Welcome to WrestleMania Memories, where we look back at the moments in WrestleMania history, good or bad, that have stayed with us for over three decades.
To me, memories are best when they’re the beautiful seeds to a greater joy. That moment not necessarily when your team tastes victory, but rather that moment previous when you first got the inner butterflies that victory was actually attainable. In pro wrestling, no Wrestlemania memory comes close than the Wrestlemania X opening bout, pitting brother versus brother, Bret “Hitman” Hart against his baby brother, Owen.
Wrestlemania Memories: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart
Now as most of my friends know, I am a Hart dynasty fanatic. I want to get that out in the open now. Yes, this article may come across as bias. But this is perhaps the reason why I became one. I was a Bret Hart fan before, sure. During the 80s, as a young teenager, I was more drawn to the tag team wrestling. I was a fan of the British Bulldogs and the Hart Foundation. They were different. They seemed more real than the cartoonishness of the rest of the roster (although I loved that too). As they progressed and Dynamite Kid left the business, Davey Boy disappeared, and Anvil began to stagnate, Bret took that time to mature on the mic and continue to silently start having the best matches on the card. He may not have been the “main event” but his were the matches that people who loved wrestling loved to watch. His feud with Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental title and subsequently the returning Davey Boy Smith made the Intercontinental title the title race to watch in the WWF. It was his match at Wembley at SummerSlam 1992 that began the seeds of this memory. When real life seeped into the WWF Universe and we became privy that Davey Boy Smith – The British Bulldog – was related to Bret Hart. He was married to his sister, Diana. And wait. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart was a brother-in-law? Suddenly there was a legitimate family – a family of Canadians – that young Canadians could rally behind.
THE YOUNG GUN
Owen Hart, the youngest of the 12 children to Stu and Helen Hart, entered the WWF with a whimper. The folks at Titan Towers had yet to link the Hitman to the Bulldog to the Anvil, so tying him to the Hart family wasn’t of the utmost bankability or importance. He was talented, yes, but his lack of time on the mic inhibited the charisma that everyone knew hid behind that smirk. He jobbed for years (even laying down for Bastien Booger!) before he got the opportunity that cemented the Hart dynasty in the WWE. According to Bret, the original idea was for Bret to feud with a different Hart brother, the more experienced Bruce Hart (the LaToya Jackson of the Hart family). But Bret knew that Bruce wasn’t WWF material and convinced Vince McMahon that his little brother Owen was a better gamble. Vince trusted Bret. And that feud led to a more aggressive Owen who, paired with a partner he’d warred with and against his whole life, was allowed to emerge from his Blue Blazer shell and become the Nugget we grew to adore.
By the time the brothers locked horns, mano e mano, Hart to Hart, in the middle of the ring at Madison Square Gardens at Wrestlemania X, WWF was completely Bret Hart’s. Ultimate Warrior was gone, Hulk Hogan was struggling in WCW, and Shawn Michaels was still too pretty to be cool and was owning the number one slot as the WWF’s principle heel. But Bret was the ultimate face of the company now. He was a mainstream poster boy for a more wholesome image of what a sports entertainer could be, something that is seen in wrestlers like John Cena and Titus O’Neil. In other words, there wasn’t a hotter wrestler in the company than our own Canadian hero, Bret “Hitman” Hart.
We were all intrigued by this brash young brother of Bret’s, and we were impressed by his moves. But we didn’t have the internet back then. We hadn’t seen Owen’s Japan tapes or much (if any at all) Stampede Wrestling. We didn’t know what we had. We all assumed that this was just a family favour and added bonus of having Bret win a bonus match before he won the WWF World Heavyweight title later in the night in his revenge match against Yokozuna.
How wrong we were.
THE CLOWN PRINCE
In hindsight, we should have expected no less. Both were betting it all on a family gamble. If the match stunk, Bret’s opinion would mean failure to Vince McMahon, and Owen would have proved that he peaked in High Energy. It wasn’t just that these two had wrestled together their whole lives. Now they were wrestling for their wrestling lives.
Owen’s charm was immediate. His raised arms “YEAHHH!” after his opening lock up with his brother, instantly showed the kind of heel Owen was. But the opening series of broken chain wrestling with comedic slapstick tantrums showed that he could be as athletically dominating as he was juvenile. The Clown Prince of Pro Wrestling.
No one else could have given Owen the match on the Grandest Stage of Them All that night – or at that moment of Owen’s career – except Bret. No one else would have given Owen the confidence to be himself or had the overwhelming desire to make every single motion of Owen’s performance look good than his older brother Bret.
But none of us expected Owen to win. Owen had impressed us, sure, but we figured, “hey, he got a good workout in, but now Bret’s going to show him who’s the better man.” And just when it seemed the Master had schooled the Pupil, Owen pulled a magical reversal out of the top rope corner that made us stop and reverse that VHS tape for hours. It looked too fluid to be real. It was CGI before CGI.
And a Superstar was born.
THE HART OF GOLD
Owen Hart no longer meant the Blue Blazer. Owen Hart no longer meant neon MC Hammer pants and High Energy. Owen Hart was now one helluva good wrestler who beat the biggest wrestler in the company, in the opening match, of the biggest show of the year, at the most famous arena in the world. Owen Hart had arrived.
And Bret’s regaining of the WWF World Heavyweight Championship a few hours later only added weight to Owen’s win by Monday morning. Owen now held a victory over the World Champion hours before his win. He went from hanging with Koko B. Ware and “Iron” Mike Sharpe to wearing gold with Yokozuna and The British Bulldog.
When Brian Pillman arrived from WCW and ECW and the connection between his Hart Dungeon training was revealed, he was united with the gang that had been building from the salt fields of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. A gang lead by our World Champion Hitman, our Anvil, our Bulldog, and our little baby brother Owen. As the rest of the world jeered the Hart Foundation at the outset of the Monday Night Wars, in Canada we remained steadfastly loyal to our brothers in pink.
But none of that would have happened if it wasn’t for that one April night in New York, when Vince took a bet on a Bret Hart hunch, and the Hart Foundation truly found its heart. The night that Owen proved to the world that he was better than Bret.