Whenever wrestling fans think about WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches this one will always come to mind because it was arguably the greatest opening match in WrestleMania history.
It was brother vs. brother at WrestleMania 10 in 1994 when the former (and future) WWE Champion Bret Hart faced off against his brother Owen, who had turned heel against Bret a few months prior to this.
Who: Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart
When: March 20, 1994
Where: Madison Square Garden in New York, New York
The story began at Survivor Series 1993 when four Hart brothers (Bret, Keith, Bruce & Owen) won their elimination match against Shawn Michaels and three masked Knights. After the match was over, Owen complained to Bret because Owen was the only brother eliminated in the match and he blamed Bret for it. Two weeks later, Owen challenged Bret to match. Bret refused, saying he didn’t want to fight his younger brother.
Bret and Owen appeared to work together again at Royal Rumble 1994 in a tag title match against the Quebecers. Bret had a knee injury, so the team lost their shot at the titles. Owen attacked Bret after it by kicking him in the leg. After the match, Owen delivered the infamous “kicked your leg out of your leg” line. Later that night at the 1994 Royal Rumble, Bret Hart won the match at the same time as Lex Luger. Both men were declared winners.
This match was set up because it was determined that both Bret Hart and Lex Luger would get WWE Title matches at WrestleMania. Luger won a coin toss, which meant Luger would face WWE Champion Yokozuna first while Bret would have to have a match before that to make it fair. Bret would face the winner of the first WWE Title match in the main event later that night. As mentioned earlier, Bret didn’t want to face Bret, but he had to do it in order to get his title shot later in the show.
Before I get to the match, it’s worth pointing out that original plans called for Bret’s brother Bruce to be in the match instead of Owen. Bret thought it was a bad idea and got it changed to Owen, so that they could use this angle to elevate Owen. Thank you Bret for that.
Here’s a great sitdown interview with Owen that explained his motivation for the match.
What I Thought Back Then
I was very excited about this match. I was a 13-year-old Canadian kid that was really starting to appreciate things like match quality and athleticism in the ring. What better way to start a WrestleMania than a brother vs. brother match with Owen trying to prove he was as good as his brother Bret, who had been a World Champion? It was an easy story to relate to since I am a younger brother that couldn’t beat my brother (who is five years older) in any sporting competition until I was in my late teens. It’s just tougher when the other guy is bigger than you. Owen wanting to prove himself was something I could easily get behind. He was the heel, but to me, he was the one I was rooting for. That didn’t mean I was anti-Bret at all because I loved him too. It just felt like a match where I was strongly behind Owen.
I also thought the concept of WrestleMania 10 was a great idea. Lex Luger got the first WWE Title match of the show when he challenged Yokozuna. He failed to win the WWE Title. The winner of that match got to face Bret, who would have had no match before. That’s why they did Owen vs. Bret, to make it fair for what would happen later. It was also the only reason Bret accepted this match because if he didn’t then he would lose his title shot. As a story, it really worked. These days they would have just done a boring triple threat match. This method was much better.
Did I think Owen was going to win the match? No, not really. It felt like a match where Bret would win because we were so used to Bret winning a lot of matches while Owen was a guy that wasn’t at his level. I’m glad I was wrong with that line of thinking.
Here’s my full review of the match, which was written in 2012.
Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart @ WrestleMania 10
A fireworks display started us off. Way to go all out, Vince. Ring announcer Bill Dunn welcomed us to the first match. No Howard Finkel to start, but he was there. When he said “from Calgary, Alberta, Canada” the crowd was all excited. Instead of Bret, it was Owen. Owen ripped up some cheap Hitman shades. Bret’s music didn’t have the guitar riff at the beginning yet, but it was still a good song. His pop here was noticeably bigger than it was a year earlier in the main event in Las Vegas because he was a more established top guy at this point. Plus, the New York crowd was awesome.
They did a lot of posturing early with Owen celebrating every little thing he did while Bret was stoic in his approach. Owen gave him a waist lock, so Bret used his leverage to send Owen to the floor. Owen came back with a slap to the face. Owen grabbed a handful of hair to pull Bret to the mat following a wrist lock. Bret got a roll up for two. Bret put him in a wristlock, Owen elbowed out, but Bret came back with a monkey flip and a clothesline that sent Owen to the floor. Bret threw Owen back in telling him to fight if that’s what he wanted. The intensity was awesome here. Owen shoved him, so Bret slapped him and covered for a two count. After another fast-paced sequence ended by Bret getting a crucifix pin for two. Owen came back with an awesome spinning heel kick that Vince called by saying “oh no right in the kisser!” Vince sucked at calling moves. Owen stomped on him so Bret rolled to the floor. Owen rammed him back first into the steel post. After a hard whip into the corner, Owen gave him a backbreaker followed by a Camel Clutch although it wasn’t applied that well. Bret fought out of it, but Owen came back with an awesome belly to belly suplex for two. Owen hit a crossbody although he couldn’t cover because Bret rolled through to cover him for two. Owen grabbed him in a chinlock. None of the submissions were long or drawn out like some matches where they slow the match down. In this case, they were done in a smart manner as a way to transition to the next sequence of moves. Owen went for a bodyslam, but Bret fell on top for a two count.
