Nepotism is one of the most controversial concepts in business and the professional wrestling industry is no different. WWE in particular has placed a questionable importance on having a noteworthy lineage, leading to some sons and daughters of wrestling legends receiving opportunities blatantly influenced by their families and in spite of whatever their individual talent level may have been at the time.
There’s nothing wrong with supporting tradition and honoring one’s forefathers, but it should go without saying that there is no guaranteed link between who a person’s parents are and whether or not they should go on to possess the same talents and abilities said parents were known for. In fact, there have been dozens of second or third generation wrestling superstars who had absolutely nothing in common with their predecessor’s outside of their famous names.
While it isn’t fair to blame a child for failing to live up to their parents, the wrestling industry is still generally at fault for promoting certain superstars past their means as a result of who else is in their family. As the old adage goes, the apple has been known to fall far from the tree and, in the case of the following superstars, the apples often wound up in an entirely different class of orchard. Keep reading to learn about 20 wrestlers who failed to live up to their family legacy.
20. Shawn Stasiak
The one upside to being considered the worst WWE World Champion of all time is that at least you got to be WWE World Champion. Unfortunately, being the son of the worst WWE World Champion of all time is apparently a completely thankless role, or at least that could be one way to describe why the career of Shawn Stasiak was a complete dud. His father Stan “The Man” Stasiak, while indeed considered one of the least notable contenders to hold WWE’s top prize, in all fairness was a regular fixture in the main event scene as a much hated heel wherever he went. Shawn, on the other hand, is best remembered for a series of extremely goofy gimmicks, with an ultimate punch line that saw him literally run into a wall. Not that this was any worse than the gimmick he debuted under, that being Terri Runnel’s sex slave. Stan Stasiak’s success was a pretty huge surprise even to him, but his son’s failure was a sure thing from day one.
19. Scott Putski
Whatever it is “Polish Power” exactly consists of, it must not run in families, because Scott Putski inherited none of what turned his father Ivan into one of the top babyface stars of the 1980s. Ivan wrestled for WWE most of the decade, winning the WWE World Tag Team Championships with Tito Santana in 1979 and feuding on and off with names like WWE World Champion “Superstar” Billy Graham and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. His son Scott wasn’t quite as lucky, debuting for WWE amongst great fanfare as the son of a legend in 1997, only to virtually disappear only a few months after a brief father-son feud with Jerry Lawler and Brian Christopher. Scott jumped to WCW and challenged for the TV Championship, but this is a far cry from the WWE Hall of Fame, where his father was inducted in 1995.
18. Horace Hogan
Having a famous relative can only help so much, even if that relative boasts himself as the biggest icon in the history of wrestling. Although “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan has waxed and waned in popularity over the years, there were many points in time when The Hulkster was indeed the unquestionable top star in the industry. It was a no-brainer that his nephew Horace would utilize their familial connection at some point in his career and the day finally came when both men were working for WCW in 1998. Rather than be the spark that shot Horace into superstardom, being revealed as Hulk Hogan’s nephew only made it clear how little charisma he had in comparison, as Horace would suck the life out of any segment he was allowed to speak during. Hulk did what he could to bolster his nephew’s profile by making him a member of the nWo, but this would be Horace’s only stateside claim to fame and he eventually left the wrestling business to work in construction.
17. Ross Hart
Tempting though it was to include the hyperactive Teddy Hart on this list, at least the kid was able to stand out in the ring, which is more than could be said about his uncle Ross. Most people know Bret and Owen were the standout brothers in WWE and the career of their father Stu was one of the most legendary in wrestling history. Although older brothers Smith, Bruce, and Keith didn’t become big stars working for the McMahon’s, they were notable names in their native Canada and specifically the Hart’s Stampede Wrestling. This only leaves Wayne, who only performed as a referee, Dean, who died tragically young, and Ross, who was so unremarkable in comparison to his brothers that his few WWE matches were under a presumed named. While wrestlers with famous families occasionally use pseudonyms to stand out on their own, in Ross’s case, we have to assume it was more so Bret and Owen wouldn’t get dragged down by comparison.
