A child following the footsteps of his parents is a story that is as old as time. Every year, parents pass down companies, opportunities and jobs to their young ones, and that tradition continues on for generation after generation. It should come as no surprise that the same occurs in the sports world. Fans of certain ages have seen names like Manning, Griffey, Winslow, Barry, Curry, Hardaway and others for decades. Sometimes, the second generation fails to live up to the first, while the opposite occurs in other situations.
Pro wrestling is no different than any other part of sports and of life in that children of wrestlers sometimes want to, when at the proper age, emulate the careers had by their fathers and, in some cases, their grandfathers. Professional wrestling lives in the blood of such individuals, and a life of traveling from city to city and of taking bumps inside of hard rings is as natural as is an office manager being away from his family for 50+ hours a week. Those born into the wrestling world don’t always escape it, while others choose to embrace it.
Some of the greatest in-ring workers fans have ever watched are second-generation stars, the children of wrestlers from older days. The two men who sit atop this list are widely respected as two of the best to ever perform for the World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment. One was a technician who was involved in what will probably forever be the most-famous match finish in WWE history, while the other has turned himself into an international phenom of the film and wrestling worlds.
20. Dean Malenko
An undersized performer who didn’t always deliver stellar promos, Malenko was respected for being one of the best workers of the 1990s. He delivered five-star quality matches in Extreme Championship Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling, and it was in WCW where “The Man of 1,000 Holds” had memorable feuds with Rey Mysterio Jr., Último Dragón, Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero. Malenko also spent some time in what was to be the last ever version of the Four Horsemen.
His father, Boris, won a variety of championships in the ’60s and ’70s.
19. Tully Blanchard
Blanchard’s most-celebrated days came in the 1980s when he was in the National Wrestling Alliance. He was already a multi-time singles champion when he linked up with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Ole Anderson to create the most-famous edition of the Four Horsemen. That stable, perhaps the greatest in the history of North American pro wrestling, dominated the territory and won and defended multiple championships, and the four also “lived the gimmick” by having as much fun outside of the ring as they did inside of it.
Tully’s father was Joe Blanchard, who was a promoter and star with the AWA.
18. Jeff Jarrett
It is easy to brush all that Jarrett achieved aside because of the massive failure that has been Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. To his credit, it is difficult to imagine what would have happened to the North American pro wrestling scene had he and his father Jerry not attempted to create a true World Wrestling Entertainment competitor, and Jarrett also deserves credit for the many in-ring roles he has played over the decades. Jarrett has been a World Heavyweight Champion in multiple promotions, and he is now working to make Global Force Wrestling into the next big wrestling company.
17. Ted DiBiase
DiBiase was adopted at a young age by “Iron” Mike DiBiase who was an accomplished wrestler before suffering a heart attack in the ring. While DiBiase was respected for his in-ring work and for his ability to carry lesser performers who were bigger stars to good matches, it is his days spent as “The Million Dollar Man” that has him revered as one of the best performers of the late 1980s and early 1990s. His custom-made Million Dollar Championship Belt was a thing of beauty, as were the vignettes that included DiBiase buying out a jewelry store or closing down a public swimming pool all so he could have it to himself. DiBiase was the perfect character for the right time, when “everybody had a price” for The Million Dollar Man.
16. Greg Valentine
“The Hammer” and son of Johnny, who won titles across Japan and America, never won the main title in one of the top national professional wrestling organizations in the United States, but Valentine was a decorated tag-team champion who also held numerous midcard championships during his career. Valentine, who wrestled for over four decades, had runs in the National Wrestling Alliance, WWE and World Championship Wrestling, and he teamed with and feuded against, among other wrestlers, Ric Flair. Valentine was a member of the 2004 WWE Hall of Fame class, where he was inducted by all-time great manager Jimmy Hart.
15. Owen Hart
Owen was the younger brother of Bret and son to Stu Hart, one of the most respected men in wrestling history. While Owen was a respected in-ring worker during his early days in WWE, it was not until his heel turn on older brother Bret that fans got to see what he could do on the microphone. He was even more impressive following The Montreal Screwjob, when it seemed as if Owen, the last Hart to remain in the WWE, would get revenge on Shawn Michaels. The WWE never gave Hart the opportunity to run with the ball, however, and his story ended tragically in 1999 roughly two years after his talents were thoroughly wasted by the company.
