Being a second or third generation wrestler is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you have your family name helping you out to give you some recognition and boost you up. However, it also leads to raised expectations that a lot of folks can’t meet. No matter how talented a guy might be, he (or she) can often be unable to live up to the family legacy in the ring. Others, however, are able to not only match their fathers but even surpass them. It’s amazing to see how things can differ between generations as some guys are far better able to adapt to the modern times while others can falter trying to live up to the family name a bit too much. It takes more than having the business in your blood.
Wrestling is packed with people from both sides, the second or third generation workers who became major stars and outdid their fathers and those who could never live up to that legacy. Here are 10 such “generationals” who outdid their dads and 10 who failed that name. The ones who failed prove that just having a famous name isn’t enough to guarantee success.
20 Worst: Lacey Von Erich
Among the more laughable moments in TNA history (yes, it’s a long list) was a segment where Lacey Von Erich was brought in to train a then raw Brooke Tessmacher. TNA obviously thought it made sense to have a lady from the legendary Von Erich clan in the company but the joke became that Brooke ended up being ten times the worker Lacey could ever hope to be. Despite a run as Knockouts champion, Lacey was incredibly bad in the ring, known for an ifamous moment where she went for a moonsault, landed on her feet and fell down for no reason.
Her promos were atrocious and her charisma non-existent (when you can’t win folks over in a bikini contest…) and she was gone from the company while Brooke ended up one of its best stars. While she’s avoided the infamous Von Erich curse, Lacey’s time in wrestling hasn’t exactly been anything to brag about.
19 Best: Greg Valentine
Johnny Valentine was one of the biggest stars of his time, a hated heel who backed it up as a great in-ring worker and holding numerous titles across the territories. A plane crash cut his career off in 1975 but Johnny was able to see the Valentine name rise up more with son Greg. While he could be a bit slow at times (as Gorilla Monsoon liked to say, “it takes a half hour for the Hammer to warm up.”), Greg was sensational in the ring, a marvelous technical worker who could get down and dirty as well. His dog collar match with Roddy Piper is legendary and his runs as IC champion in WWE helped make that title a major deal. Even his subpar stuff later in his WWE run was highlighted by Valentine able to handle a match of any length against any opponent and Johnny (who managed his son as tag team champion), was obviously proud to see his son succeed in the ring.
18 Worst: Shawn Stasiak
Stan Stasiak was a major star best known for beating Pedro Morales for the WWWF title and then dropping it to Bruno Sammartino a week later. Despite training from Dory Funk Jr., Shawn didn’t seem to possess the same in-ring skills, rough as hell and his muscles often getting in the way of his ability. In WWE, he became “Meat,” a guy known for hanging around hot women and accused of beating one in a rather tasteless angle for the era. He was infamously suspended after taping a backstage conversation, moving to WCW where he became best known for his partnership with Stacy Kiebler.
Despite a few runs as tag team champion, he never came off a major deal, forgotten after the Invasion angle and today has settled down as a chiropractor. Despite potential, he never lived up to his father’s legacy and little more than a forgotten figure of the Attitude Era.
17 Best: Eddie Guerrero
With his father leading a clan including his own brothers and others, it was only natural Eddie would get into the family business. After honing his craft in college, Eddie was soon working in Mexico and wowing folks with his high-flying abilities and great work as a technical worker that was blowing away fans in ECW in 1994. Moving to WCW, he helped put their cruiserweights on the map, his amazing matches a highlight of Nitro shows and soon taking off as a heel. His WCW run was marred by his car crash and addictions. His first run in WWE rough but he made a stunning comeback, cleaning up his act and winning fans over. It paid off with him winning the WWE title and doing well as champion.
His death in 2005 still hurts after all he went through but his family still is proud of how Eddie lived up to their legacy wonderfully and remaining among the best of all time.
16 Worst: Sim Snuka
As the man who helped pioneer high-flying moves, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was a major box office attraction, a fantastic heel and tough guy and it was naturally expected his son could be the same. But while good, Sim just didn’t seem in the right level, possessing none of the high flying abilities his dad was famous for and even seeming to ignore many of those aspects. His most famous run was Deuce in WWE and while it led to a run as tag team champion, it was a goofy gimmick of a 1950s “greaser” that showed no real flair on the mic or in the ring. After dropping the belts, Deuce was released to bounce around the indies and still never became a major deal. Granted, his father has fallen from grace but Sim showcased how living up to the name of a megastar was a tough thing.
15 Best: Dean Malenko
Billed as a villainous Russian, Boris Malenko was a major figure in the old territory days, especially in Florida. Naturally, his son Dean wanted to follow in those footsteps but ended up unlocking a skill that would outdo his father incredibly. His technical work was stiff but amazing and earned him the name of “The Shooter” and fame in Japan and ECW. That led to WCW where he soon became a standout of the Cruiserweight division, holding the title multiple times and the well-earned nickname of “The man of 1,000 Holds.” His size did hold him back a bit with many claiming he wasn’t big or charismatic enough to be a main eventer for the company.
