Everyone loves a feel good story about how the love and support of someone’s family helped them become rich, famous, and fulfilled in life. Indeed, there’s a reason why most WWE produced documentaries about their stars’ lives begin the same way. Those early stages include recounting happy childhoods full of big dreams, and parents and siblings who may have shaken their heads because they didn’t fully understand the desire to go into the wrestling business, but nonetheless did what they could to help them realize their aspirations.
Not every story goes quite that same way, though. Whether it’s a matter of siblings who fell out, parents who were emotionally or physically abusive, or spouses who engaged in any number of dimensions of unhealthy relationships, some wrestlers have bad relationships with at least some of their relatives. Some of these matters can be swept under the rug are or are minor enough not to be of much interest to the public. There are, however, other developments that are significant enough to have had a real impact on a performer’s life, or intriguing enough to capture in the interest of wrestling fans around the world.
While some wrestlers have made an effort not to air their dirty laundry, there are others who have been much more forthcoming about past traumas or issues with their relatives. With the information wrestlers themselves have put out in to the world, this article takes a look at 15 different confessions from professional wrestling stars who seriously hate their family members.
15 CM Punk’s Calls His Brother A Thief
CM Punk has spoken openly on a variety of platforms, including the WWE produced documentary Best in the World about how he and his brother put on backyard professional wrestling events. He’s cited one particular example in which his brother stole all of the money they’d made from the show. Punk’s response? He’s suggested that brothers don’t steal from one another, and so he no longer considers his brother family.
Punk is nothing if not principled and committed to his own ideals, so it stands to reason that he would cut someone off who violated his trust at this level, particularly at a time when he didn’t have a lot of money to spare. Punk has made no apologies and offered no qualifiers about removing himself from the family he was born into, in favor of the family of friends he’s chosen to surround himself with.
14 Debra Said Steve Austin Abused Her
In the later stages of the Attitude Era, Stone Cold Steve Austin married Debra. The relationship made sense enough to fans, pairing arguably the biggest wrestling star the company had ever seen with one of the most beautiful women on the payroll. After they got married in real life, Debra even had bit parts for Austin’s on air character, adding tension to his feud with The Rock when she managed The Great One, and later becoming his sidekick when he headed up The Alliance.
Behind the scenes, all was not well with the pair and they would ultimately divorce. Debra accused Austin of alcoholism, and of more than once physically abusing her. She was particularly vocal about these matters years after they split, when news broke about Chris Benoit murdering his wife and child.
13 Seth Rollins Wants Nothing To Do With His Father
Seth Rollins is a shining example for the new model of a rising WWE star. The guy cut his teeth on the indies, which included a run as a top star with ROH, before transitioning to WWE’s developmental system to go to “finishing school,” where he was crowned the very first NXT Champion and readied himself for a prominent run on the main roster. From there, he started out as part of The Shield faction and by the time he broke out on his own, was ready for primetime. He won his first world championship (in the main event of WrestleMania no less) with a year after that.
For all of Rollins’s successes, he came from humbler beginnings, including a birth father who walked out on him and his mom. Rollins has spoken about both his mother and his stepfather in very positive terms in interviews, but doesn’t have anything good to say about his birth father, whom it seems he has no allegiance or positive feelings toward.
12 Dean Ambrose’s Father Abandoned Him
One of the few aspects of his personal life that Dean Ambrose has been perfectly open about is that he likes to keep personal matters to himself. Citing that there are a lot of crazy fans out there, he prefers that they focus on his public persona as an entertainer while he lives his own life behind the scenes.
Pieces of Ambrose’s real life have trickled out though, some of it via interviews, other tidbits from his wife, Renee Young, joining the cast of the Total Divas reality series. In his visit to Steve Austin’s podcast, aired on the WWE Network, Ambrose discussed his upbringing and cited that he and his sister were largely left to themselves. He referenced his mom working overnight shifts, and said that his dad lived in a different state. The latter comment, paired with notes from other interviews, points toward the idea that Ambrose’s father abandoned the family, and all indications are that Ambrose holds a grudge.
