Wrestling can often be a family affair. Siblings often team together, brother vs brother rivalries have produced some of the sport’s best blood feuds and Vince McMahon once fought his own daughter in an “I Quit” match. The less said about that, the better. Second- and even third-generation wrestlers are now commonplace in the world of sports entertainment, especially in the WWE, who love to use their wrestler’s heritages to build storylines and give them the opportunity to wheel out some legends every once in a while.
Sometimes having a famous parent can be a blessing, and many descendants of famous grapplers go on to have long, successful careers in the world of wrestling. However, sometimes having a famous parent can do nothing more than put a butt-load of expectations on a decidedly-average wrestler. Not all sequels are as good as the originals, and that is definitely the case with some of our entries today. So, in an attempt to sort the Empire Strikes Backs from the Grease 2's, let’s take a look at 8 wrestlers who stepped out of the shadows of their parents and 7 who were firmly eclipsed by their elders’ accomplishments
15 Charlotte (Stepped Out)
Charlotte might not have inherited her dad's mic skills, but there can be no denying that she is one of the greatest athletes in the WWE today, male or female. Her mixture of technical ability, pure power and agility make her a dangerous woman to go up against and her ability to make a crowd hate her (either purposefully or otherwise) has allowed her to become the top female performer in WWE at this moment, holding five Women’s/Divas championships since her debut two years ago. She’s also competed in WWE’s first ever all-female Hell in a Cell and Iron Man matches (on the main roster), as well as becoming one of the first women to headline a WWE Pay-Per-View along with Sasha Banks at Hell in a Cell 2016. So, yeah, she’s done alright, all things considered.
Most of you should know this, but, for the benefit of those without eyes, ears or intellect, Charlotte is the daughter of pro wrestling legend and two-time WWE Hall of Famer, Ric Flair. Charlotte has both partnered with and fought against her father in her main roster run and she now bears his last name on TV, going by “Charlotte Flair” officially. Yeah, because that’s one way of making sure she remains her own character. This aside, Charlotte continues to make her own impact on WWE’s history in much the same way her father did, but also in a very different way, as she, alongside others such as Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Bayley, has helped revolutionise the way women are seen in WWE and pro wrestling as a whole. Also, she does an awesome moonsault. I’d like to see her daddy do one of those.
14 Brian Christopher (Nowhere Near)
Less “turn it up” and more “turn it off”, I think.
Brian Christopher will be best known to many as “Grand Master Sexay,” one half/third of Too Cool, a popular Attitude Era tag team/stable. With his partner, Scotty 2 Hotty (and later, Rikishi), Sexay amused WWE audiences with his dancing, goofy antics and smuggling drugs across the US-Canadian border. Whoops, that last one wasn’t a storyline, was it? Sexay did achieve some success in the WWE, winning the World Tag Team Championships with Scotty 2 Hotty in 2000, but this was a short-lived reign at just 27 days. Nothing cool about that.
Christopher had a lot of expectation to live up to when he decided to become a professional wrestler; after all, his father is wrestling royalty, literally. Christopher is the son of WWE Hall of Famer and noted “puppy” enthusiast, Jerry “The King” Lawler. Lawler was one of the successful performers of the territory era, winning the American Wrestling Association (AWA) World Heavyweight Championship, as well as numerous regional titles, especially in his home town of Memphis, Tennessee. Christopher never managed to achieve the levels of success and fame his father did, which a shame as he was a very entertaining act. Sadly, there’s only so far you can get in wrestling when your name includes the word “Sexay”, something Brian knowns only too well.
13 Bray Wyatt (Stepped Out)
It’s hard to think of Bray Wyatt having a dad, considering his character. But I guess even swamp-dwelling cult leaders have to be raised by someone.
Bray Wyatt is one of wrestling’s greatest “what if” stories. A truly original character with a unique premise – a cult leader who attempted to recruit members to his “family” using his charm and supernatural presence –, Bray has been given some huge pushes in his time, feuding with the likes of John Cena, Chris Jericho and The Undertaker (twice). However, his career has been plagued by “stop-start” booking and his character has never quite reached the heights many think it could. This hasn’t held Bray back entirely, however; he is a former SmackDown Live Tag Team Champion and a former WWE Champion, defending the title at WrestleMania, not something many people can say they’ve done. Sadly, given the quality of Bray’s Mania title match, that’s not something he’d really like to talk about either.
