Pro wrestling is a form of entertainment which seems to run in families. In particular, the last two decades have seen numerous second- and third-generation superstars begin their careers. There is something about watching one of your parents work in the exciting world of wrestling which makes youngsters want to do the same when they grow up, even if they didn't have a great relationship with the parent they idolized.
Nowadays a large percentage of wrestling rosters across the world are made up of next-generation performers. Kids of wrestlers often seem to want to be wrestlers themselves, even after seeing all the negativity the lifestyle can cause.
Unfortunately, being a pro wrestler and having a family are often two things which do not happily co-exist with each other. As a result of the heavy travel schedule, most parents featured in this article had very little contact with their children as they grew up. Many parents on this list have estranged relationships with their kids as a result of not being around much during their childhood.
Then there are those who have estranged relationships with their children for entirely different reasons....
Here are 15 of the most controversial parents in wrestling history.
15 Carlos Colon
Carlos Colon Sr. will always live under the dark cloud of Bruiser Brody's murder.
The father to Carlito and Primo and uncle to Epico, Carlos was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014. He co-owns the World Wrestling Council promotion in Puerto Rico and also promotes WWE house shows on the island.
In 1988, Brody was stabbed backstage at a WWC show in Puerto Rico by Jose Gonzalez. It was eventually ruled self-defence and all charges were dropped, but many dispute the legal process which allowed Brody's killer to walk.
Colon has been accused of covering up evidence and threatening witnesses not to speak to police, while the knife Gonzalez used was never found. Although no charges were ever filed against him, many in the wrestling community have continued to allege Carlos Colon acted to cover up the murder. Whether he did or not will probably never be known.
14 Rocky Johnson
Rocky Johnson had a strained relationship with his son, The Rock, over the years. While they have patched things up in recent years, the Most Electrifying Man in all of Entertainment had a very fractured relationship with his father growing up. The Rock was said to have grown up quite resentful of his father for being on the road so often, not to mention the accusations of his adultery while married to Ata Maivia.
When The Rock was 15 years old he learned that his father had been arrested and charged with the rape of a 19-year-old woman. Johnson claims the charges were a setup by wrestlers with a grudge against him. The elder Rocky is said to have had a tough time after the charges, and began drinking heavily. The two wouldn't speak much until the elder Rocky quit drinking and the younger Rocky was away at college.
13 Stu Hart
Stu and Helen Hart had 12 children. All of the boys became wrestlers, and at one point or another, all the girls married pro wrestlers. In hindsight, Stu and Helen may have been better off never introducing their children to the business.
Infighting between the Harts has led to strained relationships all across the family. After the Montreal Screwjob, Bret felt that any of his family members attempting to gain employment with WWE was a betrayal to him. Since most of the Harts were hoping to get into WWE, Bret's unwillingness to accept his family working there became the source of conflict. When Owen died, the rift between the pro-WWE and anti-WWE members of the family was deepened.
When both Stu and Helen Hart died the family was in shambles, with everyone angry at each other.
12 "Cowboy" Bill Watts
"Cowboy" Bill Watts once lost his job as WCW booker for stating in an interview that people should be allowed to open restaurants which discriminate against customers based on their race. Baseball legend Hank Aaron spoke to the brass at Turner about Watts' comments, and promptly got the man fired.
In addition to feeling as though restaurants had a right to racist business practices, he too felt he had a right to use nepotism in his business practices. That's why he got his son hired at WCW after training for only three months. Erik Watts had been trained by someone Bill Watts really respected, and that person was...surprise, surprise, Bill Watts.
The favouritism Watts used to keep his son working in wrestling continued in 1995, when Erik went to WWE at the same time his father did. The 49-year-old Erik is still wrestling on the independent scene today.
11 "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (Harry Smith) is currently wrestling in New Japan Pro Wrestling. He started training with his father and Bruce Hart at only 8 years old. He and his father would get a chance to tag together in 2002, only months before the British Bulldog suffered a heart attack and died.
