Family has always played an important part in professional wrestling. Something as strong as a family name can give a new wrestler some instant credibility. When Randy Orton debuted, his lineage was always the first thing the commentary team spoke of, and it worked. From The Rock, to Charlotte Flair, to Goldust, there are countless wrestlers who have been successful when it comes to taking on the family business. It doesn’t stop at the parents, the Hart family alone has enough connections between brothers, uncles, and nieces to prove that the wrestling gene is hereditary. Heck, the entire WWE is based on the scuffles of a real-life family, both in front of and behind the camera.
But what if your wrestler doesn’t have any blood relatives in the business? How do you give that wrestler some immediate clout? You can just claim they are related to an already established grappler! Or what if you have a brand-new tag team that’s missing that little something convinces the audience they are indeed a united front? Make them brothers who have dreamed of their moment in the spotlight and swear to always have each other’s back!
Sometimes pairs of brothers, fathers and sons, or cousins are so convincing that the audience at home buys their bond hook, line and sinker. Other times, the combinations are just too far-fetched for anyone to be fooled into thinking they are actually related. Let’s take a look at some of the best relationships concocted for wrestling, as well as some of the ones so improbable they are downright insulting to our intelligence.
15 Unbelievable - Finlay & Hornswoggle (Father & Son)
Let me paint you a picture. The year was 2007 and Mr. Kennedy was steadily gaining popularity. By performing his own ring announcing, he had one of the coolest entrances of the time, was excellent on the mic, and had a cocky attitude that attracted a lot of fans. WWE had a great idea to boost him to the next level. They were going to reveal that Mr. Kennedy was, in fact, Vincent KENNEDY McMahon’s illegitimate son. Then Kennedy got busted for violating the Wellness Policy and McMahon’s son was revealed to be Hornswoggle. *Fart Noise* Until he wasn’t. No, it was revealed Hornswoggle’s “real” father was Finlay. The man he had been helping since his “Little B*stard” days. It’s a convoluted story with too many twists and turns where nobody involved benefitted. Like I said, it was WWE in 2007.
14 Believable - The Undertaker & Kane (Half-Brothers)
It’s common knowledge nowadays that Undertaker and Kane are not related in any way. However, on October 5, 1997 there was no better wrestler to play the long-lost brother of Mark Calaway than Glenn Jacobs. When the two monsters stared each other down in the middle of the Hell in a Cell, we truly believed the Dead Man and the Devil’s Favorite Demon were blood relatives. Kane, following up their encounter by hitting Taker with his own Tombstone Piledriver was just the icing on the cake. Throughout the Brothers of Destruction’s careers, the amount of times they went from teaming together to heated rivals rang true for anyone with a sibling. Really, the only unbelievable component of their lineage was when we found out Kane’s actual father was the portly mortician known as Paul Bearer. (Who was just 13 years older in real life.)
13 Unbelievable - Andre the Giant & The Big Show (Father & Son)
Is there a more WCW move than claiming one of your wrestlers is related to a recently deceased legend who, outside of one brief interview, never performed for them? Well, that’s exactly how the Big Show got his first taste of stardom. Capitalizing on having Hulk Hogan under contract, WCW tried to recreate one of the greatest feuds of the 1980s; Hogan vs Andre the Giant. Unfortunately, there was one minor pickle. Andre had been dead for two years. Not to let that get them down, WCW brought in a new 7-foot-tall giant, plopped him in a single strap singlet, and claimed he was the offspring of Andre. To really drive the point home, The Giant confronted Hogan on a beach and threw the very shirt his “father” wore in The Princess Bride at the Hulkster (GASP!). It was all incredibly forced. Show even won a world championship in a complicated fashion from Hogan, just like his old man. Maybe they do have more in common than I thought.
12 Believable - Henry & Phineas Godwinn (Cousins)
Like many teams on this list, the Godwinns became a tag team when the WWE decided to create another character to complement their popular hog farmer, Henry O. Godwinn (a “clever” play on his profession). After what must have been days, if not weeks, of brainstorming, Phineas I. Godwinn (hilarious) was born. Before coming to the WWE, they already had a history of teaming up in the USWA and, most notably, WCW as Shanghai Pierce (Henry) and Tex Slazenger (Phineas). Though they never ascended to the top of the tag division prior to discovering their mutual appreciation of all things swine, years of tagging really brought the duo together. Based on looks alone, the Godwinns might be the most convincing “relatives” we’ve examined. Both standing well over 6 ft. and weighing close to 300 lbs., the two southern boys were so believable that WWE soon changed their relationship from cousins to brothers.
