The WWE loves to tout its second- and third-generation wrestlers on Raw, SmackDown!, and NXT. There was a time not too many years back when you were protected if your dad or grandfather was former wrestler—think of how far the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or the late Eddie Guerrero went in the WWE.
Now, it’s a lot harder to make a mark as a multi-generational wrestler. Part of it is the WWE booking team has lost steam, but it also seems that some of the newer guys either can’t surpass their forefathers or have been brought up to the big stage too quickly.
Let’s take a look at today’s wrestling kin in the WWE and decide which generation’s representative pulls ahead.
Father: Cowboy Bob Orton
Grandfather: Bob Orton Sr.
Comments: I don’t know a lot about Bob Orton Sr. other than he wrestled in many of the U.S. territories during his career. Cowboy Bob Orton was a very successful wrestler in the 1980s, although he wasn’t a flashy worker. He was, however, perfect in his role as “Ace” Orton, the bodyguard of Rowdy Roddy Piper. Randy Orton clearly is leagues ahead of Cowboy Bob in terms of ring work. Randy will likely be a big WWE star for many years and main event more WrestleManias in the future.
Winner: Randy Orton
Father: “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase Sr.
Grandfather: Iron Mike DiBiase
Comments: Iron Mike DiBiase was a well respected wrestler before passing away after a match. Ted DiBiase Sr. took things to a whole new level, and was one of the best workers in the 1980s. The fact he was never a major world champion in wrestling (unless you count his one-week fluke reign as WWF Champion in 1988 when Andre the Giant gave him the belt) is one of the great mysteries of the squared circle. His son is certainly smooth in the ring. But DiBiase Jr. seems to have negative charisma, while his father exuded personality. Who can ever forget the Million Dollar Man character?
Winner: Ted DiBiase Sr.
David Hart Smith
Father: “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith
Grandfather: Stu Hart
Comments: David Hart Smith is in the midst of a successful run with Tyson Kidd as the WWE Tag Team Champions, which is appropriate considering his father was half of the great British Bulldogs. David is very good in the ring, perhaps lacking charisma at times, but the late Davey Boy at his best was awesome in the ring. Davey Boy’s SummerSlam 1992 match with Bret Hart at Wembley Stadium cemented his reputation. I never saw Stu Hart wrestle, but from most accounts, his true genius was in teaching and promoting.
Winner: Davey Boy Smith
Father: Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
Grandfather: Stu Hart
Comments: Judged on the merits of WWE women’s wrestling, Natalya is quite good. However, it’s doubtful she’ll ever mirror the success her father had as part of the Hart Foundation with Bret Hart, and the Anvil was a memorable 1980s character that people still talk about 20 years later.
Winner: Jim Neidhart
Father: Mike Rotundo/Irwin R. Schyster
Grandfather: Blackjack Mulligan
Comments: The WWE saddled poor Harris with a terrible gimmick, and he still managed to do okay with it before being eliminated on NXT. He has a lot of charisma, but doesn’t have the WWE “look,” and come to think of it, neither did Rotundo. But Rotundo was one of those quietly successful wrestlers everywhere he went—check out his title reigns, he had a lot of them. Rotundo was a proven good worker, and it’s not clear that Harris is.
Father: “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig
Grandfather: Larry “The Ax” Hennig
Comments: Like Husky Harris above, McGillicutty got hamstrung by a ridiculous name. He’s good in the ring, so-so on the microphone—and unfortunately for him, in those regards he can’t compare to his father. The late Mr. Perfect was arguably the best U.S. workers in the late 1980s and early 1990s before injuries took their toll. Both Perfect and his father, Larry Hennig, were AWA legends. McGillicutty could surpass Perfect, but he needs a makeover quickly before the fans give up on him.
Winner: Mr. Perfect
Chavo Guerrero Jr.
Father: Chavo “Classic” Guerrero Sr.
Grandfather: Gory Guerrero
Comments: Chavo Guerrero is a hard wrestler to figure out, because he has tons of talent but is booked for comedy. I can’t even totally blame the WWE, because I remember Chavo riding around on a toy horse in WCW, too. His father, Chavo Guerrero Sr., was a top star in Mexico and Los Angeles back in the day, and for a while appeared as Chavo “Classic” in the WWE. I just wish the WWE used Chavo Jr. better.
Winner: Chavo Guerrero Jr.
Father: “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes
Comments: Dusty Rhodes is one of the all-time greats in wrestling, particularly in the NWA. He couldn’t do a lot in the ring, but he worked magic with what he did have in there. He grabbed crowds and made them care about his matches. Dustin and Cody Rhodes are both good workers, better than their dad, and at his bizarre height, Goldust was the most controversial character in wrestling. Cody Rhodes is at the point where he has to make a big mark or will forever stay in the midstream.
Winner: Dusty Rhodes
Father: Carlos Colon
Comments: Carlos Colon is probably the biggest legend in Puerto Rican wrestling, and at times that territory was very hot. Primo likely will never hit that status in the WWE, even though he’s good in the ring.
Winner: Carlos Colon
Father: Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
Comments: It’s hard for any woman wrestler to compete on the history scale with a male wrestler, never mind with a WWF/WWE legend like Jimmy Snuka. When Snuka was hot, he had a connection to the fans that few wrestlers ever have. It’s hard to imagine Tamina, who manages Jey and Jimmy Uso currently, will ever replicate that.
Winner: Jimmy Snuka
Jey and Jimmy Uso
Comments: Thankfully we have the opportunity to mention the Samoans in this article, given their dynasty in wrestling. The Usos are the twin sons of the man who wrestled first as Fatu and then as Rikishi, and they have bloodlines to Afa and Sika, the original Wild Samoans. The Usos are good workers already in their young careers, and are very quick compared to most of the more heavyset Samoan wrestlers. However, Rikishi had a tremendous career as a tag team and singles star. In the future, the Usos might edge out their father, but his legacy lifts him above for now.
Alberto Del Rio
Father: Dos Caras
Comments: Alberto Del Rio is the son and nephew of Mexican legends Dos Caras and Mil Mascaras, respectively. Dos Caras was a superstar in Mexico, although he is largely unknown to U.S. fans today. Del Rio wrestled for years as Dos Caras Jr. before being signed and renamed by the WWE. I’ve never seen Dos Caras wrestle, so it’s hard for me to judge a comparison between him and his son. However, based on early booking, Del Rio is being positioned for WWE success.
Scott Wallask has followed wrestling for 30 years and writes about growing up watching the WWF in the 1980s on his blog the Boston Garden Balcony.