Bulldog's ex-wife Diana Hart is listed as the author of a shocking and controversial book Under the Mat: Inside Wrestling's Greatest Family. The book would be removed from book stores due to a lawsuit by Owen's widow Martha. In later years, Diana would claim her co-author changed the book's content without her knowing.
The book accuses Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart of making a habit of drugging and sexually assaulting their unconscious wives. The book also notes that Davey Boy left her for his brother-in-law Bruce's wife in 2000. Sadly, Davey Boy was dead a couple of years later, and is no longer around to dispute these allegations.
10 Grizzly Smith
Jake "The Snake" Roberts has levied some harsh allegations his father's way over the years. Grizzly Smith fathered 3 children who would go on to be professional wrestlers: Jake Roberts, Sam Houston and Rockin' Robin. All three would be in WWE for a period of their careers.
In the documentaries Beyond the Mat and Pick Your Poison, Jake claimed he is the product of his father sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, and then being forced to marry her. Jake blames his father and their unfortunate family situation for the emotional trauma which led to his substance abuse later in life.
A book by former NWA President Howard Brody would later allege that Grizzly Smith sexually abused his daughter, Rockin' Robin (Robin Smith), until her mother found out and removed her from his care.
9 Jerry Lawler
When Brian Christopher first appeared in WWE's light heavyweight division, Jerry Lawler refused to acknowledge Brian was his son. Turns out that Jerry didn't do much better in real life, having played only a minor role in his son's upbringing.
Brian would say in interviews years later that he was lucky if he spoke with his father a couple of times a year growing up. This didn't stop Brian from wanting to follow in his father's footsteps, however.
Brian started wrestling in Memphis' USWA as a teenager before debuting in WWE in 1997. It looked as though Brian would be the top heel in the light heavyweight division opposite Taka Michinoku, though the division would eventually fizzle out. Brian reached the heights of his career from 1999 to 2001 as "Grand Masta Sexay" in Too Cool.
8 Eric Bischoff
In 2010, Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan landed executive roles with TNA Wrestling. They proceeded to hire as many of their friends and family members as they could. Hogan brought in the Nasty Boys and his daughter Brooke to be the on-air GM of the Knockouts division. Eric decided to bring his son Garett into the company as well.
At first Garett Bischoff was just a referee, but within a year he was taking part in major storylines and feuding with his father. The problem was that like many sons of wrestling promoters, Garett wasn't a very good wrestler, but got pushed like he was anyway.
When Eric Bischoff left TNA, Garett was left in limbo. He wasn't used for over a year and then joined his father and Jason Hervey in a lawsuit against the company for unpaid wages.
Since leaving wrestling, Garett Bischoff has since opened a clothing company.
7 Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes and son Dustin (a.k.a Goldust) had a troubled relationship throughout the years. Fortunately they were able to patch things up before Dusty's passing in 2015.
Tension existed between Dustin and Dusty due to the latter's not being around much when the former was growing up. Dusty didn't approve of Dustin's marriage to Terri either. One time after Dusty had driven an hour to go golfing with his son, Dustin informed him upon arrival that he couldn't go because Terri was sick. The conflict led to the two not speaking for many years. Dustin was also said to be resentful that Dusty was around for Cody much more than he had been for him as a kid.
Unlike many sons of promoters, Dustin and Cody can actually wrestle. Unlike Garrett Bischoff or Greg Gagne, the Rhodes brothers would have made it in pro wrestling regardless of who their father was.
6 Bruno Sammartino
Bruno Sammartino never wanted his son to be a wrestler. That was exactly what David Sammartino wanted, however. In 1984, David Sammartino was signed to Vince McMahon's WWE, but Vince was only interested in signing the youngster if he could get Bruno back in the ring as well. Bruno would manage David and occasionally get in the ring to tag with him during this period.
David was sick of WWE using him to get to his father, and quit in the mid-'80s. He left for AWA and started taking steroids in an effort to jump-start his failing career. Steroids was not something father Bruno approved of and it is believed this contributed to the fractured relationship between the two.
