I will never forget that day.
I signed onto America Online and an acquaintance who I had done some e-fed stuff with (yeah, I was really into that) messaged me immediately. I thought it strange as we hadn't spoken in a while. He asked me if I was watching the pay-per-view (PPV). I hadn't and that's exactly why I had hopped online, to check results. That's when he dropped the bomb on me.
"Owen Hart is dead."
I couldn't believe what I was reading. I immediately tried to access my go-to wrestling news site at the time but I couldn't connect. Its servers were crumbling underneath the massive demand at the time. I finally got through and verified the terrible news that had just been relayed to me.
Death isn't all that uncommon in wrestling. Hell, you could even argue that the spectre has and always will loom over the business. But Hart's death -- and that of Eddie Guerrero's years later -- were the only two that really affected me. Maybe it was because of my own young age although I think it was actually because of the situation itself.
"The King of Harts" didn't die with lethal amounts of poison coursing through his system nor did he die from the strain years and years of being a pro wrestler puts on a man's body. He left us because of an accident; a dumb, senseless accident. Four months later, Bret Hart -- still mourning the passing of his baby brother -- paid tribute to Owen in a fantastic match against Chris Benoit on an episode of WCW Nitro.
This isn't an awesome moment that made you jump out of your seat or scream at the top of your lungs. This moment was awesome simply because it was a fitting tribute to an incredible wrestler, a fantastic husband and father, and a great man.
I really don't care to turn this into a Benoit-centric debate. The unfortunate fact is that he took part in many memorable moments throughout his career and trying to forget them would do a disservice to the others involved, especially in this case.
There was no better way for the elder Hart to pay tribute to his little brother than to put on a match like this. The WWE did their "Raw is Owen" tribute after his death and that was great too. But inside the ring -- with two professional wrestlers Owen loved and respected performing their art of the highest level -- was the true tribute for a man whose life was cut too short and a fantastic gesture from the higher ups in WCW to allow the match to take place on Nitro unfettered.
If you have any ideas for something that made you say "that was awesome!!!" pass it along. Make sure to include either your name or your SBNation handle -- whichever you'd like to be used -- and you'll get a shout you out if your idea is used! Contact me at email@example.com.