When you think about powerful wrestling families, the first name that comes to mind (in terms of the WWE) is McMahon. From Jess to Vince Sr. to Vince Jr. and so forth, they have shaped the modern world of wrestling more so than any other family. They founded, owned, and promoted the WWE which then gave birth to many other powerful wrestling families.
The Harts ran Canada while the Guerreros made their mark in Mexico. The Gagnes ran the AWA while the Von Erichs put WCCW on the map. The Flairs, Anoa’is, Ortons and more are headlining WWE events to this very day and so many more families have made a lasting impact on the wrestling world. That wrestling world extends beyond the WWE but every prominent wrestling family has at least one member who can be linked back to the company. Some have made positive contributions to the WWE, while some would prefer to forget about their dealings with Vince McMahon et al.
We’ll take a look at these prominent wrestling families and while it’s nice to focus on the positive, this isn’t the place for that. There’s just no avoiding some of the negative things that members of these families have done or have had done to them. Overdoses, prison stints, deaths in a ring and even a homicide have taken place among the members of these wrestling families. The WWE has tried to sweep some of these things under the rug but sooner or later the truth will come out. With that being said, here are the top 15 things WWE wants you to forget about the most powerful wrestling families.
15. The Curse Of The Von Erich Family
The Curse of the Billy Goat, The Curse of the Bambino, the Madden Curse…all fictitious sports “curses.” The Curse of the Von Erich Family is 100% real. Patriarch Fritz Von Erich was the owner of World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) and he had six sons who got into wrestling. Five of the six Von Erich brothers would die by the age of 32, three of which were by suicide. The most famous Von Erich, Kerry (AKA The Texas Tornado), was a former WWE Intercontinental Champion and wrestled half of his career with a prosthetic foot after losing it in a motorcycle accident. The one surviving brother, Kevin, would eventually sell the WCCW footage and video library to Vince McMahon and the WWE in 2006. Kevin would also represent the entire Von Erich Family when they were inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame at WrestleMania XXV.
14. Luna Vachon Overdosed After Completing WWE’s Rehab Program
The Vachon Family includes WWE Hall of Famer “Mad Dog” Vachon, his brother “Butcher” Vachon, and his stepdaughter, Luna Vachon. Luna spent nearly six years during the 1990s as a manager in the WWE and would later marry former wrestler, Gangrel. When Luna retired, she began mentoring Nattie Neidhart who, like the Vachons, came from a prominent Canadian wrestling family. Luna was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and soon became addicted to medication. She entered WWE’s rehab program and completed it in June 2009 but just one year later, she would overdose and pass away in August 2010. Crushed pill residue and snorting straws had previously been found in her home. Luna would be buried at the ranch of the man she considered her godfather, Andre the Giant.
13. The WWE Stereotyped The Anoa’i Family As Savages
The Anoa’i family is one of wrestling’s most extensive families, yet they’re arguably the family that’s been mistreated the most. For years and years, the WWE simply made anybody in the family the same type of character; a wild savage that couldn’t be controlled and were immune to headbutts. First there were the Wild Samoans. Then there were The Headshrinkers. It just went on and on. Finally, The Rock came along and even though he is half Samoan, the WWE elected to not have him amp up his ‘wild Samoan’ side and just let him be a version of himself, with the volume turned way up. While The Usos and Roman Reigns touch on their Samoan roots today, you don’t see them wrestling barefoot and delivering headbutt after headbutt which is very refreshing.
12. The Montreal Screwjob
The relationship between the Hart Wrestling Family and the WWE dates back to the early 1980s when the WWE took over Stampede Wrestling from founder Stu Hart. The most famous member of the Hart Family, Bret, spent 13 years with the WWE before he was infamously screwed out of his WWE Championship at Survivor Series in 1997. Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Earl Hebner, Jerry Brisco, Jim Ross and seemingly every single person involved in booking, announcing, and executing the match was in the swerve – except Bret Hart. McMahon and Co. would screw Hart out of the title by having him submit without ever tapping out or saying “I quit” and the Attitude Era would be launched at that instance. It would be nearly 10 years before Hart would appear in a WWE ring again but the scar tissue from the whole ordeal has remained and pretty much everyone involved in the angle has since apologized, except Vince McMahon.