It’s interesting that Wyatt calls his followers his “family”, because, behind the scenes, Bray’s real-life clan is already a bit of a wrestling cult. He’s a third-generation wrestler; his grandfather, Robert Windham, wrestled as “Blackjack Mulligan” and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. Bray’s father is also quite well-known; Mike Rotunda wrestled as both himself and Irwin R. Schyster (I.R.S) in the WWE, winning a combined five World Tag Team Championships and forming one half of the famous tag team, Money Inc., with The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase. Wyatt has more than lived up to his family’s high credentials and continues to perform well as a main-eventer to this day. I think it helps Bray that his lineage can’t be used against him when in character (nothing shatters kayfabe faster than revealing a magical cult leader is the son of a tax collector), but it’s clear to say that The Eater of Worlds inherited his family’s passion and skill in the wrestling business. Shame that hasn’t quite been the case for everyone in that family.
12 Bo Dallas (Nowhere Near)
I really, really didn’t wanna do this to you, Bo, but, come on, I had no choice.
Things looked rather hopeful for Bo Dallas when he began his WWE run. He once held the NXT Championship for longer than anyone else (261 days, according to WWE) and is still the third-longest reigning NXT Champion of all time. Combined with an early undefeated streak on main roster TV, and things looked pretty bright for the Inspirational One. Then that streak was ended by R-Truth. You can probably guess how his career went after that.
Dallas is now firmly established as a jobber, which is a shame, because he comes from the same rich wrestling background as Bray Wyatt, his older brother. The two teamed together in WWE’s developmental system, FCW, as “The Rotundos,” and Dallas’ father is also WWE legend I.R.S. Bo is a very talented wrestler, but has not been used correctly by the WWE. Now paired with fellow next-generation flop Curtis Axel as part of The Miz's "Entourage," who knows how that's going to turn out for Bo. If only he had an older brother whose gimmick it was to recruit lost souls into his army. If only...
11 The Usos (Stepped Out)
I never thought I’d speak highly of The Usos, but there you go.
Jimmy and Jey Uso have established themselves as one of WWE’s premier tag teams over the last few years. Debuting in 2010, The Usos were slowly built up over time as capable performers, eventually capturing the WWE Tag Team Championships on 2014 episode of Raw. They won the titles again on the final Raw of 2014 and then won their first SmackDown Tag Team Championships on an episode of SmackDown right before WrestleMania 33, which means The Usos have never won titles on a Pay-Per-View. Coincidence? Well, yes. Of course it is.
As you probably know by now, The Usos are the sons of WWE Hall of Famer and thong-lover Rikishi. Rikishi achieved a great deal of success during the Attitude Era, winning three tag team titles and an Intercontinental Championship, as well as participating in the largest Hell in a Cell match of all time at Armageddon 2000 and being the one who ran Steve Austin over at Survivor Series 1999. Now who did he do that for, again? Despite having a famous father and it being mentioned a lot, The Usos have stepped out of his shadow, establishing themselves as their own characters and their own personalities, especially following their heel turn in 2016. You did a good job, Rikishi, even if your kids can see you put your ass in people’s faces if they searched the Network. How both Jimmy and Jey aren’t mentally scarred after seeing that, I’ll never know.
10 Jesse (Nowhere Near)
Hey, who remembers this guy? No one? Really? Hmm.
Jesse debuted on the main roster of WWE TV in 2007 as a hillbilly and mouthpiece for the larger, but mentally slower Festus (who now performs as Luke Gallows). The two participated in a few high-profile matches, including a few for the tag titles, but didn’t really amount to much. Following this, Jesse was rebranded as “Slam Master J”, a white rapper-type gimmick. In doing so, he proved that only one man was capable of pulling this type of gimmick off, and his name is John Cena. I think that’s the only time that’s ever been said in a non-meme context.
Whilst it was never brought up on TV, WWE did give away Jesse’s lineage at the 2016 Hall of Fame ceremony. Jesse, real name Ray Gordy, appeared at the event to collect his late father’s Hall of Fame ring. Ray’s father is Terry Gordy, one-third of the original Fabulous Freebirds, one of the most famous and influential stables of all time. Their feud with the Von Erich family in World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) in the 1980s is one of the greatest of all time, and their innovation of having any two members of a stable defend tag team championships is still used to this day, under the name of “The Freebird Rule.” Ray would have to have done something special to live up to father’s legendary career and that, sadly, did not happen. At least he’s doing good work now; he works as a police officer in Atlanta. Can’t really complain about that, can you.
