One would think that being a second-generation star -- especially when your dad was a major WWE superstar -- would be a ticket to success. However, in WWE, that is often not the case. Now, there have been some fantastic second-generation and even third-generation stars, some of which is still working on making their name with Bray Wyatt as one of the top names in WWE today from a significant wrestling family.
However, for every second-generation star that became a massive star in their own right, there was one that WWE squandered and wasted, despite the potential to follow in their father's footsteps. While the list of successful second-generation stars is long, some eclipsed even their parent's success while others languished and ended up washing out of WWE.
One of the best wrestlers of the '80s was Ted DiBiase who signed with WWE after a successful NWA career and changed his name to the Million Dollar Man. DiBiase became a perfect heel who everyone hated, and he was so great that he never even needed to win a real title -- creating his own and using it to put himself over.
His son Ted DiBiase Jr. showed up in WWE and had the look of a star. WWE teamed him with Cody Rhodes, and they had big plans for the young DiBiase. However, despite a push in Legacy with Cody Rhodes and then as the Million Dollar Champion, playing off his dad, he never rose above the mid-card and ended up retiring from wrestling at the age of 31.
Not only is Macho Man Randy Savage one of the best second-generation stars in WWE history but he is one of the best wrestlers in WWE history, period. Savage is a former Intercontinental Champion and a former world champion. His feud with Hulk Hogan as the Mega Powers is one of the most important in WWE history and he went on to have even more great matches in WCW.
By the end, Savage eclipsed the success of his father, Angelo Poffo, who wrestled from 1949 until 1991. He also ran his own wrestling promotion called International Championship Wrestling in Kentucky. Savage had a brother in WWE named Lanny Poffo who never reached a level of success above a mid-card gimmick talent.
Whether Cody Rhodes was a success in WWE or not is debatable. Some claim that Cody was a success, a multi-time tag team champion (6 times) and a three-time Intercontinental Champion. However, if you ask Cody, he was never given a chance to shine in WWE and was saddled with a line of gimmicks instead.
The worst of the gimmicks, which Cody tried his best to make it work, was a copy of his more successful brother's Goldust gimmick. While Goldust was a massive success in WWE for years, neither Rhodes' boy lived up to the level of their father, The American Dream Dusty Rhodes. Cody is now helping start AEW in an attempt to prove his worth in the wrestling industry.
In the '90s, WWE finally stopped pushing just big larger-than-life wrestlers and started working with smaller, better wrestlers who put on great matches every time out. The two men who were the faces of this generation in WWE were Bret "The Hitman" Hart and Shawn Michaels.
Hart, the son of legendary Canadian wrestler and promoter Stu Hart, was a five-time world champion in WWE and also held multiple other titles over his illustrious career. He is a two-time WWE Hall of Fame star both as a singles wrestler and a tag team wrestler and is considered one of the best technical wrestlers ever to live.
Curtis Axel is best known as a comedy wrestler thanks to him settling into his role as one-half of the B-Team in WWE. The B-Team is a tag team that includes two third generation superstars in Bo Dallas (grandson of Blackjack Mulligan, son of IRS) and Curtis Axel (grandson of Larry Hennig, son of Mr. Perfect).
It has to be a lot to live up to, with Axel trying to live in the shadow of the man known as Mr. Perfect, and he has never come close to the success of his dad. Even when Paul Heyman came on as his manager, Axel never moved up in the card. He is a great wrestler though, as The Rock specifically asked him to be his training partner when preparing for his matches with John Cena.
Randy Orton is another third-generation star and was, at one time, the youngest world champion in WWE history. The son of Cowboy Bob Orton, Randy did everything his dad only dreamed of. While Orton was great in the NWA, he was simply a bodyguard for Rowdy Roddy Piper and a mid-level wrestler in WWE.
On the other hand, Randy Orton is a 13-time WWE world champion and is a Grand Slam Winner, taking home all the major titles WWE had to offer. His grandfather Bob Orton Sr. was also a professional wrestler, and his uncle was Barry O, one of the most memorable jobbers in old-school WWE.
WWE gave Carlito a chance to be a star, but it never panned out. The son of Carlos Colon, the most successful wrestler in Puerto Rican wrestling history, Carlito came to WWE in 2003 and made his main roster debut in 2004. He had a gimmick of a spoiled jerk, who thought he was cooler than everyone else and started his rise in WWE.
Carlito beat John Cena for the United States Championship in his first main roster match. He even got a chance to feud with Nature Boy Ric Flair for the Intercontinental Championship. After eight years, his hot start only resulted in those two title reigns plus two tag title reigns, and then Carlito was released.
Not a lot of people realize that Jake "The Snake" Roberts is a second-generation star. There are probably fewer people who know that his sister was one of WWE's top female superstars in the '80s. This is because Jake Roberts was his wrestling name. Jake was the son of Grizzly Smith, who was a major name in Mid South Wrestling and the territories in the NWA.
Roberts' sister was better known as Rockin' Robin, who won the WWF Women's Championship from Sensational Sherri Martel. Jake was also half-brothers with Sam Houston, a talent from both the NWA and WWE. However, Jake was the best of them all, a multi-time champion before entering WWE and then one of the top stars in WWE despite never winning a title there.
Possibly the most humiliating case of WWE dropping the ball with a second-generation star came with Ray Gordy. This is especially shocking since Michael P.S. Hayes is one of the executives in WWE behind-the-scenes. See, Hayes was the leader of the Fabulous Freebirds and considered his partners, Buddy Jack Roberts, and Terry Bam Bam Gordy his brothers.
Ray Gordy is the son of the late Terry Gordy. However, when Ray Gordy signed with WWE, he was turned into an embarrassing gimmick wrestler as Festus, a dim-witted hillbilly who snapped and went violent when the bell rang. He returned later in a rap gimmick as Slam Master J but failed to reach success in WWE, retiring in 2010.
The most successful second-generation WWE superstar of all time is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. His father was the first ever African American tag team champion in WWE history -- Rocky Johnson. His grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia was a blood brother of the Anoa'i family, which puts Rock in the same family as the Samoan Dynasty.
Johnson eclipsed them all in terms of success. He was a 10-time world champion, five-time tag team champion, and also won the IC title twice. The Rock won the Royal Rumble and will one day headline a WWE Hall of Fame induction class. He is also the biggest star ever to leave wrestling and enter Hollywood.