11. Iron Mike DiBiase Died In The Ring
Before there was The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase, or his son Ted Jr., there was the patriarch of the DiBiase Wrestling Family, Iron Mike DiBiase. Mike wrestled all over the world including in the AWA where he was a tag team champion with Randy Orton’s grandfather, Bob Sr. In 1969 at the age of 45 Mike wrestled his last match as he would have a heart attack in the ring. Harley Race recognized that Iron Mike was having a heart attack, rushed into the ring, and began performing CPR on him. Unfortunately, Race wasn’t able to save his friend and Mike would die while on the way to the hospital. Race would remain extremely close to the DiBiase family and would train Mike’s grandsons (Ted’s sons) Ted Jr. and Michael.
It would be another 30 years until there was another death in a wrestling ring, Owen Hart in 1999, and Harley Race happened to be there as well and was one of the last people to speak with Hart.
10. Terry Funk Has Disparaged Vince McMahon Multiple Times
If you add up the careers of Dory Funk, Dory Funk Jr, and Terry Funk; you get over 130 years (and counting) of Funks in the squared circle. Dory Jr and Terry are still active today even though they are both in their 70s! The duo was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009 but had the WWE known what Terry thought of Vince McMahon, they would have likely held off on the ceremony. In a 2006 interview Terry said Vince McMahon is ruining wrestling by monopolizing the industry. In 2008 Terry said Vince McMahon is in part to blame for the use of steroids and drugs in wrestling. Finally in 2010 (and after being inducted), Terry stopped beating around the bush and bluntly stated, “I dislike Vince McMahon.” Yet, that hasn’t stopped Terry from working for Vince and the WWE multiple times over the years including as recently as 2016. Terry may not like Vince McMahon, but he likes the money that can be made from working for Vince McMahon.
9. Ric Flair’s Son Died Of A Drug Overdose
Ric Flair may very well be the greatest wrestler of all-time and Charlotte may be on her way to being the greatest women’s wrestler of all-time. But there’s another Flair (not named David) that was also a wrestler, Ric’s youngest son and Charlotte’s brother, Reid. Reid first appeared as a 10-year-old in WCW and was an accomplished amateur wrestler. He would sign with the WWE’s developmental territory in 2007 and was trained by Harley Race. Shortly after that, Reid’s life would begin to spiral out of control. By 21, he was arrested three times including for assault and battery as well as drug possession. He overdosed twice on illicit drugs in 2011, and finally, those demons caught up to him in 2013. Reid would be found dead at the age of 25 after overdosing on heroin and other drugs.
8. Blackjack Mulligan And Kendall Windham Spent 2 Years In Prison
Long before there were Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas, the pair’s grandfather, Blackjack Mulligan was half of the Hall of Fame tag-team, The Blackjacks. In 1990 Mulligan formed a different kind of tag team with one of his sons, Kendall Windham (younger brother of Barry). Mulligan and Kendall were arrested by the US Secret Service for counterfeiting. The father-son duo had nearly $500,000 on them in phony $20 bills. As a result of their plea deal they struck, the two spent two years in a federal prison in Florida. It was during this time that Barry Windham had the best run of his wrestling career as a member of the Four Horseman while brother-in-law, Mike Rotunda, had his run as IRS in the WWE. The WWE makes the Wyatt Family out to be a little off but, in reality, Bray’s uncle and grandfather’s criminal backgrounds make that family seem somewhat normal.
7. Curt Hennig Died From A Cocaine Overdose
The Hennig Family has dazzled crowds for over 6 decades now and spans three generations. Larry “The Axe” Hennig helped put the AWA on the map while his grandson, Curtis Axel, is a former WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team champ. But the most famous Hennig of them all was the second generation wrestler, Curt Hennig AKA Mr. Perfect. A man called “the best of the best” by no other than Hulk Hogan, Curt had, literally, the perfect wrestling gimmick of the late 80s/early 90s. He was cocky, he was smug, he was perfect in his role as a WWE heel. A two-time IC champion, Curt had a 23 year wrestling career before passing away in 2003 from a cocaine overdose. To further pile on, his own father, Larry, then said that his son was also on steroids and painkillers. The WWE would posthumously induct Curt into their Hall of Fame in 2007 which not only brought attention to Mr. Perfect’s life, but also his death.
6. The Rock Is Not Actually Related To The Anoa’i Family
Remember when the WWE tried desperately to get Roman Reigns over by constantly pointing out he was related to The Rock? Yeah, turns out that’s not true. While there definitely is a connection between them, they’re not actually related. The Rock’s grandfather Peter Maivia is seen as a “blood brother” to Amituana Anoa’i but that’s a common occurrence in the Samoan culture. It is accepted in Samoa as being an actual brother to someone when you are referred to as one. But if we’re going by North American norms, then we can’t really say Roman Reigns is The Rock’s cousin, nor are many of the other extended member of the Anoai’i family. So feel free to call WWE out on this next time they try to compare The Rock to Roman Reigns.
