Wrestling has long been a family business. The old territories were filled with sons who took over for their fathers and often got a big push because of the connections. It’s clear many had great training to push themselves up and get a good start. However, others aren’t quite up to the standards of their parents and fade. Yet in some cases, the son can overcome the father in terms of great talent and drive. It’s not just fathers and sons as there are plenty of cases where one wrestler is far better than the others in his family and shines big time. There are plenty of examples but some just stand greater than others.
They can be sons who outshine the fathers or fathers who clearly didn't pass on the talent to their sons. But other cases can be siblings who are far better than their brothers or sisters or other members of their extended clans. Some are true mega-stars, others not as huge but clearly the superior to those in their family line. It shows how sometimes wrestling genes aren’t always equal and some workers just possess something better. Here are 20 wrestlers who were far superior to their family members and show the odd ways wrestling genes can shift about.
We should be clear, this doesn't relate to Natalya's entire family, like her uncles Bret and Owen, but it does apply to her immediate family. While Jim Neidhart was a good worker with the Hart Foundation, he was clearly in the shadow of Bret and not that sensational on his own. But he was a member of the Hart clan by marriage so it was no surprise at least one of his kids would follow him into the business. It was Natalya who took to training with zeal.
At first aiding Tyson Kidd and David Hart Smith in the Hart Dynasty, Natalya soon rose high in the women’s division as champion and had great matches. True, she had her lows (the infamous “Farting Nattie” bit) but she still showcased some incredible skills and whether heel or face, she rose high as a champion and star. She remains a top one, pushed by “Total Divas” and shows how she’s far better a performer to prove herself worthy of the Hart name.
19 Jake Roberts
Roberts is open on his family issues as his dad, Grizzlie Smith, was bit of a hard-hearted jerk at times who could make his childhood rough. Despite that, Roberts got into the business as did his half-sister Robin and half-brother Michael. She would becoming “Rocking Robin,” a decent worker who won the Women’s title and held it until the women’s division was phased out. Michael became Sam Houston who carried a cowboy gimmick into the Mid-Atlantic area for some minor titles. It’s obvious Roberts was the best, fantastic in the ring as he invented the DDT, one of the greatest finishers of all time. His promos were astonishing in their drama and ability to capture a crowd and his fame in WWE was massive with his snake and charisma making him a mega-star. He’s famous for his personal demons but Roberts also showed himself far better as a wrestling star than his family members to remain one of the most famous around.
18 Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler had a rough start in WWE, starting as “Nicky” with The Spirit Squad although he showed skills and was sent to FCW for more training. Named Dolph Ziggler, Nemeth soon rose much higher, both as heel and face, with runs as IC, US and World champion and became one of the more popular guys on the roster. His brother, Randy Nemeth, was also hired, training in FCW and WWE seemed to have hopes for him joining Ziggler on the main roster.
However, Randy just didn’t have the same in-ring skills or flash on the mic to take off nearly as well as Dolph did. He also had issues with the trainers, including accusations of bullying and despite Dolph speaking up for him, Randy was released. He spent time on the indies before basically retiring to try his hand as a comic. Clearly, Dolph was the real star of the duo and shows it in WWE on a weekly basis.
17 Tully Blanchard
Blanchard’s father, Joe, had been the star of the American Wrestling Association and a top promoter although his fame outside the territory wasn’t that big. Tully naturally wanted to join the business and after training, joined the Southwest Championship Wrestling promotion Joe ran. Tully really hit the big time when he joined Jim Crockett Promotions, basically selling himself as a rich guy jerk. He was one of the first “cool heels". He was cocky and arrogant but backed his actions up in the ring.
He had runs as TV and US champion, including a classic feud with Magnum T.A. As a member of The Four Horsemen, Blanchard’s promos were terrific keeping the Horsemen hated by fans and rising as mega-stars. He also joined Arn Anderson as The Brainbusters in WWE to hold tag titles in both companies. A drug bust and a turn to religion ended his wrestling career but Tully showed himself far better a star than his dad and one of the best of JCP ever.
