The Truth About Bret Hart's Relationship With His Brother, Owen

During the 1993 edition of WWE's Survivor Series, the seeds were planted for what would become one of the most intense sibling rivalries in wrestling history. As recalled by Bleacher Report, the Hart brothers, led by Bret "The Hitman" Hart, handily defeated Shawn Michaels' team, but Bret's younger brother Owen was visibly furious with Bret for accidentally eliminating him from the match. The two brothers quickly patched things up, but a few months later, at the 1994 Royal Rumble, Owen brutally attacked Bret after they failed to win the Tag Team Championships from the Quebecers. This led to a lengthy feud that saw Owen emerge as a bitter, petulant, and jealous heel who was determined to emerge from his big brother's shadow.

Naturally, all that animosity between Bret and Owen Hart was part of a storyline. Sure, they both tried to make things look as real as possible, with the babyface Bret initially refusing to fight his little brother, and the villainous Owen accusing Bret of holding him back and getting more and more resentful as The Hitman continued his dominant run as a top WWE Superstar. But family members who hate each other on-screen don't necessarily feel the same way in real life. Sometimes they do, but was that the case with Bret and Owen Hart? Was their off-screen relationship a sharp contrast from what wrestling fans saw on television, or was their on-air beef an example of a real-life family feud turned up to 11?

Bret Hart used to defend Owen from school bullies

Bret and Owen Hart were children of wrestling royalty — their father, Stu, was a skilled wrestler and football player in his youth and also ran the Stampede Wrestling promotion in the Harts' hometown of Calgary. However, Bret wrote in his "Hitman" autobiography (via Penguin Random House) that the family went through some tough financial times, which led to him and his siblings getting picked on in school for wearing hand-me-down clothes. Bret also noted that he was oftentimes the one defending his brothers and sisters against bullies, and that also applied to the youngest Hart sibling, Owen.

As quoted by Pro Wrestling Stories, Bret "[saved Owen] in school lots of times" when they were kids and even went as far as to beat up a group of bullies that were giving his little brother a tough time. But it wasn't just cruel kids whom Bret would scrap with; allegedly, there was one teacher who didn't care much for the expression "pick on someone your own size" when it came to Owen. "This teacher from the other school came up and started chewing Owen out for some reason, and the teacher grabbed him like he was going to send him into the office," Bret recalled. "I got into the face of the teacher and saved Owen."

In a classic example of real life writing the plot, it was stories like these that the Hart brothers relied on when cutting promos on each other during their feud.

The real reason why Bret Hart pushed for a feud with Owen

Bret and Owen Hart mostly had a positive relationship with each other as adults. As such, The Hitman was reluctant at first when the idea of a feud between the two brothers was first raised. On his "Confessions of the Hitman" podcast (via Wrestling Inc.), Bret revealed that he was ultimately convinced that Owen could benefit from such a storyline, given how he was apparently unhappy with his lack of exposure and considering retiring from wrestling to work as a fireman.

"I had talked to them and I had said, 'you need to give Owen a push. I'm not asking you. I'm telling you because he's too good of a wrestler and he's going to quit and become a fireman because you guys aren't using him very [well]!'" Bret Hart said, recalling his discussions with WWE chairman Vince McMahon and other officials.

When Bret told Owen that they were going to enter a sibling rivalry storyline, Owen was excited, and with good reason. Due to their close-knit relationship, the two brothers had great chemistry in the ring, and Owen was looking forward to getting his big break. However, Bret insisted that they had to do things his way once the feud got underway. Hard as it was for them, they had to stick to the wrestling tradition of kayfabe — in this case, it meant they couldn't share the same room or travel together, so as to preserve the illusion that they really hated each other.

Did Bret really threaten to disown Owen if he didn't join him in WCW?

The Montreal Screwjob was a real-life incident in which Bret Hart was supposedly under the impression that he wouldn't lose the WWE Championship at the 1997 Survivor Series — his last televised appearance for the company before his move to rival promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW). However, Shawn Michaels was secretly booked to win the match, and the Hitman was understandably very resentful toward his former employer as a result. Allegedly, he was so angry that he took it as an affront when his brother Owen decided to stick it out in WWE. 

During a recent episode of Sportskeeda's "Off the Script" podcast, former WWE writer Vince Russo claimed that Owen called him five days after the Screwjob, tearfully saying, "Bret told me that he is going to disown me as a brother and never speak to me again" if he didn't jump ship from WWE and sign with their bitter rivals. Russo then supposedly tried to persuade Bret to take it easy on his younger brother, but to no avail.

On the other hand, Bret recalled things differently in his autobiography, writing that Owen told Vince McMahon about how Bret "vowed to never talk to him again if he stayed" but explaining that this was all a plan to hopefully convince the WWE boss to release Owen from his contract. The plan didn't work, as Owen Hart remained in the WWE until his accidental in-ring death at the Over the Edge pay-per-view in May 1999.