In any profession, there’s a special interest in sons and daughters who carry on in the family business a generation later. Although these legacies were bred for success from the moment they were conceived and likely grew up learning the ins and outs, sometimes the expectations of them are so great and the spotlight so bright that nobody could ever live up to the massive amounts of hype. But when one of them does make it big, their careers are truly special to behold.
TODAYâ€™S ISSUE: Family legacies.
Due to the publicity surrounding pro sports and its wild, global popularity, the restaurateur who takes over his familyâ€™s dining establishment and continues successfully will never be highlighted on such a grand scale as the athlete who succeeds his parents. Nor will the fourth-generation military man or the great-grandson of a mason who goes into construction ever taste the fame as that of a child who follows his mother or father into the glamorous world of professional athletics. The sporting world loves to watch a legacy carry on the name, and see how well the mantle suits them.
Peyton and Eli Manning have done their father Archie proud, and Laila Ali, the daughter of â€œThe Greatestâ€ had a very successful (if a bit controversial) run as a professional boxer, including a match against another legacy, Jackie Frazier-Lyde, in what some dubbed Ali/Frazier IV as a reference to the famous trilogy of bouts between their legendary fathers. There are countless other examples, but whatâ€™s pertinent here is that fans and critics have a special place in their hearts for the children of warriors from a previous era.
Pro wrestling isnâ€™t immune to this phenomenon; it’s always exciting for fans of the elder stars when their children lace up boots of their own and attempt to follow in those big footsteps. Consider the old days when kayfabe was strictly enforced, before fans knew wrestling matches included pre-determined outcomes or that the grapplers were actually working together to put on a good show and protect each other as much as possible. In this tight-lipped environment, family members had the ideal opportunity to see how each â€œtrickâ€ was performed from behind the curtain. In fact, many successful stars from my childhood were second-generation wrestlers. With the business in their blood as children, and legends playing with them and babysitting them all their lives, these ring warriors seemed to have every advantage in learning and excelling at the most unique hybrid of performance and perspiration known to man.
Ted DiBiase, Macho Man Randy Savage, Barry Windham, Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig, the Von Erichs, Cowboy Bob Orton, Greg the Hammer Valentine, Jake the Snake Roberts (and his less famous half-brother Sam Houston and half-sister Rockinâ€™ Robin), Greg Gagne, and countless other stars from that era are included on the list of wrestlers whose parents donned the tights before them, and men like Eddie and Chavo Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Jeff Jarrett, Dustin â€œGoldustâ€ Runnels, and Brian Christopher (Lawler) carried that tradition through to the next era.
An extensive and very successful Samoan wrestling clan, the Anoaâ€™i family, includes Afa and Sika, Fatu and Samu, Yokozuna, Umaga, Rosey, Tama, the Rock (in some, perhaps non-blood related way), and several other less famous pro wrestlers, not to mention pro boxer David Tua. Even reigning TNA world heavyweight champion Samoa Joe claims familial connections to this phenomenal gene pool of wrestling talent. While the exact family tree can be a bit dicey to decipher, somebodyâ€™s carrying on in the proud tradition of his father in that family, and hopefully having more children as well. The business will never tire of talented Samoans.
Unfortunately the list of second-generation performers who underachieved (at least on the national circuit) is substantial, including but not limited to David Sammartino, Bobby Duncum, Jr., Leaping Lanny Poffo, David Flair, Kevin Christian (Lawler) and Erik Watts. They just didnâ€™t explode onto the major league scene like several other children of former stars were able to do. One has to wonder what makes one legacy a success and another a failure. Perhaps itâ€™s lack of talent, lack of interest in the business, lack of support from promoters, lack of physical gifts, or lack of a superstar look. In any event, itâ€™s a loss to the industry when somebody with that much knowledge and pedigree doesnâ€™t have a long, prosperous career and spread the seed of their fatherâ€™s successes to another age of performers.
In Mexico and Japan, itâ€™s a great honor when the identity of a retiring legend is passed down to another wrestler. Lucha libre is replete with â€œjuniorsâ€ like Rey Mysterio, Jr. and El Hijo del Santo (son of the Saint), and puroresu will sometimes feature a masked grappler with a Roman numeral after his name, such as Tiger Mask IV. Eddie Guerrero shares no DNA with Silver King or Rocky Romero so the passing of the Black Tiger torch, while entertaining, isnâ€™t the same as Ray Mendoza passing down his â€œVillanoâ€ name to his five sons, who each added a number when taking the title, as in Villano II, Villano III, et cetera. Many of these successors are not actual biological descendents of the original, but thereâ€™s a greater emotional significance when such a bequest stays in the family.