Carlos Colon was the biggest star in Puerto Rico. Skilled and tough, his bloody battles with Abdullah the Butcher would put ECW to shame. Carlito followed in his dad’s footsteps, winning the WWC title 17 times, a great high flyer who could shine in the ring in technical bouts. Moving to WWE, Carlito soon became a hot arrogant heel for runs as US and IC champion,. His “cool” persona was a great standout, complete with his “Carlito’s Cabana” interview segment. He and brother Primo formed a tag team, soon rising up well as tag champions, a great combination in the ring. However, it was clear Carlito was carrying them more and far more the star athlete of the duo. Both left WWE with Carlito finding success on the indie circuit to show how he was the better of Carlos’ two sons.
15 Curt Hennig
Hennig got a good start in wrestling as his father was Larry “the Axe” Hennig, a major star for the American Wrestling Association. Trained by his dad and Verne Gagne, Hennig rose up well as tag team champ and then turning heel for a good run as AWA World champion. But in WWE, he found his greatest success as he was suited for the role of “Mr. Perfect.” Any match with Hennig was terrific to watch, He was skilled and his arrogant promos were terrific. His runs as Intercontinental Champion were great as he had top matches with the best stars of the time and brought real prestige to the IC title. He was marred by a back injury but came back well and his WCW runs included being US champ and showing more of his great skills off.
Known as a prankster of the highest order, Hennig also showcased himself as a great star. Unfortunately his son, Joe Hennig (Curtis Axel) has largely floundered in WWE and hasn't proven to have the charisma of his dad.
14 David Von Erich
The Von Erich family name has become synonymous with tragedy. Of the five brothers who got into the business, only Kevin remains alive, with three of the others dying by their own hand. Drug use, the push of fame and Fritz refusing to see their issues all contributed to how these tragedies came about. The main three brothers were Kevin, Kerry and David. Kerry looked amazingly sculpted but was hurt by his addictions while Kevin had health issues.
David, on the other hand, was clearly the star of the family. He was a terrific worker and able to handle long bouts, moving from technical to brawling with ease. He was also the best of the brothers on the mic, a natural talker who won fans over and was able to push a feud to its heights. David was truly rising as a star with serious talk of making him NWA World champion and most found him a much better fit for the title than Kerry or Kevin. His sudden death in early 1984 shifted everything and would be the start of so many tragedies for this family as David was really the best of them all.
13 Randy Savage
As the sons of Angelo Poffo, Randy and Lanny were pushed into the business although Randy had considered a career in baseball. They both had good physical skills but Randy just excelled far more. Better was that Randy was utterly sensational on the mic, his promos stunning to watch as he’d growl and boast of his greatness while backing it all up inside the ring. After time in Portland and Memphis, Savage moved to WWE and in no time was one of the biggest stars in the company. He had a long run as IC champ, a run as WWE champ and his time as the “Macho King” established him as a true legend.
While Lanny was okay as a “poet” character and then “The Genius,” he couldn’t come close to matching his brother’s star power and in-ring talent. Even if his last name was different, Savage easily showed he was the star of the Poffo family in every way imaginable.
12 Dustin Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes had more skill than fans gave him credit for as evidenced by his years of experience and ability to carry a 60-minute match. However, his ring skills were rough as was his chunky appearance. Dustin had a slow start but would soon showcase he was a much better worker than his father, faster and able to run well as US, TV and tag team champion in WCW. In WWE, he was ahead of his time creating the character of Goldust, rocking fans with this bizarre appearance, his promos strange yet you couldn’t look away from them.
It paid off as he became IC and tag team champion as well as boosting his fame more. While brother Cody did have his own runs as a champion and showed his great skills, he could never click as well as Dustin did. His character of “Stardust” showed how lacking he was and that Dustin really had the better overall performance aspect of the Rhodes sons.
11 Eddie Guerrero
The Guerrero clan was born for wrestling, Gory leading the way in the business, invented the Camel Clutch and a sensational Mexican star. This led to more of his family getting into the business like Chavo and others. Yet Eddie was something else, a truly gifted worker with his high flying and a sensational technical star. His feud with Rey Mysterio in WCW is still legendary although his personal problems would take a toll on him. In WWE, he hit rock bottom but then rebuilt his life, getting sober and soon winning fans over with his “Lie, Cheat, Steal” persona that made him more popular than ever.
