May 23rd 1999, Kansas City, Missouri
When I started this project way back in 2014 as the WWE Network started in the UK there were two shows I really wasn’t looking forward to covering. The first was Survivor Series 1997 because so much had been written about ‘The Montreal Screwjob’ already and it was difficult to find any new angle on it. The second was this show because Owen Hart’s death is the most important thing to consider here, not any wrestling match.
At the time this show was originally screened I wasn’t reading any wrestling magazines nor watching any programmes concerning it. The whole point of this feature is to go back and watch all the shows I missed at the time. I read about Owen Hart’s death in the International section of my local newspaper. In one corner of one page there was a photo of Owen and I thought for a minute he was making some kind of appearance in Carlisle or the South of Scotland. Then the headline sank in and I found it shocking. This was a man who I recall from his match versus Skinner at my first Wrestlemania, his tag team run with Yokozuna, his matches with his brother Bret at Wrestlemania X and Summerslam 94. This was not an old wrestler dying years after leaving the ring, this was a wrestler in his prime having his life cut short due to a fatal accident. The fact it was during an elaborate entrance that he could well have done without only makes it more tragic. The news was that shocking that it made the pages of a small newspaper in another country that usually only does stories from around Carlisle and Dumfriesshire.
Owen’s match was supposed to be the third one on the card, a prerecorded interview played in his Blue Blazer character whilst he started to make his entrance. By the time the cameras were back in the arena they were focussed on the audience. Jim Ross had the unimaginable task of informing viewers at home that Owen had died.
Quite simply, even 21 years later, I find it astounding that the show carried on as normal right afterwards. If a play being performed at a theatre experienced a death of a cast member whilst on stage then it would have been cancelled there and then. If a cast member dies during a movie production then they would not press on and film it anyway. Why is wrestling (or more specifically the WWF) any different from this? The show certainly shouldn’t have gone on.
Martha Hart still refuses to allow the WWE to use Owen’s image in any promotional activity. I can certainly see her point and, as much as I’d love to see Owen given the recognition his career deserves her wishes must be upheld.
For this reason I wouldn’t be comfortable covering this PPV as part of the project. On this night wrestling certainly seemed trivial, covering these matches in a normal way just seems disrespectful and I would take absolutely no enjoyment at all watching this show back whilst knowing what happened. I’ll be skipping ahead.
In conclusion the loss of Owen Hart is probably the greatest tragedy in professional wrestling. The industry not only lost a very talented performer but, judging by the words other wrestlers say about him during interviews, a fantastic human being.