Friday, 31 December 1999

Owen Hart - A Personal Viewpoint

I first found out about this tragedy early last Monday morning. At 6:30am, just as my alarm clock radio went off onto Radio 5 Live, the news came on. An American wrestler had died the previous night after plunging fifty feet into the ring. The newsreader didn't say who it was.

Usually after my alarm goes off I lay in bed for about thirty minutes listening to the news, but on this day something was different. I put some clothes on and rushed downstairs. Switching onto teletext, I quickly found the news page, and found out that the man who had died was Owen Hart.

I couldn't begin to describe what I began to feel when I saw those words. In a way, I felt the same way as, say, when an actor I admired, or a pop star I liked had died. I suppose it was a mixture of shock and disbelief. I knew it had happened, but in a way, I didn't really believe it.

I flicked through the various news channels. G.M.T.V. had a three minute report on it. The B.B.C. news made no mention of it. It seemed like Sky News, at first, were not taking it seriously, until someone e-mailed them, demanding information.

My thoughts on the situation were with me all day. As soon as I got home, my brother gave me the video of Over The Edge. I wasn't sure whether I should watch it or not. Perhaps some morbid fascination began to take hold. Perhaps I needed visual proof that Owen Hart really was dead.

I soon got it. The Godfather-Blue Blazer match was the third one scheduled for the event. Then, it happened. During a recorded segment, the tragic accident happened. To their credit, the W.W.F. didn't allow anything that happened in the ring to be shown on television. This wasn't about ratings. This was about a man's life.

To be honest, if I had been in charge that night, after the accident, I would have called the rest of the event off. Jeff Jarrett, whose match was right after the accident, clearly had his thoughts elsewhere.

I wasn't sure if I should carry on watching the video, but for some reason I did. Later, with just two matches left, Jim Ross broke the news to the entire world. Owen Hart had died. Once again, if I had been in charge, I would have stopped things there and then. Sure, it would probably have meant a loss of television money, and perhaps some of the fans would have wanted a refund on their tickets, but then, what is money, compared to the loss of a man's life?

I will now move forward a few days to the following Friday. Because I usually work when the rest of the wrestling shows are on, I mainly watch the wrestling on Fridays. At 9pm, I turned to watch W.C.W. Nitro. Between his stints in the W.W.F., Owen wrestled in W.C.W. for a brief time. I thought they would have said something, paid some sort of tribute after all. You read in the wrestling magazines that even thought they work for different companies, many of the wrestlers are very good friends. But nothing. Not a word.

At 10pm, I turned onto Raw. The first thing I saw was the tribute that every wrestler and referee paid to Owen Hart. Many of them were in tears. I must admit, I almost joined them.

This edition of Raw was different. All the arguments between the wrestlers were gone. This broadcast was about one thing - paying tribute to a friend whose time had come far too soon.

During the evening, segments that were recorded by the wrestlers were played, each paying a glowing tribute to Owen. I found many of these very moving. It showed a side to the wrestlers that many of the public do not see. It showed that no matter what they say to each other in public, no matter what storylines they follow, the wrestlers, who virtually live in each other's pockets for most of the year, are very close to each other.

The matches that evening didn't mean anything. It was obvious that many of the athletes didn't want to compete that night. Road Dogg and Godfather chose to forget their match, take a few drinks together, and swap Owen stories. The likes of Val Venis and the Rock dedicated their match to Owen. Jeff Jarrett, Mark Henry and Triple H all broke down after their matches ended. And all through the night, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler told glowing stories of the pranks Owen used to play on them, and each time they told their stories, they had to hold back the tears.

Finally, Steve Austin came out. After taking the applaud of the crowd, and called for the usual beers to be tossed into the ring. Then, as Owen's picture appeared on the giant Titantron screen, Austin opened the beers, slammed them together, and toasted Owen. Without saying a word. Austin paid tribute to the man who had had some classic battles with him a couple of years ago.

The death of a man that you had watched for nearly fifteen years on television was a shock. I remember years ago watching Owen wrestle Marty Jones on the old I.T.V. Saturday afternoon shows. I remember seeing him wrestle Curt Hennig as the Blue Blazer at Wrestlemania V in 1989. I remember him winning the King of the Ring tournament a few years later. His tag-team with Davey Boy Smith was one of the best.

Owen may not have been one of my favourite wrestlers, but he was one of the best. To his wife, children and family, I offer my sympathies.

Rest in peace, Owen. I hope that now, as you look down upon us from wherever you are, you realise just how many lives you've touched. 

No comments:

Post a comment