After Bret went to the floor momentarily, Owen hit him with a perfect bridging German Suplex for two. Owen went for a suplex. Bret countered it with an inside cradle for two. Another awesome sequence of moves saw Owen catch Bret and he gave him a tombstone piledriver. He dropped to his knees in this instance, unlike the Summerslam 1997 match against Steve Austin where he dropped to his butt and injured Austin. It was safer to do the move on your knees. Owen went to the top, went for a headbutt and Bret moved as both guys were down while ref Earl Hebner counted them down. Bret hit an atomic drop followed by a clothesline for two. Russian legsweep gets two for Bret. Backbreaker for Bret followed by his elbow off the second rope. Those were the patented moves of Bret Hart. He thought that was it, but the pinfall only got him two. Bret hit him with an enziguiri. Each guy went for a Sharpshooter. Neither one worked. The idea was they knew how to get out of the hold. Owen got another nearfall. Bret kicked him out of the ring and he followed up with a pescado to the floor, which is when you use the ropes to propel yourself over the top into a crossbody. Bret grabbed his knee in pain. It was the same knee that Bret had hurt at the Royal Rumble, so it was great storytelling to have the injury return. Owen focused on the knee. He rammed it into the ring post multiple times. Owen continued to work on the knee, hitting a nice dragon screw legwhip and then he talked trash while Bret was screaming in pain. The crowd chanted “Let’s Go Bret” in support of their hero. Owen slapped on the Figure Four Leglock. He had his arms raised in the air while he did it too. I loved all the heel mannerisms Owen did where he would celebrate every little thing. Bret was able to get to the ropes. Owen kicked away at the knee, but Bret came back with an enziguiri of his own. The crowd loved that. Vince didn’t call many of the moves. He just said “what a matchup” every once in a while. Bret whipped Owen in and Owen did the Bret-like sternum first bump into the corner that led to a two count for Bret. Bulldog for the Hitman for two. Piledriver for Bret gets two. This was an awesome comeback sequence. It made the match even again. Bret put Owen on the top rope and gave him a superplex, which was a very big spot in these days. That got another nearfall. I should have counted the nearfalls here like I did for Savage/Steamboat because there have been a lot. Bret grabbed a sleeper, Owen made it to the ropes, the ref tried to break it up and while he was looking up, Owen hit his brother with a low blow using his right foot in a backward kicking motion. Awesome spot! Sharpshooter for Owen! Bret powered out and he put the Sharpshooter on Owen, but Owen was able to get to the ropes quickly. Bret whipped Owen into the corner, Bret booted him in the face and jumped on Owen’s shoulders. Bret went for a victory roll, but Owen dropped down, covered, put his hands on the mat and the ref counted the one…two…three! Owen wins at 20:21!
Winner by pinfall: Owen Hart
Lawler put it best after the match ended: “The world is in shock right now!” He was right. This was a huge upset. Owen celebrated by trash talking right in Bret’s face. It’s a shame nobody told Owen that he had a gob of spit on the side of his mouth because it would have made his shining moment that much better. Post match, Bret was frustrated about the loss and was still selling the knee injury because nobody sold injuries better than Bret.
Analysis: ***** Five stars out of five. This was the defining match for me as a smart fan. I wasn’t even 14 yet, but I had an older cousin that smartened me up to the business. I started to pay more attention to the spots in the match, the timing of the moves, the pacing and the chemistry of the combatants. It’s what we call workrate. I thought for sure Bret was going to win. Owen was still a midcarder who hadn’t even cracked the IC title level yet while Bret had already main evented the previous WrestleMania and been a World Champion. What we got was a 20-minute technical wrestling clinic that was contested mostly in the ring (there were a couple of out-of-ring moments) providing us with a match that will live on forever as a classic. My favorite part was the finish when Owen countered Bret for the win. I was so happy for Owen. I’m a younger brother. My older brother and I fought quite a bit as a lot of kids do. It felt like Owen’s victory was a victory for me too, as cheesy as that sounds. It’s like rooting for an underdog sports team that comes through in the biggest game of their life. That’s what this was because Owen won the biggest match of his life. I’ll never get tired of watching this match. The best opening match in WrestleMania history.
Backstage, Todd Pettengill talked to Owen. “I’m feeling great. I’m up on cloud nine. Bret Hart, brother, I said it all along. Now I am the best there is, the best there was and I am gonna be the best there ever will be brother. I beat you tonight…Madison Square Garden. I said it all along, Bret. And now…now maybe I’ll start getting the recognition I deserve because I’m a better man than you Hitman! Here at WrestleMania I beat you and this is a great moment for me, Bret.” Todd asked Owen if he thought Bret could come back later on to win the World Title. Owen said he didn’t think Bret could win because of the beating he just gave Bret.
Analysis: A fun promo although like I said I wish somebody told him about the spit on the side of his mouth. Owen would go on to win King of the Ring and main event SummerSlam after this. It was the best year of his career.