16. Sim Snuka
The jury is literally still out on “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka in regards to whether or not he murdered Nancy Argentino in 1983, although the evidence has looked pretty bad for three decades now. Regardless of how the trial turns out, Snuka’s reputation has been forever sullied and that must mean all sorts of confusing things for his son, Sim Snuka. The younger Snuka also achieved fame as Deuce of Deuce n Domino, former WWE World Tag Team Champions. Of course, this fame in no way comes near to the incredible heights achieved by Superfly, who engaged in groundbreaking feuds with Bob Backlund, Don Muraco, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, the last of which got him involved in the main event of the WrestleMania I. In stark contrast, Sim Snuka’s one WrestleMania appearance occurred disguised as a cameraman and his attempt at catching The Undertaker during a suicide dive went so badly for both men that Snuka was released and blacklisted from the company shortly thereafter. Granted, it doesn’t compare to the blacklisting his father is set to face once his trial finally ends.
15. Erik Watts
Having a parent with significant experience in the ring can help a young wrestler get their foot in the door, but that doesn’t compare in the slightest to the opportunities that young superstar could find themselves receiving if they have a parent with significant experience behind-the-scenes. “Cowboy” Bill Watts started his career as a notably success wrestler, challenging for the WWE World Championship and winning a variety of regional titles around the country. His true success, however, came as the booker of Mid-South Wrestling, which would become famous for discovering a countless number of national stars including The Junkyard Dog, Jim Duggan, Ted DiBiase, Jim Ross, Sting, and Jake Roberts. A few years after Mid-South went out of business, Watts was hired as the head booker of WCW and this is where he introduced his son Erik to the world. Watts was already known for questionable nepotism thanks to his other son, Mid-South announcer Joel Watts and Erik took it another step further with complete ineptness in the ring.
14. David Sammartino
The accomplishments of Bruno Sammartino will likely never again be matched in the wrestling community and yet the Living Legend himself had hoped against hope that his son David would be the one to come close to eclipsing him. Bruno held the WWE World Championship longer than any other performer, reigning for seven and a half years as champion during his first stint with the belt. At Bruno’s insistence, David was introduced to WWE in the mid-1980s and the two were pushed as a main attraction with Bruno managing his son. However, whenever Bruno was out of the picture, it was clear his son was nowhere near the caliber of star as the Italian Superman. Vince McMahon was pretty blatant about only pushing David to get Bruno to stick around and the jig was eventually up in 1988 when both men left the company for the last time, until Bruno finally returned in 2013 to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Chances are, David will never be receiving that same honor.
13. Michael Shane
He is The Icon, The Showstopper, The Main Event…’s significantly younger cousin. Shawn Michaels needs no introduction to even the newest wrestling fan and yet his cousin Michael Shane is almost a complete unknown to the WWE Universe. TNA fans are probably slightly more familiar with Shane, but his legacy is still miles away from his famous cousin, despite the fact HBK also taught Shane everything he knows. Shane used Shawn’s training to become one of the early standouts in TNA’s groundbreaking X Division, winning the TNA X Division Championship on two separate occasions. Shane’s stock started to drop once WWE threatened a lawsuit that forced him to change his name and he has more or less left the spotlight since 2008. HBK, on the other hand, still has enough pull to get a new spotlight built for him every time he feels like making a legacy appearance for WWE.
12. Sam Houston
Not all family histories are positive and that of Grizzly Smith had a tendency towards the downright horrifying. Grizzly was the father of WWE Hall of Famer Jake Roberts, as well as less famous superstars Rockin’ Robin and Sam Houston. All three worked for WWE at the same time in the late 1980s, and though Jake and Robin stood out completely independent of one another, Houston’s role in history was more of an also-ran. Houston very briefly stood out at the start of his career as the protégé of Magnum T.A. and Dusty Rhodes, although this would ultimately turn out to be his downfall, as it caused him to suffer many beatings at the hands of The Four Horsemen without ever getting his revenge. Roberts stood out wherever he went thanks to his incredible skills in psychology and on the microphone and their sister was a decent enough talent to stand out in an era where few women female wrestlers were even around in the first place. Despite never becoming the caliber of star as either his siblings or father, Houston still managed to inherit the family’s history of substance issues, having been arrested countless times for DUIs.
11. David Flair
Perhaps the most impressive element of Charlotte Flair’s young career isn’t that she has already managed to stand out for reasons unrelated to who her famous father is, but rather that she even had a chance in the first place after the embarrassingly unimpressive career of her brother David. David Flair made his debut for WCW in late 1998 and was WCW United States Champion within six months. The difference between this and Charlotte’s sterling success in more recent years is that while Charlotte wrestles consistently great matches, David barely had any training whatsoever and was more or less the personification of too fast, too soon. David also won the WCW World Tag Team Championships with Crowbar in early 2000, but that would be as close as he came to his sister or their father’s legacies. David attempted further training with WWE and made a few non-wrestling appearances with the company, but he was ultimately deemed unfit to be a wrestler and left the industry in the early 2000s.
