Like father, like son. This old saying is shared when we think about children that grow up to do what their fathers did, perhaps working in the family business and doing exactly what their dads or even grandfathers before them did. In the world of professional wrestling, to see the success of second or third generation wrestlers exceed that of their fathers is very rare. It’s understandable; if your father or mother blazed a trail for you to follow, it is often hard to live up to those expectations set before them. There have, however, been instances where wrestlers have had careers that are more successful than their parents. In fact, some wrestlers have broken the mold their fathers created and reinvented themselves in the wrestling industry.
We aren’t talking about wrestlers whose parents wrestled a match here or there, but the progeny of notable wrestlers that were well known during their time in the sport. This next generation of wrestlers were focused, and presented prominent characters while competing in the ring. Their achievements also saw them capture several championships and leave an indelible mark on wrestling history. It would be easy to say that it was a one off, and that only one or two wrestlers achieved more during their careers than their fathers, but there were a number of different men and women that were and are prominent wrestlers in the wrestling industry while being second or third generation stars. Here are 10 wrestlers that achieved greater success than their fathers.
One of many third generation wrestlers, Natayla has unquestionably earned her credentials in wrestling. The daughter of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, some may question whether her success was greater than her father’s.
Jim’s success was largely achieved as a tag team wrestler, a multi-time tag team champion alongside brother-in-law Bret “The Hitman” Hart. In the case of Natayla, she has achieved her success on her own. While she hasn’t been as successful recently, her relevance and importance in the Divas division is unquestionable.
Early on in her run within the promotion, she captured the WWE Divas championship. And while she only won the title the one time, she has been a part of several storylines for the title. She also competed against Charlotte for the then-vacant NXT Women’s title in what many believe was one of the best matches of 2014.
Natayla’s role as a singles competitor, and the types of matches that she has competed in, are far greater than the singles performance and career of her father.
9. Tully Blanchard
Former United States Heavyweight, Television and World Tag Team Champion Tully Blanchard is known as one of the most technically sound wrestlers in history. His matches against Magnum T.A. for the NWA United States Championship in the early 1980s stand out as being among the most brutal of their generation. Alongside Arn Anderson, Blanchard captured the Tag Team championship on multiple occasions.
Blanchard was a second generation wrestler, with his father Joltin Joe Blanchard competing between the 1950s and millennium. But Tully’s career is considered more successful because of the higher profile matches he competed in, where he competed, and the generation among whom he competed.
What should also be noted is that Tully was also very talented on the microphone; he was clear and made an impact when he spoke, whether he was alone or as part of a tag team.
Tully retired from active competition in 2007, but he is long remembered for his and Arn Anderson’s feuds with the likes of the Road Warriors and the Super Powers. Tully was inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame as part of the Four Horsemen in 2012.
8. Roman Reigns
At 30 years of age, Roman Reigns has arrived. His rise up the championship ranks wasn’t easy, but it has been fascinating for fans to watch him ascend to the top of WWE over the course of the last year.
Reigns’ ties in wrestling were long established before he came into the sport. Reigns, real name Joseph A’noai, is the son of Sika. Sika’s career in wrestling is notable in part because of the family ties both he and his brother had to the wrestling world. As The Wild Samoans, Sika and his brother Afa achieved success collectively, and captured the WWF tag team championships.
Where Roman’s accomplishment exceed his father’s is that by the age of only 30, Reigns has captured the WWE tag team championship with Seth Rollins, a team considered the tag team of the year in 2013, and has been ranked #4 on Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s top 500 for 2015. He is now a two-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
While Sika achieved success in the ring as part of a tag team, Reigns is not only main eventing pay per views, being featured on WWE house shows, and a prominent character on both Raw and Smackdown, but is someone the company appears to be leaning on to lead them into the future. This wasn’t the plan that Vince McMahon had for Reigns’ father or uncle during their time with the company.
7. Alberto Del Rio
When considering legendary wrestlers all over the world, it is hard to admit that their sons are becoming more successful than them. In the case of Alberto Del Rio, his career as a United States Champion, a four-time World champion in the WWE, and number six ranking on Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s top 500 in 2011 have given him notoriety throughout the world.
Del Rio’s family is also tied to wrestling, as his father was luchador Dos Caras. While Caras was a former UWA World Heavyweight champion and dubbed “the greatest heavyweight to ever come out of Mexico” that was before the success his son has achieved in the sport. Not to diminish Caras’ accomplishments, but it is Del Rio has competed in higher profile matches all over the world and has earned worldwide recognition which has contributed to him having the more successful career.
Del Rio is currently a prominent character in the WWE’s League of Nations faction, and doesn’t appear to be taking any steps back while pursuing continued greatness. Over the span of the last year, Del Rio has competed in Lucha Underground, Ring of Honor and the WWE, three of the most prominent promotions in North America.
A great deal of credit needs to be given to Del Rio for not only being successful in the WWE, but being a marketable commodity for the company to connect with Hispanic fans, and being one of the top heels in the company.
6. Bret “The Hitman” Hart
When you think of the Hart family, it is impossible to deny the importance of patriarch Stu Hart. His success was based primarily on training talent in what was dubbed “The Dungeon.” It was often said that the basement of the Hart House was filled with the screams that came from young wrestlers with aspirations of making it in the business.
Hart’s children all worked in wrestling in some way, but one stood head and shoulders above the rest. While Stu Hart earned a name for himself as a trainer and promoter, it was his son Bret Hart who earned a name known throughout the world in the early to mid-1990s.
