Back in September, AEW announced its partnership with Owen Hart's family to honor the late pro-wrestling legend’s legacy. It was a vindication for longtime fans who feared Owen's memory had been lost forever due to the contentious relationship between WWE and Martha Hart, Owen's widow.
Owen Hart’s death at the 1999 PPV event Over The Edge in Kansas City was one of the most tragic moments in wrestling history. Allegations of negligence on WWE’s part and criticism of the decision to continue with the show ensued.
A lawsuit filed by Martha related to WWE’s use of his name and likeness was settled out of court in 2013 and has resulted in the beloved wrestler being relegated to the margins of the company’s version of wrestling history.
While WWE could never truly honor Owen Hart, AEW offers a clean slate for Martha and her family to keep his legacy alive. This comes in the form of a tournament named after the legend, amongst other collaborative efforts between the two parties. Here's everything you need to know about AEW's Owen Hart Cup.
#5. AEW collaborated with the Owen Hart Foundation and Martha Hart to create the tournament
AEW's relationship with the Hart family dates back to 2019 and their inaugural PPV Double or Nothing. When AEW debuted their World Championship belt, it was Bret Hart who presented it.
AEW's owner Tony Khan revealed that the company had been in talks with Martha for over a year before the announcement. She started a non-profit charity in his honor, named the Owen Hart Foundation.
While Martha was adamant about not doing business with WWE and has kept her distance for close to 20 years, it seems like Tony Khan's sincerity eventually won her over. They released a joint statement announcing the partnership, which can be read in full below:
September 20, 2021 - All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and the Owen Hart Foundation (OHF), a nonprofit charity which provides a vast range of assistance and opportunities to individuals in-need across the world, are collaborating to honor the legacy of late wrestler Owen Hart, a beloved figure in the professional wrestling community and beyond. This collaboration included launching the annual Owen Hart Cup Tournament within AEW, which will see the winner receive a cup known as "The Owen," as well as the production and distribution of unique and original Owen Hart merchandise, including specified retail good as well as the upcoming AEW console video game.
The most exciting about the news was the debut of a new tournament by AEW, dubbed the Owen Hart Cup, which not only pays tribute to the wrestling legend but figures to be an exciting platform to build up new talent in the company, something a consummate professional like Owen would have appreciated.
#4. AEW's Owen Hart Cup was possible due to Chris Jericho
AEW's connection with Owen Hart might not seem obvious but look no further than Chris Jericho for proof of Owen's influence in the wrestling business. The former AEW World Champion cites Owen as one of his biggest inspirations. During a previous interview, Jericho explained how he was instrumental in bringing Martha into the fold:
"It was a passion project for me and obviously for Martha and Tony. We worked on it for a long time, about a year and a half, to put the deal together and figure out what we wanted to do. I just knew I wanted Owen's legacy to be something positive and something great as far as wrestling goes, rather than just be dwelling on his death. That's the main reason why we all wanted this to happen, so we can celebrate Owen Hart's career and the contributions that he made. He was a pioneer."
On the 20th anniversary of Owen Hart's death in 2019, both Chris and Martha were involved in an episode of Dark Side of the Ring, which detailed Owen's unfortunate demise. Jericho even invited Martha on his podcast Talk Is Jericho to promote the episode, which helped establish their relationship. Jericho touched on why AEW is the perfect place to honor Owen:
"'What's his connection to AEW?' some people are saying. Well, one of the connections is that he's specifically the reason I got into wrestling. Owen Hart was the guy, to an extent Shawn Michaels & Ricky Steamboat, but Owen Hart, to me, I thought, 'I want to be like that guy.' There is your connection to AEW. The original AEW face of the company is an Owen Hart fanatic and disciple. That's the reason we wanted to do this."
"We'll do the Owen Hart Cup and tournament and make people feel good about Owen rather than sad. We know what happened, but that was over 20 years ago. Let's move forward remembering his amazing contributions and legacy in the ring that still resonate to this day. I'm really excited about it and very happy about it...We put a lot of time and work to make it happen, but it did and now we can move forward and have great times with Owen involved, which I'm sure he'd love as well."
It is thanks to Jericho that AEW and Martha were able to come together to make the Owen Hart Cup Tournament possible.
#3. AEW will have men's and women's Owen Hart Cup tournaments
AEW's Owen Hart Cup will feature two tournaments for both men and women. During a recent appearance on Sirius XM’s Busted Open Radio, Tony Khan revealed this big new piece of information about the upcoming Owen Hart Cup format.
During his chat with Dave LaGreca and the gang, Tony also announced that he’s secured footage of Owen from New Japan Pro-Wrestling to be used during the annual tournaments. He ended by mentioning that Dr. Martha Hart will be on hand to present the trophies to the winners. It's certainly an exciting development for AEW fans and allows the women's division to further showcase themselves.
#2. AEW will hold the Owen Hart Cup tournament finals at the Double or Nothing PPV, May 2022
AEW fans will have to wait until next year for the Owen Hart Cup tournaments to come to fruition. They will take place in AEW throughout May 2022, which will mark the 23rd anniversary of Owen's passing. The month-long tournament will culminate at AEW's Double or Nothing PPV.
It'll be interesting to see how the company formats the tournament, whether it's an elimination structure like WWE's King of the Ring, which Owen Hart famously won, or is it akin to New Japan Pro Wrestling's G1 Climax, which features a round-robin format together with a points system. Either way, it's a chance for AEW to add a must-see attraction to their PPV calendar that can become an annual staple.
#1. AEW's Owen Hart Cup winners will receive "The Owen"
AEW, together with Dr. Martha Hart, will hand out awards to the winners of the men's and women's tournaments, appropriately called the "Owen". AEW owner Tony Khan hopes it will become a significant trophy for wrestlers in the future.
In an interview with Josh Martinez for Z100 New York, Tony Khan talked about the idea for calling the trophy the "Owen":
"During the pandemic, being stuck at home, I spent a lot of time building relationships with people all over the world, and Chris Jericho is a big relationship builder too, and he spent a lot of time building relationships. He had built this really good relationship with Martha Hart, and they had gotten to know each other and he introduced me to her and said that he thought it would be great if we work together to honor Owen somehow."
"I had this idea for an Owen Hart Cup. In movies, they have the Oscars, and in TV, the Emmys and so forth, so I thought it’d be really cool if there was 'The Owen' in wrestling. That'd be a trophy that everybody could win. So, I’m very excited to talk more about The Owen soon. Without revealing all the details, The Owen will be a very important trophy in wrestling." (H/T eWrestlingNews.com)
It's a fun nod to the WWE Slammy as well, which Owen famously paraded around as part of his gimmick as The King of Harts. Whoever wins the tournaments can claim to be the first holder of this trophy which honors the wrestler's amazing legacy.