With how much WWE loves to promote its superstars as second-generation or even third-generation wrestlers, you’d be a dolt not to realize that wrestling families are a pretty common thing. Turns out if you spend pretty much your entire childhood surrounded by the business, you’re far more likely to want to join it when you grow up. Who’d have guessed? And it’s not like wrestling promotions are rushing to change this fact either. Telling everyone how this new up and coming wrestler is the son of a legend is perhaps the easiest way ever to get fans excited for them.
But what about the wrestlers who don’t have famous family. Surely that puts them at a disadvantage, right? Well not really, because remember, wrestling storylines are about 90% fictional, so if promoters need a quick, copy-paste way to build some buzz or a compelling storyline, nothing stops them from just making it up. This applies to pretty much any storyline imaginable, and you better bet that WWE has done this with father-son relationships more than its fair share of times. Although to their credit, they’ve at least had variety with how they’ve used it.
Which is why we’re here to talk about 8 real father and son wrestlers in WWE’s history, and 7 times they just pretended anyway.
15 Real - Dusty Rhodes/Goldust And Cody Rhodes
The Rhodes wrestling family, real last name Runnels, is not as large or well-known a wrestling dynasty as the Harts or the Anoai’i family, but it still has more than its fair share of legends in the business, both past and present. The patriarch Dusty Rhodes, “The American Dream”, made his name towards the end of the territory days, especially as a longtime booker for Jim Crockett Promotions. And his two sons of different mothers have also seen their fair share of success.
Dustin Rhodes, better known as Goldust, has been in and out of WWE for a long time, and though he’s never been a main event player, his commitment to his absurdist and vaguely sexual gimmick make him hard to forget. And at times he’s even been a huge fan favorite. Meanwhile Cody Rhodes went underused by WWE for many years until he had enough, asked for his release, and started tearing up the independent promotion, including being the current Ring Of Honor World Champion. In just around a year, “The American Nightmare” has turned himself into a prime example of the growing attitude that top wrestlers don’t really need WWE.
14 Made Up – Paul Bearer And Kane
Kane might be the WWE Superstar with the most confusing backstory ever. Seemingly every feud he’s been a part of, they’ve just added whatever details they needed to base the feud on. Leading to things like he’s a demon but we were supposed to feel bad for his dead ex-girlfriend, or building up how his whole body was scarred by a childhood fire, but wait, they were just mental scars because Glenn Jacobs doesn’t actually have a messed up face. Oh, and he’s supposed to be The Undertaker’s brother. Well…half-brother.
WWE debuted Kane “I’m no longer Fake Diesel” to feud with The Undertaker with the story that he’s The Deadman’s long lost half-brother who was separated when their childhood home burned down in a fire caused by The Undertaker. One weird little detail that is since often forgotten is that supposedly, Kane’s father was none other than Undertaker’s former manager and then Kane’s manager, Paul Bearer. It’s a needlessly complicated background to the feud used to introduce Kane, but it remains a part of WWE lore.
13 Real – Rikishi And The Usos
The Uso brothers, Jimmy and Jey, have been a staple of the WWE Tag Team Divisions pretty much since the turn of the decade. And they’re killing it right now on SmackDown after a heel-turn and gimmick change when their high-flying excitable style started going stale. They’re right up there with The New Day on the list of iconic WWE Tag Teams since the company went PG. Which is sort of in their blood as their father was a member of a famous Attitude Era stable: Too Cool. Yeah, maybe “famous” was a stretch.
You probably know their father better as Rikishi, the overweight dancing Samoan who (in)famously got over by shoving his ass into his opponents’ faces. Oh, and there was that time he ran over Stone Cold Steve Austin with a car, said he did it for The Rock, and then it turns out it was actually Triple H because Rikishi wasn’t an effective heel. Rikishi’s career in WWE was weird, so maybe stick to him dancing in the ring alongside Scotty 2 Hotty and Grand Master Sexay. Fun times. And the family had their own moment together dancing in the ring after Rikishi made a special appearance to squash Heath Slater in 2012.
12 Made Up – Jack Swagger Sr. And Jr.
Oh, Jack Swagger, we hardly knew ye. Early in his career presented as a promising rookie, his push went as far as winning Money In The Bank at WrestleMania XXVI and cashing in on Chris Jericho two days later to win the World Heavyweight Championship. What in the world happened to him? Well, a wellness policy violation pushed him down the card until he fell into the limbo of not being seen on TV often enough to have any chance of getting over. The last real attempt to get him over was the “Real Americans” angle with Zeb Coulter, and let’s just say that didn’t go well.
One plot point WWE tried to develop with him before the de-push doomed him was his relationship with his father, Jack Swagger Sr. They aired vignettes of the two interacting and even a few times had the senior accompany him to the ring, usually just to get attacked and for Swagger not to be able to save him. The thing they didn’t tell you though is that Jack Swagger Sr. was actually just an old wrestler formerly known as Bunkhouse Buck and had no real relationship to Swagger at all.
