For many performers fortunate enough to break into the professional wrestling industry, the business is essentially in their blood. People in their families, such as their fathers, found success working for an organization such as the World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment, World Championship Wrestling or some other promotion, and thus it was almost expected that they would follow in those footsteps and become pro wrestlers. There is a long history of second generation wrestlers becoming recognized stars who won championships and cemented legacies of their own. Truth be told, one could argue the most famous wrestling personality in the world today is a second generation performer who eventually left the industry and went on to become a famous actor and one of the highest-paid individuals in Hollywood.
Unfortunately, solid genes and a good background is only worth so much in certain instances. Not every second generation wrestler can, after all, match or even surpass their fathers who paved the way in the industry. In fact, some were, or even are, downright awful, but they nevertheless received pushes and chances because of their last names or because their fathers had relationships with the right people. Being a second generation worker doesn’t guarantee an individual anything if he cannot carry himself inside of the ring or on the microphone, and that has been clear throughout the WWE over the past several decades. One cannot help but wonder if being a second generation wrestler is more of a curse than a blessing in the modern WWE climate.
20 DIDN'T: David Flair
Expectations for you are bound to be high when you’re the son of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, arguably the greatest wrestler in the history of the industry. David Flair, simply put, wasn’t Ric on the microphone or inside of the ring, and that showed throughout his time in WCW. The WWE gave David a chance to prove himself in the company’s developmental system, but he failed to make it on the main roster outside of getting beaten up by the Undertaker in the build for a match between the Phenom and Ric Flair.
David ultimately moved on to a business away from pro wrestling, and he is settled and happy by all accounts. It’s a nice change of pace, as so many similar wrestling stories have failed to produce happy endings.
19 DID: The Usos & Roman Reigns
The tag team of Jimmy and Jey Uso were trained by their father, Rikishi. Roman Reigns, cousin of the Usos, is the son of former professional wrestler Sika Anoa’i. All three current members of the WWE roster have surpassed their famous fathers as it pertains to in-ring work and accomplishments.
The Usos, seemingly out of nowhere, are becoming arguably the greatest overall WWE tag team of the current decade. Reigns may not be your cup of tea due to how he has been pushed by those running the WWE over the years, but his title reigns and improvement as a worker shouldn’t be denied by even his harshest critics. Perhaps The Shield reuniting on the Raw brand in the fall of 2017 will give Reigns that final boost his character needs to finally get over among those who haven’t embraced him.
18 DIDN'T: Ted DiBiase Jr.
No knowledgeable observer, journalist or fan would seriously suggest Ted DiBiase was ever the greatest wrestler in the world. However, his “Million Dollar Man” character was one of the best gimmicks developed by the WWE in the 1980s. Ted DiBiase Jr. was a fine worker during his time in the WWE, but the company never landed a noteworthy character for him other than the fact that he was the son of such a well-known personality. Sure, the “DiBiase Posse” was a fun idea that maybe could’ve gone somewhere, in time, but DiBiase was largely a forgotten figure even before he came up with that idea.
He has since retired from the WWE and from the business, in general, but we’ll always have those memories of his time in the Legacy faction.
17 DID: Carmella
Many of you out there may have never heard of Paul Van Dale, a wrestler who served as a jobber in the WWE during the 1990s. Odds are those of you reading this know of his daughter, Carmella, who first broke through on the NXT brand as a valet.
The “Princess of Staten Island” proved to be more than just a pretty face and a solid talker, as she worked to get better in the ring en route to earning a spot on the main roster. As of the typing of this piece, Carmella holds the SmackDown Money in the Bank title opportunity, and she seems well on her way to carrying that brand’s championship for even a brief amount of time. She deserves credit for becoming one of the top heels on the blue portion of the WWE roster.
16 DIDN'T: Goldust
No disrespect meant to Dustin Rhodes, who worked for numerous promotions over the years and who remains on the WWE roster as the Goldust character. He’s had a remarkable career filled with highs and lows, and he will one day have plenty to offer working for WWE developmental if he wants such a gig.
He simply couldn’t follow “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, his father and one of the most beloved wrestlers of his time. Dusty was a World Champion who notched victories over legends such as Harley Race and Ric Flair, and some would argue he’s maybe the greatest babyface in the history of the North American business. Goldust is underrated by many, but he’ll never surpass his father on any list of the greatest wrestlers of all time. It remains to be seen if Cody can match his father's resume and although he's been elevating his work quite a bit since leaving the WWE, that still seems like a long shot.
15 DID: Bray Wyatt
Some fans of the current WWE product would suggest the Bray Wyatt character has been a massive letdown since he first debuted on Raw. Whether or not that is the case is a matter of opinion, but all should remember that Wyatt held the WWE Championship for a brief period of time earlier this year.
