In professional wrestling, perhaps more than any other sports industry, the rich bloodlines of multi-generation family legacies are abundant. As fans, we have heralded some of the clans that have become an important part of wrestling lore. Names such as Hart, Von Erich, Rougeau, Anoai and Guerrero are just some of the many families that have watched dozens of men and women follow their parents and even grandparents into the industry.
However, while there are a number of legitimate family ties connected to the ‘squared circle’, there are a number of families that we have been introduced to on television that weren’t blood related at all. In some cases, a trainer may have allowed a prized pupil to carry their name into the ring, in other situations a family connection may have been advertised to give a newcomer legitimacy off the name of an established star. Maybe an up and comer bore such a strong resemblance to legendary star that the likeness simply could not be ignored. Whatever the reason, here are 20 wrestling 'families' that were purely a work of fiction.
Do you see any fake families that we missed? Be sure to let us know in the comments section.
20 The Honky Tonk Man & The Honky Tonk Kid
What happens on the road stays on the road. At least that’s the mantra that many professional athletes may leave by at the peak of their careers. While not entirely public, there have certainly been stories of wrestlers unknowingly siring children while traveling the territories. That’s what The Honky Tonk Kid would have fans of Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling when he emerged onto the scene, claiming to be the illegitimate son of the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time.
At first glance, the timeline seemed correct – Honky Tonk Man had toured the circuit at about the right time prior to being signed by the WWE and had made multiple appearances for independent promoters after his run with Vince McMahon. However, after months of making the audacious claims, The Honky Tonk Kid had to face the music when his alleged father showed up on the scene to set the record straight while dishing out a little shake, rattle and roll.
19 Ivan Koloff & Nikita Koloff
Scott Simpson was headed for a football career with the USFL when fellow Minnesota native, Road Warrior Animal suggested that he give professional wrestling a try. He was told to report to Jim Crockett promotions with his head shaved bald – and history was made when the 25-year-old would be introduced to the world as the nephew of former WWE World Champion Ivan Koloff, “The Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff.
The more experienced Ivan, who was actually not a Russian himself but instead a French Canadian from Ontario, proved to be a good mentor for Nikita. Ivan helped to groom the rookie during his formative years until he was ready to ascend to the main event matches against the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair and Sting. At times tag team partners, at other times rivals, the truth behind the Koloff relationship was never exposed on air. Nikita would work exclusively by that single name for his whole career.
18 John Studd & Ron Studd
John Studd was one of the biggest villains in the sport in the 1980s and after he left the spotlight of professional wrestling, his final contribution to the game was to train a 7’2, 365-pound prospect named Ron Reis for a pro ring career. After some early matches on the independent scene, he was signed to WCW where he debuted infamously as The Yeti. After another failure to launch as the “Super Giant Ninja”, Reis was given the name Ron Studd in tribute to his former trainer.
The implied connection to the 1980s legend did little to ignite his WCW career, even though he was introduced not long after the alleged son of Andre The Giant (The Giant). Perhaps a contributing factor to Ron failing to catch on as a second generation star was the lack of an endorsement from Bobby Heenan, a member of the WCW broadcast team and a former manager of the senior Studd.
17 The Texas Von Erichs & Lance Von Erich
The World Class Wrestling territory was hot in Texas in the 1980s, largely due to a main event feud between the trio of The Fabulous Freebirds – Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts as antagonists against the hometown favorites Kerry, Kevin & Mike Von Erich. However, the money-making storyline was at risk of crumbling when Mike suddenly perished due to toxic shock syndrome. The promotion looked outside the territory and found a young wrestler who was also a native Texan that was wrestling in Oregon by the name Ricky Vaughan.
Given his similar athletic appearance to his own sons, Fritz Von Erich debuted him in Texas as the son of his own fictional brother Waldo and dubbed him Lance Von Erich. However, when Vaughan jumped ship to a rival promotion in Texas in the late 80s, Fritz came clean on television to declare that he was “in no way, shape or form related to the Von Erich family.”
16 Archie Gouldie & Jeff Gouldie
Fans of the Stampede Wrestling territory may remember this one as the introduction of this father-son duo would lead to one of the most controversial, and costly situations for promoter Stu Hart. “Mongolian Stomper” Archie Gouldie is originally from Carbon, Alberta but spent most of his career in the States. In 1984, he returned to Canada for a series of matches and brought along his “son” Jeff to get him started in the industry.