The younger Sammartino's career never took off like he wanted in the AWA either. The 56-year-old now works as a personal trainer. His relationship with his father is said to still be strained.
5 Verne Gagne
Verne started the AWA in 1960, and promptly booked himself as the top guy in the company for decades. Verne would famously neglect to re-sign Hulk Hogan to the promotion in 1983 and allowed him to go to Vince McMahon's WWE. While the WWE boomed with Hulkamania, the AWA would collapse and be dead by 1990.
As WWF and Hulk Hogan took over the wrestling world, Verne would push himself and son Greg Gagne in the AWA. Verne's poor recognition of the drawing power of wrestlers without amateur backgrounds ultimately led to the death of his promotion.
Greg would form a successful tag team with Jim Brunzell over the years, but would never get over outside of his father's promotion.
Nowadays, Greg Gagne runs on a commodity trading fund with numerous AWA wrestlers as his clients. He and Jim Brunzell operate a wrestling school in Minnesota.
4 Saraya Knight
British women's wrestling pioneer, Saraya Knight, aka Sweet Saraya, had daughter Paige when she was 21 years old. Paige only ever wanted to be a wrestler, and it appears as though Saraya was pleased to open doors for her in the business.
Saraya would even put her daughter over in a feud for the Shimmer promotion in 2011. 19-year-old Paige would debut for the company alongside her mother as a tag team, the Knight Dynasty, that year. Her mother would actually turn on her, however, disowning her in storyline. The two built towards a no-DQ match that Paige would win on the company's Volume 44 show. Paige would leave for WWE following the feud.
The Rock is currently producing a movie based on the Knight family, with several scenes having been filmed at WWE live events recently.
3 Fritz Von Erich
While the Hart family was left in pieces due to the pro wrestling business, at least most of them survived. There is only one surviving member of the Von Erichs of Texas wrestling.
The first son to Fritz Von Erich (Jack Adkisson Sr.) was Jack Jr., who sadly didn't live long enough to become a pro wrestler. Jack was electrocuted and killed by a downed wire at six years of age. His second son Kevin is the only still alive, living happily in Hawaii at 60 years of age. Third son David was only 25 years old when he died of a suspected drug overdose in Japan. David was believed to be in line to beat Ric Flair for the NWA title at the time of his passing. Fourth son Kerry killed himself at 33 years of age as he was looking at prison time for drug offences and going through a divorce. Fifth son Mike also killed himself at 33 years of age. Mike was forced into early retirement from a wrestling career due to a shoulder injury. Sixth son Chris Von Erich killed himself at 22 years of age, frustrated that his small stature and limited ability would never allow him to succeed in wrestling.
2 Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka
WWE Hall of Famer, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka's legacy is now clouded with suspicion. It's a suspicion some wrestling fans are reminded of when his daughter Tamina appears on WWE programming today.
The suspicion, of course, is related to Nancy Argentino's death in 1983. The then-girlfriend of Jimmy Snuka died due to traumatic brain injuries. While investigators suspected Argentino died as a result of trauma inflicted by Snuka, charges weren't pressed for 32 years. Snuka was arrested in September 2015 and charged with 3rd degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. On January 3rd 2017, the court ruled Snuka unfit to stand trial due to mental incapacity and terminal cancer. He died 12 days later at the age of 73.
Snuka's son James Jr. also wrestled with WWE from 2005 to 2009, best remembered as '50s greaser Deuce, of the tag team Deuce 'n Domino. Tamina has been with the company since 2010.
1 Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon has allowed his children to grow up on WWE programming. He's also allowed much of WWE programming to focus on real-life infighting between his family members.
Shane McMahon resigned from the family business in 2009, and didn't come back until about seven years later. He became the CEO for a company looking to promote streaming entertainment services in China.
The official story on record is that Shane left WWE to "make it on his own," but insiders have speculated that Shane left due to infighting with his sister over who would be handed the reins of the company when Vince was gone. Shane resigned, sold off his stock, and left to sell streaming services in China.
Shane would return in 2016 as an on-screen character. Officially, however, Shane is said to not have a backstage role with the company.
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