There was a time over the past decade where it seemed that the only way to get a break in the WWE was to have ties to a wrestling bloodline. With second and third generation guys like Ted DiBiase Jr., Cody Rhodes and Curtis Axel among others secured spots in developmental territories and ascended to the main roster ahead of many of their peers. However, while there are definitely some success stories that point to the benefits of great genetics and a little political sway when required, not every aspiring superstar that grows up with a wrestler in the family assures a fast track to success.
In fact, while we have seen the explosive success of third generation stars such as The Rock and Randy Orton, those with a pedigree in the sports entertainment realm probably represent merely the tip of the iceberg. In fact, there are many sons and daughters of legends and Hall of Famers that have attempted to find their own spot in the family business but have fallen short of the mark. The following list explores just a small selection of aspiring hopefuls that have graced the ring that you may never have even known existed.
20 Mike DiBiase
The Million Dollar Man was one of the most visible and iconic villains of all time in the wrestling game and a second generation wrestler himself – son of wrestlers Mike DiBiase and Helen Hild. All three of Ted’s sons would try their hand at wrestling, with the most successful being Ted Jr., who would make it to the WWE’s main roster and achieve a level of visibility and success that he could use to his advantage in other pursuits. Some fans may also be familiar with Brett DiBiase, Ted’s youngest son, who was making a name for himself in the WWE’s developmental system before a neck injury gave him reason to pursue a new career. However, many may not know that Ted’s oldest son, from his first marriage, Mike, had also attempted to get into wrestling as well. Trained by Harley Race, Mike actually teamed briefly with Ted Jr.
19 Jeff Dupre
There was a great deal of excitement in Atlantic Canada when the veteran promoter of Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling announced that his son Rene had been signed to a contract with the WWE and was among the youngest wrestlers ever to be signed with Vince McMahon’s company. The 6’3”, 250 pounder had wrestled a few seasons for his father in his teens and the first vignettes announcing his arrival in the WWE aired while Rene was still 19 years old. While Rene had a good run as a two-time tag team champion, many may not realize that Emile had another son with aspirations to become a star wrestler.
Unfortunately for Jeff, despite access to the same connections that opened the door for his brother, his own career has rarely seen him in the ring beyond the east coast on shows under his father’s banner and other select independents.
18 Shane Canterbury
At 6’10” and 305 pounds, it would appear that his sheer size alone would secure Shane Canterbury a spot in the WWE, a territory that has always been regarded as one where the super heavyweights held sway. Adding to his credentials was his pedigree, the son of Henry Godwinn, a former WWE Tag Team Champion from the 1990s. Godwinn had started in the Atlantic coast independents before a short run with WCW and finding great success in the WWE. Shane was signed to a developmental contract and wrestled in Florida Championship Wrestling under the name Buck Dixon.
Training at a time when the system was grooming Titus O’Neil, Roman Reigns, Big E Langston and Bray Wyatt, Canterbury was released in June of 2011. We haven’t heard anything from the monstrous second generation grappler since. Now in his 30s, it’s unlikely that the door may still be open to launch his career on a national level.
17 Colby Corino
If you haven’t heard the name Colby Corino yet, it’s only a matter of time before you learn about this second generation wrestler. Son of the internationally traveled Steve Corino, who is a former ECW and NWA World Champion with successes everywhere except the big two companies in the United States, Steve is well regarded among his peers as one of the greats.
His son, now only 20 years old is on record as having wrestled his first match, a tag team bout with his father, at age five in Pemberton, New Jersey. Already active for seven years as a pro with more than 100 matches to his credit in Canada and the United States, young Colby has a bright future ahead of him. Still only 20 years old, he is seeing the industry as a veteran at an age when many aspiring hopefuls are taking their earliest steps in the game.
16 Tama Tonga
Currently a member of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Bullet Club, many may not realize that Tama Tonga is the son of one of the industry’s most reputed tough guys – Haku/Meng. Haku, who also wrestled by the name King Tonga during his early career was a no-nonsense heavyweight whose feats both in and out of the wrestling arena are woven into wrestling lore identifying him as a man that you don’t want to mess with. It seems like only a matter of time before his son makes his way to household name status in the U.S. as well. A former member of the United States Air Force, Tama Tonga has plied his trade in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Japan for the past eight years.