During a chaotic six-man tag team match, the Gouldies were partnered with Bad News Allen who turned on them and in the post match melee, delivered a piledriver to Jeff on the concrete floor. Jeff Gouldie was rushed to hospital and never seen again. To this day, those who witnessed it will relate in vivid detail the events that transpired. However, Jeff Gouldie was played by Tommy Lane, who a few years later would form the Rock ‘n Roll RPM’s with Mike Davis. They were never related at all.
15 Boris Malenko & Debbie Malenko
Known on the American independent scene by names including “Dirty” Debbie Drake, Debra Killian had trained for a career in the industry under respected trainer Boris Malenko in Florida. Aside from the United States, she also appeared in England. When the opportunity arose for her to debut in Japan, she took the name of her trainer, with the blessing of Boris’ son Dean and across the Pacific she would become one of the most successful female wrestlers in that country during the 1990s.
Her career was cut short due to a horrific ankle injury after only three years but not before she reigned as the AJW Champion in Japan, holding the title on multiple occasions. Debbie identifies that while she was not blood related to the Malenko family, she was deeply honored to be allowed to wrestle under their name during her career.
14 Uncle Elmer, Hillbilly Jim, Cousin Luke
Perhaps the least shocking of all the fictional family ties identified in this list is the collection of talent that appeared in the 1980s, given a shared association as hillbillies. Hillbilly Jim himself would become one of the most endeared and memorable characters of that era – with an on screen endorsement from Hulk Hogan to get him started as well as action figures and feature roles in the WWE’s early recording projects. However, as the WWE started to add family members to build on the backwoods clan of this success story, things got a little watered down. Bringing in Stan Frazier as Uncle Elmer and Lanny Kean as Cousin Junior, it was a recipe fort mid-card obscurity forever. Portrayed as a family, none of the characters associated with this alliance were related.
13 Killer Kowalski & Killer Kowalski Jr.
As with the case of Debbie Malenko, this alleged wrestling clan was inspired by a strong mentor relationship with one’s trainer. The 7’2 Robert Leo trained in Walter Kowalski’s Massachusetts wrestling school and took on the name of his trainer for appearances primarily limited to the small radius of the northeastern United States. While Junior would not achieve the same level of success as his “dad”, there is a unique and sad irony about their connection. The legendary Killer passed away at his home in Malden, Massachusetts at age 81 on August 30, 2008.
Sadly, Robert Leo perished rather unexpectedly less than a week later on Sept 5, 2008 at age 44. It’s possible that Walter, whose school had produced outstanding wrestlers such as John Studd, Triple H, Perry Saturn, A-Train, Damien Sandow, Fandango and Wolfman Banford, had thought that this prospect had the stuff to propel his name back into the WWE spotlight.
12 Brian Pillman & Teresa Pillman
Many fans may not know that Tommy Dreamer’s wife, former ECW valet Beulah McGillicutty, actually made her television debut in the 1980s in Calgary long before ECW was on the air. Brian Pillman was on the early ascent of his career as one of the top fan favorites in Stu Hart’s promotion. In a similar fashion to Ryan Shamrock’s introduction to the industry, Trisa Hayes was in the crowd at the weekly TV tapings and was being harassed by some of the circuit’s villains when Brian Pillman came to her aid, announcing to the crowd on hand that she was his sister.
The appearance was just a one off in 1988 and is one that is often forgotten about. Pillman would later make a single controversial appearance in ECW between his WCW and WWE careers, though his “little sister” would become a featured star for the company. Like the situation with the Shamrocks, Pillman and Hayes were dating at the time.
11 Andre The Giant & The Big Show
When Paul Wight first appeared on WCW television in 1995, he was immediately thrust into the spotlight into a showdown with then World Champion, Hulk Hogan. Initially, Hogan promoted him as the son of his departed rival Andre The Giant. Even after they stopped making the direct reference to the alleged bloodline, they billed Wight as simply “The Giant”, dressed him in a black one strapped singlet like Andre and had him shoot promotional photos re-creating some of Andre’s most memorable poses.
