Cat Stevens once wrote a song called “Cat’s in the Cradle,” about a son that doesn’t have time for his father now that he’s an adult, just like his father didn’t have time for him when the child was a boy. It’s a sad look at how a son grew up to be just like his father. When it comes to professional wrestling, the popular saying “‘like father, like son” can be a good thing, or it can be comparable to “Cat’s in the Cradle.”
Being like your father can be difficult for a child; if your parents are extremely successful, how could you possibly compete? Sure, what greater pride could a father have than for their child to follow in their footsteps? But it’s quite ambitious for a number of wrestlers to follow the lead that their parents have set before them. It can be career suicide, in fact, to advertise your very famous last name with the knowledge that every move you make or promo you give will be scrutinized by fans and compared to your father.
Over the next little while we will explore a number of different cases where wrestlers tried to follow the path their dads created for them, only to find out the shadow cast was so long that they couldn’t find their light. Here are 10 wrestlers who couldn’t match the success of their fathers.
10. Brian Christopher
While it could be said that Brian Christopher carved a niche for himself in wrestling, it doesn’t quite compare to that of his Hall of Fame father. While Grandmasta Sexay was in the WWE as one half of the tag team Too Cool, he captured the WWE tag team championship. Prior to that, he was also a WWE Light Heavyweight champion. He had a cackle that would often get under the skin of fans, but he didn’t really appear to connect with them.
Christopher’s success, compared to that of his father, pales in comparison because his father has been a prominent member of not only wrestling, but overall pop culture. Christopher’s dad is none other than Jerry The King Lawler. Lawler didn’t capture any major titles in the WWE, but his character was so prominent that he took part in feuds that were focused on what Lawler said rather than what he did.
One of Lawler’s most prominent feuds was against Bret The Hitman Hart. Their infamous kiss my foot match was prominent as it also involved Bret’s family; Lawler would often mock Bret’s parents because of their age. A great deal of Lawler’s championship success took place outside the WWE, but it was his altercations with a popular comedian that stood out in his career. Lawler and Andy Kauffman at one point went head-to-head on Late Night With David Letterman, with some believing it was fake while others believed it was real. Lawler’s career still lives today as a weekly commentator on WWE’s Smackdown program.
9. Ted Dibiase Jr.
What is in a name? For Ted DiBiase Jr. it was almost a given that he would have the reputation of his father to live up to. But unfortunately his career was always going to be overshadowed by the career achievements of his father, The Million Dollar Man.
The difference between Ted Sr. and Ted Jr. was that their styles were very different from one another. Ted Jr.’s was very athletic, and he was able to hit moves that his father couldn’t. Even though he captured the tag team title alongside Cody Rhodes, that was about the extent of his accomplishments. There was even an attempt to have the junior DiBiase carry on his father’s monetary gimmick by having him hold the Million Dollar belt. Ted Jr. even used a variation of his father’s finisher, the Million Dollar Dream submission, by holding the opponent the same way in the move and then dropping them on the back of their head, calling the move Dream Street.
It seemed as though every effort was made to try to make this talented and athletic third generation wrestler a success. But he not only carried the same last name as his father, he carried the same first name, which was always going to be a challenge. In 2013, Ted DiBiase Jr. stated that he was not going to re-sign with the WWE, thus releasing him from his contract. DiBiase retired that same year from professional wrestling.
8. Richie Steamboat
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat won almost every recognizable title between both the WWF and NWA/WCW throughout the 1980s and early to mid 1990s, and is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame. He had legendary feuds with Ric Flair, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and The Magnificent Muraco. When in the ring he could convince an audience that he was suffering so badly that his life was in danger. As an audience, we cheered when he defeated The Nature Boy to capture the World Heavyweight Title, and praised him when he captured the Intercontinental title from Savage.
On July 7th, 1987, a few months after that Intercontinental title win, Steamboat became a father to Richard Blood Jr. Richard Jr. would follow in his father’s footsteps, while attempting to carve his own niche. The problem is that he was advertised as Richie Steamboat, and that name carries with it a great deal of respect among the wrestling community.
