Owen Hart is often remembered for his tragic death or as Bret Hart's little brother, but he was much more than that.
As a pure performer, Owen Hart was just as good as his brother Bret, if not better in the entertainment aspects. Owen's ability to take whichever character the WWE gave him and make it his own was his gift and sadly led to his untimely passing.
Owen Hart didn't shy away from the shadow of his famous wrestling family, he embraced it. As the youngest son of Stu and Helen Hart, Owen grew up a child of the industry and cut his teeth in the legendary "Dungeon." He then made a name for himself as a part of Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion and won Pro Wrestling Illustrated's (PWI) "Rookie of the Year" award in 1987.
For those who thought Hart was just a product of his dad's promotion, Owen Hart became one of the first non-Japanese wrestlers to star in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). He was the first foreign wrestler to hold the IWGP junior heavyweight championship in 1988, but dropped the title shortly after to sign with the WWF.
In his first run with the promotion, Owen Hart was given the character of the Blue Blazer and asked to wrestle under a mask. Hart was fairly successful during this stint but left the WWE in 1989. After another tour of the independent circuit, Hart returned to the WWE in 1991 and paired with his brother-in-law Jim Neidhart. That tag team lasted the better part of two years but it was apparent that Owen Hart was ready for a singles push. By 1994, Owen Hart had won the coveted King of the Ring tournament, dubbed himself the "King of Hearts" and engaged in a career defining feud with his brother Bret Hart.
Owen and Bret Hart's feud led to many memorable matches but their steel cage match at Summer Slam 94' and their match at WrestleMania X stand out among the rest.
Despite Bret eventually getting the best of his kid brother in that feud, Owen Hart went on to become one of the best workers in the company over the next few years. Few wrestlers at the time combined his athleticism, technical skills, and storytelling ability.
In 1997 Owen Hart had a memorable Intercontinental title run as part of the Hart Foundation, led by his brother Bret, and a very memorable feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin. Unfortunately, the feud came to an abrupt halt when Austin broke his neck during a botched piledriver spot in a match where he captured the IC title from Owen Hart. This led to Hart being thrown into a meaningless tournament to crown the next champion. When Austin did return from injury, the two picked up where they left off and the feud culminated at Survivor Series 1997. Owen lost the IC title that night, but his loss was overshadowed by the now infamous "Montreal Screw Job" featuring his brother Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Vince McMahon.
The next two years would be tough to watch for fans of Owen Hart. Without his fellow Hart Foundation members, Owen would be cast into comical roles such as the Affirmative Action member of "The Nation of Domination" and a return to the Blue Blazer.
It was on May 23, 1999, that Owen would attempt to enter the arena from the rafters in Kansas City, Missouri and accidentally fell 78 feet to his death. It remains one of the most shocking and unfortunate events in pro wrestling history.
With that being said, this article is to celebrate the career of Owen Hart, not focus on his unfortunate death. Owen Hart's legacy should and will be that of a top WWE talent and arguably one of the greatest pure wrestlers of the 1990s.