9 Goldust And Cody Rhodes (Stepped Out)
A man who wears polka dots and dances, one of the best performers of his generation and someone who paints themselves as an Oscar statue are all related. Wrestling is so weird.
Goldust and Cody Rhodes are both great performers in their own rights. Goldust’s sexually androgynous, perverted gimmick was unlike anything wrestling had seen at that time and the fact he’s still performing today and was doing so before the Attitude Era says a lot for his physical condition and dedication to the business. As for his brother, Cody, he won numerous championships, put on brilliant matches and, if used correctly, could have easily been WWE Champion. Sadly, he wasn’t given the right push and left the WWE in 2016 under poor circumstances, upset with WWE's insistence on his Goldust-lite Stardust gimmick. However, this might have been the best decision he ever made, as Cody is now one of the hottest indie talents in the world right now, putting on amazing matches for promotions such as New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor and TNA. Oh, and did we mention he’s a member of the freaking Bullet Club? Doesn’t get much cooler than that.
As you should know, the Rhodes brothers’ father is WWE Hall of Famer, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. In the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), Dusty captured the imaginations and hearts of the mainstream audience with his “common man” gimmick, appealing to the blue-collar workers of America and becoming one of the most popular wrestlers ever. He won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship three times, as well as numerous midcard and tag team titles in various promotions across the country. He also worked as a booker in NXT during its early days, helping get the promotion off the ground and expand it into the behemoth it is today. Following his passing in 2015, NXT named an annual tag team tournament in his honour, a testament to how much he meant to the yellow brand and WWE as a whole. Both Rhodes brothers have such defined careers that it’s amazing to think that their father is one of the biggest names in wrestling history, yet he hasn’t overshadowed them at all. Also, Cody is married to Eden Stiles. Damn, the Rhodes family are just success machines.
8 Sim Snuka (Nowhere Near)
Don’t worry, you won’t be the only one who doesn’t know who this guy is.
Sim Snuka has been known as many different things in his time with WWE. He rose to “fame” as Deuce, one half of Deuce ‘n’ Domino (who was Cliff Compton, if that means anything to you). The duo were a group of throwback greasers; leather jackets, Brylcreem, they even had a manager named Cherry who went everywhere on roller skates. Yep, really. Deuce ‘n’ Domino won the WWE Tag Team Championships in 2007, ending the then-record reign of Brian Kendrick and Paul London. The duo slowly faded away, with Snuka forming an early part of The Legacy faction, before being released in 2009. Oh, and he was also the cameraman who failed to catch The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXV during a suicide dive spot. Nice one, Sim, almost killed one of the best of all time. No wonder you’re on this list.
As you could have guessed, Sim is the son of “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka. Snuka revolutionised the high-flying style of wrestling during the 1980s and was one of the most popular performers of his generation, participating in the main event of the first ever WrestleMania as a cornerman for the team of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. Sim was nowhere near as much of a success as his father, but, even if Jimmy hadn’t been his father, Sim still would have been looked upon as a bad wrestler. No major achievements, no lasting legacy and he almost killed The Undertaker, need I say more. Sorry, Sim.
7 Roman Reigns (Stepped Out)
Alright, alright, stop your booing. We get it, you don’t like him.
Roman Reigns has been one of WWE’s biggest breakout stars over the last five years. Debuting at Survivor Series 2012 as part of The Shield, he has since gone on to become the most polarising man in pro wrestling, with WWE’s audience divided over how they feel about The Big Dog. Continually pushed by management at the expense of (arguably) more popular wrestlers, Reigns has won numerous championships since his debut, including three world titles. Despite all the criticism levelled against him, Reigns is still a brilliant performer, combining speed, power and agility in a brutal combination that has seen him put on some of the best matches in WWE over the last few years. Also, he probably has one of the best spears of all time. It’s certainly better than Edge’s.
Whilst you might know that Reigns is a member of the famous Anoa’i wrestling family that brought up Yokozuna, Rikishi and The Rock, you might not be aware of how he fits into that family tree. He is the son of Leati Anoa’i Sr., who wrestled under the name Sika for the WWE as one half of The Wild Samoans. Alongside Afa, Reigns’ father won three World Tag Team Championships in the WWE, as well as numerous regional titles, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007. Sika was an extremely successful performer, but there can no doubt that his son has definitely left a bigger mark on wrestling’s history, be it for better or worse.
