The Life and Death of Owen Hart will move you. Guaranteed.
From the home video of Owen with his wife Martha and their two children Oje and Athena, to various family and friends talking about the late WWF superstar, this documentary will tug at even the most hardened of hearts.
Yet the co-directors Paul Jay and Sally Blake, the folks behind the award-winning Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows, never let the documentary slide into melancholy or try to manipulate the viewer into feeling emotion. Partly because they did not have to.
Wrestling fans — especially Canadian wrestling fans — feel that they knew Owen Hart. We watched him develop into the top star in Stampede Wrestling, and then suffered through his WWF debut as the Blue Blazer. We loved his heel star-making turn against his brother Bret, and loved him even more when the Hart family re-united to form The Hart Foundation once again. So, when he was lost to us, we all lost someone close.
With The Life and Death of Owen Hart, the co-directors Jay and Blake seem to know this fact and give the wrestling fans what they want. We hear from Martha, Bret, Julie, Helen, Stu, Allison and Keith Hart. We hear from Stampede stars like Ed Whalen, Bad News Allen, Honkytonk Man and Harley Race. We hear from those who knew Owen in the WWF, like Mick Foley and Brian Knobs.
Like Wrestling With Shadows, Jay and Blake have made this an accessible world for the uninitiated (non-wrestling fan) viewer. And a fascinating one.
Someone who has followed wrestling for years could take point with the directors’ decisions to gloss over the Stampede years, ignore the earlier death of Hart brother Dean, and not even mention Owen’s successes abroad (including Germany, which in his SLAM! Wrestling interview he said was the best place he even worked). But for the film to work, much of this was superfluous to the narrative, which is how a reluctant Owen got involved in pro wrestling, became a star, and died a tragic, unnecessary death. Plus, with only 46 minutes to work with, there are only so many avenues to explore.
You’ll want to watch The Life and Death of Owen Hart on occasion just to remind yourself that these warriors that we tune in to watch every week are in fact real people, with real lives, with real families, hopes and dreams.
The Life and Death of Owen Hart airs Wednesday, November 3, 1999 on TVOntario at 10 pm ET. It airs Tuesday, November 16, 1999 on the A&E Network at 8 pm ET. A commercial video tape of the documentary will be available soon, and include extra footage of friends and family remembering Owen Hart.