11 Real – Ted DiBiase Sr. and Jr.
The previous time WWE made a point about a young, upcoming wrestler having a close relationship to his father, it was all real. Ted DiBiase Jr. debuted in WWE in 2008, quickly becoming part of The Legacy stable with Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton, the idea being that they’re all sons of famous wrestlers out to make names for themselves. And thankfully they weren’t just claiming it as a stunt. Ted DiBiase Jr. was not just a ring name, he was indeed the son of Ted DiBiase Sr.
Famous under the moniker of “The Million Dollar Man”, DiBiase Sr. was one of the most over heels in WWE in the late 80s and 90s, with some going as far as calling him the greatest villain in pro wrestling history. Drawing the ire of the crowd by flaunting his wealth in such ways as offering money for people to kiss his feet, DiBiase worked his way into memorable feuds, whether as a wrestler, or in managing other stars like Andre The Giant, Sycho Sid, The Ringmaster, or Fake Undertaker. Hey, we said “memorable”, not necessarily “good”.
10 Made Up – Finlay And Hornswoggle
When most wrestling fans think about Hornswoggle’s career in WWE, they mostly cringe. That’s not saying dwarf wrestlers are inherently ridiculous, it’s just that he was only ever used in WWE’s futile attempts at humor. Perhaps the most infamous of these moments was when the Vince McMahon’s death angle, cut short due to the actual death of Chris Benoit, ended with the revelation that Vince McMahon had a bastard son, and it was Hornswoggle.
Most people like to forget however that the end of that god awful creative decision was a revelation that was just a ploy by Finlay who was actually Hornswoggle’s father. Because who else would the leprechaun wrestler’s father be but the guy who’s gimmick was basically “he’s Irish”? Of course, this still wasn’t actually true, just something WWE made up, presumably because they saw how much fans hated the Vince idea and thought this would at least quell their resentment. But considering how many fans forget this part of that storyline, it didn’t really work.
9 Real – Chavo Guerrero Sr. And Jr.
Chavo Sr. didn’t have much of an opportunity to shine on a big stage for much of his career. Most of it was spent in the NWA Hollywood territory, where he won the NWA Americas Heavyweight Championship 15 times. He made occasional appearances in other territories, but never shone on the big stage until a brief run with WWE in 2004.
By then his son Chavo Jr. had spent a few years in WCW as a star of the Cruiserweight division before the company was bought out by WWE. In WWE however, he was rarely taken seriously, made a perpetual midcarder and sometimes given ridiculous gimmicks. The less we talk about Kerwin White, the better. But the clear highlight of the father-son duo was when during their brief time in WWE together, Chavo Sr. won the WWE Cruiserweight Championship from his son Chavo Jr. in a triple threat also involving Spike Dudley. It is the only time in WWE history that a father and son not only held the same title, but one of them won it from the other.
8 Made Up – Kurt Angle And Jason Jordan
Sorry to tease you by putting it so far into the list, but we all knew this would be here. Kurt Angle was recently inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame and soon returned to WWE to be the General Manager for RAW. For now at least. He hasn’t ruled out one last wrestling run yet, and pretty much everyone expects it will happen. And WWE even more recently tried to use his legacy as an Olympian and amazing technical wrestler to help along a young rookie with a similar pedigree.
Jason Jordan made a name for himself in NXT and later SmackDown Live by teaming with Chad Gable to form American Alpha, a team focused on good old-fashioned mat wrestling and technical prowess. They quickly rose to the top of the SmackDown tag division after being called up, but quickly lost momentum after winning the SmackDown Tag Titles and quickly losing them back. And to try to give both of them a better future, set up Jordan to be Angle’s kayfabe son, and bringing back Shelton Benjamin to tag with Gable instead.
7 Real – Mr. Perfect And Curtis Axel
This is the first of the “Real” entries at least some wrestling fans may not have known. The others so far, WWE has embraced the relationship and used it to try to help the wrestlers get over. But this relationship has so far gone barely, if at all acknowledged by WWE on-screen. Curtis Axel, real name Joe Hennig, is a perfectly solid wrestler and when given rare opportunities like his “AxelMania” gimmick, he’s shown he can get over with crowds. Yet he continues not to be given the chance to properly be a main eventer. Not unlike his father sometimes.
“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig is often regarded as one of the best workers of his time and was a huge fan favorite when allowed to be a face. But despite both of those things, he was rarely allowed to touch the main event scene in either WWE or WCW. And he remains one of the best professional wrestlers never to win a major world championship. Unless you count AWA, which most people don’t. At least he gets his due as an iconic Intercontinental Champion. And in fact, Mr. Perfect and Curtis Axel are the only father and son duo to have both won that title.
6 Made Up (At The Time) – Vince McMahon And Triple H
This might be the most interesting point in this list, because it started as a complete fiction, but later became the real case. At the height of the attitude era, Triple H frequently feuded with the boss Vince McMahon as the leader of the famous anti-authoritarian stable, D-Generation X. And one plot point that came up in this battle between them was The Game stealing away McMahon’s daughter Stephanie and marrying her.
