Jeff Jarrett: Characters and styles come and go but Owen Hart is forever

Exclusive interview: Former WWE star Jarrett speaks about the legacy of his old friend and wrestling legend Hart

Matty Paddock@MattyPaddock
Wednesday 14 July 2021 10:43
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<p>Owen Hart died during a WWE pay per view in 1999</p>

Owen Hart died during a WWE pay per view in 1999

As new generations of fans remember his life and legacy, few will come close to matching the late Owen Hart, his good friend Jeff Jarrett has told The Independent.

A lifelong fan of WWE, I was barely a teenager when Hart fell tragically to his death during a live pay-per-view in Kansas in 1999, aged just 34.

While mercifully his fatal accident wasn’t aired to viewers – the show was playing a video package at the time – the night has stayed with me and millions for life.

Rather than a fixation on the tragedy itself or any sensationalism of it, however, it’s actually the outpouring of love that followed for the Canadian that accounts for much of what I remember.

Uniquely, that affection wasn’t confined to 1999, or even 2009 or 2019, and stretches far beyond the nostalgic sweetness with which people who pass away are remembered.

Indeed, the hugely talented performer and much-loved family man and colleague is held in a regard higher than arguably any other in the industry.

Now in 2021, Jarrett has spoken at length about not just the night of his friend’s passing, but also the many memories, pranks and acts of kindness that helped shape their friendship.

The subject was by far the most anticipated instalment of his My World podcast series with broadcaster Conrad Thompson and, speaking in our exclusive interview, the former Intercontinental champion himself has revealed that the reaction to the episode has allowed him to crystalise his own thoughts on life and legacy.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with the feedback of all of it and everything that has gone with it but, specifically, that Owen episode has made me take another layer of thought,” he commented.

“We all have a certain amount of time here on this earth, and all we really have when we leave is a legacy.

“You can have matches, pay-per-view main events, promos, achievements in and out of the ring, business and personal… but that one-on-one interaction is really what creates your legacy.

Jeff Jarrett is a former Intercontiental champion in WWE

“You don’t have a legacy like Owen Hart if you don’t have that genuine integrity, kindness and loving heart that Owen had, not just with [wife] Martha [and children] Oje, Athena and his whole family; everyone he came into contact with remembers the person, not the performer.”

Jarrett, himself a WWE Hall of Famer, is always careful about sharing stories of Hart’s legendary pranks, so as to ensure they don’t dominate the way in which the high-flying grappler is remembered.

But he couldn’t help but raise a wry smile when I raise the topic of television star Chuck Norris and his appearance at WWE’s Survivor Series in 1994. He acknowledged: “We know where the story is going!”

That night, Jarrett the villain was due to be on the receiving end of what wrestling fans recognise as a superkick from the star of Walker Texas Ranger. For Owen, it was an opportunity for mischief that was too good to turn down.

Hart would insist to Jarrett that, as a performer, Norris’ kicks would lack the bite that WWE stars might be used to in the ring and that he must expect as much. He’d then stress to Norris that he needed to ensure the blow he gave his pal needed to be as firm as he could muster.

Jarrett added: “Being the heel persona, I always loved to pick up and say ‘I’ll take the bump’ and volunteer, and Owen didn’t mind shuffling me up there for that!

“Owen always had a good joke about it and Chuck Norris was a super big-time television star, [but] Owen would get into anybody!

Jeff Jarrett is kicked by Chuck Norris at a WWE event in 1994

“No matter who it was, he’d say: ‘Make sure you get him hard and make it look real!’ That’s how Owen was – he never missed an opportunity to stir the pot in a very, very unassuming way.”

Society so often recalls the sensational and tragic far better than it does the good and wholesome, so it would be no shock for Owen Hart to be remembered more for the harrowing and controversial way he died.

And yet, generations removed from that night in 1999, the husband and father of two bucks that trend emphatically in being spoken about and remembered in far warmer ways.

Unlike the circus of professional wrestling, the performer and more importantly the man have stood the test of time

“It is authentic and real,” says Jarrett of Hart’s legacy. “Characters and matches come and go, styles and eras change.

“You know how the industry is – what’s good in the 1990s isn’t in the 2000s and so on.

“The authenticity of who Owen is and always will be is timeless. I said something and Conrad latched on to it: ‘Owen is forever.’

“That’s real – Owen’s character is timeless.”

Recapping Jarrett’s incredible career, My World with Jeff Jarrett is a weekly podcast available at AdFreeShows.com

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