For as cutting edge and contemporary as WWE in many ways tries to be, the company also recognizes the value of history and tradition. Watch any episode of Raw or Smackdown, and the first thing you’ll see is a brief montage of historical figures in wrestling, followed by the tagline: Then. Now. Forever.
A big part of tradition in the wrestling business is the sense of family. Yes, wrestlers themselves often liken themselves to one big family given the life they share on the road and in the locker room, and the many unique aspects of life as a professional wrestler. But there are also very literal families embedded in the DNA of wrestling. Whether it’s the McMahons, now four generations strong in wrestling promotion, or families like The Rhodeses or the Anoias with a number of relatives in the business and some surprisingly sprawling connections, there are powerful and prominent, real life families in the wrestling world.
There are also, however, kayfabe families. Suggesting that performers are siblings or spouses or cousins can be a mode of suggesting a deeper connection between them—a shared loyalty, and sometimes a sense of shared evil intent. Regardless, wrestling promoters have long used false family connections as a tool for storytelling purposes and to get wrestlers over. Some of these storyline relationships go back generations, to the point that even hardcore fans tend to accept them as true.
This article looks at 10 wrestlers whom you might not have realized were related to one another, plus 10 wrestling family connections are totally fictitious in nature.
20 Related: Greg Valentine And Brian Knobbs
People don’t often associate Greg Valentine and Brian Knobbs with one another. Valentine was a well respected, hard nosed wrestler who established his credibility working long matches in different NWA territories before becoming a part of WWE’s national explosion in the 1980s as a mid carder and tag team guy. Knobbs came into WWE on the tail end of Valentine’s run with the company. He worked as half of the Nasty Boys tag team that was briefly featured in the 1990s, before having a similar run with WCW that eventually gave way to Knobbs working as a singles wrestler in WCW’s hardcore division.
Knobbs and Valentine never all that meaningfully crossed paths on air, both more often than not heels but running in different circles during their overlaps with the same promotion. The two are linked, however, as brothers in law for Knobbs having married Valentine’s real life sister Toni.
19 Not Related: The Andersons
The Andersons—Gene, Lars, Ole, and Arn are a pretty legendary wrestling family that also claimed Ric Flair as a cousin, and thus established the foundation for what would become The Four Horsemen. The tough as nails, bearded clan spawned another generation of stars with newer talents Karl Anderson and CW Anderson also claiming the lineage.
The reality of the matter? None of these guys are related by blood.
This is precisely a case of promoters building a sense of camaraderie and legitimacy around a select pool of performers by insinuating a family connection that was never truly there. To the name’s credit, it has pushed a number of worthy talents, and most of the kayfabe relatives do look enough alike that fans bought into the idea that they really were family.
18 Related: Eddie Guerrero And Aiden English
Eddie Guerrero was one of the greatest all around performers in wrestling history, from one of Mexico’s greatest wrestling families. The world lost Eddie too soon when he passed away unexpectedly in 2005, but fortunately he had reached the top of the mountain just a year earlier, winning the WWE Championship and even successfully defending it at a WrestleMania.
There’s not much to make you suspect Aiden English—one half of The Vaudevillians tag team, who’s now working a lower card singing heel gimmick—is related to the Guerreros. While it’s not a blood relation, English did marry into the Guerrero family, wedding Eddie’s daughter Shaul whom he met through WWE’s developmental system. Though English never met his father in law, the two are now permanently connected.
17 Not Related: The Smoking Gunns
While it’s not uncommon for wrestlers to undergo gimmick changes over the course of their tenures with WWE, there are those guys who change their whole identities but keep their names, thus maintaining links to their earlier character work. Such is the case for Billy and Bart, The Smoking Gunns.
The Smoking Gunns debuted on the WWE landscape during a bit of a lull, in the aftermath of teams like The Legion of Doom, The Brain Busters, and The Steiner Brothers having brief tenures with the company, and after the golden age of top teams like Demolition, The Hart Foundation, The Rockers, and The British Bulldogs all fading from the scene or seeing star members move into the singles ranks. The Smoking Gunns paled in comparison to these more iconic teams, but were a fine pair in their own right as a pair of big, strong cowboy brothers. Even when they did shift gears, for Billy to become The Ass Man and form The New Age Outlaws, and for Bart to take on a more serious gimmick after his Brawl For All victory, the Gunn name stuck.
