It’s not easy juggling pro wrestling and fatherhood. Wrestling, after all, is a job that could separate you from your family for days, even weeks on end. But despite all those days spent away from the family, despite all the temptations of the road, the wrestling business has seen some men stand out as great fathers – the late Owen Hart was respected for his devotion to his family, and as far as today’s stars are concerned, you’ve got Titus O’Neil and Roman Reigns (whether you like him or not) as two prominent examples of “father of the year” candidates. Then again, you’ve also got the deadbeats to take into account.
Although the term “deadbeat” is often used to describe fathers who abandon their families, fail to pay child support, and don’t accept the responsibility that fatherhood entails, our list won’t be limited to wrestling dads of that kind. You’ll also learn about confirmed or alleged child abusers, as well as dads who likely stressed their children out emotionally through their indiscretions outside of the ring.
Having established that disclaimer, let’s take a look at 15 men who were great wrestlers (or, in some cases, wrestling personalities), but horrible fathers to their kids at some point in their lives.
15. Ric Flair
Ric Flair is now older, wiser, and after a major health scare, finally ready to slow down and stop partying like a man half his age or younger. Despite some rough patches about a decade ago, he now appears to have a solid relationship with his daughter Charlotte, and was genuinely proud of how despicable she had become during her massively successful heel run on the Raw brand. But it wasn’t always that way for the Nature Boy, who, like a lot of the men on this list, spent far too much time on the road partying it up with booze and women, and far too little time with the family.
Thankfully, that’s all in the past, and it does also seem that the untimely overdose death of Flair’s youngest son, Reid, in 2013, chastened him quite a bit. He may have lived his gimmick for far too long, but Ric Flair has since made up for those times he was too busy living his gimmick.
14. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Great wrestler, great promo guy, great guy to the boys in the locker room, terrible, wife-beating husband, and almost as bad as a father? It’s truly hard separating “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and his myriad achievements in the WWE from his outside-the-ring self, what with ex-wife Debra’s accusations of spousal abuse being such a black mark on his career as a public figure. But there’s a reason you don’t get to hear too much about his four daughters – simply put, he wasn’t much of a father to them in the past.
Stone Cold’s relationship with his daughters remained strained at best for several years, though we certainly can’t say for sure whether he’s still estranged from his offspring. These days, the Texas Rattlesnake tends to keep his personal life under tighter wraps than he did in previous years, but we know he does regret the fact he spent so little time with his now-adult children when they were growing up.
13. Scott Hall
During his time in the WWE, Scott Hall was called “The Bad Guy” as Razor Ramon, despite his usual babyface alignment. But as a father, he was a literal bad guy as his son Cody and daughter Cassidy were growing up. Their formative years were spent with a father who was oftentimes four sheets to the wind, and while there’s no definitive account of Hall being a jerk to his kids, it’s no joke being a young child with an alcoholic father who’s often out on the road. His tumultuous relationship with twice-over ex-wife Dana didn’t help things either.
Like Jake Roberts, whom you’ll also read about in this list, Hall has sorted his life out thanks to Diamond Dallas Page and his DDP Yoga program. While he’s had a few relapses in recent years, his social media accounts show him making up for his past mistakes, posing in photos with his now-grown children, and helping Cody out in his own wrestling career.
12. Smith Hart
Although we don’t like to speak ill of the recently-deceased, we have to remember the purpose of this list, and take stock of what we know about the man. Skills-wise, Smith Hart may have been at least a solid wrestler, being the oldest of Stu Hart’s 12 children. But as a human being, he oftentimes made questionable, or outright bad life decisions. These included fathering children with multiple women, in and out of wedlock, and that did make him a literal deadbeat at many points in his life, as he was just too irresponsible to support all those kids.
The worst thing Smith Hart did as a father, however, may have been his decision to name one of his daughters Satanic Ecstasy. Not even Anton LaVey would have gone there, but Smith (who wasn’t in league with the devil, but rather married to a mentally-unstable woman at the time) definitely did, presumably setting up the poor girl for years upon years of ridicule from her peers.
