Professional wrestling is one industry that is proud to showcase its family legacies. Third and fourth generations of wrestling personalities have graced the ring from some bloodlines with many ascending to the top tier of the business. The prevalence of family ties in the industry has even inspired a video release to celebrate the most powerful families in the game. However, while the video did acknowledge 20 influential wrestling clans, the list merely scratched the surface of some of sports entertainment's most influential movers and shakers between the ropes.
There are a number of wrestling families that are well known and credited with their contributions to the world of professional wrestling. However, while wrestling history will readily celebrate families like the McMahons, the Harts, the Anoa'i's and the Von Erichs, there are many families that have contributed just as greatly to the industry, yet their contributions, as a family, have gone largely unrecognized.
Whether it resulted in domination of a single territory or pioneering efforts to strike out internationally and establish a name for themselves as a group as well as individually, here are some wrestling relations of whom many fans may not be aware. If you are not already familiar with these rich pedigrees, you should be.
The name “Iron” Mike Sharpe is usually associated with the WWE years of his career, ones which saw him descend from the main event status he enjoyed in the territories to an undercard carpenter for those on the fast track to success under Vince McMahon’s vision. However, the Sharpe wrestling family was a force to be reckoned with for close to 40 years in the industry. His father, Mike Sharpe Sr., and his uncle Ben had both served with the Canadian military during the second world war and, upon their return home to Canada, became stars quickly in the wrestling ring. Standing 6’5” and 6’6” respectively, they ventured to the west coast where they became huge stars.
In the 1950s, the duo held the San Francisco version of the World tag team titles on twenty occasions. When Mike Jr. entered the wrestling ranks, he was successful in Stampede Wrestling, Vancouver All Star, and other territories where he appeared.
Very few second generation wrestlers can boast being from a home where both parents were professional wrestlers. One WWE Hall of Famer that appears later in this list can do so, as can a standout in the WWE’s women division in recent years, Paige. The diva that turned heads by capturing a championship in her debut match on the WWE’s main roster can say that wrestling is a family affair in her hometown of Norwich, Norfolk, England. Paige’s father, Ricky Knight, has been a fixture of the British wrestling scene since the 1970s and in more recent years has impacted wrestling in his country as the promoter of the World Association of Wrestling.
Her mother wrestles as Sweet Saraya and paved the way for Paige’s international success, a former Shimmer women’s champion among her other accolades. That’s not all though; Paige has a brother and a half-brother that also wrestle: Zak Zodiac and Roy Bevis have been active in the U.K.
Most of the lists of professional wrestling’s greatest families usually focus on those in the United States and a relatively small radius beyond. Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico may be represented, but often some of the international families get ignored. Sammy Cohen dabbled a little in the realm of wrestling, but his greatest achievements took place as a promoter in South Africa. His connections in the wrestling game are best evidenced as he was able to open the door to opportunities for his two sons to compete in the U.S.
The team of Steve and Shaun Simpson saw their greatest visibility while appearing for World Class Championship Wrestling in the 1980s, cast as allies of the Von Erich family in their battles with a rogue’s gallery of villains at the time. The Simpson brothers were able to leverage their American success, importing some of their U.S. colleagues to propel their visibility at home as well.
No, you won’t find the name Tunney in the lineage of any professional wrestling championship histories. However, Frank Tunney and later his nephew Jack carried considerable influence on the course of professional wrestling history in Ontario, Canada. The Tunneys' association with professional wrestling began in the early 1930s when John Tunney, Frank’s brother, had initially taken the reins from mat impresario Jack Corcoran to become the leading promoter in Toronto, with the contract for Maple Leaf Gardens. John died suddenly and his brother Frank is best known for more than 50 years of service as the Toronto promoter – creating stars such as “Whipper” Billy Watson and others during his tenure.
Jack came into the enterprise as an office assistant to Frank and following Frank’s passing Jack was in control of Toronto when Vince McMahon was coming into power as a national entity. In exchange for the rights to Toronto, Jack landed a role as figurehead president with the WWE, which is where we best remember him.
