Wednesday 23 December 2015

Owen Hart - Hart Of Gold DVD Review By Nathan Hunt

It has been an extremely long time coming, for various reasons, but WWE have finally released a DVD to celebrate the life and career of Owen Hart. The release was rumoured for a long time prior to seeing the light of day and was one of those projects that fans had always clamoured for, but had started to believe that it would never actually come to pass. One of the most talented and revered workers to ever compete in a WWF(E) ring, Owen's is a legacy which has been left untouched for years out of fear of litigation from his widow, Martha, who has been vehemently opposed to any usage of his name and likeness since his passing in 1999.

I was somewhat dubious before sitting down to watch the DVD after reading the comments from Bret Hart about his thoughts on the release, but was intrigued to see what limitations, if any, had been imposed. I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of home video footage and interviews with Owen himself throughout the documentary, so those fears were largely unfounded. There is a really good selection of talking heads on the documentary, although some seem to be outtakes from various interviews conducted for other previous WWE releases. There is a slightly disjointed and haphazard feel to the disc due to some heavy-handed edits, particularly as they transition between the main bulk of the documentary and several side chapters of random 'Owen Tales'. Even so, the documentary is a solid effort; comprehensive, interesting and entertaining. It also covers a lot of ground, such as Owen's pre-WWE career in Calgary, Europe and Japan, his first run as the Blue Blazer and subsequent departure, his brief run in WCW and his transformation into 'The King Of Harts'. The feud between Bret and Owen is covered in great detail from various perspectives, giving a very good insight into the most important and significant feud of Owen's career. There is also a good deal of focus on the Hart Foundation and Owen's post-Montreal run. Inevitable coverage of Owen's death is brief and tasteful, focusing on the aftermath and the void he left rather than the incident itself. You also get a good feel for the person behind the performer throughout the disc, showing the genuine personality for which Owen is equally renowned in the business as his in-ring ability.

Owen Has Bret in a Sharpshooter in their epic WM X bout
The extras include another selection of stories from Owen's peers which give further insight into the man himself and his playful and hilarious antics behind the scenes. We then move onto the matches, starting with Stampede Wrestling bouts against Hiroshi Hase (as Viet Cong  Express Number 1) and Mike Shaw (as Makhan Singh). Some more Stampede and international matches (such as from New Japan Pro Wrestling or UK's World of Sport) would certainly not have gone amiss, which is probably what Bret had been referring to when he voiced his concern about the DVD. The Blue Blazer Vs Mr Perfect from Owen's first run with WWF is a really good and varied match, displaying versatility and some of the (cutting edge at that time) offense which continues to influence performers to this day. The WCW offering against enhancement talent Mark Kyle is somewhat superfluous, but welcome if only for the fact that it had previously only been available as a poor quality YouTube video. An early match against Shawn Michaels when Hart returned to WWF is the only pre-Bret-feud match from his days as The Rocket, which is a shame as well, but with such a wealth of great matches to choose from it is not surprising that there are some omissions.

Obviously we get the WrestleMania X match with Bret, along with a rare Lumberjack match between the two - both of which are excellent and well worth a watch whether you've seen them before or not. The King Of The Ring Final against Razor Ramon and the speech which follows are very entertaining and the second bout with Michaels from In Your House 1996 is a great outing by both. The finals of the European Championship tournament betwen Owen and British Bulldog is fantastic and comes highly recommended to absolutely any wrestling fan, while the ten man bout from the main event of Canadian Stampede is almost like a 'Greatest Hits of The Attitude Era' rolled into one great match. These are amongst the highlights of the entire set, but the quality of action elsewhere on the discs is high throughout, so there is plenty on offer.
Owen with his brother-in-law The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith
 This DVD is is a definite must-have for any Owen Hart fans, or for anyone who was a fan in the 1990s in general. It features some outstanding action and is generally insightful and interesting, recapping a very successful career and showcasing the great work of a highly talented individual. The nature of the stories that people tell about Owen are generally very entertaining in themselves and you can see the genuine love that was shared by all who knew him on a personal level. While some more matches from outside of WWE would certainly have been a good move, Owen's most famous work and some of his best opponents are well represented, making this a very decent offering overall. I can't help but feel that a second installment may be necessary, as there are certainly some other matches which deserve to be seen by a larger audience (such as the cage match against Bret, other matches against Shawn Michaels, any matches from his tag team runs alongside Davey Boy Smith or Jeff Jarrett and international matches against the likes of Jushin Thunder Liger and Marty Jones). Even so, whether there are plans for a second disc in the works or not, there is enough here to make this worth the cost and a welcome addition to any collection.

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