In the first of a series of articles written by the team at Hooked On Wrestling, Marc Hemingway (@zepalm on Twitter) has written this piece to analyse a key moment in one of the best WWF feuds of the 1990s. The night Owen Hart snapped and turned heel on his brother Bret at the Royal Rumble 1994.
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In 1988, Owen Hart signed for the WWE(F) making his PPV debut at the Survivor Series under the name (and mask) of the Blue Blazer where he was eliminated by Greg Valentine.
The next few years were spent travelling around New Japan Pro Wrestling, a brief stint in Germany and a handful of matches for WCW before signing on fully with WWE(F) in 1991.
With his brother Bret leaving behind the Hart Foundation to concentrate on his singles career, Owen created a team with Bret’s former partner Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart.
They had their only PPV match as a team at the 1992 Royal Rumble as Neidhart left the company, so Owen formed a (VERY) colourful team with Koko B. Ware (and his parrot). It was another one-and-done PPV showing, this time Survivor Series, before Owen finally went it alone at the start of 1993.
Fast forward a few months and a ‘Family Feud’ match was set for Series 93. Bret and Owen would be joined by their real life wrestling brothers Bruce Hart and Keith Hart to go against Shawn Michaels and his Knights. (Red, Black and a masked Greg Valentine as the Blue Knight).
The Knights were dispatched one by one which left Owen and Shawn in the ring. Bret had been injured and was making his way along the apron back to his corner when Shaun reversed Owen into the ropes, causing Owen to knock his brother into the guard rails.
This caused Owen to be distracted. This caused Owen to be rolled up. And this caused Owen to be the only Hart family member eliminated from the team.
He started shouting at Bret (who was still in a pile on the floor) and throwing a bit of a tantrum. As a result, Owen to be booed on his walk to the back. Michaels fought on for a few more minutes before leaving the ring and running to the back, forfeiting the match by count-out. (That happened more than you’d think back then. Different times.)
As the three remaining Hart brothers celebrated in the ring, Owen reappeared to, as Vince McMahon said on commentary, to “help the Hart family celebrate.” BUT: He didn’t.
He pulled Bret down from the turnbuckle then pushed him, then PUSHED HIM AGAIN! That’s not how you help people celebrate!
The following night on RAW, Owen started using the Sharpshooter as his submission move, seemingly to taunt Bret.
For the next few weeks, Bret did everything he could to get Owen back on his side and it worked, teaming with him on multiple occasions (including this hidden gem vs the Steiners) and working together to become a decent tag team which culminated in the Hart Brothers facing newly-crowned tag team champions The Quebecers at the 1994 Royal Rumble.
The promo before the match showed both Hart brothers claiming everything was good between them; the past was water under the bridge. Bret was pumped and Owen looked every bit the excited little brother getting to team with his big bro.
They also made a point of promising to defend the belts they hadn’t yet won against any and all tag teams following what they knew was going to be a certain win.
(SPOILER) They didn’t win.
During the match, Bret re-aggravated that leg injury and each time he edged close to making a tag he was pulled away by the opposition. This stressed Owen.
After the Quebecers missed a big move from the top rope, Bret had his best chance to tag in his brother but instead went for the Sharpshooter. Very close to locking it in, he collapsed due to the earlier knee injury and the referee stopped the match, awarding the win to the Quebecers.
Angry about the loss, Owen began to berate Bret for not tagging (quite right!) and carried on at him while Bret got himself back up to his feet. Bret approached Owen…and Owen hugged his brother and patted his head. Ha! Not really.
Bret approached Owen and Owen kicked out Bret’s leg from under him, knocking him back on the canvas and then left him there, mouthing off to the camera about how selfish Bret was all the way to the back.
As Bret was being stretchered out of the arena, Owen appeared on the big screen with a fantastic promo citing Bret’s ego and selfishness (multiple times!) as the cause of what happened. Sure, he fluffed his lines slightly, but can you blame him? He was absolutely rattled! His brother was completely selfish minutes beforehand!
The turn that had actually started months earlier was complete – some of us just hadn’t realised it until that fateful post-match kick at the Rumble. The pair would meet up in March at Wrestlemania X to settle the score in an incredible back and forth match, with Owen shockingly beating Bret clean.
With Bret winning the World title for a second time later that night, that pin in the opener gave Owen a bona fide claim to a championship match – not to mention additional fuel to the green-tinted fire burning in his belly, as he watched from the aisle as everybody heralded the guy he defeated as an all-conquering hero to close the PPV.
Though the big belt eluded him, Owen would go on to become the King of the Ring as well as winning the Intercontinental belt (twice), European belt (once) and Tag Team belts (four times!).
Owen would’ve turned 55 on May 7th.
TJR Thoughts: Thanks to Marc for writing that and my good friend Paul from Hooked On Wrestling for sharing that with us. Here’s a classic clip of Owen to show us what kind of an entertaining heel that he was.