What They Said
In August of 2014, I had the pleasure of having Bret Hart on my TJRWrestling Radio show and specifically asked him about the match with Owen because it is one of my favorites. Sadly the audio isn’t online anymore, but here’s a summary of what he said:
“We had one match put together before we got to The Garden. I remember it was the Thursday or Friday before we left for WrestleMania I called him up and we went through the match at my dad’s house. The match we were going to present was going to be a classic match with Owen as a bit of a babyface. The more I thought about it the more I realized the consequence of the mistake of being wrong. There was a strong possibility that Owen was going to become the babyface in the match and we changed it so I told Owen he had to be the heel for sure. I told him: ‘You need to do everything you can to be the villain and you cannot mess this up for yourself. If you turn babyface that’s not what they want they want to do with you. You’ve got to get over as a heel.'”
“At the end of the night when I’m in the ring being paraded around by the faces and Owen was staring at me you could see his look on his face and if you really read closer into his eyes you could see how happy he was. He was so over as a heel and so proud of his life. It was the biggest night of his life at that time. It was a big thing for me to see that he succeeded that night.”
Here’s Bret talking to Sports Illustrated about how special this match was to him:
“WrestleMania X will always be my most special one because of the memory of being with my brother Owen. There was a lot of pressure on Owen to fill those shoes as a top heel. The storyline was the bitter hatred between two brothers, but Owen was really grateful to work with me. I went to bat a lot for Owen for that chance, and he really shined that night. I thought that was one of his finest hours. There were two reverse sharpshooters in that match, which had never been done before. Those are the tiny little things that no one really remembers or notices, but made that match a real treat. And what I really love about the match is how it launched my brother’s career.”
Bret wrote a lot more about the match in his excellent book, which is one of the best books by any wrestler ever.
What I Think Now
It’s a technical wrestling masterpiece. They barely left the ring. When they did it was only to do a few spots, but they went right back in the ring and fought it out to see who the better man was. In the end, Owen won with a counter move as he outsmarted his older brother. The perfect way to end the match because it put over how clever Owen was and it didn’t hurt Bret much at all.
Owen was incredible as the heel in the match. He nailed all the heel mannerisms perfectly. I’ll never forget the visual of Owen after the match when he staggered back to his feet and held up three fingers to the ref as if to ask: “Did I do it?” He was in shock. We were in shock. Looking back at it now, that’s a great sell by Owen to put over how much of a surprise the win was even to him.
What’s really cool about it is this was their first match together. A lot of times when guys work at a WrestleMania, they might have matches at live events to get used to eachother first. Not Owen and Bret. This was the first match they had and it was in MSG at WrestleMania.
The booking was brilliant. A clean win for Owen was the perfect way to do it. I’m sure that WWE may have contemplated having Bret go over and then Owen attack him after the match. That would have been fine, but this was better because the win meant so much to Owen’s career.
The scene at the end of the night was brilliant. Bret won the WWE Title from Yokozuna, so all of the babyface wrestlers went into the ring to put Bret on their shoulders and celebrate the big moment. That’s when Owen stood in the aisle and stared at his brother with a look of disgust on his face because earlier in the night, Owen beat Bret and now Bret was the champion. A great way of letting a picture tell the story. You knew at that moment that the feud had only just begun.
What Happened Next
Bret went on to win the WWE Title later in the evening in a match against Yokozuna.
The feud between the brothers continued from there. While Bret was the WWE Champion, Owen won the 1994 King of the Ring crown just like Bret had done year earlier. It led to Owen earning a title shot against Bret at SummerSlam 1994. They had a phenomenal steel cage match and you can read my review of that here. There aren’t many rivalries where two guys had two five-star matches, but these men did.
They were adversaries for the next couple of years until teaming up together as part of the Hart Foundation faction in 1997. It was arguably the best year of Bret’s career and perhaps the most fun as well since he got to work so closely with Owen, Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart & Brian Pillman. It didn’t wend well because of the Survivor Series 1997 Screwjob, but they had a lot of great moments on the same team that year.
The death of Owen Hart in 1999 is one of the saddest things in the history of wrestling. It never would have happened. I wish somebody in WWE had the sense to not even try that needless stunt that wouldn’t have made a difference at Over the Edge 1999 anyway. Bret has said that if he was still in the company he wouldn’t have let it happen. I believe him. I wish Owen said no to the idea because if he did he’d still be with us today.
I remembered this moment from Raw in 2010 when the crowd chanted for Owen. Bret showed the shirt he was wearing that was an image of Bret and Owen. It was a wonderful sight.
This will always be one of my favorite matches ever. As a little brother myself, I rooted heavily for Owen in the match and when he won, I celebrated because it was an upset as well as a great way to elevate Owen to that next level. Owen never got to be a World Champion in WWE, but beating Bret at WrestleMania 10 was a career highlight for him and I’m glad he got to have that moment.
Owen Hart was an amazing professional wrestler that had the biggest match of his life at WrestleMania 10. There was a lot of pressure on him to prove that he was as good as his brother. He went from being a midcard wrestler to a main eventer with that performance. It’s a match I’ll never forget.
This was the first of two five-star matches at WrestleMania 10. We were spoiled that night.
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