6 Curtis Axel (Nowhere Near)
Oh no, not the Axe Man. I love the Axe Man!
Curtis Axel made his main roster WWE debut in 2010, joining The Nexus faction that also featured superstars such as Wade Barrett, Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel. Under the name Michael McGillicutty (which is third to only “John Laurinaitis” and “Larry Zbyszko” as the hardest wrestler name to spell), Axel won the WWE Tag Team Championships with David Otunga before disappearing for a while, reappearing in 2013 under his current name. He won the Intercontinental Championship in a shocking victory at Payback 2013, but would have one of the least inspiring reigns of all time. He would have flashes of brilliance, most notably his “AxelMania” gimmick in 2015, but now finds himself a certified jobber. Thanks, Hulk Hogan, not only were you a massive racist, but your ruined the Axe Man’s career!
Curtis is actually a third-generation superstar with both his father and grandfather being famous performers. His grandfather is Larry “The Axe” Hennig, known for his performances in the American Wrestling Association in the '60s and '70s. His father is even more well-known, especially to WWE fans; Axel’s dad is none other than Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, a legendary worker and beloved wrestler from the '80s and '90s, known for his amazing in-ring ability and charismatic heel antics. Perfect passed away in 2003, but lives on in his son’s ring name, which is adapted from his father’s real name and grandpa's nickname. Unfortunately, a name seems to be all Axel shares with Curt and Larry Hennig, as he hasn’t been nearly as successful as his dad, which is a crying shame, as he’s clearly a very talented, very passionate performer. However, with no real direction and his peak firmly behind him, Axel’s current position in WWE is far from Perfect.
5 Randy Orton (Stepped Out)
This list entry has come... FROM OUTTA NOWHERE!
Randy Orton is, without a doubt, one of the most successful pro wrestlers of all time. He’s won 13 world titles in the WWE, one Intercontinental Championship, two tag titles, two Royal Rumbles, a Money in the Bank briefcase, has been a part of main event factions such as Evolution and The Authority, has done battle with some of the all-time greats and has main evented WrestleMania twice. Oh, and he’s kicked John Cena’s dad in the head. That’s fun too.
Orton is another member of this list with wrestling deep in his blood; a third-generation wrestler, Orton is the grandson and son of Bob Orton Sr. and “Cowboy” Bob Orton Jr. Bob Jr. was a part of WrestleMania I’s main event as the manager for the heel tag team of Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. The father and son act of Bob and Randy made a few appearances together during Orton’s feud with The Undertaker in 2005 and Bob Jr. was seen most recently coming under threat from Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers. Randy, stop bringing your dad to stuff, it’s never going to end well. Randy has done very well for himself and has established his own Hall of Fame legacy, even with the huge pressure of being a legend’s son. Wait a second, if Randy is the son of legend, but he’s also The Legend Killer... oh no. Run, Bob Jr., run!
4 Shawn Stasiak (Nowhere Near)
Wow, now there’s a name I’d not heard in years before writing this list.
Shawn Stasiak first performed in the WWE as Meat, the young love interest of various members of the Pretty Mean Sisters stable. Stasiak left the WWE for the first time in 2000, heading for WCW, but not before becoming the first man in WWE history wrestle Kurt Angle on the main roster. Nice bit of trivia for you, there. Whilst in WCW, Stasiak won their tag team titles alongside Chuck Palumbo (of Billy and Chuck fame), but had very little time to do anything else, as WCW was bought up by WWE just over a year after Stasiak joined. Stasiak would return to the WWE, won the Hardcore Championship 15 times (yes, you did read that correctly), and used a gimmick where he heard voices in his head. He then the company in 2002. Not exactly a trailblazer.
Whilst it might not seem like from this resume, Shawn is actually the son of a member of an elite group of pro wrestlers – WWE Champions. His father, Stan “The Man” Stasiak, won the WWE Championship in 1973 from Pedro Morales. However, Stasiak was what is known as a “transitional champion,” a wrestler used to pass a championship between two different wrestlers without having them fight each other (usually used to pass the belt between two high-profile faces). He held the title for just nine days, before being defeated by Bruno Sammartino to begin his second reign with the title. Despite this, Stasiak is still a former WWE Champion and that’s much, much more than his son can claim to be. Shawn just wasn’t meant to be a great wrestler, but don’t feel sorry for the guy, he’s done alright since retiring from the business; he now works as a chiropractor and motivational speaker. He was still Meat, however, so maybe you should feel sorry for him.
