The challenges of a second-generation wrestler are huge. They have the famous name to carry them and often are able to lean on their parents for support. But it also brings expectations, too many guys find themselves judged by that name and having to live up to that legacy. It doesn’t help that in wrestling, nepotism runs wild and thus guys are often given pushes just because of their parents’ connections. Indeed, in some cases (Jeff Jarrett comes to mind), it’s the fact your dad owns the territory that makes you a star all the time. In a lot of cases, it’s obvious some guys are never ready to live up to that legacy and thus would have been better off never wrestling at all.
But occasionally, a second or even third generation guy can turn out to be an even bigger star than their parent. They can blossom bigger, the offspring of a mid-card talent who turns into a bigger deal than their parent ever was. It’s rarer but it happens as it’s astounding to see how much potential a guy can have when it’s tapped. It’s also clear how sometimes, that potential is squandered or just doesn’t exist at all. Here are 10 multi generation wrestlers who should never have gotten in the ring and 5 who surpassed their parents to show how genetics can be a bit of a crapshoot.
15 Never Should Have: Shawn Stasiak
Stan Stasiak was a good worker in his prime best known for being a transitional champion, beating Pedro Morales for the WWE title then losing it fast to Bruno Sammartino. Shawn inherited his dad’s strength and build and seemed to be ready for a promising career. His WWE stuff, however, saw him as “Meat”, used as a pretty boy for the Pretty Mean Sisters and not that much good in the ring. In WCW, he was only over due to a partnership with Stacy Keibler and a brief tag team title run with Chuck Palumbo. Another WWE run was terrible and soon released, just not over and portrayed as a total moron.
His last bits included looking like a lunatic and released. Today, Stasiak works as a chiropractor and seems a lot more content with that than he ever was in the ring where his entire career was one long unfunny joke.
14 Never Should Have: David Flair
Ric Flair remains one of the single greatest stars in the history of wrestling. In the ring, he was a genius, able to do 60-minute battles day after day to pull fans in. He also was a genius on the mic with the best promos in the business. David, sadly, seemed to inherit none of that himself. He had very little ring skill and his mic stuff was utterly atrocious. In WCW, he was put in dumb stuff like a love triangle with Stacy Keibler and Daffney and turning heel on his father.
He was pushed hard because of the family name but clearly no way he could come close to matching Ric and the fans knew it. It appears Charlotte was the one to inherit her dad’s skills as poor David just was better off never trying to follow his father.
13 Never Should Have: Teddy Hart
It’s hard to find a bigger waste of so much talent than Teddy Hart. The oldest grandchild of Stu Hart, Teddy grew up around the business, learning fast and was obviously ready to take off in it. At first, he looked top notch, strong, fast and some great top rope moves to make himself a real promising star. He spent time training in WWE under Dory Funk but was released with word of attitude problems. Thus began his odyssey from one promotion to another, each time burning bridges and making himself no friends at all. That included the now infamous moment in ROH when he no-sold an attack, did moonsault off a cage and vomited before the fans. Stories abound of Teddy’s horrible attitude and acting a bigger deal than he is and thus he has to rank as a stain on the Hart legacy.
12 Never Should Have: David Sammartino
There probably wouldn’t be a WWE without Bruno Sammartino. His seven year run as champion put the company on the map, establishing its power in Madison Square Garden and New York and a later run just solidified his power. Retiring to a broadcast role, Bruno pushed his son David, thinking he was the next star in the making. But David lacked the ring skills and charisma that made his dad a hit and also wrestling with personal addictions. He had pushes, including a match at WrestleMania and Bruno really wanted to give him a run.
But David’s attitude was making him no friends and he ended up leaving in 1986. His career afterward was nothing and hitting bottom with Bruno at one point disowning him. While they’ve patched things up since, David obviously would have been better off not following his dad.
11 Surpassed: Curt Hennig
Rarely do you see a father and son so different in the ring. Larry “the Ax” Hennig was known as a strongman and rough and tumble brawler. Curt, meanwhile, was into high-flying and technical work. He had stuff like a tag team title run but really hit his stride as a heel and AWA champion. In WWE, he was given the persona of Mr. Perfect and pulled it off brilliantly. He had runs as IC champion, a fantastic worker and brilliant facing so many from Bret Hart to Hulk Hogan with skill. He kept it up even after back injuries, a top mic guy and holding belts in WWE and WCW alike. A notorious prankster, Hennig was top in the business and Larry obviously happy of his son rising higher than him. It was sad Curt died first at a young age but at least he made his old man proud.
10 Never Should Have: Scott Putski
A two-time tag team champion, Ivan Putski was well known for his great physique and over with fans, his Polish Power mantra making him a star (complete with singing on the mic). Ivan got a good push in 1997 due to his father’s name, after being Global Wrestling champion. He was intended to be a star in the light heavyweight division WWE was building but failed to make much impact, even when teaming with his dad in the ring. His run was messy and brief, too many bad matches and made out to be more of a loser. He would drift for a run in WCW and the indies but then just pass to the wayside. Scott just never had the same grasp of things his dad did and would have been better off keeping to another line of work as “Polish Power” fizzled under him.
9 Never Should Have: Sim Snuka
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s stock has fallen a lot over the years. It’s true he was a sensational high flyer and major star but his ego cost him several pushes. There was also his involvement in a woman’s death that would haunt him all the way to his death. Still, Snuka was a major star and hopes were high his son, Sim, could take after him. At first, he had promise in OVW, winning the TV title. But in WWE, he was put into Deuce and Domino, a tag team based on 1950s greasers. They had a run as champions but the fans hated the entire thing as Sim showed none of his father’s ability for high flying. He also had a horrible attitude with reports of him clashing with fellow workers a lot. He was released and drifted to a nothing career, clearly too much in his dad’s shadow.