After competing in college and overseas, Richie was signed to a developmental deal by the WWE. He participated in feuds as part of NXT, and FCW before that, but was never called to the main roster and doesn’t appear to be in the company’s plans. Whether it was bad luck or unfortunate circumstances, Steamboat didn’t achieve the success his father had, and at this point it appears unlikely he will. The last reports were that Steamboat was still under contract with the WWE, but hasn’t appeared on the NXT program for over a year.
7. Scott Putski
With an incredible look, Scott Putski appeared to have everything that would make him a success in the WWE. He even has solid moveset that allowed him to move in ways his father couldn’t. Scott’s dad was former WWE World Tag Team Champion, “Polish Power” Ivan Putski. Ivan’s popularity and success in wrestling was primarily between the early 1970s and the early to mid-1980s. He feuded with the likes of “Superstar” Billy Graham, Jesse ‘The Body” Ventura and The Iron Sheik. He also competed for the WWF Championship early in his career.
In the case of Scott, that didn’t seem like a booking decision the company was going with, and unfortunately championships weren’t in the plans. There was even a time where Scott didn’t use the Putski name and competed under a mask in WWE. At times not being connected with a family legacy in wrestling is a blessing in disguise; it takes away the expectation to meet the accomplishments of their parents.
Scott also competed in Japan and Mexico, and while he did capture individual and tag team championships in smaller promotions, it is the time competing on a major platform such as the WWE and WCW that is where success is measured. After more than a decade away from the ring, Scott returned to competition and at the age of 49 still competes today. One has to wonder what could have been achieved had there not have been such a prominent hiatus in Scott’s career.
6. Shawn Stasiak
While using your surname in wrestling can be a hindrance at times, so can using a completely different alias altogether. For Shawn Stipich, who competed for the WWE in the late 1990s and early millennium, the athletically defined wrestler was known as none other than “Meat.” His character’s role was to act as the sexual servant to Jacqueline, Terri Runnels and Ryan Shamrock. The idea of the character certainly fell in line with WWE’s “Attitude Era!” He was often exhausted when he came to the ring because (as the storyline would unfold) he was so preoccupied with fulfilling his managers’ “needs” it left him susceptible to being defeated.
Once this character’s shelf life came to an end he competed under his real first name “Shawn” but used the surname made popular by his father, former WWWF Heavyweight champion Stan “The Man” Stasiak. The elder Stasiak’s greatest success came in the 1970s, and he competed until the early 1980s. It is hard to argue that capturing the most prestigious title under Vince McMahon Sr.’s promotion stands above the accomplishments of his son.
Shawn was used more as a character, but when it came to actual wins and losses and notable accomplishments, Stan stood above his son. Stan’s career spanned over four decades where Shawn’s career spanned less than one. While it isn’t fair to say championships are the sole measure of someone’s success, it was certainly a contributing factor in Stan and Shawn’s success between one another.
5. Sim Snuka
If the name Sim Snuka sounds familiar, it should. There was a time during his run in the WWE where he competed not only under that name, but under the name “Deuce.” Deuce was one half of the team Deuce and Domino, a 1950s-inspired team that were more reminiscent of something you’d see in the film Grease than you would in the wrestling ring.
He grew up surrounded by the wrestlers and managers that would later give him an opportunity to develop his craft. In the mid-2000s, Deuce trained in Ohio Valley Wrestling, the WWE feeder system at the time. By 2007, both he and his partner Domino had captured the tag team championships. It was short-lived though, as the gimmick was quickly wearing thin and Deuce needed to be reinvented into something a little less gimmicky and more based on reality. This was when Sim Snuka was born, as he revealed that he was the son of Jimmy Superfly Snuka.
It was at this time where he was attempting to join Orton’s up and coming collection of second generation wrestlers (later to become Legacy) only to be left out. As of June 2009, Sim Snuka was gone from the WWE. As quickly as Sim was in the WWE, he was just as quickly out. Even though he received moderate success capturing the tag team titles alongside Domino, Sim Snuka would never achieve the notoriety or acclaim his father did during his career.
4. Lacey Von Erich
The Von Erich family stands out as one of the most notable wrestling families in wrestling history. The most physically impressive was “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich, who himself was the son of a wrestler, as his father Fritz was a champion during his time in the ring.
