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WWE Superstars Remember Owen Hart
by Phil Speer and Seth Mates

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Every time the World Wrestling Federation Superstars come to Kansas City, they think and talk about Owen Hart. Backlash was the the first Pay-Per-View at this city's Kemper Arena since Over the Edge on May 23, 1999, the night that the "King of Harts" died tragically in a harness accident.

"He was the first thing I thought about when I got in the door," said Bob "Hardcore" Holly, who wrestled Al Snow for the Hardcore Title at Over the Edge just moments before Owen's accident. Indeed, hours before Backlash kicked off, it seems that every superstar was exchanging Owen stories.

Edge holds the unique distinction of having fought Owen in Hart's last match. At a live event in Chicago the night before Over the Edge, Edge and Christian took on Owen and Hart's then-tag partner, Jeff Jarrett. "It's a distinction I'd rather not have," Edge said. "I wish no one had it." Debra, who managed Owen and Jarrett at the time, says she remembers how much fun they had that night in Chicago.

"Owen was purposely wearing one boot that was different, just to see if anyone would notice," she smiled. "I also remember that night because he drug out a bunch of coat hangers from under the ring, and he was beating up (Edge & Christian) with a coat hanger. I just remember laughing, it was fun."

Owen had a reputation for making everyone laugh.

D'Lo Brown remembered the time when Owen put Vince's briefcase on a ceiling fan at the arena in St. Louis.

"He was definitely the master of the practical joke," D'Lo said. "It didn't matter what mood you were in. He could make you laugh."

Mark Henry agreed: "Your dog could have just died and he could make you laugh."

Henry used to travel from town to town with Owen and Jeff Jarrett. He said that they would often pass the time by "prank calling" their friends. One time, Owen called Mark Henry's longtime manager, Terry Todd. Todd had just moved on to a ranch and was apparently having trouble with his fence; cows were escaping. Owen pretended to be one of Todd's neighbors. Henry recalled Owen saying, "All these damn cows are over here, and I'm fixing to come over there and kick your ass. I'm going to go out there and start shooting them." Todd calmly tried to diffuse the situation, asking Owen where he lived, and promising to come right over and retrieve the cows. But Owen responded: "No, it's too late. I'm going to come over there and kick your ass."

Todd got so angry that he went on a profanity-laced tirade.

"I've known Terry Todd since I was 16 years old," Henry smiled, "and I had never heard him cuss before."

Billy Gunn remembered a time when he was watching Owen and Yokozuna take on the "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith and Lex Luger in a match during one of the Federation's overseas tours. Luger and Smith had a longtime backstage rivalry over who was stronger, and Owen convinced them that they should both try to press-slam him during their match to determine the most powerful of the two.

During the match, Lex tried to pick Owen up, but Owen "dead-assed" him, and Luger couldn't even pick him up. Eventually, Davey Boy tagged in; this time, Owen was a little more cooperative, and Davey picked him up as if he was light as a feather. Luger tagged back in later, and Owen again "dead-assed" him.

"Davey was running around like a little kid, screaming, 'I'm the strongest! I'm the strongest!'" Billy recalled. "I was just absolutely gut-rolling. Lex got so pissed!"

About three years ago, Val Venis and most of the other superstars landed early in the morning in St. Louis. Exhausted, Val headed to the hotel for a few hours of sleep before the show. As he was checking in, several fans approached him for autographs, including a man with a large stack of 8-by-10 photos who asked Val to sign them all. It was obvious that the man was just going to sell them, so Val refused. What he didn't realize was that Owen was standing behind him when he told the man he wouldn't sign the photos.

Several minutes later, Val was up in his room and just about to fall asleep when his phone rang. The voice on the other end of the line claimed to be the man with the stack of photos. The man claimed that Val had promised to come back down and sign the photos. Val insisted that he didn't say that, and he repeated that he wouldn't sign them. But the man just kept at it, and soon threatened Val, suggesting that he was going to attack Val when Val tried to leave the hotel. Val was furious. He got up and made a "B-line" to the lobby in search of the man. When he got to the lobby, he only saw Owen and Jarrett. He asked them if they had seen a big man with a large stack of photos. Owen claimed he'd just seen a man that looked like that walk out of the hotel a "few minutes ago." So Val charged out the door searching for him. He never found him, and he also lost out on a few hours of sleep.

But a few weeks later, of course, he found out that the voice on the other end of the phone was Owen's.

On May 23, 1999, Val was involved in the match right after Owen's accident. "I was hoping that when I got to the back (after the match), they'd say he was going to be alright."

On the night he died, and for several weeks previous to that, Owen competed under a mask as the Blue Blazer. The storyline was that Owen claimed that he wasn't the Blazer, although it was obvious that he was. During that time, Owen often traveled with Steve Blackman. According to Al Snow, Owen would often get lost on purpose so that he could have Blackman put on the Blue Blazer mask and ask directions (because people weren't suppose to know that Owen was the Blazer)!