3 The Rock (Stepped Out)
The Rock’s Dad would have had to have been pretty damn amazing to eclipse his son, let’s be honest.
Dwayne Johnson is known by a great many names – The People’s Champion, The Brahma Bull, The Tooth Fairy etc. – but, to many hardcore wrestling fans, he will always be The Rock. One of the biggest wrestling stars ever, The Rock transformed his original character of a goofy, over-enthusiastic babyface into an arrogant, trash-talking jock in the late nineties and the fans ate it up. Over his career, The Rock would turn face and heel multiple times, playing each role to perfection and would have legendary matches with the likes of Kurt Angle, Triple H, Hollywood Hulk Hogan and, of course, his greatest rival of all – Faarooq. Oh, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin too, I suppose.
Amongst his many achievements, it is often overlooked that The Rock is actually WWE’s first ever third-generation wrestler. His grandfather is “High Chief” Peter Maivia, a legendary Samoan wrestler and WWE Hall of Famer, whilst his father, “Soul Man” Rocky Johnson, was one-half of the first-ever black WWE Tag Team Champions. He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. Despite coming from such a legendary background, The Rock is far and away the most famous and successful member of his family and continues to go from strength to strength as both a wrestling personality and a Hollywood actor. I just feel sorry for The Rock’s kids – they’re going to have to do something pretty darn special if they want to make it onto the revised addition of this list in thirty years’ time.
2 David Flair (Nowhere Near)
Ah, David, you are no Charlotte.
David Flair made his pro wrestling debut at WCW Souled Out 1999. Across his career, he would hold both the WCW United States and World Tag Team Championships, which, on paper, makes for a pretty decent career. However, when you watch back any of David’s in-ring work, you’ll quickly see that a lot of this success came down to his family connections, not his wrestling skill.
As you probably guessed, David is Ric Flair’s son (David’s debut was actually in a tag team match alongside his father) and a lot of his success came from his father’s influence, both on and off-screen. In storyline, his US title win was because Ric Flair was WCW’s kayfabe President at the time and a lot of the high-profile feuds and angles David was a part of were solely down to his relation to The Nature Boy. His only real appearances on WWE TV were in 2002, when he was beaten up by The Undertaker during the build-up to The Deadman and Ric Flair’s match at WrestleMania X8. WWE did have David on a developmental contract, but cancelled it after only a few months. Says it all, really. In all fairness to David, he never originally wanted to become a wrestler, but the fact of the matter is that, when it comes to children not living up to their parents’ standards, David Flair might just be the best example of the apple falling about as far from the tree as humanly possible.
1 Shane and Stephanie McMahon (Stepped Out)
I can explain why this is number one.
Shane and Stephanie McMahon are, for better or worse, two of the most recognisable and influential figures in WWE’s history. Working for the WWE since their teens (Stephanie modelled merchandising as a girl and Shane was part of the ring crew as a young man), the McMahons have since become powerful on-screen figures, either as wrestlers, valets or authority figures. Stephanie is a former Women’s Champion, whilst Shane has held both the European and Hardcore titles during his time with WWE. Both siblings have also been part of numerous memorable storylines and angles; Stephanie played a large part in the Triple H vs Chris Jericho feud that main evented WrestleMania X8, whilst Shane has had numerous memorable moments, thanks to his love for high spots and jumping off of stuff that isn’t meant to be jumped off of.
Shane and Steph are, of course, the children of Vince McMahon, the owner of WWE. Whilst you might think it unfair to praise the McMahon’s success – after all, they’ve not exactly risen up the ranks from a disadvantaged background – but there is no denying that both Shane and Stephanie have worked their butts off to establish their own legacies in the WWE. Being the children of the most important man in wrestling history (don’t argue, you know it’s true) puts a stupendous amount of pressure on the McMahon kids and they could have easily taken a step back and coasted on their father’s success. However, they instead took it upon themselves to get involved with WWE and not just behind the scenes; they’ve crafted themselves into some of the most famous wrestling characters of all time and continue to juggle the pressure of being high-profile figures both on and off screen in the WWE. Say what you will about either of the McMahon children, but there’s no denying how hard Shane and Steph have worked to emerge from their father’s shadow and, you know what, I think it might have just paid off. Let’s put it this way – they’re way more famous than their mother.