters both in and out of the ring. Throughout the feature there are ‘Owen Tales’ breaks between scenes in the documentary where past wrestlers share how they were a victim of one of Owen’s legendary gags. There is lots of great material here that I was unfamiliar with before and they are nice breathers between chapters of Owen’s career.

The documentary covers most major parts of Owen’s career, but does not go terribly in-depth about each chapter, other than a couple of key moments for Owen along the way. His early Stampede Wrestling days get a decent amount of coverage and plenty of highlights are shown of Owen developing his high-flying style to help fill in the void in 1986 when Bret and Jim Neidhart left Stampede for the then-WWF. Chris Jericho and Edge are both interviewed sharing memories of Owen being their favorite Stampede wrestler, and Bret is also on hand to talk about how it was his idea to transition Owen over to the WWE under a mask as the infamous Blue Blazer character so he would not have to be stuck under Bret’s shadow. I liked the classic old Federation-era highlights of Owen’s Blazer days, and Bret has some interesting insight on why that run did not work out for Owen.

The documentary brushes over Owen’s cup of coffee in WCW, and his first couple years back in the WWF from 1991-93 when he teamed with Jim Neidhart and Koko B. Ware as the New Foundation and High Energy, respectively. Natalya had a cool little anecdote from her childhood proving to a sibling by digging into their video vault to prove Owen wrestled in WCW, and Koko appears in an interview clip for all of five seconds to simply say he had a good time teaming with Owen. I get these were not huge money making years for Owen, but at least a couple of minutes could have went into some expanded interviews here as I have some hazy memories of Owen’s tag team days in the early 90s and would have loved to learn more from Jim and Koko about their times tagging with Owen.

At least the documentary gives a lot of love to Owen breaking out as a singles star in his near-year long rivalry with his brother, Bret that started at Survivor Series ’93 and culminated in their classic PPV matches at Wrestlemania X and Summerslam ’94. That was probably Owen’s best run in his career, and a lot of his family, peers and current WWE talent share their memories of it and how proud they were ofOwen for finally emerging. I vividly recall their Summerslam cage match and loving it as a kid with it having the honors of being my favorite match for several years.

Owen settled down into the mid-card after his feud with Bret, but he was still effective there as a utility player and the feature makes sure to touch on his highlights there over the next few years. Decent coverage is dedicated to Owen teaming with Yokozuna and the British Bulldog, and his run with Intercontinental Title as a member of Hart Foundation faction in the summer of 1997. Owen gets some love from his associates for being the only Hart member to stay in the WWE after the controversial Survivor Series ‘97 PPV, but after that the documentary quickly glosses over the final year and a half of his WWE career until he brought back the Blue Blazer in 1999 shortly before his death. I had some good memories of Owen in the ‘Attitude’ era when he was a member of the Nation of Domination and teaming with Jeff Jarrett, but Hart of Gold barely acknowledges these eras for Owen other than a quick passing mention from those who were interviewed.

I thought the feature covered the night Owen passed away appropriately. It shows Jim Ross making the shocking announcement at the Over the Edge PPV and a montage of highlights from the Owen Hart RAW tribute the next night. If you have the BluRay, all 42 testimonials that aired on RAW and that week are archived as BluRay exclusives, and they give a good feeling on how much Owen meant to the entire locker room. The documentary wraps up with stars sharing their final thoughts on Owen. Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens both make some impactful recollections of Owen to close out the feature.

The BluRay has 45 minutes of bonus ‘stories’ aka deleted scenes that were not part of the main feature. There are some good tidbits in here that are worth checking out, including more Owen pranks, Mick Foley going into detail on how him and Owen competed to see who could be more thrifty on the road, how Owen and Bulldog had a classic match for the European title and the origin of how Owen got his awesome ‘nugget’ chants. There are 21 matches as extra features, two of which are exclusive to the BluRay. This is the first place I saw complete matches of Owen in Stampede Wrestling where he was still honing his high-flying repertoire and trying all kinds of cruiserweight-style moves I never recall him attempting before.

There are some hidden gems in the extras of matches at live events that were never nationally telecasted before against the likes of Mr. Perfect, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and yes, even the Red Rooster. Owen’s memorable aforementioned bout with Bret at Wrestlemania X and facing off against the British Bulldog for the European Title are my two favorite matches in this collection. The 10 man tag from the main event of the Calgary Stampede PPV with one of the hottest crowds ever is a must see if you have not witnessed it before. So is the unique ‘Dungeon Match’ where Owen faces Ken Shamrock in a no DQ submission match in the Hart family basement training facility known as ‘the Dungeon.’ That match should have been an abomination on paper, but Owen and Shamrock had a lot of good spots and moments in the MMA fight/wrestling match hybrid with a creative finish that helped it become a legitimately entertaining match up.

The documentary is just over an hour, and while it is a decent Cliff notes version of Owen’s career they could have expanded in at least several areas I noted above for a more complete biography. I remember watching the Over the Edge ‘99 PPV live with friends and being baffled at what transpired that night. I somehow missed the announcement of Owen’s death later in the PPV and found out after I got home that night on WWE’s website and was crushed. While not the most comprehensive feature, it hits all the right key moments and perfectly captures what Owen meant not only to his fellow wrestlers, but to fans like myself. Throw in a hefty dose of bonus scenes and matches, and Owen: Hart of Gold winds up with an easy recommendation.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 3
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
ECW Unreleased: Vol 3
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
OMG Vol 3: Top 50 Incidents in ECW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
RoH Supercard of Honor VII
RoH Supercard of Honor VIII
RoH Supercard of Honor IX
RoH Supercard of Honor X
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Sting: Into the Light
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
True Giants
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28
Wrestlemania 29
Wrestlemania 30
Wrestlemania 31
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
Wrestlings Greatest Factions
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2016

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