Owen Hart was one of the most gifted performers of his generation. He had it all! The look, the in-ring charisma, and a family name that belongs to wrestling royalty. Sadly, he’d meet an untimely death due to a freak accident on May 23rd, 1999. But his legacy is unforgettable, and All Elite Wrestling looks to immortalize him by conducting 2 high-profile tournaments in his name.
Who was Owen Hart? WWE’s most-unsung “New Generation Era” superstar
Born to the legendary Hart Family, Owen was the youngest of 12 siblings but held the most promise out of them. Owen spent his first few years as a pro-wrestler cutting his teeth in Stampede Wrestling. In 1987, he’d branch out to New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he’d become a one-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.
Owen would debut in the WWF not as the youngest member of the Hart Family, but as the “Blue Blazer” at Survivor Series 1988. He’d return to the WWF in 1991, this time as himself, and become a bona fide superstar. Owen was a 2x Intercontinental Champion, won the King of the Ring tournament in 1994, and went on to have an excellent feud with Bret Hart culminating in the best WrestleMania opener of all time.
The King of Harts would tragically pass away at Over The Limit 1999 due to a freak accident in what remains one of the darkest moments in WWE history. He would posthumously be inducted into multiple pro-wrestling Hall of Fames, including the prestigious Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
How did Owen Hart inspire All Elite Wrestling?
The Hart Family has inspired multiple generations of pro-wrestlers, and the same is true for AEW’s locker room. CM Punk & FTR are the first names to come to mind, with Dax & Cash going so far as to re-create spots from the classic Bret vs Owen encounter at WrestleMania X.
Bret Hart was the one who unveiled the AEW World Championship at the very first Double or Nothing, after all, and many of Owen’s peers populate Tony Khan’s company. Mark Henry, Big Show, Christian; all these names were in the WWF when the youngest Hart was still performing there.
R.I.P. Owen Hart (1965 – 1999)
— Dark Side of the Ring (@DarkSideOfRing) May 20, 2020
But the one who arguably helped bring Owen’s influence into AEW was Chris Jericho. After all, it was only a few short months after the airing of that fated Dark Side of the Ring episode that the following news broke.
AEW announced 2 tournaments in honor of the legacy of Owen Hart
In September 2021, Tony Khan announced on Busted Open Radio that All Elite Wrestling was partnering with the Owen Hart Foundation to host 2 tournaments as part of their featured programming. Tony mentioned the close ties that the Hart Family shared with AEW’s locker room and their fan base by extension.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) September 20, 2021
Beginning March 30th, qualifying matches started taking place for AEW’s Owen Hart Cup, in both the Men’s & Women’s divisions, with the finals being slated for Double or Nothing on May 29th. 11 matches have taken place so far, including the aforementioned Dax v Cash encounter, and the AEW debut of Samoa Joe!
Some of the biggest names in All Elite Wrestling have progressed through the tournament bracket, with Samoa Joe, Adam Cole & Darby Allin qualifying for the quarter-finals on the men’s side; and Britt Baker, Ruby Soho & Toni Storm upping the star power of the women’s bracket.
Each match in this tournament has been exceptional so far, and with 2 new qualifiers announced for next week’s episode of Dynamite (including Dante Martin vs Rey Fenix!), it is safe to say that Tony’s Boys & Girls are making Owen proud.