That is something Mike Rotunda, Wyatt’s father, never achieved during his stint with national promotions. Rotunda, remembered by most for his time as the Irwin R. Schyster character in the WWE, was a solid mid-card worker and a good tag-team performer, but nobody ever believed he could take a top title away from Hulk Hogan or the Ultimate Warrior. Wyatt, for better or for worse, is a main-eventer and a wrestler who will probably win another major championship in the WWE before the end of the decade. As for the other brother Bo, it remains to be seen if he'll eventually break out and also surpass his father's legacy.
14 DIDN'T: Cody Hall
Depending on how much you follow promotions other than the WWE, if at all, you may not know about Cody Hall. The son of Scott Hall, one of the co-founders of the New World Order, hasn’t yet received an opportunity to wrestle in the WWE, and he is currently working overseas.
While Cody hasn’t yet surpassed his father in name or accomplishments, fans should realize he is still in the early stages of what could become a promising career. After all, he is only in his mid 20s, and nobody can say, for sure, what’s going to happen in his career over the next decade. As for now, though, he has quite the journey ahead of him if he is to even come close to matching what his father achieved during the 1990s.
13 DID: Natalya
Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart played a unique character and a brute of a wrestler during tenures with promotions such as the WWE and WCW. Natalya, his daughter, wasn’t a hit in the WWE right out of the gates, but she was eventually allowed to find her own voice and show she was more than just a second generation star given an opportunity to wrestle in the WWE because she was a member of the Hart family.
The current SmackDown Live Women’s Champion almost quietly became one of the best workers on the company’s female roster, and she is maybe the most underrated performer to emerge from the so-called “Women’s Revolution” that began in 2015. She may even be remembered as the MVP of the women’s SmackDown roster for 2017 by the time December ends.
12 DIDN'T: Curtis Axel
Some second generation wrestlers, such as “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, possess the in-ring and microphone skills required to branch out on their own and enjoy successful careers that leave them remembered long after they wrestle a final time. Curtis Axel, Hennig’s son, has not gone down such a route while in the WWE, and there’s no indication he’s going to strike it hot with that promotion or any other organization.
Axel is a solid hand who can produce decent matches at live events or during the first hour of a Raw program, but he never ascended up the roster’s ladder even though the company has attempted to help him via numerous tactics. Even a mouthpiece such as Paul Heyman couldn’t prevent the Axel character from flopping, which, unfortunately, says plenty about this particular second generation performer.
11 DID: Randy Orton
“Cowboy” Bob Orton is fondly remembered by many within the wrestling community to this day. Randy Orton, his son, has only further enhanced his family’s reputation in the business since first breaking into the WWE in the early 2000s. Randy Orton — “The Legend Killer,” “The Viper,” “The Apex Predator” or whatever other silly name you want to call him , will go down as one of the most accomplished and most successful wrestlers in WWE history when all is said and done.
The master of the RKO has won all there is to win underneath the WWE umbrella, and he feuded with some of the top acts of his generation such as John Cena, the Undertaker and Triple H. Randy did well to become a true legend all on his own.
10 DIDN'T: Brooke Hogan
We decided to have some fun and group Brooke Hogan, the daughter of Hulk Hogan, in among second generation wrestling personalities who failed to surpass their famous fathers. Brooke had multiple stints in the industry, first in the WWE as a storyline romantic interest of Randy Orton, and later as the girlfriend of Bully Ray leading up to the duo’s involvement in the previously mentioned Aces & Eights storyline that nobody anywhere should ever re-live.
Brooke’s “acting” skills left much to be desired during such segments, and it’s probably for the best for everybody involved that she never pursued a full-time gig wrestling for any promotion. While we’ve been taught to never say never in the industry, we’re confident in predicting Brooke won’t be wrestling in the WWE anytime soon.
9 DID: The Rock
It’s easy to forget that Dwayne Johnson, better known as “The Rock,” is a second generation wrestler. Rocky Johnson, Rock’s father, enjoyed a successful career in the pro wrestling industry, but he was never “The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment.” Unless you accidentally stumbled upon this post after clicking a wrong link somewhere, you’re probably rather familiar with all that Rock achieved while in the WWE.
As big of a star as he was in the wrestling business, Rock is now even more famous after taking Hollywood by storm and becoming an action-movie actor who makes millions upon millions of dollars per year. He has to be considered the most successful wrestling personality who was never a promoter in the history of the North American business.
8 DIDN'T: Brian Christopher
It’s funny, decades after the fact, to look back and remember the WWE once featured a storyline where Jerry “The King” Lawler refused to admit Brian Christopher was his son during television segments. Christopher went on to have a relatively successful career while in the WWE, particularly as a member of the tag team Too Cool.
Grand Master Sexay, as he was known at the time, was an entertaining figure, but he never flirted with becoming a legend of the business as is his father. Lawler is an icon of the industry for all that he achieved in Memphis and for his work as an announcer. Those who never saw The King work during his prime should go back and re-live his best feuds to better appreciate him as a wrestler.
