Julian Connelly looks at latest WWE and Wrestling releases in his regular review column: The Turnbuckle.
A feature-length documentary on the life and career Owen Hart – one of WWE’s most beloved ever Superstars. The youngest of 12 siblings, Owen stepped out his famous wrestling family’s shadow as a true talent with a one-of-a-kind personality. For the first time ever, friends, family and colleagues come together to celebrate Owen – plus a collection of his greatest matches and stories.
The documentary on offer here is the main draw, and is unfortunately short in length (around 70 minutes) but does its job in giving a respectful overview of the real life character that was Owen Hart. The list of interviewees is satisfying, including the majority of the Hart family- predominantly Bret and Natalya Neidhart- as well as many WWE superstars past and present that knew, met or worked with Owen Hart. Plus, there is a brief selection of archive footage with Owen himself that are welcome insights.
The documentary charts Owen Hart’s career from his childhood in a wrestling family to his Stampede Wrestling days that saw him gain huge fan popularity on the independent (and mainstream) scene. From here we hear about his initial underappreciated run in the WWE as The masked Blue Blazer character, to him achieving deserved success returning to the company in the 90s. Owen Hart is among the most respected and admired individuals that has ever stepped foot in the business and from Mick Foley to Scott Hall nobody in this DVD production (or ever for that matter) has a single bad word to say about the man or the character. And that is a testament to who Owen was.
The documentary charts the major portions of Owen’s professional career and while certain areas are not dwelled upon, there is an effective overview for the fan wanting to get to know about one of the best wrestlers that ever lived. This is insightful viewing that never goes really deep personally but still tells a story of hard work and talent equating to success, respect and legend. The documentary is inter-cut with anecdotes of Owen’s well noted backstage pranks and family commitment and while many will know of some of these stories and this storytelling device does interrupt the flow of the doc occasionally, these are as close as we will likely get to knowing Owen the man as well as Owen the athlete. Still, for all the slight moments and lack of major depth, this is a great tribute to a true entertainer in and out of the ring.
The rest of the set comprises of more Owen Hart stories from a range of family members and superstars, some of which are brief, many others however are a little longer and all of them are excellent and rather touching. And then there is the diverse match listing which is undeniably missing some key contests from Owen’s career and some other notable opponents (it would have been great to see matches like the often forgotten Undertaker vs. Owen Raw main event match from 06/05/1996) but there is still lot a to enjoy here. And if you get the Blu-ray version you also get the emotional superstar memorials from the Owen Hart tribute Raw on the 24th May, 1999 and two additional matches in the 1-2-3 Kid vs. Owen Hart Semi-Final King of the Ring 1994 match and Owen’s Madison Square Garden match (as The Blue Blazer) with The Red Rooster (December 30th 1988).
The matches dig up some little seen contests like the Wrestlemania XI Promotional Public warm up match with Nick Barberri in Times Square (1994) and the excellent Raw March 3rd 1997 European Championship tournament final between Owen and The British Bulldog (rightfully focused on in the main documentary). Then there are the expected classics like the timeless Owen vs. Bret match from Wrestlemania X and the anarchic 10 man Tag at the In Your House: Canadian Stampede (July 6, 1997) PPV- also a focal point of the documentary. True certain omissions will have the odd fan disappointed but there is a whole host of history here and it makes for fond re-visitation.
So all in all, WWE Owen: Hart of Gold may add up to an enjoyable watch rather than a truly definitive collection but that should not discourage you. True it is not the perfect set but with some rare matches, archive content where possible and genuine respect on display, this set is a great introduction for newer fans to the legend that was Owen Hart and a pleasing reintroduction for fans who know and love Owen now like they did back in the 80s and 90s. This set is a fun look at the career of a vibrant human being and a truly talented wrestler, who was one of the greatest competitors never to hold the WWE Championship.
Author: Julian Connelly