Well, it took nine months, but SLAM! Wrestling’s Greg Oliver finally concluded the fan interview with Owen Hart. Thanks be to the WWF Canada for re-connecting the two Canadian powerhouses.
Below is the transcript of the 30-minute interview, not including the brief story on the lead-up to the Rock Bottom PPV. I’ve given credit to the readers who sent in questions.
Q: Back in the late-80s, early 90s, you had some great matches in Japan with Jushin Liger, the Great Muto and Chris Benoit. What was your favourite stand-out match in Japan? [Hesham]
A: I have two. One for the IWGP title versus Hiro Hase, and he was the champion. I remember I fought him a few times. He was really stiff. Any time you fought him, it was not a cakewalk. You earned every penny you made that night. He’d even slap you in the eardrum and pop your eardrum, kick you in the face and bust your teeth. So, I’d had a lot of hard-fought matches with him. I don’t remember if it was the Toyko Dome, but it was a big arena, the IWGP championship, and I beat him for it. And at that point, the only other foreigner — they call them gaji — to have a title at that time was Dynamite Kid, the junior heavyweight title. It was kindof a significant win for me to really put me up at a higher level. Since then, Chris Benoit has won the belt, some other guys I’m sure have won it, but when I won it, it was kind of a precedent. The only Canadian to have ever held it. … So that was one big match. The other was fighting against Benoit. He was fighting under a mask as Pegasus Kid. We had a fight, I think it was at Budokan, and it was pretty hard. I know it was entertaining. I watched it back about a year ago, and said ‘geez, I can’t believe I was doing all that stuff.’
You know, I watch these Mexicans, they work on our show and on the other network’s show, and they do a lot of high-flying, entertaining things, but it looks so choreographed. It doesn’t have a lot of impact to it when I watch it. I find it easy to change channels when I watch those guys, because it looks so routine. I doesn’t look believable to me. And that’s part of doing it. If you can do the acrobatic stuff, throw in a back flip or something that looks good but it’s got to be at the right time, you know. I see these guys, they throw a guy into the ropes and they do a back flip and then clothesline the guy and it looks stupid. Why don’t you just clothesline the guy? A back flip or a cartwheel or whatever, should be done out of a defensive manoeuver. Someone throws you in the corner, and you jump up and flip and you counter something. If you’re going to throw a guy in and clothesline him anyway, what do you need to do a fancy cartwheel for before you hit him? It just looks stupid.
Q: Who’s better, Dynamite Kid or Chris Benoit? [Hesham]
A: Well, you know, they were like clones of each other. They were very similar. Dynamite, when I was a kid growing up, he might of set more of an image for me because I was younger, watching this older guy work. Chris is even younger than I am. So the differences when you’re a young guy watching this guy, he’s like on a pedestal, Dynamite Kid. When I was a kid watching, I’d go ‘Wow, that guy’s awesome.’ And then you get older and see a guy like Benoit. He’s really good and a lot like Dynamite. What Chris has to battle with is that he’s fighting a similar style as someone that’s already established. That looks like he’s imitating someone. But Dynamite, just because he was the original, was the best. But, you know, Benoit now is by far better. Dynamite Kid is nothing now. It’s a shame to see him like that. Chris has got a lot more going for him. A lot more longevity. If you could have frozen them and put them together, time lapse where Dynamite was at his peak and with Chris now, they’d be an awesome team.
Q: How did the Blue Blazer and Battle Kat first come about? Who’s idea were they? [Liam P.]