It paid off with winning the WWE title and fans embraced him as a heroic icon for Latino fans. He and Chavo worked together well but Eddie was clearly far better a performer to carry crowds amazingly well. His death in 2005 still hurts many fans and shows how Eddie is the one fans remember whenever the Guerreros are mentioned.
10 Bray Wyatt
Fans still do a double take when they hear about this. Bo Dallas was a good NXT champion but hurt in WWE by the attempts to make him a “motivational” type although his new heel turn is helping. But fans are amazed to find out he and Bray Wyatt are brothers. Bray started off just as bad as “Husky Harris” and his time with The Nexus was limited. But a makeover transformed him into the bizarre character fans have taken to with his great promos, wild ring style and showcasing a strange appeal. It hasn’t led to gold yet but his segments are always a winner with fans and he’s proven himself a main eventer with his various feuds with stars like John Cena, Undertaker and others.
Dallas is good and improving yet Bray clearly has more fan heat and is better in the ring so he shines as the real star of two guys you would never believe are brothers.
9 Jeff Hardy
True, his personal life can be a real mess. However, it’s clear Jeff is the better of the two Hardy Brothers in the ring. They came to WWE together, mostly used for filler bouts and jobber talent until they started to get a push in 1999. Soon, their double-team moves and high flying were winning fans as they won the tag titles several times. Their TLC battles are still the stuff of legend and when they moved to being singles workers, Jeff was clearly the favorite. While good technically and his high-flying moves astounding, it’s his daredevil spirit fans can never get enough of. This is a man who willingly leaps off 20 foot ladders through tables, going through brutal and bloody battles and comes back for more. It’s led to runs as the world champion in both WWE and TNA although his personal issues of drug use and arrests have hurt his standing with fans.
Still, while Matt is a good worker in his own right, he just doesn’t match Jeff in appeal in bouts so it’s Jeff who shines as the star of the team. We should point out though that Matt has closed the gap, with his "Broken" gimmick in TNA.
8 The Rock
The Anoa’i family is among the more famous of the various Samoan clans. Like others, they have an innate toughness and strength that’s carried them well into wrestling. The clan members have included Deuce, Rikishi, Rosey, Umaga, Yokozuna and Roman Reigns. Yet it’s obvious that Dwayne Johnson is the best of all of them. He was already skilled as a high-flyer when he entered WWE but was marred by the attempts to push him as a clean-cut babyface which audiences hated.
It took an injury and a heel turn to unleash his inner awesomeness, a great worker but even better as a genius on the mic. In no time, The Rock was the biggest star in WWE and also moved on to fame in movies. He’s become an A-list Hollywood star yet his return to wrestling in 2011 still got attention to show he could hold a crowd in the palm of his hand like no one else. This is a family that’s produced several workers but The Rock stands tall over all of them in terms of stardom.
7 Booker T
The Ebony Experience had been a good tag team in the indies but hit a major problem when WCW wanted them to come out as convicts in chains. Thankfully, that was dropped so Booker T and Stevie Ray became Harlem Heat, one of the best teams around. They would hold the tag titles a total of ten times, facing every top team of the time and establishing themselves as mega-stars. When Stevie was injured in 1998, Booker went into singles work and amazed by being a really great worker. He held the TV title several times, showing off with tough skills and his promos a winner with fans. He finally got the World title in 2000, his reign a bright spot to the rough stuff of WCW as it went under. In WWE, he had runs with several titles as well as success in TNA and his promos always a winner. While he’s hung it up now, Booker sticks with WWE and his success showcases he was the one of the brothers who had the true heat for wrestling.
6 Scott Steiner
Rick Steiner had been showing his stuff in the UWF and then WCW, winning the TV title and impressing with his skills. But when he joined with brother Scott, it was absolutely amazing how Scott was clearly the better of the two. Well-muscled, he was a strongman but backed it up with great high-flying skills and also a stunning mix of technical work. His Frankensteiner finisher was something never seen before in the U.S. and fans were rocked at how well he handled great matches.
