Wrestling is a family business. Most children are rightfully proud of what their parents do in the ring. Pro wrestling combines the athletic aspect in the ring with the acting skills on the microphone to the rock star appeal of being on television. The appeal is tempting to most of us watching at home at a young age, but the process makes us realize how difficult that goal is. Sons of wrestlers watch their fathers do it every night right in front of their eyes. The dream becomes far more realistic seeing it take place and provide a living for their household.
Many second generation wrestlers try their luck by following their successful wrestling star fathers into the business. The opportunities are open due to a family name, however, the pressure that comes from living up to a highly respected star adds another level of difficulty. Everyone will compare the talent to their dad and it often works out negatively for the son. We’ll look at some of the more unfortunate tales in wrestling history that saw a father outshine their kin. These are the top fifteen wrestling stars that were much better than their sons.
15 Dusty Rhodes
The legacy of Dusty Rhodes will never be forgotten. Fans of every generation have witnessed the greatness of Dusty in some form from his days as a legendary wrestler in the 80s to helping shape the future of WWE in the Performance Center before passing away. Both of Dusty’s sons tried to follow his footsteps into the wrestling industry. Dustin Rhodes and Cody Rhodes both deserve to be considered successes, but they just couldn’t get near the level of Dusty’s greatness.
Dustin achieved the majority of his success as the Goldust character. The work done was groundbreaking at the time, but he never rose above the midcard. Cody ended up leaving the WWE due to not having a substantial role on the show after years in the company. Neither man has been able to impact the industry or connect with the fans at the level of their dad. Dusty was truly one of a kind, making it impossible to follow his legacy.
14 Ricky Steamboat
Ricky Steamboat was ahead of his time, delivering tremendous matches on a nightly basis. His in-ring work proved to be influential as future wrestlers would be influenced by him. Steamboat didn’t achieve the success of guys like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior, but he still found a way to make an impact with the fans. The historical show-stealing performance from Steamboat and Randy Savage at WrestleMania III tells you everything you need to know about his career.
Fans respected Steamboat enough to give his son the benefit of doubt in matching his career. Richie Steamboat showed enough potential to land a contract with WWE’s developmental programs of FCW and NXT. Sadly, Richie lacked the ability to match his dad and struggled to find a role. More bad luck would occur with a back injury forcing him to retire. Ricky Steamboat supported Richie, but it was apparent the second generation would never be able to live up to the fans pressure.
13 Eric Bischoff
The controversial pundit Eric Bischoff was never technically a wrestler, but he achieved more success than the majority of his peers in the business. Bischoff had the power in WCW, running the company with owner Ted Turner’s checkbook and used it to bring the company huge results. WCW finally brought competition to the WWE under the guidance of Easy E. His career would continue for many years due to his ideas behind the scenes and charisma as a character.
Eric landing a position of power in TNA allowed him to hire and push his son Garett Bischoff as a wrestler. The TNA fan base reacted negatively booing Garett out of the building every week despite him playing a face in a feud against his father. Garett couldn’t talk as well as his dad and somehow managed to be worse in the ring. The stint served as one of the biggest flops in recent wrestling history. Easy E lives on as the most successful wrestling personality in the Bischoff household.
12 Stan Stasiak
Stan “The Man” Stasiak accomplished many great feats in his wrestling career and was one of the first stars in WWE through the 70s. The most memorable moment of Stasiak’s WWE tenure saw him shockingly end the three-year reign of Pedro Morales to become the WWE Champion. While Stasiak had one of the least impactful reigns of that era, he still reached the top of the mountain by capturing the top prize in the business. His heart punch finishing move stood out at the time and helped make Stasiak a big deal.
Following in the footsteps of his dad, Shawn Stasiak tried his luck in the world of professional wrestling. Shawn signed to the WWE in the late 90s but failed to get over during the Attitude Era. The competition was at an all-time high and Shawn just couldn’t cut the mustard with the superior talent around him. His career would bounce back and forth from WWE to WCW, but he never achieved noteworthy success. Stan’s WWE Championship reign remains the peak of success in the Stasiak family when it comes to wrestling.
11 Davey Boy Smith
Longtime wrestling fans still talk about the greatness of Davey Boy Smith today. As one of the best in-ring workers that used his strength to have exciting matches, Smith stood out on WWE television as The British Bulldog. Smith is one of the better performers to not hold the WWE Championship in his era. His body of work makes his matches some of the most compelling content to watch back on the WWE Network today.