However, his amazing ability in the ring carried him to some success in WWE and while his promos may have been weak, Malenko more than made up for it in the ring to be one of the best reasons to watch WCW in the late 1990s, a pretty epic feat.
14 Worst: Scott Putski
Ivan Putski was a major act for WWE, a fantastic strongman who thrilled crowds with his singing as well as great matches. Scott was trained by his dad, coming in as a strongman and seemingly ready for a good push in their light-heavyweight division. However, he just didn’t connect with the crowds at all, even in a tag match with his more famous dad and the division was never given the attention WWE had planned for it.
Scott was lost among the other developmental workers and leaving the company for brief runs in WCW and other places. While he was proud to carry his family name, Scott never got over at his dad’s level and it was sad to see the name fade like that. Putski eventually retired in 2003, but came out of retirement 10 years later to become the inaugural NWA Ark-La-Tex Heavyweight Champion.
13 Best: Randy Savage
A decent worker in the ring, Angelo Poffo is better known to fans today for siring one of the most iconic stars the business has ever seen. From the very start, Savage had it all set, a great worker whose flying elbow looked like a million bucks. He also easily got into his glorious mic style with his wicked performances as a near psychotic figure doing utterly amazing promos that had fans staring in awe. In WWE, Savage was an instant mega-star, reigning for a year as IC champion, runs as WWE champ and putting on classic battles with Ricky Steamboat and others.
His WCW run was slowed down by age and injury but he was still able to put on some surprises and his promos remaining among the best around. Savage remains one of the most beloved stars ever and proved how the Poffo genes served to create one fantastic worker.
12 Worst: David Sammartino
There wouldn’t be a WWE today without Bruno, whose seven-year reign as champion sold out shows and put the company on the map. When he retired, Bruno moved to being an announcer and soon grooming his son David for a run. However, David just didn’t click as well in the ring and, worse, lacked his father’s amazing ability to carry a crowd and without Bruno’s aid, he had no support in the company. Things got worse when Bruno discovered David was into steroids and basically turned his back on his son, who faltered without his dad’s support. They’ve mended fences since but Bruno has admitted his attempt to push his son in his footsteps was a mistake as David could never live up to that famous name.
Sometimes you just aren't meant to be in the wrestling business even if it's in your background.
11 Best: Randy Orton
While he was notable for his fun bits like the constant cast, Bob Orton Jr. wasn't really much more than a mid-card guy in the old territories. Son Randy, however, ended up becoming one of the biggest main event stars WWE has ever seen. Despite injuries (brought about by being born with hyper-extended shoulders) Orton has proven himself, not just in good technical matches but full-on brawls (few men are able to boast getting through a brutal Cactus Jack match like Orton has) and just about every type of match WWE has produced. He’s great on the mic and holding the title multiple times has showcased his power as a main event star. While his dad has joined him on screen a few times, Randy has shown he’s more than able to stand taller than his father and the best of the Ortons in the ring.
10 Worst: Greg Gagne
Many accuse Verne Gagne of holding the AWA title for so long and so many times because he owned the company but Verne was popular with crowds, a fine worker and good on the mic to keep them going. When he finally retired, Verne made no secret he was picking Greg to be his successor. The problem was that while Greg was good in the ring (he and Jim Brunzell made a fine tag team), he was also skinny and lacked his dad’s charisma to cover his weaknesses. Time and again, Greg was pushed but was just not believable as a main eventer, bland on the mic and in the ring and never earned his run on top. He was okay behind the scenes but as the face of his father’s company, Greg came up far too short. This eventually contributed to the company's downfall in the midwest.
9 Best: Curt Hennig
Larry “The Axe” Hennig was one of the favorites for Verne Gagne and the AWA, a great brawler with a rough style in the ring. Curt was leaner than his dad, more likely to go to the top rope for some high flying moves and was excellent on the mic. When he turned heel in 1987, he also showcased a great mentality in the ring as AWA champion that led him to more success. It made perfect sense to have him as “Mr. Perfect” in WWE, as Hennig livied up to it with fantastic matches and his reigns as IC champion produced major successes as a hated heel.
He bounced around with injuries but could still be counted on to put on great matches, offset by his infamous backstage pranks. Dying too soon due to addictions over the years, Hennig leaves behind a legacy that his father still speaks with pride on and many fans still consider watching him to be of absolute perfection.
8 Worst: Teddy Hart
This is a bit of a tough choice. Teddy Hart does in fact have talent, but not at the level his famous family members do. What’s worse with Teddy is that he lacks the ability to handle himself in the wrestling business, with his temperament being his own worst enemy. This was showcased in the infamous ROH match where he broke character to do multiple backflips off a cage, no-selling attacks and vomiting in front of booing fans.
This unprofessional behavior has followed him around, costing him a shot in WWE and burning a lot of bridges over the years. While he’s talented, Teddy is not on the level of other of his family and many consider him something of a disgrace to the Hart name as caring more for showing off than actual credibility in the ring. It's a sad waste of talent for someone that could have been a big star in wrestling if he had his head on straight.
