Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Owen - Hart Of Gold

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 396 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: December 7 2015

The first ever DVD on the life and career of Owen Hart was the most anticipated release of 2015, with fans having waited many years for a look back at The Rocket. It was also the most controversial compilation, since Owen's widow Martha had not given approval for such a release. Since Owen's tragic death at Over The Edge 1999, after which Martha and the Hart family understandably sued the then-WWF (it was settled out of court in late 2000), fans have not seen much footage or discussion of Owen due to a desire by Martha to refuse WWE the right to promote Owen's legacy. While that's also understandable, fans, wrestlers and even family members (including Bret Hart) have been dismayed that it prevents anyone celebrating who Owen Hart was and what he meant to so many people.

Regardless of your opinion on the situation, this nevertheless was the chance for everyone to finally recognise and remember the legacy that Owen Hart left behind. Due to the Martha situation, there is very little discussion of Owen's life away from wrestling, and even the section on Owen's death would probably leave some people confused. However, we still get a nice look back at Owen's in-ring career.

That includes a little Hart Family history lesson, Owen getting his start in the family-owned Stampede Wrestling, his initial WWF try-out and his first run as The Blue Blazer, his subsequent trips to Japan and even an almost-unknown period in WCW, his New Foundation and High Energy teams with Jim Neidhart and Koko B. Ware, his legendary feud with older brother Bret, his underrated tag team with Yokozuna and his even more underrated combo with The British Bulldog, his Intercontinental Title stints and the Hart Foundation faction from 1997, the fall-out to Montreal and his teeth-gritting decision to stay in the WWF during the adult-themed Attitude Era, before talk turns to his untimely death and his lasting legacy.

There are many taking heads including Bret, Neidhart, Mick Foley, Triple H, Edge, Jim Ross, Lex Luger, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Koko B. Ware and many more, including family members. Notable absentees are regular opponent Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin, whose SummerSlam 1997 match with Owen is infamous for the neck injury accidentally inflicted upon Austin by The Rocket. Apparently, Jeff Jarrett was actually contacted about doing some interviews for the set (Double J has been on WWE's enemies list for many years), but prior commitments meant that it wasn't to be.

Those familiar with Owen will know of his reputation as a practical joker, and this is emphasised by the documentary including several Owen Tales about such instances, with many more included as DVD extras. We also get archive interview clips from Bulldog and, most notably, Owen himself from an unseen in-character interview on his career from 1996.

At around 70 minutes in length and with the focus almost solely on his in-ring exploits (partly due to the Martha situation), the documentary isn't one of WWE's greatest or most in-depth presentations. However, it is still enjoyable and should bring back many nostalgic memories. My biggest annoyances was that the Owen Tales used in the documentary, entertaining as they are, disrupt the flow and make you feel like you're watching a different feature altogether at times. It would have worked better to have had a lengthy documentary section on Owen's prankster ways, and then have all of the Tales as DVD extras. Otherwise, though, it's a good doc, but not a great one; it will meet your expectations, but it won't blow you away.

The bonus matches are very good on the whole. Some Stampede Wrestling matches (the latter of which has a terrible finish, or at least a terribly-presented finish) lead us to the Blue Blazer's debut and a thrilling bout against Mr. Perfect. We then get Owen's WCW debut before we see the Rocket return to the WWF (no tag bouts alongside Neidhart or Koko are included, sadly), beginning with a 1993 clash with Shawn Michaels (which Owen amazingly wins, given his status at the time).

His incredible, star-making win over Bret at WrestleMania X is here, as is his King Of The Ring victory against Razor Ramon (which features some appalling commentary from a guy named Art Donovan; he makes Michael Cole and Byron Saxton seem like absolute masters). Unfortunately, his superb SummerSlam 1994 Cage showdown with Bret isn't on the set, so we jump ahead to 1995 via an unseen squash win held in Times Square prior to WrestleMania XI.

Disc three opens with Owen and Yokozuna facing The Allied Powers in a decent In Your House tag match. Of greater quality is a singles match with Shawn Michaels from IYH VI (incidentally, if WWE ever changes Roman Reigns' character to mimic how Shawn behaves here, the Big Dog really is in trouble). From there, it's a rare Raw bout against Mankind and a classic European Title meeting with British Bulldog in Germany.

Strangely, we don't get a regular tag bout with Owen and Bulldog together, but we do see Owen vs. Rocky Maivia for the Intercontinental Title and the memorable Canadian Stampede main event. As the set enters the Attitude Era, Owen faces Hunter-Dust (Goldust pretending to be Triple H), Ken Shamrock inside the Hart Dungeon (which made me wonder: why did the Hart family allow the WWF to produce a match from their home in the wake of the Montreal Screwjob?) and Edge in a fun match from Breakdown 1998. A final match with Owen and Jeff Jarrett teaming up would have been nice, but you can't have everything.

Fans who remember Owen Hart and what he meant to so many should be satisfied with this set. The documentary is adequate, and the match selections contain some classic bouts and some hidden gems. It's not the five-star compilation that we would have liked, but given the subject and the action on display, I think that this is a must-own for longtime fans, even if the overall rating doesn't quite reflect that.

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

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