Season 2 of Dark Side of the Ring kicked off with arguably the biggest wrestling story of all time, the Chris Benoit murder/suicide. To conclude this fantastic and varied season, Dark Side dived into arguably the second biggest wrestling story of them all, the tragic night Owen Hart fell 80 feet to his death at WWE’s Over the Edge pay-per-view in 1999 at Kansas City. Although he never reached the pinnacle of WWE like his older brother Bret Hart, Owen is often credited with being a pioneer for the smaller wrestlers we see today, and most importantly, he was a kind-hearted family man, desperate to one day spend all his time with his wife and children. Unfortunately, he never could. This is the story of Dark Side of the Ring’s season finale.
Like all great episodes before this one, The Final Days of Owen Hart has an incredible line up of interviewees with a wide variety of wrestling personalities that worked with Owen closely for years. But to balance out the wrestling with personal life stories, incredibly, Owen’s wife Martha Hart and his two children, Oje and Athena, provide their memories of the loving husband and father they lost. As well being great gets, the interviews with Martha, Oje, and Athena do a wonderful job of showcasing how special and loveable Owen was, as he was a wrestler that put attending a train show with his son over a major professional event. It allows those fans that are unfamiliar or unimpressed by Owen’s wrestling accolades, to emotionally connect with the story and the man.
Also, if the Road Warriors episode lacked in extra footage, this episode has an overabundance of incredibly rare home-video footage that greatly adds to the story. It’s heart-warming to see Owen’s interactions with a young Athena and Oje, and it also proves to audiences that the former WWE superstar’s dream was to make enough money and return home, as there is footage of him essentially saying this very thing. It plays a big part in enabling the creative team to effectively tell so much of his wrestling and personal life in such a short amount of time. This, of course, all enhances the eventual heartbreak audiences go onto experience later on.
Not to overlook the wrestling fans, this episode does plenty to satisfy the wrestling discussions from highlighting Owen’s great feuds with Bret Hart, him being a pioneer for stars like Chris Jericho, and people like Jim Cornette even explaining that Owen did have a passion for wrestling, he just wasn’t a “lifer.” These parts are a contrast to what some wrestling fans might have expected to see considering Martha’s involvement, but as this episode shows, she is a woman that has been misunderstood by the wrestling community.
Martha is, without a doubt, the strongest element of Dark Side’s season finale. She leads the story by providing insight into her life with the youngest child of Stu and Helen Hart, and how her husband reacted to wrestling moments like the Montreal Screwjob. She also bravely retells the story of her finding out about the fall, and finally is able to expose WWE’s negligence in the Over the Edge incident for those who have not read her book. The manner she tells these various stories, switching from humorous to heart-wrenching ones, is both endearing and admirable. Her stories, along with the way she delivers them, helps dispel the notion of a woman who is bitter towards professional wrestling, but at the same time, more than justifies her stance of not allowing WWE to “honour” Owen in their version of the Hall of Fame.
Although there may feel like endless ways, one can praise this episode, particularly with how well the team squeezes so much into one hour. There is a giant Bret Hart shaped void that is undeniably felt when watching this story unfold. From the information that has been shared over the years, Bret and Owen were extremely close. Bret obviously knew his little brother both as a man and wrestler, as well, if not better than anyone. In addition to this, the former WWE champion was one of the Hart family members that actually supported Martha (for a period of time at least) during the lawsuit against the WWE. There is no mention of this, so having no words from Bret does, unfortunately, take this story down a peg. However, this was not due to a lack of effort from the Dark Side team.
The conclusion, much like the episode itself, is bittersweet. There is so much joy that comes from finding out the impact Owen had on people during his fairly short time on this earth and the beautiful way his family continues to honour him. However, there is an overwhelming sense of sadness knowing that in less than a year, he could have reignited his wrestling career with some of the greatest in-ring talents the wrestling business has ever seen. But more importantly, it’s heartbreaking because he should still be alive today. Overall, though, this is a fitting finale for season 2 of Dark Side. One that has the best balance of emotional highs and lows, and an episode that is a fitting tribute to a wrestler that has proven to last the test of time, the late great, Owen Hart.
The Final Days of Owen Hart airs on Vice TV UK tonight at 10 PM.
All images courtesy of Dark Side of the Ring Facebook, Vice TV, and video is courtesy of VICE YouTube.