The first wrestling Pay Per View I ever actually paid to view was one of the NWA-TNA weekly Wednesday night episodes, contributing half the cost; five (begged from my mom) dollars.
The first PPVs that I “watched”, but didn’t pay for, were scrambled World Championship Wrestling events, where I couldn’t really follow the action with my eyes, but the move-by-move commentary came as clearly and pleasantly into my prepubescent ears as my first album, Greatest Kiss, through the headphones of my unfashionable-in-the-era-of-CDs portable audio cassette player.
By far, though, my favorite PPV experiences of my youth, and unfortunately my least favorite, came in the first ever bar I stepped foot in, the no longer open due to drugs and violence, called Weekends.
Though I was still many years away from being able to drink, on PPV nights the operators allowed kids, accompanied by a legal age guardian, to come watch wrestling. My cousin Robert, in a great gift of kindness, would go out of his way to pick me up, drive me to the bar, and pay for my admittance.
I felt so f___ing overwhelmingly cool! Hanging out with my adult cousin, in a bar, watching a not only unscrambled, but projected on a big ass screen, live PPV!
What wasn’t so cool was watching WWF Over The Edge, on May 23, 1999: listening to the words, “Owen Hart has tragically died, tonight.” No, that was about as far from cool as my young heartmind could grasp.
When I first started watching wrestling, I was a staunch WCW fan. I would click over to RAW every once in awhile, during Nitro commercial breaks, but nothing really intrigued me much. That changed when I clicked over and caught a very intriguing moment between Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Bret Hart.
I could have been missing important stuff on Nitro, but I could not care any less as I watched Bret Hart break up a fight between his brother and brother-in-law, then say some very touching things on the microphone.
It seemed his words were supposed to rub me the wrong way, being the patriotic son of a soldier that I was, but watching a family reunite, watching a grown man, Owen, cry out of love, I couldn’t help but become a “Hart Foundation guy”. I had always been very “God, bless America”, but now I was “God, bless Canada, too, please,”
Hooked on the Hart’s, I began clicking over to RAW more often and staying there longer, until, eventually I would watch it in it’s entirety and stay up for the replay of Nitro.
Then the Montreal Screwjob happened. Then I became excited to see The Hart Foundation in WCW, but that excitement turned to disappointment as Bret, Davey Boy, and Jim Neidhart were subjected to WCW’s creative pitfalls. I was also excited to see what would come of Owen’s revenge of his big brother in the WWF, but, unfortunately, that never came to be either.
Thus so tragically ended my personal love story with the Hart’s that even William “The Greatest Sadist In Storytelling” Shakespeare wouldn’t have been able to pen it. Or so I thought, but neither my love, nor it’s story ended there.
Four years after the death of one of the major contributors to inspiring it, I started chasing down my dream of being a professional wrestler.
I didn’t just want to be a professional wrestler, though, I wanted to be a great professional wrestler.
With that grand aspiration in mind, I went about studying the greats. Which brought me back to Owen Hart.
Step A in my Plan To Become Great was to first build a foundation of well roundedness to build my young life’s work on. As a ‘90’s wrestling kid, I couldn’t think of a single person more well rounded in the ring than “The King Of Harts”.
I “borrowed” my dad’s credit card to order a VHS copy of “The Best Of Owen Hart” from Highspots, which mainly consisted of his, new-to-me, matches from Japan.
I had had a loving appreciation of Owen, already, as a fan, but as someone trying to learn the technical aspects of graceful grappling and mastery of working with, and against, gravity, well, I was moonstruck by the moonsaulting magic and style-blending alchemy developed from, and beyond, the walls of his dad’s dungeon.
I spent many hours watching, rewinding, and rewatching, and re-rewinding that tape. Northern Lights Suplexes, Butt-Bounce back flips, and spin kicks made their way from Owen-In-Japan to Jason-In-Oak Hill.
So much more than being the perfect-to-me blueprint on which I built the base to my planned mat-mansion, with his triumphant life’s work: his life itself, and it’s tragic end, helped me see that beyond blueprints, buildings, bodies, and even dreams, which will all fade with time, there seems to be a timeless, unfading story unfolding that, though our chapter in it may be bittersweetly short and hard to understand by itself, is written by love, for love, and in the name of love.
Thank you, Owen, so much.
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