And when you talk about keeping things in the family, you have to mention Stu Hart. Patriarch of one of the most successful wrestling families ever and a legendary performer, trainer, and promoter, Stu and his wife Helen raised twelve children in Calgary. All four daughters married wrestlers, and seven of the eight boys became pro wrestlers, while the eighth worked as a referee. Stuâ€™s most famous son, Bret the Hitman Hart, led the family charge and stood for the things Stu himself believed in throughout his storied 24-year career. Bret won championships all over the world and was a key figure in one of the WWFâ€™s most talked-about eras.
Tragically, Stuâ€™s youngest son Owen quite literally died for the business. In addition to being one of the genuine good guys, some feel he was well on his way to eclipsing the Hitman. Owen certainly possessed all the tools of the trade, and he knew how to work a crowd. Taken way too soon, his death was a horrible loss for so many who loved him so much. With their rich contributions, thereâ€™s arguably no other family in the history of professional wrestling that made as much impact on the landscape of the industry as the Harts. This legacy lives on in the long list of successful, famous pros trained in the infamous Hart family â€œDungeonâ€ wrestling school.
Anyone who reads me regularly knows Iâ€™m no McMahon fan, but even I must admit that Vince Jr. took his fatherâ€™s company from a successful, if relatively humble outfit to a global phenomenon, whether I agree with his business tactics or not. Vinceâ€™s third-generation offspring Shane and Stephanie didnâ€™t do too badly either. Shane-O-Mac was far better in the ring than he had any right to be, hanging with some of the best ever and holding his own in countless big-time matches, while Steph did a great job as the on-screen wife of Triple H, then later as the General Manager of SmackDown! for a time.
Youâ€™ll notice I made no mention of Stephâ€™s in-ring wrestling careerâ€¦ trust me, some things are better left unsaid. There is nobody who grew up more deeply involved in the business than these two siblings, and it shows. They clearly inherited their fatherâ€™s charisma and ability to whip a crowd into a frenzy, either in support of the silver-spooned ones, or in hopes of seeing them get the spankings good old JR speculates they didnâ€™t get as children.
In what can only be described as good for the business, thereâ€™s currently an influx of next-generation talent in McMahonâ€™s one-ring circus known as World Wrestling Entertainment. In a nod to his fatherâ€™s â€œMillion Dollar Manâ€ gimmick, Ted DiBiase, Jr. dubbed himself â€œsimply pricelessâ€. DiBiase is one of several third-generation grapplers in the modern era, including the Rock, Randy Orton, Nattie Neidhart, and the perfect son Joe Hennig, whoâ€™s being trained by none other than multi-time former world champ Harley Race (and Joeâ€™s even taken to wearing a â€œMr. Perfectâ€ style singlet). Joeâ€™s sister Amy is also under a developmental deal, so we may one day see the â€œPerfect Comboâ€ on WWE television.
This new batch of progeny succeeding their famous fathers has a lot of long-time fans very excited, and the prospect of some sort of â€œChildren of Legendsâ€ stable is starting to become more and more likely, especially with the recent interaction on RAW between Orton, DiBiase, and his partner Cody Rhodes, the son of another living legend, the American Dream Dusty Rhodes. Codyâ€™s older, half-brother Dustin enjoyed a modest run or two in the biggest promotions in the land (as well as a couple of disappointing stints in TNA), but he never seemed like the breakout superstar that his younger brother Cody will become. The kid has it all, and McMahon really seems to like him. Stay tuned to see how Rhodes and his pals fare in WWE. Most fans agree that any faction consisting of next-genners will be a great deal of fun to watch.
When legacies burst onto the scene, proudly bearing their last names like badges of honor, thereâ€™s both a feeling of nostalgia and a sense of carrying on traditions, making these wrestlers very special to lifelong fans. They have the world at their feet, and a leg up on all their competitors vying for top television spots. We are literally seeing the future of the business develop before our eyes, and thatâ€™s a rare treat. The wrestling world is quickly becoming the land of the rising son.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. â€“ “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.” – Deuteronomy 24:16
Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this weekâ€¦
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Mark Allen discusses finishing maneuvers in his latest installment of Historically Speaking.
David Brashear discusses the tag team known as the Destruction Crew in this weekâ€™s Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past.
In his Cult of ROH column, John Wiswell scribes a phenomenal opening chapter in the complicated, highly unusual life and times of the cult leader and once love-struck emo-puppy Jimmy Jacobs. A must read!
Mark Buckeldee is all over puroresu once again this week with his third installment of Puro Shukan.
ROH Ace Pulse Glazer analyzes the ring entrances of their major players in Ring of Honor Weekly.
Mark Neeley takes a rare look at what WWE developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling brings to TV.
Finally this week, IWC icon Scott Keith takes a look at Greg Gagneâ€™s turn in the hot seat on Guest Booker.