11 AJ Styles’s Alcoholic Father Abused Him
AJ Styles is known as a stand up guy in the wrestling business. Not only is he one of the best all around performers of his generation, but he’s generally well respected as a human being, and known as a good family man. He’s a committed husband and is devoted enough to his kids to have had each of their initials and birth dates tattooed on his side.
It seems that Styles didn’t come from as healthy of an upbringing himself, though. In interviews, it has come up that Styles’s father was an alcoholic and that he could be abusive at times. Add up that Styles grew up in relative poverty, and you have a true rags to riches story of a guy who has done better for this generation of his family, keeping his nose clean, and providing well for his family via his wrestling stardom.
10 Dolph Ziggler Dissociated Himself From His Convicted Brother
Dolph Ziggler is widely regarded as one of the hardest working wrestlers WWE has on its roster. There have even been times when management has purportedly suggested that Ziggler work less hard because he was going all out in relatively low profile matches. Just the same, his work ethic and athleticism have made him a star with longevity who has remained a player in storylines now for nearly a decade.
Ziggler’s personal life has had its bumps however. While one of his younger brothers followed him into the wrestling business and had a developmental deal with WWE, another brother Donald has had a rocky road. He was convicted for his part in the accidental murder of a former marine that occurred during what Cleveland.com described as a botched robbery attempt. Ziggler has publicly distanced himself from the situation and his brother who couldn’t stay out of trouble.
9 Rich Swann Pursued Wrestling To Overcome His Family Life
Rich Swann is a Baltimore native who had a rough go of it early in life. According to an ESPN feature on him, his father was an alcoholic who abused him and his mother before being murdered when Swann was just 14. His mother passed on when Swann was 16.
You’d never know about this troubled past from looking at Swann now, however, as he emerged as integral part of WWE’s 2016 reboot of its Cruiserweight Division. Swann went so far as to win the division’s championship at one point, and has defined his persona with a fun, party-like identity, including infectious theme music and dancing in the ring to celebrate his victories. Swann has cited wrestling as a way of overcoming hardship in his life, centering his energy and attention in a productive direction and ultimately thriving.
8 Shane McMahon Didn’t Approve Of Triple H Dating His Sister
When Shane McMahon left WWE, there was a lot of conjecture that it may have been a direct result of him seeing the direction the company was heading, and recognizing that his sister Stephanie, and her husband Triple H were likely going to inherit the empire. The conjecture picked up again when Shane wound up returning in 2016, with particular attention to the question of whether there were real life tensions between him and his family.
Shane did little to dispel the rumors in his WWE Network interview with Mick Foley. While he was cagey about talking about his feelings toward different family members, he didn’t shy away from the fact that he was, at the least, disapproving when Triple H, as a talent, started dating his sister, the boss’s daughter. Recent reports have said their relationship has improved quite a bit over the past year, partly due to Shane strictly being an on-air character and not having influence in company decisions anymore.
7 Sean Waltman Endured A Lot Of Abuse
It’s no secret that Sean Waltman—known by ring names including The 1-2-3 Kid, Syxx, and X-Pac—has had troubled periods in his life, including substance abuse and a publicly tumultuous relationship with Chyna. Waltman only disclosed relatively recently that the root of some of his issues may have come up long before he ever set foot in a wrestling ring.
Waltman was the victim of abuse growing up. In a 2011 blog post, he discussed teaming up with Mick Foley in his efforts for the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) and that they were important to him because he was personally affected, having been molested as a teenager by several people, and most notably the man who took him to his first wrestling show. While Waltman didn’t name names, he did indicate running into this man later in life, and only then remembering all of his past traumas and reporting what had happened, in the interest of protecting other children.
6 Bruno Sammartino And His Son Resented Each Other’s Choices
To say that David Sammartino’s didn’t live up to his father, Bruno’s, legacy is an understatement. Bruno was the longest reigning world champion in WWE history and a heck of a draw in his time. David never really emerged from his father’s shadow to make a name for himself in the wrestling business.
There was tension between father and son when David struggled to get over. In particular, David reportedly resented his father continuing to get a spotlight from WWE when he couldn’t make headway. In turn, Bruno was upset when his son resorted to using steroids to get ahead. The two didn’t get along for sometime, and David allegedly had other drug problems during this time, though the two have purportedly wound up on better terms more recently.