In an era before the internet, this might have actually become a piece of wrestling lore that we accept to be true ... but as the world was getting connected to the world wide web of fact-checking resources, they couldn’t pull the wool over our eyes in the 90s. That said, Andre did maintain a ranch in the Carolinas where the future Big Show is from. Could it be?
10 Bulldog Bob Brown & Bob Brown Jr.
In Kansas and other heartland States, “Bulldog” Bob Brown was a perpetual antagonist to the fans for more than 30 years. Best known as a tag team partner and co-conspirator with Bob Geigel, Brown was known to draw the ire of wrestling commissions wherever he appeared. Frequently his travels would see him partnered with his nephew Kerry Brown and his son, referee David Putnam often scoring a booking out of the deal.
However, after the legendary Bulldog’s passing, a second generation Brown emerged onto the scene on the Pacific Coast. However, there was no connection, just a vague resemblance. In fact, the Pacific Coast Bulldog was portrayed by long time fan and former Wrestling World Magazine correspondent, Stuart Kemp. This was one case where imitation was not considered to be the sincerest form of flattery as Bob’s family in Winnipeg, Manitoba were highly offended by the tribute act.
9 Dory Funk Jr. & Jimmy Jack Funk
In 1986 a pair of former NWA World Champion brothers made the jump to the WWE and were assigned to manager Jimmy Hart. Dory Funk Jr., billed as Hoss Funk, and his younger brother Terry had already established their reputations internationally in singles and tag team competition as a couple of all-time greats and it looked like they were destined to establish a new chapter in their lengthy history in the WWE. That is, until Terry decided abruptly that he didn’t want to be there anymore and left the company.
To salvage the team and keep things going, a new Funk was added to the mix – Jimmy Jack Funk would take Terry’s place. Interestingly, while Jimmy Jack was not a blood relation to Terry & Dory, he was actually Jesse Barr who was also a second generation wrestler with a younger brother that would follow him into the industry in the following years.
8 The Dupps
Not many people may remember the tag team of the Dupp brothers that appeared in Extreme Championship Wrestling, Ohio Valley Wrestling and Total Non-Stop Action. However the brother team of Stan Dupp and Bo Dupp and their valet Fluff Dupp appeared to be making some progress for themselves and were rumoured to have attracted attention from the WWE. The team, including the addition of some more fictional cousins – Jack Dupp and Puck Dupp - did secure a developmental deal.
In reality, brother Stan would get signed to a WWE contract, wrestling under the name Trevor Murdoch and went on to hold the WWE Tag Team Titles on three occasions with Shawn Michaels wrestling school graduate Lance Cade. Bo was born Murray Happer and is better known in the Carolinas as Otto Schwanz, Puck was Marty Garner who continues to work on the independent circuit as Cham Pain. Jack Dupp was also known as Mike Maverick and Mike Hard during his ring career.
7 Billy Gasper & Gary Gasper
While not brothers in reality, this fraternal combination did have a unique family connection. This family duo appeared in New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1988 and completed two tours with the company. The creation of the duo is strange as older brother Billy was already an established star in the United States, fresh off a three year run in the WWE under his own given name Bob Orton Jr.
Younger brother Gary was Canada’s Karl Moffat, who is better known for his portrayal of Jason the Terrible in Stampede Wrestling and for the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico.
What is interesting to not about this tandem is that there is one degree of separation in this family tie. Moffat had formed a team with Orton’s younger brother Barry in the Stampede Wrestling territory when Orton appeared as the masked Zodiak. There’s no word if there was a long term plan for the team in New Japan, as Moffat’s career was impeded by a motor vehicle accident the following year, putting him out of action for several years.
6 Paul Orndorff & Troy Orndorff
When WWE legend Dominic DeNucci trained a young Troy Martin for a career in professional wrestling, he saw a spark in the New Brighton, Pennsylvania youngster that reminded him of someone he knew. DeNucci debuted the youngster, billing him as Troy Orndorff, the nephew of rising star “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff who was just beginning to reach the pinnacle of the industry in his own right. While there was no blood relation between the two Orndorffs, their paths would eventually cross when Troy, under his given name, would wrestle Paul in a televised match on WWE television.