Together, the Steiners held the NWA/WCW tag titles several times as well as the WWE belts and were the best duo of their time. When they split, Scott took off as a singles guy, transforming into “Big Poppa Pump” with runs as WCW champion and earned fame for his insane promos. True, his steroid use did ruin much of his skills but in terms of star power (both in WCW and his later TNA run), Scott showed he was clearly the bigger star of the two Steiners.
5 Terry Funk
Dory Funk Sr. was a great worker who also pushed one of the best promotions in Texas that featured numerous young stars. Among them were his sons, Dory Jr. and Terry, the only two brothers to separately hold the NWA World title. Dory Jr. was a great worker, skilled and technical but Terry was easily his superior in many ways. Insanely tough and wild, Terry could put on a five star match one night, then a full-scale bloody brawl the next to incite a crowd to riot.
More impressive is that while Dory basically retired in the late 1980s, Terry thrived with feuds with Ric Flair in the NWA and then tore it up more as a wild man in the indies. Of course, he helped put ECW on the map and it was stunning to see a man in his 50s still going out to bloody himself and hang with these younger guys. While he’s taking it easier, it’s hard to see Funk retiring for good and Terry is the most recognizable member of the Funk clan.
4 Owen Hart
It may seem easy to say Bret was the best of the Hart family. But Bret himself would say in interviews that when it came to pure talent, Owen was his superior. He too was a fantastic technical worker, trained by their dad in his legendary “Dungeon” and thus amazingly tough. However, Owen possessed a flying attack Bret didn’t, taking to the ropes with amazing leaping and fantastic speed. He should have gotten a bigger push when he joined WWE but was stuck with the Blue Blazer gimmick then bad tag teams like High Energy despite Bret trying to push him more.
It took his 1994 heel turn for Owen to take off and show he was far better on the mic than Bret, a terrific bad guy fans loved to hate. It led to runs as tag team and IC champion and many still feel he should have gotten a run with the big belt. His tragic death in 1999 still haunts us and has contributed to his legacy as Bret is the first to state that Owen truly was the best of the entire Hart dynasty.
3 Barry Windham
As the son of Blackjack Mulligan, Windham and brother Kendall both got the wrestling bug and were trained by their father. While Kendall was okay, it was clear Barry was the true star. Tall and lean, he was a skilled worker who shone wonderfully in the ring, taking off as a handsome presence as he and Mike Rotunda held the WWE tag team titles twice. In the NWA/WCW, Windham found further fame, especially when he turned into a great heel, winning the US title as part of The Four Horsemen.
Kendall briefly tried to join the group but even WCW realized he just wasn’t right for that elite group as he came nowhere near Barry’s fantastic skill in the ring. He had a run as NWA champion, with injuries cutting his career shorter than hoped but Barry showed himself as the real star of the Windham family.
It’s an amazing irony that for years, WCW tried to make David Flair a star but the son of the Nature Boy was a skinny and utterly terrible performer. It’s now clear it was Charlotte who inherited her dad’s gifts. Utterly gorgeous with lush blonde hair, she is a great ring technician who can push any match to a top one with her skill. More importantly, Charlotte is also fantastic on the mic, delivering good promos and easily sliding into her role as the arrogant heel.
Her role as NXT champion boosted the women’s division up nicely and her current runs as RAW Women’s champ are also top-notch. Charlotte is carrying the Flair name on well by shining as just the wild daughter and shows how this is a case where it was the daughter, not the son, who was best suited to carry on the family legacy.
1 Randy Orton
Orton is a unique thing in wrestling, a third-generation star who is clearly far, far better than his grandfather and father. Bob Orton and Bob Orton Jr. were good workers but pretty much just mid-card talent, Orton Jr best known as the cast-wearing lackey for Roddy Piper. Randy, however, has proven himself far better than his forbearers. He is a fantastic worker, battling through multiple injuries to become a multiple champion in WWE, his RKO is a sensational finisher that even inspired its own popular Internet meme.
Orton is a great heel and can work as a face, a main-eventer who’s done just about everything in the company. It’s obvious Bob Jr. is proud of his son as he should be, as he has given the Orton name more prominence than it ever had before.