A: Vince McMahon had a marketing idea. Now, it’s getting that they have so many guys that do the high flying and stuff, but when I came into the WWF, the first thing I really didn’t want to have was ‘Bret Hart’s little brother’. He thought, Owen Hart, he’s got a lot of ability, a lot of acrobatic manoeuvers, young. And they thought they could market me as a Mighty Mouse, Superman kind of character that was young and fighting evil, justice prevailing, but was doing all this high-flying, acrobatic stuff that was entertaining. So they came up with the idea. It was not a big priority to them. Well, whatever, get a costume put together. They said they wanted a lot of feathers, glitter, colourful colours. So I had a lady here in Calgary make it. She just kind of put together what I had in mind. Then I took it to Vince McMahon, and said this is what they made me. He said alright, we’re going to call you the Blue Blazer. And now, if I was doing things different, I would have had a more sleeker, more dynamic costume. Feathers aren’t rugged. The sick-looking chicken they had as an emblem or logo was kind of weak. It was Vince McMahon’s idea, and a lady here incorporated the design, style. And all I had to do was go out and perform. One of the hardest things was doing those back flips, where you had to jump up and land on the top rope. It’s precision movement. To execute that night after night, for three years, and you’re under a microscope — you’re Bret Hart’s little brother, everyone want to see if you’re going to make it. I managed to sustain myself, do everything right and keep my feet on the ground, weather the storm when the Blue Blazer finally gets to unveil the mask and become who I really wanted to become.
Q: You wrestled Bret at WrestleMania X. What did it feel like to beat Bret then? [Mark Knutson]
A: That was an unbelievable experience to be in a significant, main event caliber match, because I’d come from the bottom of the barrel pretty much on the card. Just Owen Hart getting out of the shadow of ‘Bret Hart’s little brother’. That was my first real big match. Everyone figured, this is a joke, Owen’s going to get squashed. And then when I beat him, it blew everyone away. Not only was it that I surprised people by beating Bret Hart, but it was a great match. They still rate it as one of the best wrestling matches of all time. It’s good to go out and entertain these people, and you’ve got them on the edge of their seat, they’re standing up. Then you know that you’ve done your job, you’ve entertained them. My way of entertaining them is going out and wrestling. Everyone’s got their different ways. Some guys can do more talking in the ring, other guys do posing, body building, whatever the hell they do in the ring. But I don’t have the big body, and I’m not the big smooth talker, but I can get in the ring and wrestle.
Q: Who’s a better wrestler, you or Bret? [John Jackson]
A: Well, technically, Bret’s pretty sound. In a more diverse way, I do a lot more acrobatics, I use the top rope and a lot more aerials than Bret. I think technically, I can go with any move Bret can do. Acrobatically, I do more. Bret’s a little bigger, and that weight’s to his advantage because he can fight a lot bigger guys, be more compatible in the ring than I am.
Q: How much of your success do you owe to your father, and how much do you owe to your brothers? [John Jackson]
A: I owe a lot to my dad, just for having provided the wrestling business for us to get into. My brother Bruce was one of the original guys that I hung around with, and learned a lot from watching him train guys. So he’s a significant factor. And then Bret was really the big one though because he took me from the small ranks of Stampede Wrestling and helped me get into the WWF. He helped me just by doing well himself. He opened the door by being successful in the company, where it’s, ‘Bret Hart’s good, let’s try his little brother’. If Bret when in there and he stunk the place out, then they probably wouldn’t have brought the little brother in. So just by being successful himself, it opened the door for me. And he set a good example for me to follow and I looked up to Bret as a wrestler. It enabled me to strive higher, do well, but then it did cast a shadow on me because it’s like, ‘oh, it’s his little brother.’ It was a hard time fighting out of that shadow that Bret had cast on me, showing that I was not just Bret Hart’s little brother. I’m Owen Hart and I have my own identity and my own style.
Q: That segue ways nicely into Wrestling With Shadows, the Bret Hart documentary. What were your thoughts on that? [Greg Oliver]
A: I thought it was a good documentary. There’s so many documentaries out there right now and everything’s exposing wrestling. It’s kind of beating a dead horse if you’re talking about going out and saying wrestling’s fake, or this or that. People don’t want to hear that. They want to hear, they wanted to find an inside story about Bret Hart, and that’s what they got. They cut through all the red tape garbage, and got to see Bret Hart’s family life, they got to see the details of what happened between Bret and Vince, and they got to see how a relationship of 14 years was established in the WWF with Bret. It’s still emotional, I think, for him, and for Vince, and for anybody watching. To see a friendship like that end in such an ugly way. I’ve said there was a bit of a comparison that Bret was making between Vince McMahon and my dad. He looked up to Vince as a dad and stuff, and it was a shame to see the whole thing end the way it did.