What stood out about Kerry’s career was not only the championships he won, but the longstanding feud with The Fabulous Freebirds during his time in Texas. His match against Ric Flair in 1984 at the Parade of Champions was voted match of the year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated.
Kerry’s daughter Lacey, who was seven years old at the time of his passing, followed in her father’s footsteps and became a professional wrestler. She initially signed with the WWE in 2007, but was later released that same year. Her most notable time in wrestling was as part of The Beautiful People faction in TNA in 2009-2010.
While she was part of the TNA Knockout Tag Team Champions, her career was very brief and she didn’t manage to achieve the success that her father did. It would have been interesting to see what she could have achieved had she developed like it was hoped that she would. This was believed to be the reason for her release, as TNA officials didn’t see enough progress in the ring. Lacey currently runs an advertising company and is no longer involved in wrestling.
3. Joe Muraco
When you think of former WWE superstars in the 1980s, one of the most notable was The Magnificent Muraco. Muraco was one of the greatest heels of his generation. He was managed by Mr. Fuji, and was involved in a number of feuds, famously with Superfly Jimmy Snuka. However, his greatest feud was against Ricky The Dragon Steamboat. The Magnificent One was a two-time WWE Intercontinental Champion and former ECW champion. Interestingly, after he stopped using the Magnificent moniker he used the name The Rock. Don was inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2007.
Muraco’s son, Joe Muraco is now wrestling and attempting to follow in his father’s footsteps. Joe first broke into wrestling in 2004. Joe was trained by former WWE tag team champions The Wild Samoans Afa and Sika. If anyone wonders about Joe’s previous accomplishments or achievements in comparison to his father, they are difficult to find.
Despite being managed by his father and teaming with him shortly after getting into the business, very little is known about Joe. What will become of Joe’s career and will he ever achieve anything close to what his father did? Most of the information that does exist about Joe was that he wrestled between 2004 and 2006. He broke his arm in his second match ever which may have been an omen for his career. It is safe to say that Joe’s career will not come close to matching that of his Hall of Fame father.
2. David Flair
One of the more interesting members of this list comes from Flair family. While his sister Charlotte is currently earning a name for herself in the WWE as the current WWE Divas champion, there was a time where her older brother attempted to blaze a trail for himself as well, in WCW.
David was being used in a capacity to not only compete, but also put in a position to stick it to his father, the former sixteen-time World Champion Ric Flair. To David’s credit he did capture the WCW United States and Tag Team championships during his brief time with the company. During his brief runs in WCW and TNA, David clearly had to live in his father’s shadow. When you have won as much as Ric has and competed where Ric has, David would have to do everything his father did and then some in order to be considered his equal.
The Nature Boy faced legends, captured multiple championships and is just as prominent as a manager as he is a wrestler. David even stated that it was never his intention to wrestle growing up. But he did wrestle, and in doing so had his career put up against his father’s, one of the greatest legacies to have to live up to. To David’s credit, he stuck it out for as long as he could. He currently manages a Seal Wire Company in North Carolina.
1. David Sammartino
When you hear the name Sammartino, you think a legend in wrestling. Selling out Madison Square Garden and competing against the likes of Superstar Billy Graham, Whipper Billy Watson, Ivan Koloff and Stan Hanson. The problem here is we aren’t talking about a living legend in wrestling, but rather the son of Bruno Sammartino, David, who competed for the WWF in 1984 and 1985.
His time with the WWF didn’t go well, as one of his last appearances with the company consisted of a Submission Match where he submitted to a bearhug in a match where he was booked to win the contest. He has said that he did not enjoy his time with the promotion. Even though he won Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s rookie of the year for 1981, his achievements don’t even come close to that of his father. David Sammartino was in the same boat as David Flair when it came to living up to a historic legacy.
After leaving the WWF, David worked for various promotions including a brief stint in WCW in the mid-1990s. Bruno on the other hand was so important in his time, a hero to those who immigrated to America. He was held up as an example of the American dream. How could David ever hope to live up to the recognition, level of achievement and championships that his father had earned? Sadly he couldn’t. While David still wrestles sporadically, at age 55 his time to achieve was earlier in his career. When your father is a living legend, it’s almost impossible to have as successful a career.