Tama had a tryout alongside his adoptive brother Tevita, who landed a contract and spent five years with the WWE as Camacho. With fellow Bullet Club members AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson now under contract, could Tama Tonga be far behind?
15 Baby Beefcake
The daughter of WWE legend Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake hadn’t even wrestled a single match when she had generated her first wrestling headlines in 2013. News of her intention to follow her father into the world of sports entertainment was accompanied by the announcement that Jersey Championship Wrestling had signed her to a contract with intent to train her as their first in-house developed talent. However, despite the wave of publicity promoting her earliest appearances before wrestling audiences in February 2014, the goddaughter of Hulk Hogan has failed to register on the radar since that initial press release.
In fact, aside from a photo of herself posing with The Hulkster, there are no photos before or since that announcement that indicate that Alana Leslie has followed through on her aspirations to become a star in the profession that made her father a household name.
14 Cedric Rougeau
When we look at this photo of Cedric Rougeau with his father Jacques, at first glance we have to wonder why the WWE hasn’t picked this guy up yet. Earlier this year, various internet news outlets reported that the 23-year-old was being looked at by the McMahon camp and may be interested in the 6’7” fourth generation wrestler. There are only two reasons that we can think of that could stand in the way of him achieving success. First, the WWE Wellness Policy. It has been a long time since we have seen someone that size with that look in the company. Is that all natural from pumping iron in the gym? Second, current top dog in the company Kevin Owens got his start in the wrestling game under Jacques Rougeau and they parted on rather unfriendly terms. Could Owens have a grudge that could block the path for young Cedric?
13 Joe Muraco
One of the dark horse tag teams of the WWE in the mid-80s was the duo of Don Muraco and Bob Orton Jr. The dissolution of the team led to Muraco hearing the cheers of the crowd for the first time in his run with the company. For a time in the mid-2000s, it appeared as though there might be an opportunity for a second generation of that pairing to cross paths in the ring as well. Randy Orton, Bob’s son, was already making waves as the youngest World champion of all time and well established in the WWE. Meanwhile, the son of the “Magnificent” Muraco was starting to make a name for himself in Afa Anoa'i’s WXW and other independent promotions.
Unfortunately, for the junior Muraco, his biggest match would occur far from the spotlight of WrestleMania when he partnered with his father for a tag team match against the father-son duo of Bob and Brad Armstrong at the Valley Forge Convention Plaza.
12 Jesse White
Before the dawn of the Monday Night War, one of the most dominant WCW World Champions of the era was a masked mastodon known simply as Vader. Leon White had played professional football before getting into the wrestling game, first seeing success with Verne Gagne’s AWA under his own name before heading to Japan where he would be given the character that would define his legacy. Vader was a punishing presence in both WCW and WWE and when his son announced his intentions to get into wrestling, his father trained him and sent him to Japan to learn the trade.
Jesse signed a developmental contract with the WWE in the spring of 2011 and almost a year later made his debut as Jake Carter, partnered with Corey Graves. The duo held the FCW Tag Team Titles, but that would be his highest honor in the pro mat game. Less than a year and a half after his debut, White was cut from the roster of NXT in September 2013.
11 Richie Steamboat
Similar to the intense pressure that rested on the shoulders of David Flair during his ill-fated run in World Championship Wrestling, one has to believe that the same had to be the case for young Richie Steamboat – son of one of the smoothest wrestling technicians of all time. From the outside looking in, it would appear that he was being set up for a career in the ring from birth, making his first public appearance in 1987 shortly after his birth in the pages of WWF Magazine. He accompanied his father to the ring, in matching apparel for some of his biggest matches in 1988 and 1989.
There was a swell of interest when it was announced that Ricky Steamboat’s son had been signed to a developmental contract with the WWE and despite promising progress in the early stages of his career, ultimately his ambitions in the ring were dashed after a back injury requiring surgery meant the end of his wrestling dream.