The son of Bulldog hoped to reach the same level of success and possibly surpass his father. Harry Smith had the look and athletic talent but just lacked the special “it factor” to stand out like his dad did during big matches. WWE utilized him in a tag team with childhood friend and unofficial Hart family member Tyson Kidd. Smith would eventually part ways with the company and find a career in Japan. Still, he didn’t have the tools to match Davey Boy’s success.
10 Jimmy Snuka
Old school fans look back at Jimmy Snuka as the most exciting in-ring performer of the era. WWE wrestlers kept it in the ring and stuck to the ground game, but Snuka took risks that most weren’t familiar with. Snuka earned the nickname of “Superfly” by executing a splash off of the top rope and his finisher was aptly named The Superfly Splash. WWE put him in a position to succeed and he repaid them with a Hall of Fame worthy career, despite the issues that are currently going on his personal life.
Sim Snuka wanted to find a hugely successful WWE career similar to his dad, but instead had one of the most disappointing runs. Many of the wrestlers to work with him during his time as Deuce complained about the lack of talent shown despite being the son of Superfly. Following a mistake failing to catch The Undertaker during a dive at WrestleMania XXV while playing the cameraman, the second generation Snuka fell out of favor with the WWE and was eventually released.
9 Gerald Brisco
Gerald Brisco is remembered by fans for very different reasons. Older fans remember him for being in the outstanding tag team with his brother Jack Brisco. Attitude Era fans recall his humorous days as one of the stooges, with Pat Patterson, doing the grunt work for Vince McMahon. Today, Brisco works as a talent scout helping the company find talents in all fields to bring to the Performance Center. Wrestlers would be lucky to have half of the career of Brisco in the business.
One of the many young wrestlers that couldn’t reach his accomplishments is his son Wes Brisco. WWE signed the second generation star to a developmental contract and he never stood out in any way. TNA gave him a bigger opportunity as one of the key members of their heel faction, Aces and Eights. Brisco worked a singles feud with Kurt Angle and still failed to impress. The writing was on the wall and Wes currently appears on lower tier indie shows failing to live up to his dad’s legacy.
8 Scott Hall
There have been very few wrestlers in the industry with as much overall talent as Scott Hall. WWE and WCW showcased the impressive in-ring work, entertaining promos and star power of Hall in the 90s, as he was one of the most important players in the Monday Night Wars. Hall was his own worst enemy and his personal demons held him back from achieving even more, but he still deservingly entered the Hall of Fame.
Scott’s son Cody Hall started training in recent years to make his way into the business. Cody’s biggest opportunity came when he joined the Bullet Club in New Japan as an enforcer for the more established stars in the faction. The overall work of Cody paled in comparison to what his dad brought to the table. He failed to stand out among the American wrestlers in Japan. An injury has ruled Cody out for quite some time and it is becoming even more difficult to follow in his father’s big footsteps.
7 Ivan Putski
WWE employed Ivan Putski from 1974 to 1986 making him one of the longest tenured talents of the 70s and 80s. Known for his nickname as The Polish Power, Putski had a strong career. The high point of his in-ring career had to be winning the WWE Tag Team Championship with Tito Santana. Putski went on to feud with big name talents like Billy Graham and Jesse Ventura during his singles career. WWE rewarded his hard work by inducting him into the 1995 Hall of Fame class.
Scott Putski however did not have the same success. WWE signed him on multiple occasions in the 90s hoping he could bring the results his dad did. Vince McMahon has shown loyalty to quite a few wrestlers by giving their kids a chance in the business and Scott proved why it was a bad idea. The less talented member of the Putski family looked like a fish out of water in the ring. Ivan sadly couldn’t pass the wrestling genes over to Scott.
The one name most synonymous with toughness in the history of pro wrestling is Haku. Every wrestler from the 80s and 90s can confirm he was the last man anyone wanted to have a real fight with. Many bar rooms would find out just how dangerous the wrath of Haku truly was. WWE and WCW both employed him and he always delivered realistic action. Haku is one of those talents that never got the love he deserved, but the respect is definitely there for all he put into his work.
Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa are the sons of Haku currently working for New Japan. Roa used to perform under the name Camacho in the WWE but never could get over enough to have a full time roster spot on Raw or SmackDown. Neither of the sons are bad in the ring but they just lack the intensity of Haku that made him who he was.
They’ll likely have decent careers ahead of them, but there’s no way they’ll top Haku at this point.
5 Jerry Lawler
Younger WWE fans know Jerry Lawler for his work at the commentary table. Don’t get it wrong. Lawler’s work as a color commentator is among the best in company history, but he had a great wrestling career for many years before coming to the WWE. The King dominated the Memphis territory with incredible work that drew fans to the arena whether he was a face or heel. Lawler wrestled all over the country as a top star.
Brian Christopher had more athletic talent than his father, yet couldn’t match the success of Lawler. WWE signed him in the 90s to be a top player in the light heavyweight division. His singles heel run flopped until Christopher was renamed "Grandmaster Sexay" and teamed with Scotty 2 Hotty forming Too Cool. They meshed perfectly but Christopher always came off like the weakest link. His career would end in disappointing fashion making King the only true top wrestling name in the Lawler family.
4 Ted DiBiase
Every heel entering the WWE aspires to become anywhere near as hated as Ted DiBiase was during his best years. Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were beloved top stars, but they desperately needed villains to step up and pose as credible threats to them. DiBiase did that with his outstanding character work as the arrogant and wealthy Million Dollar Man. His in-ring work and entertaining promos made DiBiase one of the more well-rounded performers in the company for many years and an absolute legend.
Ted DiBiase Jr. joined the WWE roster many years later, being allowed to use his father's name. WWE wanted him to play off his dad’s success and actually made him recycle The Million Dollar Man gimmick. DiBiase Jr. brought back The Million Dollar Championship and Virgil was his enforcer for a short time period. No amount of nostalgia could fix the flaws. Fans didn’t connect with him. DiBiase Sr. had a special quality that easily made fans react how he wanted, but DiBiase Jr. couldn’t pull it off.
3 Bruno Sammartino
The argument can be made Bruno Sammartino was the first “Superstar” in the WWE. While he didn’t have the larger than life personality usually associated with top stars, Sammartino entered the role as the face of the company. WWE put the franchise on his back with a title reign lasting nearly eight years, Sammartino’s face was the one fans thought of when the WWE was discussed until Hulk Hogan’s rise a long time later.
Bruno’s success in the business made him a legend and one of the top names. His son David Sammartino wanted to follow the path of success, but Bruno actually was against it. Bruno wanted David to get an education and enter the business world with less pain and more stability. David went against his dad’s wishes. It ended up being a terrible mistake as David was painfully mediocre. There was nothing David did very well and Bruno was unhappily correct in wanting his son to avoid the wrestling industry.
2 Mr. Perfect
Curt Hennig lived up to his WWE name of Mr. Perfect by pulling off everything in the ring with flawless execution. His matches were ahead of their time and helped usher the WWE into the next era. Perfect shined as an elite heel that made the Intercontinental Championship matter with matches against the likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Fans are still captivated by the work of the late Perfect as his matches stand the test of time on the WWE Network.
The biggest negative for a second generation star coming into the business is seeing your flaws compared to the strengths of your father. Curtis Axel has the ghost of his dad being known as a literally perfect wrestler. Everything that Axel struggles with is something fans associate with greatness of his father’s work. Axel is as mediocre in the ring as Perfect was outstanding. It was always impossible for Axel to pass his dad, but he’s unfortunately nowhere close.
1 Ric Flair
The biggest discrepancy in talent between a father and son in the wrestling business has to feature the Flair family. Ric Flair is arguably the greatest in-ring performer of all time. Every historical discussion about wrestling at least has to consider the greatness of Flair. His matches, promos and character influenced most of the stars of the next generation. The Nature Boy’s influence led to his son David Flair wanting to try to make it in the business.
WCW signed him at a young age to a big contract and put him right on national television. David was not ready in the slightest and flopped horrendously. Nothing he did connected and he always looked out of place in the ring. No one could honestly say they enjoyed watching David perform. Ric tried to help put him over in feuds, but it just never worked. While his daughter, Charlotte, has become a top second generation star following in her father’s footsteps, David couldn’t live up to the legend of Ric Flair.