In reality, though, The Gunns were never relatives, but rather tag partners from the indies who got called up to WWE together and given a family name that stuck.
16 Related: The Bella Twins And Road Warrior Animal
When people think of iconic, tough tag teams that stood the test of time against a variety of opponents and thrived in WWE, one name rises above the masses: The Bella Twins.
OK, I jest, The Bella Twins aren’t exactly iconic for their ring work, but they did evolve into part of the fabric of WWE programming for the better part of a decade and helped WWE develop its reality TV sub-division via Total Divas and then Total Bellas. Interestingly enough, the beautiful sisters can now also claim a family connection to one of the most iconic male tag team wrestlers from an earlier generation—Road Warrior Animal.
In a connection that tends to surprise fans, Animal is real life brothers with former WWE executive and on screen authority figure John Laurinaitis. Because Laurinaitis married Brie and Nikkie Bella’s mom, he is now their stepfather, which makes Animal the Bellas’ step-uncle.
15 Not Related: The Hollys
After a largely forgettable run as a mid card race car driving face, Bob Holly found himself in the gimmick of Hardcore Holly, a stiff, tough bruiser who took up residence in the fledgling hardcore division. As the gimmick evolved, his cousin Crash was introduced the fold, then their cousin Molly to form a trio of bleach blond brawlers who often as not did not get along.
For as fun as the gimmick could be for all the family dysfunction and fun tag scenarios that emerged, it’s worth noting that none of the supposed Holly clan were actually related via blood or marriage. It was all for show, and all three performers got a major career boost based on their collective push, even after they went their separate ways.
14 Related: Jerry Lawler And The Honky Tonk Man
There are ways in which you might guess that Jerry Lawler and The Honky Tonk Man are cousins. After all, both have Memphis roots showing, with Lawler basing his career there as both an in ring talent and promoter, and Honky Tonk rooting his decades long gimmick in an Elvis impersonation. Moreover, they’re a pair of talents with longevity, neither of whom were ever known as great workers. And even in an era when bodybuilder types came into vogue as top stars in wrestling, neither had the look of someone who put in all that much time at the gym.
For all of these similarities that make it not altogether shocking that Lawler and The Honky Tonk Man are related, it’s interesting that the connection was never really addressed in any meaningful way on screen. Maybe that’s because the two spent so little time overlapping in the same promotion with their most sustained time under the same roof for a national promotion coming when Honky Tonk was a manager for WWE, and Lawler was mostly working color commentary.
13 Not Related: The Beverly Brothers
The Beverly Brothers spent a deceptively long time as a tag team with work spanning the AWA, WWE, WCW, and Japan. Their WWE work may be remembered best for the big national spotlight they earned in the early 1990s as a formidable heel tandem whose work ranged from more comedic matches with The Bushwhackers, to hard hitting battles with the likes of The Steiners. Their finisher—The Shaker Heights Spike—was particularly memorable for the brutal visual of a flap jack into a kneeling head spike into the canvas.
Despite being largely synonymous with one another, Blake and Beau Beverly were not in any way actually related. They got paired up early as young prospects training under Eddie Sharkey for a run with the AWA and nearly eight years as a tag team.
12 Related: Carmella And Paul Van Dale
Today’s WWE women’s division features it’s share of legacies. There’s Charlotte Flair, of course, the daughter of Ric Flair, and there’s Tamina the daughter of Jimmy Snuka. Natalya has Jim Neidhart for a father and Bret Hart for an uncle—a pretty solid Hart foundation in its own right.
And then there’s Carmella. WWE has done little to sell her as a second-generation wrestling star, and her identity is, if anything, based less in history than a sense of bravado about being young talented. It’s come to light, however, that she actually is the daughter of a wrestler herself. Her father was Paul Van Dale, a name that might not register for a number fans, but nonetheless a guy WWE employed as enhancement talent a number of times in the 1990s, besides working the independent circuit.