To say that the Poffo wrestling clan was tight knit might well be understating the bond between Angelo Poffo and his sons Randy and Lanny. In fact, wrestling lore holds that while the trio was touring the Canadian Maritimes in the late 1970s, to save money on hotels on the road, the three lived for 12 weeks in the close confines of a station wagon. That close connection was evidenced when Lanny put his own career on hold to return home to Kentucky when Angelo and Randy were opening International Championship Wrestling, an outlaw circuit poised to oppose the established Gulas/Jarrett territory of the day.
While Randy Savage ascended to become one of the biggest and most memorable stars in professional wrestling, his signing to the WWE came with the condition that his brother would also be hired. Prior to his death, Randy had declared that should an induction offer to the WWE Hall of Fame come, that it would be all three Poffos or nothing. His brother Lanny elected to forego his brother’s wishes to ensure that the “Macho Man” secured his place in immortality.
Say the name Blanchard to a wrestling fan and most commonly, the first image that will spring to mind is that of Tully Blanchard, a fixture member of the Four Horseman, seemingly always with a championship belt around his waist. Without a doubt, Tully achieved a great deal during his abbreviated career. However, the Blanchard legacy in the ring doesn’t start with Tully, but instead with his father Joe. Joe was playing professional football in Canada when his path crossed with Stu Hart, creating an opportunity for him to transition into the ring. Blanchard was a credible wrestler but carried even greater influence as a promoter for Southwest Championship Wrestling in the early 80s and later as the president of the AWA.
A third generation is represented for the Blanchard clan through Tully’s daughter Tessa, who has been building her name on the independents and has had a few outings with NXT, hinting that Charlotte Flair might not be the only second generation Horseman in the company.
Curtis Axel hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, but he comes from a rich wrestling bloodline that has factored heavily into decades of American wrestling history. His grandfather, Larry “The Axe” Hennig, was a headliner in the AWA and was a dominant force as both a solo and tag team competitor, most famously alongside Harley Race. His dad, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, is regarded as one of the smoothest and most versatile wrestlers of his generation. Ascending to the AWA World title, it appeared that Hennig was poised for a similar career trajectory in the WWE as well, vaulted to main event matches through stellar performances against Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan and more.
But there are more than just the three Hennigs in wrestling. Larry had a second son, Jesse that tried his hand at the pro mat game. Curt’s son might not be the only third generation Hennig in the WWE either, as Curtis Axel’s sister Amy has generated a bit of acclaim for herself on the independents, more closely resembling her famous father than her brother, who is under contract.
At one time in America, between 1984 and 1988, three families truly controlled the professional wrestling landscape in the United States -- the McMahons out of the northeast, the Gagnes out of the Midwest and the Crocketts out of the Carolinas. Jim Crockett Sr. had been involved in professional wrestling promotions since 1931 and up until the time of his death in 1973, his sons had really no tangible involvement in his exploits. However, under Jim Crockett Jr., the territory began to grow and expand, producing stars that would become NWA World champion such as Ric Flair.
Eventually, Crockett secured national television through TBS in Atlanta and he had a platform to compete against the growing interests of Vince McMahon. Many would argue that his in-ring product was stronger, but he simply couldn’t compete with the vision and the entertainment prowess of McMahon and eventually sold his holdings to Ted Turner, who evolved the brand into WCW.
Joe Laurinaitis was the first of three brothers in the family to see success between the ropes. Partnered with a fellow Minnesotan Michael Hegstrand, Joe became Road Warrior Animal and the duo rose to become one of the most celebrated tag team combinations of all time, and arguably the most successful tag team of the 1980s. Joe was followed by brother Johnny, who, as Johnny Ace, also caught his first break in tag team action with Shane Douglas as the Dynamic Dudes. Johnny went on to see his greatest in-ring success through a lengthy tenure in All Japan Pro Wrestling, eventually returning to the United States where he secured an administrative role with the WWE.
A third brother Mark, who may be the lesser known of the three brothers, wrestled as The Terminator. Mark’s greatest success came as a partner with Al Greene in the tag team known as the Wrecking Crew – though not as high profile as either of his elder brothers.
When he died in Puerto Rico in 1995 at age 33, the wrestling world was shocked to see that one of the most ambitious wrestlers in the world had perished before his time. “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert had accomplished a great deal during a 15-year career between the ropes and there was no doubt that he had a passion for the wrestling business. In his teens, he had worked as a ringside photographer and writer, idolizing his father Tommy Gilbert, who was a major star in wrestling’s territory days. Eddie had actually teamed up with his father in some of his early outings before striking out on his own and generating his own momentum in the UWF, WCW and other organizations.