Stephanie kayfabe married Triple H as a way to get back at her father, making Triple H Vince’s son-in-law. The marriage stuck as a plot point in most of Triple H’s feuds for a few years until it fell out of focus. Then a few years later, the man behind Triple H, Paul Levesque, ended up actually marrying Stephanie McMahon, making it retroactively just a preview of the future. But that’s another story involving an affair that led to Chyna’s departure from the company.
5 Real – Jerry Lawler And Brian Christopher
Quite the combination we’ve got for this one. Most fans probably know Jerry “The King” Lawler as a longtime commentator for WWE, but before switching to commentary, he was also up there with Ted DiBiase Sr. as one of the most famous heels in wrestling history. He had famous feuds with fellow wrestling legends like Bret Hart and the previously mentioned Curt Hennig, but easily his most famous moment was his kayfabe/reality blending feud with comedian Andy Kaufman in 1982. He never truly got his due in WWE, but his son was even less fortunate.
Brian Lawler had a cold relationship with his father Jerry, claiming he was often an absent father who didn’t find enough time to be with family. So much that he rarely if ever wrestled under the family name, preferring to go by Brian Christopher. But WWE fans know him by an even further off name: Grand Master Sexay. Yep, he was the perpetual midcarder who found popularity by teaming (and dancing) with Scotty 2 Hotty, and later Rikishi.
4 Made Up – Mark Henry And The Hand
Okay, this one is just me having fun with it. Obviously this is not a real thing, and if you ever did think it was, then I have some snake oil with magical healing properties I’d be happy to sell to you.
But anyway, for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Mark Henry has been with WWE for a long time. He made his name at first as an Olympic weightlifter and at one point was legitimately the world’s strongest man. But WWE didn’t capitalize on this for very long, instead opting to give him the infamous “Sexual Chocolate” gimmick, where he romanced any woman he could get his hands on. Which one did he go with? Mae Young. Who was already more than 70 years old at that point.
The angle went as far as Mae Young being pregnant with Mark Henry’s child, building up to an actually aired vignette showing the birth scene. When out popped a plastic hand. Yes, Mark Henry and Mae Young, in kayfabe, made a hand for a baby. It’s been ridiculed to death as one of the most ridiculous angles WWE has ever aired. But at least WWE can even laugh at themselves for it, doing a throwback to the infamous scene on the RAW 1000 show.
3 Real – Bruno And David Sammartino
As far as WWE goes, this is the original father-son duo. Bruno Sammartino was the end all, be all of the early days of the WWE, back when it was called WWWF and Vince McMahon Sr. was in change, not the Vince we know today. Still the record-length champion with a reign lasting over 7 years, Sammartino helped defined the company in its early days before it could even imagine becoming the pro wrestling behemoth it is now. And after Bruno retired, David joined the company as a wrestler as well.
David’s career, however, was far less eventful. David on his own never made it past the undercard, but the legacy of his father often pushed him to the main event scene. Although in WWE at least, the only reason he was ever that high on the card was to try to draw Bruno back out of retirement since he was still a huge and popular name, even after retiring. Both father and son were frustrated by this, Bruno calling it his least favorite part of his career, and David quickly quitting the company to go elsewhere. Where unfortunately he still didn’t have much success.
2 Made Up – Eddie Guerrero And Dominick Gutiérrez
Eddie Guerrero is a true wrestling legend, the most famous and successful of perhaps the most famous Mexican wrestling family ever. Unfortunately for his legacy, he is a classic example of Vince McMahon not properly respecting wrestlers who started in WCW, so he was never truly given a chance until many years into his WWE run. He only became champion once before his sudden and tragic death. He was usually stuck in the midcard instead, feuding over things like the custody papers of his claimed kayfabe son…wait, what?
Yes, in 2005 shortly before his death, Eddie Guerrero was busy embroiled in a feud culminating in a ladder match where the ultimate prize was the custody of one Dominick Gutiérrez. Who might that be? Why it’s Rey Mysterio’s actual son. Yes, WWE had two Mexican wrestling legends in the same company together, but couldn’t find a better reason for them to feud than having Guerrero claim to be Mysterio’s son’s actual father. And they wonder why we make fun of WWE creative so much.
1 Real – Ric Flair And Charlotte Flair
There are two ways you can view this entry popping up. It’s either technically cheating, or shows we just didn’t want to change the title to say “Sons/Daughters” because shorter and sweeter is just better sometimes. Take your pick.
Ric Flair had a legendary career in professional wrestling, spending much of the latter half of it in WWE. One of the few wrestlers who could survive having a history in their main competitor, WCW, Flair has many iconic moments and angles, such as winning the WWE Title in the 1992 Royal Rumble, running amok on RAW with the Evolution stable, and a legendary retirement-but-retroactively-not-really match at WrestleMania XXIV. He’s almost universally regarded as one of the best male professional wrestlers in history. And his daughter is well on her way to being one of the best female wrestlers ever.
Charlotte Flair was arguably the leading face in the recent women’s revolution in WWE, being the final holder of the infamous Diva’s Championship and the inaugural holder of the revived and more respectfully titled Women’s Championship. But even before that the revolution was happening in NXT alongside Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Bayley, known as the Four Horsewomen. But we still haven’t had that elusive Fatal-4-Way on the main roster yet. Here’s to hoping.