Nearly 20 years after his tragic death, the legacy of Owen Hart lives on despite his notable absence from the WWE Hall of Fame, something that continues to baffle his older brother.
"I think for what Owen gave to wrestling that it would be important for him to be in the Hall of Fame," five-time WWF champion Bret Hart said during a conversation on CBS Sports' "In This Corner" podcast. "I think it would have meant a lot to my dad [the late Stu Hart], and it would mean a lot to me. I don't think the Hall of Fame is the same without him.
"I know that Mark Henry, as an example, made a strong speech this past year about getting Owen to the Hall of Fame, and I totally agree."
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Owen, the youngest of 12 in the legendary Hart pro wrestling family from Calgary, died in May 1999 following an accidental fall from the rafters due to an equipment malfunction at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, during his entrance at WWE's Over the Edge pay-per-view card.
Henry, a former stablemate and friend of Owen, used a portion of his own Hall of Fame induction speech during WrestleMania 34 weekend in April to make a very public and emotional plea aimed at Owen's widow, Martha Hart, who has long objected to WWE honoring her late husband.
"Owen brought so much joy to my life," Henry said. "I wish that he could be here with us, and I miss him dearly. And Martha, let that camera zoom in here, please. This is not from the company, this is not from other wrestlers, this is from his other brother. He needs to be here, and I hate that I haven't kept up like I should have. I would love to be able to look down one day and see [Owen's son] Oje able to be among us. This is his birthright."
Martha, 51, has long been at odds with both WWE and the extended Hart family following Owen's death. She has been involved in multiple lawsuits attempting to protect his name and image.
Bret, whose extended candid interview can be heard on Tuesday's episode of the "In This Corner" podcast, pulled no punches when asked whether he believes WWE should push past the wishes of Martha in order to honor his brother.
"Oh yeah, I think Martha, Owen's widow, is a very obtuse, square-headed person," Hart said. "I think she has done more to erase my brother Owen's memory than she ever did to remember him. I think it really bothers me that the fans that love Owen so much don't get a chance to remember him. You do these kind of things for the people that are here left to remember them."
Although Bret -- a 2006 WWE Hall of Fame inductee -- said he won't lose any sleep over it, he hopes to see Owen honored during his own lifetime mostly to remind others what kind of person he was in and out of the ring.
"Owen was the nicest, kindest, most adored wrestlers for his kindness," Bret said. "Like, he's not remembered for his high-flying, and he may be remembered for his practical jokes, but more importantly he is remembered for the kind of guy he was and being a real friend to people when they were struggling or got depressed and were bummed out about being away from their home all the time. Owen was one of those kind of guys where it was almost like magic where he could pick your spirits up and make you smile to get through the day.
"You can leave Owen Hart out or leave Dynamite Kid out of it or some of these great wrestlers, but why are you leaving them out of it? There are a lot of great wrestlers who haven't got their pat on the back at the Hall of Fame and it started bothering me to the point where I don't think I will go again to any of the ceremonies until they put in proper, deserving candidates."
It's because of the notable names who have been left out of the WWE Hall of Fame that Bret isn't afraid to say he believes the entire thing has lost its luster. Among the most glaring omissions, according to him, are the British Bulldogs, Demolition and Sweet Daddy Siki.
"Just about anyone can be in it, and it doesn't really matter if you were a great wrestler or what your accomplishments or contribution were to wrestling," Bret said. "Then you have the Rock 'n' Roll Express, who never even made it in WWE, they are in it. Terry Gordy and the [Fabulous] Freebirds are in it when they were too drunk to make most of the towns. I was there in the dressing room when Andre the Giant fired all three of them. They were not great role models or hard workers.
"You look at the people they have in the Hall of Fame, even some of these celebrities in there, and you go: For me personally, with Owen not being in the Hall of Fame, there is a lot of people that belong in the Hall of Fame that are not in it. If it turns out that WWE is going to keep being a Hall of Fame that caters to suck ups and people that are in the company that feel they owe a favor to but never contributed to the business as wrestlers, I question the whole Hall of Fame itself, and I wonder if there will ever be a real Hall of Fame that really caters to just the wrestlers.
"For WWE, I hope Vince McMahon and all of them will step up from a historical perspective and take care of the wrestlers who really did make the company."
Bret Hart stars alongside fellow wrestling legend "Superstar" Billy Graham in the documentary "350 Days," which gives a behind-the-scenes look the world of professional wrestling through interviews, photographs and rare in-ring footage featuring a who's who of history. The movie, which also features the likes of Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Paul "Mr. Wonderful" Orndorff and Tito Santana, will air in theaters nationwide for one night on July 12. Tickets and more information can be found at www.fathomevents.com/350days.