Q: A lot of people, after seeing the documentary especially, are saying it seems even more like a work. What do you say to that? [Greg Oliver]
A: Well, it definitely is no work. I’ve had people say it was all a big work. If they really saw the inside… I know I met with Vince McMahon after his jaw and cheek was all swollen. It was no work. And Bret’s knuckles all fat and broken. The emotions were, I don’t think anyone realizes how intense that whole situation was. Bret, the way he left WWF, wasn’t like he was the Ultimate Warrior come to the WWF for a few months and then he just left, he really wasn’t rooted in the company. And there’s been a lot of guys who’ve come to the WWF, and they really didn’t have the roots, feelings for the company, and the people they worked with. I run into a lot of people that work in the WWF and say ‘your brother Bret really cared.’ He’s not just some guy killing time in the company. He was rooted in the company and was one of the fixtures of WWF. When he left, there was a part of the WWF that left. So it was cause for a very emotional descent for Bret. There was such hatred there between him and Shawn Michaels, it just caused Bret to be real intense. But anyway, there was no work to that. I wish I could say that it was the greatest angle of all time.
Q: What’s your favourite hockey team? [Doug McGregor]
A: I like the Flames. I just took my son last week to a Flames game. I like Fleury, he’s a good player. He’s come down to wrestling a couple of times. Matter of fact, I challenged him one time and he managed Bret at the Saddledome. Far as I know, one of the Rougeaus, Joanne Rougeau, is one of the Flames. Her son, Denis Gauthier, is playing for the Flames. He played there at the game against Tampa Bay last week. So I see him all the time. I used to see him in Montreal, sitting in the penalty box [at wrestling], and now I see him all the time.
Q: Do you still keep in touch with any of the old wrestlers from Stampede? [Liam P.]
A: When I go to the gym to work out, I see Leo Burke. He was always a good technical wrestler, and he trained some of the guys at the gym there. Bad News Allen comes down to the shows in Calgary. Cuban Assassin, and some of those guys. But I really don’t see too many. Some of them have to get down to reality when they get out of wrestling. There’s not much for them. Laymen’s jobs, pumping gas, whatever, it’s kind of sad. You see wrestlers were big time stars and they get out of wrestling and there’s nothing, they don’t have the proper education and the proper fundamentals to get into the real world.
Q: Which you had both of before getting into wrestling. You went to school. [Greg Oliver]
A: I went three years to university, and I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Because I certainly would have regretted not getting into wrestling. It’s been very lucrative for me and I’ve been fortunate to get into it and make money and not do anything stupid where I invested in something that collapsed. I’ve been fortunate to still have something to hang on to. But if I could do anything differently, it would have been a couple more years to further my college and stuff, it would have been ideal. You know, that’s the thing, you get on TV and you become more of a star and it makes it real hard to go back to school and sit in a classroom, put your hand up if you have a question or something. They say ‘hey, that’s Owen Hart’. You kind of want to go incognito. That’s the thing. You can make all this money in wrestling and then I would like to kind of just disappear, from wrestling fans and stuff. I don’t want to forget the fans and what they’ve done. They’ve supported me and stuff, but at the same time, I’d like to just … I don’t want to be hanging on like one of these wrestlers who’s sixty years old, saying ‘hey, I’m a wrestler.’ Let it go. Make your money out of it and get on. I really want to devote a lot of time to my family.
Q: How much time do you spend with your family these days? [Dr. Placid Lasrado]
A: Every second that I’m home I spend doing something. Taking my son to hockey practice, my daughter to swimming, ballet or music, little gymboree classes. My son’s into piano. So, between all that, just taking them out and playing in the yard or tobogganing. I’ve kind of been overcompensating for all the days I spend on the road. It’s unacceptable to just sit on the couch and say I’m not doing anything. You’ve got to get out and do everything you can.