11. Rocky Johnson
Although it’s easy to imagine young Dwayne Johnson growing up happy and well-adjusted as the son of a top pro wrestler and a future legend in his own right, it was actually a case of the opposite for The Rock. As a child, the would-be People’s Champion was often sad due to the fact that his dad, “Soul Man” Rocky Johnson, was out on the road 12 out of every 14 days, as a family friend once claimed. But he also had to deal with his father’s indiscretions, including an affair with another woman. The same source added that the then-12-year-old Rock would often call his father’s mistress and angrily tell her to “stay away from my dad.”
The elder Rocky’s extramarital affairs caused some friction between father and son for some time, but time has since healed those wounds, as both men now enjoy a solid relationship with each other, with The Rock inducting his father into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
10. Jerry Lawler
It seemed to be completely part of the storyline when Jerry Lawler would deny on commentary that Brian Christopher was his son, despite the obvious facial resemblance, prominent Southern accent, and loud, exuberant personality marking him as a chip off the old block. As it turned out, things appeared to be strained between the two during those days, and it was most likely due to all that time Jerry spent away from home during his heyday.
When Brian returned to Monday Night Raw in 2011 and badmouthed his father as heel Michael Cole looked on in glee, it seemed as if the younger Lawler’s words were coming from a very real place. But things seem to have improved between both Lawler men, with Brian doing much better in life after getting into all kinds of trouble away from the ring in previous years.
9. Hulk Hogan
Most of the deadbeat dads in this list had spent too much time away from their families for their own good, or been abusive in one way or another to their kids. But we’ve also got an example of a wrestling father who earned his status by being a terrible role model to his offspring.
The infamous Hulk Hogan leaks didn’t just include him complaining about his daughter Brooke’s African-American boyfriend by calling him the “N-word” in a conversation with his then-mistress, Heather Clem. Another tape had the Hulkster dropping the offending word repeatedly as he tried to console his then-teenage son Nick, who was incarcerated for driving under the influence and seriously injuring his friend in the ensuing car crash.
As Hulk put it, the “N-word” meant that Nick is his best friend – it’s cool whenever a dad tells his son that he’s his best friend, but to use a racial slur as a form of endearment while doing so? Not cool, brother.
8. John Foley
Thankfully, this piece of work is not at all related to the far more recognizable Mick. U.K. wrestler John Foley was best-known to North Americans for his work in his later years as a manager in the Hart family’s Stampede Wrestling territory in Calgary. At Stampede, he was one of the company’s top villains, mostly working with fellow Brit Dynamite Kid. Together with Dynamite, Foley also happened to be a real-life villain, if stories like the one below are to be believed.
It’s been alleged that Foley wanted to take advantage of his daughter Michelle being in a car accident. Feeling she wasn’t hurt enough to qualify for an insurance settlement, Foley supposedly asked Dynamite to go over to the hospital and break both of her legs, which he did without hesitation.
7. Stu Hart
Aside from being an institution in Canadian wrestling, the late Stu Hart was one of the toughest men to ever step into a wrestling ring, and as he reached his 80s, he was still capable of making men young enough to be his grandkids cry “uncle” as he stretched them in the Hart House “dungeon.” But as his most famous son Bret recalled, that toughness also extended to the disciplinary methods he used on his kids. This includes stories of Stu pushing a couple of Bret’s older brothers down a flight of stairs for playing with matches and accidentally burning a part of the family’s large house.
Even if Stu was more of a product of his time and his own rough upbringing, there’s still no excusing the physical abuse he meted out on his kids when they were younger. Fortunately, Stu did away with the corporal punishment sometime in the mid ’70s, after he had wrongly accused Bret of starting a fight with his sister Ellie, and smacked him for it.
6. B. Brian Blair
Years before he became one of The Iron Sheik’s most-disliked wrestlers, B. Brian Blair was a popular babyface in the WWE, wrestling as one-half of The Killer Bees, a high-flying duo that lacked charisma, but nonetheless was capable of some thrilling, technically-sound matches. He then left the wrestling business to quietly focus on family life and politics, but in the late 2000s, he found himself in the news after it was alleged he had been physically violent with his then-16-year-old son, Brett.
The elder Blair’s child abuse charges were ultimately dropped in 2009, and a Google search for “Brett Leslie Blair criminal record” reveals that the young man had been in various forms of legal trouble in his teenage years. But reports suggest Brian was excessively confrontational toward Brett and his younger brother Bradley, and if it was indeed true, we can’t stand for an ex-WWE dad who performs wrestling moves on his kids, troubled as they may have been, as a form of “tough love.”