10. Tiger Ali Singh
The WWE tenure of Tiger Ali Singh may have been marred with controversy and accusations of racism, but one fact that is beyond debate is that he was nowhere near the level of star as his father, Tiger Jeet Singh. Tiger Jeet Singh experienced a long career that, while often as controversial as his son’s, would reach such heights that he was allowed to challenge for both the NWA and WWE World Championships on multiple occasions throughout the 1960s and 70s. Jeet also became a huge star internationally through his battles with Antonio Inoki in Japan and wars with El Canek in Mexico. Ali, on the other hand, became best known for managing D’Lo Brown and Chaz during the much maligned Lo Down gimmick. If not for his poor skills as a manager, Ali is perhaps best known for a failed attempt at suing WWE for millions due to unsafe working conditions and fostering a racist environment. Much like Tiger Ali’s career, the lawsuit went away without making much of a dent, in stark contrast to the longer and far more successful career of his father.
9. Jamie Dundee
In terms of sheer numbers, it could be possible more wrestling fans are aware of JC Ice, Jamie Dundee, than are aware of his father, “Superstar” Bill Dundee. However, this is only due to the eras in which the two competed and the fact JC Ice used his father’s regional fame to earn steady employment with WWE, ECW, and WCW throughout the 1990s. Bill Dundee instead kept to the Southern territories where he had been a legend since the 1970s, particularly the Memphis area. Bill Dundee was the same level of star as future WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler, who in fact was Dundee’s regular tag team partner for many years. Jamie Dundee did achieve some success as one half of the tag team PG-13 with his partner Wolfie D, even winning regional tag team titles of their own. Unfortunately, Jamie’s personal life took a turn for the worse and he is now as well known for his drunken shoot interviews as any of his minor accomplishments in the ring. Bill Dundee’s legend may not travel far, but at least it doesn’t have as many stains on it as that of his offspring.
8. Brian Christopher
In spite of a longstanding running joke claiming the contrary, it is common knowledge amongst the wrestling world that Brian Christopher is Jerry Lawler’s son. Despite this fact, Brian Christopher has never been taken seriously on a level anywhere near his famous father and most instances in which the two appeared on camera together dragged The King down like he knew it would, which is why he started telling the joke in the first place. Lawler is one of the preeminent legends of the territorial era of wrestling, with his feud against Andy Kaufman causing national headlines years before Vince McMahon took wrestling nationwide. Brian Christopher once won the WWE World Tag Team Championships for a month with Scotty II Hotty as a member of Too Cool, but that’s about the closest he came to coming anywhere near matching his father’s significance to the industry. More recently, Christopher was involved in one of the more embarrassing moments of his father’s career, when a confrontation between the two left the Raw audience in stone silence with how uninterested they were seeing Jerry get yelled at by his kid.
7. Curtis Axel
This list proves just how hard it can be for a wrestler with a parent famous for any reason, so imagine how tough it must be if that parent was specifically noteworthy for having literally been perfect. Vince McMahon renamed Curt Hennig as Mr. Perfect for a reason and Perfect portrayed that reason every time he stepped into a wrestling ring. Perfect’s father was a noteworthy name as well, ever since Larry “The Axe” Hennig won the AWA World Tag Team Championships with a variety of partners starting in the early 1960s. Curtis Axel’s career has been on a relative upswing since switching his name from Michael McGillicuty, but it’s going to take more than an unpopular reign with the WWE Intercontinental Championship before fans start thinking Axel is anywhere near worthy of his perfect family name. Since he’s turned into a comedy character noteworthy for how disappointed in him his family should, chances are they never well.
6. Chavo Guerrero, Jr.
Maybe it isn’t fair to consider Chavo Guerrero, Jr. the black sheep of his family. Part of the problem is that he’s been saddled with atrocious gimmicks in both WWE and WCW, something that isn’t necessarily his fault. Nonetheless, the fact remains Chavo simply wasn’t as unique as any of his uncles or his grandfather to begin with, and had he not been so close in age to Eddie, we’re not so sure he ever could have become a star on his own. Modern fans probably don’t realize just how big a star Chavo’s namesake father was during the regional era of wrestling, nor how family patriarch Gory helped define the art of lucha libre as early as the 1930s. However, even if one were only to compare Chavo to Eddie, it should be clear Chavo doesn’t posses nearly the charisma that certain other family members did. In fairness, though, Chavo is one of the better overall wrestlers to make this list.
