There is definitely a great deal of pressure that is going to be on you if you decide to enter the family business, and that business just happens to be professional wrestling. Not only are you in for a lifetime of hurt (literally), but the expectations of what you are going to accomplish in the ring are sky high from the very beginning.
For half of this list, it was that expectation that became their downfall as they got pushed too early, or undeservedly and have earned their mark as some of the worst second generation wrestlers of all time. Others on this list were their own downfall like Kendall Windham who decided he'd rather wrestle in prison (alongside his father!) or Barry Orton who elected to use cocaine with Hulk Hogan over creating his legacy in the ring (so much for "taking your vitamins").
But the worst of the worst can only truly be magnified if we also look at some of the all-time greats. The studs who not only make their family proud but surely have left you with countless memories from their time in the ring. We have also included quotes throughout the article from both sides of the coin, helping truly paint a complete picture including Scott Steiner who said "Nobody gives a f*** about a guy who can't talk, wrestle, and is the son of an a-hole," and something tells me you probably agree with him!
Ranked in order, we are sure we have left no stone unturned as you check out the best and worst second generation wrestlers are of all time.
16 Failed: Brett DiBiase
Part of what we’re trying to achieve with this list is to give you some stories that you may not know as much about. Sure you have heard about Ted DiBiase and his son Ted DiBiase Jr. who had a brief stint in the WWE (and could also earn a spot here), but do you know about Brett?
Brett was also the son of Ted DiBiase and signed a developmental deal with the WWE at the age of 20. Brett trained against names like Sheamus, Alex Riley, and Dolph Ziggler as he was trying to gain experience.
In 2009, Brett made his big break in front of the cameras when he appeared posed as a ‘fan’ during Summerslam to choke out the referee during a John Cena/Randy Orton main event match. It didn’t lead to his break, but it was a start.
Sadly, what was a tough break was what happened later that year. Brett tore his ACL and went on to have four knee surgeries in three years, as well as a neck fusion operation. Continued complications from the surgery led to DiBiase retiring in 2011.
15 Proud: Dean Malenko
Now while Dean Malenko may start out our list of best second generation wrestlers, by no means are we trying to throw too much shade towards the man. Malenko who also earned the badass nickname “The Man of 1,000 Holds” inspired countless wrestlers throughout his career that spanned time in the ECW, WCW, and WWE.
Malenko’s only real knock is that he was unable to ever capture a World Championship, but you only have so much within your control as a wrestler. Malenko is currently still working in the business working with the WWE as a road agent.
Malenko has also trained some of the biggest names in the business including: Brock Lesnar, Kane, Sean Waltman, Shelton Benjamin and Molly Holly.
14 Failed: David Sammartino
To say that Davie Sammartino was unable to live up to his father's reputation would be an understatement. Bruno Sammartino is one of the biggest wrestling icons of all time, including holding the WWE World Championship for a record 2,803 days. The main appeal of David for Vince may have been that Bruno came out of retirement to wrestle alongside his son on occassion. Unfortunately when Bruno decided it was time to really call it quits, it severed his relationship with David. In 1998, Bruno opened up about the situation saying: “When I refused to put on the tights again, my son never forgave me. He hasn’t spoken to me since. I resented that he didn’t understand. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what he is doing. That’s the sad part about it. We have such a close family and to have this situation happen.” At the time (1998) the two had not talked to each other for nine years.
Sammartino left the WWF to wrestle in the AWA in 1986, but only succeeded in losing to then-champion Stan Hansen on multiple occasions. David did find his way back to the WWF but was fired after he punched a fan who spat on him. David then bounced around in the NWA and WCW where his most notable accomplishment may have been losing to Dean Malenko in a match for the Cruiserweight title.
Bruno Sammartino has been vocal about his criticism for the WWF and how they handled the use of steroids in the 90s. Like many of the wrestlers, David has admitted to using steroids.
13 Proud: Terry Funk
There is no argument that Terry Funk has had himself a legendary career. We can only hope that after all those Hardcore matches that he’ll be able to remember it! Funk has wrestled all over the world for over 50 years, but is perhaps best known for his Extreme matches that littered his career in ECW and All Japan Pro Wrestling. This, of course, includes the No-Rope, Barbed-Wire Exploding C4 Death match that he had with Mick Foley. The match was Mick’s fifth favourite match of all time and their follow up match in 2005 (also in Japan) was his third favorite. If curious, Mick’s second favourite was against Shawn Michaels at Mind Games in 1996 and his #1 match against Orton at Backlash in 2004.
Funk was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009
12 Failed: Kendall Windham
While he may not be as iconic as some of the fathers on this list, for over 20 years Blackjack Mulligan made his mark in the wrestling ring. As well as that, he went on to father Kendall Windham and is the grandfather of Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt.
