WrestleMania Lead-Up: Part 1: Brothers and Best Friends
Once again WrestleMania is right around the corner, and, less fortunately, we once again find ourselves with a mixed bag of a card. That doesn’t change a thing as far as my interest, and I’m sure many fans are feeling the same. The point, whether for good or bad, is the spectacle, and even the most technically-sound masterpiece of a match wouldn’t quite belong if it wasn’t a huge deal. With that said, it’s time to take a look back at one of my—and countless others’—favorite WrestleMania matches: Bret vs. Owen Hart, from WrestleMania X, one of the PPV’s all-time best matches, and arguably the greatest show opener of all time.
That the match contains some of the best pure wrestling ever seen on WWE PPV is no surprise. There’s nothing I can say that would add to Bret’s spectacular legacy in the ring. Owen, while regarded as a great worker and underrated talker, still goes unmentioned among the all-time greats, regardless of his tragic death in 1999. He was a magnificent technician, as well as an impressive flyer, long before either of those were common attributes on such a major stage. Owen easily rests in my top five favorite wrestlers of all time.
The rivalry between the two brothers was a fantastic example of an engaging, inspired, long-term storyline playing out in an entirely successful manner. Owen, forever in Bret’s shadow, knew that he was just as good as his brother, and began to vent his frustrations as Bret cost them a few major matches as a tag team. Finally attacking his injured brother, Owen’s heel turn signified the true beginning of their intense rivalry.
WrestleMania X was their first match as opponents, and it was fiery as hell. The two put their scientific wrestling skills on display and went for over twenty-minutes at a fast pace, blowing away almost the entirety of the card to follow. The biggest shock of all came with Owen picking up a clean win over Bret, the clear-cut fan favorite, and securing bragging rights. Of course, that was far from the end of their rivalry, as Bret continued on that night to win the World Heavyweight Championship and remained in the spotlight. But for those precious opening moments, not only were both brothers the focus of the wrestling world, but Owen was allowed to triumph as a true star. His petulant, arrogant heel gimmick was perfectly suited to him, and allowed him a ruthless streak that heated the rivalry to the boiling point.
Far be it for me to compare the Chris Jericho-Kevin Owens rivalry to Bret and Owen’s, but there are some parallels. The two Canadians were paired as a tag team late last year, with neither seeming to have any major direction on the roster. From this undesirable scenario, however, they gave us gold with their “best friends” storyline. They were entertaining as all hell, and played their roles so convincingly that you could be forgiven for buying it all as real. Naturally, it was both too good and just cheesy enough that it couldn’t last. In another example of a long-term build, their divide was teased and hinted at for months before ultimately arriving last month on RAW. It could be argued that the whole friendship angle harmed Owens’ Universal Title run, but in throwing Jericho into the Jeriton, he proved himself to be the ruthless heel he’s played so well for years, while turning Chris face in the process.
So, we have two men, not quite brothers, but built up as pretty damn close, driven apart by the temper and ego of the lower-profile wrestler. And much like in Bret and Owen’s case, both are tremendous wrestlers who can be trusted to deliver a top-notch match on a card rife with unexciting filler. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, Jericho vs. Owens looks to be the match of the night at WrestleMania 33. It has the most interesting angle story-wise, as well as two of the best wrestlers on RAW. It will be a huge shock if the match fails to deliver, which is not to say that I’m expecting a classic such as Bret and Owen delivered, just an entertaining, physical contest between two men in a heated rivalry.
Also, worth mentioning is that Kevin Owens took his wrestling surname in tribute to his son, who he named for Owen Hart, his favorite wrestler.