10 David Finlay Jr.
In the celebration of multi-generation legacies in professional wrestling, it has seldom been discussed that former WCW Television and WWE United States Champion, Dave “Fit” Finlay was himself a third generation wrestler. The Belfast Bruiser built his reputation campaigning across Europe starting in 1974 and already laid claim to a 20-year career before he was signed by WCW and introduced to North American audiences in the mid-90s. Perhaps eclipsing his success as a wrestler is his reputation as a trainer and producer behind the scenes for the WWE. With this in mind, word that Finlay’s son, David Jr. has now entered the wrestling ranks, we expect to see him find his way to the top company in the U.S. at some point in the future.
Debuting in December 2012, the younger Finlay has spent the past four years in New Japan Pro Wrestling where he has been honing his craft.
9 Matt Hart
An interesting piece of trivia when it comes to the Hart Wrestling Dynasty out of Calgary Alberta is that out of Stu Hart’s 12 children who actively involved with the business or married into it, his daughters' offsprings that have seen the greatest success in the ring. Diana’s son Harry is a former WWE Unified Tag Team Champion and is making stellar waves in his career outside the WWE. Natalya is the daughter of Ellie Hart. Then, there's Teddy Hart, the son of Georgia Hart. There are a few lesser known Harts among that third generation, though.
Bret’s son Blade trained briefly with Lance Storm, Bruce Hart has trained his sons Torrin and Bruce Jr., but it is one of Smith Hart’s sons that seems to be creating a small swell of notoriety. Matt Hart didn’t train in the dungeon but has started to generate a name for himself in western Canada and is headed for England in the New Year.
8 Dylan Eaton
Debuting in 2006 at age 17, the son of “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton took his first steps down the path that both his father and grandfather took as pro wrestlers. Many may not realize that Dylan Eaton is actually a third generation star. His maternal grandfather is Bill Dundee, a standout in the Memphis territory for several decades. Not surprisingly, some of the younger Eaton’s earliest opponents are names that his father faced during his career – Ricky Morton, Brad Armstrong and Manny Fernandez. While Bobby Eaton might not have been a World Champion, he is well respected as one of the top performers of his era with multiple singles and tag team titles to show for it.
One would expect that Dylan feels the same pressure that other third generation wrestlers experience to live up to such lofty expectations. Dylan is just one of three Eaton children plying their trade in the ring – his sister Karen and brother Dustin are also aspiring stars between the ropes.
7 Dakota Darsow
Best known by the name Maverick Darsow during his five-year wrestling career, the son of two-time WWE Tag Team Champion Demolition Smash was quickly snapped up on a developmental contract in 2008 shortly after his debut on the independent scene in the American Midwest. Standing 6’0” and weighing only 180 pounds, the younger Darsow was certainly a contrast from his barrel-chested father, but wasn’t out of place among the roster of aspiring hopefuls in Florida Championship Wrestling at that time.
However, his aspirations to compete in the WWE were dashed when he was released from his developmental deal in June 2009. After spending a few years on the independent scene, he was picked up by Total Nonstop Action where he made a handful of appearances in 2011 and 2012. In the latest tidbit of news from him, Dakota had abandoned his career pursuits in the world of pro wrestling and had taken a job as a Sheriff’s Deputy in Roscommon, Michigan.
6 Amy Hennig
We’re not sure why Amy Hennig isn’t a household name yet in the world of professional wrestling. It would seem that she was off to a great start as the daughter of “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and receiving her training from respected trainers Brad Rheingans and Harley Race. She had been signed to a developmental contract with the WWE and was sent to Race’s Missouri wrestling camp to train. Most of her career highlights list matches and a title win for World League Wrestling between 2008 and 2010, but the curly blonde locks that she inherited from her famous father would never make their way onto WWE television.
Though Amy hasn’t ascended as expected, her brother Joe has enjoyed a lengthy stay in the company, first competing as Michael McGillicutty and more recently billed as Curtis Axel. Amy isn’t the only Hennig that few of us have heard of. Curt’s brother, Jesse tried his hand at wrestling in the 90s with minimal success.