"Owen was the type of guy who'd give a cop the finger just to get you pulled over," Snow said.

Speaking of police, Kevin Nash told the story of the time Owen and Davey Boy Smith teamed up with two undercover cops to pull a practical joke on Lex Luger. Although they were legitimate cops, they were in on the gag the entire time.

Smith and Owen arranged for the policemen to pull over Luger, who was driving while Owen and Davey were passengers. It was a routine stop until, as the cops walked back to their car, Davey yelled out, "Oh blow it out your ass!" The cops heard (they were suppose to hear), came back to Lex's car and ordered to step out. Luger was totally fooled. He was yelling at Owen to tell the cops that Davey had made the remark. Owen deadpanned: "Sir, Lex said it." The cops even had Luger in handcuffs until the proverbial cat was let out of the bag.

Nash said he was watching the Over the Edge show live at his home. He immediately called his good friend Triple H to see what was going on. Triple H picked up the phone on the second ring and said, "Kevin, he's dead."

Nash said that he had the same feeling in his stomach the night Owen died that he did on Sept. 11.

"I'm not saying this because he's gone now, but when he was alive, nobody had a bad word to say about Owen," Nash said. "Why Owen? He didn't run around on his wife. He had beautiful kids. They must have needed a first-class angel up there because they got one."

Added X-Pac, "He had a game plan and he stuck to it. He was the best out of his entire family. Sometimes he got irritated and didn't work as hard. If he gave half a s*** he was 10 times better than anyone else."

X-Pac recalled the time when he and Owen were in Japan.

"Owen didn't sleep very well," X-Pac said. "He was a little bit of an insomniac."

Owen and X-Pac (then known as 1-2-3 Kid) were the only ones awake one time during the tour, until they decided to wake up J.J. Dillon. At the time, Dillon was the head of the Federation's talent relations department.

"We made sure he didn't get one wink of sleep," X-Pac said. "Every 15 minutes we called him. The next day, we were out swimming in the pool and he comes out all haggard looking."

Some of Owen's best practical jokes occurred during international tours. Another time in Japan, Owen and X-Pac teamed up again. Their target was another former Federation employee. They got into his room, put all his clothes in the bathtub and filled it up with water, took out every light bulb in the room, and turned on his TV and ordered every Pay-Per-View movie available.

"The next day, he was in the airport with someone else's sweatpants and sweatshirt," X-Pac said with a chuckle.

No one on the roster was immune to Owen's ribbing.

"Back when I was in the Brood, we were wrestling in Philadelphia one time, and when we got back to the locker room, Gangrel couldn't find his watch," recalled Christian. "He said he'd left it right on his bag. As he was looking for it, Owen came up to him and asked what time it was. Gangrel said he didn't know, because he had lost his watch. A couple of months later, we were in Philadelphia again, and Gangrel got back to the locker room after his match, only to find his watch on his bag, just as he'd left it months before. And just like the last time, Owen came up to him and asked what time it was."

Christian's former tag partner, Edge, recalls a match in Germany when Owen used a very interesting object to clobber his opponents. "He kept hitting us with something, and then putting it in his armpit to hide it," Edge said. "And when the ref made him lift his arm, a napkin floated out, and everyone saw that he has been attacking us with a napkin."

Edge recalled another time when Owen was a clown -- in more ways than one.

"There was a time when he and Jeff (Jarrett) brought clown noses to the ring," Edge said. "Christian got Jeff in one corner and I got Owen in the other corner, and we started punching them. While we were punching them, they put the noses on. Then we threw them into each other, and when they collided, both noses just flew up in the air.

Announcer Michael Cole's favorite Owen story stems from Cole's first Federation Pay-Per-View appearance, at the September 1997 "Ground Zero" show in Louisville, Ky.

"I was set to do my first live interview ever, with Bret Hart, the World Wrestling Federation Champion," Cole said. "I was all nervous, I was in my tuxedo, my hands were shaking, we were only a few minutes from the live shot. Well, right before we went to the interview, Owen and the British Bulldog took a liter of Coke and poured it down the back of my tuxedo pants. Now we're a minute away from the interview and I have to stay in character, so I did the interview with an entire liter of Coke in my pants! That was my 'Hello and welcome to the World Wrestling Federation' from Owen.

"I think every time someone pulls a rib around here these days, someone says, 'What would Owen have thought about that?'"

As he prepared to head to ringside to call the evening's event with Jerry "The King" Lawler, Jim Ross put the evening and Owen's memory in perspective.

"I thought about this day a lot before we got here, my memories and my emotions," J.R. said. "Being at ringside the night he fell, it was the toughest thing I ever did. To this day, I've still never seen the tape. I was pretty numb; everyone was in shock that night. I still have nightmares about it.

"Owen was as warm-hearted as any human being I have ever known. He loved to laugh and he loved to make other people laugh. He had a great spirit, a good soul and a good heart.

"Hopefully tonight's show will be a credit to Owen's memory, and will put a smile on his face."

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