The wrestling industry is truly a family business. Everyone enters the industry in a different way. Former athletes of other sports have become Superstars. Lifelong fans have worked hard to accomplish their dreams. Bodybuilders and models have been picked out of catalogs by Johnny Ace. The stories are varied. Another common introduction to the business is through family. We are seeing more and more second generation wrestlers emerge into the world of pro wrestling with the hopes of following in their parent’s footsteps. The wrestling landscape is extremely difficult to get over in due to needing to convince a large percentage of fans to buy into you.
Much like anyone else entering the business, it is a tough road and the odds are in the favor of failure. Second or third generation talents have to work even harder than the average wrestler. The opportunity is greater thanks to the connection and name value but fans demand more. Wrestling greats are celebrated with their legacy growing through the years and their children have the nearly impossible task of living up to the name. Some have been able to add even more to their family legacy with successful careers. A select few names such as The Rock and Randy Orton have actually surpassed their legendary parent.
We’ll look at the stories that featured the wrestlers that saw their kids enter the industry with less success. These great wrestlers all accomplished amazing achievements in their era with titles, Hall of Fame rings and unforgettable memories. Their kids tried to follow the same career path but didn’t have the talent or luck that could see the greatness. Keep in mind this is a very unfair form of judging a performer and is in no way diminishing their hard work or desire. No one wants to flop and that is even stronger when you’re following your parent’s legacy but it has happened. These are the fifteen stories of wrestlers that were much better performers than their kids.
15 Scott Hall
Scott Hall’s in-ring career was spectacular with some of the best matches in the 90s. Hall had every quality you wanted in a performer. Many would argue the New World Order wouldn’t have been a massive success if not for Hall’s work in the initial stages of the angle. Scott’s son Cody Hall has entered the wrestling world as a member of The Bullet Club in NJPW, but he doesn’t have his father's presence. Cody has the size and potential but he is long way away from getting close to matching Scott’s legacy. The father and son have formed a bond through pro wrestling after Scott’s personal demons caused friction between the two, so Cody’s wrestling career is a positive either way.
14 Dusty Rhodes
It may be unfair to have Dusty Rhodes' sons on this list, as both have been very good performers. Dustin “Goldust” Rhodes is a borderline Hall of Famer and Cody Rhodes has yet to fulfill his potential, but neither man could match Dusty. The 80s boom saw Dusty rise as one of the best promo men in the history of the industry. Dusty had the special ability to connect with the crowd and that is ultimately what brings them to the show. The next generation of Rhodes have been quite successful, but Dusty was on another level that couldn’t be duplicated.
13 Ivan Putski
Ivan Putski was one of the early inductees to the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995 and had a successful career with the company. Most known for his Polish heritage, Putski did Poland proud with twelve years of success in WWE. Ivan’s son Scott Putski tried his best to follow in his father’s footsteps with multiple stints in WWE during the 90s. Scott struggled to gain credibility and became one of the most irrelevant members of the roster. WWE tried teaming Scott and Ivan together against Jerry Lawler and Brian Christopher in a match between the father and son duos. It didn’t help Scott get over and his career ended shortly after.
12 Davey Boy Smith
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith is one of the most underrated wrestling legends of all time. Davey Boy never held a World Championship in WWE or WCW but he was an elite in-ring performer at his peak. Bret Hart and Owen Hart being his brothers-in-law always overshadowed him, but Smith was a top tier performer on his own as well. As the son of the British Bulldog and a member of The Hart Family, Harry Smith entered the wrestling industry following a lifelong love of the product. His time in WWE time was severely disappointing and he’s now wrestling full time in Japan. Harry is solid in the ring, but is unable to capture the attention of an audience like his dad did.
11 Terry Gordy
The late, great Terry Gordy put out a career of excellence through years of work in the territories, Japan, WWE and WCW. Very few wrestlers could match the badass style of Gordy and he stood out as someone you would never want to meet in a real fight. Terry’s son Ray Gordy tried his luck in pro wrestling as Jesse in the WWE. You likely remember him more as being the mediocre partner of Festus. Jesse didn’t have the ability to succeed in the WWE and would retire after just a few years on the main roster. The in-ring style and persona was never defined for Jesse like it was for his father and that made it hard for him to get over.
Everyone remembers Meng as the most terrifying man in wrestling history. Meng is the top name when old performers discuss the wrestlers most likely to destroy anyone trying to start a fight at a bar. The legendary tough enforcer also brought it in the wrestling ring for successful runs with both WWE and WCW. Meng’s son Tama Tonga and Camacho are currently working in New Japan as members of The Bullet Club. They are an entertaining team but there’s nothing that stands out to make them special performers. Camacho failed terribly in WWE and both sons have been unable to get close to touching their dad’s legacy.
9 Stan Stasiak
Stan “The Man” Stasiak will always be in the history books as a WWE Champion after ending the three year title reign of Pedro Morales. The title run by Stasiak was transitional as he dropped it to Bruno Sammartino weeks later but it was still an honor to have a rare title win in the 70s. Stan’s son, Shawn, had a world of hype behind him entering the business but had a horrible career in the squared circle. Shawn flopped in both WWE and WCW, showing very little aptitude for the wrestling business before calling it quits. Stan was the superior wrestler but Shawn is a very successful chiropractor, so it all evens out.
