The pressure for a second-generation wrestler entering the wrestling industry is higher than the average performer. Fans will instantly judge the second-generation wrestler on the work their parent did during their time in the industry. The fan base automatically will want the wrestler of a former wrestler to live up to their parent’s legacy since they are often using that name to try to create some buzz.
Second-generation wrestlers have a history of either hitting strong with fans viewing them as their own star or flopping badly with the perception that they failed to live up to a legacy. We will look at both instances from the slate of wrestlers that tried to make a name with this extra pressure. Find out just which wrestling kids thrived and which did not. These are five second-generation wrestlers that became better than their father along with five that could not live up to the legacy.
10 Better: Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns is continuing the legacy of his family in WWE. His father Sika was a successful wrestler for the company as one half of the Wild Samoans tag team with Sika’s brother Afa. However, Reigns has already accomplished more than his father in a short time.
WWE viewed Roman as their next major superstar from day one when he signed a developmental contract. Reigns is a former WWE Champion, Universal Champion, four-time WrestleMania main eventer, and the face of the company. Sika would proudly admit Roman has passed his legacy.
9 Not: David Flair
One of the first major instances of a second-generation wrestler failing to live up to their father’s legacy was David Flair in WCW. A huge contract was offered to David to make his start in pro wrestling in a storyline with his dad.
David would end up having a two-year run in WCW that featured mostly disappointing results. Ric even admitted that he was not ready for the role WCW put him in. Charlotte Flair was met with skepticism when starting her career due to David’s run, but she proved the Flair kids could deliver in the spotlight when given the right situation.
8 Better: Randy Orton
WWE gave Randy Orton a huge push early in his career as the son of Cowboy Bob Orton. The faction of Evolution was the perfect start for Orton to work with established names like Triple H and Ric Flair while being groomed for the future of the industry along with Batista.
Orton’s look and athletic ability got him a contract right away when his father spoke to WWE about getting him in the company. It clearly paid off for Randy as he’s still with WWE today as his legendary 17+ year career is still going.
7 Not: Shawn Stasiak
Shawn Stasiak received multiple opportunities in both WWE and WCW as the son of former WWE Champion Stan Stasiak. WWE gave him a push as Meat in a comedic character paired with manager and on-screen love interest Terri Runnels, but it was viewed as a huge flop.
WCW signed him away and made him one of their most important wrestlers as part of the new youth movement. It was too late for WCW to turn the ship around as WWE purchased it during Stasiak’s push. A return to WWE turned him into a huge joke as his career would never pan out. Shawn now is a chiropractor after leaving the wrestling world.
6 Better: Carmella
The average wrestling fan is not aware that Carmella is one of the second-generation wrestlers currently on the roster since WWE never talks about her father. Paul Van Dale is Carmella’s dad and was a journeyman wrestler in the '80s and '90s.
WWE even used Van Dale on a few occasions as an enhancement talent. Carmella, however, would surpass her dad by getting a full-time contract with WWE and joining the main roster. Her reign as the SmackDown Women’s Champion signified huge success and she remains a fixture on SmackDown today.
5 Not: Wes Brisco
Wes Brisco followed the footsteps of his father Gerald Brisco by attempting to become a star in the wrestling world. WWE and Impact Wrestling each invested in the potential of Wes, but both were met with disappointment.
A run in WWE developmental ended with Wes never getting a call-up to the main roster with lackluster work. Impact hired him years later to have a huge role in the Aces and Eights faction. Wes even scored a PPV win over Kurt Angle in their feud, but fans would not show any interest in him. The current status of Wes has him appearing on the smaller independent shows.
4 Better: Bret Hart
Bret Hart was the wrestler that started the reputation for second-generation wrestlers working harder than the average superstar. WWE loved the work ethic of Hart as he learned it from his father and legendary Stampede Wrestling promoter Stu Hart.
The opportunity in WWE was to be a great tag team and mid-card wrestler. Bret, however, found a way to connect with the audience and work his way to the top of the company as a five-time WWE Champion. WWE started to hire more second-generation wrestlers after Bret and his brother found such success.
3 Not: Curtis Axel
There was a lot of hype for Curtis Axel getting his start in WWE developmental as the son of Mr. Perfect. Given the level of greatness associated with Mr. Perfect and the recent eras of wrestling fans caring more about in-ring work, Axel had huge expectations before making his television debut.
WWE would never find success with Axel as a singles star. The biggest push came when he won the Intercontinental Championship on Father’s Day in a special moment when managed by Paul Heyman. Unfortunately, the title reign was a bust and Axel is now a secondary comedy act struggling to get television time.
2 Better: The Rock
If Bret Hart opened the door for second-generation wrestlers to get a chance in WWE, The Rock completely knocked it down. WWE pushed Rock hard right away as Rocky Maivia referencing his bloodline as the son of former WWE star Rocky Johnson and grandson of Peter Maivia.
Fans did not care about Rock until he started carving his own identity as the most charismatic star in wrestling history. It made his family proud to see Rock take the family legacy to a new level. Rock’s success in WWE was the inspiration for WWE hiring countless second-generation stars in the 2000s.
1 Not: Ted DiBiase Jr.
WWE believed Ted DiBiase Jr. would surpass his legendary dad Ted DiBiase’s legacy as one of the top heels in wrestling history. A start in a tag team with Cody Rhodes as part of the Legacy faction with Randy Orton made DiBiase Jr. a relevant part of the WWE roster early in his career.
The eventual split would see DiBiase Jr. get a singles push by utilizing his dad’s Million Dollar Man gimmick. WWE even placed Maryse and Virgil with him at times to add to the act. There was even a rumor that the company wanted him to end Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak. DiBiase, unfortunately, flopped in the role and WWE gave up on him within months.