Sadly for Kendall Windham, it’s time to put him on blast. Kendall like his father wrestled in cowboy boots but failed to have anywhere near the charisma or impact. When he did get in the ring, he was often tasked with helping the other guy look good (because at the very least he was 6’5). Kendall earns his spot on his list for one simple reason though, in 1990 when he was in the middle of his career, Kendall was arrested alongside his father with close to $500,000 in counterfeit $20 bills.
Both men spent 24 months in prison. Kendall bounced around after that including stints in All Japan Pro Wrestling, ECW, and WCW but failed to ever find success. Perhaps that’s why he needed the fake bills?
11 Proud: Randy Orton
Below you are going to read about the battles that Randy Orton’s uncle Barry had (and his partying with Hogan!) and while Randy is not immune to struggles of his own, he has definitely tasted his fair share of success in the WWE. With 12 World Championships, including starting his first reign 12 years ago at the age of 24, Orton has definitely had plenty of time to enjoy the spotlight.
Orton would be higher on this list if not for the fact that his record is far from clean. In 2006 Orton was suspended for 60 days after allegedly smoking marijuana backstage. When talking about it in 2006, Orton said “My problems came to a head when I decided to smoke a joint and someone smelled it and stooged me off. You know who you are, so if you're reading this, thanks. But I also had a few outbursts of anger on the road. I get loud and verbally abusive.”
As well as this Orton came under heat after he made insensitive comments towards Rey Mysterio in regards to Eddie Guerrero’s death which at the time was very recent. Orton was also suspended for violating the WWE Wellness policy in 2013.
Injuries have also hindered Orton’s career, including breaking his collarbone in a motorcycle accident.
Despite all of this, there is still little doubt that the legend killer is not a legend himself.
10 Failed: Erik Watts
Now I am not saying you can wrestle better than Erik Watts…but you can probably wrestle better than Erik Watts. Watts is the son of Cowboy Bill Watts who was a legend for what he accomplished both inside and outside of the ring and is well-deserving of his place in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Erik, to his credit, has definitely earned his place in some great blooper reels. When he debuted in the WCW it was after only three months of training and his wins in the ring were often because his father calling the shots behind the scenes.
Erik’s career also included a time in which he wore silver smocks and tight zubaz, so I mean he also had that going for him.
9 Proud: Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio may have been incredibly proud about dialing it up from the 6-1-9, but also clearly loves his family and his culture. Mysterio was trained by his uncle, Rey Misterio Sr. who excelled in the Lucha Libre style that Mysterio has since mastered. Proof that as long as you can jump around like a jumping bean, you might have a chance to make it in the WWE even if you are only 5’6!
Mysterio took home the World Championship three times, as well as the WWE Tag Team Championship four times proving that he’s got the skills both with and without a teammate. Mysterio has won a grand total of 21 titles in his career that also included time in ECW, WCW, and WWE. While there were plenty of high’s in Mysterio’s WWE career, he was unfortunately suspended twice for violating the WWE Wellness Policy.
In 2015 Mysterio left the WWE after nearly 13 years and spent time working for AAA wrestling.
8 Failed: Wes Brisco
I don’t know what is worse about this entry for Wes Brisco. You can definitely talk about his career or you can also take a moment and realize that with Garrett Bischoff also making this list below (oops spoiler!), that we have two members from that God-awful Aces and Eights stable from TNA. It’s especially annoying when part of what Brisco’s character was complaining about how he is better than everyone because of his family status. Brisco was definitely disappointed the stable came to an end, saying: "It could have gone a lot longer; there could have been more story to it., but with new management what can you do?" in an interview back in 2014.
Wes’ father Gerald is one of the biggest talent scouts in the WWE and while he tried to give his son an opportunity in 2009, injuries led to Brisco being out of the WWE within three years.
7 Proud: Eddie Guerrero
If you got the pleasure of watching Eddie Guerrero in the ring it became easy to understand why he was such a fan favourite. Only someone as charismatic as Eddie would have been able to be so lovable as he would lie, cheat, and steal his way to numerous championships (23 in his entire career). While we know you know about the tragic end and struggles of Eddie’s life that included a battle with painkillers, let's take this time to look at the amazing skill of Eddie.
Dean Malenko, when asked about Eddie said,:“Eddie was very well-rounded. He was not only a high-flyer, but he knew how to technically wrestle and had some amateur background. Eddie was extremely talented, could change moves in mid-stream and could face so many diverse sizes.”
Malenko would be far from the only wrestler to praise Guerrero, Chris Jericho has also called Guerrero the best wrestler he has ever worked with and WWE recognized him as the fifth best SmackDown performer of all-time. It is sad to imagine how much greater Eddie’s career could have been, as in 2004 (the year before his death) Pro Wrestling Illustrated recognized him as being the second best wrestler in the world, as well as being the most inspirational wrestler of the year.