11 Not Related: The Undertaker And Kane
To be fair, there probably aren’t very many serious wrestling fans who think The Undertaker and Kane are actually related. Besides being tall, powerful men, they don’t look much alike. Moreover, every reference WWE has made to their family story has been pretty absurd, from the tale of The Phenom leaving his little brother to die in a fire, to Kane actually being the biological son of Paul Bearer, to the man wars and partnerships between the Brothers of Destruction over the years.
The familial connection between The Undertaker and Kane has a lot less to do with realism than longevity—that WWE has sold them as siblings for nearly twenty years now, and the two have been such a part of the fabric of WWE for these last two decades that we can’t forget their kayfabe connection to one another, the way we might for less celebrated acts that end up going their separate ways.
10 Related: Naomi and Roman Reigns
In 2014, Naomi married Jimmy Uso. This marriage not only brought together two contemporary wrestling stars, but also offered Naomi a link to the Anoa’I clan—the dominant Samoan wrestling family that has sent a range of stars into the wrestling world, not least of all Roman Reigns. Reigns is a real life cousin to both of the Uso brothers.
On the surface, Reigns and Naomi may seem to have little connection, but they’re related through marriage now, and both pretty big stars on the WWE landscape who’ve each held their division’s top prize in the last year, and even went back to back winning the last two matches of this year’s WrestleMania. Naomi won back the Smackdown Women’s Championship while Reigns picked up his second straight WrestleMania main event win, beating no lesser star than The Undertaker.
9 Not Related: Ivan And Nikita Koloff
Ivan Koloff was a very good heel foreigner wrestler who elevated himself to legendary status when he defeated Bruno Sammartino for the WWE Championship, in so doing ending a record, nearly eight year title reign.
In the 1980s, Koloff introduced the wrestling world to his nephiew Nikita. In an interesting turn, promoters protected Nikita from exposing his limitations not by holding him out of action or having him lose, but by squashing opponents. He developed as a performer and ultimately became a great monster heel foreigner in his own right.
While both performers got over as Russian villains, neither was actually born in Russia. Ivan was Canadian and Nikita hailed from Minnesota. Nikita didn’t speak much Russian but learned the language as he committed to his gimmick, scarcely speaking English in public during his early years in the character.
8 Related: Nia Jax And The Usos
While Nia Jax and The Usos are each fairly high profile heel acts on the WWE landscape today, they’ve scarcely interacted with each other on TV. The Usos got over as faces and, when that gimmick had run its course, transitioned to a hard nosed heel tag team and have gotten over in that mode as well. Meanwhile, Jax has only worked heel for her first year on the main roster, and developed into a formidable monster role, out-sizing and overpowering any other female performer.
For all their success, it may come as little surprise that the Usos and Jax are all part of the latest generation of the Anoa’i famiy in wrestling. With relatives including no lesser names than The Wild Samoans, Rikishi, Umaga, Yokozuna, and The Rock, it’s little surprise that they would find success in the wresting world today.
7 Not Related: The Basham Brothers
For many fans, Doug and Danny Basham are largely interchangeable. WWE booked them as a tag team together, as sidekicks to JBL together, and finally as Paul Heyman’s security in the relaunched ECW together. With shaved heads, similar move sets, and similar physiques and stature, it’s reasonable enough to see why a number of fans never learned to tell the two of them apart.
For all of the overlap of their wrestling careers, however, The Bashams were not actually related in real life. Doug Basham is purportedly the real life nephew of infamous heel referee turned wrestler Danny Davis, and thrived as a singles star in WWE’s developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling before being repackaged and paired as brothers with Daniel Hollie, and posed as brothers.
6 Related: The Fake Undertaker And The Harris Brothers
Ron and Don Harris were first exposed to a national audience as the mountain men Blu Brothers in WWE. They’d eventually be repackaged as bikers to back Crush in the Disciples of Apocalypse faction, before going on to work as creative control and under the Harris family name in WCW and later TNA. While they were never outstanding in ring stars, they were nonetheless an imposing duo for their size and power.