5. Ted DiBiase, Jr.
If everybody has a price, Ted DiBiase must not have been paying people off to support his son’s endeavors at following in his footsteps. One of the problems could well have been that DiBiase, Jr. was far too direct in the manner through which he was mimicking his father, although a general lack of passion was ultimately what caused DiBiase, Jr. to leave WWE and the wrestling business behind. DiBiase, Sr. was one of the greatest heels in WWE as “The Million Dollar Man,” creating his own Million Dollar Championship and holding it for years when his efforts at winning the WWE World Championship fell short. DiBiase, Jr. would never come close to his father’s notoriety, although he would revive The Million Dollar Championship and even The Million Dollar Man’s valet, Virgil, in an effort at getting crowd’s to care about him in the slightest. DiBiase, Jr. was also notable as a member of The Legacy, although his distinction in this group is that he was the only one to fail his family legacy deeply enough to end up on this list.
4. Greg Gagne
Verne Gagne was more than both a pro wrestler and a wrestling promoter; Gagne was one of the architects who would define the industry as it is known to this day. Verne was the owner of the American Wrestling Association and held that promotion’s World Championship a record 10 times, using his notoriety and technical wrestling abilities to become one of the first television stars the sport would create. While Greg Gagne wasn’t particularly terrible, he possessed nowhere near the groundbreaking talents of his father. Greg in fact never quite made it out of the tag division, where he formed a decent team with Jim Brunzell known as The High Flyers, albeit hardly one that would change the world. Despite this, Verne received harsh criticism for pushing his son at all and Greg never made it to the World Championship as a result. Of course, outside of the AWA and without his father backing him, there wouldn’t have been any chance of that happening to begin with.
3. Slam Master J
Despite how stupid his gimmicks were, one thing that Slam Master J had to his credit was that he never used his famous father in order to standout in WWE. It would have been easy enough for him to do so, considering Slam Master’s real name is Terry Ray Gordy, Jr., making him the son of WWE Hall of Famer and Fabulous Freebird Terry Gordy. In addition to being one of The Freebirds, Gordy also managed to win dozens of singles titles in both Japan and the US, arguably being one of the most successful American wrestlers in the history of Japan. While The Freebirds are one of the most famous teams to grace the sport, Slam Master J’s foray into the tag team ranks as one half of Jesse and Festus was far from memorable and much closer to embarrassing. Festus was the more insulting character of the two, but Gordy, Jr. was so greatly lowering his stock by even being involved in the mess that his career was finished long before he had a chance to come anywhere near the accomplishments of his father.
The extended Anoa’i family is as confusing as it is large and it can be hard for fans to keep track of who exactly is related to who. Afa Anoa’i, Jr. is the one wrestler who’s name gives it away, although WWE naturally had to go and ruin that by making him better known by the name Manu. Regardless, the fact remains that Manu is the son of WWE Hall of Famer and Wild Samoan, Afa. By extension, this relates Manu to other top WWE superstars such as Yokozuna, The Rock, Roman Reigns, The Usos, Umaga, and Rikishi. With barely six months in WWE to his name, Manu almost unquestionably has the least impressive resume out of any wrestler in his family. Half of his cousins are former World Champions, and even his less noteworthy brother Samu is a former WWE World Tag Team Champion. Despite some negative connotations associated with the gimmick, The Wild Samoans clearly spread their influence far throughout the wrestling universe by way of their talented family. Unfortunately for Manu, he himself somehow escaped that influence.
1. Chris Von Erich
The story of the Von Erich family is one of the most infamous and tragic in wrestling and Chris Von Erich could well be the brother with the saddest story of all. Fritz Von Erich was said to unfairly force his sons into careers as wrestlers, but Chris actually loved getting in the ring and was desperate to become a star on the level of his older brothers. Unfortunately, Chris was also significantly smaller than his brothers, had asthma, and had such brittle bones he regularly suffered from injuries during even the simplest wrestling moves. Making matters worse for Chris were his infamous family problems, particularly the suicide of his brother Mike in 1987, from which many close to Chris claim he never recovered. Chris followed his brothers in their tragic fate in September of 1991 when he committed suicide. Despite being considered the weakest wrestler of his family, Chris nonetheless joined the other Von Erichs when they were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009, where he is at long last viewed as an equal to his brothers.
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