“When you live in a world in make-believe, and something so real happens, you want to hammer that home, I was going to get to the bottom of it.” So said Martha Hart in Dark Side of Ring: The Final Days of Owen Hart. Wrestling fans finally got to hear from Owen Hart’s wife Martha and her quest for justice. In the majority of wrestling podcasts and interviews, it was mainly the stories of Owen’s ribs and staying with fans on the road. This episode hits you in the face of the real Owen Hart: the husband and father.
One of the more revealing aspects of this episode was the inclusion of the family home movies sprinkled throughout. This was the real Owen Hart. Footage of Owen and Martha on their wedding day; Christmas day with Oje (Owen’s son) playing with trains; and person mundane moments with Martha chronicling his goal to eventually leave wrestling to be with his family. There’s even a moment of Owen filming his son holding the tag team belt at home.
These moments are gut-wrenching, particularly when juxtaposed with Martha retelling the moment of the phone call finding out that Owen had passed. The reality of the tragic day is a bit much to relive so be prepared when watching this. Martha and the kids show tremendous strength and pride in this episode. They show the true Owen and the ugliness of the WWE.
The crime scene is unveiled in detail. Martha shows on camera the harness clip that failed to secure him; police photos from above in the rafters; close-ups of Owen’s blood on the ring; first-hand testimonies from Jim Ross and Jimmy Korderas (the referee in the ring when it happened). One can only get sick to your stomach hearing all the details. Meanwhile, WWE decides to finish the show. Which even brings Jim Cornette to tears recounting the event.
Reliving this moment will always be distressing personally. I watched Over the Edge 1999 live at a friend’s house. We met up every month, pooled our money together, and had a blast watching the red hot WWF product. Over the Edge was the last show we ordered. All I remember was the silence. We were 13 years old, still not quite sure how to process this. I knew this wasn’t a part of a storyline, but somehow the show went on. I fell into the WWE trap of subconsciously “not selling it.”
Growing up, the death of Owen Hart hits me even harder. Being a younger brother, the Owen and Bret storyline (which I had missed), culminating at WrestleMania X was the most relatable storyline to me. I could never beat my brother at video games, sports, or whatever aspect of competition. Wrestling has always been a family business. Owen helped me believe in the world of make-believe.
Now being a father, hearing Oje talk about Owen as his dad and not the wrestler, tears me up inside. Wrestling fans will always have the memories of Owen, but Owen’s kids only have fleeting memories of dad.
The Attitude Era will always have a stain on its legacy. Owen’s death was a by-product of Vince Russo booking. Every wrestler has a story. With Owen, there wasn’t anything else for him so he was stuck with the Blue Blazer gimmick. That wasn’t the true Owen Hart.
While the typical episode of Dark Side of the Ring tends to lean toward the complete negative side of wrestling, this episode does leave the viewer with optimism. Hearing the family persevere to the extent they have with the Owen Hart Foundation, and with AEW honoring his legacy with the Owen Hart Cup, leaves fans with a sense of closure since Owen will never be associated with the WWE hall of fame. In reality, the legend of Owen Hart will never die.