7 DID: Bret & Owen Hart
Stu, a wrestler who is probably more famous for his training methods that he utilized in his well-known “dungeon,” is responsible for two of the best wrestlers to compete in the WWE in the 1990s. Owen his son, could do it all inside of the ring, as he was an incredible technician who could also leave his feet and take flight. In fact, some respected wrestling minds out there see Owen as the best overall performer to never win the WWE Championship.
Bret “Hitman” Hart, the brother of Owen and son of Stu, truly was the “Excellence of Execution” during his prime. Some critics may say Bret wasn’t as great on the microphone as were rivals such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels, but those individuals should go back and watch some of the heel promos Hart cut during the final months of his first WWE run in the 1990s. Anybody looking to make it as a wrestler should study Hart’s best matches. Be warned, though: You’ll be busy doing so for several hours due to the amount of contests you’ll be viewing.
6 DIDN'T: Sim Snuka
We obviously and understandably view “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka differently these days than we did during the prime of his career. That story, and Snuka’s subsequent downfall, has nothing to do with Sim Snuka, his less famous son, not becoming a Superstar in the WWE.
Sim went by multiple names during his stint with the WWE, but none of those gimmicks helped elevate him anywhere near main events of cards. Probably his most famous moment occurred when he served as a staged cameraman who was meant to catch the Undertaker during ‘Taker’s match versus Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXV. Snuka failed to accomplish that task, and that probably didn’t do him many favors inside the locker room or among those running the organization. He was last in the WWE in 2009.
5 DID: Terry Funk
The fighting Funks are one of the most famous families to ever enter the wrestling industry. Those familiar with the incredible career of Terry Funk shouldn’t discount Dory Funk, his father who is in multiple Halls Of Fame and was an accomplished wrestler in his own right. With that said, it’s not disrespectful to say Terry surpassed his father over his numerous decades in the industry.
Whether he was battling with the likes of Ric Flair in the National Wrestling Alliance or doing all he could to make Extreme Championship Wrestling a respected company, Funk willingly sacrificed his body to entertain fans. Any respected pro wrestling Hall Of Fame has Funk’s name in it, as he is a true living legend of the industry and one of the greatest performers of all time.
4 DIDN'T: Garett Bischoff
Say whatever you will about all that Eric Bischoff got right and wrong during his time in the wrestling industry. Bischoff revolutionized the business, and the steps he took to grow WCW forced the WWE to change and improve its product in the 1990s. Garett, Eric’s son, will not leave such a historic legacy now that his wrestling career is over.
He first emerged as a referee working in Total Nonstop Action/Impact Wrestling, and he was then made into a full-time roster member and character as a member of the horrible “Aces & Eights” faction. Outside of being part of one of the worst gimmicks of the decade, we probably won’t remember much about Garett’s wrestling career. He has since moved on to other endeavors, and we wish him well.
3 DID: Jake Roberts
Depending on your age and/or your knowledge of the wrestling industry, you may not know much, if anything, about Grizzly Smith. Odds are you’re probably at least a little familiar with his son. Jake “The Snake” Roberts has experienced plenty of ups and downs during his adult life, and he has publicly and openly discussed these issues over the years.
All indications are that Roberts has found peace and worked hard to earn victories over these demons, which is wonderful news. His legacy in the industry is cemented regardless of his personal struggles, as he will forever be remembered as the innovator of the “DDT” move that he used as a finisher. Roberts was also one of the best talkers in the business during his prime. He’d probably still be the best promo in the WWE today.
2 DIDN'T: "The Genius" Lanny Poffo
Two of Angelo Poffo’s sons earned gigs working in the WWE. Lanny Poffo had numerous gimmicks and names over the years, and his voice along with his talking skills helped make him an entertaining manager for wrestlers such as Mr. Perfect. While Poffo was a talented athlete and maybe even a better wrestler than some remember, he never evolved into a Superstar worthy of carrying a major title for a national promotion.
His brother, on the other hand, is largely remembered as one of the best workers and also one of the best characters of the 1980s and 1990s. Lanny failed to rise to such a level regardless of the talent he possessed, and it isn’t a stretch to say he failed to surpass his father in the industry.
1 DID: "Macho Man" Randy Savage
Unlike his brother, Lanny, “Macho Man” Randy Savage won just about all that there was to win in national promotions during the 1980s and 1990s. Savage feuded with icons of the business such as Ricky Steamboat, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Sting and so many others during his amazing career, and his character remains one that is beloved by fans and also current WWE performers.
Savage’s elbow drop off the top rope was poetry in motion and maybe the best of its kind, but that one move alone didn’t define his career. Savage could carry poor workers and also elevate great wrestlers to historic matches, and his promo skills went far beyond basic interview segments and talking about upcoming matches. The wrestling world misses the Macho Man. It could use more characters like him.