It’s a little known fact that the Harrises are actually cousins of Brian Lee, who fans may remember best for his mid-1990s main event stint as the fake Undertaker. Lee would ultimately team up with his cousins as another member of the DOA group during the Attitude Era; he’s otherwise best known for his work as a star for top independent promotions of the 1990s including ECW and Smoky Mountain Wrestling.
5 Not Related: Fritz And Waldo Von Erich
Today, we remember the Von Erichs as one of the great wrestling families, and in particular recall the success of the Von Erich brothers—Fritz Von Erich’s sons—who reigned over World Class Championship Wrestling in the 1980s. David, Kerry, and Kevin in particular were very over, and got to the point that David was reportedly in line for an NWA Championship reign; after his death, Kerry got a short run with the belt. While tragedy befell that generation of the family in a series of deaths, another generation has risen to include Lacey Von Erich, as well as Ross and Marshall, each of whom have appeared for TNA and smaller promotions.
Interestingly, this storied family got its start firmly rooted in kayfabe, with evil Nazi brothers Fritz and Waldo Von Erich who worked a heel foreigner act together. The two were not actually related in any way, though Waldo would get roped into the family lineage in the minds of wrestling historians for his storyline connection to the Von Erich patriarch.
4 Related: Dusty Rhodes And Jerry Sags
Dusty Rhodes was a storied world champion and top face for the National Wrestling Alliance who went on to be widely recognized as one of wrestling’s great creative minds. Contrast that to Jerry Sags, a largely disrespected tag guy who spent the overwhelming majority of his career as half of The Nasty Boys with Brian Knobbs. Despite their differences in legacy and body of work, Rhodes and Saggs were real life brothers in law. Rhodes’s sister in law wound up marrying Sags, making Rhodes and Sags brothers in law.
While the two men didn’t cross paths much in their wrestling careers, they did wind up teaming together briefly in WCW, when Rhodes and his son Dustin drafted the Nasty Boys to help them combat Colonel Parker and his associates for a War Games match in 1994.
3 Not Related: The Godwinns
In that awkward period between Hulkamania and the Attitude Era, often referenced as “The New Generation,” there were a number of occupational gimmicks, campy characters, and strange character choices. Henry O. Godwinn and his cousin Phineas I. Godwinn were two such figures, cast as fun-loving country boys with a propensity toward slopping their opponents. Together, they were a formidable tag team that became all the better with a heel turn and a more serious edge as WWE broached the Attitude Era.
The Godwinns actually teamed up earlier in WCW, where there was no pretense of them being brothers. Instead, Tex Slazenger and Shanghai Pierce as a pair of outlaw buddies. That turned out to be closer to the truth as these kayfabe disciples of Hillbilly Jim were not actually related at all In real life.
2 Related: Bray Wyatt And Bo Dallas
Bray Wyatt is a heel who plays a cult leader. His silver tongue and charisma have worked him into a prime spot as an upper card guy, and now even a former WWE Champion. Bo Dallas rose to his greatest prominence as a faux motivational speaker, and when that didn’t take, he has bounded between other personas, most recently settling in as a sidekick for The Miz.
Two different trajectories. Two very different characters. But oddly enough, these guys are brothers.
Back in developmental, Wyatt and Dallas even teamed briefly under their real life surname, Rotunda, which traces back to Mike Rotunda, better known to WWE fans as Irwin R. Schyster. So, these unlikely brothers come from an even more unlikely father, and a longer lineage that includes their uncle Barry Windham and their grandfather Blackjack Mulligan.
1 Not Related: Kevin Sullivan And Dave Sullivan
In the mid 1990s, largely anonymous big man, mid card heel The Equalizer ran afoul of The Nasty Boys on an episode of WCW Saturday Night. He promised that he was bringing in his big brother for backup. Lo and behold that turned out to be a returning Kevin Sullivan, who really did have a decent resemblance to The Equalizer—renamed to Dave (or Evad) Sullivan. The Sullivans became a tag team, and later rivals upon the arrival of Hulk Hogan, whom Kevin couldn’t stand and Dave idolized.
In reality, the Sullivan brothers had no relation, but they were a creative pair to put together for a time and serve as a vehicle to add some unconventional heat to Sullivan’s issue with Hogan, which would eventually spawn the Dungeon of Doom.