8 Surpassed: Randy Savage
Angelo Poffo was a good worker in his prime who was also a top promoter. His son, Randy, at first was a clean-cut face, not much else to him. But soon, he found his calling changing his last name to “Savage” and showing a great flair for the business. A genius worker who insisted on laying matches out, Savage had a grasp of how to handle a crowd, everything from brawling to hat awesome flying elbow. He had promos mastered from the start with his unique style and adding Elizabeth as his manager boosted him up.
In WWE, Savage was dynamite, reigning over a year as IC champion with classic battles with Hulk Hogan and Ricky Steamboat. He also did great as WWE Champion and remaining a top popular worker, even as a heel. He had his rough periods but Savage proved himself far better than his dad in the ring and as a star to shine high among wrestling’s best guys.
7 Never Should Have: Chris Von Erich
The various Von Erich brothers had their flaws. They had their egos, an affinity for drug use and coasting with their father, Fritz, protecting them all way too much. But at least they could boast athletic skill and had a grasp for the business. Chris could not. In a cover story that’s both laughable and sad today, Pro Wrestling Illustrated called him “the kid who will bring the Von Erichs into the 21st century.” Chris never even got to see it. Small and with brittle bones, he just did not take to training, no real grasp of the elements of workers and no covering by Fritz could sell him for fans.
His early matches were atrocious and he felt the pressure of letting the family name down. It all ended with Chris taking his life in 1991 and yet another mark in the horrible tragedy of this family.
6 Surpassed: The Rock
When Dwayne Johnson joined WWE in 1996, they tried to present him as a “blue-chipper,” a third-generation star. His father, Rocky Johnson, was a tag team champion and quite a popular worker. But fans despised the way Rocky Maivia was shoved down their throats, winning the IC title and smiling too much. It took an injury and heel turn for him to turn into the Rock and fans responded to his act. Since then, he has become one of the greatest stars in the history of the business, electrifying with his promos and a multiple time WWE Champion. He can be gone for years but make a return for huge business and is always entertaining. The Rock has also moved onto movie stardom and proving himself well there. There can be no denying that on the list of greatest second (and third) generation stars, The Rock stands very tall above others.
5 Never Should Have: Wes Brisco
Gerald Brisco is one of the most revered names in wrestling. He and brother Jack were a great championship tag team with classic feuds with several workers like Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. Brisco also became famous for being one of Vince McMahon’s “stooges” and even a Hardcore champion. Naturally, when son Wes came into FCW, Gerald looked after him and tried to give him a push but it just didn’t take and he was let go. Traveling to TNA, Wes was made a member of Aces & Eights and pushed hard, including a feud with Kurt Angle. But despite that push, Brisco was never seen as more than just a muscle guy, none of his dad’s skill and fans didn’t care much. He was released from TNA in 2014 and has bounced around, clearly someone who never got an ounce of his father’s glory.
4 Surpassed: Bret Hart
Stu Hart was a fantastic worker as well as a great promoter. His “Dungeon” is infamous for its brutal training and anyone he taught tended to be a great worker. Of all his children, Bret was the obvious star. Bret himself would claim Owen was his superior in many ways yet Bret just took off amazingly well. A brilliant technician and terrific storyteller, he held his own in just about every match possible. He impressed Vince massively as tag team and IC champ so Vince had to put the WWE title on him. Yes, there were rough patches but Bret proved himself as a champion and a huge star to keep WWE going and is an icon to Canadian fans. The Montreal incident was so huge because of Bret’s star power and while his WCW tenure was bad, it still showcased how huge a deal he was and clearly the biggest star of the Hart family.
3 Never Should Have: Erik Watts
Erik could have been a decent worker with some training, everyone agrees on that. The only one who didn’t was his father, Bill, who was running WCW at the time. For some reason, he was convinced a raw Erik was the next star in the making, taking him out of the Power Plant in just a month and thrusting him into the upper mid-card. Erik was completely in over his head, no way he could handle being with these more experienced workers. The audience was not happy with him at all, seeing his push as obvious as it was. They turned on Erik huge and he clearly couldn’t handle it all. When Bill left, Erik’s stock took a severe nose dive and his career never clicked as it was obvious he was only getting a shot due to his dad and it hurt his drive big time.
2 Surpassed: Randy Orton
Bob Orton Sr. was good but mostly a journeyman. Bob Orton Jr. was a fine heel in Mid-South but best known in WWE as Roddy Piper’s flunky and wearing a fake cast for years. Randy Orton was clearly the best, shining in OVW and very promising. Despite his hyper-extended shoulders, Orton took off, a face but then transforming into an arrogant heel. He did great in a feud with Mick Foley and rising to win the World title. His face turn was bad but Orton recovered, showing off with major matches and feuds and multiple championships. He has shown himself to be the biggest star of the Orton family and clearly over his previous generations big time. His predecessors surely couldn't have envisioned how much Randy would accomplish.
1 Never Should Have: Mike Von Erich
The Von Erich curse is well known and as bad as Chris might have been, Mike was worse in some ways. He was a bit better in the ring but still lacked the muscles of his siblings and was not that into wrestling. He would have much preferred a backstage role but Fritz demanded he be in the ring with the rest. So Mike was pushed, a six-man tag champion but clearly could not hang with his brothers in the ring.
It got worse when Mike suffered his near fatal brush with death due to toxic shock syndrome. It was obvious this man had something in him die, never the same, yet Fritz pushed him back as “The Living Miracle.” Poor Mike could never handle it and took his own life in 1987. Yet another tragedy for this family as Mike would have been better off just staying behind the scenes.