Eddie was later joined in the ring by younger brother Doug and whether they were on the same side of the ring or in opposition to one another, they never failed to create their fair share of controversy.
When both WCW and WWE started to take interest in the talent in Mexico on the heels of the early American successes of Rey Mysterio, Psicosis and Juventud Guerrera, many fans may not have realized that some of the tag teams that were being imported from south of the border actually represented a single wrestling clan with two generations in the game. The Villanos, often relegated to the undercard or WCW Saturday Night television tapings, were actually five brothers. Their father, Ray Mendoza, was an outstanding wrestler in his own right, holding the NWA World Light Heavyweight title on five occasions.
While he had hoped that his sons would pursue a different trade, when he learned that two of his sons had been wrestling in secret under masks, he elected to assist them with the benefit of his experience and helped to train and mentor all five.
The true greatness of Larry Simon may not have been appreciated when he first began wrestling in the northeastern U.S. in the 1950s. However, when he capitalized on Cold War tensions to become Boris Malenko, his star really began to rise. In addition to becoming a top villain in Florida and other regions, Malenko mentored and trained many wrestlers, including Demolition Ax, Marc Mero, Paul Diamond, Gangrel, Buddy Landell, Sean Waltman and many others. He also opened the door for his sons Dean and Joe to get into the wrestling game and Dean achieved great success, at one time being acknowledged by Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine as the top wrestler in the world.
Malenko, alongside Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, and Chris Benoit, ignited the cruiserweight wrestling division in ECW, WCW and WWE in the 90s and early 2000s. Another wrestling Malenko, Debbie, was not actually a blood relation to the Simon clan, but was given permission to use their name after training at their school.
Georgia’s Aurelian Smith carved out a stellar career for himself between the ropes, which ensured that he would always have a place in the industry. Wrestling as Grizzly Smith, the lumbering heavyweight was a reliable talent and upon hanging up his boots found work as a road agent for promoter Bill Watts in the Mid-South Wrestling territory. However, even greater than his own success was that of his three children that followed him into the mat game.
Eldest son Aurelian Jr. is a WWE Hall of Famer, though under another well-known name – Jake “The Snake” Roberts. His daughter, Robin Smith, adopted the flashy moniker Rockin’ Robin and held the WWE Women’s title in 1988-89. A second son, Mark, was one of the top rising stars in the industry in the 1980s, wrestling in a number of territories and touring with the WWE as Sam Houston.
You won’t find Acocella in many wrestling history texts – instead you will find three generations of the family identified as Britton or Brito. Patriarch Jack Britton and his brother Lou wrestled in the Montreal territory in the 1940s and 50s, but what Jack is best known for is being one of the innovators to develop midget wrestling in 1949 with Detroit promoter Bert Rubi. The Brittons often appeared on the cards, where the midget wrestlers under their charge were scheduled to appear.
Jack’s son Gino Brito rose to become a headliner in Quebec in his own right, but he did venture out, including with a run in the WWE (under the name Louis Cerdan) alongside Tony Parisi; the duo held the WWE tag team titles. Gino’s son, Gino Brito Jr., was a regular in the ring during the 1980s, though his own success paled largely in comparison to the towering legacies of the generations before him.
One of the most acclaimed wrestlers of all time in Mexico is Mil Mascaras. He was also one of the first wrestlers to successfully adapt the lucha libre style beyond Mexico’s borders to become a headliner attraction around the world. While Mil Mascaras, Aaron Rodriguez, has been acknowledged in the WWE Hall of Fame, he is just one of the outstanding wrestlers from his family to achieve great success internationally. Mil is one of three wrestling brothers – Jose competed as Dos Caras and Pablo as Sicodelico. Jose’s two sons have also excelled in the business with son Alberto seeing his greatest success in the WWE as Alberto Del Rio and his son Guillermo adopting the moniker of El Hijo del Dos Caras (the son of Dos Caras).