Q: How do you feel that Bret has a newspaper column and you don’t? [John]
A: Oh, that’s fine. I couldn’t care less. I don’t have time. Like I said, I spend too much time away from my kids and stuff, and when I come home, I want to spend it with them. It’s full-time work, wrestling, appearances and stuff. I couldn’t put my full effort into a newspaper column and I’d probably do a lousy job at it.
Q: Who are some of your good friends in wrestling? [Rodney Pawn]
A: I would talk about Double J. (Jeff Jarrett) Edge is a nice guy. The Canadian contingent. You’ve got Edge, Val Venis, Kurrgan, Tiger Ali, we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well because we’re always flying together. I’ll fly through Toronto and hook up with them. But right from top to bottom, there’s guys in the WWF, that’s one good thing about the WWF right now is the harmony is very good. There’s no dissension or tension. I feel real comfortable. I get along with everybody. I was kind of worried after the Hart Foundation left. I had all my family, it was kind of a big faction, and they all left one by one. I was the last one. And it really didn’t have any bearing. I’m still the same and everyone else treats me still the same. I wish they were back with WWF, the rest of the Foundation. By me staying in the WWF, I can keep an anchor there and somehow get them back in the WWF if they ever choose to come.
Q: Who’s your favourite wrestler, excluding yourself? [Rodney Pawn]
A: I don’t know. It’s hard to pick out one particular wrestler.
Q: Who do you find yourself trying to watch in a match?
A: I only watch the upcoming guys that I’ll be fighting. I started scouting Blackman, because I’ll be fighting him soon enough. Before that I was fighting Shamrock. It’s too much to focus on everybody on the card, there’s too much going on, so I try to focus on whomever I’m fighting against. If I happen to be fighting D-X or something, I’ll watch their matches, focus on them, not on the matches I won’t be involved in.
Q: Do you read any of the so-called ‘dirt sheets’ like the Wrestling Observer? [Shujah Agha]
A: Not as a rule, but if someone’s got it in the locker room I’ll read it. But I bet it’s been about six months since I’ve read one.
Q: In your youth, what part-time jobs did you have? [Liam P.]
A: I wanted to be a fireman, so I tried to get on with the fire department. And to get on with the fire department, you need to put together a resume working with high-pressure hoses, working at heights, stuff like that. I went and got jobs like irrigation work, pipe lining, working laying sod where we had to spray this high-pressure peat moss on the ground. I even got a job working on roofs. It showed that I wasn’t scared working at heights. I’ve done it all. I had paper routes when I was a kid. Did a lot of manual labour and stuff to help pay my way through university. The scholarships you get in university are pretty lame. I had all kinds of jobs. And of course wrestling, I sold programs, set up rings, I used to be the music man for years.
Q: I heard you played in a band called ‘The Rattlesnakes’. Did you ever release a record? [firstname.lastname@example.org]
A: It must have been another Owen Hart as I was never in a band.
Q: Being the youngest of 12 children, did you have any special privileges? [Jaime Cole]
A: I don’t think so. I think by the time I was born, my parents had pretty well run the gauntlet with their kids. The novelty had kind of worn off by the time the twelfth child was born. I was lucky to get fed and changed, picked up and taken to school. Most of the time, I was on time.
Q: If you had the chance, would you go back and work for New Japan or one of the other Japanese promotions?
A: I wouldn’t mind doing it when I’ve reached my maximum with the WWF. But I don’t have any aspirations of working in Japan for a few years yet. They’re hard-fought, stiff matches in Japan but they’re gratifying. I still feel I can go out and wrestle those, and technically settle down and do good holds and stuff like that. The perks of working in Japan are that you might go for two weeks every three or four months, so you do work an abbreviated schedule. But you really make up for the abbreviated schedule by how hard you have to fight, how much you’ve got to be in shape.