5. Eddie Guerrero’s Death Was Linked To Steroid Abuse
The Guerrero Wrestling Family spans three generations and has included such wrestlers as Eddie, Chavo, Hector, and current WWE superstar, Aiden English, who is Eddie’s son-in-law. When Eddie passed away in 2005 at the age of 38, the medical examiner’s report said he died of natural causes related to heart disease. However, two years later Sports Illustrated reported that Eddie was one of many wrestlers who received steroids and/or HGH. The report said that as recently as two weeks before Eddie’s death he received a shipment of testosterone along with another steroid and an estrogen-reducing pill. The WWE obviously never disclosed the details as to Guerrero’s death but pretty much everyone assumed it was due to previous and ongoing steroid use. Just four months after Guerrero’s death, the WWE started its Wellness Program which is still in effect today.
4. WWE Let Bob Orton Blade Even Though He Has Hepatitis C
Cowboy Bob Orton was the son of a wrestler and is the father of Randy Orton. Bob was a mainstay in WWE throughout the 1980s and then returned in 2005 to help Randy out. During his return, Bob wrestled the Undertaker in a match that soon turned bloody. The WWE had Bob blade during the match and some of the blood got on The Undertaker. It was later revealed that Bob had contracted Hepatitis C as a kid and once contracted, it stays in your blood for life. There are conflicting reports as to whether Bob never told the WWE about the virus or WWE knew about it and let him blade anyway; but, regardless, Undertaker was not too happy about that fact after hearing the news.
The Undertaker is the last person you want to make mad in the WWE and not soon after the match, Bob was released even though his son, Randy, was in a feud for the World Heavyweight Championship. Parent-to-child transmission of Hepatitis C is very rare so it appears Randy is safe from the virus.
3. Vince McMahon Was Federally Indicted On Steroid Charges
The first family of the WWE has some skeletons that it doesn’t want its “Universe” to know about. One of the biggest involves Vince McMahon’s steroid trial from the mid-1990s. McMahon and the then-WWF were indicted in federal court for conspiring to distribute steroids to its wrestlers. Former wrestlers, including Nailz, had said that McMahon ordered them to use steroids. However, the prosecution’s case fell apart when Hulk Hogan said that McMahon never gave him the drugs or told him to take them. McMahon was facing eight years in prison but the jury acquitted him of all charges. Even though McMahon got off, the coverage of the trial severely hurt business and it, in part, played a role in wrestling’s decline during the mid-90s. It also hastened Hogan’s departure from the company for the greener grass and deeper pockets of Ted Turner and WCW.
2. Owen Hart Died In a WWE Ring
Perhaps the saddest wrestling-related moment in WWE history was then the youngest son of Stu Hart tragically died inside the squared circle. Hart, during his Blue Blazer gimmick, was set to be lowered from the rafters by a harness at a PPV event in 1999. Hart accidentally triggered the safety harness while about 80 feet above the ring which resulted in him falling chest-first onto the top rope. Paramedics spent about 15 minutes trying to revive him in the ring but were unsuccessful as Hart died due to internal bleeding. This has remained as arguably the darkest day in WWE history as the stunt was dangerous to begin with and could have been avoided.
Following Owen’s death, the Hart Family (including Owen’s widow as well as Stu and Helen Hart) would file a wrongful death lawsuit against WWE that was eventually settled out of court. However, Martha has filed subsequent lawsuits against both the WWE and members of the Hart Family who she is estranged from so this feud is far from over even 18 years after the death of Owen.
1. Verge Gagne Killed A Man
What the McMahons are to WWE, the Gagnes were to American Wrestling Association (AWA). Gagne was the founder of the AWA which launched the careers of Ric Flair, Harley Race, Jesse Ventura, his son Greg, and his son-in-law Larry Zbyszko. Gagne was a 16-time heavyweight champion and is one of 6 men to be inducted into the WWE, WCW, and Wrestling Halls of Fame but the only one of those 6 men to have committed a homicide.
In 2009, the 82-year-old Gagne pushed a 97-year-old man who was a fellow resident at a Senior Living Home in Minnesota. The elder man would die three weeks later from complications from the injury and the medical examiner’s office ruled his death a homicide. However, the prosecutor’s office then announced that Gagne would not be charged with a crime due to Gagne’s dementia. They said that he did not have the mental capacity necessary to have intended to harm the deceased man. Gagne was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame three years prior but if this incident had happened beforehand, then it’s probably Gagne would have never been inducted.
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