5. Dynamite Kid
Dynamite Kid made his debut in Stampede Wrestling with a chip on his shoulder from the get-go, a small man who ultimately took shortcuts to get bigger. And while he’s mostly known for the unthinkable abuse he committed against his first wife Michelle (the sister of Bret Hart’s first wife), we think he also meets the requirements of this article for being a loose cannon who must have scared his young children with his bouts of rage, not to mention the fact that he kept guns (emphasis on plural form) around the house.
After Dynamite’s first marriage ended, he spent several years as an angry, bitter, hard-drinking ex-wrestler whose career ended way sooner than it should have. As far as we know, he hardly had any contact with his children during that point in his life, though he’s recently reconnected with his daughter Bronwyne (aka Dynamite Doll), who’s followed in his footsteps as a wrestler and valet.
4. Jake Roberts
Looking at Jake “The Snake” Roberts today, we see a man who should be thankful for the very fact that he’s still alive, after years of drug addiction and alcohol abuse. Not even a short-lived attempt at born-again Christianity was able to save Roberts’ soul from becoming even more tortured, and the 1999 documentary Beyond the Mat had shown people how far the once-mighty had fallen. Not only was Jake heavily addicted to crack cocaine, he was also estranged from his college-age daughter, as documented in a particularly harrowing scene from the film.
All in all, Roberts has eight children, and he’s made up for his shortcomings by repairing his relationships with some of them. But as you’ll find out later on in this list, the Jake Roberts of the ’80s and the ’90s was Jason Seaver from Growing Pains or Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch (pardon the old-school family sitcom references) compared to his old man.
3. Vince McMahon
We did make it clear that a few of the entries in this list of deadbeat dads are mostly non-wrestlers, and with that, we bring you Vincent Kennedy McMahon, who definitely wasn’t a great wrestler, but is second to none as a promoter, myriad shortcomings notwithstanding. We think he’s done a good job grooming his children for the business, but with Vince being Vince, he’s done more than a few questionable things that normal dads don’t do.
For starters, there’s the one, and thankfully only father-daughter “I Quit” match with Stephanie at No Mercy 2003 – it was storyline violence, but very cringeworthy storyline violence nonetheless. There’s also the storyline where he planned to announce that he was the father of Steph’s firstborn daughter, an idea which the Billion Dollar Princess rightfully turned down. Likewise, we can’t overlook the perception that Vince seems to favor son-in-law Triple H over his own son Shane.
2. Fritz Von Erich
Jack Adkisson, a tough Texan who is far better known as kayfabe Nazi Fritz Von Erich, loved the wrestling business so much that he wanted to live it vicariously through his sons, many of whom had little to no interest in becoming pro wrestlers. As the man in charge of World Class Championship Wrestling, Fritz gave his sons massive pushes out of the gate, regardless of how raw they were, and pushed them (in the non-wrestling sense of the word) until the point of breaking.
Sadly, most of us know how that turned out – only one of his six sons (Kevin) is still living to this day. Jack Jr. died in childhood, David died at 25 from what may have been drug-related issues, while Mike, Chris, and Kerry all died by their own hand. All of Fritz’s sons who reached adulthood dealt with their share of personal demons (Kevin less so than his younger brothers), and a lot can be traced to Fritz’s succeed-in-wrestling-at-all-costs approach to fatherhood.
1. Grizzly Smith
To many of his younger colleagues in WCW, where he once worked as a road agent, Grizzly Smith seemed like a respectable veteran they could look up to. If only they knew what his oldest son, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, would eventually accuse him of. As Jake related in a WWE documentary, he was conceived after Grizzly sexually assaulted the 13-year-old daughter of the woman he was dating at the time. He also alleged that Grizzly was one of those old-school wrestling fathers who steadfastly withheld the truth about professional wrestling from his family, resulting in a lot of unnecessary emotional stress.
Making matters worse are the allegations from Jake’s younger sister, Rockin’ Robin, who claimed that she was sexually assaulted by her father at a very young age. Former WWE jobber-to-the-stars Sam Houston (pictured above with his dad) is probably the only one of Grizzly Smith’s offspring who hasn’t had a bad word to say about his father, though like his wrestling siblings, he’s dealt with substance abuse problems in the past, probably driven by his dysfunctional upbringing.
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