Q: Speaking of not in shape, what’s the status of Yokozuna and is there any chance of you two ever teaming up again? [Abraham J. Lee]
A: I don’t know. I’ve heard Yokozuna is real heavy right now and so he’s got to watch his heart-rate. It was an unique contrast, the big, big monster and the littler high-flyer. So I wouldn’t mind [teaming up], we got along real good. He was a nice guy and a fine, fine guy to tag up with. I just hope that his weight can get down before he can get back in the ring.
Q: You two held the tag titles together. Of all the promotions you wrestled for, what title is the most cherished one? [Liam P.]
A: Probably the Intercontinental belt in the WWF. … The initial title, I had lots of North American belts, different titles in Germany, Mexico but I don’t know what the hell they were.
Q: Where did you enjoy wrestling the most? [Dr. Placid Lasrado]
A: You know, it’s funny. I liked working in Germany and Austria. The money was horrible but what was good about it was, I was with my wife. We lived out there for nine months. We’d do a tour for six weeks in the same cities, Austria, then we’d go to France for a week’s vacation, then work for another six weeks, then go to Venice, Italy for a week’s vacation. So I was making not much money, but we were together and it really enabled us to bond. It gave me a lot of good memories. I find too often in the wrestling business, you just wrestle, get to the hotel, make your money — and I’m making a lot more money than I ever had anywhere else. Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself to enjoy my life and not just rush through.
Q: Do you prefer to be a heel or a fan favourite?
A: A heel for sure. A lot of anxiety off you, stress-release of telling people to shut up. You can tell it like it is. Where as a good guy, you have to smile. If a fan mouths off to you, you have to pretend like you didn’t hear it.
Q: Some would say you don’t have to smile anymore as a face. Austin doesn’t really do that.
A: Really, there’s a lot of grey area now. A babyface isn’t cut and dry like it used to be. A good guy and a bad guy now, the good guys are booed more than the bad guys. If you’re too much of a bad guy, they start cheering you anyway, so you’re better off being a rebel-tell-it-like-it-is guy.
Q: That brings up Steve Austin. What went through your mind with the piledriver incident? [Dean C.]
A: Well, when he fell on his neck, and said ‘geez, I can’t move’, it was shocking to me. I felt terrible. I didn’t want to hurt a guy. I knew that Steve had a bad neck prior to us going in the ring. Probably it’s just hindsight now, I would never have piledriven him knowing what was going to happen. But I certainly didn’t mean for it to happen. I felt terrible that it did happen. I’m glad that he’s back in the ring and successful as he’s been.
Q: Who haven’t you wrestled that you would one day like to wrestle? [Adam Chandler]
A: Geez, when you’ve been wrestling for 14 years, you’ve pretty well fought everybody. Everybody in the WWF, one way or another, I’m sure I’ve fought, whether it’s Shawn Michaels or Hunter or Stone Cold or Undertaker. I’ve fought them all. Shamrock, The Rock, I can’t think of anyone I haven’t fought.
Q: How do you want your fans to remember you? [Jessi Johnson]
A: How do I want them to remember me? Well, I don’t want to become one of those watered-down guys, who just walked and talked in the ring. I want them to remember me as a guy who was diverse in his talents, could fight anybody and have a good match, whether it was Undertaker, or Vader. These big giant guys, I remember thinking, how can I have a good match with them, and coming back and saying, wow, those people were really entertained. They really thought that I had a chance to beat Vader or beat the Undertaker. And that’s going against the odds, when you’re 5’10”, 220 pounds fighting a guy that’s 6’7″, 320 pounds, or Vader that’s 6’4″, 400 pounds. How am I going to go up there and convince these people that I’ve actually got a chance of winning? When you go out there and even beat them, people believe it, that’s unbelievable, you know. It’s kind of an art to going out and performing. I’d like fans to remember me as a guy who would go out and entertain them, give them quality matches, and not just the same old garbage every week.