Owen. The Best Hart?

In Bret Hart’s autobiography ‘Hitman’, Bret repeats the same idea a few times – he really puts an importance on having a legacy. Bret wanted to leave a collection of his matches to future generations so that he might have something that people can go back and remember him by. Bret received a set marking his legacy in 2005 with the release of ‘Bret “Hit Man” Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be’; but fans of the youngest Hart brother Owen, would be left wanting. So it was with bated breath that Owen Hart fans awaited the release of ‘Owen: Hart of Gold’ and on most aspects, this is a collection that doesn’t disappoint.

The first disc of the DVD set is a context-providing documentary. In years gone past these documentaries could be very long, with ‘The Rise and Fall of ECW’ clocking in at just under three hours. So in quite a change of pace, since the WWE Network arrived, the WWE has started producing shorter, more streamlined documentaries, with the one on this set coming in at an hour and seven minutes. The length of the documentary is a point of preference – some will see it as too short whereas others will see it as a great change of pace. While spending three hours watching a wrestling documentary is a great way to spend three hours, some viewers just frankly don’t have that amount of time. So, as stated, the hour run time could be an issue for you, or it could have no bearing on you at all – but what can’t be denied is how good an hour the documentary is.

The tone throughout is endlessly positive. Stories about Owen as a prankster, as friend and a family man abound, with many newer superstars like Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn specifically giving Owen credit for inspiring their careers. In fact, the former Kevin Steen claims to have named his son Owen (from whom he derived the name Kevin Owens), after Owen Hart. Stories like this are what make this documentary so special; but bittersweet as we remember how great Owen Hart was whilst also knowing that he left us too soon. Chris Jericho offers that Owen Hart inspired a great deal of his in-ring work; an honour he had previously attributed to Shawn Michaels. Speaking of which, Michaels is conspicuous in his absence on the disc, as is Steve Austin and Vince McMahon, the latter appearing maybe once on the disc and the former not appearing at all.

This leads to one of the failings of the DVD set – a failing shared by Bret Hart’s autobiography. It is great that Owen is presented in such a positive light, and he no doubt deserves to be remembered in this way; but the set leaves out a lot. No mention is made of Owen’s ill-fated match with Stone Cold, in which Austin was left with a broken neck. Whilst it is understandable why the WWE would want to present Owen in the most positive light possible, leaving this out, and other stories, only serves to mythologise Owen. Furthermore, the latter stages of Owen’s career, such as his time with the Nation of Domination, Tag Team Championship run with Jeff Jarrett and considered jump to WCW are either summarised in a quick sentence by Mick Foley, or revised completely.

To a fan familiar with Owen Hart this set will be great at filling in small gaps in your Hart knowledge. To a casual fan, this can be considered Owen Hart 101 – the most accessible  source on Owen Hart’s career and exactly what Bret was referring to when he wrote about having a ‘legacy’.

The real value in the set is the matches. Presented on this DVD is possibly the finest collection of Owen Hart matches you could think of. Watching the documentary, I found myself remembering great Owen Hart matches and thinking ‘I really hope that match made the cut’ – and lo and behold they did. Owen’s classic WrestleMania win over Bret, his King of the Ring victory over Razor Ramon, the Hart Foundation vs Austin, Shamrock, Goldust and LOD from Canadian Stampede – this set, as said before, provides a great look in at Owen’s greatest moments. The frankly bizarre ‘Dungeon Match’ with Ken Shamrock appears, as do several early Blue Blazer matches and Stampede Wrestling bouts. Two historical curiosities are present which I think really make the set unique. The first is a match that pays lip service to Owen’s time in WCW against Mark Kyle in 1991. The second match however is even more surreal – Owen wrestling a ‘Nick Barberri’ at a ‘public workout’ at Times Square New York in advance of Wrestlemania XI. It is interesting to watch Owen Hart wrestle in the middle of Times Square whilst people go about their day.

As a collection of matches, this DVD is a great view of Owen’s WWE time, with notable looks towards his early career in the United States and Canada. The accompanying documentary is less the Main Event and instead serves as a good tone-setter for Owen Hart. The documentary is a celebration of Owen, not an extensive chronicle; but in many ways, that’s okay. The set focuses on the joy Owen brought us in life, and not the tragic circumstances of his death. It goes without saying that this DVD, on an objective, content focused basis, gets a recommendation. It is pleasing to see Owen finally have an easily isolable ‘legacy’ in wrestling canon, as previous to this set it was harder to track Owen’s matches. With that said; if you want to watch some excellently curated Owen Hart matches, this DVD set is for you.

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