Eddie entered the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.
6 Failed: Barry Orton
Barry’s father Bob wrestled professionally in the '60s, primarily for the NWA. Naturally, that passion was passed on to his kids Barry and Bob, the latter of whom end up in the WWE Hall of Fame and would go on to father Randy Orton.
Despite spending some time trying to make it as a wrestler, in an interview Barry opened up saying: “I was always struggling because I wanted to be a musician. I never saw myself as a professional wrestler."
Barry’s struggles were not just exclusive to the ring, and in 1986 talked about his own demons including an incident in which he said: "I was in a car wreck and I had been drinking, and someone died." It was after this that the WWF elected to turn his character on-screen into "The Zodiac" a play off the real-life Zodiac serial killer. This involved him wearing a mask that culminated in a terrible feud against Jason The Terrible, who was an equally terrible gimmick based on Jason from Friday the 13th.
5 Proud: Randy Savage
There are definitely a lot of Superstars on this list that knew how to bring the passion when it came to hitting the mic for a promo, but I don’t know if anyone was quite as intense as Randy Savage. Savage supplied the adrenaline that was needed to go toe-to-toe with some other over-the-top characters like The Ultimate Warrior, and he did so with both skill and personality.
Savage wrestled for 32 years, capturing 29 titles including six World Championships (two for WWE and four for WCW.) Savage also took him the King of the Ring tournament in 1987 and helped put on some unforgettable matches at WrestleMania.
Savage sadly passed away on May 20, 2011 after suffering a heart attack while driving. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015.
4 Failed: David Flair
Now if we’re going to be fair to David Flair, when your father is Ric freaking Flair, that is definitely a pretty high bar to live up to. Maybe instead of winning 16 World Championships, you only take home a mere five or six? Sadly for David the World Heavyweight Championship he would own would have to be one he bought himself.
Flair wrestled from 1999-2001 for WCW in which his storylines were often revolving around his father or him trying to beat people up with a crowbar. Flair then went on to have a very short stint in TNA from 2002-2003.
While he never did anything great in the ring, he was able to date Stacy Keibler in real life so at least he has that going for him?
3 Proud: Bret Hart
For all the controversy that Bret Hart’s career will never be able to escape, what is left is still arguably the best technical wrestler of all time. Hart won every championship there was to win, including 32 throughout his entire career that included time in Stampede Wrestling, WWE, and WCW. Hart’s technical style not only inspired countless wrestlers but brought out the best of everyone he went against including unforgettable matches against Shawn Michaels and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin at back to back WrestleMania events.
Hart is also credited with helping train Mark Henry, Ken Shamrock, Test ,and Achim Albrecht. Thankfully Bret and Vince were able to put their differences aside and in 2006 Bret was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
When talking about Bret, Natalya had nothing but praise saying: “Bret put a story into his art and his art was submission wrestling. I think that really defined him among others that were very technical, but didn’t have the flair for the theatrics that Bret did.”
2 Failed: Garett Bischoff
Garet Bischoff may have had some opportunities in front of the camera when he was wrestling for TNA, but that may have a lot more to do with that last name than any of the talent that he possessed on his own. Bischoff often looked clumsy and lost in the ring and despite often being booked around strong talent, failed to register with the fans.
He also failed to earn the respect of several wrestlers, including Scott Steiner who blasted him on Twitter with the following eloquent statement:
“Nobody gives a f*** about a guy who cant talk,wrestle and is the son of an a-hole.
b---hoff n hogan have no respect for the business or the ppl in Tna to do this bulls--t
Check out the graphic for the ppv,it has eric n garrett in fore front n everybody else that ppl care about
In the background thats bulls—t….Feel bad for the guys who have to put up with this bulls--t ,Garrett hasnt earnd the right to be on TV,, 10 matches f***"
Yikes, though it’s not like Steiner has anger issues…oh wait.
1 Proud: The Rock
If we’re going to be completely honest, we could probably just do a list about the greatest wrestlers of all-time and The Rock would still stand a pretty good chance of coming out on top. Arguably the most charismatic wrestler of all time, Dwayne Johnson has gone on to be one of the most charismatic men in Hollywood. Why didn’t he run for President?
His 17 championship reigns (10 as World Champion) may rank towards the lower end or this list, but he alongside "Stone Cold" Steve Austin are arguably the two biggest factors behind what may have been the biggest era in wrestling history.
Whether it was making you laugh in a promo or being entertained in the ring, The Rock always brings his A-Game. While he only makes periodic appearances in the WWE now, you can check him out in Disney’s newest animated movie Moana which comes out in November. At least you can’t argue that he is always busy!