Some fans may not know but Paul did have a relative in the sport for a time. His younger brother Terry was a rising star in the territories before a motor vehicle accident prematurely ended his career. Incidentally, Terry’s career was concluding at about the time that Troy’s was beginning.
5 Ronnie Garvin & Terry Garvin
The Garvin name in professional wrestling is a familiar one to wrestling fans, especially with Jimmy Garvin being inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the Fabulous Freebirds in recent years. Debuting in 1964 in Louisiana, the partnership of Ron & Terry Garvin spanned seven years and saw the bleached blonde brother act appear in a number of Canadian and U.S. territories. While they were not related in reality, Roger Barnes and Terry Dobec’s connection was that they were both from eastern Canada and looking for success in the world of wrestling.
A third brother, Jimmy was added to the mix as a manager along the way. He did have a family connection, though as Ronnie had married Jimmy's mother. In the 1980s, Ronnie & Jimmy were billed as simply “The Garvins” without drawing attention to how specifically they were related – instead letting the public make their own assumptions.
4 The Great Kabuki & The Great Muta
As if his talent alone wasn’t enough to establish his credibility, when The Great Muta debuted for World Championship Wrestling in 1989 under the management of Gary Hart, he was billed as the son of The Great Kabuki. In fairness, Kabuki had been a successful villain for the company just a few years prior and there were some similarities in the manner of their presentation. For instance, both wrestlers performed with their faces painted.
Showing up on television with a manager who was already known to draw the ire of the fans would already establish Muta as a villain with audiences. The added billing at the son of Kabuki really wasn’t necessary. In the months that followed, Muta’s matches against the likes to Ric Flair and Sting quickly saw him eclipse the success of his alleged father anyway. However, in the southern United States, a region rich with wrestling tradition, maybe the old school regime thought it was best for business.
3 Robbie McAllister & Rory McAllister
When you create a winning gimmick all on your own it can be especially rewarding when the talent relations department from a large wrestling company signs you to a contract and leaves your gimmick intact. That’s what happened for the Ontario independent tandem of The Highlanders. Robbie and Rory McAllister were billed as cousins from the Scottish highlands and it appeared that their career was on track in the WWE with merchandising in place and inclusion in high profile matches.
However, few knew that the duo were a product of WWE’s developmental system and after their arrival on the main roster, many may actually believe that the twosome were cousins. Since being released from the WWE, the team has disbanded with Robbie going solo and Rory sliding into a self-imposed retirement.
2 Sam Steamboat & Ricky Steamboat
Say the name Steamboat and the first name that springs to mind is Ricky “The Dragon”. Through his textbook performances against Randy Savage and Ric Flair alone, Ricky is one of the wrestlers that aspiring stars are told to study to learn their craft. However, while the New York-born Richard Blood has taken the name to new heights, he was initially assigned the handle by Florida promoter Eddie Graham. Graham felt that he bore a strong resemblance to Hawaiian wrestler Sam Steamboat, who had been a major star in the Florida territory a decade earlier.
Rick maintained the Steamboat name throughout his entire career and in the process probably did more to prolong the memory of the original Steamboat than to build his own credibility by association. The Steamboat wrestling legacy expanded further, when Ricky’s younger brother got into the wrestling game in 1986 and billed himself as Vic Steamboat, though not achieving a glimmer of the success his older brother enjoyed.
1 Paul Bearer & Kane/The Undertaker
One of the most memorable segments in the history of Monday Night RAW was scripted to look like the type of “locker room talk” that Donald Trump faced scrutiny for earlier this year. Paul Bearer and Jerry Lawler were caught sitting backstage in an arena somewhere as Paul recounted a tale of the events of a romantic interlude with Kane and Undertaker's mother. Fans watched the segment from a camera that was laid on its side on the floor, presumably left on by accident.
The story led to the popular belief that Bearer was actually Kane's father. While there was no truth to the relationship of Mark Calaway (Undertaker) or Glenn Jacobs (Kane) to begin with, the added wrinkle that Paul Bearer factored into the family dynamic made for some compelling television in the months that followed. Bearer was actually manager Percy Pringle, whose career had intersected with The Undertaker in their pre-WWE careers.