Wrestling is, quite often, a family affair (anybody who has ever been drunk at a family gathering can testify to this). From Scott and Rick Steiner in the early 90s to today’s former Tag Team Champions Jimmy and Jey Uso, there has been no shortage of real-life family members competing together in WWE. Longtime wrestling fans will also recall kayfabe family pairings such as Edge and Christian (during their initial run), Crash and Bob Holly, and, most famously of all, The Undertaker and his little brother Kane. Even “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair pitched the idea of debuting as Dusty Rhodes’ brother, “Rambling” Ricky Rhodes, prior to his first match.
However, there have been many WWF/E performers who were related in real-life yet never (or rarely) had their bond mentioned on television. Because of this, some of the more casual pro wrestling fans remain unaware that many of their favorite WWE superstars are in some way related to each other. In some cases, they are bound together through marriage; in other cases, they are cousins or even siblings.
Some relations, though not immediately obvious, will begin to make sense after you spend a couple of hours obsessively examining the chins, cheekbones, and noses of the superstars in question. Other pairings are unexpected, surprising, and sometimes, downright bizarre. For no other reason than your amusement, we have gathered a number of such wrestling families in this list.
Here are fifteen parings of WWE Superstars who you may not have known were related.
12 Roddy Piper/Bret Hart
While most wrestling fans are aware of the fact that “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Scotland’s greatest sportsman, was actually from Canada, few realize that he was a cousin of multiple time WWE Champion Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
In his autobiography In the Pit with Piper, Hot Rod made his relation to Bret Hart known to the world for the first time. Because Piper was a colourful character and prone to exaggeration, many did not immediately believe he was telling the truth. Hart later confirmed Roddy’s claim to cousinhood, and also said that Piper was the only wrestler who visited him in hospital while he was recovering from his 2002 stroke.
Obviously, Piper’s connection to The Hitman means he is a full-fledged member of the Hart family, wrestling’s most notorious clan. Next to Bret Hart, it can be argued that Roddy Piper is the most successful performer to ever come out of the family.
11 Brian Knobbs/Greg Valentine
Believe it or not, in January 1994, former member of The Nasty Boys Brian Knobbs actually managed to convince a woman to marry him. Furthermore, the woman in question was Toni Wisniski, sister of Jonathan Wisniski, otherwise known as Greg "The Hammer" Valentine
Greg Valentine first signed with Vince McMahon’s WWF in 1981, but his run was nothing special and he left the company shortly after. Valentine returned to the WWF for another shot at glory in 1984 and remained with the company until 1992. During this time, Brian Knobbs entered WWF’s tag team division alongside fellow Nasty Boy Jerry Sags.
Valentine and Knobbs also spent much of the nineties working for World Championship Wrestling, where the latter likely used his friendship with Hulk Hogan, WCW’s biggest star, to get his brother-in-law a job.
Brian Knobbs and The Hammer remain in each other’s life to this day, as Knobbs and his wife have pulled off the impossible feat of making a pro wrestling marriage work.
10 Jake Roberts/Rockin’ Robin
WWE was already beginning to wind down their women’s division towards the end of the 1980s. However, that doesn’t make Rockin’ Robin’s two-year-reign as champion, which stretched from 1988 to 1990, any less impressive.
Robin was, and still is, considered by many wrestling purists to be one of the finest female athletes of her generation, and she managed to get over with the crowd despite WWE paying little attention to their female performers in those days.
Robin’s in-ring ability should come as no surprise, however, as she is the half-sister of WWE Hall of Famer Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Though the two share a father, Robin requested their relationship not be acknowledged on WWF television during her career, presumably because she wanted to make it on her own.
It seems Rockin’ Robin and Jake the Snake were alike both in and out of the ring, as the two struggled with substance abuse during the finals years of their careers. Thankfully, the siblings have managed to clean themselves up and Robin now runs a real estate business while her brother remains somewhat active in wrestling.
9 Nia Jax/The Rock
In their desperate attempts to get the crowd behind Roman Reigns, WWE have frequently compared him to his famous cousin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. However, company officials have not been as eager to link The Rock to current NXT performer Nia Jax.
Nia Jax, real name Savelina Fanene, is also a cousin of The Great One, and by all accounts is actually closer to The Rock than Roman Reigns has ever been. In fact, Jax was travelling with The Rock’s mother, Ata, when their car was hit head-on by a drunk driver in August 2014.
The crash left both Jax and the former Mrs. Rocky Johnson in hospital, and put the Nia’s NXT debut on the back burner for some time. She eventually arrived in NXT in early 2015, where she immediately made her presence felt. Since then, she has established herself as one of the most dominant performers in NXT’s women’s division, despite her relationship with The Rock rarely being mentioned.
8 Dusty Rhodes/Jerry Sags
Brian Knobbs is not the only Nasty Boy with some family in professional wrestling. Knobbs’ longtime tag team partner Jerry Sags can claim a connection to the legendary “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, which is a far sweeter deal than being related to Greg Valentine.