8 Eric Bischoff
As seen with the other examples on this list, wrestling skills aren’t hereditary, but neither is charisma. Eric Bischoff was an amazing on-screen character as the figurehead for the New World Order, as well as running WCW backstage. The company achieved its greatest success with Bischoff in charge. Unfortunately, WCW went out of business and Easy E tried to regain the magic in TNA about a decade later. Eric’s son Garett Bischoff tried to enter the business as a wrestler for TNA under his dad’s guidance, but was absolutely atrocious. Garett could be argued among the worst in-ring performers of the past few years with equally terrible promo skills. Thank goodness it was too late for him to join the nWo.
7 Eddie Guerrero
The Guerrero family is synonymous with pro wrestling and Eddie Guerrero was easily the biggest star of the family. Eddie influenced many of the current stars today with his all-around game being pristine in every aspect of the business. Guerrero's early passing is still heartbreaking to wrestling fans. Eddie’s family tried to continue the tradition by Vickie Guerrero becoming an on-screen figure. Their daughter Shaul Guerrero tried training in WWE developmental with hopes of becoming the next big women’s wrestling star. Unfortunately, Shaul couldn’t get the knack for wrestling and struggled to improve at the pace needed to succeed in the WWE environment. Shaul retired but still has a place in wrestling as both a Guerrero and the wife of current star Aiden English.
6 Jimmy Snuka
One of the most pivotal visuals in wrestling history is Jimmy Snuka diving off the top of the cage at Madison Square Garden in the 80s. Snuka deservingly entered the Hall of Fame for his in-ring accomplishments with a long and storied career. The controversy of a recent indictment for third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges has tainted his wrestling achievements, but he was a great entertainer to watch during his time. Superfly’s children Tamina and Sim Snuka both secured contracts with WWE but both have failed to develop successful careers. Tamina remains employed but does very little in the ring for the company and Sim was booted quickly after a horrible run. Jimmy is the only Snuka we will remember in the wrestling world.
5 Bruno Sammartino
Bruno Sammartino was the first big star in the WWE after dominating the 60s and 70s. The combined 4,040 days during his two title reigns is still a record in the WWE for longest time spent with the belt. Bruno was “the guy” for years and earned the confidence of the company. The legendary career of Bruno allowed his son David Sammartino to get a chance in the business despite showing very little talent. David never created an identity other than being the son of Bruno and it hurt him in the long run. No one took him seriously and his career was a colossal flop, considering how great his dad was.
4 Ted DiBiase
Ted DiBiase's heel work in WWE was legendary, as he played the wealthy heel showing his arrogance through his money. DiBiase deserved a WWE Championship reign but still left a lasting legacy without ever winning the belt. WWE hired Ted DiBiase Jr. with the hopes of his huge potential panning out like his father. DiBiase Jr. stood out in the Legacy faction along with fellow second generation stars Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes. Following the trio splitting, DiBiase Jr. was expected to become a huge success on his own but floundered. Unlike his father, he lacked a star presence and showed very little charisma causing his ultimate downfall.
3 Jerry Lawler
Jerry Lawler's wrestling career during his Memphis days is often under-appreciated due to his commentary work with the WWE over the past two decades changing his perception. Lawler was more than just a commentator and actually delivered incredible matches on a regular basis before coming to the WWE. The King was a legend but the same could not be said for Brian Christopher. The second generation Lawler didn’t use his last name but did use the connection to get into WWE. With the majority of his success coming in the comedic Too Cool team as Grandmaster Sexay, Christopher was a bust at just about every other point in his career, failing to match his father.
2 Ric Flair
You have to include Ric Flair in the conversation when talking about the greatest wrestlers of all time. Flair carried NWA/WCW on his back for years with industry-changing classics against the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Sting and Dusty Rhodes. Two of The Nature Boy’s children have made it to the big stage in pro wrestling. Charlotte is currently one of the top female stars for WWE. While she is nowhere close to her father’s greatness, Charlotte is doing a great job at living up to the legacy. The selection here for Ric is due to how horrible David Flair was. WCW saw the son of their biggest star and decided to give him a spot on television over deserving athletes. He floundered on their roster and couldn't match his father;s incredibly legacy.
1 Mr. Perfect
Curt Hennig was the “perfect” performer in the wrestling ring. Most known for his WWE run as Mr. Perfect, Hennig had an athleticism that couldn’t be matched at the time. Hulk Hogan was at the top of the WWE, but Perfect was having the matches that influenced future talent. Curtis Axel has tried to continue the legacy of the Hennig family as the next generation star to get signed by the WWE. If Curt Hennig was the definition of perfect, Axel has been the definition of average. You can see Axel tries his hardest, but he just doesn’t have the ability his father had and struggles to keep the viewer engaged. It isn’t a fair comparison when your dad is actually named Perfect, but those are the cards that are dealt.