14. Kerry Von Erich
While opinions on the subject do vary among wrestling fans and analysts, Kerry is seen by many to have been the most talented of the Von Erich brothers. One of the most popular babyface performers of the mid-1980s, Von Erich had a plethora of singles championship runs on his resume his professional and persona life began falling apart in 1986. A motorcycle accident resulted in Von Erich’s right foot being amputated, and that was the beginning of his problems with substance abuse. He took his own life in 1993, just one of many tragic stories to haunt this wrestling family.
Kerry’s father was Fritz Von Erich, who was a well known wrestler and promoter.
13. Bob Orton Jr.
The bridge in his family that connects Bob Sr. with Randy (more on him later), Cowboy Bob was a classic heel in his day, a wrestler who would use whatever gimmick or move necessary to emerge from matches as the victor. Perhaps his most memorable moments involved him putting Ric Flair out of action with the spike piledriver, and also Orton wearing a cast on his arm long after a real-life injury had healed because of “doctor’s orders.” Orton reprised that cast gimmick while appearing with son Randy in the WWE as a mentor/manager.
12. Jake Roberts
It is a shame that too many will remember Roberts for all of the demons that he has battled since his best days in the WWE, because “The Snake” has become an under-appreciated performer since his active in-ring career came to an end. Roberts was known to deliver promos that were downright haunting, and he would seemingly slither in and around the ring during matches as if attempting to match his nickname. Roberts was, in his prime, a unique talent, one that could have been a superstar in just about any era.
His father went by the name of Grizzly Bear in the world of professional wrestling and racked up a variety of championships across different promotions.
11. Nick Bockwinkel
Trained by his father Warren, Nick was widely regarded to be an all-time great in-ring worker for his time, a wrestler who was able to tell great stories during matches while also making the action look believable. Bockwinkel won the AWA World Heavyweight Championship on multiple occasions, and both the Wrestling Observer and the WWE have inducted him into their Halls of Fame. Wrestling fans who were of an old enough age in the early 1980s may remember that Bockwinkel feuded with Hulk Hogan for a brief time.
He was trained by his father Warren, a star in the ’40s, and a certain Lou Thesz, on his way to become an all-time great.
10. Dory Funk Jr.
Dory Funk Jr. is still regarded as one of the greatest champions in the history of the National Wrestling Alliance. He once held that title for over four years, and he sits as the fifth-longest reigning NWA Champion in the history of that promotion. Funk has been inducted into multiple wrestling halls of fame, and he is also credited for inventing the Texas Cloverleaf finisher that has, in more recent years, been utilized by wrestlers such as Dean Malenko and Sheamus. In his later years, Funk went on to train multiple wrestlers who featured for the WWE.
His father, Dory Sr., was, as many other fathers on this list, a former wrestling superstar and promoter.
9. Eddie Guerrero
Through multiple national wrestling promotions and also the exposure that comes from cable and national television contracts, Eddie became the most-famous wrestler to emerge out of the Guerrero family in the eyes of casual fans who live in the United States. While he started as a cruiserweight in World Championship Wrestling, Guerrero made his name during tag-team and solo runs in World Wrestling Entertainment. His championship victory at WrestleMania XX and the celebration that included Guerrero and Chris Benoit is now a tainted moment in WWE history considering all that has since occurred.
His father was Gory Guerrero, who was a star performer in Mexico and the US.
8. Rey Mysterio
Mysterio broke onto the wrestling scenes in the United States in Extreme Championship Wrestling, where he dazzled adoring crowds with his aerial maneuvers that left those watching speechless. He went on to have memorable matches in World Championship Wrestling, but it was in World Wrestling Entertainment where Mysterio got his opportunity to main event pay-per-view shows. He won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on multiple occasions, and, while it seems as if he is now on the outs with the promotion, he remains one of the best “little men” to ever wrestle in the US.