For a brief time in the nineties, Dusty Rhodes aligned himself with Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags, altering his nickname to “The Nasty Dream” in the process. Dusty also brought his son, Dustin Rhodes, into the mix when he and The Nasty Boys were booked to square off against the team of Terry Funk, Arn Anderson, Bunkhouse Buck, and Colonel Robert Parker.
Not only were they teammates, Dusty and Sags were also brothers-in-law, brought together by The Dream’s second marriage. This means Cody Rhodes, who recently left WWE after a run as Stardust, is also related to Jerry Sags. Dustin Rhodes, however, has no connection to the former Nasty Boy.
10. Randy Savage/The Genius
It’s safe to say that most professional wrestling fans are familiar with “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Savage, who signed with Vince McMahon Jr. in 1985 went on to become one of the most charismatic characters in the history of the company, and even held the WWF Championship on two occasions.
It is also safe to say that most wrestling fans, at least the young ones, are not familiar with The Genius. The Genius debuted in the WWF in 1989 after spending the previous couple of years performing as “Leaping” Lanny Poffo. Now a poem-writing, graduation gown-wearing, effeminate heel, The Genius drew heat from the crowd by ridiculing them for their lack of education and proclaiming his intellectual superiority, much like Damien Sandow would do over two decades later. However, The Genius gimmick never really caught on and Poffo left the WWF in 1994.
The failure of The Genuis to get over with the crowd came as a shock to many, particularly because he was the real-life brother of Randy Savage and many assumed mic skills ran in the family. Randy and Lanny Poffo were born within two years of each other, the sons of Italian-American wrestler Angelo Poffo. The elder Poffo took great pride in both of his son’s achievements, never displaying favouritism even when the American public did.
Lanny Poffo made an appearance at the 2015 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony to accept his brother’s induction and recite a poem in his honor.
7 Cody Rhodes/The Shockmaster
As well as being related to “Nasty Boy” Jerry Sags, Cody Rhodes is the nephew of Fred Ottoman (lucky him).
A mainstay in mid-cards everywhere throughout the late 80s and early 90s, Ottoman competed under a number of names, including Big Bubba, Tugboat, and Typhoon. However, he experienced his greatest success - or lack thereof - as The Shockmaster. Even fans with minimal wrestling knowledge are familiar with The Shockmaster’s shambles of an entrance at Clash of the Champions XXIV, which saw him fall through a sheetrock wall and lose both his mask and dignity.
Ottoman was never really taken seriously again after this incident, though he wasn’t exactly treated as Lou Thesz prior to it.
Thankfully, The Shockmaster’s career had little influence on Cody Rhodes, and the son of the son of a plumber has been able to stand on his own two feet (which is a remarkable achievement for anybody related to Fred Ottoman).
6 Sabu/The Sheik
Terry Brunk, otherwise known as Sabu, is a homicidal, suicidal, genocidal, death-defying maniac; a fact which anybody familiar with his career in ECW is aware of. Because of his various brutal exploits (which usually involve fire in some way), it’s pretty easy to forget that Sabu is somebody’s son and brother. He is also somebody’s nephew, and that somebody is Ed Farhat.
During his time competing as The Sheik (or The Original Sheik after The Iron Sheik exceeded him in popularity), Ed Farhat established himself as one of the most fearsome competitors to ever step foot inside a wrestling ring. He pioneered the hardcore style which became the backbone of ECW and hundreds of bad ideas. Famous for hurling balls of fire into the eyes of his opponents, Farhat also created the middle eastern madman character which his nephew would use for the majority of his career.
Sabu, along with Rob Van Dam, inducted The Sheik into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.
5 Terry Gordy/Jesse
When Ray Gordy first arrived in WWE as part of Jesse and Festus, the general consensus was that it wouldn’t be long before he broke free of the Jesse character and established himself as a future star. This was due, in no small part, to his legendary father, Terry Gordy.
Terry Gordy achieved his greatest success as a member of The Fabulous Freebirds, one of the most iconic factions in the history of professional wrestling. Prior to his death at the age of 40, Gordy gave his son some basic training and helped him secure deals with a number of independent promotions, where he could further develop his talents.
Even after it became clear Ray Gordy would never reach WWE’s main event, many assumed he would be kept on as a performer due to his father’s close friendship with Michael Hayes, who had become a big player behind the scenes in WWE.
However, Gordy was released from his WWE contract in April 2010. He retired from professional wrestling shortly after, but returned for a brief appearance earlier this year, when he was invited to induct his father into the WWE Hall of Fame.
4 Honky Tonk Man/Jerry “The King” Lawler
One of them became the King of Memphis wrestling, the other pretended to be The King and wrestled in Memphis.
While they are in drastically different positions these days, Jerry “The King” Lawler and The Honky Tonk Man are, in fact, cousins. Before life put them on different paths, the two wrestled each other hundreds of times. However, a number of disagreements meant they were on bad terms for years.