5 Cody Hall
It’s possible that Scott Hall’s tumultuous personal and professional life have influenced how little we have heard about his son Cody, or why the 6’8”, 268 pounder hasn’t already been snatched up by the WWE as an acquisition to develop in their Florida performance center. Cody debuted in 2012 at age 21 after being initially trained by his WWE Hall of Famer father, Dallas Page and Larry Zbyszko, a WWE Hall of Famer himself. His early matches have included tag team pairings with some of his father’s closest friends and associates like Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman.
Signing with New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2015, Hall immediately found himself assigned as a stable member of the “Bullet Club” faction alongside AJ Styles, Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson and Kenny Omega. Though still working his way up the ladder, Hall was starting to see the fruits of his labors when he was sidelined with an injury in April 2016 that has derailed his progress for much of the year.
4 Stacy Colon
Even though the Colon wrestling family was showcased in the WWE’s compilation of most powerful wrestling families, the spotlight piece failed to shine any light on Stacy Colon specifically. Daughter of Puerto Rican wrestling legend Carlos Colon, Stacy has been involved with the industry as well as her brothers, primarily as a valet for the family-owned World Wrestling Council. Her brothers Carlito and Primo have enjoyed the visibility and success of the WWE as has cousin Orlando Colon, but Stacy has not made the transition to the American mainstream as well.
Perhaps her biggest match to date was a tag team encounter when she was paired his her father at the WWC 2013 Anniversary show, the company’s equivalent to WrestleMania, to defeat Invader #1 and La Tigressa. Could we see Stacy Colon join her relatives even as a valet in the near future? We’re skeptical that such a career opportunity is in the cards for this second generation personality.
3 Colt Toombs
In many ways, the early combat career of Colt Toombs mirrored the start that his father Roddy Piper had taken on the mean streets of Winnipeg, Manitoba in the 1970s. Before enrolling in Tony Condello’s wrestling school, Piper had been trained as a boxer. Competing as a featherweight, Colt Toombs trained with Team Quest in MMA and holds a record of 4-1. His earliest exposure in wrestling came when he was featured alongside his father in the reality TV series World of Hurt taped in Calgary in the summer of 2011.
Though tipping the scales at only 145 pounds, Toombs has seen some success on the independent scene. Over the past year, collaborating with his sister, he co-authored a biographical portrait of his father following Roddy’s passing. Touring to promote the book Rowdy has helped to give Colt more widespread exposure to wrestling audiences, but that hasn’t translated into contract offers at this point.
2 Miss Natural
She has been wrestling for 16 years, and while Heather Patera has generated some notoriety on the independent scene wrestling as Miss Natural, that fame hasn’t crossed over to the mainstream for this second generation star. Her father, Olympic strongman Ken Patera had competed as a weightlifter at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and went on to wrestling success in multiple territories, including reigns as AWA World Tag Team Champion and WWE Intercontinental Champion. Trained by her father and later by Harley Race, Miss Natural is a five-time World League Wrestling ladies champion and three-time AWA Women’s Title holder.
Though she has competed for Shimmer and other top independents, now at age 36 the window of opportunity is closing for her to cash in on the expanded women’s division at the top level of the industry right now.
1 Ross & Marshall Von Erich
Texas belonged to the Von Erich family in the 1970s and 80s until a series of tragedies befell the beloved wrestling clan. In succession over a period of nine years between 1984 and 1993, four of Fritz Von Erich’s five wrestling sons David, Mike, Kerry and Chris had perished, three of them at their own hand. Out of that family tragedy, only eldest son Kevin remained. A third generation of Von Erich wrestlers got off to a rocky start when Kerry’s daughter Lacey emerged onto the scene in 2007 but was quickly gone from both the WWE and TNA, announcing her retirement in 2010.
In 2012, Kevin Von Erich’s sons Ross and Marshall debuted as a team after training with Harley Race and have seen action in Japan and TNA. Could they restore the greatness of the Von Erich family name in the wrestling world?