7. Terry Funk
One of the innovators of hardcore wrestling in North American, Funk, who was also a gifted technical wrestler, was a unique talent in that he could do whatever was asked of him in the ring. He could go and blow himself up — literally — during a gimmick match on one night, and then go and participate in an instant classic “I Quit” encounter versus the ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair on another. Funk’s ability to draw emotional responses from fans, such as when he drew tears from performers and fans alike when he won the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, helped make him one of the greatest workers of all time.
His brother was Dory Jr., who appeared earlier on this list, and his father was the legendary Dory Funk Sr.
6. Curt Hennig
The son of Larry “The Ax” won the World Heavyweight Championship while with the American Wrestling Association, and he also enjoyed a semi-successful stint while with World Championship Wrestling. It is his “Mr. Perfect” gimmick that he had in the World Wrestling Federation that has made Hennig an Internet sensation, even 12 years after he passed away. Thanks to websites such as YouTube, wrestling fans can relive those one-of-a-kind promos that included Mr. Perfect tossing a touchdown pass to himself and the wrestler defeating pro athletes at their own games.
5. Randy Orton
The, to date, youngest wrestler to emerge out of the Orton family is not everybody’s favorite World Wrestling Entertainment performer. Some would say that his in-ring work leaves plenty to be desired, specifically that he completes certain moves far too slowly to be believed. Whatever criticisms anybody may have about Orton, nobody can deny that he emerged as one of the top stars of his generation, and he has, at times, made for the perfect opponent for superhero babyface John Cena. With that said, many would be fine with never again seeing those two face off in the ring.
His father, who was mentioned earlier on this list, is none other than “Cowboy” Bob Orton.
4. Randy Savage
Far and away the most famous performer to emerge from the Poffo wrestling family (his father was Angelo Poffo, a star from the ’40s and ’50s), The Macho Man was as much a showman as he was an incredible in-ring worker. Savage’s intense promos were unlike anything that many casual fans had ever before witnessed, and he followed those interview segments with five-star matches against the likes of Ricky Steamboat. While Savage is largely remembered for his work while with the WWE, he often does not get enough credit for his run in World Championship Wrestling. It was there where he had a memorable feud with Diamond Dallas Page.
3. Barry Windham
Windham, the son of Blackjack Mulligan (a multiple time Championship winner), is mostly remembered for his significant runs in the National Wrestling Alliance. It was in that promotion where Windham had partnerships with and feuds against the Four Horsemen. Windham held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on one occasion and he also won numerous other singles and tag-team titles during his career. While his final stint with the WWE, one that included Windham playing roles such as “The Stalker” and a member of The New Blackjacks, are forgotten and for good reasons these days, he was deservedly inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.
2. Bret Hart
The best that there is, the best that there was and the best that there ever will be was truly “The Excellence of Execution” during his prime while with the WWE. Hart helped kick off the Attitude Era with some legendary matches versus Steve Austin, and Hart’s on-screen, and real-life, feud with Shawn Michaels changed the face of North American pro wrestling forever. The Montreal Screwjob that saw Hart controversially lose the WWE Championship to the Heartbreak Kid at the 1997 Survivor Series resulted in the birth of the Mr. McMahon character, one that had a role in the WWE overtaking WCW.
His father, as mentioned earlier in the entry on Owen Hart, is the legendary Stu Hart.
1. The Rock
Any list of second- and third-generation professional wrestling stars would be empty and illogical without The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment being placed at the top. The Rock was a once-in-a-generation talent, a true game-changer who came at the right time to help the WWE overcome WCW during the Monday Night Wars. While Steve Austin remains the biggest draw in the history of North American pro wrestling, Rock has since gone on to become a worldwide movie star. The master of the Rock Bottom and People’s Elbow has not forgotten his roots, though, as he has returned for multiple main event roles with the WWE.
To list his entire wrestling family tree would be insane, but we’ll try to do it some justice. His father was known as Rocky Johnson in the wrestling world, while his grandfather was “High Chief” Peter Maivia, two very popular stars of their time. He has a variety of cousins in the wrestling world and they include Rikishi, Yokozuna, and Umaga.
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