After Lawler suffered a heart attack live on Raw in 2012, Honky took to Facebook to discuss his relationship with his cousin. According to his post, he and Lawler did not agree on a whole lot when it came to the wrestling business, but had managed to put their personal differences aside some years prior.
The Honky Tonk Man also described his cousin as “a master at talking and in ring work.”
3 Roman Reigns/Rosey
WWE aren’t shy about using Roman Reigns’ relationship with The Rock to try and get him over with crowds. They have been making blatant attempts to trick Johnson’s fans into cheering for his cousin ever since the 2015 Royal Rumble, when they had him do a run-in and save Reigns from monster heels Kane and The Big Show. However, Vince and Co. have not been so quick to reveal that Reigns’ brother also once competed for WWE.
Matt Anoa’i first arrived in WWE under the name Rosey, and competed with his cousin Eddie Fatu in the tag team 3-Minute Warning. When Fatu left WWE in 2003, Rosey joined forces with The Hurricane and became something of a joke.
After his tag team with The Hurricane came to an end in 2006, it looked like Rosey was set to reunite with Eddie Fatu, who had returned to the company after a spell in Japan. However, WWE officials decided to turn Fatu into Umaga and Rosey was subsequently released.
Because being related to Rosey really can’t do any good for the fans’ perception of Roman Reigns, WWE have avoided mentioning the fact that he is Reigns’ older brother. Commentators do, however, frequently refer to Roman’s cousin, Umaga.
2 John Laurinaitis/Animal
John Laurinaitis had minimal success as a professional wrestler, but made a whole lot of money as a backstage figure in WWE. While working as Senior Vice President of Talent Relations, Laurinaitas attained the enviable status of Vince McMahon’s “glad-handling, nonsensical, douchebag yes-man”.
Though Laurinaitis’ dreams of being an in-ring performer did not pan out as he had hoped, his brother Joe had an extremely successful career in the ring. Competing alongside Hawk in The Legion of Doom, Joe Laurinaitis became known the world over as Road Warrior’ Animal.
While teaming with Hawk, Animal captured tag team gold all over the world and earned himself a place in the WWE Hall of Fame.
After his tag team partner’s death in 2003, Animal had a brief run as a singles competitor, but was released from the WWE in 2006. You can’t help but wonder if it was John Laurinaitas who was tasked with wishing Animal the best in his future endeavours.
3. The Usos/Yokozuna
I mentioned the Usos a little earlier on in this article. As everybody knows, Jimmy and Jey Uso are real life brothers and the sons of WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi. They are also related to Roman Reigns, which WWE commentators are not shy about referencing. However, it is a lesser known fact that the Usos are also related to Yokozuna.
Yokozuna competed in the World Wrestling Federation during the early nineties and saw a great deal of success there. He won the Royal Rumble, main evented WrestleMania, and held the WWF Championship twice. Although he was billed as being from Japan, Yokozuna, real name Rodney Anao’i, was an American born member of the Anoa’i family.
As a member of one of wrestling’s greatest dynasties, Yokozuna was related to The Rock, The Wild Samoans, and Rosey. The Usos were his first cousins once-removed and were there to induct him into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.
1 Bray Wyatt/Bo Dallas
Bray Wyatt is a maniacal cult leader who encourages the WWE Universe to embrace hatred and follow the buzzards (whatever that means). Bo Dallas is an eternal optimist who insists his followers can succeed in anything if they just “Bolieve.” On television, the men are polar opposites, but in reality, Wyatt and Dallas couldn’t be closer.
Though it has never been mentioned on WWE television, Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas are brothers and the sons of WWE legend and tax collector Irwin R. Schyster. Neither man has acknowledged their relationship on social media, though they have made the occasional sly hint.
It seems unlikely that creative will ever refer to the Schyster boys as brothers, though it was at one point rumored that Dallas was set to join The Wyatt Family.
The Eater of Worlds and the Inspirational One are also the grandsons of recently deceased WWE Hall of Famer Blackjack Mulligan.
1. Carmella/Paul Van Dale
Carmella is known to NXT fans as “the most fabulous chick in the ring” and as the former valet of Enzo Amore and Big Cass. Anybody who hasn’t been following NXT will recognize her as the promising young performer who was one of the six NXT superstars to be drafted to WWE’s main rosters in the recent WWE draft.
Now on WWE’s Smackdown brand, Carmella is being put over as the woman who refuses to back down despite the fact she is neither the biggest or toughest performer in the division. Her connection to Enzo and Cass, as well as her friendship with NXT superstar Bayley, is frequently referenced on television. What is not mentioned all that often, however, is the fact that Carmella is a second generation superstar.
Paul Van Dale, Carmella’s father, did not have the same success as Dusty Rhodes, Bob Orton, or other wrestlers who went on to father WWE superstars. Van Dale competed for WWE during the 1990s and was used as a jobber, essentially being paid to lose to top stars, which he did better than anybody.
Van Dale, who also wrestled on the independent scene, never made it to the main event, or even the mid-card, but it looks as though his daughter is bound for great things.