7 Best: Barry Windham
Blackjack Mulligan was known for his tough and hard hitting work style but Barry ended up being the technical worker his dad wasn’t. His early work was good as was his time as a tag team champion in WWF. It was in the late ‘80s Jim Crockett Promotions that Windham got his break, pulling off 60-minute matches with Ric Flair and proving himself to be a stunningly brilliant worker. That led to his run as US champion with the Four Horsemen and later runs as NWA World champion as well. He had a few low points (The Stalker and the “New” Blackjacks) but those were offset by how much better he was being just himself. Terrific as either a heel or a face, Windham was top-notch in keeping fans enthralled for long battles with his skill and proving he didn’t need the “Blackjack” motif to get himself very nicely over as a fine star.
6 Worst: David Flair
It’s pretty obvious that it was Charlotte who ended up inheriting her father’s wrestling skills. David, despite being the son of arguably the greatest wrestler ever, showed almost no understanding of the business. He was horrible in the ring and watching him try to emulate his father’s moves was downright painful, especially when he bleached his hair blonde.
Even worse, he came off on the mic stumbling and timid, none of his father’s incredible charisma and command of the audience. He eventually turned on his father in a storyline to join the nWo. Their feud was one of the worst sights of an already bad WCW era. Other storylines involved him almost marrying Miss Hancock (Stacy Keibler) but it was revealed Stacy was pregnant and David was not the father. Luckily the original storyline idea of Ric Flair or Vince Russo being the father was scrapped.
Poor David has been slammed by many a fan over the years as a horrible case of talent skipping one part of a generation.
5 Best: Dustin Rhodes
In terms of wrestling ability, Dustin is a lot better than father Dusty, a man never quite known for his great fitness. Dustin had that as well as great skill, including taking off the ropes and some fantastic technical work. He lacked his father’s charisma and skill on the mic and thus, despite winning some WCW championships, seemed held back. But in 1995, he remade himself as Goldust, a fantastic act ahead of its time that earned him massive attention and runs as IC and tag team champion in WWE.
He’s gone by his real name a few times in TNA and WCW but keeps going back to Goldust. He seems to be so comfortable as this other persona and showing that he had his own amazing mic work to mix with that in-ring skill live up to the family name in his own way.
4 Worst: Mike Von Erich
Of all the tragedies of the Von Erich family, Mike's story may be the worst. The kid had nowhere near the physique or skill of his brothers and never really wanted to be in wrestling in the first place, more inclined to take on a backstage role. But Fritz insisted on it and Mike was given a push despite just not selling himself as anywhere near his brothers’ level. It got worse when he nearly died of toxic shock syndrome and was barely off his deathbed before Fritz was talking to him about coming back to the ring.
Mike was never the same after that, rocked hard and it ended up ruining him, leading to his suicide in 1987. While you can feel for Fritz losing his sons, much of what happened to Mike is because of his overbearing actions and it's just another note in this family tragedy.
3 Best: The Rock
Peter Maivia was a good worker in his own right and Rocky Johnson was well regarded as a tag team champion with his fast attacks and getting over as a black star when it wasn’t common. So it’s a bit understandable that WWE would promote this with Rocky Maivia as the “Blue Chipper” living up to the family legacy. The fans hated it completely, booing poor Rocky massively. Thus, after an injury, he turned heel only to be boosted majorly with his fantastic mic skills.
Before long, The Rock was the biggest star around, amazing captivating fans, great in the ring and a master of the mic to become a huge face for the company. It led to bigger success in movies and The Rock doing his family more than proud to emerge as the biggest star the business has ever known. It turns out he was in fact a blue chipper but he did it his way and not the way the company had originally foreseen it.
2 Worst: Erik Watts
Erik Watts had some potential and with a bit more training, he might have turned into a decent worker. But his father, Bill, running WCW in 1992, felt his son was ready for the big time right off the bat and yanked him out of training after just a month and pushed him into the upper mid-card. It never worked as Erik was short, skinny, and had little actual talent in the ring. Yet, his boss father kept pushing him over vastly more talented guys and Erik was never accepted by the fans.
When Bill was fired from WCW, Erik took a nose dive in the ranks as well and never turned into a good worker at all. Parental love can be good but Watts did his son no favors by pushing him when he was nowhere near ready. It's a shame that his career was derailed so quickly.
1 Best: Bret and Owen Hart
Linked together because of how incredibly both took off in the ring. Stu Hart was a good worker, a man renowned for his toughness, as proven by the legendary stories of “the Dungeon” where he put on a training regimen that would make a Marine wince. While several of his sons were good workers, Bret and Owen were far and away the stars. Bret, of course, is renowned for his amazing work in the ring, a brilliant tactician and storyteller who helped WWE immensely as multiple champion and while his career has been tarnished by the Screwjob, it still remains among the tops in the business.
Owen was arguably even better in the ring, adding high-flying to his technical work, far better than Bret on the mic and a fantastic heel to get the crowd going. He never rose as high as he should in WWE but held some titles and his feud with Bret in 1994 was utterly fantastic. He’s known, of course, for his tragic death that cut a life far too short but remains a terrific talent to remember. Both brothers united to make the Hart name a famous one in wrestling and how Stu, for all his problems, could be proud of these two sons.