5 Roderick Strong Described His Parents As Chaotic
After a distinguished career out on the independent scene, Roderick Strong arrived as a top star for NXT and has largely thrived with that platform. He’s been in and out of position to knock on the main event’s door, and otherwise booked toward the top of the pack for the mid-card picture. While Strong may have been dismissed as the kind of talent WWE wasn’t all that interested in years back, now it wouldn’t be too surprising if he does ultimately find a spot for himself on the main roster.
For all of these successes, it’s noteworthy that Strong emerged from a tough childhood experience. He has described his parents as “chaotic” in interviews. He’s a second generation wrestler and has credited his father for inspiring him to pursue wrestling, but has also spoken about each of his parents struggling with substance abuse and having dark experiences as a youngster.
4 Davey Boy Smith Screwed The Dynamite Kid Over
In addition to having been famous tag team partners and countrymen, Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid were also real life cousins. The two formed an excellent tag team, featuring Dynamite’s incredible technical skills and aerial offense that was ahead of its time, paired with Smith’s power game and agility in his own right.
The two would have a falling out, however, after Dynamite’s injured back forced him to leave WWE and stop working a full time schedule, just as Smith broke out as a singles star. Smith reportedly registered for the rights to the British Bulldog name that had previously been applied to the tag team, and as a result, Dynamite lost access to the most famous moniker attached to his name. The Dynamite Kid is known to have grown bitter and angry with many of his former friends and colleagues, and added his cousin to this list after this perceived betrayal.
3 CM Punk’s Father Is The Reason He's Straight Edge
In the WWE produced Best in the World documentary, CM Punk discussed his roots in living the straight edge lifestyle. In particular, recalled an incident when his father picked him in his car and couldn’t stop throwing up. Punk was very upset, and took his father to be sick—he recalled thinking that maybe he had cancer. As he realized later, his father was an alcoholic. He decided then that he’d never drink or do drugs himself.
While it’s probably a blessing that Punk took this experience as a cautionary tale as opposed to following in his father’s footsteps. Just the same, it was in a series of bad experiences with his biological family that seem to have led Punk to look down on them as an adult, and want nothing to do with them.
2 Bret Hart Blames Martha Hart For Tensions Between The Harts And WWE
Check out Bret Hart’s book, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling and you’ll find that he doesn’t exactly celebrate his sister in law Marth Hart. Martha is Owen’s widow, who was justifiably upset with WWE for him dying at a live PPV based on a stunt (which the company had booked for him) going wrong. However, the way she has handled herself in the aftermath clearly embittered Bret, and he seems to look at her as making the worst of the situation.
Martha has purportedly effectively blocked Owen from being inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame and engaged in more than one lawsuit with the company. Bret also describes her as deepening rifts within the family, blasting Davey Boy Smith when he wound up returning to WWE after both the Montreal Screwjob and Owen’s death, and having words with Bret a number of times about choices he made. The most recent spat between Bret and Martha saw Martha file suit against WWE for continuing to use Owen’s image on screen, while Bret contended that what WWE was doing kept Owen’s memory alive, and that Martha was hurting his legacy.
1 Rikishi Skipped His Son’s Wedding Because He Disapproved Of Naomi
Rikishi is a legend of the wrestling business, noteworthy if for nothing other than his longevity and the diversity of roles he successfully played under the WWE banner, including half of the Headshrinkers tag team, The Sultan, an oddball character trying to bring peace through the streets, and ultimately arriving at his best known persona as a dancing big man (who, you know, also tried to murder Steve Austin with his car—he did it for The Rock). His sons have carried on his legacy proudly as an excellent tag team—The Usos.
Jimmy Uso wound up in a relationship with fellow WWE Superstar Naomi and, in a storyline that played out on Total Divas, the two wound up getting married. Rikishi, however, didn’t seem to approve of his daughter-in-law to-be. Though Rikishi later alluded to the drama being exaggerated, if not invented for the purposes of reality TV, he wound up not attending his own son’s wedding in protest.