As a former tag team, Intercontinental and multi-time WWE Heavyweight champion, Bret main evented in arenas all over the globe. Some may argue that Stu’s notoriety was in part because of the success of his sons, Bret in particular. Even after leaving the WWE, Bret continued to capture titles in WCW toward the end of his career.
Bret’s popularity in wrestling has earned him a great deal of acclaim not just because of his family’s lineage, but of how he was seen as a Canadian wrestling hero. His feuds with Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Undertaker and Diesel were among the greatest feuds ever. The feuds with Austin and Michaels stand out as being successful for not only Hart, Michaels and Austin, but for the WWE as well. Hart is considered one of the greatest Canadian wrestlers of all time.
5. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase was one of the most notable wrestlers in the 80s and early 90s, in both the WWE and WCW. Even when he wasn’t wrestling, DiBiase acted as a manager and even led a group of men as part of his Million Dollar family of wrestlers.
What should be noted was that Ted DiBiase’s stepfather, “Iron Mike” DiBiase, was well known for his time in the ring. The difference here was the level of notoriety Ted achieved, using his catchphrase that “Everyone’s got a price for the Million Dollar Man” to resonate with the fans. The idea that the Million Dollar Man put forth that any individual would compromise everything that they believed in for the almighty dollar, made him one of the most hated wrestling characters of his generation.
Sadly, in the case of Mike DiBiase, his thirteen-year career was cut short after passing away in the ring at the age of 45. His passing didn’t deter his stepson, who would go on to compete over the span of four decades in wrestling, far outlasting his stepfather’s years of service and impact. Ted DiBiase was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.
4. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Jake “The Snake” Roberts carved a niche for himself in the WWE in the mid to late 1980s. His promos were legendary, and his entire career is something fans will always remember. Whether it was his in-ring work, use of psychology and ability to work on an opponent, or his ability to deliver chilling promos, his WWE tenure is very well remembered.
What is notable about Roberts is that he is the son of late professional wrestler Grizzly Smith. Smith was a former AWA Midwest Tag Team champion and used moves such as the Bearhug and Boston Crab in order to achieve a victory. Roberts’ popularity during his time in the WWF far exceeded anything his father achieved, though. He had feuds with the likes of Adrian Adonis, Ricky Steamboat and even the Ultimate Warrior.
While he may not have won any titles in the WWE, he achieved a number of titles throughout the United States, including in Smokey Mountain Wrestling and Mid-South Wrestling. A number of wrestlers and fans today still list Roberts as one of their favorites because of his presence both inside the ring and out. It is a quality his father wasn’t able to achieve to the level his son did.
3. Randy Orton
Randy Orton‘s entry into wrestling seemingly came rather quickly, even though his father and grandfather were professional wrestlers. He trained in the WWE’s feeder system, Ohio Valley Wrestling, and it was there were Orton quickly began to make a name for himself.
Randy’s father Cowboy Bob Orton Jr. was known during his time in the WWE as being Roddy Pipper‘s bodyguard that wore a cast on his arm all the time. He was a classic heel, and although he competed all over the world, he didn’t earn the championships and main event pushes that his son has received.
When Orton arrived on the main roster he quickly earned the nickname of “The Legend Killer,” as he looked to end the careers of those that came before him. Whether it was Mick Foley or Sgt. Slaughter or even Shawn Michaels, Orton was determined to achieve success at the expense of others.
As the years passed, Orton became more of a leader, as he led The Legacy, rather than a follower like his father had been. The nine-time WWE heavyweight champion has earned significantly greater success than his father had.
2. “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Former professional wrestler Angelo Poffo had a fairly successful career that spanned over six decades. It is incredible to have a career last that long, and to his credit he was also the father of two boys that followed in his footsteps. While his younger son Lanny was a very capable wrestler, it was his older son Randy who was the most successful of the entire Poffo clan. While Angelo captured championships, Randy transcended the sport and became not only a multi-time champion, but a pop culture figure as well.
If the name Randy Poffo doesn’t sound familiar, it is because he didn’t compete under that name, but rather the name “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Even mentioning of Randy’s name will make fans reminisce about his career in the 1980s and 1990s, and his feuds against the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ricky Steamboat, Tito Santana and George “The Animal” Steele.
Whether it was the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” accompanying him to the ring, his lavish ringwear and glasses, or how he completely shifted gears and wrestled a high-flying style that was in your face, Savage was unmistakable in the ring. It has long been disputed who was the bigger face of a wrestling generation, Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage. Savage’s style, promos, in-ring achievements add up to someone who did more for wrestling than any other.
While the elder Poffo laid the foundation, it was Randy who set the bar for others to follow, an accomplishment his father would greatly be proud of. This past year, the late Randy Savage was inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame.
1. The Rock
Based on Dwayne Johnson‘s early career, it didn’t seem as though his future belonged in the area of wrestling. He was a star collegiate football player with the University of Miami. It was only after his football career had ended that he was brought into the WWE to pursue a wrestling career.
He was advertised early on as a third generation wrestler, citing both his father Rocky Johnson and his maternal grandfather High Chief Peter Maivia. His initial look was something that not even he can say he was proud of, and changed when he decided that he would only succeed when he built a career on his own merits and a character that was less dependent on his family ties.
As cries of “Die Rocky Die” started, Rocky Maivia was gone and The Rock was born. It is hard to overstate his impact and success in the wrestling world, let alone in entertainment. Even though his father was a tag team champion, The Rock achieved success as both a singles and tag team wrestler. He was an intercontinental champion, tag team champion and most importantly a multi-time WWE Heavyweight champion. The Rock blazed his own trail and left a mark in the sport that his father can be greatly proud of.