11 Unbelievable - Billy & Bart Gunn (Brothers)
First wrestling for Killer Kowalski’s International Wrestling Federation as Kip Winchester and Brett Colt, aka “The Long Riders,” it wouldn’t be long before the duo was signed to the WWE where they renamed the Smoking Gunns and marketed as brothers, Billy and Bart Gunn. Despite their best efforts (and mustaches), the two looked, sounded, and acted nothing alike. Why couldn’t two gunslinging cowboy friends have set their sights on the squared circle? After their split, they would achieve very different levels of success. Billy Gunn went one to be one greatest tag-team wrestlers of all time, winning the belts a total of 11 times with three different partners. He is a former Intercontinental Champion, Hardcore Champion, and King of the Ring. Meanwhile, Bart Gunn was knocked out by Butterbean in 35 seconds at WrestleMania XV.
10 Believable - Dick The Bruiser & The Crusher (Cousins)
Here are two faces only their kayfabe grandmother could love. Dick the Bruiser and the Crusher were two of the most beloved and bad-ass wrestlers the American Wrestling Association had to offer in the 1960s. Presented as cousins, not only did the two resemble each other with their blonde hair and barrel chests, they also shared an affinity for beer drinking, bar fights, and being able to take as much punishment as they could dish out. Over the course of their career together, the tough as nails combination had 12 different reigns as tag team champions and were voted Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Tag Team of the Year in 1972. Their fame stretched beyond the wrestling ring as the two played roles in the 1974 film The Wrestler.
9 Unbelievable - Skip & Zip Bodydonna (Cousins)
Remember when I praised the Bruiser/Crusher tandem for their pitch perfect portrayal of cousins? Time to take a look at the opposite: The Bodydonnas. Chris Candido had already been ECW Tag Team Champion and NWA World Heavyweight Champion by the time he came to WWE in 1995 and became Skip Bodydonna. Playing the role of a cocky fitness aficionado, Candido was paired with his real-life girlfriend Tammy Lynn Sytch who was dubbed “Sunny.” Since this was the WWE in the mid-'90s and their definition of a tag team was, “people who are exactly the same” (I’m looking at you, Godwinns, DOA, Los Boricuas, etc.), they decided to double down and bring in Skip’s “cousin” Zip. Not only had Tom Prichard achieved success in USWA and Smoky Mountain Wrestling, but a month before he had teamed with Skip under his real name on the 1995 Survivor Series. A simple haircut and dye job wasn’t enough to convince the audience of their relation.
8 Believable - Kevin & Dave Sullivan (Brothers)
Kevin Sullivan is one of the most creative minds in wrestling. He often formed larger-than-life stables involving the occult and was a legendary villain down in Florida. This entry is in no way, shape, or form, one of Sullivan’s master strokes. In 1993, WCW was introduced to Kevin’s younger brother Dave, who looked just like Sullivan, only 8 inches taller. After a brief rivalry with the Nasty Boys, the Of Mice and Men inspired pair soon found themselves at odds with each other when Dave became the biggest fan of WCW’s newest star, Hulk Hogan. Like any good brother who sees his sibling fall to the powers of Hulkamania, Kevin became enraged and turned on Dave. After losing to his older brother in a “Brother vs Brother” match at SuperBrawl V, Dave went on to participate in midcard battles with the likes of Diamond Dallas Page and Big Bubba Rogers. Kevin, in a further attempt to destroy Hogan once and for all, soon re-familiarized himself with his satanic roots and went on to form the hilariously misguided Dungeon of Doom.
7 Unbelievable - Doug & Danny Basham (Brothers)
Are you muscular? Bald? Then you my friend, may very well be a Basham. WWE creative thought that was all it took to create some believable brothers and Doug and Danny Basham were soon on their way to becoming two time WWE Tag Team Champions. Oh, they also figured a mutual enthusiasm for BDSM would help solidify their brotherly bond. Call me old-fashioned, but something about “brothers” sharing a dominatrix (the muscular and whip-wielding Shaniqua) just doesn’t sit right with me. The best decision they made was taking Doug Basham’s last name. Before being paired up, Danny went by the disgustingly early-aughts name “Damaja.” Seriously, there might not be a better last name for a professional wrestler than “Basham.” Basham. Bash ‘em. It’s just a great name.
6 Believable - Brian & Brett Major AKA Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins (Brothers)
The wrestlers now known as Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder have a lot in common. They are both from New York, are the same age, and share a very similar body type. The lovable losers also trained together at perpetual underdog Mikey Whipwreck’s New York Wrestling Connection. Even though the two teamed together since the beginning of their careers, it would be two full years before they decided to go from friends to brothers. Once singed to WWE’s developmental territory, Hawkins and Ryder’s resemblance would not go unnoticed. They were dubbed the Major Brothers and soon found themselves on the main roster. Despite their uncanny similarities, it would be less than a year later before they went from Brett and Brian Majors to Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins. According to lore, Vince McMahon, who had no qualms with fake relationships in the past, didn’t understand why the WWE would lie to the audience about who is and isn’t related.