Pablo’s son Aaron wrestles as Sicodelico Jr. While Mil Mascaras himself is recognized as one of the most influential wrestlers of all time, it’s safe to say that the family legacy is in good hands with other members of the brood as well.
Without a doubt, the Armstrong wrestling clan is destined to be enshrined in their entirety in a wrestling Hall of Fame at some point in time. The patriarch, “Bullet” Bob, is one of the all-time greats in the southeast, and wrestled well into his golden years. All four of his sons followed him into the ring – the first being Brad. Brad’s greatest success may have been in tag team action with Tim Horner as the Lightning Express in the UWF, but he enjoyed a lengthy career in WCW and closed out his wrestling days in the WWE. Son Steve saw his greatest fame also in tag team competition paired with Tracy Smothers as the Young Pistols in WCW, briefly appearing in the WWE as Lance Cassidy. Son Scott has joined the WWE roster following the conclusion of his pursuits as a wrestler and has been a referee with the company.
The most successful of all four Armstrong sons though is arguably Brian. Billed as “The Road Dogg,” he was a member of D-Generation X and a multi-time WWE World tag team champion.
4 Welch - Fuller
Let’s start with the members of the family that current wrestling audiences may remember. Robert Fuller, better known as a manager in WCW as Col. Robert Parker and as Tennessee Lee in the WWE (accompanying Jeff Jarrett to the ring upon his debut) and his cousin Jimmy Golden, aka WCW’s Bunkhouse Buck, are just two of the members of this three generation wrestling clan. At one time, the Welch-Fuller wrestling family was among the most powerful in the southeastern United States, with ties to the most significant financial interests that bordered their own territory. Robert and his brother Ron were among the standouts that did well, not only in their own circuit, but also in other territories of the era. Before them was Buddy Fuller and before him was Roy Welch. In addition to wrestling, the family is also credited with training a number of talents that went on to success, including The Honky Tonk Man and Koko B. Ware.
If the surname Cormier is unfamiliar to you, it may be because none of the four brothers from New Brunswick wrestled under their family name during their storied careers. The eldest brother Rudy wrestled as Rudy Kay and in addition to wrestling, was also a leading promoter in the Maritimes for close to a decade, shaping the wrestling scene in that region. Next was Yvan, best known to fans of the Maritimes and for Stampede Wrestling as The Beast. Romeo wrestled as Bobby Kay and his youngest brother Leo went on to be the greatest international success of all four, under the name Leo Burke. Collectively, their influence on Canadian wrestling rates up there with other prominent family legacies such as the Harts and Rougeaus.
Individually, Leo has headlined tours around the globe, including stays in Texas, Kansas, Australia, Japan and coast to coast in Canada. Leo has also trained and mentored many and held roles as a trainer for both the WWE and WCW in the 1990s.
Three generations of DiBiases have graced the squared circle, but the full extent of the DiBiase family pedigree may not be fully appreciated by the casual wrestling fan. The bloodline starts with Mike DiBiase, who competed professionally from 1950 to 1969, when he suffered a heart attack while in the ring in a match in Lubbock, Texas. Some may not realize that the mother of the Million Dollar Man was also a wrestler in her own right. Helen Hild wrestled for thirteen years before hanging up her boots to focus on raising her family. Ted was enticed into the wrestling game by the Funk brothers while attending college, breaking a vow to his dad who had forbidden Ted from getting involved with wrestling. Not only did Ted become a wrestler, but his three sons Mike, Ted Jr. and Brett also pursued a career in the ring as well. Six DiBiases in all have made contributions between the ropes.
During his 30-year career in the wrestling game, Jeff Jarrett has proven to not only be a solid talent between the ropes, but he has also become one of the most influential figures in sports entertainment over the past twenty years. From his successes in both WWE and WCW to creating Total Nonstop Action, opening professional wrestling in India with Ring-Ka-King and his latest efforts to develop Global Force Wrestling, Jeff himself is a wrestling history maker deserving of his own place in wrestling history. It may surprise some fans to know that Jeff is a third generation wrestler. His father Jerry was a standout wrestler in the southern States in the 1970s as well as being an influential promoter and booker in the Memphis territory. Jeff's maternal grandfather, Eddie Marlin, was also a standout in the Tennessee wrestling circuit as well, staying on as an agent with the promotion after his retirement.