Dis-Owen-ed

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March 24, 2007

He didn't want to fight. No matter what was said, what was thought or what was done, Bret "Hit Man" Hart did not want to fight his younger brother Owen at the end of 1993.

The year 1994, however, was another story altogether.

The "Hit Man" had already achieved great success as a WWE Tag Team, Intercontinental and WWE Champion. The aspiring "Rocket," having previously aligned himself with partners like Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart (The New Foundation) and Koko B. Ware (High Energy), wanted to make a name for himself. He'd succeed at Survivor Series 1993, but not in the manner that anyone had expected. At the November classic, brothers Bret, Bruce and Keith (with patriarch Stu on the outside) were in the ring celebrating their "Family Feud Match" victory over Shawn Michaels and Jerry "The King" Lawler's Knights. The young Rocket, however, had launched into a public tantrum, blaming Bret for a collision on the ropes that resulted in his becoming the only Hart to be pinned and eliminated from the contest. Bret and the others tried reasoning with him, but Owen wouldn't listen.

Two weeks after the incident, WWE announcer Vince McMahon interviewed a seemingly calmer Owen, whose pointed words betrayed long, pent-up emotions. "I've been living in the shadow of you, Bret, all my life, and I'm sick and tired of it. There's only one way to solve this thing…. I'm challenging you, my brother, to a fight, one on one." As someone who trained a lifetime making himself the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be, Bret's response the following week would prove equally surprising to WWE fans: "I'll take on anybody, but under no circumstances would I ever—absolutely, positively not ever—step in the ring with my own brother."

And just like that, the sibling rivalry ended. Or so everyone thought. Owen and Bret would step into a ring at January's Royal Rumble, but as partners, not opponents. Though both would compete later in the evening's 30-Superstar Rumble, they agreed to first channel their fraternal friction in a better direction—by vying for the WWE Tag Team Championship against The Quebecers. For much of the contest, the Hart brothers worked as one. It appeared as if they were destined for WWE Tag Team gold, until Bret seriously injured his knee. Unable to even tag Owen, the referee decided the "Hit Man" could no longer continue, and called for the bell.

The Rocket, quite simply, blew up. Screaming as his older brother struggled just to stand, he kicked Bret's bad leg out from under him and left the ring. While paramedics wheeled the Excellence of Execution out on a stretcher, Owen reappeared on the TitanTron, but not to apologize. "Bret Hart, you're nothing but a selfish person!" he screamed. "I went in there in a Tag Team Match…the biggest match in my life! It was a dream come true! I had the best partner in the world: my own brother! But you're too selfish, like I've said all along! Your ego is too big! You only worry about yourself! You don't care about me!"

Despite a bad knee and Owen's more painful accusations, Bret returned later that night for the 30-man main event—and won, though by going over the top rope simultaneously, the "Hit Man" and Lex Luger became WWE's first-ever co-winners of the Royal Rumble. After much deliberation, then-WWE President Jack Tunney decreed that 1) both Superstars would contend for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania X, and 2) a coin toss on Raw would determine who would challenge then-champion Yokozuna first. In the interest of fairness, the Rumble co-winner who lost the coin toss would also wrestle twice that night, against suitable competition.

Unfortunately for Bret, he didn't win the coin toss. And the "suitable competition" chosen by Tunney's office was none other than Owen Hart.

The badly misguided Rocket, telling the world how "great" it felt to kick Bret's leg at the Royal Rumble and release "a lifetime of anger, hostility and frustration," couldn't wait to beat his brother in Madison Square Garden, on the grandest stage of them all. Bret, conversely, was much more somber about their upcoming confrontation. "But I can promise Owen one thing," he told Vince McMahon only a few weeks before the sibling showdown. "He wants a fight? I'll give him a fight. I'll give him a damn good fight."

Both hostile Harts would deliver on their promises come March 20, 1994, delivering one of the greatest WrestleMania matches ever witnessed. Bret's failed victory roll and some quick thinking gave Owen the clean victory he had so craved since the brothers' childhood days training in their father's "Dungeon" in Calgary, Alberta. Yet the evening was hardly a total loss for the "Hit Man," who went on to face Yokozuna that evening and capture his second WWE Championship. For the better part of a year, Bret and Owen Hart would continue their fraternal conflict in the ring—a conflict born of dormant jealousy and bad blood that wouldn't surface until passing through WWE.com's No. 7 Most Rugged Road to WrestleMania.

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