5 Unbelievable - Kerry, Kevin, Mike, & Lance Von Erich (Cousins)
In Dallas, Texas there is no wrestling family more beloved than the Von Erichs who ran the World Class Championship Wrestling Promotion. Patriarch Fritz bred some of the most popular good guys of the 1980s with his sons Kerry, Kevin, and Mike. They were so popular that they often found themselves spread thin, sometimes wrestling three times a day. Fritz then came up with an idea to create a new Von Erich, Lance. Billed as the son of Fritz’s (storyline) brother Waldo, Lance was automatically positioned in a feud against the Von Erich’s rivals the Fabulous Freebirds. Despite achieving a moderate amount of success, the most being an NWA World title match against Ric Flair, die-hard WCCW fans soon saw through this façade and turned on the new “cousin.” After Lance jumped ship to a rival territory, Fritz admitted to the fraud and said if Lance ever appeared in WCCW again, he would cattle prod his phony nephew.
4 Believable - Edge & Christian (Brothers)
Debuting a mere three months after his “brother,” Christian appeared ringside during a match between Edge and Owen Hart. With matching bleach blonde hair and oversized sunglasses, Christian was a shoe-in for Edge’s sibling. Must like the Brothers of Destruction, it is well-known that Adam Copeland and Jason Reso are not actually brothers. What made their brotherhood believable is the fact that the two have known each other since they were in grade school. Their lifetime helped solidify one of the best rapports wrestling has ever seen. E&C’s close-knit bond led them to seven reigns as world tag team champions. Although their true relationship was common knowledge for years, it wasn’t until 2010, after years of not mentioning it, that WWE admitted they were childhood friends.
3 Unbelievable - Kurt Angle & Jason Jordan (Father & Son)
Let’s continue with the most recent instance of a fabricated familial bond. In one of the most despised storylines in recent memory, it was discovered that current Raw General Manager Kurt Angle had a child while in college. That little baby boy grew up to be former NXT and SmackDown Tag Team Champion Jason Jordan. This could have and should have been the beginning of a major push for the former member of American Alpha. Jordan has a great look and, since debuting in developmental, has cultivated a moveset that is definitely inspired by the Olympic Hero. However, the angle (pun intended) immediately fell flat. In addition to bearing little to no resemblance to each other, the duo also lacks chemistry, thanks to Jordan’s wooden and boring delivery. JJ hardly ever appears on camera with his “Dad” anymore and seems to be constantly stuck in meandering midcard feuds with the likes of Elias. It seems like the family reunion may be short lived.
2 Believable - Ole & Arn Anderson (Uncle & Nephew)
There is no fictional wrestling family more legendary than the Andersons. Its “genealogy” began in the 1960s with “brothers” Gene (the only actual “Anderson” of the group) and Lars and spans all the way to today with Karl Anderson. There have been countless wrestlers who have used the popular last name in sports entertainment. Quantity aside, we’re going to take a look at the two most prominent grapplers to use the name: Ole and Arn Anderson. After Lars and Gene split, Ole joined the ranks as their “brother” and the team grew to prominence through the 1980s. When Ole needed a replacement, he handpicked Arn after noticing a resemblance between the two both in looks and their hardnosed wrestling style. The two, billed as uncle and nephew, would soon help form an even more important wrestling dynasty: The Four Horsemen.
1 Unbelievable - Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley (Half-Brothers)
Admittedly, I almost didn’t put these two on the list since it was always played for laughs. That being said, I never want to rob myself or the readers of the chance for a mid-'90s ECW deep dive! You may know that D-Von was a late addition to the Dudleys, joining the already established dysfunctional tie-dye-clad stable in 1996. But did you know Bubba Ray was the seventh Dudley to appear on TV? That’s right, after half-brothers Big Dick Dudley, Snot Dudley, Dances With Dudley, Sign Guy Dudley, Chubby Dudley, and Dudley Dudley (the only “legitimate” Dudley thanks to his parents sharing the same last name…) the world was finally blessed with the overweight, stuttering, hillbilly Bubba Ray. After a thinning of the herd, D-Von and Bubba became one of the most successful tag teams of all time, being the only tag team to hold the WWE, WCW, ECW, NWA, TNA, and IWGP Tag Team Championships. Accomplishments aside, we were never duped into believing and of the Dudleys were even half-related.